A Winter Walk Through the Park

Pakowhai Regional Park ginkgo tree
Pakowhai Regional Park ginkgo tree

Four days after winter arrived, we finally went for a walk in a park near Hastings. We’d passed by it many times before, but the yellow ginkgo trees caught my eye and I had my camera with me. I declared we would be going there on our way back home (without any rebuttal from the driver). Pakowhai Regional Park

Pakowhai (pronounced POK-o-fie) Regional Park was clearly a dog park. People there (of which there were many) either had a dog or a baby. This is one park where dogs are allowed to run off their leads. Considering how crowded it was with children, I could only imagine this happening in the States. There were a couple of pit bulls running loose but I wasn’t concerned. They don’t have the bad reputation here that they do back home. Everyone seemed to be happy, including the friendly dogs who came up for a pat.

Pakowhai Regional Park

I immediately went the opposite direction of everyone and headed for the trees while the sun was still out. Unbelievably beautiful, it was hard to take my eyes off of them. It made me think about Pollard Park in Blenheim. It wasn’t quite the caliber of that one, but it did have some typical New Zealand scenes.

Pakowhai Regional Park

Large, mature trees that are perfectly shaped and super green grass that contrasts with fallen leaves. A mix of evergreens and large clumps of flax with a stream or river running through it, is always clear and cold. It’s nature’s eye candy and just makes you feel good to take it all in.

pakowhai regional park

Leggy pine trees lost a few members, but I liked that they made use of the stumps. One tree had been uprooted from the recent heavy rains we had.

pakowhai regional parkpakowhai regional park

pakowhai regional park

We walked back toward the parking lot and I was surprised to find a gathering of large cabbage trees. One had been cut down and the heart shaped trunk caught my eye.

pakowhai regional park

Some beautiful VERY white gum (eucalyptus) trees appeared around the bend, looking like the skin on an animal.

pakowhai regional park

On the way out to Hastings, an apple orchard caught my eye as we were coming off a bridge. It was high enough to see over them so I said we had to pull over before getting to the bridge so I could walk up there and take a picture. This is a big fruit town, so most of the orchards you see are a lot of these creepy, multiple armed apple trees. They look like they come alive at night and run around terrorizing the town.

IMG_2372

These seemed harmless enough and their yellow and orange leaves stretched as far as the eye could see. If you look close enough, you can make out some apples still clinging onto life. It’s not a sight I’m used to seeing, coming from wine country, but definitely worth capturing. Now, the citrus trees are ripening so we’ll have more oranges and mandarins than we can eat. I could think of worse problems to have.
fall apple orchard napier

What the Heck is a Persimmon?

new zealand persimmons
Just a quick post about persimmons as it’s been awhile since I’ve talked about food here. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a persimmon before. It was one of those fruits that didn’t scream out ‘Eat Me!’ and I didn’t want to pay too much to take the chance on it. I was in an op shop the other day and they had a couple of baskets full marked 3 for $1, so I figured now was the time.

I asked one of the ladies what they tasted like and even she wasn’t too sure. Another woman wandered into earshot so we asked her. She said they were sort of sweet and you could eat them skin and all. She claimed some people liked them soft, while she liked them a bit harder, with a crunch. I purchased them and they’ve been sitting on my counter ever since.

They look like a tomato, with a lighter orange colour and they feel a bit dense. I see that they’re grown in the U.S. but even there, they somehow evaded my grocery basket. Feeling a bit peckish, with nothing much to eat here, I decided the time has come to find out what these persimmons were all about.

new zealand persimmons

I cut into it vertically (not knowing the correct way) and was a bit disappointed to see that looked like a tomato, minus the seeds and pulp. I cut a sliver off like you do an apple and took a bite. Meh…nothing spectacular. I had expected it to be sweeter and have a more distinct flavour. What I got out of it was a softer crunch than an apple and then tried to pinpoint what it tasted like. I’m getting mild cantaloupe and maybe a tiny bit of carrot with a hint of that dryness in your mouth you’d get if you bit into a banana peel. new zealand persimmons

This was about the time I went to Google to see where these things were grown and that’s when I realized I cut into it the wrong way! Slicing it horizontally yielded a cool design, but still no seeds. They must be in there somewhere. Google again. Turns out some have big black seeds and some don’t! There is even a way to predict winter weather according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac:

Cut open a persimmon seed. (Find persimmon fruit in your supermarket. It should be locally-grown to reflect your weather.)

Look at the shape of the kernel inside.

  • If the kernel is spoon-shaped, lots of heavy, wet snow will fall. Spoon = shovel!
  • If it is fork-shaped, you can expect powdery, light snow and a mild winter.
  • If the kernel is knife-shaped, expect to be “cut” by icy, cutting winds.

