Palmerston North, Day 3

Whoa! Another lazy day here in New Zealand.

We’re quite comfortable here in our studio apartment above a detached garage in Palmerston North. We have big rooms, a pretty nice kitchen, a new Sony TV on the wall, and fast internet. If the forecast wasn’t for a string of rainy days, we’d be happy to stay here a week. Palmerston North is actually a very nice town. It’s a university town. That means there is a large young educated population, and all that goes with that. Lots of cool restaurants, bicycle paths and walking paths everywhere, cinemas and art galleries, big expensive homes along the riverbanks. We decided that we shouldn’t let our first impression (that first bad night in a hotel) taint our view of the place.

So this morning after breakfast Sue and I sat and gazed into our devices. Sue, presumably, was looking for a studio apartment that would be suitable for us to stay in for a week. I was watching online videos of all the Sunday morning talk shows, checking out the latest Trump idiotic tweets, etc. (I can’t help myself! It’s like watching one of those ‘slow-motion’ car pile-ups on an icy 401 highway near Toronto.) Finally, it was time for lunch (the highlight of every day!).

After noodle soup and sandwiches (it was grey and cloudy outside and I was feeling a little chilled inside), we got ourselves ready to venture outdoors and see if we could get in a golf game. Sue actually wanted to do the river walk, but my research showed that the Palmerston Golf Course had a 2:30 twilight special on for $20, so we’ll leave the walk for tomorrow morning. So off we went to the golf course, about a 10-minute drive.

We parked the car and went into the clubhouse to check things out. No problem. The pro at the desk has a brother in Toronto, so right off the bat we were buddies! Sue found a golf shirt on sale — and bought it. I got the clubs all set up on a ‘trundler’ for Sue. And off we were.

No, the score was nothing I’d care to put in my journal for posterity. But the day turned out to be a great day! The sun came out, the temperature was about 21, the couple ahead of us let us play through after they witnessed our great approach shots on hole number 1😜, and so we had no one ahead and no one behind for the rest of the afternoon. And the course, which was a LONG par 72 for me (74 for Sue), was green and a bit hilly, and interesting, and fun. And the greens were fast and true. We finished just before 6pm.

We drove back to our apartment. Our host met us as we walked up the driveway and offered to pick some nice fresh juicy grapefruits from one of his trees in the front yard for us. Nice! A few minutes later we had a bag with half a dozen fresh-off-the-tree grapefruits sitting next to our entry door. Really, it’s too bad we can’t stay here a week!

We went upstairs to our apartment and had a little happy hour and read a bit. Then Sue got the hot-plate out and started on supper. Man, she can dress up wieners and beans so it looks and tastes as good as a steak dinner! Corn on the cob. Lots of onions and sliced wieners in the ‘organic’ beans she bought at the Countdown last night. Piled high over a couple of fresh buns from the bakery. Mmmm. And of course, the whole deal is fancied up considerably with a bottle of 2016 Wolf Blass Cabernet Merlot — $10 NZ at the supermarket! Pretty high-class camping we’re practicing here!

The sun was peeking through the clouds, giving it one last effort before sinking into the western sky. It was 7:30 and we had the WHOLE evening ahead of us. Time to finish a sudoku and see what’s on Netflix. SteinbachOnline says there’s another winter storm heading towards southeastern Manitoba. Well… Maybe a cloudy day in New Zealand isn’t so bad after all.

p.s. I may have said this previously, but just in case, I don’t want to forget it. Here are a couple of observations based on our two months here:

  1. New Zealand is green and clean. There is almost NO litter anywhere. Not having snow that sticks around for a while, and requires salt and sand on the road, probably helps. But we’ve seen orange-vested road workers cleaning up the roadsides many times as we’ve driven along the highways. And the towns and cities too — no ugly papers and plastic bags and garbage littering up the country. Quite impressive, considering so much of the area is along the coast, and it’s often quite windy, and that makes it harder to keep it clean.
  2. Traffic circles are the most efficient way to deal with intersections. I finally get it. The make so much sense! No sitting and waiting for a red light when there’s no traffic crossing. No stop signs! Just slow down into the roundabout, yield to traffic (on the right, in this case), and then zip on through! It’s fantastic. I often drive through several towns in a row without having to stop. And it’s got to be cheaper than putting up traffic lights.


