Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Heading "Up North" in New Zealand

A real riding stable for the hotel!
Here in New Zealand, they go “up north” for warm weather. The northern tip of the North Island is called Northland. It is the area of vacationing, fruit orchards, farmland and more wineries. The weather stays quite nice up there even in winter, so it is somewhat like us going to Florida in the winter months to escape the Michigan cold. Here you go south to the colder temperatures and winter sports.

I never dreamed of fresh croissants in the middle of nowhere!
Other than sailing into Opua through part of the Bay of Islands, we have not really explored the northern area. The Kiwis hype the South Island so much that most tourists head down there and spend most of their time seeing the southern sites of interest. Seeing the Northland from the water is a different perspective, so we decided to take a driving trip north.

Here we go again without a real agenda and no set reservations. It is a little risky, but it is now fall here and the summer is over so we are hoping that the crowds will be light and rooms available. We will see! Several people warned us about the heavy traffic going north on the weekends (hummm – I-75 heading to Harbor Springs traffic, I am wondering). Of course, the roads are narrow two-laners on winding and mountainous terrain. So we will beat the crowds out of Auckland by leaving at 7 AM as we are already 45 minutes north of the city.

Church of Saints Peter and Paul
As we were driving north, Dennis spotted a sign for a little village off the main highway and hung a quick sharp left (that is what the handrail above my door is for!). We came upon a lovely little village – Puhoi.

It is a quaint little village with a library, hotel complete with riding stables, a general store with fresh pastries brought in from an Auckland French patisserie and a couple of other buildings. Just what we needed for a nice morning snack after leaving so early!

The tour book refers to it as “a slice of real Bohemia.” It was settled in 1863 by a group of about 200 immigrants from what is now known as the Czech Republic. Of course, there is a museum as in every little village and town: the Bohemian Museum. And there is a pretty little Catholic Church of Saints Peter and Paul, which dates from 1881.

Local carvers make beautiful Kauri bowls and objects.
Lazy Susan made from slices of Kauri wood in acrylic
Back on the main road SH1, we continued north to Warkworth and Brynderwyn where we turned west toward Dargaville on the west coast. Along the way, we found the famous Kauri Museum which was well worth a several hour stop. Inland from the beautiful west coast beaches of the Tasman Sea are the Kauri forests.

There are very few remaining stands of Kauri today. The Kauri trees are the magnificent thousand year old trees that once covered the area. They were here long before man found New Zealand.

Unfortunately, as man often does, the kauri tree forests were decimated for timber to build canoes for the natives and ships and furniture for the Europeans. Today there are several stands of Kauri trees that are protected.

There is a wonderful photo display of the Kauri era
The furniture is beautiful.
The Kauri Museum Matakohe is conveniently on the way to the Waipoua Kauri Forest. It is a wonderful museum providing everything you would want to know about the Kauri trees and forests historically and currently. There is a vast collection of period furniture built of Kauri wood and a photo display showing the logging industry at the time.

Examples of gum.
In addition to the wood, the Kauri tree gives off a gum in amazingly large chunks that were “mined” by gum diggers. The basement of the museum has a large display of gum art, jewelry and artifacts. It looks somewhat like the Russian amber we saw in Russia, although much lighter in weight.

In one wing, there are several large trunks from Kauri trees. While you cannot cut down the trees today, people are digging the old ones out of bogs where they have been somewhat preserved for hundreds of years. Artists carve both the Kauri wood and the gum in to bowls and other objects.

This tree is label with historical dates in NZ. It is old!
One of the trunks that has been in the museum for many years was cut after it was hit by lightning. The rings show significant dates in New Zealand history and the age of the tree. We will continue driving north to see the real trees and the largest and oldest ones.

The next stop was in Dargaville. This is where the road reaches the Tasman Sea and turns north again. Here we found a pleasant surprise – in addition to Dennis finding a seafood fast food joint! He needed another snack! But the best find was a Kauri woodcarver’s studio. His work is beautiful! And expensive, but then the Kauri wood is expensive because it is so rare today. Dennis is planning to go back there next year to take a workshop.

Finally we are reaching the Waipoua Kauri Forest area! It has been a long day in the car with a few interesting sightseeing breaks along the way. Now we are ready to hunt for the Kauri trees. The highway twists and turns for 20 kilometers through the forest so we are carefully watching for the signs marking the areas where you are allowed to walk into the forest. There are some marked tramping trails as well as the nice boardwalks that are the shorter hike.
There was an operating sawmill section in the museum.
Lunch along the way. The birds had made a mess on the table.
The oldest tree – over 2,000 years – is Tane Mahuta or “God of the Forest” and is considered New Zealand’s mightiest tree. It is over 6 meters wide and nearly 18 meters to the lowest branches! A photo cannot begin to capture the massiveness of this tree. And you can’t get far enough away to get it all in one shot.