Well, winter just started here yesterday so I guess there’s no chance in predicting what will happen by looking at my persimmons. Maybe a lack of any seeds means it’ll be warm. Hah…probably not a chance of that happening!

new zealand persimmons no seeds

A Little Taste of Home

We had the opportunity to take a short trip over to Hastings and finally experience some American BBQ along with a chili and chili dog eating contest. Bareknuckle BBQ was serving up some food as well which I’ve been looking forward to trying. We grabbed a fried chicken burger, a pulled pork sandwich, some waffle fries and a couple of Corona’s. $53 later, lunch was served!

Unfortunately, the pork missed the mark with me. Had it not been for the flavour of anise in it for some odd reason, it would’ve been great. Hefty American servings left me far too full and unable to finish everything.

As we waited for it to be served, a chili eating contest was going on. First the jalapenos (which I missed) and then on to the habaneros. Wow…I can’t believe anyone, much less the sole woman, would even participate in that. I’m sure they’re feelin’ the burn tonight!

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you who won the contest, but here were the baskets of prizes!

Samples from the chili contest were being handed out, nice and cold…New Zealand style. Something about cold chili that doesn’t quite feel like home. First rule: chili should not be chilly.

bare knuckle bbq chilli contest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of them weren’t that bad though. We didn’t stay long enough to find out who won.

Then began the chili dog eating contest. Ughhhhh…I’m still full after watching it. The dogs were way larger than American hot dogs, no doubt about it. They set about 5 in front of them, giving them 3 minutes to see who would eat the most. Let the pictures speak for themselves.

Getting ready
That’s a lotta dog
May the best man win
This poor kid was having issues with the first one

I’m feelin their pain at this point

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This was about the time the MC extended the contest by one minute
Still plenty to eat!
My man Matthew keeping control of the situation
After another couple of one minute extensions, time was coming to a close. The crowd was very sympathetic.

Comparing what’s left on the trays
The winner is announced!

Apparently, they were overly optimistic about how many dogs would be eaten. A few more trays were brought out and the vultures swooped in!

This was the first American event I’ve been to here and it was fun hearing so many familiar accents again. We had a good time and will be back for the next one!

bare knuckle bbq

 

 

 

 

Moving Mayhem

It had already been a long morning when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. Everything in the house had been packed up in the moving truck the day before,  so all that was left were a few items in the kitchen and the uncomfortable air mattress we struggled to sleep on during the night. And struggle, we did. We estimate we got 4 hours at best of “decent” sleep.

It was going to be one of those journeys you don’t want to repeat anytime soon. We were moving out of the place I called home for the past two and a half years and for him, it had been eight. He had been living in Blenheim for eleven years total. For me, it was the most stable place I’d lived in a while. I was used to packing up every few weeks or months and living out of a suitcase. It was an emotional time for both of us, going through the fixing up and TLC over the years to the actual selling and having to find the dog a new home.

We didn’t have a place to live, per se, once we left that driveway we knew so well. I held back the tears as we drove to the ferry…the same emotions I had many times over the years when I left a place. I said to myself, “Just keep it together…this isn’t over yet. Carry on one step at a time. You can cry later.”

Our day was going to consist of taking the ferry across to the North Island (something I dread doing as I usually always get sick) for at least 3 ½ hours, then driving up to Napier which would take a minimum of four hours in separate cars. The moving truck was on the same boat and I saw the driver on there who said it would take them at least six hours. He was going a different way than we were…a longer route according to Google. Fine by us, we would have time to stop for lunch and have another hour to kill before having to meet them at the storage place. The plan was for me to go straight to our AirBnB house we’d be renting indefinitely and Andy would meet the guys at the storage facility. Sometimes plans work and sometimes they don’t.

It had been raining for the past three days in Blenheim, which didn’t make loading the moving truck much fun for anyone and rain was forecast for the next few days on the North Island as well. What I didn’t realize was that this was the leftovers of the cyclone that hit Australia’s east coast a few days prior and it was huge. They were still reeling from mudslides and flooding.

The crossing was actually the most pleasant one I’d been on. Leaving first thing in the morning usually helps, but I didn’t get sick or even feel the need to. The time dragged on endlessly, akin to being on a treadmill. The rain even let up when we approached the shoreline of Wellington, where it always seems to rain no matter what day it is.

The GPS was set and we started the drive North. Once we got out of the city, it had started drizzling slightly, but that was ok. However, when we started approaching the wide open fields with no trees to break the wind, things got weird. A wind shear hit the side of the car and I almost ran off the road as we were doing 90/kmh (the speed limit was 100). I had to keep pulling the wheel to the right in order to drive straight. The wipers were coming off of the windshield and I thought they may just fly right off. I looked ahead thinking there had to be some sort of wind barrier but there was none, just bright green fields. I hoped that once we got around a bend that the wind would be to the back of us but it wasn’t. My hands were getting stiff holding onto the steering wheel in a death grip. This continued for at least 25 minutes. I thought of our moving truck and had a vision of it being tipped over along a similar stretch of road, which is not unheard of around here. I was hoping that their alternate route wasn’t as bad as ours.

