Tuesday, February 5, 2008


One of our days here in Hawke’s Bay was filled with animal adventures! =) It all started at Haumoana Farm Park where you get to pet all kinds of fluffy critters and feed them corn. (Except for pigs and horses- they don’t get any corn. I'm not sure why not.) We pet sheep and pigs, guinea pigs and goats, and saw all sorts of other fuzzy things- an Australian opossum who was adorable (wayyy cuter than the nasty Virginia variety we get stateside, though the Aussie ones are destroying all of NZ’s natural beauty, apparently, and are mostly being made into high-priced knitwear these days), a mama pig (a Captain Cooker) with her flock of teensy baby piglets (not sure “flock” is the technical term), a friendly alpaca, a Heilan’ Coo named Haggis (I wore my heilan’ coo t-shirt, but he didn’t seem impressed), bunnies, curly-featheredy geese, and best of all TEENSY baby CHICKENS!!! Loved them!!! =) They tried to peck the corn out of Gordon’s hands, but their teensy beaks we just too little- cute little fluffballs! =) Almost too much cute to take in all at once… From there we went out to Cape Kidnappers to see the gannet colony. Gannets are sizeable birdies (in the booby family) who usually nest on remote islands, but for some reason have chosen to hang out on the mainland here. There are about 17,000 of them. You can walk out to the colony, but it takes a while and it was hot, so we had a ride on a trailer pulled by a tractor along the beach (and in the water and over big boulders and that sort of thing), which took an hour+ each way. It’s just the right time of year to see the chicks with their fluffy, white feathers before they get their real ones. At this point they are almost as big as their parents, though still relying on them for food! (Sounds familiar…) Soon the chicks will fly to Australia where they stay for about 3 years until they are adults and return to NZ. When they leave they have no experience flying, catching food, or navigating, and they have to go almost 3000km to Australia! Crazy! Smart birdies, I guess! It’s pretty amazing to see so many of them at once, and you can get up really close to them- they don’t seem to mind humans at all! I didn’t even know what a gannet was before we went, but I’d definitely recommend the tractor adventure to anyone! =) Now if I can just manage to see some penguins, pukekos, and kiwis while I'm here I think my New Zealand bird-watching aspirations will be fulfilled! =)

Havelock North! =)

For the last twelve days Gordon and I have been visiting his parents, the lovely Colleen and Bill, in Havelock North, a town of about 9,000 people in the heart of the Hawke’s Bay wine-growing region. This is where Gordon grew up, so I've had a chance to see where he went to school and played cricket and destroyed agapanthus flowers and that kind of thing. =) It has been sunny and beautiful almost every day, and the whole town is lush and green and covered in flowers, most notably around the property here, where G’s parents have a beautiful garden! =) We’ve been enjoying the freshly-picked tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and beans from their veggie garden- yum! =) There’s been a lot of sleeping in and relaxing since we’ve been here and Gordon’s mom has been spoiling us with delicious meals and fair-trade chocolate. We’ve also spent a quite a bit of time working on computery things and watching the Australian Open, but we have managed to get out and about a bit and have done some really fun things in the area. =) First, we climbed Te Mata peak, which is just down the road. From the top you get a great view of Hawke Bay, Napier, Hastings, and Havelock, and from the bottom you can get a close-up view of sheep! =) We saw some hanging out at the beginning and end of our walk. Here’s a photo of me talking to a sheep. (Please excuse my outfit- I hadn’t done laundry in a while. At least you can’t see my orange socks!) In the middle of the trek there are redwoods, just like in California, though not quite as old- I think they were planted in the 20’s- but still pretty exciting! =) We have also spent a bit of time in Hastings (about 50,000 peeps)- mostly for shopping purposes. I have now been to The Warehouse (where everyone gets a bargain) and to the Mitre 10 Mega, which is virtually identical to a Home Depot, right down to the orange-bordered price signs handwritten in big, fat marker. I quite enjoyed the Warehouse, and I did, indeed, get a bargain. =) It’s nice how everyone gets a bargain. Very egalitarian. I like that. =) They also still have K-mart here, which I think is extinct in the US, right? (Or just endangered?) We also went into Napier for an afternoon- it’s a city of about 55,000 just down the road. It was devastated by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt shortly thereafter, making it one of the world’s most uniformly Art Deco cities, according to Lonely Planet. =) We took a stroll on the Marine Parade going down the beach where people like to get swept away by the ocean currents- really not a good place to swim. One kid died there the day after we were there, as a matter of fact. =( We’ve seen a couple of movies here in Havelock at CinemaGold, the fancy theatre with cushy seats and lots of legroom. =) The Darjeeling Limited was pretty good. I didn’t love it, but over all it was interesting and had some funny dialogue, which I think can always be said of Wes Anderson’s films. We also saw Juno the other night, which I loved! I’m not sure it will get Best Picture or anything, but it was definitely original, quirky (I’m a big fan of quirky), and very funny. =) I left the theatre in a really good mood, which is always the mark of a good movie. =) Afterward I went for a little driving lesson around the parking lot- it’s not easy to drive when the blinker thingie is on the wrong side… I think I’ll be okay driving on the left, but I may not be doing too much signaling. =/ We also had a fun day of animal adventures, but I’m going to save that for my next post, because there are a bazillion pictures you should see! Finally, this weekend was the Harvest Hawke’s Bay festival, where 25 wineries open their gates to visitors for tasting, food, and entertainment. For the price of entry they give you a souvenir wine glass on a string to wear around your neck which you take around to all of the wineries to taste what they have to offer. Saturday we went to Askerne, Kim Crawford, Beach House, and Zepelin wineries, where we saw an Irish band, a folky duo call, a local classical guitarist, and a girl band called Pearl. Sunday we went to Ngatarawa Wines to see the Topp Twins- NZ icons, apparently- they were hilarious! =) They do an act with some country singing and impressive yodeling, but spend about half of the time cracking jokes and interacting with/harassing the audience. =) Very funny stuff. =) Afterward we headed back to Askerne to see the Beat Girls. They were fun, but I’d have to say the Topp Twins were the highlight of the festival for me. =) So now we’re packing everything up and getting ready for a little camping tour of the country- we're headed out tomorrow morning on the road toward Te Urewera National Park. No idea exactly where our travels will lead, but the first leg includes the East Cape and Coromandel, and I determined to see some penguins somewhere! More updates as we go! =)