There are several other significant trees in the area, but we did not visit them as the sun was beginning to set and we needed to find a place to stay for the night – remember, no reservations this time. Humm – maybe not such a good idea! Just 10 km from Tane Mahuta is another area where you hike for 30 minutes to see Te Matua Ngahere, the “Father of the Forest.” This tree is actually shorter, but fatter than Tane Mahuta making it the second largest Kauri tree in the country. We saw photos of all of the major named Kauri trees back in the Kauri Museum.
The Woodturner's Studio


Beautiful bowls.
Dennis wants to learn to make one of these.
The Kauri trees are huge and interesting.
Throughout NZ, they have build walkways into the forests
to access sites without damaging the environment.
The oldest Kauri trees have Maori names and are in areas with boardwalks for visitors so as not to damage their sensitive roots. The New Zealand government has taken major steps towards preserving what is left of the ancient Kauri forests while still allowing sightseeing in the area.

Just to try and grasp the size of this Kauri!

We also walked through Trounson Kauri Park to see the small but impressive stand of Kauri trees. This area has been turned into a “mainland island” or a reserve in order to protect the North Island Brown Kiwi and the result is an increase in their numbers. That is good. Unfortunately, Kiwis are nocturnal so unless you participate in the evening tour, you won’t see any.

Now we are off to find a place to sleep – hopefully not another trailer park!




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It is Tattoo Time!

Yes, that is right!

Throughout the Pacific Islands, our yachty friends have been getting tattoos. Some did it as soon as we reached the Marquesas in French Polynesia, while others got theirs in Tonga or Fiji. Dennis had made up his mind before we left the USA that he was getting a tattoo. The only question was when and where – which island and where on the body? In addition, my question was: how large?
Heading to the tattoo studio for an interview.

The traditional Maori meeting house.
We had many discussions at sea of what not to get in terms of design and the size of it, as well as where it should be on him. He made many threats of large tattoos of the Maori tongue on his chest or upper arm.
Of course, in the Maori culture, facial tattoos are a sign of recognition for accomplishments and the bearer carries the burden of having to live up to that status for his or her whole life.

Main street of the Living Village.
A bit of history regarding Maori tattooing: The name for the stylistic and ceremonial facial tattooing of earlier years is moko. Women had moko on the lips and chin, while high-ranking men had their faces completely covered, as well as their buttocks and thighs. The greater the status one had achieved, the more complex the tattoo, covering more area.

It was somewhat like wearing all of your awards on your personal surface for the world to see, but it meant that you must continue to maintain that status through your deeds and actions. The burden was heavy. Not much facial tattoo of this nature is done today. Although, the trend to bring back old traditions is gathering momentum.

Dennis with Jason.
Dennis had made up his mind that the tattoo would be a traditional Maori tattoo, so it was back to Rotorua! We had been given the name of a tattoo artist there so he made an appointment with Jason Phillips. That is his western name so it doesn’t sound too Maori-ish.

Jason in his traditional attire.
Jason first interviews his client to get a feeling of what is important in the person’s life. Then he creates a drawing of the design which represents what he has ascertained from the client. The next step is to sit down with him while he explains the meanings on all of the aspects within the design.

The client has the opportunity for some input and tweaking.  For the Maori, it is not a “go in and pick out a design” procedure. It is a very spiritual experience and it is much more than just body art. It is very meaningful and symbolic in their culture.

Various musical instruments from wood and gourds.
I enjoyed Jason’s collection of musical instruments made from natural items such as gourds, his “antique” weapons and carved pieces that had been in his family for years and his artwork that was on the walls. We met his son and daughter; the son was his “prep” assistant and when his work was done, he was dismissed to go to the bridge and swim.

The preparation begins.

Jason created a wonderful design that captured everything Dennis had shared in the interview. It was even more meaningful when he explained the significance of each detail and how it related to Dennis’ life based on what he had shared. Jason’s drawings are amazing. Done by hand without the aid of a computer, many – especially the facial ones – are absolutely symmetrical. He does them in ink. We bought a couple drawings of his traditional designs.

Children swimming and diving for coins ...
We both liked Jason’s design and felt that he had really understood Dennis. Because our five children and five grandchildren are so important to him, he asked that they be represented in some way. Jason added the five curved lines in each of three areas: five for our children and five more for our five grandchildren. The extra five lines were added for future grandchildren or the next generation.

