Friday, October 22, 2010

New Zealand: Wow, eh!?

Wow, eh!? Because, according to Jonathan this is what I have been saying about every 5 minutes since our plane landed in Auckland. But really, New Zealand: Wow! Eh?!

Its spring in New Zealand. There are pink blossoms on the trees, colourful spring flowers, lambs, calves and ducklings. This is where the familiarity stops.  It is like we have been walking around in a giant botanical gardens for the last four days! We walk through the forest and it is full of palm trees, ferns bigger than I am and a variety of other trees I have never seen before. There is a sweet fragrance in the forest. Cala lillies grow everywhere in bushes by the dozen. Birds are colourful and sing beautiful tropical songs. We certainly aren't in Canada anymore. It is interesting (I think) to note that NZ has no land mammals, besides a few species of bats. There once were massive birds called Mia, that could weigh up to 240kg and were twice the size of osterich, but the country's first settlers made short work of these. 

We arrived in the afternoon of your future. We arrived on Thursday and you kids where still stuck on Wednesday. We, on the other hand, never had a Wednesday. We left Vancouver on Tuesday night and arrived in Auckland 22 hours later, Thursday around 1pm. Crazy. The first Auckland resident we met was a Korean. He gave us free Miso soup. I wasnt clear on whether it was because we were Canadian or because we told him we were eventually headed to Korea.. or because it was about to be thrown out and he fed it to us instead. Free soup is free soup. Our first day was a tired blur.

The next day we headed to the island of Rangitoto, which is a volcanic island only a 25 minute ferry ride away. Rangitoto (pronounced rang-ee-toe toe) was formed only 600 years ago. The Maori (NZ's aboriginal population] were living on an island an right beside them a volcano erupted from the ocean and 'pop' they had an island neighbour. Maybe there was a little more to it than that. The island is made up of black volcanic rock with relatively new vegetation growing from it. Apparently much of the vegetation that grows in the volcanic rock would only otherwise grow in very different conditions, like alpine flowers for example.  We hiked all around the island/volcano and eventually to the summit of the volcano. There is still a huge crater in the middle from which smoldering lava flowed long ago. On our assent Jonathan turned to me and said 'You know, it feels like it wouldn't be entirely unlikely that it we kept hiking a bit off the path and deeper into the forest we may just come across a dinosaur'. It felt like Jurassic Park.

We picked up our campervan... I mean, spaceship 'Adama' on Saturday. Adama was a commander in Battlestar Galactica. I know this because I googled it. He is very orange and rather old and eats gas like I eat chocolate. Other than that though, he's perfect. He has 2 sunroofs. One over the front seats and a huge one over the bed in the back. Itching to get out of the city as fast as possible we headed to the west coast. We drove from the east coast to the west coast in about half an hour! We checked in at Waitikere Ranges, and marveled at the crashing waves, steep cliffs and lush green vegetation.

Jonathan's family, Maureen and Maurice, kindly invited us for supper that night, so we drove back to the south of Auckland to their house. It was great to see/meet them! They breed canaries and have a number of beautiful, bright yellow and orange birds in a huge aviary in their backyard. Some eggs has just hatched and there were tiny one week old babies too! We also had the pleasure of meeting Maureen and Maurice's son, Josh, his significant other, Sharon and Sharon's daughter, Jade. Meeting him was great for a number of reasons, but one especially comes to mind. It might sound a bit silly but the coming to life of a person whom I have only known through a handful of photos and the occasional story is exciting. I suppose I went from from saying, 'I have cousin in New Zealand,' to saying, 'my cousin, Josh, lives in New Zealand.' Its maybe only a subtle transition, but it is also, I think, an important one that I am grateful to have bridged. Sharon knew so much about NZ and was nice enough to circle a bunch of great places on the map for us. It was so great to meet everyone and spend time with them. Maureen made a delicious dinner for all of us and we had a wonderful meal with great conversation. What perfect night!

We bid farewell to Jonathan's family with full bellies (and, not to forget, a scrumpdidleyumptious jar of homemade marmalade), ready for our adventure in the Northland.

NZ fact: New Zealand was named after a province in Holland, `Zeeland`. Abel Tasman was the first European to enter NZ waters in 1642, and although a squabble with the Maori sent them packing before they even touched land, the name stuck.


Mom and Dad Mooney said...

Wow!! Now I'm really jealous. Nanny and Pappy said New Zealand was the most beautiful place on earth and it certainly sounds like it from your first few days there. You've got 1 up on us - you've met Josh in person. Luv ya

Anonymous said...

Hope you go kayaking at the Bay of Islands... and paddle through the 'hole in the Rock" to Cathedral Cave. Also enjoy some New Zealand wine for Dad and some 'hokey pokey' ice cream for me.
well 'rattle your dags'
love MOM P