Maud Island

Maud Island
Maud Island

We had the rare opportunity to take a (long) trip out to Maud Island yesterday. There are public tours there a few days out of the year. Once infested by mice, it was declared a predator free island and critters like geckoes, skinks, a super rare frog, weta and birds are living happily there. We had to undergo quarantine procedures before boarding the boat and also before setting foot on the island. Shoes, bags and clothing had to be scanned for any dirt, seeds and rodents (luckily nobody brought along any). Then once on the dock of the island, we had to step in a bin of disinfectant to make sure our shoes were clean again.

Leaving from Havelock, about 20 minutes from home, the group of 26 people, all locals and some Ozzies headed out onto the Marlborough Sounds under cloudy skies. This old boat caught my eye among the others.

img_0651

Setting out onto the Sound, not many boats were out which is typical. We went by some mussel farms and were fortunate to see this Gannet colony up close. Fluffy down floated around in the air, as can be seen in the photos.

Marlborough Sound house

Marlborough Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Once we approached Maud, the rangers and their kids waited for us to arrive. The picture below was actually when we were leaving for anyone who notices the change in the water depth compared to the one below it!

Maud Island dock

img_0702

img_0710
Maud Island ranger’s kids in pink and blue

After a short welcome, we walked the track to an area where they gave a presentation about the invertebrates found on the island, with live samples for us to hold!

Maud island sign

Among the critters were geckoes and a skink. One of the geckoes hangs out in the flax and I bet you’d hardly be able to see it.

Maud island skink
Maud island skink

 

Maud island gecko

Maud island gecko
Maud island flax gecko

Then there was the weta. I’ve never seen one in person and they were CREEPY!!! People apparently in line wanting to hold them. The female has a large ovipositor that looks like a long horn that she deposits her eggs into the ground with.

Maud island weta

dead weta
Dead weta
dead weta
Dead weta

Then there was the Maud Island frog. The only place in the world you can see it. It’s rare in that it actually births live frogs, with the tadpoles forming inside the egg and the mother carries them on her back. They’re also the longest living frog…up to 40 years! They don’t move far during their lives only spanning an area of 30 square metres!

Maud island frog

There were also these creepy weevils that looked like little blood suckers!

Maud island weevil
Maud island weevil

After the talk we walked to the WWII gun emplacement and storage areas. There was a blue penguin nesting box in one of them which was odd. We even saw a blue penguin swimming in the Sounds on our way back home.

img_0753

img_0759

img_0748

img_0746

Some lovely views along the track and needless to say, very peaceful except for the Tui birds singing their strange song.

Maud island view

maud island track

I loved this giant fern leaf about to uncurl. It was about the size of my hand.

img_0768

This was the home of the rangers, with a small strawberry patch and I believe a large fig tree in their yard.

Maud island ranger house

We headed back out on the boat and came across an island with this toilet which goes to show the Kiwi humour!

img_0784

Back at the harbour, some lenticular clouds that look like a UFO.

img_0796

lenticular cloud marlborough sound havelock

It was a great day although it turned cold on the way back and the long 3+ hour boat ride was less than comfortable.

As an update to the hedgehog I mentioned in my last post, we found there are 3 babies living under the house. I haven’t seen the mother again and am afraid she may have been killed in the road so the babies are on their own.

baby hedgehog

 

img_0648
Cute hoglet foot while having a feed.

You know me…I cut up some small pieces of raw chicken and fed and watered the first one I found and also put him (or her) on the scale, weighing in at 126 grams. That’s still pretty young to be without mom, but right on the edge of it. I then found a second one the day after who had lost its left eye, so I’ve dubbed that one “Lefty.” He was almost half the size of the first at 76 grams and was happy to have a feed and some water as well. Once Lefty was put back under the house, the other two came out and they did a little dance around each other which was very sweet and Lefty retired back to the nest while the others searched for food.

img_0625

I will continue to supplement their diet if I find them outside to make sure they have a fighting chance and I also put a large mussel shell under the house with some water in it as it’s super dry here and I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry, even if they don’t drink from it. You can check out the video of the first cutie eating below. I love that they’re called hoglets or urchins when they’re small!

Another Summer Christmas

new zealand christmas lily
Christmas Lilies

It’s been an interesting month since the earthquake. We had thousands of aftershocks and when it finally started calming down, there were about 5 noticeable shakes yesterday registering 5.5 or lower and one on Christmas morning. A few days after the big quake in November, I finally gained residency! It was a huge relief without much of a plan B in place for what I’d do had I not gotten it. I can officially call New Zealand “home” now and am happy to be here.