New Plymouth, Day 1

Woke up early this morning. It wasn’t raining. That meant we could have a leisurely breakfast and then go for our walk along the lagoon, and then get in the car and drive the 3 hours to New Plymouth, a little farther north on the west coast. And that’s what we did.

We said goodbye to our host lady. She told us that vandals had smashed car windows of the vehicles parked on their quiet street — very unusual. Her husband’s van had the rear window broken right out. Our car was parked just in front of the van but had no damage. That was a relief.

We drove a few blocks to the university and parked on the road in front of it. From there we followed the walking path along the ‘ox-bow’ lagoon. Lots of ducks were on both sides of the path, sleeping in a bit this morning. Across the water were GORGEOUS homes along the shoreline. Most also had beautiful landscaping and park-like gardens. We quit trying to avoid the duck turds on the sidewalk and just walked and looked at the properties.

Eventually the path led us to the Manawatu Golf Club, the oldest golf course in New Zealand. The course hosted a PGA Championship tournament this past weekend (the 2017 Lawnmaster Horizon Golf NZ PGA Championship) and all the signage and stages were still set up. We went into the clubhouse cafe and ordered a couple of cappuccinos. We took our coffees out on the patio and watched as several groups finished up on the 18th green. The course was in tiptop shape and looked incredible.

After our walk we got back in the car and headed out of town. It was eleven o’clock. 

We stopped for lunch in the town of Whanganui. I’d been hankering for a KFC dinner for at least 2 months — today was my lucky day. Of course, Sue wasn’t NEARLY as excited as I was about the lunch. So while I enthused about how delicious my big juicy crispy chicken keel was, Sue was making faces and pulling that nice shaked and baked coating off of her little drumstick and gnawing at the dark meat underneath with tiny little bites. And of course the french fries were MUCH too salty and she wouldn’t eat any of those. I was sure happy that old Colonel Sanders was licking his fingers up in that big KFC in the sky and didn’t have to see or hear the ingratitude and complaining that I was subjected to. 

We continued on our drive. We took the ‘coastal’ route, although we rarely saw the sea. Most of the country here was farmland — dairy and beef. The waters along the coast here are excellent for surfing. On our right was Mount Taranaki, whose 2518m peak poked through the low grey clouds every once in a while.

We arrived at our AirBnB place at 3pm. Our host showed up 10 minutes later. We parked in the secure parking lot and walked up to the 3rd floor apartment. Very nice. Our ‘sunroom’ in front of our bedrooms looked out over the ocean to the western sky. We got settled and then FaceTimed with Alex for a bit. 

At 5:30 we grabbed our rain jackets and walked across the road to the Coastal Walkway, a ten kilometre path along the sea edge that stretches the length of the city. It was drizzling very lightly, not enough to warrant wearing the rain jackets. We walked about 2 kms to the port and found a seafood restaurant that our host had recommended. Tonight’s special: pan-fried scallops. We added grilled prawns and a greek salad. A fine meal. The rain was a little more significant on the walk back — let’s hope we don’t have rain all day tomorrow (as is forecasted). Back in the apartment I had hooked up the AppleTV and we started a new series, Designated Survivor.

New Plymouth, Day 2

Not a lot to say today. We woke up and sure enough, the day was less than what we’ve come to expect here. Cloudy, a little cool, and VERY windy. Too windy to go golfing. 

After breakfast we put on our rain jackets (to block the wind) and went for a walk. We’d been planning on heading up to Hamilton tomorrow, and possibly stay there a week if we could find a suitable apartment. But our search hadn’t been very successful. So today, after we’d had a nice coffee in a cool little cafe a couple of blocks from our place, we decided to check out the motel across the street from the cafe. The sign said ‘No Vacancy’ but we went to the office to ask just in case. And after a little back-and-forth, we (well actually, Sue) negotiated a deal with them for a week’s stay starting tomorrow. 

