Monthly Archives: January 2017

What’s the Alternative



We start today wth this notice we saw after walking 45 minutes to Cathedral Cove BEach.  Perhaps two weeks ago we wouldn’t have noticed it, but now, THIS week, when we’ve been introduced to the concept of ALTERNATIVE FACTS , the sign popped out and gave us a moment of mirth in an otherwise nerve-wracking and unsettling time for us,  despite our travels and adventures.  We discuss current events daily, follow the news and developments, sign online petitions, write to our congress people, and discuss where to invest our time and resources.  It’s on the lips of every Kiwi as they hear our accent and begin discussing and asking us, “What in the WORLD is happening in your country?  What do you think will happen? ”  I will admit to hugging our passports a bit tighter as we prepare in two days to fly to EWR.

Some Kiwi responses in our discussions:

Well, he’s doing exactly what he said he’d do.

We’re looking to Americans to show us how to do the same in our country (resistance/protests)

We LOVE your button. . .Love Trumps Hate.

Why don’t you just stay here in NZ?

The whole world is a mess.

You don’t look like a Nasty Woman.

(Whispers behind hands. .. look at her button/Nasty Woman shirt)

We’re very  worried.


Well, I didn’t intend to write this blog, but it’s been an integral part of our journey since the time we left the  US on December 29.  The US news is reported here morning, noon, night.  How many of us truly realize the impact the actions of our country has on the world, even in a small nation like New Zealand?

We truly are ONE as people, and the recent actions of the administration have dire consequences for all.

Next blog. . .sunshine and sand.  Promise.



A Peninsula on a Peninsula


The Coromandel Peninsula. . .and Pauanui, our home for 3 days.  We thought we had learned a bit about pronunciation of this funny vowel-laden language  here and were confidently calling this town “Pow-a-NEW-we ” but we were wrong.  It’s “Pa-no-WAY.”

Pauanui is a beach resort town with 700 residents whose population swells to 15,000 in the summer.  This weekend was the end of summer vacation as evidenced by the steady stream of traffic coming towards us as we approached the town.  Families were returning home because school starts this week.  But today as we walked the beach we found a few families stretching their vaca just a few more hours.



Kids played on boogie boards and a few brave ones were learning how to paddle board.


We had decided to walk around the entire perimeter of the peninsula, a distance of about 3-4 miles, and found only one area lifeguarded.  Don liked the sign re:sharks, having just watched Jaws 1, 2, and 3 AGAIN.

A bit farther along we came across a stretch littered with a bounty of green-lipped mussels and clams.

And walking on, we noticed a bird which we had seen on the South Island with a long red beak, red eye, and black body.  It was a variable oystercatcher.  As we were commenting on it and putting two and two together that the birds were there for the buffet, we got squawked and chased by one of them.  Then we noticed that there were two chicks and we had inadvertently wandered into their territory.  I can truly say that I thought we might get attacked and pecked!  We hurried on!


Mama and chicks. . .with us at a safe distance!

A bit further along we got a better look at three oystercatchers that looked like a bunch of guys just hangin’ out.


Our walk continued on past beachfront properties, now vacated, and eventually back through town and to our digs, Pauanui Pines Motor Lodge.  It’s like our little house, complete with a front porch, living-dining area,kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.

During the heat of the afternoon we continued watching part of the Hobbit trilogy, then went off to dinner at the Lime House on a lovely golf course.


So today we would say we were just on vaca, slathering on sunscreen, beach-walking,  going to the grocery store in our bathing suits.

Another day in the NZ paradise.

The Magic of Hobbiton


Leaving Hamilton this morning (highlights of that short visit included a great Italian meal at Portofino,the discovery of a FLAT river trail, and a sumptuous breakfast at the River Kitchen), we headed to the movies.  Well, not the movies per se, but a movie set.  HOBBITON.  Now luckily we had watched a good part of the first movie at Tongariro chateau so we were at least minimally familiar with Hobbits and Hobbit holes,  but we were simply not prepared for the enchantment that was about to unfold.

Be prepared for lots of photos!!



