“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.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

American in Niue, part 2

Limu Pools
The weather was gorgeous on Sunday. We attempted to find an inland cave, but were unsuccessful. We did find lots of big spider webs with huge spiders in them. I think the spiders may catch and eat butterfiles, because we saw lots of butterflies and large mummified prey in the webs. This definitely stopped us from off-road exploring.
Moving on to Limu Pools, we found we had this fantastic area to ourselves. This area is sheltered from the surf and so we snorkeled around for awhile. Because there is fresh water combining with the sea water, the visibility varied along with the temperature (the fresh water is cooler). We continued on to the starting point of the Matapa Chasm and Talava Arches, and ate our picnic lunch in the shade. We made a brief visit to the beautiful Matapa Chasm (in the photo below).We walked what felt like a long time to Talava Arches. The path there was over a lot of rough coral. We came to a cave which we had to walk through to get to the arches, and this was stunning. Crossing the reef at low tide to the sea cave on the other side of the arch, we explored inside. Two climbers arrived and climbed one of the arches, and this was impressive to watch. They said they’d come to Niue on their boat, and had been traveling since 2007. They requested that we take some photos of them, because their camera had broken. We copied them onto a USB drive and they copied them into their computer later. After our return back to Kololi's, we had a phone call from the dive shop to come and sort out gear for diving the next day.
Next post: scuba diving.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

American in Niue, part 1

We arrive in Alofi, Niue. There is one flight per week, leaving Auckland on Saturday and arriving on Friday. We are picked up by our lodging, Kololi’s Motel.
We drop off our bags in our fale (self-contained house), then go buy groceries. To save some money, I brought along some food: smoked salmon, turkey, chicken apple sausages, bacon, cheese, pasta sauce, granola bars, muesli, cashew nuts, salami, and coffee. I made pasta with a lemon cream sauce with smoked salmon for dinner. We had a nap before dinner, because we had to leave our home in Swanson for the airport at 6:30 am. I found that there was a concerning lack of salt and pepper in the cupboard, so I put that on the list of groceries to get Saturday.
We had a leisurely morning, waking up to the many cocks crowing and the chicks peeping, then falling back asleep. There are chickens all over, apparently running free and not belonging to anyone. Some of the hens have brought the chicks by our place for meals of bread bits, and there are 3 local cats that have suckered us into feeding them too. They are rather small, still kittens I suppose. One of them is quite sweet and social, with a good bit of white, who I’ve called Andy. They are not the cutest cats ever, but endearing, like the old dog who is very polite. None of the cats or the dog seem to trouble the chickens. Don’t they realize that chickens are delicious? The daughter of our hostess stopped by to give us a bunch of local bananas, which are the sweetest I’ve ever had.
Our lodging provided us with a car for $35/day, and we drove south from our accommodation to the Togulu sea track and the beach and wharf at Avatele. We stopped on the way at the Israel Mart, where we bought some drinks and frozen tuna (yellowtail). We visited with the owner there, and it turned out that he has family in San Diego, where we used to live. He was super nice and brought out some albacore sashimi for us to try. We had a collapsible cooler with us, so it stayed cold while we traveled on. My wish was to stop in Hakupu Village to go to Anapala Chasm, but the signage isn’t very clear, and we passed on down the ring road. We found ourselves at Togo Chasm, which is well signed, and spent a good couple of hours there. This place is a “must see” IF you are wearing sturdy footwear and in reasonable physical condition. The rocks are incredibly sharp. We ate our picnic lunch there. Though warm and humid, the overcast sky and occasional rain has kept the temperature quite tolerable.
We returned to our accommodation for a nap before heading out to the shops for a few groceries and beer. I made Mexican red rice with beans and salami, but was really pissed off by the apparent backwardness of the dials- the burner got red-hot when I turned it to low. But Darin saved the dinner by transferring the non-burnt bit into another pot to finish cooking. It turned out quite good, but then, what isn’t good when slathered with cheese? We considered going out to a bar to mix with the locals and other tourists, but decided to hang out in our cottage instead.