Eventually we hit a town and our break came. As we approached the signs to Palmerston North and then drove east from there, a flashing sign on the side of the road said that it was closed ahead due to a wreck and to take an alternate route. Not far along, we came to a guy holding up a stop sign. Ahead of him around a bend were some guys working on the side of the road, which isn’t out of the ordinary. However, when a small tree came crashing down blocking both lanes, we realized this wasn’t just roadworks going on. A man took his chainsaw and cut through the top branches and they cleared the tree away, leaving us with no more than a ten minute delay. What next!?

It was about this time (2pm) when my stomach would not stop reminding me that it needed to be fed. We stopped in a small town and got lunch, realizing we weren’t even half way to Napier yet. All I could do was sigh. I was so tired at this point that I could barely stand the thought of more driving. It had to be done, so on we went.

The rain started picking up and as we passed by fields full of animals; you could tell they were just completely over it. I saw a cow standing right up against a tall metal fence just looking defeated. I really felt badly for the cows and the horses. The sheep don’t seem to care, but it just seems miserable for the others. I’m sure they had been in the rain for at least three or four days already. And I thought I had it bad! Fields were flooded, making ponds where there were none previously. The ditches along the roads were filled to the top with muddy water.

The windshield wipers were lulling me into a hypnotic trance and I felt like I had left my body and was just looking down at myself, wide-eyed and zombiefied. I had Foo Fighters and Fugazi to keep me pumped up the first few hours but it was wearing off like a bad Jamaican Blue Mountain caffeine crash. It could not possibly get any worse. Until it did.

Out of nowhere we entered into a new territory that I was not expecting to see. A permanent sign was posted upon the entrance stating: DANGER: HIGH ACCIDENT RATE AREA. I came to find out later that this was the Manawatu Gorge. To my left all I could see was this huge gorge with a raging muddy river, obviously way higher than it would normally be. To my right, a sheer cliff so tall, I couldn’t see the top. Wire netting lined areas to keep rocks from falling on the cars. It was a windy road with huge trucks passing only feet from us.

Driving through the gorge

We weren’t going over 50/kmh at any point. Up high above the water is what probably would have been a lovely little waterfall but had now turned into an angry blast of raging water hitting the side of the mountain. I simply couldn’t believe the amount of water running through here.

I had to try and keep my eyes on Andy’s car in front of me, realizing the severity of the potential situation at hand. Thankfully, we made it through unscathed. For many people on this road though, they have not been so lucky.

Manawatu gorge wreck NOT from my trip. Just showing the difference in water level.

 

Flooding of the gorge

Once we reached a town, we pulled into a gas station and I peeled my fingers from the steering wheel. My body was stiff from the drive and the stress…and we still weren’t near Napier. The alleged four hour drive was turning into a lot longer than that. I felt like I had been awake for days at this point and envisioned myself pulling over under a tree and sleeping in the car until morning. The look on my face was that of sheer exhaustion.  I paid for the gas, leaning with both elbows on the counter, wanting to just take a nap right there. But noooooo…we must move on.

The clocks were set back just a few days prior which meant darkness descended around 6pm now and totally dark by 6:30. It was only about 5:00 when it started seeming TOO dark due to the cloud cover and rain. We still had to meet the guys at the storage unit to unpack everything.  The place closed at 6pm and we didn’t have a code to get in or had even paid for the unit yet. Andy told me he had called them so I assumed all was well.

It was now completely dark and nearing the 6pm mark when the driver called me saying he was sitting in front of the facility. We weren’t far but Andy had taken the route to the place we were staying instead of going straight to the unit. I flashed my lights and we pulled over. It was only then that he said nobody had answered the phone when he tried to call them. I rang the driver back asking if they could find anybody inside while Andy called again. Thankfully, two minutes to 6, the guy answered and waited for us to arrive. In good Kiwi spirit, he had empathy for us having come from Blenheim and didn’t seem too put out to fix us up.  However, the unit was on the 2nd floor. Thankfully there was a lift though and I hoped it was a large one.

In order to get “home” at a decent hour, we ended up helping the guys move our stuff into the unit. They had been at it just as long as we had, albeit with a better night’s sleep behind them and a safer route to follow than us (thanks, Google). We finally finished around 8:30 and then had to find our accommodation in the dark while rain poured down.

We couldn’t have picked a worse time to move, but I feel fortunate that we got here in one piece and that we will never have to do this again. Thankfully, the place we will live until we can find a house is quite nice and comfy and our hostess is lovely. Over the next few days, this nightmare will fade from memory and the sun will shine once again.