It’s starting to feel like home here

Woke up to sunshine. Sue read her bookclub book. I watched a couple of the Narcos episodes that I’d slept through last night. We skyped with my parents. Sue found us a place for next Tuesday to Thursday on Airbnb.

After lunch Sue and I went for a walk — along a paved walking path that followed a river going east from the big ‘mall’ next to our apartment. We stopped at the grocery store on the way back — and then for a cappuccino, before settling down for a few more ‘Narcos’ episodes at home. Sue made delicious prawns and pasta for supper. More TV, concluding with the CBC National on our AppleTV. Man, watching the CBC (or listening to the Winnipeg CBC radio) on our AppleTV makes it feel like we’re at home here!

Love People; Use Things

It’s Friday. Actually, it’s Thursday back in our ‘real’ world, but here in Auckland it’s already Friday. Had (another) lazy day. We went for a walk in the morning — stopped by a used car dealership and asked about renting a car for 2.5 months. The Asian man was eager to rent a little Nissan box-shaped car to us. We considered, and we’ll keep it in mind. Tomorrow we’re going to the Rent-a-Dent shop that I’d called earlier in the week — we’ll compare deals then.

On the way home Sue bought some mangos at an Asian fruit stand. We had lunch. Then we watched the last 3 episodes of Season 2 of Narcos. We got interrupted once when the cleaning staff knocked on our door. After they’d changed our linens and left, we concluded our Netflix binge.

We went back to the grocery store and picked up a couple of frozen pizzas. Back at the apartment we had to look through the owner’s manual to figure out how to use the oven — but we managed. Pizza wasn’t very good. We watched the CBC National and then a Netflix documentary called ‘The Minimalists’. It was pretty good. The final thought was the title of this post — and how much better THAT is than the reverse. Things don’t make us happy. (Watch this post for a ‘For Sale’ list of many of our household belongings!)

By ten o’clock Sue was in bed. I sat and wrote my journal. (I’d spent lots of my ‘in-between’ time during the day to collect, edit, and insert photos for the past 10 days. But NO photo today!)

We get a ‘vehicle’

Saturday. Bacon and eggs. You can count on it.

After breakfast and skyping with Alex and Max (they’re leaving Hawaii later today, heading back home via a night in Vancouver) it was time to take the bus down to Manukau and pick up our rental car. But when we got there, the guy I’d arranged things with on the phone a few days ago ‘was off’. And his young helper couldn’t really help us. No, we don’t have a car for you. We won’t have a car until next Wednesday. What? We’re two and a half hour from here next Wednesday. The guy calls Russell, the guy whom I’d arranged things with. Nope. Nothing. Okay, can you call the Rent-a-Dent at the airport and find us a car there? He does. Hangs up the phone, happy. YES! They have a car. Okay… but it is a thousand dollars more than the one we’d arranged for here. Not good. Finally I call Russell myself. I’m not happy. It’s the weekend and we don’t have a car. He sounds sorry. Asks to speak to the young guy at the desk. Now we got something. We’ll take a used van for the next 3 or 4 days, and then Russell will swap vehicles with us next Wednesday or Thursday, once the Toyota we were supposed to get is back in. He’ll drive the car out to where we are and swap vehicles. Okay. Not quite what we ordered, but we can make this work.

We drove the van back to the shopping centre across the street from our apartment. Went to McDonald’s for lunch. Bought a cooler and ice pack and more groceries and headed back home.

We watched some news — another shooting in the US (Fort Lauderdale Airport, some more craziness from President-elect Donald Trump, etc. — and had sushi take-out for supper. We started watching another Netflix series (The Crown). We got a call from Brian and Val — they’d just landed at the Auckland Airport and learned that their hotel/apartment had a fire and won’t be available. We offered to host them, but they’d already made alternate arrangements. So we’ll probably see them for brunch tomorrow and discuss upcoming itineraries.

We watched Netflix until eleven, then went to bed.

