“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Caves and slips

Seeing as we're headed back up to the Northland this weekend, I figured I better finish the last blog entry about the north end of the north island of New Zealand.
On the way up to Paihia, we stopped at the Waipu caves for a look around. Before going in, we talked to some Kiwis who said prepare to get your feet wet. There is a shallow stream running through, and you can walk in the cave quite far. We changed into our sandals, but didn't make it very far, because it was very slippery in the mud. With flashlights off, you can see glowworms on the top of the cave, which are very pretty blue light. I hiked up around above the cave as well, and that felt very middle-earth-esque. It looked like the rubble of an old civilization, with huge boulders. I can't wait to go back!

The Northland had a "storm of the century" the end of March, with about 18 inches of rain falling in 36 hours. There was massive flooding and mudslides (aka slips). Many roads were closed, and we could see all the recent damage as we drove around on the recently re-opened roads during our Easter visit.

The road where this photo was taken is going through a steep forest, where we fortunately saw almost no other cars. Passing would have been a nightmare. The road had a lot of twists and was narrowed by the numerous slips, and on the other side was deep, steep jungle with no guardrail. If anything went over the side, you might never find it.
The other interesting experience we had up north was finding that our Toyota Corolla had a flat tire (spelled tyre here). We discovered this out on a remote, gravel road, after we'd driven I think 18 km to a parking lot for a hiking trail. Fortunately we had a full-sized spare, and Darin changed it. We had just paid $900 for new tires on the Surf, but that was back in Auckland. We'll be taking that vehicle on this next trip. Rain is expected so we'll want good traction.
In other news, one of our Araucana chickens started crowing, which sounded more like a sick baby yelling. Oddly he was not the one we expected to crow. He went with two siblings (hopefully hens) to my sister's house- she can keep roosters, but we can't. With the changing weather, the rescue hens have stopped laying, and the Araucanas haven't started yet. They love to eat the freshly cut grass clippings when Darin mows the lawn.
We have 3 feijoa trees in our yard, all dropping fruit. They are delicious, sort of pear-pineapple. They are great in a smoothie with banana and yogurt. There are plenty to share with coworkers and neighbors.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Northland trip

Over Easter, I had Friday and Monday off work. We had great weather for our trip up to the area known as Northland or Bay of Islands. Gorgeous, stunning vistas and remote, quiet beaches are littered everywhere up there. Our base was Paihia, which reminded us of Avalon, Catalina (California) and Anacortes Is. (Washington). We were there for 3 days, intending to dive Sat. and Sun. Instead, we only dove one day, because the sole dive operator was closed on Sunday. Why then, did the employee let us make a reservation to dive that day? And then not call us to tell us plans had changed? Our main goal of diving up there was to dive on the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace boat sunk by the French, which means we'll have to go back. Sigh. Well, as soon as I saw the boat we were to dive from, I was glad we were only going one day! No toilet on board was my biggest concern. Diving makes you need to pee, and it's important to stay hydrated while diving, so it was a legitimate concern. Conditions were optimal, and with only 3 other guys on the boat, very friendly and experienced, we went to one of the advanced sites, Bird Rock (hey, just like the one off Catalina!). Lots of nice fish, a huge stingray, and Darin caught a legal sized lobster (they are called crayfish here). Our next dive site, after lunch on a small, remote beach (where we watered the bushes), was a lovely huge cave full of fish. I found a cusk eel in there, and Darin found a giant salp. Darin also found a nice big octopus, who posed for photos.

Our non-diving Sunday was spent touring around the area. We visited Kerikeri, hiked to the falls, checked out the destroyer ship that's going to be sunk as a dive site, and had a late lunch in Russell at the first hotel in New Zealand, the Duke of Marlborough. Did I mention how beautiful it is?
Sorry, now it's way past my bedtime, so the bit about the cave and the washouts will have to wait until next post.

Monday, April 09, 2007

cool insects

Here are a couple photos of insects here in NZ which I don't recall seeing outside a zoo in the US.

This preying mantis was laying eggs on the side of the house. I'm looking forward to seeing the eggs hatch. How long do they incubate? I found an insect book at a shop today identifying a New Zealand and a South African variety of preying mantis. Based on the egg sac photo, I'd say we are looking at the So African mantis. I have seen them hanging out on my basil plant in the garden. Go, mantis!

The next photo is two walking sticks doing the nasty on our door frame. Oh yeah, insect porn! I know the mantis is likely to eat her mate after copulation, but not sure about the sticks. They both disappeared after awhile.
Darin and I just returned from 3 lovely days in the Bay of Islands area. I'm too tired to blog about it now, so you'll have to check back later this week for the update.