Friday, May 8, 2009

The Time of My Life

Oh yes!
Since April 19 when I last entered I have written 50 pages in my journal highlighting the incridble hospitality I have received, interesting people I have met and the amazing scenery I have witnessed - flora and fauna, beaches and "no worries" Life couldn't get much better could it?
So to do a brief recap!
I left Wanda's on April 21 - walked part of the way up the mountain TeAroha - Mtn of Love - and got a great view over the mainly dairy farm land around there - then headed up on the highway right through Auckland to a place called Orewa which was close to where the ferry was leaving the next day to go to TiriTiri Matangi Island. Had booked to stay overnight on this nature reserve - they have dorm rooms/backpacker style in the old lighthouse buildings -
The island was fabulous - they have removed all the predators and reintroduced numerous birds and the kiwi and they are all flourishing so that was a treat. Saw saddlebacks, stitchbirds, robins, whitehjeads, bellbirds, tui, kokakos. karikari, and the Takahe which is a large flightless bird. I heard the kiwi at night but though we looked didn't see them though others did.
It was lovely when all the day visitors left and the place was so peaceful with only a few of us left overnight.
I had planned to leave in the morning so I could get to Ann and Dave Murphy's in Dargaville, Maureen's friends who had kindly invited me to stay but didn't realize the ferry only goes int he pm so managed to contact them and changed plans. Hopefully I can see them next time - or in Canada! So stayed at a backpacker where I was the only person and I only saw the owners as I was leaving the next morning! It was a nice house and I enjoyed the space! Wonderful statement about the safety of that area and the relaxed and casual way of life.
April 24
I stopped at the Kaori Museum in Matakohe and was amazed at the place and the size of the trees that had been taken down - one was 28' in diameter - the museum did a good job of showing the lifestyle of the loggers and gum diggers ( amber) - this area was settled my 10,000 "Dalmation" people in the 1,800's and there are still signs in Croation - stopped at a forest with the largest Kaori trees that are still standing and they were spectacular - huge fat trunks with the branches coming out of the top and pointing heavenward - apparently very valuable wood - and of course now not many left -
there are also some that were covered in a swamp/peat bog and they are digging up these stumps that are 45,000 years old - in fact one that they found has been carbon dated to 100,000 years.
The weather at this point and until I left NZ was cooler and wetter and windier - I had to take a ferry across an inlet and the wind was howling - I was thinking how if that was Denman I don''t think the ferry would have run! I stayed at a lovely backpackers - "The Tree House" which was surrounded by huge cottonwood trees with their leaves yellowed and fallinng off - so unusual to see this in NZ - It felt like autumn at home for sure! Anyway I had a wonderful room with a view out into lush NZ bush and agin met some really interesting people including the owners who had moved there 28 years ago and built the place and raised their children there - a very small and quite isolated community but famous for its artists and I visited the gallery which was just opening a show of Rachel Wilson's work - stunning and lots of social comment.
The day was very wet and blustery and I wandered my way up to Ahipara, hostel called "the Endless Summer" on a beautiful surf beach - a lovely old house that had kaori wood floors and balcony out the front that looked over the beach - pretty good for $25 a night.
Next day left at 8.30 for a tour up to Cape Reinga - Had wondered about driving up there myself but so glad I took this tour - the Maori chap Dennis who was our driver/guide was full of knowledge and we stopped at the Gum Museum then as wer got closer to Cape Reinga the sun came out - its a very beautiful headland - the NW tip pf NZ and is known in Maori tradition to be wehre the souls of the dead depart the earth slipping down on the roots of this old tree into the underworld - It is also where the 2 oceans meet - the Tasman and the South Pacific I thionk -
Anyway it was lovely. On the way back we stopped to sand surf down these huge dunes - I found myself on a hot pink plastic toboggan at the top of this big hill and got to the bottom very fast screaming the whole way especially as I hit a tuft of maram grass almost at the bottom and me and toboggann became airborn and separated - painful! I managed better the next time but by using your feet as brakes you get totally covered in sand - I was still finding it in my ears 3 showers/days later! crazy fun -
We drove back along the famous 90 mile beach which is actually 60 miles - stunningly beautiful and a great journey on the hard sand -
So Cape Reinga was one of the things I really wanted to see when I was in NZ and it was very worthwhile for me - the sun shining on me again. Oh lucky me -
April 28
So left there and headed south, stopping for a cup of tea with Colin and Gabrielle's friend Gene in Totara North - Jody was at work and Gene was very busy with the garden in the rain - they have a fabuylous vies away from it all in a lovely part of NZ -

So the next visit was with Jeanette and Lillian Olivant's friends Jean and David Morrison who very graciously invited me to stay with them in Paihia. I hadn't realized they own a lovely guest home called The Top fo the Bay - so you can imagine the view! It was very beautiful and they were incredible hosts. They had so many interesting stories of all sorts. They used to be farmers but had got bored with retirement and moved to Paihia and bought motels and apartments and are constantly working and on the go. They took me to the RSA club for a real Kiwi supper - including pavlova and the next night we had cold smoked lamb - from their son's farm - I got to languish in their hot tub and was treated like a queen! Home made bread, blackberry and apple pie and dear Jean even made brandy snaps for me!

I spent the morning exploring Russel which is across the inlet and a very old and interesting village where at the Catholic Mission they printed prayer books in Maori back in 1840's I think . That afternoon I went on a Dolphin watching and Bay of Islands tour. We didn't make it out to the Hole in the Rock as the seas were raging but in the bay saw dolphins and some of the people did go swimming with them. I was happy to be watching and not to have to get in the cold water and everso happy we didn't go out into the wild seas!
It was a lovely visit and I do hope they will visit Canada again so I can attemp to return some of their fabulous hospitiality.

The next day, April 29, I visited the Waitangi Treaty grounds which are next to Pahia then headed to Whangerei in search of a hair stylist! Not the best but not the worst I had and at least I got it done.
I stopped in Waipu - oh what a funny name - and happened upon a really interesting museum - 1,000 Scottish people had settled there having originally emigrated to Canada, Nova Scotia, then Cape Breton in the early 1,800's and eventually not feeling happy with things there continuing on and ending up on N. Island NZ -
What resiliant and hardy people they were - once again I feel so sorry for those women with their children and no food etc - the hardshipe must have been immense. Anyway its a very Scottish little community still.

My stay in NZ is rapidly coming to a close at this point - I decided not to go into Auckland but instead stayed at the hostel in Orewa again which was only 35km from the airport - that worked out well - got to do my laundry, wrote the last of the NZ PC's and mailed my guide book and various things I'd collected up back to Canada. Had a lovely evening walk on this huge surfing beach and took myself out for supper, which I really hadn't done since I arrived.

I am feeling very releived as Peter will in fact be in Perth and is going to meet me at the airport. I had made arrangements with a Warm Showers person but am really happy that Peter will be around after all.

My stay in NZ had been extraordinary - so many spectacular things to see and so many wonderful honest to goodness lovely people I have met. The hospitality has been more than I could ever have imagined and I feel truly blessed to have had this experience.
It will stay with me forever.

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