Meet the Funks

It’s Sunday here, Saturday back home. Two NFL playoff games today, two more tomorrow. We had a pretty good morning coffee and toast. We sent Brian and Val a text, suggesting a brunch meeting. They text back that they need to be out of their hotel by 10:30. That means we have hurry up our morning routine. It takes half an hour to drive my old rental van downtown. We find the hotel, but not the Funks. But it IS the right place. I’m in the lobby when I see Brian pushing some big suitcases down the hall. He adds them to the big collection that is already in the lobby. Whoa! I’m not sure all the luggage will fit in the van without removing seats. But with Scott’s help, we manage to cram it all into the one vehicle. Now to find a brunch place. I start driving around the block. I park the van and we walk around a bit. This isn’t really working. Why don’t we all just go back to OUR neighbourhood. We have nice restaurants and cafes. And maybe we can even go to our apartment and catch at least SOME of the football games?

After a far too good breakfast in a far too expensive restaurant we go across the road to the Countdown grocery store and get some SERIOUS grocery shopping done. We need snacks and drinks for an afternoon of football watching, supper at our apartment, and sandwiches for tomorrow’s scheduled sailing excursion. We get home just in time to see the end of the first game (by now the outcome has LONG been decided). Sue and Val sit on the balcony while the boys are inside on the couch. Soon Scott has a nap. Brian is looking for a car to rent or buy and a hotel to stay at later in the week. All is going well until Val gets a text from their hotel — they will need to check in by 5pm at the latest. That means no supper at our apartment, and we’ll need to be on the road by 4:15.

We find the Funks’ replacement hotel/apartment near the waterfront. Unload our cargo. Say adieu until tomorrow. Sue and I drive back to the apartment. Now the second football game is over too, and it wasn’t a close game either! Oh well. The important game is tomorrow afternoon: Giants at Green Bay. I’ll miss that too — I’ll be sailing on a tri-hulled boat in the Auckland sea.

We have supper. Watch an episode of “The Crown”. Getting tired and it’s not yet nine o’clock. Sue suggests we go for a walk around our ‘neighbourhood’. We do that — a 45-minute stroll just before sunset. It’s cool, windy (what else is new?). Back in our apartment, we watch a Fifth Estate episode (isn’t that AppleTV thing working out well for us!) and another documentary after that. It’s eleven when we call it a night. Looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings.

Sailing in Auckland

I got up at 7am and watched nearly three quarters of the Miami-Pittsburg Wildcard playoff game on TV. at 9:15 we left, headed into Auckland to pick up Brian, Val, and Scott Funk at their hotel near the waterfront in Auckland. Then we drove to the Yacht Club, about 5 minutes east, where we parked the van and prepared to embark on our day-sail adventure. We could see the Trinity, the tri-hulled catamaran, moored out in the bay, not far from the dock. A small dingy was headed our way. Kevin Palmer introduced himself as we piled into the small boat. It took two trips to get the five of us aboard Trinity. There we were introduced to the captain’s wife Terri, and Cody, one of their 3 children who would be sailing with us today.

The trip out of the harbour was fine. Although it was cool and partly cloudy, the 35kph winds were behind us, as we headed out. I got to hold the wheel for part of the journey. After about one and a half hours we anchored the boat in a small bay on the lee side of Motuihe Island. We got out our sandwiches and had lunch on the boat. Scott and Val got into their swimsuits and braved the cold waters. Val even swam to shore while the rest of us took the dingy to the island to do some exploring.

We took a long slow walk along the beach, looking for bits of ‘sea glass’, colourful pieces of broken bottles and other glass objects that had washed up onto the beach. Sue came home with a (heavy) jacket pocket full of white, green, and red ‘gems’.

A little after 3 o’clock we were back on the boat, ready to head back. Now we were pointing directly into the wind. Rather than tack for 3 hours, Kevin decided to zip up the windows around the cockpit and we all sat comfortably while the diesel engine putted us back with Scott at the wheel. At times the bow of the ship dipped into an oncoming wave and water washed across the deck from bow to stern! But we stayed dry.

We said thanks and farewell and wished Kevin and Terri a happy twenty-ninth anniversary. Then we drove back to the Funks’ hotel and said goodbye to them. They are staying for a couple more nights, but we expect we’ll be meeting them real soon somewhere down the road.

Back in our neighbourhood we stopped at the fish and chips place to pick up supper before going to the apartment. My football games were over — and although you’d think that everything is upside-down when you’re ‘down under’, unfortunately the final score did NOT favour my underdog New York Giants this time around. Now it’s up to the Cowboys to stop Green Bay.

