February 2007


Monday
15 January 2007
Hawke’s Bay & Wellington, North Island

After breakfast in Taupo, we headed out east toward Hawke’s Bay near Napier, to have lunch and visit a couple of vineyards before going into Wellington. The drive down here to Hawke’s Bay was beautiful, through mountains and valleys and yet more sheep and cows. As an extra added bonus, on our way out of Taupo it cleared enough for us to get a great view of Mount Doom in the distance – I can’t remember its real name right a the moment. We had decided not to drive through Tongariro Park in the interest of getting to see the vineyards, but were very glad that we didn’t end up missing out on seeing the mountain.


Hawke’s Bay is really beautiful – a lot like California wine country but so chill and unpretentious. That’s sort of the most striking thing about New Zealand so far – the utter lack of pretense.

Instead of the one winery we originally planned to visit in Hawke’s Bay, we saw three wineries and one honey farm. We ate lunch at Clearview and did a tasting there – Barbara described Clearview as a “boutique-y” vineyard and it was by far our favorite. It was smaller and less institutional than the others that we visited, and the wine and food were excellent.

After Clearview we went to Craggy Range, and then on to Trinity Hills (where we finally found wine label removers, much to our delight). In between those two we stopped at the Atoraki honey farm and bought up some thyme and Tawari honeys.

From Hawke’s Bay we headed straight for Wellington. Although when we first drive into town we had a twinge of regret at leaving the small town feel of Taupo behind, we quickly realized that Wellington is still fairly small and friendly. The Booklover’s B&B where we’re staying is really cute – just off the main restaurant and shopping drag by a few blocks. It’s run by Jane, who also writes books, and is a lot like a place I would put together – books and jars of home-made cookies and tea sachets scattered throughout.

After getting briefly settled in our room, we headed out in search of dinner. The one restaurant I really wanted to eat in was closed on Mondays according to my guidebook, but when we walked by, it turned out to be open after all. So we ate at “Kai in the City,” a Maori-inspired restaurant. We had to wait a little while to get a seat, but the food was simple and delicious. We split a seafood platter – oysters and mussels and salmon cakes and squid fritters and seafood chowder as well as some dipping sauces and Maori bread.

We were so sleepy by the end of the meal that we walked straight back to the B&B to read our blessings devotion and go to bed. I ended up reading way too late, although Danny crashed at a reasonable hour – our room has a little love seat in a bay window, and I spent some time planning how to use it tomorrow and where we needed to go around town.

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This time around on R&R, we actually managed to keep a sort of a travel journal, which I will crib from shamelessly to fill everyone in on our awesome trip to New Zealand and Sydney. I’ll pare it down a little bit since it filled a small notebook, but at least this way you’ll get to see all the highlights of our trip (unlike the China trip, which I realize that I never finished writing about). Danny and I each contributed different portions of the narrative, but except where it actually makes a difference I’m going to skip differentiating who wrote what.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Lake Taupo, North Island

After a 21 hour flight (including 3 stops), we were very glad indeed to get here yesterday afternoon. We drove down here to Taupo from Auckland — a really beautiful drive through hills and pastures and more livestock than either of us has seen in a while. Tons and tons of sheep, but also cows, alpacas, and “red deer,” which look like reindeer. We arrived at the Paeroa Homestay place, and were slightly surprised (despite the name) to find that we actually are staying in the upstairs of someone’s house. It’s a lovely room, though, and the couple who run the place are very nice. We keep thinking we could do something like this one day.

The view from our balcony (over Lake Taupo across to the Tongarira National Park):

We’re not sure yet if it’s just Taupo or all of New Zealand, but we’ve decided the best description we can think of for what we’ve seen so far is “Goochland, CA.” It’s chill and beautiful and full of good wine and produce like California, but unpretentious and natural like Goochland.

This morning we had breakfast with Barbara & John, the couple who own the house. Barbara made some recommendations for what we should see, but since the weather was still overcast and drizzly this morning, we ended up walking around town a bit and buying presents for people before lunch. We had a mussel-rich lunch at Fine Fettle and then headed up to hike to Huka Falls. I had forgotten sunscreen and by that time the sun was out with a vengeance, but the hike up was beautiful and surprisingly devoid of people considering how famous the falls are here.

Huka Falls:


With my beginnings of a sunburn and both of us quite warm, we decided to head back to Paeroa to cool off in the lake and relax a bit before dinner. So we swam in the icy lake and it was…icy, but refreshing. We then sat on the porch and read a bit before going to dinner at Plateau in town. We had a devotion together before lunch, and have committed to establishing a few things before we return (reluctantly) to the place from whence we came, including making more time for God, for being physically in better shape, and for each other.

We’re back!

We’ve actually been back for about a week, but as per usual the readjustment took a little while. This time it was easier in a way because we have less than six weeks left (18 weeks!), but harder as well because New Zealand was INCREDIBLE. Clean, beautiful, quiet, with wonderful food and scenery and really really nice people. We schemed and connived to try to figure out how we could stay there, but figured that faking our own deaths would result in way more administrative red tape when we later tried to apply for residency there.

I’ll post pictures and such soon; most of them will be of green hills and sheep and the views from our windows, since we did no real sight-seeing while we were there, just drove around and went for long walks every day.

Back on the (temporary) home front, things are about the same as always. We’re trying to keep from getting too heavily into the short-timer mentality and remind ourselves that we still have several months left here that we need to make sure are not a total black hole, but it’s definitely a struggle to keep focused when we’re this relatively close.