Monday, 29 July 2013

Discovering Whangarei

Today the view from 'our' house presented itself in a beautiful morning mist, covering all the fields and leaving only the hills on the horizon. We agreed that we should try to find this sight in a more natural area, like one of the national parks... We are really looking forward to trave again.

I drove to Whangarei to have a walk around the town. Since it is not really big, there is not so much to do, but it has several art centers and beautiful surroundings.
What I didn't know before is that most of the museums are closed on mondays...
So I discovered the surroundings. I followed a beautiful walking track through the bush up to Mt Parihaka. It winds along a little stream through fern, palm and Kauri trees. It was a great walk and had a nice view on the top, though it was mostly on the town. It's a pity that Kay didn't come, would have been some nice photos - you will just have to imagine :)

On my way back I had a look at the town basin. There is a mystic walkway through the mangroves, which are not very big, but nevertheless were a great sight in the glittering sunlight of today.
When they open up, you find yourself in the marine, filled with nice small (and probably very expensive) boats and yachts.

I finished my day with a late lunch at one of the riverside cafés and drove back, having a breathtaking view on the green hills in the evening light.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

We have a house, a dog, two cows and chicken! least for a week. We have a large house with an amazing view all for ourselves. How? We are housesitters :)
Karen and Colin are on holiday with their two small daughters and were looking for someone to care for their house and animal while they are gone. We were lucky and looked on the couchsurfing homepage just at the right time. We were sad to leave the Waitapu retreat so soon, but we already know we will come back there.
For now, it is good to have some time in the middle of nowhere, just sitting in the house at cloudy days, enjoying the fireplace and relax. Kay uses the opportunity to work over a lot of photos.

We have a dog here, Lulu, whose favourite 'activity' is lying in front of the fireplace and sleeping. She barely moves, only for a little walk in the garden or to eat. The other animals are a few chicken and two cows. Usually they are not much work, but today one of the cows decided to give us something to do and sqeezed through the (non electric) fence to have a bite of grass in the garden. 'The grass is always greener on the other side' seems to be their life's motto. So we tried to get the cow back into its paddock. It must have been half an hour of chasing it through the garden (yes, it's a big garden. And includes a small wood, so there are many directions to run to). After endless waving with arms and sticks, and me worrying to be knocked down by a running cow, it had mercy with the weird waving humans and squeezed itself back through the fence into the paddock. We are hoping that we don't have to repeat that experience. But at least we didn't spend the whole day sitting in the house. 

Kay photo processing
Lulu at her favourite place

Thursday, 25 July 2013

More beach impressions

Totem Pole and Dolphins

It feels so good to be here! The Waitapu Retreat is an amazing place to be. Susan and Tahe are great hosts. The words “open-minded” and “friendly” are too worn out to describe them, but they seem to be their personifications. We have an own little cabin next to their house, including bathroom and kitchen. They have a wonderful taste concerning furniture and decoration: A lot of wood, old cupboards, warm colors, with an oriental touch to it and a lot of pictures and figures showing their deep connection to the Maori traditions.
Everyhing is perfectly clean, but without a sterile feeling to it.

Next to our cabin is another one, equally comfortable, where Susan receives her clients: She is a psychotherapist.

The surroundings are breathtaking. When we first arrived at the street, it looked just like all the others. A small road, paddocks and cows everywhere, farmhouses, signs saying “fresh milk” and so on.
But when you enter their place it feels like arriving in another world. You drive over a small river and suddenly there are palm trees everywhere, the light gets dimmed by native bush, the cries of the birds sound like you are in the middle of a jungle. Then, it opens up again and to your right is a small pond, fed by the river, overgrown with waterplants. The sun shines onto a green garden, filled with veggies, herbs and flowers. Around the lawn, there are serveral other ponds and trees, from banana to apple to grapefruit. Some statues and small figures are standing between them, the guardians of the retreat: A mermaid, Buddha, Ganesha, birds, stones, faces, women, animals...
And on the side, the bush opens up in a small path, leading into a green sanctuary with palms, ferns and old wrinkled trees around the river. 