After supper we watched news and Sue did laundry. It’s our last night here. I made the most of it and fell asleep by 9 o’clock, sitting on the couch. Tomorrow we are heading down to Tauranga where the weather is supposed to be beautiful!

The long, slow journey to Tauranga

After 10 nights at Botany Downs, it’s time to move on. The plan is to slowly meander down the east coast of New Zealand, and when we reach the bottom we turn around and come back up. And if we find something that suits us just right along the way down, we’ll plant ourselves there for an extended time, maybe even a month, and ‘just hang out’. We’ll make sure to see the area NORTH of Auckland at the end of our stay.

So, today it was time to pack up our stuff and move out of our apartment. We checked out at around 10 o’clock and since the drive to Tauranga was only supposed to take 2.5 hours, and checkin there might be only at 3pm, we decided to go for one more walk around the Botany area. We got back to the van after an hour and started off on our road trip. We thought we might stop at a park along the way, go for a little walk, eat the lunch that Sue had packed from the leftovers in the fridge, and end up at our B&B in Tauranga at just the right time.

The drive was good. Busy 4-lane for the first part, a bit of drizzling rain for some of the way. Then we turned off on the #2 highway, and wound our way over the small mountains before hitting the coast. About 1.5 hours into the drive we came to a roadside park near Mangatarata where we stopped for lunch. There was a golf course across the road from us, out in the middle of nowhere. It looked okay. We decided to see if we could squeeze in a quick round.

The lady at the office of the Hauraki Golf Club welcomed us. No problem! I was wearing a collarless t-shirt. No problem! Nine holes or eighteen? Pay for nine, if you want more, add ten bucks when you come around the turn. Help yourself to a ‘trundle’ (pull-cart) from our selection — no charge.

And off we were! There were golfers on most of the holes ahead of us, but they’d started in the morning and were finishing up the ‘back nine’. We golfed alone. No pressure. Not a great golf course, but for twenty bucks? and the rain held off. and we only lost a couple of balls and found replacements! and we played not-so-good but had a good time. and we got in some great exercise on the rolling hills.

After about 50 strokes, including some serious damage in a big bunker on Hole #9, we packed our clubs back into the van and continued across the mountains. We were just over the hills, passing through the small town of Katikati, about 30 minutes from our destination, when the traffic came to a standstill. Hmmm… Maybe one of those single-lane bridges ahead? Or a holiday check-stop? We crawled forward. Stopped again. After 20 minutes of this we started turning off the engine in between moving one car-length ahead. After about 45 minutes a couple of local folks came along and told us there was a big accident ahead, two people trapped in their vehicle, could take an hour, could take many hours. If we wanted to be sure to get to our destination, best to turn around, go back through the mountain pass and the long way around — a 2.5 hour detour! Now what? Do we want to do that? Or take our chances. By now we realized that the intermittent traffic in the oncoming lane was in fact cars that were tired of waiting up ahead and were turning back.

Near the scene of a major car accident on the road to Tauranga.

Slowly we crawled ahead — one car-length, 5 minutes stopped, another car-length, another wait. But we WERE moving. And after at least an hour and a half of waiting, we finally crawled past a terrible accident scene. Pieces of car on both sides of the road. Emergency and police vehicles cleaning up the site. But we were through. Our B&B hosts had emailed us while we were waiting, wondering about our arrival time, and we’d let them know our situation. It was about 5:30, after passing 10kms of stalled bumper-to-bumper cars waiting to get through the roadblock on the OTHER side of the accident, we arrived in the Tauranga suburb of Bethlehem, and pulled into the driveway of our B&B home.

Tony and Marigold welcomed us into their beautiful home. We had a little happy hour on the outdoor patio and showered and changed. Then we walked about a mile back into the town centre for dinner. We ate at a lovely restaurant (The Orchard) and walked back to our place in the twilight, about 9:30. Exhausted (more sun and wind showing on our faces from golfing today), we soon went to bed.