We continued our walk around town and were very pleased to find that the city centre has tons of cool restaurants and cafes and shopping places. That, and the fact that there are at least 5 golf courses within half an hour from here, PLUS the great coastal walkway we discovered yesterday, means we’ll have lots to see and do here for the next little while — so in spite of the weather, we felt good about our morning.

Sue bought bread and eggs at the grocery store and made lunch when we got back to our apartment. We ‘wasted’ the afternoon holed up in our place. Sue read, I watched TV. We Skyped with my parents. We watched another episode of ‘Fargo’ on Netflix. Sue made supper and we ate it in our ‘sunroom’ overlooking the ocean. 

It appeared that the wind had calmed down a bit and we decided to go for a quick walk out along the Coastal Walkway. Tonight we headed north, past the Wind Wand, a 48-metre kinetic sculpture designed by artist Len Lye. (We plan to visit the Len Lye museum here in town tomorrow.) We only walked for about an hour — one of these days we’ll walk to the end of the 12km walkway, which goes right up to a couple of golf courses along the coast.

We were back home in our apartment by 8pm. Time for a bit of internetting and then some more Netflix.

New Plymouth, Day 3

Scrambled eggs for breakfast. We sat in the sunroom of our AirBnB apartment and enjoyed the sunshine and watched a couple of carpenters putting up rafters on a ‘garage’ across the street. By 10 o’clock we were packed up and out of there. We drove around the block to the motel we’d booked for the coming week and checked in. Then we drove about 5kms to one of the many golf courses around New Plymouth. Today we went to the Fitzroy Golf Course. Can we golf here? No problem! Twenty bucks for 18 holes. We took the clubs out of the trunk and headed to the first tee.

The game was great. The sun shone, the wind didn’t blow, and our shots were straight and far. Mostly. The course was next to the sea and quite hilly — and that made it interesting but challenging. Sue didn’t quite enjoy it as much as I did but she looked pretty good in her new golf shirt.

After the golf game we stopped by a grocery store to stock up on some supplies before heading back to our motel. We took our suitcases and stuff up to our room. Sue made sandwiches and we had lunch. It was after 2 o’clock. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading and organizing our stuff. Once again I had to ‘trick’ our AppleTV to login to the hotel wifi network, just like I’d done in Nelson.

After a little happy hour we headed into town. We found a Thai restaurant and ordered take-out. We walked around the block and then took our food back to the motel. Had supper. Watched some CBC News and some of the late night shows on TV. In bed by eleven.

New Plymouth, Day 4

We doddled all morning in our motel room. No hurry. We’re going to sit tight here for a week. No reason to rush. But wait! I thought we were going to go to the Len Lye museum (across the road from our motel) to see a ‘show’ at 11. Oh, oh, we’d better hurry.

Actually, the ‘show’ (called “Flip and Two Twisters”) is an exhibition that plays daily at 12 noon. We were an hour early, just in time to sit in the beautiful theatre inside the museum and watch a 45-minute film about the life and art of Len Lye. The film was very helpful. We’d never heard of this New Zealand artist before. We’d seen his “Wind Wand” here on the Coastal Walk in New Plymouth. Now we were introduced to more of his art.

At noon we all lined up in front of the large space where the feature exhibition was on display. Two 20 foot bands of stainless steel hang from the ceiling. Between them is another length of steel in the shape of a loop. Motors ‘twirl’ the ribbons of steel so they jump around and make loud clanging sounds. It’s too bad I didn’t keep some of my old broken Lufkin measuring tapes — the bending and twisting steel reminded me of that.

The museum itself is an incredible building; the exterior is all wavy mirrors. Like our first B&B host said to us, it’s a beautiful building, probably more interesting on the exterior than any of the exhibitions inside.

After a morning of art lessons, I was starving. We stopped by a busy sushi shop and got a carton of sushi to take back to our motel. After lunch Sue tried to catch up on the sleep she didn’t get last night. I listened to music on my phone and had a short snooze as well.

