Wild Surprises in New Plymouth

Mount Taranaki clear day

My boyfriend wanted to go see a car this weekend in New Plymouth which is on the west coast of the North Island, a place we hadn’t been before. Matter of fact, we’ve never seen the west coast up here yet, so it was a good excuse to take the four and a half hour drive over for the night. The car was a bust, so we got in as much as we could for the short visit.

Because we left so early, there was a plethora of rainbows all morning which I felt gave us a positive vibe to the weekend ahead. However, it was a bit disturbing that this was the third wreck we saw in a matter of two hours on this seemingly calm stretch of road.

We travelled through a few small towns, looking like every other town in New Zealand, pretty much. Before we knew it, Mt. Taranaki came into view, shrouded in clouds.

Mount Taranaki clouds

We stopped for a rest at a school which had a great view, but it was still too cloudy to see the top. I eventually snapped a picture and it was quite magnificent. The last eruption was mid 1800’s. It is allegedly still active.

Mount Taranaki clear day

We finally saw the sign for New Plymouth and crested the hill to see the ocean.

New Plymouth coastal view through town

We popped into the dealership, took the car for a short drive and came back with a list of problems. Him not wanting to look at any other cars that day, I quickly got on Trip Advisor to see what there was to do.

Well, you know me…bring on the parks with trees and flowers. I was blown away to see two large angel trumpet trees and headed straight toward them.

Brooklands park angel trumpet tree

I didn’t have much time to shove my nose in those when he announced that a parrot just flew by. I said, “Noooooo…there aren’t parrots here!” How wrong I was. I figured maybe they escaped from the zoo nearby, so I had to see this with my own eyes. Sure enough…parrots.

Eastern Rosella New Plymouth

Eastern Rosella New Plymouth

After doing some research, I found that these Eastern Rosella parrots were brought over from Oz and that they didn’t venture too far from where they had been released. I’ve gotten reports from friends up  north that they have them there. Oddly enough, some were released down in Dunedin on the South Island (where it’s way colder) and are surviving! Totally crazy. The pair flew off and we walked toward the dark forest path.

The call of Tui’s and other birds I wasn’t used to hearing echoed throughout the lush forest, with the sun being so drowned out, you would’ve thought night was approaching.

Puriri tree

We came across a huge Puriri tree which claimed to be well over 2000 years old! I was surprised it wasn’t rotted out as you could see right through it at the base of the trunk.

Puriri tree

Tree fern frond
Tree fern frond
Tree fern trunk cut
Cross section of a tree fern

There were super tall tree ferns everywhere and their new fronds looked like monkey tails.

We wandered out near the ampitheatre where a mama and her two ducklings hung out in the water.

There was a small pond off to the side covered with lilly pads. The Tui’s were eating something in the trees above us and I tried to get pictures of them, but they didn’t come out very well.

The white feathers on their necks always remind me of Taika Waititi when he played a vampire in ‘What We Do in the Shadows.’

The sweet little fan tails were about, too and they are notoriously hard to take pictures of. These cuties will fly very close to you while you’re out walking and chirp away, saying something really important, I’m sure!

A bit more walking took us through gorgeous fields of flowers and flowering vines like this one. Wish I had it at my house!

The day not nearly over yet, we headed out to the ocean to see the black sand beaches. I read there was a long walkway (about 13km, I think) but we weren’t about to walk all of it. Instead, we found a short section and walked until we got to the Surf Club, which I thought would have a bar, but it didn’t.

New Plymouth coastal walkway

New Plymouth sugar loaf islands
Sugar Loaf islands

Kite surfing New Plymouth surf club

New Plymouth extreme danger in big seas

The day wasn’t over yet! Another look at TripAdvisor for a place to eat surprisingly brought up an American Diner! WHAT!?!? Just when I had complained I didn’t get to a greasy spoon in the States, here’s one in New Zealand!! I swear, I’ve never seen one here before. Apparently it was owned by a Canadian. We HAD to go. My waistline was screaming NOOOOOO! Don’t get a chocolate milkshake! Except, I did.

