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
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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

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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.

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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

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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

 

 

Year Four

March 27 marks my fourth year of being a U.S. expat. Once again, I’m still amazed that I’ve been away this long. Lucky number four finds me in the midst of moving on once again to what will be my 31st home since I’ve been gone. My boyfriend accepted a job up on the North Island in the Hastings area, a spot we happened to visit last year on a mini-vacation. Napier is nearby which was the Art Deco town located on the Pacific that I loved so much.

To recap the past year: it was an interesting one! 

I always get out to the vineyards when fall comes to capture the beauty of the changing leaves. We found a spot that was hilly for once so I could get up above it all and capture the (almost) whole picture of this interesting section.

In May, we took a trip down to Kaikoura to visit the seal colony tucked in the woods near a waterfall. Pups are birthed here across the road from the ocean, giving them a safe haven to play and learn all about seal life. Sadly, this area was destroyed by the massive November earthquake. News is that the colony has relocated close by and is doing well.

I still struggle to grasp the months vs. the seasons here when looking back at photos. We went to a small event at a French vineyard in July which is the dead of winter here. People helplessly looked on as this sow dug up a good section of the land and little girls were mesmerized by busy bees.

Meanwhile, our friend’s vineyard was filled with lambs and mothers tending to the “mowing” of the grass and fertilizing the grapevines.

We drove up to Nelson a few times and my life would not be complete without stopping to take amazing photos of low lying clouds.

Out of pure desperation, I was forced to start making my own flour tortillas. I’ve gotten much better at making them round, but it still takes a solid two hours to make and cook just 20 of them. I make sure to savour each and every one.

For Halloween, I tried my hand at some decorative pumpkins which I tried to sell and that went over like flannel sheets on a hot night.

My fascination with lemons continues, having a warm glass of lemon juice to start my mornings off right. The lemons from my neighbour’s 100 year old tree never ceases to amaze me.

And then….it happened:

We were violently shaken awake at 12:02 am feeling like the house was about to come crashing down by what was later categorized as a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Thankfully, this turn of the century house swayed and rattled with the movement which probably saved a lot of damage. The only major thing that broke was the chimney. It even stayed intact luckily, as we were standing quite near it when we left the house not thinking it could have potentially fallen on us.

The road to Christchurch is still blocked off to this day with no indication of when it may open again. We haven’t felt many quakes in the past couple of months but the thousands of aftershocks following the big one made me feel helpless and vulnerable.

Then, three days later, I received my temporary residency. Glad that worrying is over with. I’m now allowed to stay in New Zealand indefinitely although my travel is restricted after two years so I would have to either never travel or apply to become a permanent resident.

On a happier note, I was introduced to our local “pest” by Kiwi standards, the hedgehog. The dog started finding one in our yard which alerted us to her presence and then she had babies! It was a very dry stretch of summer for a while after they were born and the dog would find them wandering out in the daylight. They were small and seemed either hungry or thirsty so I would take them in for a feed and water then put them back under the house.

When I started not seeing the mom around anymore, I felt I had to interfere with nature to make sure these kids survived. I ended up marking them with nail polish so I could keep track of their weight and they were named accordingly. One came back to us with mites so I had to take him/her to the vet for treatment and hang onto that one about a week longer than the other two.

Adorable little creatures, they were. I became pretty attached to them and hated to see them go. I set them free at a reserve near the house which has a creek running through it and other hedgehogs present so I know they will have plenty to eat and good places to hide. I expect they are still alive and well.

With a new job on the horizon and the prospect of selling the house, we had our work cut out for us. We learned how to refinish a timber countertop in the kitchen that was badly in need of refurbishment. Not to mention cleaning up the two front bedrooms which were never used by us. 

Many gallons of paint later and hundreds for new carpet netted us two gorgeous, livable rooms that anyone would be happy to have.

The house sold after only five days on the market which had us scrambling to find somewhere to live up north. Unfortunately after three solid days of looking and one offer put in, we ended up with nothing. So I put my old comfortable shoes on and delve into being homeless again after having finally become used to staying in one place for the past couple of years.

A new chapter once again is upon me but it will be a welcomed change (I think). We’re moving out of the rural lifestyle and knowing your neighbours and clerks at the local corner store to the “big city” with traffic lights and unfamiliar faces. We won’t be immune to earthquakes but at least the gas prices are cheaper and there are more choices as far as buying “things” goes. We will even have a great sandy beach nearby (although the water will still be stupid cold). On to a new adventure!

 

 

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Gigantic roses

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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!

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

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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.