A Winter Walk Through the Park

Pakowhai Regional Park ginkgo tree
Pakowhai Regional Park ginkgo tree

Four days after winter arrived, we finally went for a walk in a park near Hastings. We’d passed by it many times before, but the yellow ginkgo trees caught my eye and I had my camera with me. I declared we would be going there on our way back home (without any rebuttal from the driver). Pakowhai Regional Park

Pakowhai (pronounced POK-o-fie) Regional Park was clearly a dog park. People there (of which there were many) either had a dog or a baby. This is one park where dogs are allowed to run off their leads. Considering how crowded it was with children, I could only imagine this happening in the States. There were a couple of pit bulls running loose but I wasn’t concerned. They don’t have the bad reputation here that they do back home. Everyone seemed to be happy, including the friendly dogs who came up for a pat.

Pakowhai Regional Park

I immediately went the opposite direction of everyone and headed for the trees while the sun was still out. Unbelievably beautiful, it was hard to take my eyes off of them. It made me think about Pollard Park in Blenheim. It wasn’t quite the caliber of that one, but it did have some typical New Zealand scenes.

Pakowhai Regional Park

Large, mature trees that are perfectly shaped and super green grass that contrasts with fallen leaves. A mix of evergreens and large clumps of flax with a stream or river running through it, is always clear and cold. It’s nature’s eye candy and just makes you feel good to take it all in.

pakowhai regional park

Leggy pine trees lost a few members, but I liked that they made use of the stumps. One tree had been uprooted from the recent heavy rains we had.

pakowhai regional parkpakowhai regional park

pakowhai regional park

We walked back toward the parking lot and I was surprised to find a gathering of large cabbage trees. One had been cut down and the heart shaped trunk caught my eye.

pakowhai regional park

Some beautiful VERY white gum (eucalyptus) trees appeared around the bend, looking like the skin on an animal.

pakowhai regional park

On the way out to Hastings, an apple orchard caught my eye as we were coming off a bridge. It was high enough to see over them so I said we had to pull over before getting to the bridge so I could walk up there and take a picture. This is a big fruit town, so most of the orchards you see are a lot of these creepy, multiple armed apple trees. They look like they come alive at night and run around terrorizing the town.

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These seemed harmless enough and their yellow and orange leaves stretched as far as the eye could see. If you look close enough, you can make out some apples still clinging onto life. It’s not a sight I’m used to seeing, coming from wine country, but definitely worth capturing. Now, the citrus trees are ripening so we’ll have more oranges and mandarins than we can eat. I could think of worse problems to have.
fall apple orchard napier

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!