Niue information
Named the “savage island” by Captain Cook in 1774, the London Missionary Society came and established Christianity in 1846. Niue is independent, but in association with New Zealand, so uses NZ dollars and has a single flight to and from Auckland per week. The island has about 900 residents and Niueans have dual citizenship with NZ. Many Niueans live overseas. The island is not well developed for tourism, with only about 90 beds available, so it is very laid back and quiet. This is part of the appeal. Niue is in the same island group as Hawaii (Polynesia), but Niue’s highest point is just 70 meters/225 feet so the island is at risk if sea levels rise. Niue is a coral atoll that developed on top of a dormant volcano. There was a really bad cyclone that hit Niue in 2004, and many wrecked homes still stand as testament to the damage. There are 76 miles of road around the island, and to drive here you need to get a Niue driver’s license. This is the best Niue souvenir. I'll continue the trip diary in future blogs. Coming up next, scuba diving and whales.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Zealand news

Remember my blog about the NZ woman who was accidentally murdered by her family because she was supposedly cursed? The family was finally sentenced: no jail, only community service. I am disgusted by this, but I suppose there are worse things that happen in other cultures. Still, I don't want to see it happen here. Here's the article from the NZ Herald:

The Crown will not appeal the sentences given to five people found guilty of manslaughter after a Maori curse-lifting ceremony went wrong.
Janet Moses, a 22-year-old mother of two, died in a small Wainuiomata flat in 2007 during the ceremony performed by more than 30 whanau members.
Ms Moses drowned as water was forced into her eyes and mouth in an attempt to flush out demons. (note from me: they didn't call authorities until 9 hrs after her death)
The five found criminally responsible for her death received community-based sentences on Friday prompting calls from some quarters that Justice Simon France had been too lenient.
Crown prosecutor Grant Burston told Radio New Zealand the guidelines for sentencing in manslaughter cases were not as strict as for other charges.
It was within the sentencing discretion available to the court to give the community sentences and therefore the Crown would not be appealing.
Prominent defence lawyer Barry Hart believed the sentences were lenient but would not comment on whether race had played a part in the five avoiding jail terms.
Labour MP Trevor Mallard, however, sparked debate with a post on Labour Party blog site Red Alert titled 'It would have been prison if they weren't Maori'.
When challenged on whether a death during any religious or cultural ceremony would have been treated similarly Mr Mallard cited the conviction of Luke Lee in 2001.
A woman died during an exorcism performed by Lee. She appeared to have been strangled.
The self-styled Korean pastor was sentenced to six years' jail despite his claim he was attempting to force a demon out of the woman.
Mr Mallard, who lives in Wainuiomata, told Radio New Zealand he was surprised to receive criticism from fellow politicians for commenting on a court matter.
He said both Prime Minister John Key and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia had spoken in support of the sentences.
"Both have said it's appropriate. I don't understand why they say it's not on for me to comment but it's okay for them to support it."
Mr Hart also supported discussion of sentencings.
"It's part of the democratic process. The judge can't sit in a vacuum."
(My Jazzcat in the photo above)
A few weeks ago, hundreds of dead fish washed up on some north Auckland beaches. No cause was immediately apparent. When a few dogs died after visiting the beaches, and apparently some dolphins, people paid attention. Determining the cause has taken what seems like ages. It still isn't fully understood. The blame is being put on some sea slugs that may have fed on some dead pufferfish, which contain a deadly tetrodotoxin. The puzzle just doesn't fit. The council put up warning signs, but the total dog deaths is up to 5 now. From the New Zealand Herald:

Another dog dies on 'toxic' Auckland beach
7:38PM Thursday Aug 20, 2009
The public should continue to keep children and dogs away from beaches in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf while the source of a mystery toxic poison is investigated.
Five dogs have died and 14 fallen ill after visiting the beaches.
Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) said tetrododoxin, a potentially fatal and extremely poisonous neurotoxin found in puffer fish, has been found in dead sea slugs and the vomit of one dead dog.
The latest dog died after exercising at Stanmore Bay during the weekend.
Government scientists were investigating the death.
"We don't know the cause yet, but this new death may be linked to death and illness in other dogs," ARPHS clinical director Dr Julia Peters said.
ARPHS's advice to the public:
- Children should not be taken to Hauraki Gulf beaches;
- dogs should not be taken to the beaches;
- other visitors to the beaches should not handle any marine life;
- people should not swim at beaches, but swimming off boats is considered safe; and
- people should not collect shellfish from the beaches.
"We know that going to the beach is a favourite pastime for Aucklanders so these warnings are not made lightly," Dr Peters said.
"We understand people's frustration at this constraint on their lifestyle but our overriding concern is to protect public health."
Poisonous sea slugs were a new risk and the service was concerned for people's safety, Dr Peters said.
"If a child eats or puts one of these creatures in their mouth it could be potentially fatal."
Sea slugs live on the sea bed. They are found in shallow and deep water and may be washed up.
It was not known how the slugs collected from Narrow Neck beach had acquired the poison.
Anyone exposed to sea water or life who develops symptoms within one to two hours should seek immediate medical attention.
There are no restrictions on recreational fishing at the beaches.