New Plymouth diner chocolate milkshake

New Plymouth diner

New Plymouth diner menu

I also saw a Philly Cheesesteak on there, but in my haste, I didn’t notice it also said ‘Cuban Sandwich’ which to me, are two very different things. When I ordered, a large party of kids were being quite loud and the waitress was having trouble hearing me. So when it arrived, it looked nothing like a Philly C.S. and she said something like, “Here’s your Cuban sandwich.” Ahhh bummer. But when I looked back at the menu, it really was this weird combo of the two. It wasn’t bad, just not what I expected. $45 later, lunch was done and I was hating myself for eating like that. Oh well…gotta indulge sometimes!

By this time, we were ready to enter a comatose state so had a rest for a while. Checking TA once again, I saw there was a cool bridge that I wanted to go see at sunset to get some pictures. I dragged my poor boyfriend out again to go see it.

New Plymouth white bridge

It reminded me of a whale carcass with the ribs sticking up. Te Rewa Rewa is a suspension bridge so it moved quite a bit as people walked on it. Not realizing you could see Mt. Taranaki (I jokingly started calling it Mount Teriyaki), it was a bonus to get some pictures of that in as well.

New Plymouth white bridge Mt. Taranaki

New Plymouth white bridge Mt. Taranaki

New Plymouth white bridge Mt. Taranaki

Not wanting to completely call it a day, we went out to a pub for a couple of drinks and to feed the pokie machine $5, of which, I received nothing in return.

Not wanting to leave too late the next day, I wanted to see if we could find the parrots again, go take pictures of the reflection building which was part of the art museum, check out the free zoo (which was in that same park as the parrots) and drop into the free museum near the waterfront.

Unfortunately, I brought the wrong charger for my camera battery and had to rely on my phone to do the rest. That meant there would be no good pictures of the parrots (we saw 6 of them that morning).

New Plymouth reflection art gallery mirror

New Plymouth reflection art gallery mirror

New Plymouth reflection art gallery mirror

New Plymouth reflection art gallery mirror
I liked that it made me look skinny

The little zoo was fantastic! They had monkeys, otters, meerkats, llamas and a flight house with birds.

Brooklands park birds of paradise
Bird of paradise plant outside of the zoo
Brooklands zoo otters
He got shrimp for breakfast

Brooklands zoo otters

Brooklands zoo otters

Brooklands zoo pheasant

Brooklands zoo pheasant

Brooklands zoo parrot

Brooklands zoo parrot

Brooklands zoo parrot

Brooklands zoo flight house

Brooklands zoo squirrel monkey

We headed to the museum after that which was nicely laid out (and FREE)! Of course I was interested in the natural history. The shark was a reproduction of a megaladon.

New Plymouth museum megaladon shark

New Plymouth museum kiwi
The always awkward looking kiwi’s

New Plymouth museum kiwi

New Plymouth museum possum
I tend to forget this is what possums look like here. This one and the cat seem a bit deranged.

Kakapo parrot

This is a Kakapo – it’s also called a night parrot or owl parrot. You may have seen these birds on a TV show that talked about how they make these deep thumping noises to attract a mate. They are nocturnal, flightless and endemic to NZ, living up to 90 years. Unfortunately, there are only a little over 100 left. This a good page where you can read more and listen to the noise they make.

New Plymouth CBD flyover walkway museum library
Walkway between the museum and library

And with that, we were back in the car to head home. On the way, we saw this car with the license place ‘TWOODS’ and kidded that maybe he really DOES drive a Honda now. We confirmed when passing, it was definitely not Tiger.

Relieved to finally be back in Central Hawke’s Bay with the familiar view of the Ruahine Ranges.

Hawke's Bay ruahine ranges

It was a fun, fast trip and the search for a car continues!

 

 

 

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A Tour of Hawke’s Bay Seafoods

Hawke's Bay Seafood case

In my quest for clam meat that I don’t have to buy in a can from the American store in Auckland, I came across Hawke’s Bay Seafoods website one day. I was actually overwhelmed at the amount of different types they offered. Razor, moon, cloudy, tua tua, and frozen chopped clams. The clams I AM able to find come in a shell, vacuum packed and cost a LOT of money. Having never even shucked a clam before, I couldn’t imagine that the few clams in that bag would even be found in a pot of clam chowder.

