August 2005 Archives
Our time in New Zealand is passing quickly...
From Auckland we headed up to the Bay of Islands. We just had to make a stop in Kawakawa after reading in our guide book that Austrian artist and architect Frederick Hundertwasser designed the public toilets there. Omi and Opi were the ones who first introduced me to Hundertwasser's buildings in Vienna, and Michael got to see them too in 2000 when we were there. It was a great and unusual surpise to find toilets built in his typical colorful, curvy, fun style in a tiny little town in New Zealand. (We'll post some pictures eventually, but here's a website I found).
We stayed for 3 nights at the Hone Heke Lodge in Kerikeri, where we really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. We went on several nice walks to waterfalls in the area, and got to see the Kerikeri mission station and stone store (the two oldest standing buildings in New Zealand) and tour the grounds where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The treaty is basically New Zealand's founding document, and it's interesting to read about the major differences between the English and Maori versions. We also made it all the way up to Cape Reinga and enjoyed a beautiful sunset by the lighthouse all to ourselves.
Then we headed back down through Auckland and over to the Coromandel Peninsula. We stayed near Thames with Servas hosts Roger and Maureen who coincidently also lived in the old post office (just like Ian and Kate). From them we learned a little more about dowsing, country music and postmaster spirits. Even though it was raining for much of the day, our drive around the peninsula was beautiful, and the rain stopped just long enough for us to spot a rainbow and explore Hot Water Beach (the hot water bubbles up from under the sand during low tide).
The following day it was on to Papamoa Beach (near Tauranga) to visit Myrna. We planned on staying only 2 or 3 nights, but we've been having so much fun that we're just leaving today. The other night we got to watch the New Zealand All Blacks beat the South African Springboks in Rugby (I'm sure Tilde and Chris were watching that one too!), and yesterday Matt (Myrna's grandson) took us to see the Tauranga Steamers play nearby. After some patient tutelage I think we're finally understanding the game and rules. It's lots of fun to watch, and we find it more exciting and hardcore than American football.
We've only got about a week left in NZ before we fly to Hawaii. Today we're headed down to Lake Taupo, then the plan is to head to the wine country of Hawkes Bay, down to Wellington and then back up to Auckland through New Plymouth.
The night before we left Sydney Henni lovingly made us some cheese
sandwiches and chopped up some carrot sticks for our trip. We also packed
some manderins, apples, bananas and peanuts. We ate a bit of it at the
airport but then got fed a pretty decent veggie meal on the plane, so we
still had quite a bit left. We knew about Australia and New Zealand's
strict quarantine rules about bringing food in, so at first we thought we
would just leave it on the plane. But reading the customs form carefully
we saw that it just said declare all food, not no food is allowed. We
figured we might as well give it a try so as not to waste the food and to
save us from having to buy dinner that night. We went ahead and checked
yes for just about every box.
About 2 minutes after we entered the baggage claim area, the sniffer dog
found us and all of our contraband. All of our fruits and vegetables were
confiscated, but they did leave us the cheese sandwiches and peanuts,
saying that they would leave those to the discretion of the customs
officers up ahead. When we handed our cards to the customs woman she asked
us about what kind of food we had with us. We told her and she pointed
over her shoulder and said very seriously and with a slight accent: "You
haf to go to counter 1 to check your chiss". We both smiled a bit because
the statement sounded a little funny to us, but from the look on her face
she didn't find any humor in it at all.
So we lugged our bags and our cheese over to counter 1. "We're here to
have our cheese checked", but again no smile. The guy was just surprised
to see how many yes boxes were checked, and said that he didn't see that
very often. He asked about each of the yesses, examined the bottom of our
hiking shoes, and then took away our cheese sandwiches. But we did get to
keep our peanuts.
To lessen the cost of the shuttle we found some other backpackers headed
to the same area. Our driver was very friendly and talkative, giving us
more of a tour than just a ride. Despite the quiet protests of the elderly
Kiwi couple in the back, she even drove a bit out of the way to take us up
to Mount Eden, a dead volcano with nice views of the city. We've been
staying at Base Backpackers.
It's nice, and we've especially enjoyed the rooftop kitchen and terrace
for breakfast, but we've also realized that it's a bit too much for us--a
bit too much "You WILL have fun and this is how".
We've rented a car and are planning to check out the
Northland region and Coromandel Peninsula. After that we'll head over to
Tauranga where we'll visit Myrna, a fellow GVN teacher in China.
We made it to Sydney on Wednesday and met up with Henni yesterday. Today we enjoyed a day of walking (and sitting and eating) around Darling Harbor, Sydney Cove with nice views of the Opera House and the Harbor bridge, the Rocks, and the city center. Here's what else we've been up to since Darwin:
We stayed one night in Brisbane at a great hostel--our dorm room was up in the tower of an old building originally built as a hotel with "1st class service and 3rd class prices". We liked Brisbane a lot, it reminded us a bit of Toronto and it was great to see so many people outdoors--walking, biking, barbequing or just hanging out. We also enjoyed the West End a lot, especially the 3 Monkeys Cafe. Of course we also had to go check out the "Birdee Num Num" bar, just because of the name (anyone else know the movie?, besides Lex and Papa of course).
We then took the local train up to Sandgate to stay with our Servas hosts Anishka, Tony and Sophie. Anishka is a yoga teacher so we got to join her for one of her classes, which was wonderful! We also got to enjoy yummy veggie food and laid-back conversation about life, travel and crazy Americans.
Our next stop was Mullumbimby, near Byron Bay, with our hosts Karin and Manfred, who are originally from Germany. Until recently they were living on an organic farm nearby, where they had hosted over one hundred WWOOFers. It was great to hear their WWOOFing stories and read in the guestbook how inspirational they have been in many people's lives. Karen drove us around to see some of the beautiful views of the area, including the amazing Byron Bay light house. They also introduced us to Dandelion coffee and dowsing (finding energy lines--interesting stuff!).
Sophie had convinced us to spend some time in Byron Bay itself, a beach town with a cool vibe. The first night we went to see Crash at the funky Lounge Cinema--intense movie! The next day was our anniversary, which we celebrated by relaxing on the beach, browsing in bookstores, getting a little drunk on two bottles of wine, and fending off a crazy German woman at dinner who was trying to steal Michael and our bread!
Monday we rode the bus 10 hours down to Buladehlah, where we met our next Servas hosts Ian, Kate and their 10 month old daughter Sage. Their house runs completely on solar power and rain water--it was great to learn more about that. Ian and Kate have also travelled a lot, so it was fun to exchange travel stories. And again we got to eat wonderful, healthy meals. We followed their suggestion and checked out Manly (a 30 minute ferry ride from the center of Sydney) for one night. We went through a bit of an ordeal at Circular Quay (changing from ferry to ferry and listening to the one boat guy warn "we don't want another Titanic"), but the gorgeous harbor views on the way to Manly more than made up for the wait.
We've really come to appreciate what a wonderful organization Servas is. It's amazing to experience the generosity, trust, open-mindedness, and feelings of connectedness that we have with all of our Servas hosts. When else do you just get to drop into other people's lives and interact almost like family with people you've just met? We've really met some great people, learned lots, and made connections that we hope will last a lifetime. Thank you to all of our hosts and we hope to return the hospitality one day!