Tag Archives: New Zealand

Long Time Gone

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Well, I am not sure how this happened, but I haven’t published a post around these parts since October 2013. I am not certain, but I believe that leaving nearly 11 months between posts is breaking some kind of blogging rule…the rule of actually writing stuff, for example.

You know how it gets, though – you have good intentions and plans, and yet somehow the days pass by and nothing has eventuated. Like you and that plan to eat more chia seeds or to get rid of that pair of jeans that you bought one size too small. Y’know, it just doesn’t happen.

Mind you, I wasn’t being completely lazy during those 10 months. I was taking a lot of photos and doing some incredible traveling (and, let’s be honest, watching Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube). The trips I took were so eye-opening and wonderful that I think you will want to get your own glimpse of these places, too.

I will try to share the very best of it with you because we all love to know that special places exist, not so we can put them on some bucket list, but just to know that beautiful parts of our world abound even if they are not right outside our window.

Places like these…

NZ Beach

 

Argentinian lunch

 

Colombian hills

 

Brazil beach

 

Alberta rocks

Now, if these places ARE outside your window, then congratulations..and also, whaaaat?! Open those curtains for criminy’s sake!

I hope you are all still out there and willing to stop by for a blog visit from time to time. I do hope that these last 10 months have been good to you, or at least civil to you, or maybe just that you have survived them? I am not sure where our standards should be.

Okay, let’s do this! You go give away those jeans already and I will get writing! xx

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Who are you calling a tramp?

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Where: Lake Waikaremoana, New Zealand

Plate of food: Seeing as we had to bring all of our supplies with us for our party of 15+, I don’t have a lot to say about the food. The area is very remote and the accommodation very basic. We brought everything in by boat: our food, the cooking fuel, and the two hot plates we used. I will say, however, that nothing tastes better after an 8 hour hike than a bowl full of instant noodles. In fact, that may be the ONLY time that instant noodles taste great.

Also, “scroggin” was along on every hike we did; this is the New Zealand word for trail mix consisting mostly of nuts and dried fruit. I decided my scroggin needed some pizzazz so I added wasabi peas. Do you know these? They are dried and roasted green peas with a dusting of spicy wasabi powder that will tickle your sinuses (that’s what we look for in a snack, right?). Needless to say, I was alone in my passion for wasabi peas. Wimps, I say! (Just not to their faces.)

The best: The New Zealand walking tracks. “Tramping” as it is called in New Zealand (hiking to the rest of us who don’t want to sound promiscuous) is very popular and there are well-maintained tracks to explore all over the country. Lake Waikaremoana (“Sea of Rippling Waters” in Maori) is special because of its 46 km track around the remote lake set in amongst spectacular native bush.

This is waiting for you in New Zealand.

Our first hike was from where we left the cars to our hut which would be home for the next few days. There was no road access. Some of our group went by boat to bring in the food while the rest of us ambled across a swing bridge and through marshes to reach the lakeside hut. It was composed of two modest wooden buildings, one with a communal cooking/eating area and one with 40 bunk beds. It was surrounded by dense forest and flax bushes with views out over the lake.

No cars. No electricity. No cell phone coverage. The real New Zealand. Unspoilt.

Lush brush. Green scene. Boss of moss. Good woods. (What’s wrong with me?)

From there we had a number of day hikes which were incredible in their variety: some tracks climbed up great rocky bluffs while others forged through long golden grass near the water’s edge. At times it was all moss and shade, at others it was slabs of rock and sun glinting off water. All the hikes we did were satisfyingly lengthy and just demanding enough to make it a huge relief to tug off  your boots at the end of the day. And tuck into those instant noodles.

Story that needs to be told: On the final day, 4 of us decided to take a boat across the lake to another point along the track. The motor boat picked us up bright and early – most of the hut had not woken up yet – again, I say wimps. We had to wade into the lake to get on board the boat. I gasped as my feet plunged into the icy water (I heard you whisper “Wimp”).

Gaily waving! 8 hours later it would be a different story.

