Saturday, March 30, 2019

Kitesurfing on Orewa Beach + Future Plan

Some of you have asked about the temperatures and also for a map. We're here to provide.

Temps have been in the luscious 70-80 F range, with endless breezes that sweep through the caravan even at night. Occasional NZ showers that last mere moments. Sweet sweet air, unencumbered by exhaust or other pollution, but more humid than we're used to on the South Island. Closer to the equator up here.

Here's the route we've taken to date, not counting Auckland to Muriwai (please click here if you can't view map):

If you pull out on the map using the minus symbol, you'll see we have quite a bit of territory to explore in Northland, which is everything north of Auckland. We're eager to see what lies ahead, especially as we move farther away from the busy city and suburbs/exurbs.

This morning we took a long walk on Orewa Beach, a windy tide-out expanse. Those commas you see above hanging in mid-air are kitesurfers, and they were flying (click here if you can't view vid).

Breakfast veggies

Some people were out looking for submerged treasure. This guy had the kit for it--metal detector with headphones, shovel, floating strainer, and a pouch hanging from his belt for the finds.

Via some confusion, we ended up with no coffee cups in the caravan (we've been drinking coffee out of bowls and laughing about it every day). This morning I said to Art: maybe two coffee cups will appear in the free bin in the communal kitchen. When he went over to do the dishes, look what he found.

Laundry drying the NZ way. Given the coffee cups, it appears the force is with us.

The End of Ice + Red Beach

Good evening, campers. We're in a campsite at Red Beach, 30 km or so north of Auckland. For we who are still organizing, it's perfect.

What's not so perfect is the state of our planet. I finished The End Of Ice and it's devastating.

Via Kirkus Reviews:
Award-winning journalist Jamail (The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2009, etc.) began covering climate disruption—the term he prefers over the more common “climate change”—in 2010 and has since “published more than one hundred articles” on the subject. For his latest book, he traveled to the front lines of extreme shifts in habitat and ecology: Denali in Alaska, where glaciers are rapidly melting; the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, where increasingly horrific storms and “large-scale die-offs” decimate the local culture; the Rock Islands of Palau in the western Pacific ocean, where corals experience often fatal “bleaching”; and the Amazon, whose famous biodiversity is threatened by deforestation, warming temperatures, and various other human-caused effects. The book is assiduously researched, profoundly affecting, and filled with vivid evocations of the natural world. Jamail’s deep love of nature blazes through his crisp, elegant prose, and he ably illuminates less-discussed aspects of climate disruption, like the Alexandrium toxin, a “marine dinoflagellate” responsible for the mass deaths of birds and fish, and white pine blister rust, “one of the single largest threats to trees in the continental United States.” 

Here's a slightly funky (in the best possible way) cheese to cheer us.

What better way to focus on the distinct brilliance of our natural world than a few of Art's pictures from a beach walk this morning. He calls this one The Brain.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler

What a delight to meet up with Jeff and Katie of Kina Campers this morning, along with his uncle at left, at the Waitakere train station near the uncle's house. After towing the caravan from the South Island, crossing on the ferry, and driving north, they spent last night with him.

We had a good catch-up and a tour of this newer caravan, which Jeff had specially retrofitted for us so it could earn NZ's self-contained designation, meaning water and toilet needs can be met for a minimum of three days without requiring any external services or discharging any waste. (Particulars upon request.) The bottom line is that it lets you park just about anywhere in this gorgeous country.

We returned to the cottage to organize and load between rain showers.

 Time out for a raw lunch

Cukes, tomatoes, and basil from the garden here (am I in my element or what).

 Jeff's t-shirt made me laugh.

Scarlett runner beans gifted us by the proprietors. 

For we who love vintage campers, the kitchen updates are notable, including retractable faucet with drop-down cover to produce more counter space.

 Same for the range top. More in the coming days. Tomorrow we're going camping.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Birdsong, Gurnard, and a New Location

As I write on this porch at 6:30 pm, the birdsong is cacophonous, the air sweet and still. We're staying on an eight-acre parcel in a guesthouse that was formerly a milking shed, the owners just up the road in their place. They've been here since the 60s.

