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New Zealand Vacation

By Barbara K. Almy


Saturday, April 1, 2000

Mom, Dad and I caught an Alaska Airlines flight at 12:15 from Seattle to Los Angeles. Somehow my seat, which had been confirmed since January, had been given away. They finally did get me assigned to a window seat. I was not very happy. We arrived in LA about 14:45, looking forward to a five hour layover there until our flight to Auckland, New Zealand (pronounced Oakland). Don & Lorraine (Dad's cousin and his wife) arrived at LAX about 17:30. We left LAX at 20:15. The flight was comfortable and uneventful.

Monday, April 3, 2000

We arrived in Auckland about 04:30. We sailed past customs with exception of a food/drug-sniffing dog that smelled the bag Mom had some sandwiches and fruit in earlier and now held seven little Qantas wineglasses. We had to sit in the airport coffee shop until our rental car agency opened. A rival representative came over and asked if we were "The Griffith Party." We said no, that we were waiting for the Nationwide people. He whipped out his cell phone and called them for us. After the paperwork was done it was close to 09:00 when we headed out of Auckland to Russell for the Bed & Breakfast, The Belvedere.

On the way we stopped and bought some bread, meat and cheese and found a rest stop with a picnic table off the road and had lunch. We continued on to the "Glowworm Caves," not far from Russell. Here, underground caves had risen out of the sea millions of years ago. Stalagmites and stalactites and an underground stream were formed. The walls of the caves are home to thousands of the tiny "worms" that give off light to attract prey, which they trap in their tiny web lures. When the guide dimmed the lantern the roof glinted with thousands of miniature "stars." There are also eels in the stream.

When we left the caves I took over the driving duties. I found that driving on the "wrong" side of the road was not as tough as shifting with my left hand! We took the ferry from Opua to Russell where we met the delightful couple of Joy & Roger Dane. She's Irish; he's from England. They welcomed us into their home. We all had separate entrances to our rooms through a sliding door and Mom & Dad and Don & Lorraine's rooms connected through a corridor. All had a TV, a fruit basket (with a banana, orange and an apple), a hot water heating carafe with instant coffee & tea, quite pretty cups & saucers, two gold demitasse spoons, sugar, size refrigerator and two Roche Chocolates. We had a drink and then went up to the Dane's dining room for a fabulous dinner.

They served us a Greek appetizer called Dolmathes (pronounced Doll Maddies), crackers & caviar (I discovered I don't care for caviar) and oysters "Au Natural" (raw) with a squirt of lemon and a dash of hot sauce. The oysters had been harvested that day. All who partook (everyone but me) said they were fantastic. Then on to a shrimp cocktail for everyone but Roger and me (we had a salad) followed by succulent roasted New Zealand lamb, potatoes, steamed broccoli & carrots, French cut home grown green beans and sauteed leeks. Followed by rhubarb pie and Bavarian chocolate mousse with boysenberries. All accompanied by a delightful selection of fine up-and-coming New Zealand wines. We particularly liked the Oyster Bay Chardonnay. We were to have a plate of cheeses, crackers and coffee,but we were all too full and tired to eat anymore so returned to our rooms about 21:45. We are to be upstairs for breakfast at 07:45 and then take a boat cruise through "The Hole in the Rock" and hopefully see some dolphins.

I received a brief e-mail from Tina. Roger answered her saying we had arrived safely and were enjoying a drink and that he would send a response from me. I also want to e-mail my friend, Bill ({Willy} who is taking care of my kitties) to inquire about Dawson and Susitna. I'm sure they are OK, but Roger & Joy have two Persians that reminded me of the fun cats are. One of them even let me pick him up, which Joy said is unusual.