We jetted across the silvery water to the distant shore. The air was cold and damp, but the sun was shining. The water taxi dropped us off, assuring us that he would be at the pick-up point at the pre-arranged time that afternoon. It was imperative that he pick us up before dark.

From the shore, we climbed up through dark, mossy, otherworldly forests with trees twisting and towering above us. Ferns and fungi luxuriated in the misty undergrowth. At the highest point was a trig marker (1180m) next to a small hut where we rested for a bit before continuing down along the bluff. This rocky outcrop allowed us breathtaking views out across the shimmering lake in one direction and , in the other, views across the green hills of the North Island. The path was steep and the bluff dropped off suddenly to the bush below carpeting the ground all the way to the water’s edge.

View of the lake from Panekiri bluff

We finally descended off the bluff back into the forest and the track widened. After 8 or so hours of hiking, we reached the lake shore and looked around for the boat. It wasn’t there, but we were a bit early so we sat on some rocks and took inventory: sore feet, one grazed knee, not much scroggin left, but absolutely exhilarated by our day’s adventure.

Still no boat, so we took some photos. Took our shoes and socks off and dipped our toes into the cool water.

Still no boat, so we took turns peering out across the water. Raise hand to your brow, squint, repeat.

Still no boat. Now we started to worry. With no cell phone coverage, we had no way of reaching anyone. We had no way to walk back to the hut because that would take days. Where was the boat? What happened to the boat? Where’s the bloody boat?!

No panic yet! The thought of spending the night in the bush had not yet crossed our minds! Yay!

More than anything we were aware that the rest of our group, including some of our parents, were expecting us. Or rather had been expecting us half an hour ago. We realized with dread that each passing minute was another minute for them to think the worst.  As spellbinding as the isolation is, it also poses a real threat if something goes wrong.

With growing concern and darkening shadows as the sun set, we stood and paced along the shore. Suddenly we heard voices and saw the boat bobbing next to a pier, not even 200m from us.

I’m not sure if the water taxi guys wanted to hug us or wring or necks (ditto for our parents), but they were pleased to see us, and perplexed as to how we missed each other. They had been moored there for the entire time and we had sat just on the other side of some bushes from them for an hour at least. It sounds unbelievable, I know. They were only able to wait another 5 minutes before they were going to leave for the night. Now THAT would have sucked.

Relieved and exhausted, we arrived back at the hut to a mixed welcome; of course, there was great relief that we were okay, but there were a fair amount of frayed nerves, too. Fair enough. We were pretty frayed ourselves.

It had been magical to be separated from the world for the day; alone with our thoughts, the fresh air, the inspiring views. It was as if we were the only 4 people in New Zealand. Fantastic. But the truth is that at the end of any great experience, you long for your people, for that boat to safely return you to the candlelight and the warmth of the camp stove, to the well-deserved glass of wine and charades by torchlight.

Both the remoteness and the company are sweeter because of the existence of the other.

Leaving Waikaremoana…reluctantly

Take a moment and watch this video as it gives a great sense of the Waikaremoana track, and even shows the hut we stayed in. Plus, you can snigger/swoon over the Kiwi accent.

So, a Dutchman and a Prairie girl walk into a bistro…

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Where: Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

Those Kiwis love the Mount! They honour it with beer. As all good things should be...

Plate of Food: I went on a – wait for it – DATE with my husband while in New Zealand this past month. And to honour such a rare, special, no high-chairs/spilled drinks/bag of things to entertain the kidlets kind of a night we went to a wonderful restaurant, The Mount Bistro. You should not read the following on an empty stomach. Go have a cracker and come back. I’ll wait.

I told you in my last post about my menu-stoppers. As soon as I opened the menu at Mount Bistro, I saw PORK BELLY. Done. Menu shut. My dear friends, you will never, ever regret ordering pork belly. Ever.

This particular dish was deliciously composed: tender, succulent pork belly on a bed of julienned green apple, with pork crackling (Amen) and “cider pearls”. Say what? These were translucent beads of apple cider, much like caviar, that burst on your tongue to release their tart, fresh flavour. Oh, man. I don’t know what magic they are doing in the kitchen to make those pearls, but keep doing it!