Chooks roam freely, kept out of the vegetable gardens by sturdy fencing and nets. Our proprietor brought us a melon and we tossed the leftovers to the happy birds. They urged us to pick fresh tomatoes and basil for a salad.

Local eggs for breakfast

A stand-out among the house rules...

We did a major shop today, preparing to load the caravan for the week ahead. You know one of the things I love best about NZ is the availability of fresh fish in the grocery. This guy was happy to accommodate me with six gurnard fillets.

The fillets cook quickly in butter

Tomorrow we'll leave the land of airbnbs and meet up with our camper at a train station a couple miles away, bringing it back here to set up before embarking Friday on the camping portion of our program. A highlight will be unpacking our suitcases for the last time until we head home. There are benefits to traveling with a closet on board.

We'll enjoy our fish and see you round the bend...

At Muriwai Beach and Down The Road

A beautiful day at the beach.

Little free library

 Surfing is serious business here. Offerings at the Muriwai Surf School: lessons, hire, advice.

Wish we could be here for this.

Tomorrow we're off to a new location, near the train station where on Thursday morning we'll meet up with the nice folks who rent us our caravan. They're delivering it to us up here so we can camp in Northland, the area north of Auckland we've yet to explore.

Monday, March 25, 2019


flotsam (flŏtˈsəm)

  • n.
    Wreckage or cargo that remains afloat after a ship has sunk.
  • n.
    Floating refuse or debris.
  • n.
    Discarded odds and ends.

A few snaps on a work day.

Looks like Tabasco, made in NZ

 Beautiful graphic on this coffee ("vibrant & invigorating"), roasted in Wellington, NZ.

Cabbage/onion/garlic/ginger stir fry with sour cream for breakfast.

We took a vibrant and invigorating walk through Muriwai Regional Park.

It's a piece of the Hillary Trail, a four-day (three night) 75 km trek across rugged country reaching from Titirangi to Muriwai. It is named after the famous kiwi conqueror of Mt Everest, Sir Edmund Hilllary, and was opened on the second anniversary of his death.

My favorite t-shirt to wear reads: NONE OF THIS IS OK. It offers the reader much room for projection/interpretation. When I wore it to the gannet colony yesterday, I could see kiwis reading it and nodding to themselves. Sadly, though it was created during the first year of the current administration, it can apply broadly.

Someone's letterbox with origami kiwi

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A Visit To The Takapu (Gannet) Colony at Miriwai

Today we walked to the Gannet (takapu) colony just down the road. It's Sunday here in Miriwai and quite a few people had the same idea, but I thought: imagine that. All these people came out to see these handsome birds with a six-foot wing span.

The cliff paths lead to several viewing platforms.

About 1200 pair nest here from August to March.

Close-up of nesting sites, adults in the rear (male and female look alike), fledglings in the foreground.

Is the fledgling below with wings spread making its first take-off? If so, it has a lengthy flight ahead. Once airborne it will fly due west across the Tasman Sea to Australia.

Via NZ Birds online...
Fledglings from New Zealand fly directly to Australia, and typically do not return to their home colonies until their third year. Some New Zealand breeders migrate to Australian and Tasmanian waters to winter between breeding seasons. Australasian gannets often breed with the same partner over consecutive seasons. Some birds retain the same mate for the rest of their lives, but divorces do occur.

There are three primary clusters: at the top of the circular rock at left, directly below, and on the V-shaped rock at right. What is happening in front of that V-shaped rock?
Fishing! Looks slippery--I imagine this activity is tide-dependent.

To the north, surfers dot Muriwai Beach.

Who else lives here?

Fledgling and parent

Master divers

Off to Oz

On the uphill walk back (Art cursing his beta blockers with every step) we pass this, which kind of makes my stomach drop. Houses are built into the hills here and parking spots are, shall we say, creative.

T'was a most relaxing field trip with the gannets. Until next time...