Thursday, August 26, 2010

Matamata and Wairere Falls in the Kaimai Range

Good afternoon from the sofa here in Glendowie, where I am snuggled in a blanket, drinking juice, and thankful for my box of Kleenex. We all have some sort of ick that we're hoping to fight off before we leave for the weekend tomorrow. And with a weekend trip planned, here are last weekend's photos from Matamata and Wairere Falls, about 2 hours south of here. 

It was a realllllly beautiful drive down there with all the green and cows and sheep. And we did get to see something I've been looking for. My friend, Andrea, who's from here originally, explained that because they have always had to import so many things, people got used to making use of whatever way they had and that we'd see fences made from old doors and windows, etc. So, I finally saw this and was very happy. 

 Back on track though, Matamata is the closest town to the enormous sheep farm that hosts Hobbiton, where the Hobbits live (duh!), if you're not a big Lord of the Rings fan. You can take a tour with other geeks from all over the world. Trey and I were ready to barf by the time we got there, so we opted out of boarding a bus full of people and instead had Second Breakfast (my favorite part of the whole LoTR culture -- well that and Aragorn, of course!) at the café. Dennis and Laurel thought the tour was way cool, though, and I wish I hadn't been so nauseous. 

Also while Trey and I waited, we got to see a real live sheep happening! The farmer had a pen full of all of these super round sheep and he was putting numbers around their necks, so of course I asked him, dude what on earth are you doing? And he explained that these particular sheep were pregnant with triplets! Out of 3500 pregnant sheep, 150 were having triplets. And he was marking them so that they could then match up the babies with their moms when they deliver, which looked to be very soon. The very sweet sheep dog was also there and we watched her do an excellent job of herding these poor rotund creatures out into their pasture afterward. She was seriously into her work. It was just like Babe but without any pigs. 

They're about to start filming The Hobbit and apparently the set is really coming along. Here's something we thought was interesting -- even though it's a working set of a movie that should by all rights be HUGE as its predecessors were, they still let you take the tour, take photos and video and just ask that you please (in their very lovely accent) not share them with anyone or post them on facebook. We just can't see that happening in the US. 

So after many breakfasts and then some cake and milk, we found our way through lots of little back roads to the entrance of the trail and then we all climbed halfway up a mountain (OK not a big HUGE mountain, but when you're an unathletic book reader/candy eater, like me, that sounds pretty impressive) to see a 500-foot waterfall. 

There's the falls, way over there, do you see? We hiked up through there!!

Right-o, mate! (I tried to open the box to see if anyone had assisted in their quest for jawbones, but I couldn't open that latch. Dang.)

Laurel and I, in our attempt to catch our breath, stopped to see this weird plant/lichen stuff. It felt really really smooth and somewhat cool and wet. We liked it.

After walking through lots of dark green woods and enormous boulders, we suddenly popped out and saw this. 

More and more uphill hiking (don'tcha wish you'd been with us? I mean, gosh, there was no complaining going on, not at all!) and then we thought we must be there soon, right? Then we came to these. And after another 411 steps (Laurel counted them), we finally saw the sign that said we were one minute away. Otherwise, I might have just cried. Whatever, I am getting old.

Eventually we made it up there and that was only halfway up! Other crazy (healthy) people went the rest of the way (deemed as "steep" and "daunting" by the sign) up to the summit. From there, there are old Maori trails that go all through the whole mountain range and connect to towns and other mountains and the coast and all. Maybe by the time we leave here we'll be a little more rugged and adventurous. Dennis already would be all over that, but he's saddled with us sissies.

Ok, saw the falls, made it out before dark and headed back home. This coming weekend -- bubbling mud and thermal pools. Possibly more sheep. And a luge.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Glendowie Sand Spit

Hello, everyone! Thought I'd show you some photos from a cool place I discovered last week, the Glendowie Sand Spit, about 10 minutes from our house. In case you don't know what a sand spit is (I didn't) it's a long line of sand deposited by varying currents that extends from a beach. Yep. Trey and I had been to this park (Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve) before, but we didn't get much past the car park because of cold and mud, so I went back to see where the trails might go. They went through lots of wooded areas with various purple, red, and green birds swooping this way and that, and after 15 minutes or so I heard what I thought might be waves. And then there they were! Thrilling to come upon a beach when you aren't expecting one. What a beautiful spot, totally deserted and all I could hear were the birds and the little waves lapping the shore. I sat down in the sun, looked at the colorful shells, and just listened. It was perfect. 


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The early bird

Ata mārie, friends! Good morning. I made the mistake of letting Laurel the flailing, kicking, sighing, talking sleeper climb into bed with me last Thursday night when Dennis was in Sydney. At home, this sometimes works out kind of OK in our enormous fabulous bed (The Crack Bed, we call it, because once you've gotten in, you just never want to get out and be a functioning citizen ever again), but not here in the double or maybe almost-Queen size bed that we have. Sadly, she woke me sometime before 5am (those of you that know me are thinking, "Uh oh. This will not end well.") and I finally just got up and went downstairs to find..... good lord, this sunrise. It changed by the second as I stood there in my PJs and wet, cold bare feet. Holy cow. And so Laurel lived another day. 


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Maritime Museum and Devonport, and for an extra $1, a giant pig

Hello, everyone!

Just a few photos from last weekend before this weekend starts and then I am waaay behind. Can't let that happen; this is serious stuff!! :-)

Did our exploring close to home last weekend at the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum at Viaduct Harbour, downtown Auckland. Wish we'd had even more time there - fascinating stuff about NZ's seafaring history, America's Cup, immigrants' stories, the initial voyages by the predecessors of the Maori that settled here. The courage required to get into a sail- and paddle-powered boat with some pigs and chickens and head off onto the ocean in search of an island "somewhere out there" -- I just can't quite imagine. But here we all are. Way to go, explorers!!

We live at West Tamaki Head. So ... we've got that going for us. 

Enjoyed some cool views of the city, too.

On Sunday, we took a ferry across the harbor to Devonport, a cute town full of cafés, bakeries, shops, boats, and pretty streets. It's also home to North Head, a former fort used by Maoris and then by the European settlers to defend the harbour. There are dark, wet, and semi-creepy tunnels and remnants of all sorts of military things. And lots of walking and hills and then more walking up the hills. Really, I'm fine. Just looooove walking up all the hills all the time! 

Auckland's Ferry Building

I found that enormous pig really amusing, amidst all of the tiny sheep and all. 

This was literally knitted around the bench. I'm so curious about why and who did this?

More explorations this weekend. Y'all come back now, ya hear?