The next steps included preparing the area by shaving away the hair and cleansing it. While Dennis was lying face down on the table, Jason chanted a Maori prayer before beginning the procedure. The way Jason approached the tattooing process was very spiritual and ritualistic.

after they have jumped off this bridge into the thermal pool.
Once the tattooing actually began, I did what a girl’s got to do: go shopping! Actually, I could not stand to watch after a couple of minutes so I made myself scarce! He said it would take about an hour so I was out of there. I wandered around the Whakarewarewa Thermal Living Village and watched them cook in the geothermal steam. And, of course, I bought a few little things!
This is what is behind the stores on the main street!
The Whakarewarewa Thermal Living Village was founded in pre-European times. Today there is some modernization of the buildings and businesses in the village, but the people of the Whakarewarewa Maori tribe live in the area and run the businesses there. You can walk around the village to observe craftsmen, a cultural performance and have a hangi meal. Guides share the history, culture and life style of these Maori people. The children spend their fun time jumping off the bridge at the entrance into one of the many thermal pools. They ask visitors to toss coins into the water so they can dive for them.
There are many of these thermal pit areas.

I returned to Jason’s studio just as he was finishing and got to see the tattoo. Sort of – it was covered with a wrap for a few hours so I had to wait to see the final product. It looked like it would be somewhat painful, but Dennis said there were only a couple of times that it bothered him. I am not tough enough to try it!

They place the food into the steam and it cooks fast!

As we were leaving the tattoo studio, Jason played a beautiful song on a gourd instrument which had a few strategically placed holes in it. He used some of the holes by covering them with his fingers much like a flute to control the sounds. Instead of blowing into it like one does on a flute, he blew air through one nostril while holding the other nostril closed with his thumb. The instrument produced a soft melodic sound. It was lovely and moving. Then it was time to say in Maori, E noho ra or, as I like to say instead of goodbye, “Until our wakes cross again.”

So here it is: the design and the placement – plus the meaning of it. In the words of the artist:

MATAU (Fish Hook)
MATAU (Fish Hook)
“I felt this was the most appropriate symbol for your journey. It symbolizes one who has a deep affinity with the ocean. Significantly the Pacific at the moment. It also represents SAFETY and GUIDANCE in particular to your journey over WATER. (Your world travel, you are a sailor.) Other meanings are STRENGTH (so to help you physically and spiritually) and ABUNDANCE of love, good health, enjoyment, happiness, etc.

THE SOUTHERN CROSS or the “ANCHOR” STARS – a star cluster important to Navigators of old – lets you know you are in the SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE. (The Southern Cross is really special for Dennis.)