My main course was salmon which although pleasant, it could not compare with my husband’s meal of rack of lamb. As we always do, we swapped a small portion of our meals so the other could taste it. (You do that, don’t you?) The unfortunate thing was that his was so much better than mine. I then spent the rest of the meal gazing longingly at his plate until he finally relinquished another lamb chop.

The rack of lamb was perfectly cooked and cut into individual thick chops. Alongside was a pea puree with a hint of wasabi, baby potatoes, shiitake mushrooms and spiced, roasted whole macadamia nuts. Everything on the plate had been prepared with such care and creativity. It was simply fantastic. Why didn’t I order that??

For dessert (because when you only go out once a decade, you need to maximize the experience) I did not hesitate to order another of my menu-stoppers: Crème brûlée. This dessert sent me into orbit with how gobsmacking good it was. My spoon tapped on the top and I swooned at the dense sound – the caramel was thick and golden. I broke through to the custard which was cool, smooth, and delicious. At the bottom of the ramekin were some hidden treasures of poached cherries and strawberries. Normally I’m a Crème brûlée purist, but these soft, sweet fruits were a welcome addition. I would eat this every day, for every meal…if elasticized pants weren’t so taboo.

If you are in New Zealand, go directly to Mount Bistro and order the pork belly, lamb and Crème brûlée. If you are not in NZ, don’t worry about the price of the plane ticket, this meal is completely worth it.

The Best: Walking up The Mount. Yup, believe it or not, Mount Maunganui has a mountain. It is actually an extinct volcano, now covered in dense bush, and it sits solidly at one end of the glorious beach. There is an easy walking path up to the summit which I have done a few times. It is not too demanding of a hike, but enough of an effort to warrant Eggs Benedict at one of the cafes after you come back down. You see how this works for me?

It is the view from the top that gets me every time. Stand facing the glittering blue ocean and on your right you see miles and miles of perfect white sand stretching off into the distance. The beach is sandwiched between grassy dunes and white frothy waves. There are the streets and houses all arranged in tidy blocks. Behind you is the bustling port and the quiet blue expanse of Pilot Bay. Off to your left is another peninsula reaching across to you, dark and shadowy with trees. Basically spin me in any direction and I am happy…well, don’t make me so dizzy that I fall off the top. Geez, take it easy.

From the peak of the Mount, with main Mount beach on the left and Pilot Bay on the right.

Story that needs to be told: There is no earthshaking story that comes out of my many visits to Mount Maunganui, but let’s just have a couple of humdingers…

  • A group of Dutchmen were dining at Mount Bistro that same night as us. They obviously had menu-stoppers too, but they were all on the WINE menu for they were heavily intoxicated. Their evening ended with one of them shouting and gesticulating to his fellow countrymen, then drunkenly swinging his arm directly into the face of the guy next to him and – get this – knocking one of his teeth out. The tooth and the mouth from whence it came were shown, with what could only be pride, to the staff of the restaurant. Photos were taken. Now, imagine if that had been how my night ended. Do you ever do that? Imagine the most embarrassing possible circumstance and then snicker…no? Just me then? What if I had delicately licked the last of my creme brulee from the spoon and then shrieked at Matt, “Who?! Me! Who, who, huh? Me! Me! Me!” (this is a direct translation of what the man was shouting. No joke). What if I had followed that eloquent gem with a backhanded slap across the face for not sharing more of his rack of lamb, then stumbled out the door, but not before veering dangerously into the plastic curtain wall of the patio (this, too, happened. I thought the whole place was coming down.)…? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time…
  • Years ago, we were enjoying an afternoon on the main beach at the Mount. The day was hot and sunny, and the water was so inviting. A girl from the Prairies, however, does not know what to do when faced with a wave. Cow tipping? Yes. A wave? No. So I was promptly knocked over by a wave and then dragged up onto the beach in a seated position by the force of the wave. This deposited approximately 3 tonnes of sand inside my bikini bottoms. Not wanting to be stranded up on the beach with what appeared to be an unfortunate bowel movement, I crab walked back into the surf (yes, I would have paid money to see that, too). I crouched in the sea and waited for the swirling waters to remove the grit from my nether regions. Ahem. Like I said, Prairie girl.

