A ramble in New Zealand

An easy flight, and now 3 weeks in New Zealand.  The trip, as always, is a mix of memory (I spent a year here when I was 13), family stories (my mother was a New Zealander), wilderness wandering and getting to know how old New Zealand

Old New Zealand

Old New Zealand

has changed into new New Zealand.

New New Zealand

New New Zealand

Jerry and I are visiting my cousin Jocelyn and her husband Albert.

Albert and Jocelyn

Albert and Jocelyn

Our mothers were sisters.  They looked alike, both had thick black hair and widow’s peaks, but they were unlike in many ways.  They started school at St Hilda’s girls school in Dunedin, South Island.  Jocelyn’s mother, Freda, was 4 years older and finished school at St Hilda’s.   My mother, Marion, went to a state school, Southland Girls High, for high school.  Both Freda and my mother agreed that they learned nothing at St. Hilda’s except table manners.  Marion believed that she was lucky because she got a good education at Southland Girls High.

Marion was restless and curious, tended to worry and feel insecure.  Freda was calm and self assured.  Freda took a secretarial course, went to work in Auckland, and soon married an eligible bachelor.  She settled down to live a comfortable conventional life in New Zealand.  Marion left New Zealand as soon as she finished the University of Otago to go to graduate school in England where she married my father, an impractical intellectual.

Jocelyn and I are different too.  She has spent a quiet life in New Zealand.   She married Paul and had 3 children.  A few years after Paul died she married Albert.  My life has been a voyage, sometimes through rough waters, sometimes with smooth sailing.  Despite our differences Joc and I have some inner affinity.  She has a core of pure goodness.  She loves people.  The basic interest of her life is her family and her friends; she loves the beauty of her country and wherever she travels she takes a lively interest in her surroundings.  She is cheerful, efficient and sociable.

Jocelyn’s politics are conservative, she is quietly religious and goes to church regularly.  Albert is conservative and religious as well and has strong opinions on many subjects.  Religion and politics are two subjects that Jerry and I avoid discussing when we are with them.  Joc and Albert are endlessly generous with time and effort to entertain us.  Last week they drove us down to New Plymouth for four days where we were able to indulge our liking for long walks.  Joc and Albert are not walkers but they waited for hours in coffee shops or in their car while we scrambled around on many of the walking tracks around Mt. Taranaki

Mt. Taranaki

Mt. Taranaki

The start of a walking track on Mt. Taranaki

The start of a walking track on Mt. Taranaki

(formerly Mt. Egmont and the site of a lot of Lord of the Rings action.)  We did a little walking together on the city walkway that goes along the waterfront in New Plymouth for about 10 kilometers.

New Plymouth promenade

New Plymouth promenade

New Zealand is full of fine places to walk, in both the city and the wilderness.  New Zealanders maintain their fitness by a fanatical interest and participation in all sports and by utilizing these beautiful outdoor parks and camping places.

along the promenade

along the promenade

Before New Plymouth the 4 of us had driven up to Whangerei in the north of the North Island where Joc and I have an aunt, our mothers’ younger sister Pat.

Pat with cat

Pat with cat

Pat lives in a retirement village.  She has significant problems with memory but in other ways is still a sharp thinker.  At the age of 91 she has found a boyfriend, Tom.  In our comfortable motel (2 bedrooms and sitting-dining-kitchen) I cooked a roast pork dinner for us all, including Tom, who turned out to be a lively and interesting guest.

In Whangerei Jerry and I walked a strenuous track up a high ridge and a more gentle one that winds along a river.

Mountain track in Whangerei

Mountain track in Whangerei

Along the river

Along the river

As a change and contrast Jerry and I set out on our own for a few days.  First we went inland, to the Pohangina Valley.  Because Jerry and I are both nervous about driving in New Zealand (on the wrong side of the road,) we traveled there by bus.  We were met in Palmerston North by Pohangina Pete, a blogger I have been looking forward to meeting.

Blogger Pete

Blogger Pete

We stayed in a place he recommended, far out in the country.  It is a lovely spot, at the end of a long winding gravel road in high hills.  It is surrounded by well kept gardens and wilder places, next to some well maintained trails that go up the mountains of the Ruahine Forest Park.  There we had a pleasant cabin with eccentric décor — the ceiling of the sitting area was hung with dried and artificial flowers –and there was a view, over green, sheep studded hills, of the valley.

Songbird Gardens

Songbird Gardens

Flower hung ceiling

Flower hung ceiling

Overlooking the valley

Overlooking the valley

Sheep on the hills

Sheep on the hills

The way to the bathroom and toilet was outside.  We didn’t get a chance to hike the trails because it rained, but Pete kindly took us on a tour of the valley he loves.

Pete and I talked and talked.  Since our politics match I enjoyed the opportunity to express my opinions freely.  He is an ecologist and expert in the environmental issues that face New Zealand.  We passed by a huge wind farm and talked about the pros and cons of wind farms.  We talked about blogging.  Pete said he tries to avoid writing about himself; he likes to write about ideas.  I have been thinking this over.  I have nothing against ideas, but I think that, like poetry, there are a lot of mediocre ideas circulating on the internet.  Ideas work better when lightly seasoned with detail and example, best taken from personal knowledge.  So I choose the personal in blogs.  The only thing I am really expert on is my own experience.  That is what I believe I can speak about with confidence.

