Tag Archive: new zealand


orua bay

this weekend we celebrated our one-year anniversary.  we still had an outstanding wedding present (outstanding indeed), a mystery weekend away, and decided to cash it in for a getaway in celebration of the past twelve months.  (actually a week early, but who’s counting?  … er, obviously, we are.)
our destination turned out to be a lovely bach on orua bay, at the northern tip of the awhitu peninsula.  the bach was only accessible for two hours at low tide (by driving along the beach), so once we arrived on friday afternoon, we were in for the weekend.  and it was blissful.  we only saw other people from a distance, strolling on the beach.  the manic rain-and-shine weather was perfect for reading, watching movies, beachwalking, and cuddling up on the old couch on the porch, sheltered by an overhanging roof and about 20m from the water’s edge (depending on tide).  tuis sang all day and kingfishers perched on the power lines, watching for their dinner in the waves lapping below.  herons strutted and seagulls dropped unlucky seastars and shellfish on the rocks.
we discovered the long-beached hulk of a small sailboat, nearly snarled in the roots of an overhanging pohutukawa tree; under the roots was a cave fully tall enough to stand up in.  we watched the sunrise on saturday morning, then went back to sleep until 11.  we followed the decadent menu our friends had planned and provided for us, prowled the exposed seagrass beds and pools at low tide, napped, and lounged around in companionable sloth.
do we really have to wait one more whole year for the next one?

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this is my favorite spot in the waitakere ranges. it’s where we would have gotten married if the weather had permitted, but it is no less dear for the prohibitive mud of last october. its boulders, silky waterfalls, icy pools and hidden mossy grottoes need no real description, but i do wish i could capture the chorus of tuis, the whistle of woodpigeons in flight and the constant shush and trickle of the stream as the soundtrack to these images.


up in the air

i spent most of last week freezing in wellington – i must truly have a flat learning curve, to have gone down there with neither scarf nor umbrella.  both were sorely missed.  i did manage to see the colossal squid display, finally, and was delighted to discover a current exhibition on monet and the other impressionists (which i missed in college, when it was on at its home, the boston museum of fine arts).  i also discovered a sandwich that made me nearly as rapturous as the windfall of german food: reuben sandwich on a jalapeno cheese bagel.  hot DAMN.  i had to have two of those, plus two additional bagels, over the three days i was in town.

sadly, due to wind/rain/general meteorological misery, wellington itself afforded no decent photos.  i did get some nice behind-the-scenes ones at the museum, but it’s not the right day for those yet.  ;)  the flight back on friday, however, presented some very nice vistas indeed.

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astride again

a week ago, i revisited the site of last year’s horse disaster. i’ve been riding once between then and now, but not for aut six months. all my old injuries have faded into small, weird (painless) dents or lumps, and feeling has returned on the front of my shin (where i got a particularly good kick), so it was time to risk another round. three other friends were also keen, so the four of us drove down early on a stunning day.

we rode out around 10am, with one additional rider in the group, a beefy guy who had done some riding in his youth and just wanted to give it another go.  the weather remained glorious throughout the three hours, although the tide was huge, so there was no beach-riding. we did take the horses up a few small creeks, which involved clinging fast as they scrambled up and down a few steep banks, and we did get a few canters in. i was on my friend bert again, a solid, dependable, slightly roan gelding with a tendency to zigzag broadly down any non-flat surface. bert had a bit of fun with a leap-into-gallop maneuver near the start of the first canter, but behaved admirably otherwise. the other extraneous bit of fun involved rounding up the cows that had wandered down to the beach and were gazing with complete bemusement at the salty swells. the next-day stiffness was partially conquered by a few successive baths, and a little checking around confirmed that while the others would also need a few days to loosen up, we were all keen to go again, and sooner rather than later.

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wee weta

weta are usually big, ugly bugs (even by my standards).  they turn up in a variety of startling places (with a preference for darkness and moisture) including inside folded umbrellas, hoses, and barbecue covers.  a friend of mine was terrorized by a particularly large specimen (on the order of 8cm long) sitting on her toothpaste tube – all day long.  a different friend of mine swears that he passed out once on his own front lawn in a less-than-sober state, snored the night away and woke up with, yes, a weta in his mouth.  my own personal best weta run-in also happened in the wee hours of the morning, when i rolled over in my sleep and was awakened by the feel of something scratchy against my leg.  my semi-conscious, yet surprisingly accurate brain, observed ‘hey, that feels like a weta leg.’  and yes, lo and behold – a disembodied (thank goodness) weta leg, about 5cm long.  we blame the cat.

but they start out cute.  or cuter.  cute-ish?  … ok, at least the babies don’t have that massive head yet.  this one was only about 1cm long.

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picking up pieces

unbelievably, roger has been gone almost two weeks now.  and yet, he is everywhere – a birthday present i had ordered for him has arrived; a scrap of handwritten paper with his blog address sits in my window; today we took his thesis to the bindery.

after he left nz last march, i believe he checked this site frequently for photos of places he’d been and new places he was looking forward to going when he came back.  i have a large backlog of things i’ve been meaning to post, from travels to local bugs, that i wish he’d seen; so i’ll start cleaning up my act with a photo from nelson lakes regional park (one of the stops on the pebbles’ and my honeymoon last november), and hope that roger can still enjoy it from somewhere in the ether.  he spent four days hiking in this park last february and it was one of his favorite memories from his time here.

