Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Little Beach, New Zealand: Outing the In-laws

The Tasman Sea is not restive today, but churning decent sized waves that come crashing towards the beach outside of Mike and Phyllis’ bach (pronounced batch). A bach is the Kiwi name for the tiny beach homes that dot the coast. Mike and Phyllis have not only refurbished their tiny bach but have also built a lovely summer home that takes advantage of the ocean view by situating a sitting room on the upper floor, where countless hours can be passed watching the ever-changing sea and contemplating the more important issues in life, like where to pick the best mussels for dinner and where to find the the most potent bug juice to keep off the sandflies.

In fact, we’ve discovered why Mike and Phyllis are so eager to come to their summer home: they’re having too much fun, which they try not to let on while visiting us in the US. Here’s a day in the life of Mike (and Phyllis to some degree, when she’s not whipping up gourmet meals and preparing for their never-ending parade of guests).
6:30 get up, check e-mail from friends and family, go for a walk
9:00 have yummy breakfast
10:00 putter in yard, or on computer, or in shed
11:00 Elevensies tea time
11:30 more puttering (this could involve building, maintance or crafts projects)
12:30 lunch
1:00 nap
1:30 walk on one of the 10 beaches around here collecting rocks and shells
3:00 go to town for errand. Visit with half of town’s residents
6:30 happy hour (may have other half of town’s residents stop by!)
8:00 dinner
9:00 read/walk/stare at beach
10:00 time for bed and another NZ day.

Unsurprisingly, we’ve adapted to their schedule quite well, and only hope that we’ll remember to rouse ourselves when it comes time to leave.

Scott and Stormie (my parents) were able to fit some sightseeing in between the meals, and got to see Cape Foulwind, which got it’s name from Captain Cook who also named a similar cape in Oregon, Cape Foulweather (do you think after so much sailing he was in a foul mood?), and home to a seal colony. They also got to see Punakaiki, the pancake rocks,

and take many long walks along the beach, or through the flax and gorse. Gorse is nasty stuff that the English used to keep their herds of sheep in the fields because it's spiny sharp and probably bad tasting. Gorse has become an invasive weed here in New Zealand, and I’m all for eradicating it after a particularly painful run-in with a few plants. Apparently I could be found on the trail with all my yelling!

We drove my parents over Arthur's Pass, which was socked in by a rain storm, and spent their last two days in Christchurch, the most English-looking city outside of England. Aside from a rain storm that has dumped 10 cm in the past 12 hours, life here at Little Beach remains calm and quiet.
Wearing the usual kiwi garb: raincoat, gumboots and shorts

The "river" behind us is actually the road out of Mike and Phyllis' home

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wellington New Zealand: Kia Ora from Middle Earth

Kia Ora (Maori for hello) from the home of hobbits, orcs, and elves, the land of Narnia and Hollywood’s most recent obsession, New Zealand. This is also the land of humans, and the Maori, the country’s indigenous people have also been featured on celluloid in the films Whale Rider and Once Were Warriors.

We’ve been in New Zealand since December 29th, and it’s a place of reunion for us. Not only are we returning after a ten year absence, but my parents, Scott and Stormie, left a cold Colorado winter to meet us halfway here across the world, while Andy’s parents Mike and Phyllis have already arrived to their “winter” home near Charleston, on the west coast of the South Island.(still in New Zealand). After being on the road for so many months it’s a soothing balm to homesickness to have some familiar faces around us.

We spent New Year’s Eve in Auckland, the country’s largest city (1 million) and got to see fireworks shooting off the Auckland Tower from our hotel room.

There are not a lot of cultural differences in New Zealand, which makes it easy to travel, but lacks the fantastic monuments, odd animals and exotic sites that Asia, Australia and Europe offer. What New Zealand lacks in culture, it makes up for sweeping landscapes, lush verdant fields and miles of windswept coasts.

Although Andy and I have traveled through the South Island before, the North Island is an entirely new territory for us to explore. We rented a car and drove from Auckland to Rotorua (where we went to a Maori hangi, or dinner and performance, and soaked in sulfur-smelling thermal springs),

to Wellington (home of NZ’s most famous kiwi du jour, Peter Jackson director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong), where Stormie oohed and aahed over the botanic gardens and we learned about NZ history in the Te Papa museum.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a ferry over to the South Island, and then drive through Nelson, Abel Tasman Park, and further southwest to Charleston. We will have a belated Christmas celebration, and it will be the only time that Dylan has ever been together with both sets of her grandparents. After we bid adieu to Scott and Stormie in mid-January, we will continue to stay on the South Island until January 30th, when we strap on the backpacks again and dive back into Asia. For now, we wish you a healthy and happy start to the new year!