Next we took the bus to Paremata, a suburb of Wellington.  Here we  visited an old friend, Hugh, the son of my mother’s best college chum and life-long friend Twinx (Anne). That’s where I got my name.  We called on Hugh’s sister, Jan, at her house perched on the side of an almost vertical hill with vast views of the surrounding towns, hills and bays.  Jan found some pictures of her and me when we were teenagers.  She is recovering from a broken femur; she looked pretty but frail.

It was still raining in the morning, but as we began our drive into Wellington the sun suddenly came out and we decided on our original plan to take a ferry to Somes Island (with Hugh as our guide) in the middle of Wellington Harbor.

Jerry, me and Hugh

Jerry, me and Hugh

Somes Island has been used in the past as a place of quarantine, sometimes for people, sometimes for animals.  It is not now used for either, but is a pretty wildlife refuge with the ever welcome well maintained walking trails.  High on a hill on the island is a sad little memorial to people who died there while being quarantined.  There were babies and others who died during the influenza epidemic of 1918, some Italian war prisoners who died while being interned, and one unfortunate man, thought to have leprosy, who died after a year of quarantine on the island.  There were seagulls nesting on the craggy rocks,

Seagull in flight

Seagull in flight

sailboat races in the harbor,

View from Somes Island

View from Somes Island

sheep grazing on the hills and aggressive Canada geese with goslings walking the trails.

Goslings on the run

Goslings on the run

Later we had a drink outdoors along the waterfront in Wellington, my favorite city in New Zealand.  The waterfront has been developed as a city playground, with skateboarders, cyclists, roller skaters, sculptures to climb on, eateries and pubs.

The view from our cafe

The view from our cafe

These are the streets I walked along coming home from school when I was 13 — how they have changed.

I lived on the hill above the monestary as a child

I lived on the hill above the monestary as a child

Next we took a bus to Napier.  The bus driver (who had a Russian accent and a scowl) was determined to keep to his schedule, and he commended his passengers to be quick with their luggage and punctual with their rest stops like the captain of a brigade.  The route passed through a deep river gorge, with the road hugging the side of the gorge hundreds of feet above the swift river.  There was a white van in front of the bus which was not moving as fast as the bus driver desired, and he tail-gated it mercilessly until it pulled off at an overlook to let him pass.  We got to Napier right on time.

In Napier we had the biggest adventure of the trip.  We took a “safari” to see the gannets of Kidnapper’s Point.  That’s an after Christmas post; in the meantime, a happy Christmas (as they say here) to all!

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25 Responses to A ramble in New Zealand

  1. Brighid says:

    So good to hear you are having a fine time, and your travel log is super. Merry Christmas!

  2. Kay Dennison says:

    What a lovely time you’re having!!!!!
    I love the photos!!!!!

    Merry Christmas!!!!

  3. Tabor says:

    I remember taking a tour of New Zealand a long time ago before I had children. It was a lovely romantic time since we were living out on a Pacific Island at that time. I wonder why environmentalists are often liberals?

  4. pauline says:

    I’m glad you opt for the more personal blogging approach :) Sounds like a most enjoyable trip. Thanks for taking us along! Happy Christmas to you as well.

  5. Hattie says:

    How wonderful it all looks in your pictures: clean, open, well kept.
    You look great, too. Hard to believe you are the age you say you are.

  6. rosie says:

    It is like revisiting there myself, how nice to travel without leaving my comfy armchair

  7. Rain says:

    Merry Christmas. I am an ‘idea’ blogger but it’s about the ideas that interest me, that I am working through for my own life or thinking, and personal in that it’s my take on them. I don’t write a lot about my life as in journal type writing but enjoy some who do like you. I think we write what comes naturally to us and those who find us like it or don’t come back

  8. Gaea Yudron says:

    I really enjoyed the pastoral scenes from New Zealand. It was relaxing to see them. And I liked reading about your journey and the people you visited with. Thank you, and happy holidays to you.

  9. dale says:

    Happy Christmas, Anne!

  10. Deborah says:

    New Zealand has always been on my list of must-see places, Anne, but this post made it shoot to the top. You’re made a wonderful travelogue, with lots of interesting bits about people and places.
    Enjoy the rest of your stay, and a Merry Christmas to you wherever you happen to be.

    PS I completely agree with what you had to say about blogging from a personal point of view, and the preponderance of unthought-out ideas on the net.

  11. Loved this post and all the photos. I SO want to go to New Zealand!

  12. Once more your travelogue pleases and informs. New Zealand seems such a mysterious, unknown place; does it seem less 21st century than the U.S. Or is that my projection as an urban American?

    Thanks again for the journey and your thoughtful reflections on how you relate to family–and blogging.

  13. Dick says:

    As Naomi says – pleasing and informing, Anne.

    Happy Christmas to you both and to all family and friends present. And a healthy and fulfilling New Year.

