A New Year and time to start planning for the next stage, getting beyond being a nomad and perpetual couch surfer. This last year has taken me from the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia to California and Mexico, and across the Pacific to Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand. Campervan life is starting to look like a very good option for me.
With less than a week to go before heading back to California, we lucked out and were able to go to a bach (holiday cottage) at Pukehina Beach. The weather had been very blowy and not very pleasant but we certainly won't going to give up the interlude opportunity presented to us. So on Saturday, after going to a disappointing Avocado, Food and Wine Festival, we packed out bags, food, books and odds and ends and headed to the beach.
The weather calmed down and we had two-and-a-half wonderful days. The cottage is literally on the beach. Just a few steps across the grass, down a couple of steps and you're on the sand. The beach stretches for miles, is fairly flat and perfect for walking. And the first thing we did, well, actually second as we unpacked the car, was to go for a walk.
The water is not warm! In fact, it is downright chilly, but perfect for cooling the toes. Cottages line the beach, but with it being almost out of season, there were hardly any people on the beach. The ones that were there were mostly fishing, throwing sticks for their dogs, or just walking like we did.
Cocktail hour on the deck was perfect and later, after a nap, we watched the almost-full moon rise over the water. It was magic! The air is so clear and clean, the night sky sparkled with all the stars.
Although the bach has two bedrooms and a sleepout (extra sleeping quarters unattached to the house) I decided to sleep on the couch on the deck so I could be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the surf. The moon was so bright that I had to make a cocoon out of the duvet so it covered my eyes and there was just a small breathing hole!
Next morning, as usual I was the first one up and woke to a brilliantly clear, calm day and went for a long walk to where the estuary pours into the lagoon. On the tip of land we were on, the area was roped off as it is a native bird nesting area. It's amazing how the birds know they are safe in there and completely ignore humans! The variable oystercatchers were in fine form and very visible, but the Adriatic tern and New Zealand dotterel are masters of disguise, blending into the dunes.
The rest of the day was spent lounging around reading and generally doing nothing - and it felt wonderful. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and once again slept on the couch on the deck, loving the surf sounds.
Monday morning was another lazy day but the weather had changed and we were getting the beginnings of the huge front moving in from the north. By the time we were ready to leave mid-afternoon, it was beginning to rain.
So we got the absolute best weather for the time we were there - it was perfect!
Now I am sorting through all my "stuff" and deciding what I will leave behind as I have gathered "things" that I need to take back with me. Tomorrow I will do the final packing and then Thursday we head to Auckland for my 3:50 flight. I arrive at LAX on Thursday before I left Auckland, picking up the day I lost at the International Date Line on my flight over.
It's sad to be leaving and I had considered staying longer or going back via South Africa but with the damn lawsuit that has to be handled, I have to head back.
And of course I wouldn't even be here, or had such a wonderful time these last couple of months if it wasn't for Jenni giving Zoze a present for her 70th birthday - my ticket!
Just a week left here in New Zealand. Time has flown by and now I am winding down, getting ready to leave next week. It's really hard to believe I have been here for 2 1/2 months! And even though we haven't wandered far from Tauranga, we have done and seen a lot of stuff! Definitely keeping it local, something that I am working on in my grannytravels blog - which is not up to date because we have been so busy. A catch22! Last week, Zoze and I went back down to Rotorua so I could meet with the people from Volcanic Air Safaris for a Harbors article about the old 1954 deHavilland Otter float plane. They are such nice people and ... drum roll ... I went for a flight up and over Mount Tarawera, the volcano that wiped out Rotorua in 1886. New Zealand is so scenic and viewing it from on high is even more spectacular! I flew right seat which is always a thrill and Angela, our pilot is really good - ex-Air Force - and gave a commentary the entire trip. So I feel very lucky to have been able to do that.
Yesterday, Jenni, Zoze and I went to Looking Glass Gardens, a rather strange place! I definitely admire what these people have done with the difficult, steep hillside. And all the plantings, trees and flowers, but I kept wondering WHY? The concept around the development is to make it a Wonderland, like in Alice in Wonderland, with nursery rhyme themes throughout. There were areas for trolls, and the Three Pigs houses. Little Miss Muffett was there too, or at least the tuffett and a metal-sculpture of the spider. Stone sculptures of the Trolls, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and many more are scattered around.
