Week 213 April 28, 2018

Dear Family and Friends, Loren and I so appreciate your words of wisdom and support, and especially now in response to Loren’s latest poetic prose/photo email. We have so enjoyed following our passion and sharing it here for over our four full years traveling. We have been so consumed amidst our travels that I forgot to note on Week 210’s headline that Year 5 began! That has been corrected as I write. For now, we will continue our travels in Australia, taking it week by week, even day by day.

We spent our last day in Sydney at the beginning of this week visiting the Art Gallery until closing. Here we found a lovely painting of New Zealand’s Milford sound from the 1870’s. We attest that the scene has not much changed from our own recent visit there. We walked to MacQuarie Point and Mrs. MacQuaries’ Chair where we had another view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. That evening we splurged on dinner at a French restaurant where Luc the owner, a Frenchman who has lived in Australia for 5 years promised it was “The best French food in Australia.” I must say not many restaurants in the world would compare to how delicious Loren and I both found his dishes to be.

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By far, most of the population of Australia is established on the southeast coastline. The country is made up of six States: New South Wales, with its capital being Sydney; Victoria with its capital Melbourne; Tasmania, a separate island has its the capital in Hobart; South Australia’s capital is Adelaide; Western Australia which is the largest land mass has its capital at Perth; Queensland’s capital is Brisbane; and, two Territories: Australian Capitol Territory which is wholly contained within New South Wales with its capital and the capital of the entire country being in Canberra; and, Northern Territory with its capital at Darwin. We are in NSW right now.

Driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge north felt like driving from San Francisco to upscale Sausalito. We stopped briefly to see Manly, Freshwater and Curl Curl beaches while driving along the Pacific and Great Western Highways. We learned at Manly that there is such a sport as beach tennis, what a great idea, and, that surfing is popular as well at Curl Curl. 

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I have to say that when driving I have become better at not mistakenly flicking on the windshield wipers when I want the turn indicator, though this week it happened again. It is because, like the driver’s seat, these gadgets are also on the opposite sides from what I am so used to using for more than 50 years! Also, when using the car radio, Loren or I unwittingly change the station when trying to control the volume, for the same reason. On our way to our destination to stay in the Blue Mountains, we stopped at Botanic Gardens Mount Tomah, where we were again enchanted by the scenery

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and the birdlife there, until closing. We arrived at our AirBnB in darkness, but that was no problem as it, like our Sydney studio apartment had been, was self-checkin. We were told by numerous people that the wildlife in Australia in fascinating, and I agree from just our two weeks here. But, we still have not seen a kangaroo, a koala, a wallaroo, a wallaby, a wombat…  We did see a flock of huge bats flying in and out of trees overhead at dusk near the harbour in Sydney last week. While we have seen no ibis in the mountains we have seen other incredible birds.

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We went for a day hike several times this week. But excuse me, that is USA-speak. From learning of Nepal’s trekking to New Zealand’s tramping, in Australia we are now bushwalking. We went down and up the steep Golden Stairs, hardly an accurate name; along Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Bridal Veil Falls, from Leura Cascades to Gordon Falls to Princes Rock Lookout; down and back up part of Six Foot Track, though it is unclear where that name came from. Our favorite was Undercliff Track, for its dramatic cliff overhangs. All the hikes had differing viewpoints of the vast valley between limestone peaks and cliffs, surrounding ancient, untouched thick forests, that are the Blue Mountains.

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We encountered gentle waterfalls – it is autumn after all, and unique ferns and other foliage. We learned about bull ants which we were warned to steer clear of, and, learned that the local name for a prevalent imported tree we have at home is called eucalypts not eucalyptus here. There are more than a whopping 90 varieties of eucalypts just in this area of Australia alone. Loren learned and explained that the naming the area with blue comes from an oil off the eucalypts that mixes with dust to create the blue-tinged haze. 

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We saw more unique birds, that I apologize for not being able to name as yet, but I can tell you that the brown one has a tail nearly as long or longer than its body; the white one is as large as a duck; and, the red and blue, is remarkable for showing red, white, and blue in flight, and this one posed on the fence outside our AirBnB yard one morning long enough for me to snap its photo. 

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One evening we spent at the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual Centre for a community meditation, and returned the next day to meditate again on our own on their vast tranquil property. We visited the house and grounds of Norman Lindsay, an artist who is famous, in part for his children’s book, The Magic Pudding and also for his risqué paintings and sculptures of his century old works. And, we dropped in at the Cultural Centre where we bookended the week enjoying another artworks display as well as learning more about the terrain and history. 

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We finished our week by watching our AirBnB host’s copy of Searching for Sugarman, which we again agreed is one of our most favorite movies. I will finish this post with saying how it is always fun to encounter the use of different words of the English language. This week three came up when hearing folks call others blokes and us mates, heaps of times. 

 

Week 212 April 21, 2018

On a final walk in Christchurch at the beginning of this week, I came across a yard decoration that caught my attention. It felt familiar, reminding me of so many family members and friends who have had similar looking adornments in their homes or on their property. So I had to snap a photo. Do you recognize yourselves by it? We miss you, yet please know that you are always with us in our hearts!

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Loren and I then said our sad farewells to New Zealand. We reminisced of our most recent time in their Southern Alps from the window of our plane that flew us two hours further east. On exiting the airport in Sydney, Australia, I was tickled to recognize how – thanks to our Journey’s five months time in Italy, I easily translated the Italian phrase that greeted us through a cafe window: first of all the coffee.