Later in the afternoon we went out for a walk. We walked all the way along the fantastic Coastal Walkway, past the Fitzroy Golf Course where we golfed yesterday, and turned around when we reached the Te Rewa Rewa bridge.

The walkway continues but we’d walked for just over an hour one way and decided that was enough for this afternoon. Good thing too — on our walk back it started to rain lightly. It actually stopped raining when we got back to New Plymouth but only momentarily. We got home and Sue looked through the menus in our motel room. She sent me out (across the street) to pick it up. By the time the pizza was ready and I came back to the room, it was raining quite a bit harder. And then, while we ate it, it POURED. Apparently the forecast is for rain everyday for the next 5 or 6 days. Too bad; we saw an outdoor concert advertised about 2km from us here, out in a park on the coast. It looked like a fun time, but not if it’s raining!

We watched a couple more episodes of Fargo on Netflix tonight, and then the CBC National before going to bed at around 10:30.

New Plymouth, Day 5

Saturday. Woke up to the sound of pouring rain. And that was our soundtrack for most of the day. So we were stuck in our motel room for the day. We were okay with that — the forecast has been for rain for the past number of days, and today it proved correct. (It may well be the same for tomorrow and the beginning of next week.)

After lunch we drove into town to get some groceries. Later in the afternoon we cued up a few more episodes of “Fargo” on Netflix and that entertained us through the evening. At 9:30 we watched the news while the sound of pouring rain outside our open (and screen-free, as is the way here in New Zealand) windows. No golf today. No long walk today. No photos today. 

New Plymouth, Day 6

Sunday. No pancakes and sausages for breakfast. Man, when we get home next month we are gonna have to re-establish a sensible routine to our weekly menu! Enough with this yoghurt and fruit and sort-of-okay-but-not-really-all-that-good coffee in the motel room.

And if I could get brownie points for good intentions, I’d have made some real headway if I’d followed through on my plan to go to CHURCH this morning. From our balcony we can see the cool roofline and steeple of the St Joseph’s Church a block away. It looked so good I thought maybe we would go check it out this morning — maybe they’d have a good choir singing with a New Zealand ‘excent’ (that’s how Kiwi’s would say ‘accent’). But this morning (just like most of yesterday and all of last night) the rain was POURING. And besides, I looked at the website for the church and it didn’t look very welcoming at all — maybe the Catholics don’t have much of a thing going here in this Anglican (but mostly secular) country. (Oops, I just checked with Wikipedia, and I see that although over half the population is not religious, the Catholics outnumber the Anglicans by a percentage point!)

Well, all that and STILL I will have disappointed my mother — I woke up and heard the pouring rain and was quite happy to turn over and get another bit of shut-eye. And THEN came the aforementioned breakfast.

We sat around and read and wasted time until we had a FaceTime call from Max and Alex. Man, that little guy is growing up so fast — almost time to register for kindergarten! And it may be hard to believe, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that is ALWAYS happy like Max is. Even when he’s sick, or tired, or even sad — he’s STILL happy. He just wants so badly to be happy! I sure hope some of those genetics in there are from me!

After another ‘in-house’ lunch by Sue, I amended her suggestion that we go for a walk by adding a “while carrying our golf clubs and chasing a white ball around” clause. And because Sue loves me, she acquiesced, and off we went to the Fitzroy Golf Club for another 18 holes. Why not? The rain had abated. In fact the sun came out and I had to schtritz some sunscreen onto my nose before we hit our first tee shot. There was a bit of water standing on the eighteenth green, but by the time we’d finished the first seventeen holes, the hot sun (yes, HOT! we were both wearing black golf shirts and for the first nine holes the sun was BAKING us!) had dried up that green nicely! It was a great afternoon. The rain stayed away, even though the clouds rolled in from the sea and it FELT like it might rain any minute for the last hour. Only a handful of golfers out on the course. In fact, no one working the clubhouse — we paid by ‘the honour system’, leaving our cash in an envelope that we popped into the slot in the clubhouse door. We both played well, and while how well we play doesn’t usually determine how much fun we have, today I played very well — probably my best round in nearly a year! And because Sue loves me, and even though she’s quite competitive, she too was happy for me, suggesting that maybe (finally!) all the money I spent on golf last year was starting to pay off! (Always about the money — that’s my Sue!)