But to me it felt random! Maybe I have gone beyond the fantasy land stage of my life! There is too much reality looming - like the resurrected law suit my *^%$^& ex has filed against me so that I have to go back to Washington to take care of it. But even that should be relegated to fantasy land as I cannot figure out what it is he wants. Maybe his third lawyer will be able to clear up some of the confusion, because the whole idea (or what I have been able to deduce so far) is completely illogical. If he is looking for money out of it, surely he knows he is barking up the wrong tree?
But he has pulled this sort of stunt before when he sued his father to sell his house that he had designed, built and lived in for years. There was money in it then for Chris, but from me? What a laugh!
So when I get back, I will spend a few days with Ryan, the, fly to Washington via Montana, where I will spend three days with Cody, Mel and the little boys. From there I am flying to Seattle and will drive up to Port Townsend and take up Mardelle and Jim's offer of B&B (as Mardelle calls it, Bed and Booze!) and deal with whatever I have to from there.
It's Been a Busy Week!
With Christmas over, the New Year blasted in - and out! And now it is just two and a half weeks until I leave. It's hard to believe I have been here since mid-November. So we are packing in the expeditions, but I don't know if we can accomplish all we have planned. We did get in our trip to McClaren Falls, a lovely 190 hectare park that was originally formed as part of the Wairoa River catchment hydro electricity system in 1925.Then in 1965, the then Tauranga District Council and the Bay of Plenty Tree Society entered into an agreement that the Society would supply trees and maintain them. According to the Tauranga City Council site, "This has subsequently become an annual commitment to the Society, and to date many thousands of trees covering over 500 species and varieties, exotic and indigenous, are established in the park."
Once again, I was amazed at the participation of volunteers in these public areas. This is a huge park, with just one ranger and numerous undeveloped camping sites, meaning camping is in any grassy area! The grounds are maintained, clean, roads and trails clear and from what I can gather, most of this is accomplished by volunteers.
The Lake is a bird haven with lots of black swans and ducks. It's also a popular kayaking and hiking area. We walked a fairly short trail through the natural bush, along a stream to a very pretty waterfall; a loop trail up one side of the stream, over a bridge and back. It felt very jungly, but not quite warm enough to have any monkeys, parrots, alligators or other tropical creatures playing in the vegetation.
We did our usual stop at the local Falls Cafe before heading back. Naturally, another stop on the way. This time at Mossops, a local honey place. This is another surprising fact about New Zealand. There is a huge honey bee industry, something I plan to dig deeper into in the near future. The products that are produced are amazing - all sorts of edibles, of course but also beauty and health products, some even using bee venom! In this area, especially, manuka honey is produced in vast quantities and is well-known for its healing properties. Mossops also makes honey ice cream but as we had just had lunch, we put it on our list to go back and do a taste testing!
Our most recent jaunt was an all-day affair to Tirau, the corrugated town! It's a tiny town, in a vast pastoral area. We drove the windy, windy road over the Kaimai Range, through endless, to-the-horizon verdant, green farmlands, dotted with thousands of sheep and cattle. Grass fed cattle, but how long that will last is anyone's guess.A movement is afoot to fight against the development of feed lots here in New Zealand. There is already an issue with pollution from the animal waste runoff into streams, so hopefully the country will maintain its "green" commitment and do something proactive to avoid the problems plaguing other countries (ahem, U.S.).
Anyway, it was a beautiful drive and as I was a passenger, I was able to take in the scenery.
Once we got to Tirau, which, according to the official site means Ti - Cabbage tree, rau -many - the place of many Cabbage trees, we spent the morning wandering the shops, having coffee (of course) and taking in the bizarre corrugated iron sculptures. Interestingly, in this country, corrugated iron is used in a lot of areas, like fences and exterior walls. When I first saw the fences, I thought they were just sort of temporary but then I realized that they are an architectural feature; some are painted, some just the natural metal. The Tirau sculptures have evolved to a full business for Corrugated Creations, their most prominent pieces being the enormous white sheep and white sheep dog which house the Information Centre.
