New Zealand Notes - March - April 2014

Note: These are based on various emails I sent during my stay in New Zealand. They have been lightly edited.

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March 18th

Hi everyone;

After 2 weeks staying with Sis in law Lyndsay in Auckland exploring the city we both flew to Chch last Friday for a few days staying w long-time family friends. Temps are just right:-) here in Christchurch tho it was cool and wet on Sunday when typhoon Lusi came through.

Visited a cottage on the Banks peninsula yesterday where we were serenaded by birds all day. It was delightful to just relax in the sun with our friends John and Jo. Lyndsay was there too.

Went into Christchurch city where much demolition is done and some rebuilding started in the more stable areas. There is a lot of street art (similar to Banksy) encouraged by the city to brighten it up. The temporary cathedral is quite beautiful. Much of it is 'decorated' with large cardboard tubes!. Definitely unique.

Off to Wellington tonight to stay with big bro Bill, Meryl and niece Jan. Signs of autumn just starting but NO frost expected for a while:-)


March 29th

My sojourn in NZ continues to be peaceful and the weather remains mostly cooperative, although here in Wellington it is sometimes a bit blowy and we did have rain couple of times...horrors!

Jan, my niece, has been a good companion and has taken me into town on the bus and by car, so I am now getting familiar with the geography. We have seen some of the coast south of the city, walked on the waterfront, and I visited Te Papa the national museum... lots to see there yet, so will be back. Been doing some household repairs for Jan too, so keeping my diy hand in... though sometimes the differences in names of bits and how things go together here vs Canada or the UK are confusing (or maybe it is age).

I have had a few meals with my various relations and friends here, and will doubtless have more.

Brother Bill and his wife Meryl spent last week exploring some high country sheep stations in the Alps of the south island - something they planned long ago, and fulfills a particular ambition to see a piece of the country they have somehow missed in their 80+ years here!!! (One message ended with a comment that they had to go 'cos happy hour was about to commence,... hope they remember the rest of the trip!)

They got back on Friday and I am now staying with them in their new "adult community" home... should be interesting as they have just moved there after 50+ years in the first home they designed not too long after they were married... One of their sons Michael has bought their old place and is renovating it. initially to lease/rent, but later he and partner Linn hope to move in. They are very busy but enjoying the challenge, I dont think they have actually finished the renovations in their own home yet!

On Tuesday evening, Jan and I went to a lecture at the local uni, about Restorative Justice

Interesting topic... nice nibbles and free drinks afterwards too!

Managed to fit in a Met Opera performance of Prince Igor by Borodin (5 hours) though Jan was unable to join me. But on Thursday the NTLive Warhorse production started and Jan and I went and were entranced by the whole show.

The weather has been variable with wind and light showers as well as sunny days usually 16-20 so nice for walking around. The hills are dauntingly steep so Jan and I would walk down to the city and bus back, tho I did walk back ---once!

Bill and Meryl now live in Porirua about 25 mins drive north of Wton. Lots of parks (all v hilly), v near shops and most facilities.

Will soon be off for another walk - these octogenarians sure keep fit!!!

April 9th

My stay with Meryl and Bill in Porirua was very pleasant with several day outings and other trips.

On the first Wednesday they went on one of the regular weekly walks so I went too. It was in Wellington, quite close to the city centre and was around Mt Victoria. We started walking around 10 am and with a break for lunch got back to the car at 2. There were spectacular views of the harbour as well as the city itself. Many of the homes were palatial with views. Some even have cable cars/elevators to get up from the coastal road. Nothing daunts a kiwi when they want or need a home on what looks to me like a cliff! Of course the walking seemed to be largely uphill. although we obviously descended somewhere as we ended up back near sea level.

Bill and I went off for a couple of days to see a reserve (Mount Bruce ) which also had a couple of tuataras (an ancient reptile unique to NZ), some kiwis and several other birds. We continued on to visit our last remaining aunt Joyce in Whanganui. We had seen her last year. and she is still active although her sight and hearing are going, and she was a bit more "confused". It was good to meet up with her daughter Heather too. We had missed her last year; but we talked a lot and agreed we should do it all again in a couple of years, which will coincide with Joyce's 90th birthday (and my 70th).

Although we had hoped to go on a trip on a paddle steamer ( ) it was not running that day so Bill and I had to be content just seeing the boat and an associated museum.

On Saturday we all (Bill, Meryl, Jan and I) went to Somes island in the Wellington harbour. Now a nature reserve it was once the main animal quarantine and before that it performed the same function for sick passengers arriving in NZ from overseas.Of couse the maori were there before that, Interesting combination of history and nature. It was a beautiful day and one I wish had remembered to bring my hat for as I caught a touch of the sun!!!

Sunday was quiet as we visited a local bird watching site (although it was not the season to see many birds!) Again the weather cooperated and we had a delightful stroll through the marshes followed by a nice lunch. Alan joined us for dinner in the evening although the rest of the family were otherwise occupied.

On Monday the three of us had lunch with Michael. Our plans were somewhat disrupted by having to avoid the "Royal Visit", but otherwise ir was a pleasant affair. The weather had turned a bit autumnal (wet and windy) so aftter a brief visit with another friend Nicky that afternoon I suggested that I should be deposited at the airport to fly up to Auckland so that Bill and Meryl could get back through the city before dark.