I perused the options on their site and found that the razor clams seemed to be the best deal and I’d get 2 pounds of them for around $25. SOLD to the lady with the Old Bay Seasoning! Since shipping was reasonable, I figured I’d look for some more things. Low and behold….ON SALE was a huge bag of HEADLESS (finally), deveined and de-tailed (is that a word?) frozen shrimp. I could even choose the size of shrimp I wanted. Again, a fantastic price around the same as the clams. I couldn’t WAIT for my order to show up!!

frozen prawn meat New Zealand
I need to start calling them ‘prawns’ instead of shrimp

My order arrived the next day and I put it all in the freezer until I needed them. I was really thrilled at the amount of clams in the bag and the prawns were big and meaty. I felt RICH!

Frozen razor clams new zealand
Frozen razor clams

Knowing pretty much nothing about clams in their natural state, I let these babies thaw out and then realized that was a SHELL on them! Here I was thinking I’d have a ton of meat if I cut these into small pieces. Hah…what a dummy I am. So I dug out the meat which still yielded a fair amount, but it did take some work. Ok, lesson learned. By the way, the chowder turned out great.

I had emailed into HB Seafoods with unsolicited advice on some errors on their website. After hearing from Adam in Customer Support, who was more than happy to have me send in some corrections, also invited me to come by for a tour next time I was in the neighborhood. I was totally down with that and met up with him last week when I went to Napier.

Hawke's Bay Seafoods bait sales
Loading dock entrance

HBS (as I’ll call it from now on) has a nice shop on the corner selling fresh seafood and also has a takeaway counter. The outfit looked pretty large and I wasn’t sure where to go, so I started there. He pointed me over to a two storey building next door and I popped into reception and met up with Adam.

He showed me out to the balcony where we could see their fleet of boats in the port (unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of that) and then around the nice, modern office space. On the other side of the building, we could peer down into the receiving bay and he pointed out the huge coolers full of seafood that could find themselves in Japan in a couple of days.

A huge scale where they weigh their bounty

Adam told me how HBS started off in a very small section of this street corner they were on and grew into this huge outfit today. We dove right in as I watched large containers of fish sloshing around on a forklift below. Downstairs we went and he took me by the chiller room.

Hawke's Bay Seafoods cold storage
I’m shivering just looking at this

I really should’ve gotten a photo of me with “smoke” coming out of my mouth when he pulled back the heavy plastic curtain that kept the cold contained in there. WHOA…this is not a place you’d want to stick your tongue on anything…you’d never get it off of there. I swear if I would’ve thrown a glass of water up in the air, it would’ve frozen before it hit the floor. Brrrrrrrr.

We then went into a room where bins of fresh fish were awaiting the cutting board for their internet orders. They had a handful of folks working in the back, filleting fish and packing up orders to ship out that day.

New Zealand crayfish

Then I got to see the shellfish room! A huge tank of crayfish bubbled away while some clams hung out in calm water next to them.

New Zealand crayfish

tua tua clams
Tua tua clams from Marlborough

I asked why those crayfish were always so expensive here ($95/kg) and he explained it was due to all of the overhead costs of sending out the boat, paying the fishermen and still trying to make a marginal profit. They don’t have trouble selling them, though. Often they’re consumed on special occasions or by visitors to New Zealand who like to indulge on things they don’t get back home.

Hawke's Bay Seafood case

We walked over to the shop where I got to have a better look at the cabinet (hey, there are those clams up there!) and told me that people could purchase their fresh seafood and also have it cooked to their liking on the spot!

This got us talking about preparing seafood and he generously offered up some fish for me to take home. I admitted I wasn’t a huge fan of fish and I didn’t really even know how to cook it. When I had bought fish, it was either to make ceviche or give to my snakes. So we went back to the cooler where those bins of fish were and he picked up two large trevally’s.

trevally fish hawke's bay seafood

He reminded me that these were still swimming last night (then I felt kinda bad). We walked back to the processing room and had his pro cutter fillet these for me.

Having already forgotten the name of the fish, I asked again and then joked that it sounded like an Italian guy’s last name. So I kept repeating ‘Tony Trevally’ in my head on the drive home so I wouldn’t forget.

