Lots to catch up on here! We have travelled, hiked, made new friends, Adrian has started taking call, the girls have started school and I am back in the gym!
So the travel - We spent a great weekend in Havelock North where we stayed on a working apple farm in the orchard in a two bedroom cottage. The photo is the girls sitting on our back deck watching two free range chickens. They had
quite an interest in Abigail who normally has no fear but does not apparently like to be checked out by two chickens. The screams were unlike any I had ever heard! There was a great front porch on our cabin - an olive tree, grape vines growing for privacy and a bird nest with two babies! The mama bird had no problem bringing the babies food while we sat on the porch so we got to know the bird family quite well. The babies were flapping their wings and pushing boundaries preparing to leave home. Adrian and I both encouraged them to stay in the comfort of their nest as the world is big and scary sometimes... Kids never listen... We went to bed with them in the nest and the next morning they were gone! We hope they are safe and happy little birds enjoying their freedom.
It was so pretty there and we had nice weather - which in Palmerston North is really not so common. Apparently in the Havelock North/Hawkes Bay area it is a lot more common. We may have to go more often if this cold and rainy business does not clear up! This is not like any summer I have ever seen, but I digress...
So Hawke's Bay and the surrounding areas are nice - wineries, beaches, parks, good food - all of which we tried. We went to an olivery - a first for all of us - very interesting. Telegraph Hill is the name if you want to check it out on the web - http://www.telegraphhill.co.nz/
We also went on a trailer ride, pulled by a big-wheeled tractoron the beach below Cape Kidnapper's Golf Course. Our mission was to see the world's largest gannett colony - a gannett is a bird that was very interesting to hear about. They are born and raised by parents who mate for life - unless one is late coming home - and when they are in their teen years they take off for Australia where they stay for about three years. They tire of that and home they come. Back to the place of their birth where they hang around the fringes until they choose their mate and then the cycle begins again. We came to the end of the tractor ride at the very tip of the cape and then hiked up a very steep hill - seemed like a mountain! - to the actual colony. There were hundreds of birds! We stayed for a bit and then hiked back down to have a picnic and play in the surf. Back on the tractors and headed back to the car park. The whole trip took about 4 1/2 hours. Well worth it.
The cliffs have obvious fault lines - some had shifted as much as 9 meters (29.5 feet). We learned that this is a very young country - geologically speaking. But enough of that - if you want more info of this sort, look it up! Just kidding - call Adrian!
We went to a winery where we had a tasting, made some purchases and had a bite to eat. There were lots of recommended wineries but with kids in tow it did not seem right to drag them from one vat to the next and as neither is old enough to drive we opted for the water park instead. We spent the day floating on the lazy river, riding in the bumper boats and took a train around the park - they had some giant water slides but we were not brave enough. It was a fun day and we all slept well that night.
We played golf - my first time in over 10 years - thankfully we were alone on the course. Adrian was very patient and encouraging. I hit the big ball under the little ball only a couple of times and I remember how much I enjoyed the game. I hit a few good shots and look forward to playing more! I will never be as good as Adrian or Timi but I look cute in my new golf shoes that match my bag holding all my pretty new clubs especially my favorite hot pink hybrid club...
An avid hiker with whom Adrian works gave us directions to a place to hike. It was about an hour and half drive and at the end of a really long gravel road. Along the way there were fields of sheep, red stag deer, cattle, sheep, creeks, sheep, rivers, sheep... There really are A LOT of sheep here! Colin's jokes are warranted.
So we arrived at the beginning of this trail and were not disappointed. The trail was at times hard to see and other times under water but it was gorgeous. We ended on the shore of the river among the river rocks and then hiked back to the car park (parking lot for you Americans!). Did I mention that there was a metal swing/suspension/foot bridge - it was swinging way over the river - and it was small and it was high and I was super nervous! The kids and Adrian went right over, no problem. I had to go but I was not happy about it. We all crossed safely both times but my palms sure were sweaty - heights and bridges are NOT my thing.
We stopped on the way back at a Model Railway Museum and cheese shoppe. The proprietors with whom we chatted were retired and made a modest living having guests view his lifelong collection of model trains and enjoy her homemade cheese. It was quite a collection of trains and delicious cheese. We were able to pat (and be licked by) the cow who produced the milk from which our cheese was made. We were making memories as my mother would say...
On Sunday we wanted to hike, "tramp" as the NZ'ers say, close to home so we found a spot and off we went. We thought we had arrived and so headed in at the sign for the scenic route - up the mountain we went, winding and winding - remember that Abigail suffers from motion sickness - until we topped the mountain and amazingly the wind farm was there - Te Apiti Wind farm - The windmills are huge! There was a gate so out I hopped to open and close the thing and I was not sure that I was not going to get blown away! The engineers were right on when they chose the top of that mountain. Roughly 4% of New Zealand's power is generated by wind mills. Their goal is to make that 20% in 20 years. There are a variety of sizes and a variety of designs but all are really cool to see. We knew they were big but really had no idea until we were at the base of them. Awesome!
So that gets us current - this week we had the first day of school! The girls enjoyed it! They start at 8:55 and are through at 3:00. We walk to school and they found their classes just fine. They have a snack (brain food as it is called) break around 10 and then morning tea around 11:30 and lunch at 1:00 Several things are strikingly different - everyone is on a first name basis - kids call teachers by their first names - teachers and students alike do not wear shoes, the kids do lots of work in groups. Both girls are in tech classes which means that they will be using computers to assist in their learning process. Should be a good thing I think.
One of the mothers enlisted my help in handing out the school hats - floppy hats that the kids must wear when they are outside. It was a fun way to get to see the kids and meet some other moms. I look forward to helping out from time to time there.
I am not sure how much time I will have to volunteer with the golf, the gym and planning the weekend trips. I am working on next weekend's agenda for another three day weekend at Lake Taupo. It is the largest lake in NZ and in a volcanic crater so has hot springs that we will check out. You will have all the latest upon our return.
Oh I almost forgot - I DID IT!!!
Drove down the wrong side of the road! Yes I did! I knew I would... but did it have to be a very busy road - Main Street - not kidding! with a median and pedestrians... Only me... at least we were none the worse for it except perhaps the children who may have learned some new and inappropriate words!
Bye for now...