Archive for the ‘Motueka’ Category

Time to move on. We got up around 8am, had bananas on toast for breakfast and then packed the food and remaining items such as Christmas cards. The car boot is getting fuller and fuller, and there will be a lot of slimming down to do before we fly out of Wellington. We took our leave of Alex, the owner, and set off just before 10 o’clock. First stop Motueka to buy our sandwich lunch from Subway (we promised the girls we’d go there), then down the Motueka Valley before joining Highway 6 to take us across to the West Coast.

Beetles on Beetle, Motueka High Street.

We stopped at a picnic site a little before Murchison to have our lunch, along with a couple who were travelling by bike with their young daughter in a cart at the back. A cycling tour of New Zealand sounds delightful on paper, but the reality must be rather different, contending with steep and twisty roads, biting flies and random downpours (or as Ellen put it, ‘what happens if it starts chucking it down?’).

We then paused in Murchison itself to stock up at a Four Square supermarket, perhaps our last opportunity to get provisions before Punakaiki (unless we made a 14km detour to Westport). Down along beside the Buller Gorge and then onto the coastal road that’ll eventually take us all the way south to Haast. So much stunning scenery that you reach saturation point and can’t properly take it all in; mountains, rivers, forests, all so clean and green. Pragmatically-named streams such as Eight-Mile Creek, Nine-Mile Creek (although by Lady Tom-Tom’s reckoning the first of these was only 7.9-Mile Creek).

A little before 3pm we were approaching Punakaiki when I spotted the road leading to our ‘Havenz’ accommodation (the ‘z’ plural is quite common over here, even when the preceding letter is not an ‘n’). We eventually found Reception and were greeted enthusiastically by young Zane, who talked us through the local walks and waxed lyrical about our tree-house apartment.

We drove down the gravel track and located the building, but there was some hesitation when we found not one but four apartments in the one tree-house. We had somehow expected to have the whole place to ourselves, but at least we have the largest share of the space. And it’s not so much a tree-house, more of a conventional timber three-storey construction in a woodland setting with two token trees growing through holes cut in the balcony.

All four units are occupied over New Year, so parking is a bit tight (only four spaces, but we have two cars for our party). You also have to dodge the wekas (native NZ birds) roaming the driveway; Motueka derives from ‘motu weka’ or weka island, but any resemblance between ‘Punakaiki’ and ‘pancake’ is purely coincidental (Punakaiki means ‘spring on the pile of rocks’ – a reference to the blow-holes).

My parents turned up about an hour after we arrived and we discussed who would sleep where. There’s one conventional bedroom and then another in a sort of rooftop conservatory with glass all around and very few blinds; privacy isn’t a concern as we’re surrounded by trees, but there’s not much escape from sunlight/moonlight/starlight.

We hope we have brought enough food to see us through our stay – it’s a one-and-a-half-hour round trip to the nearest food shop. We began with schnitzels and vegetables for supper tonight (which the girls conveniently omitted from today’s diary account) and we’re well stocked up with drinks and sweet and savoury nibbles for New Year’s Eve. The girls went to bed a little earlier than usual – we’ll see how late they can manage tomorrow evening.

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Keep It Simple, Stupid

It’s still Kirsten’s birthday in Tahiti as I write – those time zones can come in useful… Technically, her time of birth corresponds to early this morning, so we’ve kept the banner up for today as well.

Our converted gallery at Foley’s Creek.

A fairly quiet, catching-up-with-things, grouping-things-for-packing and finishing-up-leftovers sort of day today. Kirsten did more washing (including our rarely-cleaned fleeces – they’re expensive when you pay by the kilo), enough to see us through to next year. We all popped into Motueka library this morning; the girls devoured books in the children’s section while Kirsten looked for jewellery (for her birthday) and I uploaded photos. The internet table was especially busy today; it seems that all the local campers come here to recharge their Ipods, cameras and phones as well as to get online, and the library has been closed for the past four days.

Once our permitted hour was up we returned for lunch (the rest of the quiche, the remainder of the Christmas chicken, the last of a loaf). I then nipped back into town to get petrol and to continue bashing away at putting our photos onto the blog. It’s a long and tedious task; only our very first accommodation a month ago had free wifi (thanks to the generosity of the owner) and since then we have had no connection at all or else – just once in Wellington – a pay-as-you-go system. So I sat in the tourist info office for a little over an hour uploading to Flickr, then copying and pasting convoluted links from Flickr into our blog, one photo at a time. The result is that we now have pictures to accompany eight of our recent entries, with another 19 days – most of North Island – still to follow.

I got back in time for tea – Belgium biscuits, brandy snaps and brandy cream to be polished off. Later, yet another barbecue to use up our last burgers and sweetcorn, followed by six magnums – from my parents – that wouldn’t survive tomorrow’s journey to Punakaiki in a solid state. (And they weren’t those oxymoronic mini-magnums, either.)