In less time than it would take to sing a Sinatra song, my fish was wrapped up and put in a chilly bin for the drive home! I told him I’d give ceviche a go and let him know how it turned out.

Thanks for the memories, Adam! The fish was really good and here’s how I prepared it…

Simply put, I love ceviche, but it’s usually reserved for when I go to the Caribbean. I had eaten some lionfish ceviche when I was in Belize last and it was time to make my own now.

No fresh jalapenos here in the winter

Ceviche is a method of cooking seafood in a citrus juice, such as lime. The acids in the juice work to literally “cook” the fish and you eat it cold. Some of the main ingredients in ceviche would be onion, jalapeno or some fiery pepper, tomato, salt, pepper and cilantro. I perused some recipes out there since it’d been a while and threw in some finely grated garlic using my planer and incorporated a bit of orange juice in with the lime. I also added cucumber since I failed to get any avocado and read that if you heavily salt the onion, it leaches out the water and makes it less bitter, so I did that.

ceviche ingredients
Pink sea salt on the onion then drained (see it sweating?)

I used the smaller fillet, which was still a ton and chopped it into small bite sized pieces, then put into a large bowl.

Then I threw in all of the veggies and covered it with the juice.

ceviche New Zealand style

Stir it up well and let the magic happen.

ceviche New Zealand style

Now, what everyone said in their recipe was to wait 30 minutes for it to “cook” and you should be good to go. Well, I don’t know what the problem was this time. Whether it was the fact that I bought NZ limes and they let them go yellow before they sell them or if it was because I had it in the fridge, but it literally took FOREVER before the fish was done.

30 minutes into it

Not even close at 30 minutes. I knew to stir it up so everything got coated with the lime and also knew it was best to be mostly submerged in it to cook evenly, so I pressed it flatter and stirred every 20 minutes or so.

Over an hour into it. This was supposed to be lunch.

The magic was working, albeit it very sloooooowly.

Dinner time

It was pretty much done by dinner time, when I had already made something else entirely! You can still see some raw parts so I just picked out the pieces that were done and had them with corn chips as an appetizer. The takeaway here: don’t count on a specific amount of time…eat it when it has turned white. It was really good…I couldn’t wait until (breakfast?) the following day and put them on corn tortillas for some fish tacos!

As I had been drifting off to sleep, I realized I wanted to drain most of the juice so it wouldn’t be a huge bowl of fishy mush by morning but I couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed.

Morning arrived and it was the first thing I did and it seemed to be just fine. For lunch, I heated some nice corn tortillas up and made tacos. I couldn’t believe how much I had in that bowl and felt like I was back in the tropics again! My boyfriend, who can’t stomach the idea of eating cold fish, left it all for me to have and it was even fine the day after that as well.

So thank you, Adam, for introducing me to the Trevally family. I froze the other large fillet so I may end up baking or pan frying it. By the way, the website is looking great…kudos to your team over there!

Year 5 as an Expat

year five as an expat

It’s sinking in now, after five years, that I’ve really made the break with my old life back in the States. I still think back to a night in Costa Rica after I first arrived, asking myself how long I would really be gone for. I know the farthest ahead I thought was five years. At the time, I just shook my head, not being able to comprehend where I’d be. Live in the moment and take it one day at a time. Here I am, over 1,825 days later, staring permanent residency in New Zealand right in the face.

Waipukurau town

This past year saw us moving from the South Island to the North Island to a town much smaller than the previous one. I’ve made quite a few friends and love how there will be freshly picked fruits and veggies left on my doorstep by the neighbour. Another is raising a couple of lambs, who have now become friendly with humans. I even got to scratch one behind the ears and watch that big tail wag back and forth. Little do they know they’ll be ending up as dinner soon. When I make a sad face, she reminds me, “That’s how us Kiwi roll!”

New Zealand lambs
Sniff, sniff.