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Australia is the earth’s largest island. Before its geography was known to westerners, this area was hypothesized as Terra Australis Incognita, or unknown land of the South. Its land mass is nearly the size of the contiguous United States; however, its population of about 24 million is almost half that of just the state of California, which has nearly 40 million. It seems that giu sotto or land below is still largely unknown in the world.

Loren and I are staying at an AirBnB small studio apartment in the Darlinghurst neighborhood of Surry Hills, a suburb of Sydney that feels similar to San Francisco’s Mission District neighborhood – think trendy, colorful, exuberant.

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We are in walking distance to Sydney Harbour and the exceptional Opera House.

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One evening we went out to see Badu Gili or water lights in the local native tongue, which is traditional imagery projected daily on the outer opera house sails. On our way we walked through the Royal Botanical Garden. This is an impressive, relaxing site and we made a note to return to spend more time here.

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We are in even closer walking distance to the Bikram yoga studio, and on our first day of attending class it was a delightful surprise to find a young woman who Bikram had nicknamed Miss Glasses from my teacher training. She was also briefly visiting this studio. The last Loren and I had seen her was in her native Miami, when she was about to leave for Australia. What a fun, small world!

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We returned to the Botanic Garden another day to take a docent led tour, and our guide was quite knowledgeable and entertaining. This place provides a home to rare and ancient species, such as the Wollemi Pine, as well as exhibiting examples representative of the New South Wales state’s local variety, including the Gum, or Eucalyptus Grandis.

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In addition to the flora, this state is home to much birdlife. The first one I spotted was a familiar large ibis that we had learned the name of in Africa. This one is the Australian White. As our week continued I came to understand what a nuisance this scavenging bird can be, as they are everywhere, but, it is a unique, attractive nuisance all the same.

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Other interesting birds we have seen so far include for example the Australian Magpie, Common Myna and Masked Lapwing. The image at the top of this week’s post is called the Little Corella.

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One other big highlight this week was seeing Puccini’s opera La Bohème performed from a floating stage in the Harbour. It was touching both to read the story beforehand and to watch it performed live, and with the backdrop of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the distance from the outskirts of the stage. Wow! We feel most fortunate to be able to have – and to share here with our dear family and friends – our bountiful experiences. Thank you for following along with us on our Journey!

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Week 211 April 14, 2018

At the start of this week, Loren and I took the early ferry from Oban, on Stewart Island back to Bluff on the South Island. The Maori story we had learned in Auckland when we first arrived to New Zealand is that the South Island was created in the image of a waka – a traditional Maori canoe, and, the North Island was created in the image of the fish that the Maori were attempting to catch from it. While in Oban, we learned too that Stewart Island represents the waka’s anchor. There are large symbolic chain links that disappear into the Foveaux Straight on the Oban and Bluff coasts to exemplify this part of the tale.

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A new young friend changed her ferry crossing date to join us in traveling to Dunedin. Our route included the Catlins Coast and we stopped briefly at Curio Bay. Here, had the weather been nicer, perhaps we could have swum with Hector’s dolphins. However with the continual rain all day there was nary a dolphin to be seen. We did appreciate seeing the fossilized forest on the beach. We passed on stopping at Nugget Point – where sea lions live, for the same reason of the weather. It was nice for us to have company for the long drive. After settling into our respective hostels, we had sushi dinner out with her. 

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The next morning Loren and I were off again, northward bound to Timaru. We stopped at Moeraki boulders, which are quite the curiosity. Then we spent some time in Oamaru, where a dilapidated pier has become stomping grounds for any number of sea birds.

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Highlights in Timaru included a walk to a visitor center to see Maori rock art, and, stopping at an aviary on the way back.

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We went on a wild-goose-chase drive as we never did find the recommended hike to sandstone walls for more Maori art. Nevermind, the weather was nice and on the way back we stopped to photo farm Elk, or what New Zealanders call Red Deer who were rutting. That night it poured. Each time it appeared to let up, it poured again, ad infinitum, all night long.

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On leaving Timaru we learned that our destination of Tekapo, near Mount Cook, had a temperature of 0° Celsius – 32° Fahrenheit, and would only reach a high of 4° C – 39° F, during the day. As the skies were clear we still drove first to Mount Somers, but the remnants from the overnight rains precluded our hike to see the falls – the heavy rain we had had in Timaru had of course dropped fresh snow in the mountains. We further drove on to Peel Forest, but could not find the walking trail there… our lot this week it seemed. We had our picnic lunch inside our car instead of on the trail, and enjoyed some time along the drive where the sun broke through the clouds.

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We were successful in finding the Garage Gallery for a break to browse their art, literally in an old garage. We arrived to clearer skies before sunset at Lake Tekapo. Our intention had been to hike around the Lake and up Mt. John… with the cold we were simply happy to sit near the heater in our small cabin. That is, until dark when we braved the elements for our tour at Mt. John observatory.

This area is one of only 11 Dark Sky Reserves in the world. When we arrived at the tour office, we learned that due to icy road conditions on Mt. John, our tour was canceled. Since the skies were clear though, they offered an alternative to stargaze from Cowan observatory with their loaner parkas, which we accepted. The most impressive sight for me was of Jupiter and 4 of its moons through the telescope, as clear and bright as if I were looking at Earth’s moon, though very, very tiny. 

The next day dawned with sunshine and we drove around beautiful Lake Pukaki to hike two different easy trails to see Mount Cook.

