Sunrise at Onemana
View from the reserve
D - After our amazing and extrordinary adventures, we were very happy to arrive at what I guess we can now call home. And if I'm honest, the adventures have only really just begun. Well for me at least. Abbie's done some of this stuff before, but a lot of it's new for me. And as so many of you have expressed an interest in hearing how we're settling in, and what living in NZ is like, I've decided to keep the blog going. Abbie's promised to contribute from time to time, but from now on it's mostly just the Grover. Christmas with the Family
Arriving a week before christmas was strange - we had avoided the worst of the build up, but, the freakiest part of this all (speaking from experience of many Northern Hemisphere Christmases) was the lack of bad weather. Temperatures hovered around the 18 - 22 C mark, and although this was meant to be the worst start to summer for 60 years, still very surreal for christmas.
D - Christmas Day started with a fry up, or more apt, a barby! However there was champagne to accompany the heaving mounds of hash
Green Lipped Mussels
They're huge and plentiful
browns, bacon and sausages. Presents were distributed efficiently and humourously by Ian in his cowboy hat, and then it was the time for lunch. Oysters, scallops & crayfish were provided by Eddie & Sharyn (who'd actually caught some of it), and somehow I took it upon myself to roast The Lamb. This was a quarter of a lamb - enough meat for 7 (just!), and, what with my rapid intake of Jack Daniels throughout the afternoon, I have little recollection as to whether it was a success. No one died of food poisoning, but I put that down to the amount of alcohol involved rather than my cheffing instincts.
A - Even I had trouble readjusting to the southern hemisphere Christmas. It just didn't feel Christmassy at all. There's definitely something about being able to snuggle up inside and eat till you burst that makes winter Christmasses great. What I do love about NZ Christmas though is that the Pohutukawa trees are all in bloom. These are huge gnarly beach trees and they have red blossoms that come out right around Christmas.
After Christmas we ended up spending the best part of three weeks either at the beach
A Kiwi Christmas
Check out the 'London' theme to the tree decorations
or at Pat & Ian's place in Ngatea, occasionally going on days out and hooking up with friends or going on lots of adventures. We even helped Pat & Ian move furniture so they could have carpet laid. Some of the more memorable follow below; New Year's
We celebrated new years eve down at the Viaduct on Auckland's trendy waterfront. This was, of course, preceded by cocktails at Camerons incredible bachelor pad. And to follow that on new years day, a trip to the west coast beach of Muriwai helped blow away any cobwebs and hangovers from the night before. De-Velveting Deer
Have you ever done it? Do you even know where velvet comes from? For those that don't know, Abbie's Dad (Ian) is a semi-retired large animal vet, and I've always joked that he might take me out to 'service' some cows as some kind of initiation. This has never happened, but seeing as how we were just knocking about the house and Ian had this job come up, I could think of no excuse not to go. Velvet comes from the antlers of the deer. These get sawn off. With a saw.
While the deer is conscious. This sounds bad, but the deer are locally anaesthetised and held in a mechanical trap while the velvet is 'harvested'. There is some blood, but it didn't feel right to happily photograph away while the farmers did their work. I was quite surprised at how compassionate they were and the care they provided for the animals. Mad as Cows
While we were unemployed and staying in the backblocks, one drunken evening Eddie & Sharyn jokingly suggested we spend the day 'on the trucks' with them. Well, not ones to pass up on an opportunity like that, we said yes - it also gave me a chance to overcome my fear of cows (look into their eyes, man).
D - So I went off with Eddie on the double trailer stock truck, picking up from 'the yard', and delivering the lovely, smelly young cows to the abbotoir in Hamilton. They looked so happy, getting off the back and climbing the 'rampway to heaven'... Then to Morrinsville, where a happy couple of hours were spent eating pies and burgers at the cattle market (why was I reminded of so many disco's previously visited?).
Rocks on the Beach
Along the fence line from Onemana
All well and good there, but a couple of big, angry bulls, saw even the most experienced farmers diving for safety.
Abbie joined Sharyn in her 'little' truck (a seven tonner, to those in the know), and proceeded to drive all over the Coromandel Peninsula doing lots of individual pick ups and drop off of mainly 'service' bulls (line up, ladies). Even though she took a tumble in the lime (and manure), Abbie loved getting amongst it.
A - I think I most impressed by how capable Sharyn was with the bulls and driving the truck. I'm a bit of an old school feminist so I always like to see women doing well in what are traditionally male roles. And Sharyn had lots of great stories. Suffice to say that it's taken some of the farmers quite a while to get used to have a young lady (with very good legs) pick up and drop off their stock! Thames Races
Coming halfway around the world and staying a twenty minute drive from the town of Thames seems a little odd considering how long we have lived in London, practically on the Thames. However, that's where
the similarities end. Thames is a lovely, ex-mining town, which has managed to retain it's character and charm, and is well worth a lunchtime stop off if you're ever in the area. Each year, it hosts the Thames races, an event for mostly two year old horses, and a great family day out. It's no Ascot, and you quickly realise this as you are directed to drive across the track and park your vehicle in the middle of the oval. No dressing up required here - simply fill up your ice box or chilly bin with your favourite tipple, and prepare to have fun, sticking pins in the form guide and betting on rank outsiders. The only sour memory from a great day out was seeing a horse that had clearly broken its leg being 'put down' (and not by lethal injection), and then dragged by tractor and left behind a tree in the outfield. Big Day Out
If you've ever been to the Reading or V festivals in the UK, you'll know what this is about. An annual event in Auckland, with some big international bands along with many local ones too, all thrown together across
6 stages. Bummed that they let 'kids in (under 18s, anyway), as you get treated like cattle (We should know), herded into pens to purchase booze. Anyway, we had a great day in the sunshine with Tim & Lynne, Norbert, and a few hours with Abbie's brother, Brooke. During the day we saw; The Streets, The Killers, Muse, Kasabian, Dimmer and The Violent Femmes. A full, fun and boozy day was had by all.