Another day, another golf game

Sue and I enjoyed a most delicious breakfast — in our B&B. Freshly baked bread, muffins, orange juice, yoghurt, fruit, and good coffee, all included in our room rental! Our hosts, Tony and Marigold, sure know how to make us feel welcome! We had a leisurely morning, did NOT go for that walk around the neighbourhood (maybe tomorrow). Sue finished reading her bookclub book, “Schroder”. I did a bit of computer work. Then we set out to see ‘The Strand’, the waterfront area in Tauranga, about a 10-minute drive from our B&B. I also called Russell, my car rental guy in Auckland, and arranged to meet him here tomorrow before noon so we can exchange our 8-seater Toyota van for the Toyota Yaris car I’d originally booked with him.

The sun was shining and it was 27 degrees on the waterfront. Lots of interesting little shops and cafes. A big boardwalk with kids’ playgrounds and park benches where people can sit and eat their lunch while watching the boats moored out in the bay. Across the bay we could see another isthmus, Mount Maunganui, with a couple of bridges connecting us. We walked up and down, sat on a bench for a while, stopped at a Tourist Info place and picked up brochures. We were going to have lunch at one of the cafes, but decided to go buy some sandwich meat and head back to our place — where Sue made great big sandwiches with Marigold’s fresh bread.

Our host, Tony, showed us the local newspaper — the front page story was about the big car accident we’d passed yesterday on our way here. One of the drivers had all of her limbs broken. Both drivers had survived. Now there were renewed calls for improving the road to prevent future accidents.

At 2:30 Tony came down to take us to ‘his’ golf course. We followed his car for the 20-minute drive out to the Bay of Plenty. Tony has a membership at the Omokoroa Course. He introduced us to the pro there and said we were his ‘guests’. That meant we got a 30% discount on the rate. Tony walked the first 6 or 7 holes with us. It was 3 in the afternoon, and they’d had a very big busy tournament at the course this morning. But now it was relatively empty and we golfed at our own leisurely pace. Sue and I both started off most impressively, but after 3 or 4 holes our cover was blown and Tony could see we were not quite ready for the pro tour. But we had a great time, and the course was beautiful. Several holes along the water, lots of interesting birds, and the vegetation and the homes surrounding the course were spectacular. Not so our play.

It was close to 7pm when we finished the eighteenth hole. I’d found another bunker (what else is new?) and my scorecard had two 8’s and 9’s for every par. The warm sun and the cool wind left me hot and thirsty. We packed our clubs into the van and headed back to Bethlehem (the town we’re staying at). I stopped to fill the van with gas so it’ll be ready for the swap tomorrow. We pulled into the fish and chips shop at the town centre and took the  big hot portions back to our B&B. We ate outside on the patio. 

After dinner Tony came down to visit with us. Then Brian phoned — he and Val and Scott are at a B&B on Maunganui, about 20 minutes from our place. We arranged to meet them tomorrow afternoon and perhaps go on a hike up Mount Maunganui. 

Showers, a bit of reading, journaling, and then off to bed again. Work, work, work…

Mount Maunganui

After another excellent breakfast at our B&B in Bethlehem, Sue and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. We marched all the way down from our mountain-top home, followed the biking and hiking paths that criss-cross the land below, and climbed back up the hill and home again. A short walk, but we were ‘saving’ ourselves for the tougher walk we were planning for this afternoon. We were waiting to hear from our car rental guy who was supposed to come before 1pm to swap our van for the Toyota Yaris we’d rented. It was 12:55 and we were just finishing our lunch when ‘Johnny’ showed up at the door. We moved all our stuff (golf clubs, suitcases, etc) from the van into the car. 

We’d just swapped vehicles when Brian sent a text; they were on their way to Mount Maunganui. We asked them to wait for us — the trip there would take us 20 minutes. We circled around the strip, looking for a parking spot. Man, the beach here is BUSY! Once we were parked we found Brian, Val, and Scott and started up the mountain trail. 

Mount Maunganui is 230 meters above sea level. The climb up is relatively easy. But not for everyone. Sue, Val, and Scott went on ahead of us. Brian and I walked at our own pace, stopping for frequent breaks. The temperature and conditions were great — although perhaps a bit warm. We were a little more than halfway up when we met Scott and the girls coming down. We persevered. And the view from the top was worth it. And then we turned around and tramped back down. We met the others at a small cafe for a cool refreshing drink. (Well, as usual, Scott had a FULL MEAL with his drink.) 

