Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Oamaru: A Walk To The Doctor and Whitestone Cheese

This morning I called the health center here and, to my utter surprise, got an appointment for 1:45 pm to have a mole check. Post-melanoma (photos of my scar by arrangement only), the derm is obsessed with making sure we're not creating a new one.

Oamaru has the best kind of funky vibe

She insisted on a skin check the day before we left in early March and made me promise I'd get another one here in three months. Five months later, it was time.

We walked directly out of our campground into the public gardens that lead downtown, the gardens among NZ's oldest.

The glass house beckoned.

Inside, heat, humidity, and color.

And the sweetest sheepdog puppy, a bit nervous on her first outing with a leash. "We've just been out on the farm lambing this morning," the woman said (and at what point, I wondered, did hearing that phrase start to make sense to me?).

Good dog!

The gardens took us all the way to Thames Street, the main thoroughfare through this town of 13,000.

Several secondhand shops to nose about.

Waitaki District Council Building

Birthplace of the frozen meat industry

Soon it was appointment time. Still stunned that I'd managed to get in so quickly, I arrived a bit early.

In addition to the endless machinations of the truly cocked-up US health care system, shockingly nobody here asked me to pay in advance. Contrast this with the call I received from Northwestern several days ahead of melanoma surgery that was clearly intended to discover if I could pay for it. Do they leave patients unattended who can't?

People here were friendly and laughing. I was informed that I now have a national health ID index number, just for being treated within the system (no bennies, just a number).

I had this to help pass the time...

My favorite because...what an appropriate choice for sick people.

Right on time I saw a capable 30-something MD who'd emigrated from the Netherlands with her boyfriend. When I asked why she came to NZ she said, "Because it's just incredibly beautiful here" (so say we all). Later I told Art I thought I'd asked her more questions than she asked me. "Like that's a surprise," he responded.

At the end of our mole check she circled something on a slip of paper that turned out to be a line reading "5 to 15 min."  I would be charged accordingly--$90 NZ ($59.42 US). What a delight this visit had been--and oh yes, no weird moles.

On to Whitestone Cheese

You might remember we visited the Whitestone factory store on previous visits. Today was reason to celebrate so we walked a few more blocks straight into cheese heaven.

They're making a new blue and it is exquisite.

Happiness is a tasting platter.

And a strong flat white.

We walked back to the campground into the late-afternoon sun.

Tomorrow we'll visit the Victorian Precinct and two good bookstores there.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Food On The Road

Some of you asked for more food pictures and we're here to please. Every day we're shooting for nine cups of vegetables with a lot of good fats and some protein. We don't always make it, but most days we get close. On high-exertion days we eat more carb-heavy vegetables like beets and kumara/sweet potato. Finding organic produce is a major challenge, but we got lucky today.

This vegetable melange with leftover chicken ends with tamari, dijon, and cream to make a sauce.

We made hot chocolate in the shared kitchen at Glentanner campground at Aoraki/Mount Cook and sat by the warm wood-buring stove to drink it.

Proving that I will make a picture of just about anything (orange food)...

From our river walk this morning: what are you looking at?

Today in Oamaru we drove to a mostly organic/spray free produce place outside town and got bags and bags of good food. 

Often I'll buy something I'm unsure of, like these organic red oca/NZ yam. I sliced and added them to the pan with all the other veggies. Click here for history.

Oca is sometimes referred to as one of the “lost crops of the Incas,” because, despite its potential to become a globally cultivated crop, it’s still mostly enjoyed only in a few limited areas, namely South America and Mexico. Thought to be one of the oldest crops of the Andean region (tubers were even found in early tombs in the area), the oca suffers unfairly from the stigma of a “poverty food,” yet supplies a rich source of carbohydrates, calcium and iron (some high-protein varieties even contain more than 9 percent protein), not to mention great taste and versatility.

There's no way I know of to get nine cups of daily vegetables by eating out, and the food is rarely as good as we make ourselves. So we only occasionally go to restaurants.

I saw these at the produce place today. That ginger man is funny.

