And it has! After a brief visit with friends, family and favorite places, we boarded a plane in LA and headed off the continent and hemisphere. We left on a Thursday morning and arrived in Auckland on Friday evening, 10pm New Zealand time. This meant that our Friday was only 2 hours long! An easy way to calculate our time difference (if you’re on the west coast) is subtract 3 hours and add a day. So, Grandma Susan is in tomorrow.
Just Like Oregon Only With Accents
New Zealand is very much like Oregon, only with accents. It’s rained quite a bit since we’ve arrived. The countryside is green, rolling hills, and there’s a Pacific Ocean. One thing we’ve noticed, however, is that the people are friendlier, very helpful and not cranky. I’m sure there’s a cranky Kiwi somewhere out there, but we haven’t met any. They are proud of their country and thrilled we’re here to experience it.
A Little Getting Used To
North is warmer than the south, and the sun RISES over the Pacific. It’s Spring here, and getting warmer each day. Not that I’m complaining! 😊 Trundlers are shopping carts. The steering wheel is on the right and you drive on the left. You don’t mail letters, you post them. Garbage is rubbish. Light switches go down to turn on. Tramping is hiking. They have “automated” public bathrooms that talk to you and play music (“What the World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love) while you do your business.
Kiwis are helpful. Kiwis are elusive. Kiwis are yummy.
New Zealanders refer to themselves as Kiwis. They are helpful and chatty. Our first night in our caravan (small motorhome) our Kiwi neighbor chatted us up, asking where we were from, what we’ve seen already, and where were we headed. Another Kiwi friend had lived in the US, teaching Rugby. Yet another gave us great advice about what to see in the South Island. A friendly sales clerk admitted she has never left the North Island. Our new “BFF’s” talk to us freely, laughing and sharing as though we’ve been friends.
Kiwis are also the national bird. We have yet to see one. They are elusive, nocturnal and flightless. The government has an active program to protect them since their numbers have seriously declined due to dogs and other predators. I’m hoping to see one of the little rascals soon.
Kiwi…duh! Are also fruit. And, yes, they grow in New Zealand. I’ve had a few different varieties for breakfast. Yum! There are also avocados, figs and olives galore!
Oh! The Places We’ve Been!
Our first Saturday arrived and we headed to the “Caravan Store.” The thing to do here, whether you’re a Kiwi or a visitor, is to “caravan,” or camp. All set to go in our sprinter style motorhome, we headed to Paihia and Opua along the Pacific (East) coast, in what’s known as Northland. Our friends, Garth and Elizabeth, are anchored off-shore Opua in their sailboat. We met them on the dock and wandered around looking at the historical sailing ships that were in port that day, then stopped for lunch. Later we took their dingy out to their abode and chatted like the good o’ days. Mark and Elizabeth had been work buddies for years at ODOT. They chatted about TPS reports and other important office gossip.
We stayed in the Paihia/Opua area for a few days walking (tramping) the bay and hiking trails.
One shoreline community we tramped around was Russell. From Paihia you board a passenger ferry for a 15 minute ride across the bay. The guidebook describes Russell this way: “Once known as the ‘hellhole of the Pacific’ Russell is a historic town with cafes and genteel B&B’s.” In the early 19th century the Maori allowed it to become NZ’s first permanent settlement. Apparently, that quickly attracted convicts and other lowlifes. Anywho…it’s a cute little town now and we had fun. 😊
Back on the Paihia side we tramped to Haruru Falls. The trailhead started on the Maori Treaty Grounds, and wound through a palm and fern tree forest. It was on this “tramp” that I really began to notice the variety of birdsong. New Zealand has some real overachievers in the bird song department. It was fascinating. About 10 minutes in, Mark stopped abruptly. On the path, slightly off to the left, was a quail all puffed out, sitting on the trail, refusing to move. She beeped a few words at us and stayed put. Mark carefully and slowly began to move past her. At that point she freaked out and stood up. Out from underneath her ran at least a dozen tiny chicks. Quail dad came to the rescue from the underbrush and helped herd them to safety. Meanwhile, Mark and I are working like crazy to step lightly and not crush any of the brood. We were successful. Later, we found some type of shore birds nesting in trees along the estuary: Dozens of them. Some of them still on eggs, but most of them with chicklets peeping for food from their nests. I was over the moon excited about our discovery. Spring has sprung in New Zealand!
From the Northland we headed west to the Tasman Sea. It only takes about an hour or two to reach the other coast from Northland. On this trip we didn’t spend much time along that coastline. But we were able to see the lovely, rocky coast and choppy seas.
We headed inland again, taking the route along the old growth forest where the kauri trees grow. These trees are sacred to the Maori people and were breathtaking to visit. We visited Tane Mahuta, the biggest kauri tree in New Zealand. He started growing around 2000 years ago. His total height is 51.5 meters. His trunk is 13.8 meters around. I could feel his spirit and presence. Awe inspiring!
We still have about 10 days in the North Island. We’ll go back to the Pacific coast and then turn inland south of Auckland. We’ll be visiting the geothermal areas of Rotorura and the magical Hobbiton!
More to adventures await. Go with me!
Go With Me Kiddos!
The Kiwi bird fascinates me. I’ve learned a few facts about this flightless, nocturnal creature. I’d like to know more, though. Help me expand my knowledge of New Zealand’s national bird. Here are some questions I have that I need your help with:
* Kiwi are nocturnal. What does that mean? How could being a nocturnal animal help with survival?
* Kiwi are flightless. This means they can’t fly. If they can’t fly, how do they defend themselves?
* What do their homes look like? What do they eat?
* One predator of the kiwi is a stoat. What is a stoat? How do they harm kiwi?
* Kiwi have been called “the mammals of the bird world.” Why?
Do some more research and share it with me, please! I’d love to see your original art creations as well. Go online and find a picture of a Kiwi and recreate it.
Parents and teachers, feel free to post your child/students work here, but leave names off since this is a public blog. Or, you can send them via Messenger or email.
I look forward to your creations and added knowledge.
Until next time….