Tuesday, April 4, 2000

I was awakened by rain at 03:00. I tossed and turned until about 04:30. I threw some clothes on and went outside to read/smoke. I waited until 06:00 to take a shower. Breakfast was scrambled eggs and toast with two tiny cherry tomatoes halved for garnish and chopped chives on the eggs. Both the tomatoes and chives were from Roger's garden. There was a selection of three cereals, milk, fresh squeezed orange juice, pressed coffee, a fruit platter of Feijoa - a fruit slightly larger than and eaten the same way as kiwi. I thought it tasted somewhat like a pear. We also had kiwi, sliced plums, a bowl of sliced pineapple, pineapple yogurt, a selection of jellies, marmalade, honey and anchovy paste (which Don tried on his toast and liked).

Don, Dad and I took a tour of Roger's garden/estate. They are on an acre. He has a vegetable garden with herbs, another with tomatoes, hot chili peppers, broccoli and raspberries, fruit trees of Braeburn apples, oranges, lemons, limes, pears and bananas and many local shrubs and trees and quite a few colorful Protea. It was a gray misty day, but when Roger showed us one of the first Protea, a ray of sunlight hit a dew-covered bloom. I asked if they would wait while I got my camera and the 28mm lens I had Tina mail me for close up pictures. Roger said, "Don't you want to tour the rest of the garden?" I said, "But I want to catch the dew." He said, "The dew will be there for a few hours." So, not wanting to offend our host I continued with them, missing the sun-lit shot.

We packed ourselves up and headed into "downtown" Russell. We stopped at the oldest church in NZ, established in 1836. It had an old graveyard with lots of hibiscus. Before it started raining I think I got a couple of nice shots of the hibiscus from an interesting angle. From Joy's interpretation of the map we still had a ways to go to the main business area of Russell. **WRONG** We were only about a block or two away. Across from the church was a museum we thought we'd like to see. By now it was about 11:30 and we wanted to catch the ferry to Paihia to see the Maori Welcome before boarding an afternoon ride on a catamaran to see "The Hole in the Rock." So we decided not to go inside the museum, but to head directly for the ferry.

We caught the ferry and wandered around Paihia. Lorraine bought a shot glass and a pin for Don. The tour company representative explained the "Maori Welcome" to us. When an unfamiliar tribe approached, the Maori warriors would come racing up to the intruders waving spears, yelling and waggling their tongues and the leader would throw down a twig in front of the rival leader. If the rival picked up the twig without taking his eyes off the chief, it would signal that the tribe came in peace. The chief would slap his thigh and lead the newcomers' back to camp. There, they would shake hands and touch noses. The rep. had selected a young man from our group to act as our "leader." He passed the test and we were welcomed aboard. His girlfriend had him pose with the Maori, then someone else did and Mom wanted me to. So I posed with Lawrence for a picture.

Lawrence gave us a lesson of some of the Maori lore and we got underway. The skipper of the boat tried to describe what we were seeing along the way, but his microphone was inadequate and we really couldn't understand most of what he said. When we reached the open ocean there was so much wind and spray I had to put my camera under my vest. Mom had gone below and as we approached "The Hole in the Rock" the boat slowed. I took the opportunity to go down also. I found her in the enclosed area leaning out the window to get a picture. She said she didn't feel too well. After we passed through the hole we backed into a cave that went back about 60 meters. Legend has it a monster used to dwell there. It was too dark for pictures. As we came out I took Mom out to the covered, but open area to get fresh air. There was a seasick three or four year old Indian boy lying on his Sari-wrapped grandmother's lap.

We made the trip back to Russell without Mom getting sick and as we approached the dock, a now clad Lawrence gave another demonstration of a Maori dance involving all the passengers on the upper deck. Mom and I couldn't hear what it was about, but we could see it involved foot stomping, thigh slapping, hand waving and chanting. We disembarked between 16:15 and 16:30.

We thought we would do a little shopping and get something to eat before going back to The Belvedere, but found that no restaurants open until 18:00. So we had an hour to "kill." We went into a sports bar that had about twenty slot machines that each had five or six game choices. Some of them were similar to Reno's- but I've never figured them out either!!

(To be continued.)

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