I arrived a little late in Auckland but made my way to Lyndsay's apartment where I have been planning my next few weeks activities!!! Time seems to be short!

On Wednesday Lyndsay and I had a special lunch to celebrate my birthday (belatedly) in a nice restaurant south of Auckland. It had been a large home for a family racing horse stud farm, but is now in the middle of a modern Business Park. Very good food - so we have forgone supper!!!

The weather has been kind, despite the damp greeting for the Royals on Monday! Since I was just visiting people and travelling that day it did not affect me, and I found warm rather humid conditions in Auckland. So we have not rushed around!

April 27th

Into the last week of my stay...

After I got to Auckland the Royal tour was in town on Friday 11th, so Lyndsay and I went down to the Viaduct harbour to meet them!!! As you may have seen the rain did not stay away, and just as Wills and Kate got within my sight the heavens opened, Still it was fun being among a crowd who were all waving flags and enjoying the celebrations. Soon the sun reappeared and we watched the yachts out in the harbour having their race.

On the Monday 14th L and I drove to visit a friend in Tauranga. Jack has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer, so I may not see him next time I am here. He was in fine spirits despite the circumstances and it was a good visit.

Longish day driving though, so rested most of the Tuesday. In the evening we went to see Hugh Laurie at the Town Hall with his Copper Bottom band. It was great fun and he had a very appreciative audience.

I rented a car on Wednesday and set off to visit my cousin Shirley in Napier, with a side trip to Whakatane where I planned to take boat trip to White Island which is an active volcano. However it was not to be as the weather was unsuitably stormy - pity. So that yet another thing to do next time.

I drove directly to Napier from Whakatane through continuous heavy rain, which makes the farmers very happy, but made the trip a bit of an adventure with no possibility of seeing any scenery!!! Arrived safely that afternoon, and stayed for the next few days with Shirley. She is another of my relations with severe hearing problems and now has a cochlear implant which she copes with amazingly well.

Napier,_New_Zealand is a nice city and I explored it last year, but was pleased to go back. On Saturday Shirley had booked us on a "Tractor Ride to Cape Kidnappers" where there is a large gannet colony . Unfortunately the storm earlier had done significant damage to the beach and cliffs so the trip was cancelled. We rebooked for Monday and had a great mini-adventure including getting stuck and having to lighten the load on the trailers by jumping off into puddly rocks, and having to bypass the fallen cliffs on foot while the tractors took an even rockier road through the hills to rejoin us a couple of hundred yards further on. After about 1 1/2 hours (15 km) of bumping over rocks and sand we arrived, had just over an hour to look at the few remaining gannets (most have left for the winter) and then did the whole trip in reverse, made even more adventurous by doing the last bit in the dark! The drivers had the kindness to rescue several people who had misjudged the distance/tide/sunset and we all shuffled around to let them get aboard. All good fun, but there are some pretty foolish people out there!!

On the intervening Sunday we visited Shona and Pete (friends of Shirley whom I met last year) at Waimarama - a beatiful rather isolated community on the coast south of Cape Kidnappers . It was a nice day to be by the ocean, though not exactly sun-bathing weather - the sun and gentle breeze was pleasant though.

After my brief visit with Shirley I started back towards Auckland on the Tuesday, visiting (but only pausing briefly at) Taupo and Rotorua before stopping at Cambridge near Hamilton overnight. I then meandered on Wednesday passing communities on back roads (some gravel) like Te Miro and Kiwitahi on my way to Te Aroha, then on through Thames to Coromandel Town,_New_Zealand (didnt stay long but will be back). As time was getting on I backtracked to Thames rather then circumnavigating the Coromandel peninsular and continued meandering till I was back at Lyndsay's place by dark! (6pm). Again a lot of driving that day (not much traffic even though it was a holiday week (Easter and ANZAC day plus school holidays meant that lots of people took a week off work), but nice to see some out-of-the-way spots and find little known scenic reserves.

Friday was ANZAC day which is a major remembrance day for this part of the world, and the ceremonies are rather like those held in Canada on 11th November each year. Lyndsay and I went to the Auckland Museum for the morning wreath-laying ceremony. Many people go to the dawn ceremony, but we felt it was a little early... It was a moving event. Afterwards a local choir performed in the museum and we stayed to hear that before heading back home for a late lunch.

On Saturday 26th I went to visit friends Rosemary and Don MacKenzie on Waiheke Island (visible over the harbour as I sit typing this in Lyndsay's apartment!) and had a lot of catching up to do since I saw them last year.

So I have done a fair amount of traveling, but nothing too arduous On Wednesday Svenja (an intern who is working for Lyndsay's son in law and staying with her for a few months) and I went to Tiritiri Matangi The weather cooperated and we both enjoyed a fabulous day with the birds on this interesting island. For the last couple of days I was able to finish off a few odd-jobs around the house for Lyndsay (gotta earn my keep!), then get ready to depart on Friday evening, arriving in Ottawa on Saturday morning after two boring nights of travel!

I got home to Spring, and the last of the daffodils!