Rather let this be the image left on your mind after that little story...

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure.

There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”  Jawaharial Nehru

Get ready for Blog Bonanza!

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Hello! How are you/the kids/the dog/the job/the weather? I hope it is all as it should be, but selfishly I hope you also need a wee escape from all that kids/dog/job/weather business. Because I am back, baby! And I have some posts up my sleeve and they will be coming at you at a pace never before seen: perhaps as many as, brace yourself, FOUR this week! I will be fueled solely by imported New Zealand wine and left-over Easter chocolate. I do this for you.

There are a few random items to attend to first:

  1. I managed to smuggle out 2 jars of Marmite from NZ, a nation in disbelief and despair in the midst of the Marmite Crisis. For those who don’t know, the Sanitarium factory in Christchurch that produces Marmite was damaged in an earthquake. Due to aftershocks and subsequent closure of the factory, there are no more Marmite supplies in the ENTIRE country. The shelves are bare. There is a Facebook page offering support to Marmite lovers. People are selling half-eaten slices of toast spread with Marmite on Ebay. It. Is. Bad. I only eat NZ Marmite because it is not as beefy as Bovril, not as sticky as British Marmite, and not as tangy as Vegemite. My ideal vehicle for Marmite is one slice of brown toast with avocado, sliced tomatoes and freshly ground pepper. I very nearly did not find any Marmite to replenish my supplies. My father-in-law found some in an airport duty-free shop and graciously bought me 2 jars.  This was a bigger deal than when I married his son.
  2. I discovered Feijoas. I am not sure how this delightful fruit escaped my palate during all of my time in NZ, but it had. No longer! I ate them fresh off a tree, I ate them with apple in a baked crumble, I drank them as a flavoured lemonade… I love their flavour which is part pear and part lemon, but wholly unique and complex. Gooood!
  3. In the past month, I’ve been on 12 flights, slept in 6 different beds and 3 airline seats, crossed 11 time zones and then crossed back again, and spent quality time in 7 airports in 4 different countries. Who said travel isn’t glamorous?! Oh, the people who do all of that with 2 children…Aw, shucks, who am I kidding? It is exhausting, but I love it and I feel privileged to do it. But now I need a nap.
Right! On we go! Thanks for checking back in after all this time. You would be justified in thinking that this blog should be called A Year of No Posts. So, let’s get traveling…

 

I’m here, Marmite is not, but I am here.

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My dear devoted readers (yes, both of you), I humbly apologize for abandoning you for a few weeks. You must feel as though I got up to refill my plate at the buffet and never returned to our table. Or that I secretly upgraded, leaving you at the backpackers’ hostel wondering where I took off to with your long-distance calling card. Well, let me say that I have done neither.

I have simply been bogged down in life. A life that involves traveling half way around the world with 2 children, flicking through time zones like a global Rolodex, and then, upon arrival in New Zealand, dealing with a vomiting toddler, baking a birthday cake, cuddling new nieces and nephews, scouring the shops for Marmite, flying in a helicopter, and consuming many flat whites (that’s a milky coffee) (not all of the above happened at the same time because, um, yuck).

Now I am reaching out to you from Australia because why not travel some more and thumb our noses at yet more time zones? And, the very best of reasons, there is a wedding to attend. So life now involves dashing between rain showers in the Sunshine State (oh, the irony), wondering why I didn’t slim down for this wedding, marveling at the friendliness of Australians, and drinking more flat whites (therein may be my answer to why I didn’t slim down).

All of this has kept me a tad busy, but I am never far in my thoughts from a blog post. I intend to carve out some time to post about NZ because being there has reminded me of all the time I have spent in that tiny, wonderful country, lucky girl that I am. To keep my promise to you, I will forgo critical things like being with family, sleeping, and drinking outstanding Australian wine…no, no, let’s not be silly, now.

Sit tight and let’s talk soon, okay? In the meantime, amuse yourself by reading about the Marmite crisis in NZ. It’s real, people. Very real. Send help.