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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
There were a bunch of seaside wall art paintings which I just love!
Near the port there was a small tower with more paintings on it as well.
The walk along the port had these gorgeous purple flowers and of course the ginormous bumble bees were there as well.
New Zealand has the best flowers and gardens…this one in the Centennial Gardens had a 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).
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.
Fairly deserted, we staked out a spot in the sand and relaxed.
Round about 3:30 it started to cool down and people began leaving. We weren’t far behind.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These Maori rock carvings were done in the 70’s.
Later that evening we parked along the lake and watched the 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.”
Some ducks provided a nice photo op as well.
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.
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!
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.
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!
We’re 11 days into Spring and it’s been a mixed bag so far. The nights are still quite cold with lows in the high 30’s and daily highs have been in the low 60’s. The sun feels quite hot when you’re in it (or maybe I’m just becoming accustomed to the cold). By far, it’s my favorite time of year here. It means I can plant flowers and my veggie garden starts to show signs of life again!
Some of the first lambs appeared on a friend’s vineyard so I took the opportunity to go see them. They always run if you get too close. I heard a mother snort at her baby when I got near and it stood up and bolted by her side. No cuddling possible, unfortunately. Their thick, saggy coats allow for fast expansion as these lambs grow quickly over the course of the next couple of months.
Folks here use the sheep to “mow” the grass and they do a great job! It’s also a wonderful way to get free fertilizer for the vines. They have to shift them to different paddocks because they run out of grass to eat pretty quickly.
I’ve found a TON of mantis egg sacks all around the property and keeping a close eye on them. There were some early hatchlings, which I know know were not new emerges because I found a SUPER tiny one yesterday…only about a millimeter long. I plan on bringing in an ootheca (egg sack) and trying to ‘incubate’ it so I can watch the babies. I’ll have to free them soon thereafter though so they don’t starve or eat each other!
We went to my favorite park, which always seems to change. This time there were huge camellia trees which I had never noticed before (not even sure how that was possible) and the roses had all been cut back.
The weeping willows were starting to bud.
Here are some photos of flowers on this magnolia tree showing a few stages of blooming. It needs that furry coat to keep warm during the frosty nights!
The flowers were all smiling up at the sun!
I had to say hi to my favorite huge tree.
The acorns are gigantic, I almost thought they were peanuts!
These odd looking flowers look very different from anything I’ve seen in the U.S.
The golf course was looking immaculate as always.
As we approached the gazebo, all of the ducks and seagulls were enjoying being fed or simply hanging out in the nice weather. The duck was floating close to his girlfriend and the sun caught his colorful emerald green head perfectly! The water is so clear you can’t even tell it’s there!
Kudos to the folks who keep this park looking so beautiful! I always look forward to going there. Hopefully the nice weather will get us out more and I’ll be able to blog a little more often!
We went to a local winery who was celebrating Bastille Day (a few days early) called Clos Henri. According to Wikipedia (because I didn’t pay attention in history class), Bastille Day Commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution with the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, and the unity of the French people at the Fête de la Fédération on 14 July 1790.
People stood in line, salivating at the smells coming from the food truck, while others warmed up with some coffee as the French music played in the background. The era of the music sounded like it could’ve been coming from an old phonograph. Images danced in my head of a mad butcher chopping up his meal while laughing maniacally. It set the scene for what was yet to be found around the grounds.
A huge sow easily dug up the top of the grass with her nose, unable to find much to eat, occasionally being handed a half ear of corn from her keeper.
As I sampled some of their Sauv, the man explained that the two types (clay side and rocky side) were divided by the fault line. Even though they weren’t far from one another, the taste was quite different (I liked the rocky side best).
There was a local honey producer on site with a small display of bees and some samples of yummy manuka honey…the good stuff! I’ve mentioned before about manuka honey and it being some of the most expensive type of honey available due to its medicinal qualities. Two little girls pointed out the queen to me, with a blue spot painted on her back.
Another interesting sight was this fake guillotine. Nice backdrop though, if you really had to go this way!
Although it was chilly and we left right before the rain hit, it was a nice experience and we didn’t lose our heads (helpful when needing to drive home).