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One was the Hooker Valley Track. We were fortunate that the cloud cover lifted for us to see Mount Cook’s peak! 

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The other was Blue Lakes Haupapa/Tasman Glacier trail, affording a view of another side of Mount Cook.

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The next morning red skies foretold more rain to come. We bade farewell to the ‘Starlight Highway’ and made our way to Christchurch. Here we drove around Banks Peninsula to Akaroa, and I was delighted to snap a photo of a White-Faced Heron. 

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That night Loren and I enjoyed a lovely dinner with my Bikram Yoga teacher training friend who I met up with in Wellington last month, who lives in Christchurch. She and a friend made Japanese and Indian dinner, then introduced us to feijoa for desert – a fruit somewhat similar to guava. It was all delicious!

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On our last full day in Christchurch, we drove to see New Brighton pier, then drove through the tunnel to have coffee in Lyttleton with views of the harbor. Then we drove back over the hill and turned in our rental car. I am reflecting on the New Zealand roads. There is no equivalent to the US Interstate system here. Most of the highways we traveled are two lane, with the occasional brief extra lane or dotted white lines for passing. I recognized that I have become somewhat adept at navigating the regularly encountered roundabouts found in the intervening towns or larger cities, while driving on the left side of the road. Now we are on foot again near downtown Christchurch. I have heard the surprising sounds of Canadian Geese honking overhead several times in New Zealand, and now I have a photo of them on the Avon River to prove it.

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On a sad note, we are remembering a family friend who lived in Christchurch and who died with his son in an avalanche on K2, doing what they loved, climbing the peaks of the world’s largest mountains. And another is how while driving and walking some of the streets here I have been reminded of New Orleans after Katrina, and New York City after 9/11. Christchurch feels somehow barren in the midst of a sprawling metropolis, with new construction apparent and signs of further work here, there, everywhere. It was sobering to come across a Memorial for the February, 2011 earthquake, honoring the 185 people who died.

Later, it was heartening to find a park with a structure displaying virtues from stories that come from members of the community.

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Week 210 April 7, 2018 – Year 5 Begins!

Loren and I took a short walk along Fraser’s Beach at the beginning of this week, which we had seen signs for all the while we were staying in Manipouri and were glad we finally investigated. Then too we went to the local theater in Te Anau to see Fiordland on Film: Ata Whenua – Shadowland. One of our new Italian friends joined us for the 30 minute movie. It actually felt longer than a half hour with thoroughly captivating scenery, parts of which we have seen and parts seeing for the first time. That evening we had a fun BBQ with all our three Italian and one American friends here, it was a bittersweet farewell-for-now evening.

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After an overnight thunderstorm we awoke to much colder weather. We still had a lovely time on the Gunn Lake Nature Walk as, after the rain, the old growth forest seemed more awash in brighter green mosses that are towered over by so many ancient Red Beech. 

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Loren and I have appreciated being able to discern some of the innumerable varieties of ferns and mosses from what we were taught by our day hike guide in Milford Sound last week. My favorites include Crown fern – for its grand symmetry, Button fern – which to me looks like strands of shiny pearl necklaces, and Umbrella Moss – in which I see little green sea anemone. Then there are innumerable varieties of fungi and lichen here too…

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We had wanted to hike to Earland Falls on our Godson’s recommendation, but, after driving over a long stretch of gravel road, and not being sure if our maps app was accurate about the Falls, we abandoned our plan and hiked the section of the Routeburn Track called The Divide to Key Summit. I actually made it to the top because it was a gradual uphill for an hour and a half, which is my favorite type of trail next to flat or at least undulating. We later learned that Earland Falls was along the Routeburn, and that Key Summit was merely a side track. It was our loss, a reason to return here someday…

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I must mention – before moving on from sharing about Fiordland – that one thing I have neglected to record thus far are what the locals call “tree avalanches.” The mountains here are mostly granite, giving the tree roots little earth to sink into. We were taught the theory that when one tree gains a little footing, the neighboring flora flourish by clinging to that one’s fragile root system. When a storm or severe winds kick up, the footing can be easily lost, causing a slide on the mountainside where tree and all the attached come crashing down to litter road, trail, or water below, that exposes the sheer rock face and leaves a sorry pile of debris at the bottom. It can take 5 years for the undergrowth to return and many years to fully fill in again. This is common throughout this region.

We left Manipouri to drive to the Southland region city of Bluff, where one end of State Highway 1 originates/terminates. We had a delightful AirBnB hostess who had alerted us beforehand to the closing hour of a restaurant where we could enjoy oysters – what this town is famous for. We stopped in, made a reservation, then hiked more than a couple of hours around Stirling Point to work up our appetites. A Tui bird stayed put long enough for me to take a photo that just barely shows the white tuft at the front of its neck but more clearly captures its beautiful blue feathers. Later that evening I enjoyed filling in the last of a jigsaw puzzle that our host had put out for us to complete if we wanted, a nice way for me to reminisce about and anticipate more what is coming on our time here.

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The next day Loren and I took a boat over to Stewart Island. It was a single story seating style catamaran, meant to handle the winds and confluent swells of the Tasman Sea to the west, the Southern Ocean to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the east. As our AirBnB host had warned, it is a rough ride even in good weather – which we were grateful to have. My stomach dropped deep more than once on our hour long crossing of the Foveaux Straight. That evening Loren and I went on a guided nocturnal Kiwi Encounter outing, and, we had the privilege to find three of them active in the wild! 

