Exploring Hawke’s Bay

cornwall park hastings

It’s nice being in a new place and a bit farther from the South Pole. It feels warmer than it did in Blenheim, even though we’re heading into the worst of winter. A few days after my 47th birthday, we happened upon Cornwall Park in Hastings with more of my favourite old, creepy trees. This one though, had something I hadn’t seen before…an unmanned atrium loaded with orchids, lilies, hibiscus and other tropical plants. There were cameras in operation, though.

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

It also had an Asian flair to it.

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

I always have to get a shot of those trees!

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

We took another drive out to Cape Kidnappers and walked farther this time, along the beach. I love looking for things along the beach and since most coastlines are deserted, you can often see some interesting stuff.
cape kidnappers

cape kidnappers

I had always thought the term ‘hairy muscle’ was just some kind of weird Kiwi humour. Nope…it’s for real! This was one of many that were scattered along the beach. A green lipped mussel with…well…hair…kind of.

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This sign is meant to catch your eye…at first all I read was ‘dead children’. There’s that Kiwi humour!

The cliffs were stunning and I wished I could remember back to my geology class what these different striations meant.

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Waterfall carved into the hill
cape kidnappers
Looks like a violent move here

cape kidnappers

At the bottom of this cliff was a dead sheep. It’s not unusual to see, actually. We pondered if another one of her sheep ‘buddies’ pushed her over. This was about the time we turned back.

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Sheep not getting too close to the edge

cape kidnappers

There’s a gannet colony at the end of that point. The only way to get there is to walk the beach (and check the tide chart!) or by tractor tours.

This was one interesting thing I saw, thinking it might have been ambergris which could have been a great find. With all of the whales in New Zealand, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. I did not take it home though for some reason. When I researched it, this was probably a sponge, as can be seen by the small holes next to that rock. It didn’t look like a normal ‘sponge’ I’m used to seeing but it may have been fresh. Of course, I’ll never really know.

cape kidnappers

Walking back to the car was this lovely old character home with a small windbreak to protect it from the constant breeze off the ocean.

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A gum tree caught my eye as well. I love how the bark is different colours and as others have mentioned, looks like a tattoo.

cape kidnappers gum tree

cape kidnappers gum tree

A week later, we headed to the Hasting’s farmer’s market where I grabbed a huge bag of habanero’s for $6 and some lemons. This bunch of silver beets caught my eye with their gorgeous rainbow colours. At first I thought it was rhubarb.

hastings farmer's market

I also found a persimmon tree down the street from where we were staying!

persimmon tree new zealand

You know I’m a sucker for fog and I took advantage of the photo ops one morning around the farm.

A pukeko looked for breakfast and squawked to his buddies while the teenage cows minded their own business.

pukeko in the mist

Fast forward slightly to my now current home of Waipukurau (Waipuk for short). We drove up to a lookout and I was finally able to get a photo of the Oreo cow (Belted Galloway) next to a spotted pig. I see a lot of these cows around New Zealand. I’m waiting to find one with multiple black and white stripes one day!

We went to a sandy beach about 25 minutes from here which was deserted. But on the way there were some interesting sights and fantastic scenery. There are things in New Zealand I’ve never seen elsewhere, like these pink ponds which are actually algae.

pink algae pond new zealand

pink algae pond new zealand

pink algae pond new zealand

pink algae pond new zealand

Then we were stopped by a mob of sheep hogging up the entire road (not to mention on a 100km/h stretch of it!). Andy was patiently driving behind them as I urged him to just push on past and they’d get out of the way. We knew the farmer was around the bend waiting for them. A local drove up behind us and waited for a bit, before doing what I had suggested. Moving far over to the left and driving slowly, the sheep scattered out of the way and we could then pass.

A few minutes later, for a fleeting moment I saw giraffes on the top of a hill! Obviously fake, but pretty realistic from a distance, I told him he had to try and stop somewhere on the way back for a picture.

metal giraffes new zealand

Once we made it to Pourerere Beach, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared briefly. We walked along the beach and I found a lot of cool shells.

pourerere beach

A lot of kelp (seaweed?) littered the beach. The waves were pretty rough and the feet of the kelp looked like they had been ripped out quite forcibly.

pourerere beach

pourerere beachpourerere beachpourerere beach

We’ll be seeing more of the upper North Island in December for a mini-road trip. It’ll be great getting out to the sandy beaches in the summer and may finally change my mind about the weather in New Zealand. At least I hope it will!pourerere beach

 

 

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!

