Whakatane!!! For a solid month before we left for Whakatane, I had to endure the snickering of my kids every time I mentioned it. Lots of Maori names are used for cities and streets and if they weren't already foreign enough, there are also some pronunciation variations to deal with -- i.e. "wh" is pronounced as an F. So, yeah, reminiscent of Meet the Parents, we spent the weekend of Trey's 13th birthday in Fok-a-tah-nee. Ha ha ha, like that is so funny after the 50th time!
The fabulous f-word city is about 3 1/2 hours south of Auckland and boasts the sort of fishing that makes all the boys drool, no matter their age. With the help of some of his friends, Dennis found a charter captain there and booked him for a day of fishing at White Island, about 30 miles out in the Pacific. Even Dennis's friend from North Carolina said it was his dream to fish there. Cool deal for Trey.
On the way down, we drove through the usual one-street towns and farmland dotted with volcanoes, sometimes emerging to gorgeous sea views, sometimes just counting the sheep for hours. As our travel in the US largely involves our Interstate system, I'm still not used to the two-lane roads and small towns that we see on our trips these days. I find the main streets with their ever present dairies, butchers, fruit markets, and take-away places fascinating and very cool visually. The colors and sign fonts are bold and nothing goes well together. It's a big bright, somewhat shabby jumble of Anchor milk, L&P, chicken legs, and strawberries pretty much everywhere we go.
Found another Homestay for this trip and it worked out very well yet again. Poor Dennis is not as comfortable with this idea as I am, and he sort of cringes when he finds out we'll be staying in someone's home and eating breakfast with them in the mornings. He's an engineer, you know? Not a full blown stereotypical engineer, socially, but deep down, he'd rather keep to himself most of the time and go about his business quietly. Not that you can't do that at the Homestays, but I guess he's afraid of the possibilities. Who can blame him?
This place was just outside of town and the hosts were lovely, as always. A retired couple, very friendly and interesting and they made wonderful toast with ham and tomatoes. And homemade kiwifruit jam! You learn so much about the area when you get to spend some time with local people. And our part of the house was totally private and separate from the rest. It's not as if we're out partying till all hours anyway. We're pretty boring people who appreciate a good night's sleep.
For dinner, Janet suggested that we pop in to the Whakatane Sportfishing Club, which is only for members but they'll let you eat there if they're not full and you don't make a habit of overstaying your welcome. Our friend Cam who works with Dennis brought his little boy, Pete, down to join in the fishing fun and so we all had dinner together to celebrate Mr. Teenager's big day. We had awesome seafood, cheered on one of the NZ rugby teams, and finished up with a Coruba and cola, which Cam said was a classic Kiwi drink. I'm sold!
The boys left very early to meet Lionel and head out to sea and Laurel and I slept in, chatted with Janet and Peter and ate enough toast with ham and tomatoes for 4 people, and then headed over to Ohope Beach. Janet suggested we look for a trail that would take us around to a little bay only reachable by foot. As usual I was fooled by the Kiwi statement, "It's just a short walk..." We climbed and climbed and panted and cursed Janet and all the other fit, super-walking Kiwis and finally did make it up and around and it was lovely. OK, it was worth the "walk" (long, hard climb!).
And we tried whitebait!! Anyone familiar with this delicacy? We weren't either until recently. It's only available for a short time and revered as if God himself offers it from his dining room table once a year. They're tiny fish captured in a net as they try to swim up a river. They plop them into an egg mixture, heads, eyes, tails, and all and fry them into fritters. I ate one whole fritter and that was plenty for me, thanks. Not bad, but I didn't need any more to make my life complete.
The boys finally came in from their day and they were exhausted but happy and they'd caught quite a few nice fish. Trey had a really big Grand Trevalli (GT) that impressed everyone and a few Kingfish that weren't big enough to keep. Definitely a birthday that will stay in his precious little memory for a while.
Not that this has anything to do with the rest of my carefully crafted post, but this dog walked by us while we sat on the steps by the harbour eating our Pizza Hut individual pizzas (you thought I was going to say curds and whey, right?). He's either a menace to the daily catch on the docks or he's deadly vicious. Either way, pretty embarrassing look for him, I thought.
Next up, White Island for the rest of us the next day. Hope everyone's well! Write to us and tell us how you're doing! xo, K.