Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Zealand -- Part 2

From Raglan we drove to Waitomo -- famous for its glow worm caves. P. was adventurous and decided to go black water rafting (rafting on an inner tube in the pitch darkness of caves). I would have done it too, but one of us had to stay with the baby. I don't know much more about the black water rafting, but Peter was hooked. He is willing to travel to the midwest or something when we get back to the States to try it again.

As for us, Michelle, Ali and I went instead to the standard glow worm tour which was beautiful in its own way. The glow worms are actually a type of maggot (doesn't sound as glamourous as glow worm), that have release a sticky string with a phosphorescent glow. This glow attracts insects and that's how they eat. There are thousands (millions?) of these glowing points of light on the roof of the extensive caves in Waitomo. When you are in the caves and look up, it looks like a night sky filled with stars. It's magnificent.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves
(not my pic, we weren't allowed to photograph in the caves)

After the glow worm cave tour, Michelle and I followed a sign from the car park and started hiking to a Waitomo Lookout. The hike was rather steep and led us through a cow pasture up a hill to a lovely view of the rolling hills of Waitomo.
View from Waitomo Lookout Point

From there we went to the "famous" Curly's Bar for some food and drink. The place could have been called Surly's (the staff wasn't too friendly), but I ordered this amazingly delicious moroccan lamp salad. It was my most surprising meal. I was not expecting much from this divey looking restaurant with rugby blaring from 6 tvs around the place, but this absolutely divine dish came out piled high with the most flavorful and tender lamp I've had in my life. So if you're ever in Waitomo and you're in the mood for lamb, I recommend Curly's - surprisingly delicious.

A Day in Sydney

I will write more about New Zealand, but first I want to share about my day... I spent most of the morning and early afternoon completely engrossed in the most wonderful book... The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Burrows. I fell completely in love with the characters and it was so delicious to lie on the couch under the window and feel the sun move across the sky as I read. Ahhhh, there are few things more precious in the world than being completely absorbed in a good book and having the luxury to indulge completely in reading it.

In the book there's a 4 year old girl named Kit. A description of her reminded me so much of my precious Aliza ...
She is a spirited little thing, affectionate in a reserved way (which is not as contradictory as it sounds) and quick to smile when she is with one of her ... parents.... She is adorable too, with round cheeks, round curls, and round eyes. The temptation to cuddle her is nearly overwhelming, but it would be a slight upon her dignity, and I am not brave enough to try it. When she sees someone she doesn't like, she has a stare that would shrivel Medea.
Oh my goodness, that's my baby!

After I reluctantly put away my book (sad to say goodbye to that marvelous little world), we went out to Bondi Beach. We picked up P's little cousin Eden and took him for a surf. Well Peter surfed with him, Ali and I stayed in the kiddie pool at the north end of the beach. After a little while E. was hungry so we went to Surfish Cafe for some chips and shakes. P's family is really great. When we got back, Rob & Rochelle made us a lovely snapper dinner.

Things are good here. We're off to Canberra tomorrow to stay with my coaching class friend. Yeah for road trips! :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Zealand -- Part 1

So much has happened ... finished 21 day vegan kickstart and actually kept eating vegan... at least until I arrived in New Zealand and then wanted to eat as much beef and lamp as I could stand. I think there's something about seeing happy cows and sheep roaming free with beautiful views and munching on acres and acres of healthy green grass. They live like they're meant to live, and they taste extraordinarily delicious because of it. So I'm a happy omnivore again.

I promised friends and family that I would update on our New Zealand trip. We left on the 2nd and arrived on the 4th. That's the strange thing about coming to Australasia. You cross the international date line in the air and you just lose an entire day as you fly. We never experienced February 3 and we never will. I had a friend who flew to Sydney on October 14 and landed October 16. October 15 was his 25th birthday - he never experienced it. It's so crazy. It's almost as crazy as the return... you get back before you left.

Anyway, we arrived on February 4 and went and got our rental car. After some debate we decided to hire the GPS. It was one of the best decisions we ever made ... the navigator probably saved us hours from not getting lost or staring at maps. We used our navigator to drive us to a hostel in Mt. Eden, Auckland where we picked up my law school friend Michelle. Michelle and I had travelled through Vietnam and Thailand together 10 years earlier and it was nice to reconnect with her in another part of the world. She'd been travelling by herself around the world for the past year. By this time, she was very "go with the flow" about everything. P. and I kept thinking we had to run around and see everything and Michelle would just hang out quietly with a book while we got our heads on straight. By the end of the week, we adjusted to a more laid-back attitude too.

After we picked up Michelle we grabbed a quick lunch in Mt. Eden -- cute cafe called Circus Circus. It was delicious. We then jumped in the car again (trunk loaded with bags and surfboard on top of the car) and headed for Raglan -- New Zealand's surfing mecca. Raglan is an absolutely charming town. It's very tropical looking ... beautiful huge ferns everywhere and the waves are supposedly gorgeous. I don't know much about surfing, but my hubby (a lifelong surfer) was in heaven. I didn't surf, but enjoyed the dark powdery volcanic sand and the cool, but glorious ocean water.

We stayed at a very charming eco-resort called Solscape. Our rooms were converted train cabooses. The place was very clean and had a laid-back surfer/backpacker vibe to it. We enjoyed a lovely couple of nights in this heavenly little oasis.

When we were in Raglan we drove around and checked out various bays (Manu Bay, Whale Bay), waterfalls (Bridal Veil Falls), and incredible views (Te Mata Gorge). We also saw lots of the aforementioned happy cows and sheep. I can't imagine there are cows and sheep anywhere who enjoy better views than those -- they grazed on grass-covered hills with incredible views of forest, mountains, and ocean. I felt lucky for those brief days to share their views.

Bridal Veil Falls

Te Mata Gorge

Michelle, me, and Ali at Whale Bay

Views for happy cows and sheep