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September 13th, 2010

New Zealand--Karikari

To no one's surprise, we didn't get out of Waipoua Lodge until 11:30 this morning.  It was hard to leave.  The sun was shining, the birds were singing, chickens were pecking at the fallen blossoms under the magnolia tree, and there were fresh, perfect poached eggs for breakfast and sauteed mushrooms with thyme.  If you ask me, it's easy to turn out fancy dishes from a fancy professional kitchen with sous-chefs doing all the chopping and prep  It's quite another thing when you've got a four-burner stove (a very good one, but still) in a nice, but perfectly ordinary home kitchen, have to drive 2 hours to buy your raw materials, and are doing everything, from chopping onions to whipping the cream and picking the thyme, yourself.

And perfect poached eggs are difficult.

So I have a lot of time for Gordon and Elisabeth of Waipoua Lodge, and if you're ever up that way, it's worth pushing out the boat to experience the peace and the luxury.

Anyway.  We got on the road at last, drove through the forest again, and before long, were in countryside so different it might as well have been in a different country.  A flat river valley, kind of scrubbish, kind of brownish, thickly scattered with cows, ringed by forested mountains.  We turned off, as Elisabeth had directed us, to drive to Rawene, where we intended to stop at The Boat Shed for lunch, negotiating 6 km of windy, windey roads to an inlet where one could catch the ferry to Kohukohu and the road north, if one had a mind.  We did not, and were somewhat disappointed to discover that the restaurant was closed "for seasonal repair" until the end of next week.  A nice lady at the council house (the only place in town that was open) told us that the owner of the restaurant took a month in Europe every winter, when it was cold and dark and wet in New Zealand, which struck us as fair enough.  We broke out our cheese, our chutney, and our loaf of bread, and had a picnic in front of the council house before turning around and heading back for the eastern road.

More scenery, more twisty roads, more pointy hills and tree ferns and yellow gorse-like plants.  Also some scrubby trees dotted with cardinal-red flowers which I can't find anybody to tell me what they are.  Not that I'd remember the name more than 5 seconds unless I wrote it down.  It just bugs me that I don't know.  Go figure.

As we drove, we discussed where we would go, and decided on Kerikeri.  Ellen had picked up a flyer at the Kauri Museum for a place called Rewa's Village--a reconstructed pre-European Maori village next to a river and a Mangrove swamp, with a small museum and historical botanical garden attached--the kind of thing, in fact, that has our names all over it.

After seeing it, I gotta say, Rewa's Village is not worth going half-way around the world for, but we're glad we went.  The lady who took our $10 was a complete doll--a very old lady in a cardie who told us all about her great-great-grandson (called Chase) and wore her great grandmother's wedding ring (nobody else wanted it) and was waggish about leaving our husbands (she noticed our wedding rings, and we let her tell us what they meant) behind to get up to mischief while we were off gallivanting.  The village itself was not like anything I've ever seen, from its low, low houses made of bark and dried grass and the place the villagers left food for the rats so they wouldn't eat the sweet potatoes to the two ancient waka (fishing canoes) that had been dredged out of the swamp.  I found the botanical garden a little confusing, but I do think I know what a tea tree is now, and what New Zealand flax looks like.  And there's a baby kauri, which looks thriving and well-established, and still has branches growing all the way up the trunk.  Long may it grow, say I.

When we'd said good-bye to the old lady, we wandered across a bridge to The Stone Shop, which is the oldest stone building in New Zealand and one of the oldest shops.  There, settlers could buy penny nails, straw hats, pen nibs, clay pipes, hoes, candies, flour sacks, china candlesticks, candles, and honey.  And tourists still can.  The nails are from Massachusetts, the straw hats are repros, the nibs are steel, the farming tools are absolutely functional.  And the shop ladies are dressed in floor-length calico and flour-sack aprons and caps, and the whole thing is delightful.  We didn't buy anything (even I balk at trying to pack at full-sized spade, however well-made), and were soon back on the road again, headed for Paihia.

Now we're ensconced at yet another Lodge (Tarlton's)--perched half-way up a very steep hill right above the Bay of Islands.  It is as aggressively modern as Waipoua Lodge was laid-back traditional, all beige and black lacquer, with touches of red, and a sarcophagus of a bathtub beside a glass wall with a spectacular view of water and islands and sky.  We sat on our balcony and ate a smoked salmon we'd been saving up and the end of the bottle of wine we'd started at Waipoua and watched the sun go down.  When it got cold and dark, we retired inside, heated up some soup we'd been carrying for days, and called it dinner.  And now there will be a bath, with some salts we bought in some gift shop along the way, and an early night.  Because tomorrow we're rising with the sun to go on a dolphin cruise!

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