We stopped to checkout the Sunday afternoon concert in the park on the way home — but, sure enough, it was cancelled. Too much rain and I guess they had to make the call so even though it was NOT raining at 3 o’clock, it got cancelled.

We went home and had happy hour and showered and cleaned up. Time to go out for a nice meal.

Tonight we went to Arborio, a nice restaurant near the waterfront. Spicy fried calamari with chipotle aioli and lemon as a starter and prawns, peas, and spicy chorizo risotto as a main. Yum.  

Back at the motel we were just settling in for a night of Netflix but our internet had ‘expired’. Oh shoot! I called the front desk (big sign on the door, it’s a long weekend here and looks like everything will be in ‘holiday mode’ until Tuesday). I didn’t expect an answer, but a minute later I got a call back and all was good again. So here we go: the final three episodes of ‘Fargo’, Season One, on Netflix. Looks to be a great way to end a great Sunday. Goodnight, everyone.

New Plymouth, Day 7

Monday is a holiday here in New Plymouth (Taranaki Anniversary Day). And it’s cool and cloudy. Misty, even. That means another ‘lazy’ day for the Nikkels. Sitting around, looking at the internet and doing crossword puzzles. Waiting for the next meal or snack. 

Are you still having fun? That’s the question we’ve heard twice now in the last couple of days when we Skype with someone from home. Are we still having fun? Well, SURE we’re having fun. We’re healthy and happy and eating and sleeping and living and breathing. What’s not to like? And although right now we’re sitting in a one-room motel room, it’s not like we’re “on holidays”. Holidays means a break from the usual, and getaway from ones ‘boring’ everyday life. We’re not “on holidays” — we’re just living our life in a different part of the world for a few months. What’s not ‘fun’ about that? We know we’re lucky to be able to do this. We know we WON’T be able to do this forever. We think we’re learning something new about our world and the people in it. We know neither of us would be doing this ALONE, but we enjoy doing this TOGETHER. We know there will be ‘rainy days’ when I’ll have nothing interesting to write about in this journal. 

Speaking of which, it was cool and cloudy today. We didn’t do much. We had another nice visit with Alex via FaceTime this morning. We went for a short walk this afternoon — which was cut even shorter when it started to drizzle lightly and we weren’t wearing our rain jackets. So we went to Monica’s across the street from our place and each had a lovely cappuccino. We followed that up with a long FaceTime call with Ed and Val, who are in Gold Canyon for a month. So now we know lots more about lots of things. 

We FINALLY finished the big Free Press Christmas crossword puzzle that Sue had schlept along from home. And we watched the Sunday morning news talk shows and John Oliver on YouTube. Sue Scrabbled on her iPad while I diddled on the AppleTV until I somehow blew away my Netflix account. Now what are we gonna do every night? Oh well, if the New Zealand channels don’t put us to sleep, we still have the CBC National News.


New Plymouth, Pi Day (Day 8)

Okay, in honour of my friend Werner Einstein Pries, I must mention that it is “Pi Day” today — i.e. 3.14, the 14th of March, or π if you’re into mathematics. My guess is that right about now Werner is tuning up his Pre-Calculus class and getting them ready for another big mid-term — and he probably baked a “pie” for those students who come in for extra help.

No pie for the Nikkels here in New Plymouth today, although we DID each get a packet of cookies from the maid who cleaned our room today. (Maybe she was a math geek, too!) Once again, it was a cool and cloudy day here on the west coast of New Zealand. After breakfast we went to the golf course. No, we did NOT go golfing! We WALKED along the coastal walk pathway all the way out to the golf course. And back. And in spite of the temperature, we couldn’t help but stop and watch a group of surfers enjoying the big waves on the Tasman Sea.