I can’t say that I’ve gotten used to being warm on Christmas or having the flowers and veggies starting to grow. My neighbour gave me a couple of stems from her Christmas lilies and img_0425proclaimed, “Now your house will smell like Christmas!” Well who would’ve thought anyone would associate lilies with Christmas instead of pine trees? I love the smell of lilies so I proudly displayed them as Andy sneezed and complained they stunk. She also gifted me at least a pound of fresh, large strawberries from her garden…the best I’ve ever had. The woman has a talent when it comes to growing.

My strawberries are now going through a growth spurt and are getting bigger leaves and flowers. They’re sweet and juicy and I love picking them while perusing the garden, still warm from the sun. The raspberries are also taking off and I’ve put baby mantises on them as well as on top of the flowering celery where flying bugs go wild. I hope to give the babies a head start on life and find them flourishing in the yard by the end of summer. I estimate that there were well over 800 babies born in this yard alone!

Baby mantis on the raspberry bush
Baby mantis on the raspberry bush

The tomatoes I started growing over a month ago have gotten huge and one is finally turning orange. I’ll have a bumper crop, ending up giving most of them away. The strawberries near them are also getting large.

Tomatoes and strawberries

The first bell pepper (or capsicum as they call it here) of the season is doing great! I have used seeds from one I bought at the store to make more. I’ve also got a red chili plant and am starting to grow jalapenos which are very expensive and rare here.

img_0424

As an interesting aside about the  major quake, I read that all non-fruiting vegetables immediately went to seed. Thinking they were under attack from the violent shaking, it was their way of making sure the next generation survived. Plants are so amazing!

My freaky cauliflower bloomed and I harvested it the other day. To me, it tasted nothing like cauliflower but it wasn’t bad. I grew it because I wanted to have something different. The first time I saw one was in California and was amazed there were actually plants in the nursery here, so I grabbed some.

img_0408

img_0437

The red grapes are slowly making their way to maturity and I also found that we have some cherry plum trees across the street! I’d never noticed or heard of them before. A mix between, you guessed it, a cherry and a plum produces a large cherry looking fruit that tastes like a plum. The pit and flesh is just like a plum with a slightly sour skin. They’re a bit mushy when red, but hey…they’re free!!New Zealand cherry plum

My other neighbour enlightened me to loganberries…a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry. They often have a banana taste to them which blows my mind. They’re great in cereal! She had a huge crop and is more than happy to share those along with the lemons on her hundred year old tree.

New Zealand cherry plum loganberries
Cherry plums & loganberries

The feijoa tree has been blooming with gorgeous little flowers that remind me a lot of the pohutukawa tree blossoms, popular along the coastlines during summer. Lots of yummy feijoas on the way!

feijoa blooms

In other news around the yard, the calla lilies I also didn’t know about last year made an appearance….the most beautiful colour ever! A light purple mixed with cream and light green. I’m so fortunate to have them!

new zealand calla lily

purple calla lily

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was lucky enough to find an Angel Trumpet at the garden center too! These remind me of Central America, as they’re all over the place there. So majestic and beautiful, their aroma is strongest at night.

angel trumpet

For a very brief few weeks, a beautiful bunch of flowers appeared from out of nowhere with the most intricate petals. It reminded me of a swan.

img_5490

img_5486

img_5492

Another unexpected surprise was the appearance of a hedgehog living under the house! The dog alerted us to it one night by scratching and barking at the back step. I shined a flashlight in there and saw a bunch of quills so that was exciting! Apparently the hog was out before dark in the yard and the dog had a go at it. I have no idea how he manages to keep it in his mouth. The quills are very sharp and I came out to find him or her in the typical ball, waiting for things to calm down. I waited patiently and it finally uncurled and crawled back to the safety of the house. They are a great addition to the garden, eating slugs, creepy crawlies, grubs and other pests. As my mother said, “Your garden is magical!”

hedgehog

My garden where I find hedgehog digging spots
My garden where I find hedgehog digging spots

Another trip to Pollard Park found the roses in full bloom (over 800 different bushes!) and some wild blue flowers that looked fake coming off of a large succulent.

img_0509

img_0513

img_0512

img_0487
Gigantic roses

img_0489

img_0491

Tequila Sunrise roses
Tequila Sunrise roses

I have no idea where they come up with rose names but a lot had to do with drinks like Hot Chocolate, Raspberry Ice and this Tequila Sunrise.

 

 

 

pollard park roses

These zinnias and lilies were happy in the sun!

img_0506

img_0505

img_0518

It’s amazing the work that goes into making these huge flower beds in the park. This time it was for The Lions Club.

img_0522

It’s been nice to have over 15 hours of daylight but the weather continues to be unpredictable. We actually had to start the fire yesterday afternoon! It’s time to get in some exercise after many, MANY months of hibernation! I hope everyone has a great new year and that America’s new leader will make a change for the better.

