Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Like father, like sons

What's a Nostalgic Nana going to do if she can't brag on her grandkids once in a while?

Thomy and Jeff spend Thursday evenings with us while Jon is at work and Jenny is at her English class.
They play legos and Alien versus Predator.
Their Daddy's old toys.
And eat toast.

Last Thursday, they turned up in new outfits from Fred Meyer.
Check out the boots!

No, I said, look fierce!

Well, Thomy kinda managed it.
Jeff, not so much!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Just doing my bit for the New Zealand Board of Tourism

My last two days passed quickly. Anne and I had accomplished what we had hoped, which was sorting out Mum's belongings and making a start on getting her house ready to sell. I had spent some quality time with Mum and spent three hours leading sing-alongs with her group. I said goodbye to Mum on Monday, so all that was left was relaxing after the busyness and stress of the last week. 
And relax we did.
Except for John, who is enclosing the poles of their house to make more living space.
What you don't see about this frail sturdy scaffolding is that it is about 30 feet above the ground.
I ventured out on it and felt quite wobbly in my tummy, but John is an old hand and struts his stuff with abandon.

In no particular order, we ate awesome fish and chips on the beach at Whangamata.

We drove up the coast to Opoutere and went for a short hike in the forest.
This is looking over Wharekawa Harbour, where the trail begins.

The forest floor was littered with these beautiful mushrooms.

We drove on a little further around stomach-churning curvy roads to Tairua, where the twin-coned volcano, Mount Paku, awaited us. Tairua Beach, at the base of the volcano, is the site of the earliest evidence of Polynesian settlement.
There she is!

We drove as far as the road would take us and then hiked the rest of the way to the top.
Here we go...

The bush was full of birdsong, especially the tui. I recorded the song but it didn't turn out too well, so here's one from YouTube.

Looking down at Pauanui and Tairua.

After consulting with the local tourist centre, we decided to attempt a walk along the ridge, although directions were decidedly vague.
It was muddy and steep and slippery, but we did our best.

The mighty kauri.
Anyone up for coming with me next time?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Prints of Tides

Yup, still doin' the travelogue.
If you don't like gorgeous beach and surf shots, better go visit someone else today!

Anne and John's house is in a quaint little town called Onemana, on the Coromandel Peninsula. It is a long and winding drive, no freeways on this route! There is only one road into Onemana, so it is very quiet, even at the height of summer. Their house sits on a steep section and you can see the ocean from their front deck. Every morning, they go for a walk on the beach. They often scavenge driftwood for their garden decor. 
Our first night at the house was stormy, but we awoke to almost clear skies, so we walked. I had planned to run, but had managed to catch Anne's cold.

Top o'the morning to yeh!

There they go, over the soggy grass.
Did I mention that my sister no longer wears a watch?

It was a little hazy when we started out...

...but things cleared up quickly.
I love the Norfolk pines that are ubiquitous in new Zealand.

Beach art!
The heavy rain had cut a channel through the sand and we got a little wet.

This giant pohutakawa tree seems menacingly close to the house next to John and Anne's place, but city regulations forbid its removal.

This one is in front of the same house and I believe it is about 400 years old. The pohutakawa is also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree. It is tough and adaptable and thrives in the difficult environment of the coast. This article tells more, if you're interested.
Roll on, deep and dark blue ocean, roll.
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain.
Man marks the earth with ruin,
but his control stops with the shore.
                                                                                                      Lord Byron.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Old friends and caterpillars

I hadn't seen my old friend John since the year my Dad died. We were best friends in our last couple of years of high school, then he came down from Auckland when he heard of Dad's death and was a tower of strength to me. He loves to tell the story of how, because I had to fly home from a holiday in Australia, I didn't have a dress suitable for a funeral, so he took me to town and bought me one. He was that kind of a guy. Then a few days later, he drove me all the way down to Wellington (an all-day trip, one way) to pick up my worldly goods so that I could move back home with Mum. 

John and I stayed in touch for most of the next year, but then we lost contact. Every time I went to New Zealand I inquired around, but no one seemed to know of his whereabouts.

About two years ago, we found each other on the CCNZ alumni website and sent sporadic emails. When I decided to take this trip, I wrote and asked John to pick me up at the airport. He was there, waiting faithfully for me as I exited the security area, at six o'clock in the morning.

Lucky he's a fireman and is used to crazy hours!

It's funny how time passes, but doesn't really change some things. I've noticed that when you don't see someone for a few decades, you settle back very easily into old patterns of relating. So it was with John and me. He fed me buttered hot cross buns and showed me his beautiful bird art. 
He did!
John is eight months sober and very proud of the fact.
We nattered for a couple of hours about life and birds and family and mutual friends and addiction and the pragmatic aspects of spirituality. 
Then we went for a walk.

John is a bit of a conservationist and a walking encyclopedia of native birds and fauna. He lives on the Orakei Basin estuary, surrounded by green things and songbirds.

John wanted to find a new walkway that had been built around the bay, so we ventured forth. 
Following our noses.

We walked down some steep stairs to an area that had been restored. New Zealand kinda owns the word "verdant".

Of course, when you go down stairs, you eventually have to go up stairs.
Luckily, there were many beauties along the way.

We weren't quite sure where we were going. 
Well, I hadn't a clue and John was only slightly less mystified.
So we stopped to ask this lady if she knew the way.
She was ever so helpful, but by the time she was done talking we were not much wiser. 
Watch the video and you will see why!
You'll have to click on the video and it will take you to my web album, where you can watch it in all its glory.

We crossed the estuary on an older wooden walkway and saw eels winding their way through the shallow water. It was a beautiful, sunny day in a small piece of paradise. 
The one things everyone we consulted agreed upon was that we would have to take a shortcut through this school. It was big on gardening, apparently, and sported several scarecrows along the way...

...as well as various and sundry other forms of garden art.

The vegetables were prolific.

Did you know that potager means kitchen garden in parleyvoo Fransay? 
Well, strictly speaking it is jardin potager. 
(I hear that in David Suchet's smooth French accent.) 

Shall we deviate? It is quite amusing.

We roamed the neighbourhoods, admiring many things.

John admired this bench and sat down for a while, even though it was in the middle of someone's front garden. Note the boy's jandals, otherwise known as flipflops, for the Americans. I certainly couldn't have done all the miles we covered in such minimal footwear, but it didn't seem to bother him.

Finally, we found the entrance to the descent that supposedly led to the new footbridge across the estuary.
You forgot about that, didn't you?
The path was fenced off, with dire warnings to all those who venture forth, but we ignored both, intrepid explorers that we were, hopped the fence, and started downwards.  The path was obviously still under construction, but luckily it was a holiday weekend so all we saw was evidence, no workmen. Scattered tools and gaping holes were no impediment to us and eventually we arrived at...

Ah yes.
The old "ten foot gap between the shore and the footbridge" dilemma.
It is, we were informed, the victim of a land dispute.
I gave up.
So up I went again.

John said we had a choice. We could go back the way we came (boring!) or venture forth and walk around the bay.
This bay!

I have been known to get into trouble when given such choices in the past, but I chose the bay anyway.

We passed a swan plant and I had to linger and try to catch some good pics, in spite of the ever-present breeze that did its best to thwart my efforts.
Swan plants are hosts to monarch caterpillars. Anne told me later that you rarely see a swan plant of any good size because the caterpillars do such an efficient job of munching them.

Several other insects were availing themselves of the bounties of the shrub.

We crossed the estuary again by a more substantial path and passed the weir. John said the estuary is drained every day through this weir to keep its water clean.

And then, yes, we walked all the way around the bay and back to John's house.

And then I took a nap.
The end.