While Brian and I finished our drinks the other set out to find a grocery store. They would buy grocery wine and bring it along to the restaurant where we’d made 6pm reservations. Brian was busy booking an AirBnB in Rotorua for tomorrow night. When he’d finished that we found my car and drove it down the strip to the other end, where our restaurant was (OBR — which stand for ‘On Beach Road’).

We had a lovely supper and did a bit of planning for the next few days. Then we said goodbye and Sue and I drove back to our place. Back at our B&B our hosts invited us to join them (upstairs) for a glass of wine. We visited with Tony and Marigold until 10:30. Then downstairs for a bit of TV and journalling — until it was time to go to bed.

Rotorua Day 1

We said goodbye to Tony and Marigold this morning. We’ll probably never stay in a nicer place using AirBnB. We talked to Alex and Max for a while on FaceTime — schools are closed due to a blizzard today. I fiddled with the lighter socket in the rental car for a while — my phone charger isn’t working. It could be a fuse, or it might be that the plug isn’t fitting into the charging socket. I looked online to see where the fuse was, but I’ll wait to stop at a service station before I fiddle with the fuses. 

Bags were packed into the car and we were just backing off the driveway when the drizzle started. Oh no. Should we wait out the rain, or should we just go? We decided to just go. Good call — the rain stopped as quickly as it started and the sun came out. And the one hour drive south to Rotorua was great. Rolling hills, grazing sheep and deer and cattle, good road. But by the time we got to the big (stinky) lake at Rotorua my phone was almost dead. 

We found the B&B we’d booked but didn’t check in — too early. Instead we drove into town and had a look around. We finally parked near the lake and went for a long walk around Sulphur Bay, a geothermal wildlife refuge. We ended up back in the town centre. Stopped at a McDonalds for lunch. Then back to the car and back to our B&B, which was in a ‘suburb’ or Rotorua. 

I stopped at a Toyota dealership on the way. Explained my lighter plug problem. No problem. Have a seat in our waiting room, help yourself to tea or coffee, read a magazine. They took the car into the shop. Not the fuse. Must be the little adapter that doesn’t fit into the lighter socket. Now the mechanic and the service manager take a new Toyota GPS unit, gently cut open the package, in order to see if my plug is too fat — not a standard size. And then we head out into the car lot and find a new Toyota Yaris and see if the plug fits into THAT socket. Pretty tight. Then the mechanic draws a map for me, suggests I go into town and buy another plug from a discount store in town. Yikes! How much is this going to cost? They spent a good 45 minutes on my car and we’re still nowhere. I suggest they spray a little WD-40 on the plug and jam it into the socket. I don’t care if it never comes out — as long as it will work for the next few months. The service manager sits down in my car and does just that. We plug in my phone. DING! Charging. It works. Whew! He’s pleased. I’m about to head back into the shop to take care of my bill — he looks at me and says, “Enjoy your holiday!” No charge.

We drive the short distance to our B&B. Check in. Angela welcomes us into her bungalow. It’s not like the home we just came from, but it’s fine. We’ve arranged to meet the Funks back in town at a restaurant for 6pm. At quarter to Angela and her husband Chris invite us to join them on the patio for gin and tonics. Nice! After a short visit we excuse ourselves and head into town. We find the Funks at a bar on Eat Streat, an arcade full of bars and cafes and restaurants. We decide to go for Thai food. 

After dinner we discuss plans for tomorrow and the weekend. The Funks will go visit ‘Hobbiton’ tomorrow. The Nikkels will do a few more walks. We’ll probably meet for dinner again tomorrow. After some discussion it’s decided that we will NOT do the 19km Tongariro Alpine hike as we had planned. Maybe at a later date. Instead we’ll head to Napier, on the east coast, for the weekend. 

Back at our B&B, Chris and Angela are watching TV. We go to our room and fall asleep watching The National on my computer. 

Rotorua Day 2

By the time we were out of bed this morning, our hosts, Chris and Angela, had already left for their deep-sea fishing trip. Sue cut up bananas and kiwis, made toast, and Nescafe (yuck! that’s not a good way to start the day!) and we had breakfast. And then it was time to get our show on the road. Our little map/brochure in the room had 5 suggested hikes. We’d already done one of them yesterday (around Sulphur Bay). Today we were going to do 3 more.