  14. m.e. says:

    Merry Christmas to New Zealand and its inhabitants!! Happy New Year, too!!

  15. This is precisely one of the reasons why I blog. Otherwise, how else to live (new) New Zealand through your eyes?

    I loved how wise you addressed the dilemma of discussing politics and religion in polite company. The same happens to me.

    Many thanks for this visual feast, especially as I’ve had a cold for the last few days.

    Merry Christmas (belatedly) and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Greetings from London.

  16. wisewebwoman says:

    I’m with you on the type of blogging, an expounding of ideas without personal reflection is rather pointless I’d rather hear how you got to that viewpoint than have a lecture.
    wonderful tour of NZ, Anne, can hardly wait to hear about the gannets as we have one of the world’s largest colonies here in Newfoundland.
    I love your pics and how you don’t expound to others about your personal beliefs, I bite my tongue a lot too. Our parents brought us up well!!!
    Happies and merries of the season to you my friend.
    XO
    WWW

  17. Glorious photos. I know you and Jerry must be having a wonderful time.

  18. Wonderful post, Anne. I always enjoy your travel adventures. Your writing makes me feel I’m there with you.

    Looking forward to your after-Christmas post. Wishing you and Jerry a happy new year.

  19. Mage B says:

    So glad you made time to write again. I’ve missed you. I hope Jerry’s headaches have vanished and you both enjoyed the trip you show so splendidly. Happy new year to you.

  20. Lucy says:

    I know Whangerai! My sister who we lost in the past year lived near there in Waipu, her family still do of course. Her business was in Whangerai and we spent some lovely days there when we visited, in the towen and exploring the Heads. It’s such a beautiful country.

    ‘The only thing I am really expert on is my own experience. That is what I believe I can speak about with confidence.’ I feel that way too, though I like good ‘ideas’ blogs too, and photo blogs and poetry, and humorous ones too, and those which are a mix of all these things. I think if they’re a good read and well-presented, and one takes to the blogger, that’s what matters. The beauty of it is its variety, I think, and that people aren’t necessarily tied to a genre or style if they don’t want to be, but do what’s comfortable for them.

    Anyway, I came to wish a very happy New Year to you and yours.

  21. Friko says:

    Blimey, (as they say in the UK), you don’t half pack it in!

    I love it that one can be on friendly terms with people with whom one doesn’t necessarily share a philosophical outlook or whose everyday interests are different. It is the open mindedness and acceptance of all-comers (within reason, natch) which gives people like you the advantage over those with a limited mindset.

    I also write about personal stuff, sometimes just raving and ranting about pet hates – still personal though -, and having gone into my own personal history has helped me dig up a lot of buried treasure, which I hope my kids might one day appreciate.

  22. Freda says:

    What a wonderful travelogue and mix of places and people. I love the photo of Jerry, you and Hugh. (You look so alive and vibrant!) I’m like you, for me blogging is a mix of the personal with some ideas and thoughts for discussion. I enjoy looking at photos and hearing about far-flung places. I can’t travel all that far so plane trips abroad are not really possible just now, but I do enjoy seeing other people’s journeys. Hope you have a very special time. Every Blessing

  23. Sir Hugh says:

    Greetings from the UK and a fellow walker. I know New Zealand is a walker’s paradise and your post and photos confirm this. Did you stay there for Christmas, and have you other travelling plans? I will keep watching.

  24. Marja-Leena says:

    Happy New Year, Anne! I did read this last year in too much of a rush to comment, so I’m back to add my nods to everyone’s words here. Our best friends are New Zealanders so we know a bit about that wonderful country though we haven’t yet made it there since all our relatives are on the other side of the globe in Europe. Glad you’ve had a wonderful time as always on your adventures

  25. There are so many points at which our experiences overlap with yours in NZ where we spent three progressively longer holidays. But then this isn’t so surprising. Since on each occasion we hired a car and toured both north and south islands it was inevitable we would eventually run out of new roads to explore. And yes we learned to keep our mouth shut especially on the subject of religion; politics was another matter. Many of the farmstay owners had a very robust view of their own government and it was a pleasure to sit back and let them entertain us by slamming conservative attitudes as well as what they regarded as hopelessly over-sensitive attitudes towards Maoris and to the environment.

    In one sense NZ was summarised by a sign, professionally made and carefully erected, just outside Whataroa (South Island, west coast) where the sawmill had recently closed: Bugger Labour, it said. But in another sense the other side of NZ people cropped up in a rambunctious discussion about the cutting down of a tree, thought to be sacred by the Maoris, on some hillside somewhere. “I suppose you could say there’s not too much wrong with NZ if that’s the subject of our biggest recent argument,” said our host.

    We too visited Dunedin, experiencing the reverse of the north-south temperature tendency in the UK. It was bitterly cold and we were unsuitably dressed. To escape the weather I entered a government building called National Archive and simply asked a man at a desk what was the Archive’s function. He was clearly irritated by my presumption but he told me in a clipped, rather English way.

    Our bedroom in the New Plymouth farmstay had a direct view of Mt Taranaki/Egmont. You talk about things that are evocative but there is nothing more so than: “It was still raining in the morning…”

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