Thanksgiving is always interesting in New Zealand. This time, I found myself trying to stuff a wild turkey into a very small oven and subsequently overcooking most of it. I’m getting better at remembering what Fahrenheit to Celsius is and I can even rattle off how much a cup of flour or 1/2 a cup of butter weighs in grams! I’m embracing centimetres and millimetres and trying to spell them correctly even though it looks SO wrong.

wild turkey in small oven

I’ve also learned (I haven’t gotten to the point of saying ‘learnt’) that things we say in America such as ‘parking lot’ and ‘rental’ don’t really exist here. It would be more like ‘car park’ and ‘hire.’ A ‘sidewalk’ is a ‘foot path’, ‘calling in’ doesn’t mean picking up the phone…it means ‘coming in.’ If you want something from a restaurant ‘to go,’ you’d have a ‘take away’ instead.  Some things I’m still not budging on, like that one. I’m holding onto some of my roots!

You rarely find a burger joint in a small town but you’ll almost always find an Indian restaurant. You’ll also have a choice of at least two bakeries. In almost all of the places you go to eat, you won’t have a waiter. You order at a counter and pay your bill there when you’re done. Want some water? It’s over there in the corner…help yourself.

Garden before the sunburn hit.

The veggie garden really suffered from the intense sun…making my tomatoes and peppers sustain a sunburn like I’ve never seen before. It literally burned right through them. I was only able to salvage a few tomatoes and had to cover the peppers. I’ve been told that the ozone layer over Hawke’s Bay is minimal and I believe it. I’ve never felt sun as intense as it is here…even when I was close to the equator in Guyana. Next year I’ll have to set up a large shade somehow and plant strategically. The cucumbers did well, finding places to hide under other plants and the strawberries didn’t seem to mind much either. And by the way, a bell pepper is called a capsicum and zucchini’s are courgettes in case you ever find yourself down under.

huge strawberry

The one good thing about living here are the beaches. Unspoiled, not too crowded and more sun than you can handle. You’ll usually find yourself alone after 3pm on any given one. The water is a tad bit warmer up this way and I managed to get in up to my shins recently for the first time EVER. There are a string of them, each with their own feel. It’s nice to have a choice and to be able to walk on sand instead of rock.

Hawke's Bay beach

I have to agree with my mother that the South Island seems to be more beautiful than the North. I don’t see those gorgeous blue rivers here or deep, clear lakes. I know where to go to see gigantic eels and finding newborn lambs is never a problem. Even though it takes 35 minutes to get to the nearest large town, the drive is scenic and makes me glad we didn’t live there after all.

Peka Peka wetlands
Peka Peka wetlands on the way to Hastings

Fall has arrived with cooler nights to prove it and soon the leaves will be changing and I’ll be scouting out places to take photos. I’ll miss seeing all of the vineyards in their endless array of colours, but our community has a lot of spectacular gardens and smaller vineyards aren’t far away. The long stop bank where we ride bikes has fruit orchards, so those hold some promise as well.

nz earthquake map
Earthquake map showing the hot spots being along the east coast.

Although we’re still in earthquake prone territory, I think I’ve only felt a handful over the past year. Exciting and scary at the same time, I keep telling myself to prepare my ‘bug out bag’ and have a plan, but I have yet to do so. I’m guessing most people here don’t. Again, maybe that’s just how the Kiwi’s roll.

So another year down and the fascination is wearing off. I’ll get back on a plane in a couple of months and get my fill of travel, clocking well over 21,000 miles in a 4 week period. I would have thought by 2018 we would have the ability to teleport. But then the old saying of “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” would take on a whole new meaning!

Freaky clouds over Waipukurau
I live in a great place to view the weather!

 

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve Part 2

Seven armed Star Astrostole scabra new zealand hawkes bay

Wanting to take advantage of it still being warm here, we headed out to the Te Angiangi Marine Reserve again (part 1 was last month). It was so much fun, I wanted to write about it once more because we found different stuff and we were almost a witness to a sheep falling off the cliff!

We got there around 10am and walked a bit farther than last time along the track. We could see Blackhead beach ahead of us and 4 wheelers and a few cars were driving toward us. I did notice a sign that said cars were not allowed to do this, but apparently others didn’t. Sometimes there was a rough track but it often dropped down to the shoreline. Something about cars on beaches that annoy me to no end.