Next stop is a favorite: The Tirau Museum and Honey Shop. What an amazing place. It's hardly advertised, they have no website and it is very easy to miss the sign on the road. But so worth the effort to find it. Fifty years of collecting has resulted in a vast, rambling, 13,000 square foot "left hand museum," meaning at every chance, turn left and you will make your way through displays of - you name it, it's there. Huge collections of honey tins; masses of old telephones, from the ones you hand crank to old-school black ones; an assortment of typewriters and ancient sewing machines; collectors' cars which desperately need restoration. It was rather sad, though, wandering through there, going "I remember that," or "We had one of those," or "That's just like Mum's old one, where is that?" Made me feel old!
The Museum should be on everyone's list. Only a mile or two from Tirau, you're welcome to have a picnic under the trees or on the veranda. Right alongside the museum, the bee hives are humming, producing 3 tons of honey each year. That's a LOT of bees! I bought a small jar to take home with me.
Our day was not done, though. I've been hearing about the Blue Spring for years and as it is out near Tirau, we added it to our day.
The Government web site states: "The Waihou River is fed by many springs and from tributary streams in the Mamaku ranges. Water flows from the Blue Spring at a rate of 42 cubic metres per minute (9240 gallons per minute).
The Blue Spring is internationally acclaimed, with water from the Mamaku Plateau taking over 100 years to reach it. During this long residence in aquifers, particles and light-absorbing matter are effectively removed from the water, leaving it with a very high clarity and characteristic blue-green colour. The water is sold in service stations around New Zealand and supplies the local town of Putaruru, with no treatment necessary before distribution."
We walked probably about 1k to the spring, through pastureland and then along the river and over a bridge. It's amazing how clear the water is - and how cold! Some people there were brave enough to get in but not me! So many of these tourist attractions are off the beaten track, and as accustomed as I am to crowds and very organized and planned places, it's refreshing to see these attractions in more natural surroundings.
It does bother me though, that bottling companies are drawing right from the spring and will be depleting the aquifer - like Nestle is doing all over the world. I haven't dug very deep yet, but it doesn't look like they own the company that pumps from Blue Spring. If I find out anything different, I will definitely be updating this.
So with my time running out, I still have a lot to do and see.
Father Christmas visited and was very generous! We had a lovely day, despite the fact that it was rather windy and gray. Early evening it cleared up so we had cocktails around the pool, but had dinner inside.
I wasn't expecting any pressies as just my being there was a gift enough. But Jenni and Zoze surprised me with an amazing scrapbook with pictures I haven't seen for ages. It's all "scrap booked" and decorated! Must have taken ages to create and there are pages at the end to add to it. What a special gift it is!
And among other goodies, Rich and Staci gave me a phenomenal Kiwi cookbook, Treats from Little and Friday, that makes we want to get cooking again. They (Kiwis) do love their sweet things, but there are also amazing savory tarts and pies! How I can even think about food at the moment is scary, actually! It seems as though there is still far too much food around. Resisting, resisting, res.....
So that was Christmas done and dusted for another year.
Kiwi360 is everything kiwi fruit! It was a bit drizzly so we decided not to do the tour - the fruit aren't ripe yet so there is no harvesting going on. But we did shop! Or I should say, I shopped! A perfect place to get goodies to take back with me :) I had a lot of fun as you can imagine! Now the problem is, what am I leaving behind here so I can fit stuff in my suitcases?
We also stopped at an amazing used china shop, Andrea's China and Antiques - stuff as far as you can see, piled high, floor to ceiling! Nothing was priced, and there seemed to be very little order to much. English china, teapots, plates and bowls, glass light fittings! It was completely overwhelming but I wished I knew more about china as there are treasures to be had there.
The following day, Christmas Eve, we went on a harbor cruise around Tauranga Harbor. The boat is old! Build in 1953 but in good nick, as they say here. Jenni had got tickets on GrabOne which is like groupon, a two-for-one deal. After a slightly delayed departure caused by late arriving passengers who wanted to wait for their friends (!!) we cruised along Matakana Island which is a significant scientific area owned by the Maori. Some passengers disembarked there and were admonished not to walk along the roads and to stay on the beach. Interesting...
Then we swung around and came back against a roaring tide, right alongside an enormous cruise ship and some cool tugs, along the shoreline lined with houses and a new boardwalk. Boats anchored out and people swimming and paddle boarding. It's a very active place, especially during the holidays.
We had planned to do a short trip to McClaren Falls today, but decided to wait until Jenni can come too. So in the next few days, we will head out there. And today is catchup time for emails, blogs, pix etc.