Thursday, October 1, 2015


Planes, trains, and automobiles days since we last posted. Had a fine drive from Waihi Beach to Selwyn's place, beautifully sited with views of the water in Auckland. Selwyn's wife Raewyn is as generous and lovely as he (possibly more so). The Rover found a good resting spot.

Fast forward to cover 17 hours of total fly-time with a 16-hour pause in Honolulu (long enough to slurp a couple of mai tais) to 2 am Thursday. Home is wherever I'm with you.

Our place, where we spent just six weeks before leaving for NZ, felt brand new.

Some incredibly thoughtful dear ones stocked our kitchen and fridge with everything needed to awaken from a jet-lagged slumber and have a nourishing breakfast...and lunch and dinner. Enough for the coming days too. Thank you, readers, for taking the trip with us. Maybe next time you'll come along in person...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mauri Ora, NZ!

We'll drive to Selwyn's house, not far from Auckland Airport, Tuesday to park the Rover until our return. You remember Selwyn. He's the gregarious gent who drove our family bus around Auckland and then to Hobbitland and the glowworm caves before delivering us to Rotorua (valiantly managing his raucous bus cargo all the way).

Selwyn and his wife will be keeping the Rover for us. How nice is that? We'll have a little supper together and then head for the airport, where a just-past-midnight flight awaits, a half hour into our last visa-legal day in NZ. Nothing like taking advantage of every moment.

Selwyn's challenge

Beyond that, friends, one picture will have to convey what we're feeling tonight. You write the caption...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Eleanor Catton: The land of the long white cloud


Canadian-born author Eleanor Catton (2013 Man Booker prize winner for The Luminaries) grew up in NZ. She wrote a piece for the Guardian--a love letter, really--elegantly describing the country that has so warmly embraced us these past six months. Read the entire piece here. The excerpted prose below is hers alone. The photos are ours, one snap for every thousand memories.

(For Catton's quite different take on NZ government--Cattongate--and the attendant response, click here.)

Milford Sound

The South is the more visually stunning, but the North is the more populous and cultivated: this is a contrast that recalls each island's proper name. The North Island is Te Ika A Maui, "the fish of Maui" (recounting the mythic tale of New Zealand's creation) where the South is Te Wai Pounamu, "the waters of greenstone" (describing the glassy stone, prized by Maori, that is found in the swift rivers and along the savage misted beaches of the lonely south). New Zealand national identity lies somewhere between these emphases, North and South: as a bicultural nation, it must identify both as "the place of this people" and as "the people of this place".

  Cape Foulwind

In Maori the country's full name, Aotearoa, is a lovely kind of oxymoron: it translates as "the land of the long white cloud", as if clouds were properties of the earth, or served in some strange way to invoke it.


To experience sublime natural beauty is to confront the total inadequacy of language to describe what you see. Words cannot convey the scale of a view that is so stunning it is felt. In such moments natural beauty becomes a kind of devastation – it is pure encounter, too compressed in time and space to be properly contained. I do not feel the sublime when I look at a city, however impressive it might be in proportion and shadow, for the reason that a city is designed, in its substance it has been formally determined, and it has been named already by the fact of its creation. Words are adequate.

 Lake Ohau

I have never been moved to tears by a skyline, or a building, or a painted arch, but the sudden apparition of a peak from behind a sheet of mist is enough, now, to make me cry.
  Lake Tekapo

It is curious to me how often we tend to describe the perfection and drama of the natural world, its sublime qualities, in metaphors of fakery or artificiality: "like a postcard", "like a painting", or latterly in New Zealand, "like a scene from The Lord of the Rings". The impulse, I think, comes from a wish to apologise for the limited capacity of the "real" world. To grow up is to confront the disappointments of language, in a way, and to suffer the divorce between what we experience and what we imagine to be real.  
Blue Gorge near Hokitika

Travel brochures try to capture the quality of New Zealand's panoramas with adjectives – "pristine", "untouched", "majestic". But the words seem cheap and insubstantial, however accurate they may be, in the face of the real thing.

Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier Township

The language of description is always a matter of equivalence (a word equals the thing it describes) and so cannot contend with the sublime. But the language of paradox, oxymoron and subtle contradiction – the language of children – does better.

Lake Wanaka

Aotearoa is a land made perfect only by its opposites, the water and the air. It is both north and south at once. It is a land that casts its shadow on the clouds.

Wharariki Beach

Friday, September 25, 2015

Waihi Beach Orokawa Bay Hike + Flat White Cafe

How do you feel about leaving NZ, Pippi?
This post ends with a coffee at the Flat White Cafe, right on Waihi Beach. If ever there were a signal we're in the right place (!). But first a hike straight up, over, and down into Orokawa Bay, pure delight on a 70-degree sunny Saturday.

The tide was out this morning across the street from our motel, the Pacific gemlike. We had a little beach walk before driving a few kilometers north to the Orokawa Bay hike starting point.

Art provides some serious scale for the start of the trail.

It wound up and around an enormous outcropping, the ocean turquoise glinting through the trees.

We met this kid coming the other way on the trail. "Are you walking all the way back in that innertube?" I asked. "Yep," he said. Let it also be noted that lots of people said "g'day."

Orokawa Bay

The wave sound was intoxicating (trouble viewing click here).

Motel proprietor Steve recommended the hike and the Flat White Cafe. He's one of those chipper guys who wants everyone around him to be happy too. Steve arrived in NZ from London 30 years ago on a one-year rugby contract (and stayed, obviously). He's wild about this area and we understand why. Waihi Beach is a quiet little community with some of the sunniest weather in NZ and a fantastic beach.

We walked from the hike's end across the carpark and right up to Flat White Cafe.

A little wave action on top?