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The next morning was overcast and the forecast on my weather app called just for wind. We proceeded with our plan to take a water taxi to Port William Hut wharf, then to hike back to Halfmoon Bay on part of the Rakiura Great Walk track. We had magnificent views along the bush covered trail, with periodic camping sites which also partially protected us from the several strong downpours that occurred during the day, and affording an opportunity for meaningful conversations with some other trampers.

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After a quick change of clothes, we made it in time to the theater to see the film, A Local’s Tail, featuring true stories of Stewart Island people, history, and recent events, narrated through the eyes of a local pooch. It exemplified our experiences of what the Stewart Island Promotion Association website describes as “a simpler, slower lifestyle, in rhythm with the sea and the tides, attuned to the natural world of bush and beach.” There are an approximate 400 residents on the entire island of an approximate 1000 square miles. 

The next day we took in a workshop with a master carver of jade. It was our incredible fortune to have planned to be indoors as torrential rains poured down several different times – so much so that all the three scheduled ferries to and from Bluff were canceled. In the evening we enjoyed dinner at our Backpacker lodge with our young American friend who has also made her way to Stewart Island.

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In addition to enjoying her company again, we have met some wonderful, mostly younger, people on Stewart Island –  other travelers whose values and philosophies in life resonate with ours, despite the differences in age. 

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We spent our last full day of visiting Stewart Island by taking a guided walk of nearby Ulva Island. It is a nearly 100 percent predator-free sanctuary, ensuring that the native plants and wildlife that are threatened on the North and South Islands thrive in more abundant. This Stewart Island Robin invited us to take its photo.

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On the way to Ulva Island our boat had also briefly stopped for us to take in the White Capped albatross flying about, and a flock of Spoonbill on a tiny “one-tree island.”  In all, this has been a lovely way to celebrate my birthday week! A special thank you to you both near and far who have helped me celebrate!

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Week 209 March 31, 2018

Happy Easter! It is a bit strange for us to not also want to say Happy Spring because, in New Zealand, we should say Happy Autumn. However the playful bunnies we saw on Roys Peak might lead one to believe differently.

 

 

It finally stopped raining enough in Wanaka earlier this week for Loren and I to take a couple of short hikes – one to the Blue Pools, and on our way back we walked along part of Hawea River Track. We also stopped to see That Wanaka Tree – well, we thought we had found it from our Google maps, though what we saw was actually two, unmarked, remarkable for their size, evergreen trees. That is Loren standing to the left of them.

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We awoke to our first glorious sunshine and partial blue skies peeking through the remaining clouds and fog in what had seemed to be a long time. This was the day that we had planned to attempt the 6 hour Roys Peak Track. Loren has remarked several times how much this area reminds him of Scotland. As we began to hike, the clouds re-amassed leaving scant blue sky to be seen. Reaching the misty fog-line after nearly 2 hours of trudging up, up, and up, I called it quits. Still, I had had some fabulous views of the area.

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Loren continued into the fog-obliterated unknown but, unlike Scotland, the track was clearly defined so the chance of losing one’s way was minimal. I felt confident to let him continue with other undaunted hikers, as he so wanted to summit this one to make up for not having “bagged” a Scottish Munro. It took me an hour to return to the car, and I took Loren’s suggestion to head to a coffee shop. When I returned at our agreed meet up time I was delighted to see how the clouds had cleared off for his continued hike, and, that he had befriended one of the few others who were about our age out on this tramp.

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On our way out of town we stopped to photograph the three enormous Coastal Redwoods that have reminded us of California. That same day we drove the 3 hours to reach Manipouri, in the Fiordland region on the southwest of NZ’s South Island. As Loren’s Physio had said, we did saw The Remarkables along the way. They are unique in being a range of such uniform size and height. We have noticed the terrain change on each stop we made in New Zealand, and here it is true too. But, boohoo, after we left Wanaka I discovered what the real That Wanaka Tree looks like, which was not what we had seen.

 

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Now we are in Manipouri for a week. Our lodging is walking distance to the harbor for our Doubtful Sound overnight cruise, which thanks to a dear friend we had booked. To reach our ship, we first took a boat ride over Lake Manipouri, then a bus over Wilmot Pass. I kept hearing our first Captain talking about the Pear Station this, the Pear Station that. What I discovered he was talking about was the Power Station, which had made a big impact on the surrounding area some years ago. It took concerted effort on the part of the locals to prevent them from drowning the whole area by connecting two lakes…

We cruised the whole length of the sound out to the Tasman Sea where we saw a colony of fur seals. We learned that this waterway received its name because Captain Cook was doubtful that they could sail it with success. You can notice how the weather slightly changed in a short period of time by how a unique pair of rocks looked both before reaching the sea and after we returned by them on the way back inland again.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our adventure, sitting for a serving of soup, afternoon tea, and dinner with the same three other passengers. We also kayaked a couple of hours through on and off light rain. But overnight it teemed. We awoke to what the naturalist on board described as the most waterfalls she had seen here – each hillside showed one to several. Loren and I were grateful that we had the two days to see the major difference over time.

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Manipouri is close to Te Anau, where our Italian friend who we had met in Scotland is now working abroad. So far, he is the first person who we have met up with in three different countries on our Journey! After Loren’s appointment with a new Physio here, we joined our friend for a homemade gnocchi dinner, at the home where he lives with his co-worker housemates – an American and two Italian. A lovely and delicious evening.