Once we got back into town, in spite of the fact that it was already after 12 noon and high time for lunch, we stopped at the i-Site (tourist info) centre. The nice lady behind the counter talked us out of going to the big mountain, Mount Taranaki, which we haven’t seen now for 7 days on account of the cloudy skies. No, she said, there will be gale force winds up there and it’s not nice at all, and the view will be no view, and you should rather go to one of the lovely public gardens in this area, that’s what you should do on a misty cloudy, cool day like today. And while you’re here, why not check out the very fine museum in the adjacent building — it’s free!

Big shark hanging from the rafters at the museum.

So we did. Even sat through a ‘film’ presentation in a very cool little theatre in the museum and learned about some bird that New Zealanders are all ga-ga about saving from extinction. New Zealand museums are about bugs and fossils and earthquakes and war — I guess they love their geography and don’t want to forget about how the went to the other side of the world to help the ‘mother country’ fight for freedom in the world wars. And by now I was getting VERY hungry.

Sue made lunch and we read a bit. Then we walked a few blocks to the movie theatre to see the 3:15 showing of “Silence”, the Martin Scorsese movie about Jesuits in Japan which only had one academy award nomination (for cinematography). The movie was good and long. And long and good. When we exited the theatre many of the stores along the main street were closed. We stopped by a noodle shop and picked up some Chinese take-out to take to our motel room. 

By 8 o’clock the door was locked, the curtains drawn, and Sue was in her night shirt, ready for bed. The wind was howling outside. Hopefully we FINALLY get a nicer day tomorrow. We’ve been here in New Plymouth for a week now, and while we’ve enjoyed getting to know the area, we sure haven’t had the good weather we’ve become accustomed to here in New Zealand this winter.

New Plymouth, Day 9

It’s Wednesday, March 15 — the middle of the week in the middle of the month. The Ides of March.

This morning, Sue read while I checked up on the latest Trump news. The wind had been howling again last night, and it was STILL blowing like crazy. But at least the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. The forecast said cool and very windy. That’s what it was.

For lunch I went to a sushi place not far from our motel and picked up two trays of assorted pretty morsels. I was bugging Sue that we should go golfing, maybe it wouldn’t be that windy down by the ocean, and we could wear long pants and jackets if it was a bit cool. Sue wasn’t keen on that. But we WERE starting to go a little stir-crazy just sitting around. 

We got into the car and stopped in at one of the big grocery stores. Then we drove just a couple of blocks out of town to the Pukekura Park. This ‘botanical’ park was one of three that the lady at the i-Site had suggested we visit. We parked in the parking lot and selected one of the paths to go for an afternoon stroll. And we weren’t the only ones who’d had that idea. Lots of older people and moms with their prams and joggers were enjoying the shelter from the wind there in the park.

Paved pathways wound around the big trees and lovely king ferns and gardens of rhododendrons and ponds with quacking ducks and Japanese-style pagodas and pretty bridges. In the middle was a ‘tea house’ where most of them eventually wound up to enjoy a coffee or an ice cream cone. We sat in the sun for a while until my pestering finally wore Sue down and we went back to the car and headed for the golf course.

Wikipedia map shows New Plymouth and Mt Taranaki.

There was one old guy standing at the clubhouse door and a foursome chipping onto the 18th green when we teed off. Not bad, here in the valley, in the shelter of the clubhouse. Sun was shining. I took off my sweater. Off to a terrible start, both of us, but they got better. Well, the GAME got better, but the wind did not. It was HOWLING whenever we got to a tee box that was up on one of the hills on the course — and it is a hilly course. The bonus was that the sky was clear and bright blue — and we finally (first time since we got into town more than a week ago) got a great view of the big mountain that dominates the Taranaki area.

We finished golfing at 6:30 and headed back to our place. We had our leftover Nasi Goreng for supper and watched a bit of TV. I was wiped, what with all the wind and the exercise we had today. I barely made it through the CBC National and was asleep before ten. Didn’t have the energy to write my journal — so I wrote it the next morning.