As the story goes, in September 1998 Sir Peter Jackson was doing aerial searches, seeking a location for the Hobbit village.  He discovered the Alexander sheep and beef farm, landed, and knocked on the door.  But Mr. Alexander was watching a rugby game and it wasn’t halftime, so he ignored the knock.  Peter Jackson, not to be deterred, continued knocking and finally at half time, Mr. Alexander answered the door. Peter asked if he could look around the farm for a possible movie set, and Mr. Alexander said, “Sure, but don’t expect me to take you around because I’m watching a rugby game.”

And as they say, the rest is history.  The original hobbit holes were created with untreated timber,ply, and polystyrene, and in 2009 were rebuilt with permanent materials for the Hobbit trilogy.  So let’s take a look at the Shire and a few of the 40 Hobbit holes. . . .



Enter a caption


The Hobbitholes were built to various scales, some 60% and some 90%.


This Hobbit Hole was open and decorated just one meter into the opening.  The interior sets for Bilbo Baggins home were constructed in a studio in Wellington.


The Hobbits, of course, live deep within Middle Earth with their rooms tunneling into the hills.  But they like sunshine, so occasionally windows pop up in the hillsides, along with chimneys, leaving one to only imagine how their rooms are arranged inside.   Indeed,they love their flowers and pottery decorations!

And finally we arrived at Bilbo’s home. . .


I’m thinking of having this enlarged for our front door!


At Bilbo’s mailbox, wondering what could be inside!!

Then it was on to the Green Dragon.



Hobbits, of course, are always hospitable, and our guide Courtney carried on their tradition by offering us drinks, both non-alcoholic or otherwise.


Don took full advantage of Hobbit hospitality. (Alternative truth or fact?)


The now beautiful but once fierce Green Dragon adorns the bar.

After visits to the many Hobbit holes, the Green Dragon, the festival grounds, the artificial tree with its 20,000 specially wired-on leaves, the gardens of flowers, fruit, and vegetables, it was time to board our Hobbit bus for a ride back to the visitor’s center.  (This is the first time I’ve inserted a slide show so am hoping it works!)

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Our driver, Pip, finally helped me gain a true sense of identity when she described a Hobbit as one who has a round face, short stature, and wide hips.



Glow Little Glowworms!


A short blog about tiny critters . . .glowworms.  We visited Waitomo caves, world famous for its population of Arachnocampa luminosa, a glowworm species found exclusively in New Zealand. Since no photography is allowed I did the next best thing: I took photos of postcards!


The caves themselves are limestone with the usual stalagmites, stalagtites, and columns.  But the silent boat ride observing millions of glowworms. . .magical.

Con te partiro’


Or. . .Time to say goodbye. . .to Mike and Marty.



Those 6 days flew by, and now we were headed north and they were headed south.

But wait, our cute hotel busboy Shawn asked if we had been to Tawhai falls, which was on our way out of town.  Marty’s radar went up, and we followed them to the falls for one last jaunt.


It was the first time we thought the sign with time and distance posted was actually accurate.  And what a fine finish it was to our time and adventures together!

img_0866What a beautiful, short walk and so typical of New Zealand, “Oh, just another waterfall of rushing glacial water, with rocks for climbing, a beautiful path, and a well-built  overlook.  Oh. . .and listen to those birds chirping and calling to each other.  Ho-hum. . .”



Then it was time to split. . .us going north to Waitomo Caves, the Coromandel Peninsula, and Auckland, them going south to Wellington and the South Island. . .and then Australia, Tasmania, and Fiji.

But before I end this blog, just a word and a few pics of our digs for the past few days.  We stayed at Chateau Tongariro, built in 1929 in the national forest.  She’s a grand dame, reminiscent of gentler times, and she wears a fine patina of many travelers enjoying her hospitality.



We had our own little “lobby” outside our room where we enjoyed a cocktail party with that mysterious bottle of bubbly that showed up in our room celebrating our “recent wedding”!


The lobby exuded elegant charm of a bygone era of afternoon teas and gentle living.



Ah, Tongariro we will miss you. . .your walks, your elegance, your magnificent scenery.  We’re grateful that we got to know you!




The Dows Document


To all friends and family of Michael and Martha Dows. . .1) They are fine even though you haven’t heard from them since they’ve been in New Zealand. 2) Their system of camera, camera card, off-name computer I’ve never heard of is giving them major agita, sucking up their time, and not allowing them to send photos.  3) I have been designated as official photographer and blog writer which they will plagiarize! (Alternative fact)

So. . .to catch all of you up, I will report and photo-document the past few days with them, featuring their inimitable wry and happy smiles.


