Sunday, July 6, 2008

Last day in New Zealand

Kia Ora!

Leaving New Zealand will be difficult, I have met so many wonderful people who have shared their spirit, their smiles and their beautiful country with me.

I will not forget the tranquility I have experienced being in a country where most people's attitudes are "why worry?" and airport security is almost non existent. This is a different way of life for me and one I hope to take back with me to the States.

New Zealand seemed really far away before I left, but now I know it is just a plane ride away, and Air New Zealand sure makes it easy to get here

Thanks to all who helped make this trip so memorable!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Northland to Auckland

I drove in the rain and a bit of hail from Omapere down the west coast and stopped at Matakohe to visit the Kauri Museum and learn about the logging of the bygone era. It was very interesting and had life size dioramas of men in action. Some of the models were climbing Kauri trees, some sawing them, and some digging for the petrified gum, which is like amber. Later, I found out from Colin Mcclean of the Westin Hotel, that the figure's faces were from actual people cast in wax, his grandfather being one of the men whose face was used for the museum. Small world. I continued the drive to Auckland, stopping at Sahara for coffee. From the outside it said Bank of New Zealand but the 1912 building ceased being a bank in the 1990's and is now a weekend getaway for brunch and dinner. The interior has antique furnishings reminiscent of my grandmother's house, groovy music, large nude paintings on the walls and great New Zealand coffee. I felt totally safe driving alone and savored my last drive in New Zealand. Several hours later I arrived at the luxurious Westin Hotel, only one year old where I met Colin. Later, I enjoyed a Thai massage from the spa at the Westin, which specializes in Thai therapists. I was quite surprised when the petite massage therapist almost hurt me as she removed all the knots from by back!

Today I kicked back and enjoyed breakfast at the Q restaurant in the Westin Hotel. The interior is stunning, decorated with back lit onyx. In the afternoon, the weather cleared and I decided to go for a sail on one of the America's Cup boats in Waitemata Harbor, where the cup was sailed in 1999-2000 in Auckland. (New Zealand was defeated by the Swiss.) When I saw there were 10 men and only 2 gals I did get a little nervous, but despite the heavy wind which was touted as being the stuff the cup was sailed in, and the radical angle in which we sailed on, I had a blast! Two companies in Auckland offer the ride, and

Here is Hone, from Waka Taiamai Heritage tours.

The tour around the Bay of Islands included going through the hole in the rock.

From Paihia, I traveled about an hour in my rental car, (getting pretty good at driving on the left side now, may have trouble when I return to the States!) It took about an hour and a half to get to Hokianga Harbor and the Copthorne Hotel in Omapere. The hotel is lovely and overlooks the historic harbor, infamous for grounding hundreds of boats back in the day, due to a sand bar. After a rest, I checked in for the Footprints Waipoua Tour, Dressed in many layers including rain gear, I headed out with Taffety and Bill (English spellings of their Maori names), really Tawhiri and Wiremu! The pronunciation of wh is "f" and New Zealanders pronounce the "r" like a soft "t", so I hear Taffety. Our gang of 9 headed out in a van to drive up the steep and winding hill to the Kauri forest. The sky was dark and it began to rain, typical of a rain forest. We were all given head lamps and large umbrellas for our hour long trek in the forest to view Tane Matua and Te Matua Ngahere, 2,000 and 4,000 year old Kauri trees. These magnificent ancient beings were left behind during the milling of Kauri trees, back at the turn of the century (now banned and they are fiercely protected) presumably because they were just two big to cut down. The tour was spiritual and funny as T and B told us Maori stories and joked with us on the way to Te Matua Ngahere. When we arrived, we were all awestruck by its size, its circumference being 45 feet around. Taffety sang a song and we all paid our respect to the giant. The evening was magical for several reasons, but mostly having the opportunity to walk in the rain forest at night amid the presence of Bill and Taffety and the trees and nobody else!

Wellington and Northland

In the last few days I have traveling at the speed of light, having lots of great adventures despite the weather which has been cool and rainy. On July 3rd I left my hotel in Wellington, but not before getting a picture of me with Francois Steyn, the fly half for the South African Springboks rugby team and riding in the elevator with Percey Montgomery. Tonight I watched my first rugby game on TV in my hotel in Auckland and really enjoyed it, even though I had no idea what was happening. The game was an important one, with South Africa playing against The All Blacks from New Zealand, who won.

From Wellington I took 2 planes to Keri Keri in the north of the north island, called..........Northland! I met Hone from Waka Taiamai Heritage, who gave me a greater understanding of Maori ways. He is an incredible person with a real passion to teach people about his people. His grandson is only 9 and recited their lineage from 500 years ago in their tribal tongue while Hone translated. One of the highlights was when Hone told me all about the constellations according to Maori lore as compared with the way we learned it. The southern hemisphere sky is really amazing and we had a good clear night for stargazing. I enjoyed my time with Hone and his family and recommend his tour when you travel up north. I also did a dolphin discovery tour and was willing to swim with the dolphins in the 50 degree water, but we did not see any! The tour of the Bay of Islands, with 144 islands, was worth it, even without seeing the dolphins.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kaikoura pictures

Sighting a Sperm Whale from the air.
Hapuku Lodge looking out towards the Pacific and the nursery of baby seals on State Hwy 1

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Kaikoura to Wellington

I left beautiful Kaikoura early in the morning and drove along the coast north to Blenheim to catch another small plane, (about 20 seats) across the channel to the North Island. The countryside changed from dramatic coast to hills and winding roads, sometimes 180 degree turns to farm country and then to vineyards. The Marlborough Blenheim area is famous for their wines. The airport had one gate and no security. When I went to return the key, there was no one at the Budget rental desk. The girl at the cafe said just pick up the phone as they are having morning tea. I rang and she told me to put the keys in the slot and leave the GPS on the counter! I am definitely not in the US anymore! I flew into the small airport of Wellington, met by Raewyn Tan from Wellington Tourism ( We were dropped off on Cuba Street, an artsy part of town for lunch and a famous New Zealand coffee. The city was invigorating. I am told it has the most restaurants and cafes per capita of any other city in the world. I went on a tour of the city with guide Nathan to get the history and orientation of this beautiful city on the Tasman Sea ( We went straight to Mt. Victoria to get a panoramic view. The city has hills and earthquakes like San Francisco and many of the older houses in Newtown (the oldest part of the city!) remind me of there. We drove by the Weta studio (home to the amazing animations and model making of movies like "Lord of The Rings"and Island Bay. I am now off to dinner with my aunt from Vermont's friend's daughter who is studying to be a veterinarian here in NZ.