Today we finally fried up some cold-smoked bacon we purchased from a nice butcher back in Geraldine and had it with prunes as a starter before a vegetable saute. Sweet and salty.

The friendly butcher in Geraldine

Our food stylist is not traveling with us. With space at a premium in a caravan, there's less room to fidget with presentation. This blue cod sure was tasty though.

Pear and cheese hiking snack

Some food you buy for the wrapper.

There's nothing like roasting a whole chicken in the oven, warming us twice.

NZ lamb is reliably grass-fed and succulent. When the weather keeps Art from grilling, I cook it in a high-heat oven after slathering it with dijon, rosemary, and garlic.

Lousy photo but yummy Asian greens wraps with cold chicken, bleu cheese, avocado, pickle, and boysenberry jam (I can't find any good mayo here).

Sometimes we just eat raw vegetables and fruit, with or without protein.

Egg stir-fry for breakfast

Happy eating, campers...

Monday, July 29, 2019

Kurow on the Waitaki River

I read "Want To Feel Happier Today? Try Talking To A Stranger" after a brief, smiling exchange with a fellow camper here in Kurow, NZ, population 312 souls. Art was in the camp kitchen rinsing off the bottle of laundry detergent that always ends up sticky and, as it turned out, talking to the partner of the guy I was chatting with.

"Happiness seems a little bit like a leaky tire on a car," Epley explains. "We just sort of have to keep pumping it up a bit to maintain it."  I think that's true. As if to confirm, we had pleasant exchanges with Kurow's welcoming residents all afternoon.

This is a sweet little campground on the Waitaki River

Also, no crowds.

Richie McCaw was born in Kurow, but if you don't follow the NZ All Blacks (rugby team) you wouldn't know he's a hero/role model/favorite son and "generally recognized as the world's best openside flanker," and if you don't know what that means you're not alone. More here.

There's a donation box in town to support the Richie McCaw statue project (I hope RM himself kicks in a few farthings).

Any time we set up for a couple of days in a wee town like this I wonder what we might find of interest. But the truth is, the longer you look the more you see. Here's a poor picture of Waitaki Braids, a cafe whose name reflects the braided river the town sits on.

This photo in the cafe depicts what's meant by braided river. See the Southern Alps in the background? We've driven southeast from Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Waitaki Braids was a welcoming cafe (she's making our flat whites), normally not open in winter but, now in their third year, the proprietor told us they'd been hosting a film crew. There are also rooms to rent here.

You could wake up to a flat white every morning

Old Bank of NZ building now something else.

Tomorrow we head for the South Pacific and charming Oamaru, a favorite NZ town. Those of you who have traveled with us previously know we're especially drawn to the Victorian Precinct--more here. This time we'll also be sure to see the little blue penguins. (Click here to view map if reading in email.)

Pinot noir is a burgeoning industry in Kurow, blessed by the limestone soils, and fruit orchards abound.

So-called women's magazines in grocery stores fascinate me, though I didn't open this one up to get  Mirren's wisdom. She embodies it with every new role, and if I'm reading IMDB correctly she's got some new work coming out, including Catherine The Great.

At right is the Kurow Museum and Information Center. We stopped in.

Imagine that: Kurow is the birthplace of NZ social security. The more you look the more you discover.

While in Kurow during the Great Depression, Nordmeyer became interested in the welfare of workers involved in the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Waitaki River. He became increasingly politically active as a result witnessing both the working conditions of the labourers and the poor living conditions of the unemployed men and their families who were attracted to the area by the promise of work. At Kurow, Nordmeyer, along with local doctor and future Labour MP Gervan McMillan and school headmaster Andrew Davidson developed ideas of how to apply Christian ethics to politics to solve the miseries of unemployment, poverty and illness – ideas that were later implemented by the First Labour Government of New Zealand.

The museum also had a small feature on the local Campbell Park Estate, which we wish we could visit, but sadly its status is uncertain, as described here. The estate website is equally opaque. It might be for sale again. Interested?