This is a photo of Ruby. She is cuddled up on at least two pillows on the sofa. She and Fargo are off to the kennel on Saturday, so Darin and I can get away on a vacay to Niue (pronounced Nu-way). We just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary! How is that possible?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Birthday festivities

Wild turkeys on our neighbor's property in Maungaturoto, NZ, above. Gobble gobble.
That's Don with his Kiwi Cross calves. He's our neighbor in Maungaturoto and runs his cows and sheep through our property. The calves are a few days to a few weeks old. They are taken away from their moms because they collect the milk for the dairy. They still get fed the cow's milk, but the calf is not nursing directly. These calves will suck on your hand, jacket, tools, whatever! I almost lost one of my rings to an eager calf, because of course I leaned over to pet them all.
A few of his cows managed to get the gate to our orchard open and damage a few of the trees (the avacado! boo hoo), so he gave us a freshly butchered lamb. Darin and I spent a few hours cutting it up, because it was just in quarters. We cooked one of the legs in our slow cooker, and it was terrific. This weekend, I'm making either lamb tangine or lamb rogan josh with the stew cuts we made.
I had a most excellent birthday week, starting with my hubby Darin baking me a carrot cake. Of course it was at my request. It was delicious. He shredded the carrots by hand and used the fine shredding blades for better texture. I mentioned in a previous post that we had an amazing dinner at the French Cafe on my birthday. The next day, we had excellent seats for the All Blacks rugby game. They played Australia (the Wallabies) and won for the sold out stadium. And it didn't rain! (much).

The day after that, I had to usher for the NZ Film Fest (published previously), and afterward I met my sister Barb at a spa in downtown Auckland. She treated me to a massage and pedicure (she had one too). It was so relaxing! I wish I could do that once a week. I deserve it, really.

Sadly, Darin got really sick the week after my birthday, and I suspect he had the swine flu. The NZ public health stopped testing for it though, realising there's no point since it's gotten out of control. Amazingly, I managed to stay well! The fact that I was away from home a lot either working or ushering or watching movies probably had something to do with it. He got a secondary bacterial infection and had to go back to the doctor, who gave him antibiotics to clear it up. I am so glad he's well. He was sure I'd have to learn to live without him.

The other fun thing I did (post-birthday) was go to the Auckland Food Show. I went to this event last year, and it was much the same this year: lots of free food and wine samples and pretty good special prices on products. I had a generally good time, but have a few complaints. First, it is expensive, $22 to get in. Second, there's no In-Out privelage, so you can't go buy a bunch of bottles of wine and food and take it to your car, then go back in for more. Third, it's insanely crowded. I got trapped at the Nosh grocery stall by one of those big baby strollers parked behind me. NZ has a great food culture and amazing food products, but this venue is just too big and crowded for anything to stand out. Finally, there was a huge waste of plastic utensils, taste cups, and dishes. I don't know what the solution to this is, but it made my stomach turn (or maybe it was that snywurst? yuk).

Thursday, August 06, 2009

New Zealand International Film Festival 2009

This year, I volunteered as an usher for the annual NZ Film Festival. By doing this, I was able to get free tickets to movies I wanted to see. I ushered mostly at the Queen Street Sky City Cinema and some at the Academy Cinema. They are both in central Auckland. The first film I ushered for was the most challenging: Animation for Kids. There was popcorn and trash everywhere, and we had to clean up quickly before the next film. In total, I ushered 13 films. Here they are, in order of BEST to WORST:
Best Worst Movie (documentary about Troll 2)
Homegrown: Drama On Video
Four Nights With Anna
Louise Bourgeois
Rough Aunties
Homegrown: Animation
Tangata Whenua 3: The Carving Cries
Goodbye Solo
Waiting for Sancho
Our Beloved Month of August

The last 6 films I dozed off and on while the film played. I was basically working two jobs for two weeks, so I was tired. The films I chose to see follow, from BEST to WORST:
Coraline (3D)
Sin Nombre Gritty and compelling, slap you in the face brutality.
Thirst Unusual vampire film.
Embodiment of Evil ("Coffin Joe", much mirthful laughter, and lame dialogue)
Antichrist Starts slow, but has some OH MY GOD! scenes- crazy.
The Cove really good but I have mixed feelings about this one. controversial.
Van Dieman's Land A sympathetic portrayal of Alexander Pierce's band of cannibalism victims.
Samson and Delilah This movie was like getting punched. I had such a headache afterwards. Still, it was amazing, really eye opening.

Mock Up On Mu This was fun but strange.