Riding two chair lifts up to 6,000 feet on Mt. Ruapehu.  .or as Marty says,”Ru in the beginning, then APE,then HU at the end. “. Always the teacher, that one!



As Marty edged dangerously close to the edge of the ledge at Meads Wall, Mike declared, “You’re going to give me a heart attack!” He obligingly wedged himself into a crevice and proceeded to photograph her. . .close to the edge. What a guy!


“MIKE, did you put on your sunscreen?”  “Mike,how come I always have to carry the backpack?”  “Mike,did you hear me or you just going to lay there getting skin cancer?”


 I always follow the Dows’. . . Just shut up and follow!  (Alternative fact)


“What the heck, I thought I was getting AWAy from snow this winter!”


Mike’s rigid poles came in very handy while hiking to Silica Rapids.  But boys being boys, they had to show off the length and strength of said poles.  (Alternative fact!)


“Linda, put your chin up,” says Mike.  “Didn’t you ever grow?”


“My hair looks like a curtain,” says Marty.


If it’s ice cream, it’s got M&M written all over it.  How was that Hokey Pokey, Mike?


“Hey, that’s the one I caught!!”  (Alternative fact)


Happy spouses! (Alternative fact.. . .BIGLY!)


OMG. . .it’s our last morning together.  We’re we REALLY together for 6 days?!


But, OMG, if theres one last hike to do, count M&M IN!!


“Marty, you’re going to give us all heart attacks!” (True fact ala MD, husband)


OK, OK. . .let’s get one final, CALM shot before we go south and you guys go north.

So, to recap:  Matt and Andy, get your parents to simplify their travel  life and buy some Apple products so they can keep in touch with you.  I’ve cut them loose, they are without a personal photographer and documenter of their BIG(ly) adventures, and they are on the verge of committing plagiarism with wheresweinberger blogs.  Keep them safe and keep them sane!

I’ve known these people far too long (60 years) to see them crash and burn over emails and photos!!


Love you guys!  See you somewhere on the planet. . .maybe even Pennsylvania!!



Snow on the Mountain



See this volcano (or as Marty  calls it, a “tornado”).  Here’s what it looks like up close and personal:


Today we rode the chair lift to reach the 6,000 feet mark of the 9,000 foot summit.  Fabulous!


Sans snow, the landscape looked like a moonscape and we marveled that this place could actually be a ski resort.  We learned that they open with 2  meters of snow and add from there as nature or snow machines deem fit.


Venturing out on to the remaining snow fields was simply magical.  I felt as if I was holding a handful of diamonds!


Cold?  yes.  Sunny?  Yes.  Sunscreen? Yes.  Just total fun. We sat and soaked it all up. And there were a few snowballs, too!

When we’d had our fill of sun and snow, not to mention watching families take a zillion photos, play in the snow, and tromp through the streams, we got back on the chair lifts for the ride down.  Oh, almost forgot. . .at the top of the mountain where we were is the highest cafe in New Zealand. . .all quite modern and inviting.

Now if we had been Lord of the Rings fans we would have known all about this:

On the Whakapapa side of Mt Ruapehu are some more Mordor locations. Iwikau Village and the sharp volcanic rock, cliffs and ash behind Aorangi Lodge was the location of Emyn Muil.
The Whakapapa ski area is also where Isildur cuts off Sauron’s finger in the opening scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring, as well as the scene where the armies of Mordor leave Minas Morgul on the Orc Road.

But never mind, we still walked to Meads Wall, an easy 10-minute climb.


But the real thrill was on the other side of the wall, where there was a HUGE, DEEP valley and an amazing view of the dark side!


Mike wedged himself into a cavern, much like a Hobbit, to take this photo.  I can honestly tell you the ledge where I was standing was no more than 18 inches wide and there was NO guard rail!


We felt as if we’d had a great adventure, and indeed we had.  It’s amazing to experience an active volcano up close with its alpine fauna (photographed by Don), whipping winds (as evidence by random hair dos), snow, waterfalls, and lava rock.

New Zealand, you are one AMAZING place!