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gone too soon

i wish, with all my heart, that 2009 had started some other way.  but it didn’t – one of my best friends has died.

roger (aka teuthologe here and on his older blog here), who has appeared here in the past as a mountain goat, playing gollum, and wearing a cicada), lost his life last week, hiking in some of his favorite mountains at home in germany.  he was coming back to new zealand to begin his phd in march, and we were all immensely looking forward to his return.

seldom have i met so vivacious, warm, and intelligent a person, so immediately a kindred spirit, and so unlikely to have departed so young.  he delighted in hiking, campfires, marine science (squid no less), swimming in shockingly cold water, lord of the rings and natural beauty wherever he found it; he danced with abandon, like a wild muppet; he baked his own bread and thought nothing of cycling 40km out to the waitakere ranges for a vigorous hike and then cycling back; he had a keen systematic eye and a sharp wit; he was a scout, a scientist, a mountain man, and a good person through and through.

on the day we learned of his death, the pebbles and i went out to roger’s beloved waitaks to say our goodbyes.  we will always think of him there, and we will always miss him.

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asbestos cottage

asbestos cottage

there really is a place called asbestos cottage.  it’s in the cobb valley, in the kahurangi national park, near golden bay, and its interesting history includes a pair of rather unusual hermits.  there’s even a book about them.

this quirky little hut, nestled up in the hills, is about ninety minutes’ walk from the nearest road, and we made it our goal for a sunday hike.  upon arriving and parking the car, however, we weren’t sure whether we’d actually make it, or whether we would have to abort and carry out a rescue mission instead – an elderly woman arrived alone as we were getting ready to go, changed into hiking boots but kept her flowered muumuu, and wandered off into the bush.  after some quiet consternation, we agreed to note her license plate number and the time we’d seen her, and check again when we returned.

the walk up took us along a surprisingly broad shady avenue, thick with leaf-litter but well maintained; over small babbling streams and on a steep, rooty detour; and ultimately across several narrow paths and ridges, with lovely views back down the valley, but baking in the direct sun.

after about an hour we reached the frontier of asbestos country.

the mine itself was a curiosity, a kind of giant open weal of greenish-grey crumbly, surprisingly soft rock (that we were careful not to disturb much, for obvious reasons).  rusted and decaying tubs and hunks of machinery lay sparsely scattered around the area, and we didn’t linger.

the cottage itself perches in a little grassy clearing about a half hour further on.  its main room has been maintained in its nearly original configuration, while the back room has been converted to a four-bunk cubby where trampers can sleep.  (we’d like to return overnight sometime.)  the surrounding tall grass hides the remains of some garden plants gone to seed, a small brook trickles merrily within earshot, there are views back down the valley, and the air hums with lazy afternoon insect songs.  it is a beautiful spot, and while forty years of complete seclusion seems a little extreme, we all agreed there would be worse spots for a hermitage.

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this morning, a mountain

on the brink of a dual

hi.

i’m becoming a dual citizen tomorrow.  new zealand is kindly overlooking the fact that i stood up dick hubbard, and allowing me to attend a smaller ceremony rather than wait another 4 months.  what a nice country.  i think i’ll join!  this means many things, the most important of which is that i am required to serve three years of military service.  ha!  just kidding!  the new zealand military is comprised of approximately 30 people.  i believe the navy has 2 ships.  i love it.

actually, the most immediate effect of becoming an official kiwi is that i won’t have to get a visa when i travel to australia later this month to meet my dad.  ha again!  assuming my new (zealand!) passport comes through within the next three weeks.

i also finally – i know, you can’t believe i didn’t do this earlier, since i’ve only crossed the pacific what, 15 times now? – joined up with a frequent flyer program.  two in fact.  it was tallying up the distance i traveled on this past trip (55,893 km) that kind of kicked me into action at long last.  and the fact that i am flying a not insignificant distance again in about two months.  with a 16-hour stopover in shanghai!

my damn nose is still playing up.  the lucky pebbles (sounds like a breakfast cereal) got the fast-track version of this cold.  he came down with it on sunday night, stayed home yesterday and today and is already in the cough phase, whereas i stayed home last wednesday and friday, only got to the cough stage on sunday myself, and am still in it.  humph.

as a testament to the fact that my brain is not working, i offer the following insight into my sick, congested head.  i have been memorizing the maori words to the nz national anthem, which go:

E Ihoā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whaka rongona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai
Aotearoa

that’s bad enough, but while washing the dishes, i happened to look over and see the cat, dead to the world on the sofa, and this just came out:

he lies sleeping on the couch
his belly looks like a pouch
when he sits, it’s more a slouch
our stealthy midnight cat
pointy feet and glossy fur
when he sleeps, he snores and purrs
it’s a him, it’s not a her…
don’t you look at me like that
[in answer to the baleful glare i got for serenading him].

soooo, anyone want to send me some good strong cold medicine?

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