We got to a small cliff and decided to walk the beach back which took quite a while since we wanted to explore the tidal pools. The water was nice and warm…all 3 inches of it!

I came across the head of a crayfish (or lobster) which reminded me of the ones in Australia which are called painted crayfish but these weren’t nearly as beautiful. What I hadn’t noticed before is that they have hair on them!

Check out those fine little feathery looking things…I’m not sure if “hair” is the correct term. Although there are a lot of hairy crabs here as well. I found a dead one chilling on a rock and saw a lot in the water blending in really well.

hairy crab te angiangi reserve

I was taking pictures of the cool trees up on the hill and I had noticed a bunch of sheep under that wind swept one. It made me think about the sheep bone I had found near the beach last time. It’s hard to show how steep it really was up there.

I wasn’t fast enough to catch what happened next. One of the sheep made a move and I saw its back end start to slip off of its ledge. She caught herself and watched the big chunks of rock and dirt fall and fall and fall. Lucky girl! That’s her looking down, probably pondering what would’ve happened. And you know me, I would’ve been scurrying over to help…if I could!

sheep almost fell off hill

I kept an eye on her…looks like she’s kind of stuck in that spot!

nz spider with silk

I was inspecting the eroded spots by the beach and saw a small spider. Nothing too exciting there, but when I viewed the photo, I could see the silk coming out of its abdomen which I thought was pretty neat.

The paua shell sticking out of the sand was sure pretty.

abalone shell in the sand

More mudstone surrounded by the neat impressions in the sand which also made me think of Blacks Beach in Mackay.

mudstone new zealand

But the real excitement began when we got back to the beach. For some reason, I never bothered inspecting the rocks that were sticking up here last time. We had been lying on the beach for a while and it got too hot so we headed to the water. I noticed a bunch of small, round jelly looking things with some tiny purple blob inside. At first, I thought they were jellyfish but there were no tentacles coming off of them. That made me think back again to Blacks Beach where I found the snail eggs and thought these were tiny snails in them. There are a lot of snails around, so it made sense.

However, upon further research, I came across that they might be salps and then saw this great blog post that talked about exactly what I had found. You can see from the closeup photo the distinct body in there. I wonder if these are babies because from what I can gather, these are really much larger and stick together. It looks like they’re encased in this jelly. The part you can see are actually the intestines. Now don’t hold me to this, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it is. They’re neat creatures, usually in a chain floating around together and they eat plankton while removing carbon from the water. You can read more about them here.

People have said they tend to show up on beaches when bad weather hits. The cyclone just went through the South Pacific and is headed our way tomorrow, so that might be it.

There were a bunch of crabs and a few weird black sea slugs (maybe sea hares?). It was wild how everything started coming to life once the tide came in.

But the coolest thing of all was watching this seven armed sea star crawl out beneath a rock and start looking for food. It was the largest one I’ve ever seen and it was cold and slimy! It even had spines on its arms. I took (a fairly bad) video of it as well. I believe the scientific name is Astrostole scabra.

Seven armed Star Astrostole scabra new zealand hawkes bay

We watched it as long as possible until the water got too deep. We’ll check for it again next time!

By 3pm, EVERYONE had left the beach…it was weird. We had the entire place to ourselves. We didn’t stay much longer though as we’d been there quite a while already and were getting hungry.

Oh, another thing I found were these:

possibly sheep teeth on a beach

At first I thought they were whale teeth, but found out those would be pointy. Then I thought maybe they were sheep teeth but they seem really large for that. They don’t look like shells or anything like that…they were found on the beach. Maybe they are remnants of  the dead sheep…if anyone can ID them, chime in!

And a little bit of comic relief from the garden…I’ve started picking my carrots and after I tore the leaves off of this one, realized it looked like a half person! Although it also had a tail.

These are about the only two Cherokee Purple tomatoes that didn’t get completely messed up. Too bad…they’re really meaty and huge but I’ve had to throw away most of them so far because of sunburn/bugs/cracking.

We’re still being graced with great sunsets, too! No Photoshop needed.

We got a cold front in and I was worried summer was over. Thankfully, I was wrong! It’s been fairly unbearable in the house between 2:30-5:30 but I’m not complaining.

Until next time…