 

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The next day it was pouring, but Loren and I went through with catching our bus for a Milford Sound Trek Guided Day Walk. It rained heavily throughout the morning, then cleared after lunch. I think that had we not had this commitment, but were planning to tramp alone, that the weather would have put us off and we would have missed out. We experienced the rain forest with a knowledgeable guide, a nice group of people, and even met a local Robin who was more than happy to pose for us.

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The next day Loren had another appointment with his Physio in Te Anau. Afterwards we went for a long hike on the Kepler Track. Once again I bailed after a strenuous stretch of uphill hiking. Loren and the rest hiked above the timberline, then they bailed – except for one of the young men who continued on to the caves, and would hitchhike home. A common tradition here that is also reminiscent of earlier times in the US, is hitchhiking.

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Our last big adventure this week was with taking a two hour Cruise on Milford Sound. It was a two-and-a-half hour bus ride each way to arrive at the ship, and we made a couple of stops for taking scenic photos along the way.

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This cruise took us out to Tasman Sea as well, where we saw more dramatic waterfalls and more fur seals. But, what makes Milford more famous than other fiords in the area – like Doubtful Sound which has more arms, or Dusky Sound which is the largest, is that Milford has the steepest mountains along the length of the narrow waterway. Here you can see the last remnants of the mighty glacier that had originally created this sound. 

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While onboard we met a group traveling from Taiwan who taught us their hand symbols for I Love You, which the man is the photo is demonstrating, and Two Hearts which the three of the women sitting next to him are showing. We also had our first glimpse of the green Kea – three were foraging along the highway on our return bus ride. Kea are the only parrots who live in alpine terrain. 

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Loren and I finished this delightful week with a final visit to the Physio. One helpful policy for us in New Zealand is that because Loren suffered his injury here, he is entitled to discounted therapy visits. Then, we strolled through a Bird Sanctuary for injured species. This is where we saw our first Kaka, another local variety of parrot, with  a distinctly bright red breast. 

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Week 208 March 24, 2018

We began this week glamping in Golden Bay – sleeping in a tent huge enough to house more than a double bed and two comfy chairs, with electricity enough for a toaster, boiling hot water, and charging our devices. This, complemented by an outdoor kitchen, all set on the landlady’s lovely permaculture property where she and her family live connected to the land, was memorable. All along on our visit to NZ – said N-Zed by the way, I have seen references to breakfast that include a variety of spellings different than I am used to: breakie, breaky, brekkie, brekky… our glamping brekies included fresh eggs from the land’s free range chickens and fruits from trees on site. 

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What was not so wonderful here too were the sand flies which we started encountering last week. Unfortunate for Loren they like his skin, so he either has to coverup better or endure the endless itching that their bites cause. On a happier note, we tramped Wainui Falls Track, though Loren had some slow going with his injured glut from last week. It was a short hike, with another suspension bridge, and sights worth the effort, both there and on the return coastal road.

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The next morning we left well before dawn in order to return south over cyclone-damaged Takaka Hill during open hours to public traffic. To my chagrin I missed a rock on the curvy dark road despite our bright headlights, and caused a flat tire before we had arrived at the convoy site. Except for our car lights and flashlights it was pitch black, then to our further dismay we discovered our rental car had no jack! Few and infrequent others on the road just drove on by as we dialed for road service. It felt futile because of the restricted travel times and the scarce population on the South Island. While I spoke to the answering service, three good Samaritan hunters drove up, spoke briefly with Loren, pulled over and with their own jack, quickly affixed our spare. They finished the job with ample time for us all to make it over the hill! We could not thank them enough.

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We had the tire attended to in Motueka before our long drive to the wild west coast. We picked up Great Coast Road where it begins, in Westport, where we stocked up on gas and supplies. We then stopped to hike at Cape Foulwind Walkway. A lighthouse, coastal views, and a seal colony were our visual highlights on this easy walk. Actually for Loren it was not so easy. I noticed bruising on the back of his leg for the first time, but he felt that overall the walk did his glut some good.

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The coastline on the way to our AirBnB was incredible…

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In the morning we joined our sweet hosts with their playful puppy Peanut for their coffee truck at the Fox River Market. While there two of our newest friends from the Netherlands who we had met last week were at the market too! What a lovely surprise to see them. We then drove to nearby Pancake Rocks and Blow Holes in Punakaiki. It was another happy reunion to find my Bikram Yoga teacher training classmate who Loren and I had seen in Wellington recently was here too, and to meet her beau! We plan to see them again in Christchurch where they call home. Who would have thought that we would have such fun meetups all on the same morning.

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The surf along this coast is so strong that it roils beneath and up inside land flanked by the sea, making surprise splashes and even mimicing a whale’s blowhole every so often. We spent the early afternoon with a beach picnic and afterwards collected pieces of rock that might be jade, that the tide stirs up and leaves along the shore. Then we went for a peaceful couple of hours kayaking on the Pororari river in Paparoa National Park.

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The next day Loren and I continued along the Great Coast Road to its end at Greymouth. Instead of our idea to pick up a jack from the rental car office, we learned that the jack is hidden under the front passenger seat… the one place we had not thought to look. Since our car had no vehicle manual, we had been clueless. And we picked up a tube of heat rub here, as another large bruise had appeared higher up on Loren’s leg. He had continued pain, which he realized was not so much in his glut but in his thigh bicep.