 

That’s How You Shake It Up!

blenheim rowing club

Thirteen hours after the earthquake hit early this morning, I sit here waiting in anticipation for another one. The house is continuing to shake every few minutes and I’m thankful to still have one. This is the worst I’ve been through yet at 7.8, hitting Hamner Springs, a little over 3 hours away. A couple of minutes after midnight we were violently shaken awake and we bolted out of bed thinking the house would collapse. After getting outside, I looked up and saw lightening. I thought to myself, “That’s odd…I’ve never seen that here before.” It was actually the power lines sparking and soon thereafter, the electricity went out. I had no hope for getting power back on until late in the day. We wouldn’t have water either because we’re on a well. I thought of my friend with her emergency prep kit…which we don’t have. I tried in vain to get an internet connection through my phone but couldn’t. He finally got through and saw the magnitude of it and where it hit.

Thankfully, the power was restored a couple of hours later. Aftershocks continued throughout the night and I didn’t fall asleep until 3am, getting up around 6 to assess the situation. Fortunately nothing but a few seashells had broken, falling from a tall glass vase (which somehow survived) on the mantle. The TV fell off the stand but didn’t break. The chimney however, (which is for the antiquated stove in the kitchen that isn’t used) appeared to have moved slightly and has a crack in it.

20161114_103028
Spring Creek Reserve

We went to our river to walk the dog and huge fissures are now in the track. The Blenheim Rowing Club had massive liquefaction and even bigger gouges in the ground. The land looked as if it had been torn into strips, like a piece of paper. Earthworms tried to escape the shaking but were now stuck in the sandy mud. I tried to throw as many out of their soon to be graves as I could. Apparently this whole place was grassy, as you can see some sticking out of the mud. It must have looked like a boiling cauldron when it happened.

blenheim rowing club liquefaction worms

blenheim rowing club

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

blenheim rowing club

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

I can’t say I’ve ever seen liquefaction before. It happens during quakes when saturated soil loses its strength and causes it to act like a liquid. Parts were like quicksand still and the mounds and craters looked like something you’d see on the moon.

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

GNS Science is reporting that in Marlborough (the region where I live), the earth moved horozontally two meters to the north and one meter down vertically.

Blenheim CBD is in good shape, with nothing going on as usual. Looked like a little work was going on at the ASB Centre and the Pizza Hut was buzzing with activity. Some shops were closed pending inspection, with their merchandise scattered all over the floor. The Warehouse, the largest shop in town, was also closed.

It’s an odd feeling of vulnerability that most people never have to experience. You wonder if another one will come and sit around waiting…for something. It’s unsettling to feel the couch rocking beneath you, wondering when it’ll all stop. There seems to be this strange feeling that you need to stay around home and not do much. Try to do something to keep busy, but not TOO busy. Make time pass and things will settle down. It’s hard to know how to feel about something you rarely go through. An event that could be life threatening and change your entire world in a matter of seconds. I’ve had a persistent lump in my throat and I notice my shoulders are unusually tense. I suppose this is what’s called anxiety!

Hopefully, the worst is over now. Although as I write that, a 6.3 just happened. And to add insult to injury, we’re expecting 140km/h winds tonight with heavy rain. It’s gonna be a long night.

Eerie sky after sunrise this morning
Eerie sky after sunrise this morning

Lower North Island: Napier & Taupo

maori rock carvings taupo mine bay

We took a trip to the lower North Island, which I wasn’t familiar with at all. Starting in Wellington, we worked our way up through Masterton to Hastings/Napier (the Art Deco capital of the world, allegedly) then to Taupo and back down toward Palmerston North.

Cape kidnappers sign beach

 

Having read about the promise of wide, warm, golden sand beaches and Cape Kidnappers, which just sounds cool, I knew it would be a stop on the way to Napier. Because of my directional challenges and inability to read a map, we missed the warm sandy beach but did get as far down the road as we could to view Cape Kidnappers. Aptly named by Captain Cook after an attempt by a local Maori to abduct a crew member of his in 1769. The only way to get out to that stretch of land is by a tour or a very long walk. It’s a gannet breeding area and would have been nice to see but that beach was calling my name. Turns out I was WAY off course in finding it, as we found out later.

napier main road pine trees
Road leading into Napier

Napier from the beach

Napier is a quaint seaside town located on Hawke’s Bay. Unfortunately it was a rock beach (I can’t seem to escape those) but the shopping made up for it and it was sunny and warm. This town had been leveled by an earthquake in 1931 and over 250 people were killed. Art deco was the popular style at the time and the town was rebuilt in that fashion.

