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september 17, 2000
This past weekend was an excursion to some beautiful country north of Auckland, with more fine Kiwi hospitality offered to this American visitor. The destination was near the beach town of Orewa, where James, a friend of a friend lives. (James was best man at a Tucson wedding of Paul, who I knew at grad school at Arizona State University).

The journey began with a bus ride from the UNITEC campus. Now a few words about the Auckland bus system... well, there are buses that in theory can take you many places. The numbering and route designation makes no sense to a visitor, most bus stops lack a posted schedule, and even when you pick up a bus schedule, it has no route map. So it is more or less an adventure, but not terribly impossible.

photo here For the buses, it is convenient to have some of those pockets full of pants-dragging coins- these Kiwi 50 cent pieces are large enough to use as a spare tire and must weight a pound each.

Well, except the bus I was expecting at 3:45 arrived at 4:15, and got me downtown with about 7 minutes margin for my next connection. This bus took me north, across the Harbor bridge, and then onto some suburban stretches before my destination of Albany Village. The drop off point was conveniently located outside a Tatoo parlor, but I used up all of my change on the bus ride.

But James arrived before I could pick out a design and whisked me out to his place. North of Auckland is a newly constructed "motorway" (freeway) that takes you quickly out to the green, rolling, rural countryside. We passed the turn off for Whangaporao, where last weekend I was for the boat trip to Tiritiri Matangi.

today's photos
- all photos   o o o o

o o Orewa

Orewa is a beach town on a stretch of white sand, nestled between some low forested headlands. Like most of the beach towns here, it is relaxed and devoid of any crass commercialism. photo here James' house is farther north, and I was curious as we drove off the highway up a steep gravel drive through the woods. We drove, and drove, and some 1/4 mile later we had reached then end of his driveway! His house is in the lush forest of some 60 acres, above its own beach. The views across the bay to Orewa are spectacular. I was also introduced to a 20 year-old house cat named EPROM.

That night we watched the entire opening ceremony to the Sydney Olympics, from the lower "cottage"-- actually the original 1930's era homestead for the property. If you were among the 3 billion television audience, you know what a glorious spectacle this was. If you were among the 110,000 in attendance, then you know even better than me about it. I cannot even imagine planning such a production.

On Saturday morning (well more like noon, since we slept late after staying up until 1:00 Am for the Olympics), James took me on walking tour of the property. Now, if you were to walk around my yard, it could take 10 or 15 minutes if you dawdled to look at the plants. We photo here walked for an hour! to cliff top views of the ocean and islands, down through dense bush growth, across wet logs, and down to the beach view. Just a few days ago a shark had washed up here, but it was not around any more- otherwise there would definitely have been photos of that here!

In the afternoon, we drove north about an hour or two to the beach town of Waipu, or Waipu Cove to be proper. The countryside in between is more slinking up, across, and over incredibly green land, mixtures of forests and sheep/cattle farms, and very small communities.

photo here The beach at Waipu is some 10km (7 miles) of un-interrupted white sand. No condos, no boardwalk, no tacky stands, just sand. It is one of the highly regarded surf beaches, though we arrived at low tide. Of course, I had no intentions of surfing ;-) The beach is framed by dark jutting headlands to the north and south, and out in the near distance are rocky outcrops of Hen and Chicken Islands as well as the small pinnacle of Sail Rock (it looks like a sail, duh).

photo here I did get some time to poke around on the ground and look for sea shells. (This has not changed since I was a kid at Ocean City). The shells here had large assortments of oysters, clams, and especially the scallop-shaped clams shells, snail, conch, and other twisty types.

photo here On Sunday, we took a walk on the beach at Wenderholm Park, not far north of Orewa, just past the hot springs in the town of Wairea. Wenderholm is a short stretch of beach framed by (repeating...) lush forested headlands. The beach swings around hiding the mouth of a river, forming an estuary behind the park, an ideal spot for fishing. The park itself has pretty grounds with an impressive cover of Pohutukawa trees, the mature kind that form a high dense crown while remaining open at the base.

Our driving tour took us through the tiny community of Puhoi, where we enjoyed a coffee stop at a cafe located at a cheese factory. Then we made a long lazy circle through country roads and actually coming out on Kaipara Bay on the west coast. This part of the North Island is just never that far from any body of water!

When we returned to James' house in the afternoon, we shifted from tourist mode to work, well sort of. We spent some time attaching a bumper bar to their 1963 vintage tractor (said a gift for James' mother, who claimed it was "the best present she ever received"). And then there was helping out with the "weeding" of their front land. Now this is not yanking out dandelions- the weeds here are the non-native pines introduced by early settlers, trees that crowd out the native bush.

So the weeding tool is a yellow hunk of construction equipment perched on tank like treads, known as the "digger". James manuevered between the good trees (native kowhai and kauri) to knock over a weed- an 80-100 foot pine. The front pinchers of the digger are used to push and pull the tree out and knock it over. The front end is then used to break the tree into a few pieces, which are carried to a pile for later burning.

Well then I was offered the chance to drive! photo here With careful guidance from James, I managed to use the weird arrangement of levers to get over to the fallen tree chunks, grab them with the front hook, and carry they back to the debris pile. Needless to say, this was quite a fun toy to play with! I do not think I could use such a garden tool for our yard at home.

Come Monday, James dropped my off at Albany Village, and I was on my way via bus to Auckland. Once again, only in the second week of this New Zealand trip, treated to incredible, gracious, generous hospitality. And I got to drive a construction truck!

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