We arrived at Fox Glacier after another long day of driving. We did not have even a glimpse of Mount Cook – the tallest peak in New Zealand, for the low clouds that soon released their raindrops. Despite overcast weather the next day, we hiked to see the Franz Joseph Glacier. As we had been told, the waterfalls were abundant. It was a rewarding experience, but Loren’s leg was showing little sign of improvement and at certain times he still felt excruciating pain. We stopped in at the health clinic only to find that they had no doctors in town that day. So, we set up an appointment for the next day where we would then be – in Wanaka. 

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Rain. While driving from Fox Glacier to Wanaka, the additional predicted rain began, and continued, and continued. The nice and competent doctor diagnosed a torn muscle which can cause such bruising, and which the wonderful physical therapist who we saw next and three times in all, confirmed. Loren is dutifully doing his prescribed daily exercises now, as we await the tear to heal naturally in the next six weeks to six months. We took the opportunity to take a short walk around Lake Matheson even though without the sun, the famous reflection of Mount Cook would not be visible. Still the sight we saw was worth the effort for the easy hike. 

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It rained hard all through that night, momentarily letting up then immediately resuming heavily, and repeated that pattern for hours. I was grateful that we were staying put in Mount Aspiring National Park, where we still are. We knew that the fall weather had turned cold, but when the clouds partially cleared, we found new fallen snow atop the visible mountain peaks and foothills. We are definitely among what are called The Southern Alps, but where snow usually does not arrive until May. We had a good day to be inside for the prescribed down day that Loren’s “Physio” had prescribed.

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Week 207 March 17, 2018

Before we left Wellington Loren and I crammed in several last minute sightseeing and visiting activities, including taking in an outstanding Vietnamese acrobatic show in a lovely old theater, a King’s Singers and Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir performance in an ultra modern concert hall, a last Bikram Yoga class, lunch with another delightful yogi, touring TePapa – Maori for Our Place which is the National Museum of New Zealand, and, walking around Waitangi Park and the wharf. 

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My last reflecting on Wellington includes how most retail and other businesses regularly close during the mid- to late- afternoon, harkening to earlier times in my life in New York where stores were only open late on Thursday evenings. Here even Thursday evenings retailers close up shop, leading me to believe that workers and residents enjoy a better quality of life with having their evenings free. Last, two more language anomalies between US and Commonwealth English is, how do you say Quay? Loren and I would say Kway, but I hear New Zealanders pronouncing it Key, and, while we would say trash or garbage in the US, here they refer to it as rubbish. 

Loren and I were up early for our ferry across Cook Straight to the South Island. We were fortunate with the calmness of the sea on this particular day, and especially, as there had been another cyclone warning, meaning that the ferry actually could have been canceled. Luckily that storm had veered off away from New Zealand entirely. In the terminal waiting room we struck up a friendly exchange with a couple from Auckland. We then sat together on board and our enjoyable conversing lasted through the three and a half hour crossing. 

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Loren and I picked up our rental car and stopped on our way to Marlborough Sounds to have a delightful hike on part of Queen Charlotte’s Track. We stayed in Mahau – meaning Sheltered, Sound, among the Marlboroughs. As advertised, their sunsets can be breathtaking.

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The next day when we were about to borrow our hosts’ kayaks, an unexpected strong wind picked up causing whitecaps. We were strongly recommended to forego kayaking and instead hike to Mistletoe Bay. We started uphill to the summit lookout but soon decided to take the less traveled cutoff trail to the bay. Along this trail there was an interesting bird call, which to me sounded like when I run a paper towel dampened by window cleaner back and forth across glass. This bird seemed happy to allow me to take a photo! We then hiked the Loop track and returned to our car via another portion of Queen Charlotte’s Track. In the end hiking was the right decision, as the wind never abated all that day.

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Again we were up quite early to catch our AquaTaxi from Marahau/Kaiteriteri to Bark Bay in the Abel Tasman National Park. Before our drop-off, our taxi boat took us by the most photographed rock in the area – Split Apple Rock. Once dropped off at Bark Bay, we hiked along the wilderness trail with periodic breathtaking views of the coast. We had been advised by our Godson to not backpack here for the black flies, as they are worse than deer flies. It turned out that again we were lucky in that we were not at all disturbed by flies on our day hike here. 

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On our way from Bark Bay to Anchorage Hut, we passed through Torrent Bay. We knew that if the tide was low we could take the shortcut across the open beach, then detour off track to Cleopatras Pool with a natural rock water slide.

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However, we were unaware that the shortcut included fording more than a few rivulets of mountain runoff that join the Tasman Sea, some deeper than others. In trying to keep his boots and socks wet – in hindsight, why we did not just take our boots off I do not know, Loren twisted just the wrong way to injure a glut. So, hiking to Cleopatra’s Pool was out of the question, and Loren was unable to enjoy as much our overnight on Aquapackers at Anchorage Bay with our wonderful hosts,

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and a delightful group of fellow travelers. We also had to give up our plan to hike the track back to Marahou and take another water taxi instead. With resting, elevating, anti-inflamatories and heat pack treatment, Loren is doing a bit better. 

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We then learned that the previous Cyclone Gita that had veered south of Wellington while we were on the North Island did extensive damage to the Tasman National Park region of the South Island. Many “slips” are clearly visible across the landscape. Our trip “over the hill” to reach our accommodation in Takaka was delayed due to required road repair. The times for non-construction traffic are restricted to one escorted trip in the morning and one in the evening. So Loren had an opportunity to have a soak in a Kaiteriteri hot tub before we could drive the severely damaged route. It reminded me of the frequent road closings due to landslides on Route 17 between San Jose and Santa Cruz at home. So on leaving here we will have another very early departure this week. 