Napier art deco building

There were a bunch of seaside wall art paintings which I just love!

Napier whale seawall art

Napier shark seawall art

Napier whale seawall art

Napier wall art jellyfish

Napier wall art jellyfish

Near the port there was a small tower with more paintings on it as well.

Napier lookout tower

Napier lookout tower

Napier lookout tower

The walk along the port had these gorgeous purple flowers and of course the ginormous bumble bees were there as well.

Napier port

napier purple flowers bee

New Zealand has the best flowers and gardens…this one in the Centennial Gardens had a waterfall.

Napier botanical gardens waterfall

A pier had a cool covering over it which drew people in (although there was really nothing to see at the end of it).

Napier pier

Napier pier

Destined to find that spot called Ocean Beach, we headed out on a nice sunny day and finally came across it! This was the view at the top of the road looking onto it.

Hastings Ocean Beach

Fairly deserted, we staked out a spot in the sand and relaxed.

Hastings Ocean Beach

Round about 3:30 it started to cool down and people began leaving. We weren’t far behind.

Hastings Ocean Beach Road
Road leading down to Ocean Beach

 

craggy rock vineyard cows

We drove past Craggy Range winery which had these huge cattle statues in their front lawn. Unfortunately, they were closed so we weren’t able to do a tasting.

welcome to taupo sign

On to Taupo via the Thermal Explorer Highway. Taupo lake is in a caldera (volcanic crater) which is as big as Singapore! There’s still a slight possibility that it may erupt again someday. I booked a room for two nights which included a private tub in the back yard that can be filled with hot thermal water. Hopefully the volcano will keep a lid on it until I’m done.

taupo mount tauhara

Mount Tauhara was the first thing we saw before cresting over the hill and getting a view of the lake. On the horizon you could see three volcanoes: Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu. People from around the world come to do the Tongariro crossing, a 19.4km journey through this dual World Heritage site. It ranks in the top 10 single day treks in the world.

taupo 3 volcanoes

We went on a sailing trip in fairly choppy waters and it was the only day the three volcanoes were visible during our time there. We grabbed some shelter in Acacia Bay where there was no wind at all. The hills were dotted with very unique and individually designed homes. Most of these are only used a few weeks out of the year as vacation homes. Must be nice.

taupo acacia bay homes

taupo acacia bay homes

taupo acacia bay homes

These Maori rock carvings were done in the 70’s.

maori rock carvings taupo mine bay

maori rock carvings taupo mine bay

maori rock carvings taupo mine bay

maori rock carvings taupo mine bay

maori rock carvings taupo mine bay

Later that evening we parked along the lake and watched the sunset.

taupo sunset

We checked out some thermal terraces that had hot springs and took a walk through an area called Craters of the Moon. A barren, steamy area that, in black and white, certainly would remind you of the Moon! I was actually reminded of Woody Allen’s “Smoke and Fog.”

taupo thermal terraces

taupo thermal terraces

taupo thermal terraces

taupo thermal terraces

Craters of the moon taupo

taupo thermal terraces

Craters of the moon taupo

Some ducks provided a nice photo op as well.

Craters of the moon taupo

Craters of the moon taupo

Along that same stretch of road was a sign for another thermal walkway so we popped in, not thinking we’d see all of these cool animals!

Peacocks strutted their stuff, trying to impress the females. Rabbits hung out in cages, chickens with their chicks ran around looking for food and alpacas seemed annoyed, ready to spit in my face.

thermal walkway taupo peacocks

thermal walkway taupo peacocks

thermal walkway taupo peacocks

thermal walkway taupo peacocks

thermal walkway taupo peacocks

thermal walkway taupo alpaca

We stopped into a shop called the Bee Hive and I picked up some honey. Found some of that Manuka honey I’ve been on about. Anybody up for some? It costs about as much as a hotel room!

manuka honey

As we traveled toward Palmerston North, we drove on the Desert Road through the Rangipo Desert. Weird, right? No cactus here! Just tussocks and sand. It sort of reminded me of being back down south on the farm. It resembles a desert due to the low amount of rain as well as the sterilization of seeds from volcanic eruptions about 20,000 years ago. You’d think something would have sprouted up by now, but the soil quality is bad so only tussocks and snow grasses remain.

desert road new zealand north island

desert road new zealand north island

desert road new zealand north island

It was nice to be able to see more of the country and I finally feel like I have a great overview of New Zealand’s terrain. I won’t forget how fortunate I’ve been to live here but am still in complete denial that I’m so close to the South Pole. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the weather!

Typical NZ...what you see in front of you isn't what always what's in back!
Typical NZ…what you see in front of you isn’t always what’s in back!