A - I'm a veteran of about five Big Day's Out before moving to the UK, and I distinctly remember saying to myself after the last one that I would never go to another one because they'd just got too crowded. But what did it for us in the end was hearing that Muse were playing. I've been very keen to see them live for ages (so much so that D bought me an epilepsy inducing DVD of them playing live as a Christmas present) but we never managed to see them in the UK.
A - And there was a moment when I was sitting in the drinking enclosure, behind bars to stop us from contaminating the under-agers, watching all the Paris Hilton
lookalikes, and thinking that there was no way I was going to enjoy this day. But somehow a few Lion Red's worked their magic, and I had a really excellent time. It was probably helped by the fact that we spent most of the day with Tim & Lynne who rocked hard. Tiri Tiri Matangi
For his birthday present last year (in May) Abbie had bought Ian a walking trip to Tiri Tiri Matangi island and a pedometer. Neither had been used, so after a bit of nagging, we managed to arrange a day out to visit the Tiri, which is a well known New Zealand wild-life santuary.
It was a 45 minute ride across the Waitemata harbour and Hauraki Gulf on a lovely sunny day. On the island we did a walking tour through native bush, all of which was only planted 15 - 20 years ago. Tiri had previously been a farm and almost devoid of trees. On our walk we were lucky enough to see loads of native birds, some of which are very rare. The high-light was probably the Takahe, a sort dog sized, land based, parrot. But we also saw Saddlebacks,
Cam & Courts, Muriwai Beach
Great place to blow away a hangover
Kereru (native pigeon), Hihi (Stich birds), Tui, Fantails and loads of others. The island was alive with bird song, and it made us realise how little bird-life there is in the non-wildlife sanctuary bush in NZ. Wentworth Valley
While we were staying at Onemana we did various visits and walks. We mooched around at Opoutere and walked along the fenceline from Onemana to a beach that has no direct road access and no name as far as we know.
We also met up with Scott & Becky to do a walk up the Wentworth Valley to look at the huge waterfall there. It was a decent walk with lots of river crossings, and a fabulous view from the top of the waterfall out of bush. Too high to jump down from though!! The best bit was the icecreams at the end. Scott is something of an icecream connoisseur so made sure we were eating the best... Mum, Dad and a Yacht
Our friends Tim & Lynne have, amongst others, been kind enough to put us up while staying in Auckland. So much so in fact, that they are now referred to as Mum
and Dad (and no, we don't hate our parents). They arrived in New Zealand in October 2006, Lynne having pre-arranged a job, and almost immediately finding somewhere for them to live, while Tim remains happily unemployed. Maybe that has something to do with his new toy - a yacht! And very genourous they are with it too. In the course of two weeks, we have been on three sails with them. Abbie knows a thing or two about sailing, having spent many an hour in the dim and distant past learning the ropes, knots, sails and jibbing techniques necessary for a successful mission. My sailing experience, on the other hand, never made it out of the bath tub.
It is quite a cool thing to do. Ripping along (current highest speed under wind power is 10.5 knots). And while neither of us are very good at being told what to do normally, Tim's cool calm manner makes it easy to accept the orders when necessary. We've secretly impressed them with our efficiency, so much so that we've been invited out for a couple of weekend sails in the near future. Watch this space for further reports...
final two weeks of January saw us finally bite the bullet and move up to Auckland full time, and start the job hunting process proper. So far Daren has had about 20 interviews, his London experience in the insurance market seems to be in demand, and it would seem to be only a matter of time before he inevitably gets a job. Abbie has broken out in a networking frenzy, drinking copious amounts of coffee while catching up with her (seemingly) endless list of contacts in the telecoms industry. Head of Vodafone or Telecom? Who knows...
Once we have Jobs, then we'll be searching for a house to rent near our friends in central Auckland. And once we get to that point, we can then, finally, get our belongings out of storage and our lives back up to date. So how is the transition to NZ life actually going so far?
A - Those of you who know me, know how I like to emote, so I couldn't leave Daren's blog without giving you a little bit of a sense of how the settling in process is going. One of the worst things is that we
are still wearing the same clothes that we have been wearing for over eight months. They are travelling clothes, and frankly starting to look just a bit manky. Nor do they really make the grade in fashion conscious trendy Ponsonby, where we seem to be spending much of our Auckland based time. It will be such a relief to have more than tee-shirts at my disposal.
A - Other than the clothes, it hasn't always been an easy transition coming back to NZ for good, though it is getting slowly easier. I lived in Auckland for 10 years before I moved to the UK, and it's all so very familiar, but I feel like an outsider looking in. And boy have I been homesick for London from time to time (much to the sheer surprise of many kiwis who just can't imagine why I would be homesick for somewhere I lived for six years and still call home). Just thinking about the Regent Street Christmas lights was enough to have me in tears. But that's starting to get easier too. What I am loving is being by the sea, hanging out with great friends here, the truly great coffee,
and topping up my incredible freckle tan. So it's swings and roundabouts. We always expected it to be a bit bumpy when we first arrived, and I'm sure it will all get much easier once we have somewhere to live and we're both working.
D - What does Abbie mean? Homesick? Admittedly there are lots of distractions, especially now that summer has properly started, but I am missing friends and family. We've got a lot going on right now, house hunting, job hunting, and moving residence each week, so that helps (me, anyway) take the mind off of the things being missed. I'm sure it'll all catch up with me though, once we're more settled...
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