Another splendid NZ cafe, situated right on the beach. We soaked up the sun like a couple of tuatara.
Tuatara are reptiles endemic to New Zealand and which, although resembling most lizards, are part of a distinct lineage, the order Rhynchocephalia.[2] The two species of tuatara are the only surviving members of their order, which flourished around 200 million years ago.

The tuatara has a third eye on the top of its head called the parietal eye. It has its own lens, cornea, retina with rod-like structures, and degenerated nerve connection to the brain, suggesting it evolved from a real eye. The parietal eye is only visible in hatchlings, which have a translucent patch at the top centre of the skull. After four to six months, it becomes covered with opaque scales and pigment.[16] Its purpose is unknown, but it may be useful in absorbing ultraviolet rays to produce vitamin D,[10] as well as to determine light/dark cycles, and help with thermoregulation.[16] 

"Henry at Invercargill" by KeresH - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons -

More on tuatara here.

Waihi Beach

Which way to Motuoapa?

Good morning from Lake Taupo...
The lake lies in the caldera of the Taupo Volcano. With a surface area of 616 square kilometres (238 sq mi), it is the largest lake by surface area in New Zealand,

We took a vigorous brief hike up a path to see the lake before leaving, destination Waihi Beach on the Bay of Plenty. Pull out on the map a couple clicks (trouble viewing click here) and you'll see this location puts us within a couple of hours of Auckland and Tuesday's flight.

The landscape was largely agricultural, shifting to gently sloping hills nearer the coast. 
A roomy motel unit with kitchen just off quiet Waihi Beach is ideal for the next few days as we unload, sift, sort, use up, and re-pack the Rover with things to take home and camping gear to leave. I'm making a spicy stir fry with onions, garlic, and ginger for dinner, using up a nice big head of cabbage in the process.

Sir Apirana Ngata (1874 – 1950) played a significant role in the revival of Maori people and culture during the early years of the twentieth century. He was the first Maori to graduate from a New Zealand university, and an elected Member of Parliament for 38 years.

On our Parliament tour, we learned Ngata was the longest-serving Maori MP

Snacks today include walnuts from a Golden Bay farm stand. They are flavorful and don't make your mouth feel furry the way some walnuts do.

I'm in thrall to this book, The Chimes, by Aucklander Anna Smaill, longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. About a world with no memories where music is used to communicate. The first couple reviewers at the book's amazon page offer a good distillation of the effort some say the book requires as it begins. I found it simple to grasp the flow by just letting the melody of it wash over me.

Waihi Beach, across the road from our motel, is just what the doctor ordered for road-weary travelers.

It's a popular surfing beach.

Good night, nearly full moon...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Awake To A Quake + Au Revoir Wellington

Kapiti Coast just north of Wellington

Is that a big round of applause I hear? Thank you, campers. With a fixed-up Rover, Thursday morning we happily drove north and made up for a little lost time, logging six+ hours to arrive on the shores of Lake Taupo. Here's our route (trouble viewing click here).

We traveled just about 200 miles, but in NZ you can't gauge time via mileage, since there are very few interstate-like roads. Today's route took us through lots of small towns, roundabouts, and traffic before opening up to steady driving. We also stopped for a bowl of soup and a flat white, in a cafe that popped up in the middle of nowhere.

This morning Art awoke to check his clock since one of the Rover service guys took our car home last night to ensure everything worked well and said he'd call by about 8 am when he got in. Still groggy when I heard coffee-making going on in the kitchen (very unusual since when I'm awake, I'm wide awake), I was about to ask Art what time it was when, face-down and half asleep, it felt like the bed was moving. "Is that you moving?" I called out, stuck in a caravan time-warp, apparently, since caravans almost always move slightly when people do.
What? says Art. It feels like the bed is moving, I say. Suddenly, I remember we're in NZ and try desperately to remember the layout and evacuation plan for the place we're staying (we checked into and out of two hotels three times in Wellington) and what floor we're on, not to mention where my clothes are. Then it stops. I'm still sleepy and when I finally check the clock I figure out why. It's not even 7, not an unheard-of hour to be up, but I read late last night. Chagrined, Art tells me he thought it was close to 8.
Early start to the day, then. And when I checked in with the NZ Herald, I saw a squib about this:
An earthquake measuring 5.1, centred in the Bay of Plenty, has been felt across a wide area but not near where it occurred. The quake, at 6.47am on Thursday, was centred 25km southeast of Rotorua at a depth of 167km, GeoNet says...A worker at Rotorua airport said they felt nothing there but people further away, particularly in the lower and eastern parts of the North Island (Ed note: including Wellington), lodged more than 2500 felt reports with GeoNet.


It was alternately rainy, sunny, dark, and cloudy for today's drive. This last photo shows an unusual sort of savanna/grassland we haven't seen before. I've been experiencing a bit of nature deficit disorder since leaving the South Island.

Tonight we ate spinach, mushrooms, and carrots with chicken-ginger sausages from the Wellington farmers market and thought about where we'll go tomorrow. We're within four hours of Auckland, from where our flight departs at midnight Tuesday. It's possible we can make a run for the coast, two hours away, and have a few quiet days before then.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

He Said She Said

Art re-visited Te Papa and I needed some exercise, so I wandered the city and returned to the Wellington Botanic Garden. This sculpture had a gentle cascade of water down its sides. "There can be peace between human beings; we have this choice. This is the idea the artist wants to convey with the transmitter-receiver quality of the sculpture."

Listening & Viewing Device 
Andrew Drummond 

I did and it does.

I walked up the steep slope to the gardens, taking the cable car on the downhill return.

Woman and child on cable car

We're keen to leave after a lovey but unexpected week in Wellington. The Rover will be ready tomorrow morning and so will we.