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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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…

 

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve

From our humble little town of Waipukurau, we are about a 30 minute drive to the coastline. There are quite a few beaches, all very different from each other which makes choosing our favourite a bit difficult. We decided yesterday that this one in particular, would be our go-to beach. It was a bit off the beaten track, having to travel about 6km along a dirt road to get there.

I only just read about this Te Angiangi Marine Reserve in our local paper last week. The story behind it was that there was a massive landslide in 2011 which was caused by 25 inches of rain over a 4 day period. It was then triggered by a 4.5 earthquake nearby. The result: most of that hill in the above picture slid into the ocean, disturbing sea and bird life. However, it has now started to recover and we went to check it out.

With the prospect of seeing octopi searching for food in the shallows, I got pretty excited. There are even sightings of dolphin, seals and orca in this bay in the summer. They call this Stingray Bay, although I didn’t see any or read any reference to them being there. Sometimes bays are named for their shape, so that could be the case here. Although stingrays do inhabit these waters.

As usual, I took quite a few photos so I’ll just talk about them below.

This was the first view of the huge hill from the parking lot. You can see where the part of the slide happened on this side.

The reserve starts about where I was standing to take this photo of the beach in the distance. We got there as the tide was going out, luckily. It was quite shallow but became even more so about 30 minutes later.

We walked the track for a while which led to the reserve and saw a bunch of sheep headed toward us. I couldn’t help but wonder if any had been caught in the slide. It seemed like a pretty scary place to be walking, considering. Then I noticed this bone down near the water, which I assume was from a sheep and wondered if it had been a victim.

Orange signs showing the reserve boundary

I love wind swept trees and I don’t see nearly as many here as I did on the South Island.

Getting down to the beach put me into shiny object syndrome mode. I move pretty slowly once I get immersed in things that have been washed up.

Some of the first things I saw were urchin shells (or Kina in the Maori language). I’m pretty sure I ended up with a spine in my foot, which is still bothering me.

Also washed up were these Neptune’s necklace (sea grapes or bubbleweed), which were in abundance in the shallows as well. They are a type of seaweed. Once the tide went out, they were exposed, creating a field of yellow.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve neptune's neclace

Washed up on shore were a few of these hairy crabs and even some Portuguese man-o-war jellies. Yikes. I read that immersing the wound, should you get stung, in as hot of water as you can stand for 20 minutes is what you should do. Heated sea water works and even urine, if nothing else is available. But to definitely NOT use fresh water on it and to try and remove the stingers with a dry towel.

Cormorants (or Shags) are common everywhere.

I was able to spot some cute starfish, mostly hidden under rocks. I bet this place is crawling at night with all sorts of neat stuff! For the first time ever, I even saw small shrimp! I wasn’t able to get a good photo, though.

Cuddling starfish, how cute is THAT?

Then we spotted this creepy worm-like thing. I saw one later, much smaller, writhing like it was having a fit while floating in the water. Once it touched bottom, it straightened out and crawled along.

Also under the rocks were these dark, what I dubbed ‘Tarantula Crabs,’ which freaked out looking for cover.

I had been too busy looking down to take notice of these cool rocks that were everywhere. I read that they are called mudstone. Their appearance is due to the expansion and contraction of the material, which causes these geometric shapes and also makes them very fragile. It reminded me of dinosaurs with those hard armour shells.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Those are limpets stuck in there. They talk about the golden limpet in this area, which I saw a few of in the water. I’m not sure exactly what they do, but they appear to make some deep marks in the rock and you could see evidence of where some had been before by their oval shapes.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve golden limpet

It had gotten pretty hot yesterday and at the time of this photo, this was as deep in the ocean as I had ever gotten in New Zealand for the past 4 years I’ve lived here! I’m proud to say I made it up to right below my knees for a few minutes later on in the day.

Andy spotted these tiny snail shells on a rock, but you couldn’t tell just how small they were so I added my finger to the next one to show you.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve snails

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve snails

The views toward the beach were great as the clouds made a nice reflection on the top of the water. There were patches of eel grass as well. The photo of it looks surreal with the cloud reflection

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve eel grass

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve

We finally hit the sandy beach but after 4 hours of being out there, got to be a bit much with no shade. Dehydration crept up and we came back to town for some cold drinks.