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Week 206 March 10, 2018

Our week began with a gorgeous day of sunshine! The weather report claimed that we would have four days of sun, but Loren and I did not leave it to chance. We took advantage and went out to Otari-Wilton’s Bush, a forested park of native trees and trails where we spent a couple of hours hiking around, as the clouds began returning.

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It was easy to capture a better photo of the large wood pigeon. This one seemed quite happy to pose straight overhead. Their wings make a loud whooshing when they fly away. And, finally I caught my first tui photos – any time we have seen them before, they were either too hard to see or moved too fast from view. The tui has a unique repertoire of noises to their calls. It was lovely to see them better and to hear them once again.

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We also saw the 800 year old rimu tree here. We were grateful that we had gone as the report was wrong – we were in for several days of clouds, one with nonstop heavy rains.

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The next day I had the opportunity to attend a Workshop and Master Class at the studio where Loren and I have been practicing yoga, with a special visiting teacher from California who has extensive knowledge about the Bikram Yoga method. I had taken Craig’s master class many years ago at my home studio, and it was great to spend the afternoon with him again, especially now that I am a certified instructor. 

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During the introductions, a young woman from out of town claimed that she had attended my same Teacher Training. She did not look at all familiar though, so during my introduction I told her that we would need to talk.

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On our first break she immediately was at my side, and I realized that of course I knew her, once she showed me a photo of how she had worn her hair four years ago! With her last name starting with K and mine with a W, we only saw each other in passing during the nine weeks of training. I was able to take her class the next day and am proud to call her my littermate. I have had the privilege to teach two more classes myself this week, and will teach one more before we leave Wellington.

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I was able to spend a couple of hours seeing the second half of this year’s Academy Awards. Like the recent Women’s Olympics Ice Hockey game, there are eloquent, emotional, exuberant winners among the many Oscar nominees who cannot also win. It was entertaining and moving to see some of the additional artistic presentations. 

I noticed this list on a post card as we walked around town:

   L&P
   Hokey Pokey
   Fish & Chips

and I realized that now Loren and I can say that we have tasted all three of these New Zealand specialties. “L&P is Adult lemonade,” per our waitress one day, and she added “lemonade with a fizz to it.” It was quite refreshing! I have also enjoyed finding the tasty Ginger Beer here that I had first discovered while we were traveling in Africa in late 2015. And, we just had to buy a container of Hokey Pokey at the supermarket on the recommendation of Loren’s Godson – vanilla ice cream with chunks of toffee sprinkled throughout. Delicious! I wonder how come this flavor has not made its way to the USA? 

Two other unique foods that we have enjoyed here include the delightful Egmont cheese – like a gouda/cheddar blend, and, a lean venison. We were advised to try it as it is not as gamey as the wild deer we have each tried in the US. When Loren and I had driven around the North Island last month, we were surprised to occasionally come across a large herd of deer on a fenced off hillside. We learned that the grass-fed venison medallions are popular here. We finally picked up a package to cook for ourselves, and I am hard pressed to call it even slightly gamey and can now suggest this dish too!

The City Gallery – an art gallery had been closed for remodeling until this week, and we paid them a visit. The theme going on currently is all about New Zealand, teaching us more about the country.

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The gallery was showing the 1995 film Forgotten Silver. Loren and I were impressed with how well made it was, but, the story it tells – about the recovered films of an early 19th century film maker, is incredible. Rightly so. The writeup that we only briefly read as we entered the viewing included the word hoax, and that stuck with me. I took a photo of the account as we exited, and in pursuing it online later, I found how Loren and I were quite easily duped as were many New Zealanders when it was first aired. I love the second sentence of what one of the directors had responded to an angry reporter who was also duped, which was included in the review: “The art of storytelling is the art of spinning a convincing lie. I’m not going to apologise for doing my job well.”

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To conclude this week’s post, I am including a few random photos from walking around Wellington, where we have very much enjoyed holing up for nearly a month.

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Week 205 March 3, 2018

For the first time I saw a new icon on my weather app, and learned that it meant we would meet The Wellington Wind! I thought it had to do with the tail end of “Former-Cyclone-Gita,” but later learned that this is a usual, normal occurrence. On and off it blew, all day and all night, at times tremendously hard. Then, just like that, it was gone. 

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17 in Celsius translates to the low 60’s in Fahrenheit…

 

 

 

 

Maybe a better snapshot of our time here in the Te Aro neighborhood of the Central Business District of Wellington can be had from a poem I was inspired to write this week:

   Sleepless Mess, Downtown Wellington
    Claire Adalyn Wright

   Our travel throw-blankets and pajamas too light
   though our host's comforter not quite light enough
   for summer nights in Te Aro's coastal community.
   Dear Mr. Sandman, where, and why, do you hide?

   Sounds ricochet off pavement onto building walls,
   echoing around a pillared concrete carpark below -
   a barrel of bottles clink into a recycling bin,
   a din of voices resonate throughout the dark.

   Groups drift by, bound for nearby dormitory halls.
   Hoots and yells, an occasional shout, or laughter. 
   A woman’s voice, clearly, “How do you know that?”
   His deep response, “I know because,” fading away.

   Tires mimic waves on oft rain-wet tarmac - as if
   rushing to crush it to granules. Unlike unending 
   ebb and flow, delightful sweet silence descends!
   Emergency sirens soon startle, wailing a while.