 

California….FINALLY

When I think of California, this is what I picture
When I think of California, this is what I picture

I took a little trip back to the states for a month and finally got to see California for the first time. I stayed with my BFF in Pebble Beach so I was living the good life! They recently purchased a home off of the famous 17 Mile Drive and close to the ocean, so I’m glad I got to see it and help around the yard.

The "Gingerbread House" in Pebble Beach for rent
The “Gingerbread House” in Pebble Beach for rent

Like New Zealand, California is also known for its wine production and we visited MANY tasting rooms and a few vineyards. I couldn’t help but notice a some similarities in the coastlines and the flora. There were a lot of those creepy trees I love so much as well as the same types of flowers and bushes.

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I was also lucky enough to go to the Monterey aquarium a couple of times and got in plenty of shopping (my downfall). We also hit up Big Sur and ate lots of great food in the time I was there. I’m happy to say I fulfilled my requirements for seafood, Mexican and BBQ and some stuff I had forgotten about like this cheese steak sandwich!

Mmmm Philly cheese steak!
Mmmm Philly cheese steak!

Some of the first places they took me were to the wharf and Cannery Row. I was overwhelmed with all of the free clam chowder being sampled along the walk and took advantage of just about all of them. THAT was something I hadn’t had in a while. The gigantic crab legs were hard to miss as well.

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We saw these great little squid air plants and I made a friend in the gift shop.

Squid air plants you soak in water once a week
Squid air plants you soak in water once a week

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There were sea lions and otters galore, like this one who found an urchin to munch on (very carefully).

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I was really impressed with the aquarium, so much that I went back a second time. The jellyfish and cephalopod exhibits were outstanding. I spent a lot of time staring at the flamboyant cuttlefish. There was a touch pool for skates and rays and a beautiful shallow pool with anemones.

Skate
Skate – totally looks like a scary alien face

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Pharaoh cuttlefish

The jellyfish were so mesmerizing, it was hard to get out of the exhibit! They had quite a few octopi as well.

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Big Sur is a must do if you’re in the area, so they kindly took me on the drive and we stopped in at a nice place to eat overlooking the ocean.

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Closer to home, we went to Carmel Beach for some sunset shots and pictures of the infamous cypress tree. This is allegedly one of the most photographed trees in the U.S.

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Another trip took us to a sunset while drinking wine and having some appetizers.

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Carmel Beach had this one spot where the sand was pink. When mixed with the black and white sand then dried, it became purple. Of course I had to bring some home with me!

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While I still have food on my mind, there was some great fruit at this farmer’s market and I saw some odd cauliflower at a market outside of town. I’m also constantly amazed by the cereal aisles that I miss so much. Ours here is about 1/4 of that size and 50% more expensive!

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Thanks again, Dahnelle and Remo for making my first visit memorable and I look forward to coming back!

Surf and Turf

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The weather’s warming up so we’re out and about on the weekends now! We stopped in at Yealand’s vineyard again so I could see what the vines looked like without foliage on them and it did not disappoint. The colors and patterns were outstanding and the beach below the cliffs was once again in fine form.

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The following week we headed to Kenepuru Sound to check out the beach and have some lunch. The water is crystal clear and we walked out on a dock to look at the weird seaweed and mussels stuck to the sides.

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Two huge wood pigeons flew up into a tree while we were on the beach. These are larger than ‘normal’ pigeons and quite pretty.

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After a long wait, we were finally able to visit the Jester House Cafe (and tame eels) since they were closed at the beginning of the year. I’ve been wanting to feed the eels for a long time so we went this past weekend. I couldn’t have been giddier!!

They were hungry, slimy and cold! I loved it! They were eating some kind of mince (hamburger, chicken, pork???) off of popsicle sticks. One even tried to eat my camera!

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On the way home we stopped in at Natureland which is near the beach in Nelson and I finally got to see some Tuatara in person! These are rare reptiles endemic to New Zealand with their lineage going back 200 million years! They are mostly found in captivity but I believe there might still be a few in the wild. These cuties live up to 100 years or more and are very special. They have even made a beer named after them with a bottle to suit! We were lucky to see them out basking and even caught a glimpse of their little teeth.

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They had a couple of meerkats there as well…who can resist smiling when you see them doing this?

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Spring is finally here! Flowers have been planted in the garden and a patio set purchased so we can enjoy the outdoors. You know there’s a Texan in the neighborhood when you smell BBQ a few times a week (that would be me)! However, you can be assured there are no eels on that grill, just in case you were wondering…