Our first hike was right out of our house! and down the street, and across the big road, and BOOM! we were in the (California) Redwood Forest! Really! These redwoods came from California, were planted here as an ‘experiment’ in early 1900. Today this is truly a Redwood Forest. And there are hiking, cycling, and even equestrian trails throughout. Sue and I walked for about an hour and a half, for a 6.5km walk.

We got back to our B&B and hopped into the car. It was close to noon and time for lunch. Sue took some cake and pop from the house and we headed into town, looking for the grocery store. We were going to buy some sandwiches to take on our hike, but they had none! Oh well, we bought chips and hoped we’d find something  on the way.

We drove down to Blue Lake, about 7 kms south of our place. Parked the car in a grassy field next to the boat launch. Started walking along the lake shore. Hmmm… no canteen or cafe here. Oh well, at least we have those salt ‘n vinegar chips! and a can of 7up. Only after we’d nearly finished the bag of chips and were starting our hike along the trail did we notice a big fancy hotel, and an airstream trailer/canteen selling hotdogs and hamburgers, right across the street from the trail. Too late. Now we’re hiking.

The hike along the often narrow, always up and down, trail was supposed to be 5.5kms. Again, the scenery along the way was incredible — almost ‘mystical’. No wonder they filmed the Lord of the Rings series here. And we could hear, and occasionally see, the motorboats pulling water-skiers, or the sea-doos roaring around on the lake, kids laughing, people enjoying the lake. And we were not alone on the hiking trail, although it was not at all crowded or too busy — just enough to make you feel safe, like you’re not alone out here. We both were wearing sandals, and by the time we got back to the car our feet were feeling it. 

We drove back a bit and then took a turn east to another nearby lake, Lake Okareka. Our pamphlet said there was a boardwalk at the beginning of the walk, where we’d be walking through a sanctuary for black swans. It also said that the walk here would be about 1 hour to complete the 2.5km walk to the end of the trail, plus the same distance back. 

We decided to change footwear — exchanged our sandals for runners. And off we went, along the boardwalk. About 2kms into the walk we were walking a dirt trail between the lake and the mountain. Sheep were grazing and maaa-ing on the hillside. Of course that reminded us of Sue’s aunt, who used to ask Sue and her brother Dave when the were naughty young children, “Well jie nich Jeisus siene schoene schoapjes senne?”

We were at the far end of the lake when two ‘kiwi’ girls passed us. They asked us where we were from. One of them, who once been to Hamilton Canada and loved to travel, asked if we’d tried __?__ yet. No. We don’t even know what that is. And then, after first suggesting to Sue that she should enter these items into her phone, and Sue saying she doesn’t really know how to operate her phone, the young lady took Sue’s phone and entered a list of ‘must-try’ New Zealand foods into Sue’s phone for her! “And this should cost you less than forty bucks,” she said when she was done. Cool!

We walked back to the car. Drove back to our B&B. Chris and Angela weren’t back from their fishing trip yet. We had a cool drink and showered and cleaned up. Then our hosts returned. We’d just arranged to meet the Funks at a restaurant in town at 6pm when our hosts returned. They thought they might smoke one of the fish they caught, cut up another for ‘ceviche’, and they invited us to join them for a beer on the patio. I’m not one  to say no to that!

It was just after 6. The Funks would be waiting for us at our restaurant, Terrace Kitchen. Once again we apologized to our hosts for having to leave in the middle of happy hour, and then we hied it out of there. We met the Funks at the restaurant.  They were waiting for us. 

We got a table in the dining room. Ordered our food. Not all of it was as good as we’d hoped. We exchanged stories of our afternoon ‘goings on’ and ate our meals. At a little after 8pm we said goodbye — we’ll likely see them again in Napier tomorrow. 

We hurried home to our B&B, but needed to check on what’s up with BB King — why is he wearing  a paisley smock and how will he get into the at the end when he’s beat everyone up. 

Okay, that previous paragraph is not true. In fact, it makes NO SENSE. But I was so tired while I was writing my journal, I must have ‘fallen asleep’ but I kept writing! I don’t know where that comes from! I just read it to Sue, and she has no idea what I’m talking about! I’m just so exhausted from such a busy day…

Back at our B&B we sat outside on the patio and visited with Chris and Angela for another 2 hours. They were tired; so were we. But we enjoyed the company and the conversation until it was after 10pm and time to go to bed.