^^^^^ = Mountains pays respect to MOTHER EARTH, the land of your birth and the lands you travel to.

~~~~  = Water lines THE OCEAN, but also a symbol of VITALITY, healing, good health and cleansing.

))))))) = Good vibes and WAVES, also for happiness and smooth sailing.

@@   =  Partnership, connection, and love of you and Sherry.

YYYY  =  Sail so you always have favorable wind for safe journeys.”

Immediately afterwards

NOTE: There is no easy way to show the actual lines using the keyboard, so look at the design for the Partnership mark that is represented by the curls in the top area and the shape of the sail is on the right side with what looks like a couple of feathers in it. Actually, the Maori wakas (war canoes) have the feathers on a cord flying behind them.

The tattoo requires care for the first week by keeping an antibiotic cream on it and keeping it clean and dry. The redness went away after a few days and the hair is starting to grow back. Oh, that’s right, you need to know where it is on him! Take a look…
The real deal!





Here are a few examples of Jason Phillip's artwork. We highly recommend him as a tattoo artist.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Where to Go Next?

Church of the Good Shepard on the shores of Lake Tekapo
Now that our “official tour” of the South Island and southern end of North Island is complete and Vicki and Larry are winging their way back to sunny Florida, we have to decide where to go. I had not really planned anything after the two week road trip, but we still need to get back up to Gulf Harbour Marina and the boat. And our new batteries have arrived in Wellington so we need to get back to continue the updating of the electrical system.

The drive out of Queenstown past the Mount Cook range and many other mountains and forest area was lovely - although sometimes hair-raising. And I am just the passenger! Just as in California, you can't go directly straight to anywhere. One always has to go around mountains, through passes, over saddles and along river valleys to get there. The scenery is great, but the driving is tiresome and requires great concentration so we don't have a lot of conversation along the way.

At first, we were going to continue south east to Dunedin and the coastline. However, with the World Cup Cricket matches still going on after weeks of it, we still cannot get into Christchurch, one of the Cricket tournament areas. To get out of Queenstown without retracing our trip along the west coast, we need to head toward Christchurch anyway.

On our way north, we passed through the Lake Tekapo area and visited the famous little stone church known as The Church of the Good Shepard. Lake Tekapo is New Zealand's highest lake at 710

Our room in the inn in Rangiora!
meters above sea level and is an amazing turquoise color. This color is a result of "rock flour," which is the fine dust created at the head of the glaciers as they grind against the mountain. The sunlight reflecting on the dust particles create this vivid coloration of the water.

The church was built in 1935 as a memorial to the pioneers of the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie area. Nearby is a bronze statue of a sheepdog with the inscription: "without the help of which the grazing of this mountain country would be impossible."

We went out for dinner - thank you very much!
And, by the way, the mouse is still with us - as far as we know! So we stopped at a home improvement store and bought a couple of mouse traps! Tonight we will serve a fine dinner of peanut butter - and maybe another Oreo for dessert!

Come to dinner, little mouse!
Thinking we would just drive and see how far we get, we will go without booking a reservation. Maybe with luck we can get a room in the out fringes of Christchurch and do a day trip to the city center. Vicki has a friend who never books a room and always ends up getting one. The only thing I can figure is that he travels high-end and doesn’t care what the room costs! I even tried that but to no avail! There is just no room in the inns of Christchurch during the World Cricket Cup! (Not only does the game go on and on for hours, so does the tournament go on and on for days and weeks!) 

There was no where to sit except at the table, but it worked.
We ended up in a Holiday Park camping area in a small trailer-like structure in Rangiora. It was the only thing available and we were still 20 km outside and northwest of Christchurch. Dennis teases me about when we were first dating and I took him to a number of black tie events. The first fundraiser event he took me to was in a VFW Hall! It was for our parish and fun, but the contrast deserved a chuckle. So now he is ranking this lovely overnight room right up there with the VFW Hall! At least, it was clean even though the bed was horrible, but it got us out of the van for a rest.

We made the decision to just keep driving northwest rather than to go back to see Christchurch in the morning. People seem to be very moved by the aftermath of an earthquake that happened there a few years ago and how they are rebuilding. It will have to be on our to-do list for next year, as I think we will bring the boat back to yachties-friendly New Zealand and fly to Australia for our land cruising. Not sure yet, but we like it here.

An interesting "American" lunch. Most places don't
serve yellow mustard - or any kind of mustard.
Up early and out of there quickly, we were on the road back across the mountains to the northwest area of Nelson. I wanted to see the Wearable Art Museum there. It had been highly recommended by several friends. Again, without a reservation, we ran into challenges. So much for David’s winging it without a reservation idea! Finally, we found a lovely place, the Tudor Lodge Motel, with the most delightful managers, who had fled Serbia a number of years ago. They were very helpful as we needed to deal with battery import paperwork and needed a scanner and fax. They gave us all the free Internet time we needed.

Nelson Bay on our way out of town.
Nelson is a lovely resort town right on Tasman Bay and very close to the Tasman Sea and Golden Bay. The area boasts that they have the most sunshine of any place in New Zealand. It has white-sand beaches, numerous parks and lakes and three National Parks in the region. It is also a city of arts and crafts and many festivals. Unfortunately, we did not see any of it as we were dealing with paperwork until it was time to leave to catch the ferry in Picton, a couple of hours of driving through the mountains to the east. I should have given us one more day in Nelson, but we were both somewhat anxious to get back to the boat – and our own mattress! So now we will have to go back to Nelson – next year!
Picton is a lovely little town. Nice harbor area.
Although the distance from Nelson to Picton isn’t far (only 134 km or 1:47 minutes) it is another twisting hilly mountain drive and this time with a lot of traffic. The trip is a major east-west route for trucks coming from North Island on the ferry. We got there just in time to have a pleasant lunch at the harbor before boarding the ferry for the 3.5 hour ride back to North Island. It was nice to be out of the van and sitting in the lounge with a forward view of the trip. This time the day was sunny and clear so the crossing was scenic.

Once we landed in Wellington, we beat it north to get free of the next morning's rush hour as we wanted to be on the road very early the next day. Thanks to the AA tour and lodging books (that are free everywhere in the information kiosks in NZ), we found a nice room in Porirua at the Marina Motor Lodge. The lady must have thought we had had a rough day as she brought two glasses of wine to our room! Ahhhh! Relax! Then a short walk to dinner.
Up early and on the road by 7:00 AM to Rotorua! Again, but this time for a tattoo!