   Intense winds arise, rattling windows and framing, 
   howling, as Mom would say, “To beat the band.”
   Crinkled papers and plastics sail about the skies
   settling on pipes, wires, rooftops, and sidewalks.

   Skateboards click, clack and smack; scooters purr, 
   motorbikes whine; then street-cleaning squadron and
   rubbish removal add choruses of motor and machine.
   A lone street walker’s singsong heralds coming dawn.

   Yet my thoughts and ideas, worries and fears,
   tinnitus ringing off the hook, loud, in my ears,
   lurk behind reverberations of a city’s cacophony.
   Lie as I try I lie not, these and more thrive at night.

   Finally, a piercing metal blade slicing the asphalt, 
   and a subsequent deafening pitch of the jackhammer -
   allow earplugs - dratted devices, for once, to actually
   block out the racket. Or was I simply that dead tired?


We have had more routine appointments and goings-on this week, including Loren seeing the dental hygienist and both of us visiting a dermatologist. I took the offer to teach another Bikram Yoga class, and, had my hair cut. We also had repairs made to the straps on our backpacks, then ate a meal at another Mexican restaurant in town. All these experiences were good ones, affording us chances to meet nice and interesting people, while attending to important aspects of our lives. One evening we enjoyed a delightful time out for drinks with our dermatologist and his wonderful staff.

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This week too Loren and I appreciated FaceTiming with special family members. Loren especially recognizes a fortune in having such technology, as there was no similar ability forty years ago when traveling on his bicycle. We also took evening walks, particularly on the waterfront promenade where parts of the city can be seen across the harbor.

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Being immersed in a big city of a Commonwealth country on a day to day basis, we are learning more about what it means to be part of its Realm. It is fun to read about the Royal family lineage and relationships, as they are often a source of headlines or featured in magazines that one finds in Doctor’s offices. However we are also at times reminded of important or infamous people at home as well.

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If I were to sum up in a word, Te Aro seems most oriented in the arts. We have seen lots, even blocks, of street art. I will let some of what has appealed to me introduce itself to conclude this week’s post. Thank you again, dear family and friends, for following along!  

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Week 204 February 24, 2018

Loren and I have had a few major concerns at home in recent weeks. For example, we learned that our PO Box was likely robbed in January. It was not just ours but the whole structure of boxes, necessitating our Post Office to look to close down its outdoor boxes, and making a change of address required on our part. Not an easy decision or task. And, our financial adviser alerted us that he has moved his staff to a new base. We are delighted for them, but this also required some work on our part.

Then there are the necessary tasks of preparing taxes, continuing education courses to complete online… We are grateful to be staying in one place long enough to address these and other heartaches and hardships at home. We have so much appreciation for our family members and friends who continue to support us from afar in our Journey. I found this image with my first course, divine affirmation to work on our travel planning:

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Early this week Loren read a forecast of upcoming rain, so that evening we took a long walk around town. Wellington seems full of vibrancy, art, and young adults, reminding me a little of how I felt in Berlin – happy and hopeful for the future.

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Then came the severe warning of three days of “A Deep, Extra-Tropical Cyclone – Gita,” coming toward New Zealand’s wild, west coast. It even triggered a warning email from AirBnB to their hosts and visiting guests – which included us! Wellington is at the southwest tip of the North Island, and the eye was heading on a course directly between the two islands. Lucky for us though it veered further south, so all that we experienced were some heavy winds initially, and much rain one night and day from a thoroughly whited-out sky. Since that, it has been on and off cloudy or sunny here again and quite a few degrees cooler. 

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I am reiterating the New Zealanders’ use of the phrase wild west, reminding me a bit of North America’s historic wild west, but I believe here they are strictly referring to the coast. I read how in 1520, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan was the first European explorer to reach the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic. His fleet, crossed waters so strangely calm that the ocean was named “Pacific,” from the Latin word pacificus, meaning “tranquil.” New Zealand’s east coast faces the Pacific, what contrasts!

Of a more routine nature, Loren and I both had our crippled eyeglass frames repaired this week. We had our annual physicals too. And I was able to see a dental hygienist, which was especially wonderful because a front tooth that had been painful when flossing had concerned me, but needed nothing more than a good cleaning. Of more interest, we visited Old St. Paul’s this week, that was built entirely from native timbers. It is now an historic site, and available for weddings. A newer St. Paul’s is around the corner, much taller and more modern.

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We toured Parliament too, which is partly housed in “The Beehive.” Then we sat in the Public Gallery overlooking the House during a Questions session, where the opposition and the Government seriously and lightheartedly challenge each other to do their best jobs. It was enlightening to learn about their processes from the tour guide, and, entertaining to see the political wheels of New Zealand in action.

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Noteworthy too, thanks to television, we saw the thrill of the American Women’s Olympic Hockey team earn their first Gold in nearly 20 years, which you may know included an overtime that led to a shootout and sudden death finale. Yet, sadly we saw the agony of the opposing Canadian Women’s team – taking Silver, but losing out on their dream to earn the first ever five consecutive Golds in a row. 

I will finish this week’s reflection with more language differences from Commonwealth to American English. Another yoga teacher at our studio here mentioned how confusing it is that the Americans use the word take, as in when we attend, a class. She was once startled when an American student told her she would like to take her class, because in New Zealand, to take the class means to teach the class! She then laughed as she told me she will take my class when I teach in early March, meaning that she will attend!