Monday, June 24, 2013

New Zealand Week 2: The Lazy Week

See, the time elapsed between Part 1 and Part 2 didn't even take that long. I didn't even end with a throwaway dramatic cliffhanger! (However, as there were only 2 weeks of our NZ trip, this will be Part 2 of 2, not a trilogy.)

You may recall some time ago, in a galaxy far away, I took a hike in New Zealand. In the interim, life and work intervened. Well, here's Week 2 of that much-anticipated adventure.

Should I be recovering from an 80km hike in the middle (Week 5 of 18 to be precise) of marathon training?

After the Walk In The Park, we took (just the one) van to a medium-sized town, Nelson, on the north end of the South Island, where we stayed the night at a backpacker hostel...with pudding.

From Nelson, we took the world's littlest passenger aircraft, a Cessna 208 Caravan, to Wellington, which is North Island's southernmost city, and drove over to my friend Nick's place.

I met Nick years ago while travelling in Ecuador (that is yet another story for another day) and he is a great world traveller and eco-activist who is taking the scenic route through university and just finishing up.

We spent a terrific day in Wellington - a good chunk of it was in Zealandia, a wildlife sanctuary that people have worked very hard to restore to its original condition - before all the invasive species invaded. It being a Monday, admission price was just $10. What's better than visiting a really high-quality wildlife sanctuary? Visiting a really high-quality wildlife sanctuary for $10.

New Zealand has terrible problems with rats, possums and other invasive species, which eat the eggs of native birds or compete with them for food, and in some cases have driven them extinct.

People don't help much either. Once upon a time they used to hunt weka and these wacky-looking flightless birds, closely related to swamphens, called takahe.

that's a radio transmitter, not a silicon-based mutation

What Zealandia has done is to restore a good chunk of outer Wellington to a slightly more pristine state, and has built fences and other protections to keep the rats out. There was a tuatara section, a couple of huge eels slinking around in a stream, finger-length insects called weta, and I spent at least forty-five minutes entranced by a small grey North Island robin.

The next morning we set off for Napier where my grandmother's youngest sister, sixth brother, and niece and nephew (grandma's second sister's children), live. (are you confused yet? I have a large, complicated, stubborn, and bossy family - and that's only one quarter of it - I have three other grandparents you know.)

driving into town - isn't it gorgeous

There, we spent four days just completely relaxing, being fed vast quantities of very fresh food at the various wineries in and around the Hawke's Bay area...
l to r: grand-uncle, his wife, and you know whom - at Elephant Hill winery.
thinking about this makes me hungry again... 

 and also food made by my grand-aunt and uncle, who are both fantastic cooks: lamb roast, laksa, tom yum mussels, or luak, panfried salmon... as well as cakes by my grand-uncle. (In return, I baked sticky date pudding with caramel sauce on our last night there).

And I might've even run once or twice.

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