We were then graced with an amazing sunset that night. No Photoshop needed, folks. Summer is FINALLY here. Although with no a/c in the house, I’m feeling almost like I’m back in Central America (minus the monkeys and birds and sloths).

Waipukurau sunset Hawke's Bay

Waipukurau sunset Hawke's Bay

Another post soon once my Cherokee purple tomatoes start to change colour and an update on the garden!

 

 

Sources: http://www.academia.edu/8625105/Effects_of_catastrophic_coastal_landslides_on_the_Te_Angiangi_Marine_Reserve_Hawkes_Bay_New_Zealand

http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/conservation/marine-and-coastal/marine-protected-areas/te-angiangi-marine-reserve-brochure.pdf

Ducks, Eels & a Parade

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We took a ride outside of our bubble to Norsewood one weekend. I was told they had some sort of wool outlet store with good sales, so that was enough of a reason for me! The shop was ok, certainly no bargains to be had…where I really scored was around the corner! If I’ve learned anything, it’s when there’s an eel on a sign, that means they’re close by! It sounded like it was a paid entry to a park, but as we approached, it was free to walk around.

IMG_3456Nicely landscaped and a small stream running through it, Andy spotted eels right away…..BIG ONES! They all huddled in a deep area before a small waterfall, somehow managing not to get swept over it.

The longest one was at least 4 1/2 feet and they appeared to be wanting food. A sign said ‘no unauthorized feeding’ and besides, I didn’t have anything with me to be tempted.

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We walked around Norsewood for a bit, finding the old jail the most interesting thing there.

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The jail cells were like large, dark saunas. I’m not sure which would have been worse…being in the cell or sitting in that chair all day!

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Captivating reading

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We headed back through Waipuk to Waipawa for the duck races! Yep, this is what I get excited about now. Let me tell ya, it was hoppin’ in that little town! Lots of stalls and I even picked up more duck eggs. If you ever have the chance to buy these, do it. I had them once in Texas and they were great! Cook up nice and fluffy and they have more protein than chicken eggs. There are quite a few duck egg “dealers” around here so I’m happy about that. I paid $3.50 for half a dozen.

duck eggs
Duck egg on the left, chicken egg on the right

We headed down to the river to watch the duck race. People were able to buy a ticket for their duck but unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you what the prize was. Proceeds went to the Ronald McDonald House which was about $1200.

A tractor had dug out the area for the ducks and a man stood behind the finishing line, waiting for them to arrive.

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Two ducks were head and tails above the rest and once the others arrived, the mad rush to net and stuff them in bags was on!

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Last weekend was the Waipukurau parade, celebrating 150 years on the map. I’d never seen so many people here! It consisted of vintage fire trucks, cars and dress. Even a tiny (fat) pony!

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Over the same long weekend, we visited a winery nearby which is on a property that was originally a retreat for WWI soldiers, then became a sanitorium and then in the 50’s, a care facility. It was abandoned in 1998. Pukeora estate is now up for sale after being occupied by a couple for the past 17 years if anyone’s interested!

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We were able to walk through one of the buildings which was a bit creepy. A bird was trapped in one of the rooms so I opened the windows and door and he eventually flew out…PHEW!

The wine was very good and we left with a couple of bottles. Another couple who lives on site has an art gallery which was terrific. The vineyard is perched on limestone and we saw some small fossils in the hills leading up to the place. Kinda reminded me of home.

Finally, we went back to a memorial park for a longer walk to see what was blooming.

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This interesting park is full of plaques memorializing family members. They planted flowers, trees and bushes around each one. Each area is different and there’s a small stream running through the park as well.

IMG_3658Some of these folks were close to or over 100. Although some were younger than us, which made us feel lucky to be alive.

I found out that these hard, bumpy fruits were from the strawberry tree! You can eat them when they turn red and I haven’t figured out if they’re delicious or otherwise, as I picked a couple that were yellow. I’m giving it another couple of days before opening them up.

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Thanksgiving is around the corner and it’s going to be a little different this year! You won’t believe the story.

Tonight, the clouds were in rare form and I’m waiting for something to happen!

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