The work does not really feel like work here. Tahe and Susan had the perfect task ready for me: Painting a wooden pole down by the river. It is supposed to mark the level of water and tell them when it's too dangerous to drive over it. They wanted to have something more colorful there and already had some plans what to do.
So we sat together and made a sketch, including the “Tuatara”, an ancient native lizard and some other animals they have a connection to.
This is the result:

It feels so good to be painting again! I am glad about the chance to mess around with some color and have a paintbrush in my hand all day. I'm really in my element here :)

Kay is doing some woodwork at the moment and we are sharing Tahe's and Susan's everyday rhythm, though we are free to do everything in our own time.
Every afternoon we go out with Maia, the dog and take her to the sea – She loves water. Jumps into the waves as if they were nothing. And she loves her stick, too :) That's her waiting for someone to throw it:

On one of those walks with Maia we had our first encounter with dolphins! We walked along the beach in the evening. The tide had just come in and the moon peeked through the clouds to paint an orange band on the sea. We saw them swimming around several boats and then coming in our direction. The rest of the walk they followed us along the beach in a distance, jumping out of the water from time to time. It was awesome. 
Maia was so impressed, she even forgot about her beloved stick and just ran along the beach, watching this playful group swim along with us.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Trees, Caves, Beaches, new plans and more WWOOOFing

We were discovering Whangarei and the surroundings a bit. After having a coffee and a look at the sale at Kathmandu (THE outdoor shop here in NZ), we went to one of the many parks in the area: The A.H. Reed Memorial Park, which has a very nice little treetop walkway. Kay was a bit uncomformtable with it :)
I finally learned how to recognise a Kauri tree, the most popular native tree, endangered by a special disease. We have not seen the tallest one yet, Tane Mahuta on the west coast, but the ones we have seen are impressive enough. Huge, ancient trunks. They must have seen a lot in their lives... 

On friday we made some very cool plans for the week after next - you will be surprised how our lifestyle changes :)
Around Whangarei, we found another group of caves: The Abbey caves. We were very motivated to see them after our first experience, but were a bit disappointed: They are smaller and we only found one entrance (There are supposed to be three of them there). It was a real challenge to get into them: A lot of climbing over and between huge rocks. And after a few steps inside, we found ourselves standing in front of water, about waist deep. On the side, you probably could have climbed along, but it was all hanging over, sharp rock and no view to see where the next hold might be, so we decided to let the cave keep its secrets and stay dry. 
We got out and the sun joined us, so it was the perfect weather to discover the Whangarei Heads. It was an amazing drive along the seaside, next to some green, rocky hills.We had a great walk along the beach with some calm waves, washing out our heads, leaving us relaxed and allowing us to take some deep breaths after a lot of driving and thinking about what we will do next. Another walk in the evening light rounded up the day.
We were heading south again anyway, so we chose to stay the night at Uretiti Beach again, one of the few DOC campsites (Department of conservation - they provide cheap or sometimes even free campsites.) in Northland. 

I took the chance to get up early today and have an amazing walk along the beach at sunrise. I cannot imagine many things more beautiful than a fire-red sun crawling up its way from beneath the endless water, sending a few golden rays and dark red clouds ahead, until it finally touches the horizon and the whole sea turns into a field of light.

Now, we have arrived at Susan & Tahe's retreat in Mangawhai region. We are WWOOFing again for a couple of days. It is beautiful here, a very cool house and a huge garden around it, with a dog and a cat and a feeling of quiet happiness around it. The two women, a kiwi-Maori couple, have been living here for ten years and are still working on small things. We will be doing some creative work here :)
And it's not just all the surroundings that immediately made a good impression on us - they are very spiritual people, too, producing their own Maori medicine and can tell a lot about their history and mythology.We are really looking forward to the time here and are already thinking on coming back when we are on our way south again.