Tonight is clearer now that the cloud and rain has passed. It may be a wet drive over through Murchison tomorrow, but we’re hoping for fine days either side of New Year. (Our previous visit to Pancake Rocks was marked by the fiercest thunderstorm of the trip; wonderfully dramatic as the storm raged through the night and we huddled in Hydrangea Cottage.)

A random recollection from yesterday: we were buying the exorbitant balls of lip balm for the girls yesterday and they wouldn’t scan properly at the checkout, and I’m sure I heard one of the assistants mutter ‘tricky little barcodes’. A nice NZ euphemism…

And finally some examples of how New Zealand leads the way in Keeping It Simple, Stupid. First, their cut-out day-glo orange belisha beacons which must save a bundle on electricity, maintenance and wiring. Second, their system for monitoring drivers who overstay their time in a car park – an attendant walks round once an hour, chalking a line on a given tyre of each car; two/three/etc. strikes and you’re out. Why do we bother in the UK with laboriously punching car registrations into a special gizmo to achieve the same result? [There’s a third example that my parents mentioned, but I can’t remember it right now…]

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My special day

Ever since our honeymoon to the South Island 9 years ago I have always wanted to come back.  I jokingly said I would like to celebrate my 40th birthday here.  And today is that birthday!  Tim was so kind and generous as to bring not only me but also our two lovely girls back to New Zealand.

Now, how could I celebrate this special day?  Reading through some leaflets I picked up at the i-site office I could choose between bungee jumping, twin paragliding, Abel Tasman coastal path (not a bad idea), kayaking, having my hair and nails done, etc., etc.  Ideally I would have liked to take my family horseriding along the beach, but none of us are experienced riders and the girls would only qualify for a 20-minute pony ride!  So what could I choose instead?

Well, the morning was spent opening some lovely birthday cards from Hannah, Ellen, Tim, my parents and my in-laws.  John and Angela popped in briefly to admire my birthday banner (courtesy of Tim) and hand me some beautiful presents; a jewellery box, a sweet flower necklace and a funny looking round wooden ball (?!).  “(K) Oh yes, it’s lip balm, isn’t it?  (A) Euh, no, I think it might be perfume …”  I had never seen creamy perfume like this, but it smells absolutely delicious and I have had it with me ever since.

After breakfast we went shopping in Motueka where we bought lip balm for the girls and some swim shorts for Hannah – hang on, who’s birthday was it again today?  Then a quick whizz around the supermarket to stock up on nice things for our picnic lunch.  We dashed back to our bungalow, got changed, made sandwiches and then drove on to Kaiteriteri.

Once in Kaiteriteri we only just managed to find a space in the overflow car park.  Whilst Tim went to buy tickets for the Wilson water taxi, the girls and I found a picnic table.  Instead of having a picnic on the beach we ended up between the overflow car park on one site and busy traffic down the main street on the other.  Now, if I stood on the bench or table I could see the beach, but my parents taught me that furniture was not for standing on …

As we were walking down the beach we could see the water taxi coming in.

It landed pretty close to us, and outstretched a metal gangway which landed with a “plop” on the dry sand less than a metre from us.  While we were waiting to get on the boat, the sea kept creeping closer and in the end we had to take our shoes off and wade through a little water before heading up the gangway.

We settled on the top deck which was fine for the first five minutes but as soon as the boat gathered some speed there were little cries from little girls saying they were getting cold.  So down we went, where we could enjoy the beautiful scenery in comfortable warmth.

Split Apple rock

Forty five minutes later we landed at Medlands Bay, which was a pretty small beach. From here we followed the coastal path to the next beach.  Bark Bay was only 10 minutes away and was a much bigger beach.
Beach Panorama

We had sort of planned to walk to the waterfalls (which would have been another 40-45 minutes) but once we were on the beach we decided to stay.  I put out my two towels to sit on, the girls put their swim shorts on and dragged Tim down the beach for a wander and explore.  Apparently they saw a little starfish!  Then it was my turn to join a guided tour by Hannah to their new island…


Only Tim and Hannah (again) felt brave enough to go for a swim in the freezing cold sea.  I have swum many competitions in streams and rivers and know very well what freezing cold water feels like and I was in no hurry to experience it again!

Girls’ new beach outfits.


Play time and swim time were only interrupted for my birthday tea of fresh muffins (chocolate and blueberry) and something called “Belgium biscuits”.  Now, first of all, they should be called “Belgian biscuits” and secondly being Belgian and having lived there for over 20 years I have never come across anything like it.  But … they were absolutely delicious.  They were slightly gingery (similar to Sinterklaas biscuits), with a raspberry filling and topped with glittery raspberry icing and really, really tasty.

Now, we could have gone on a long walk, I could have jogged up and down the beach or gone for a swim in the cold sea (just to be able to say ” I did that on my 40th!”), but instead I was very happy sitting on my towels soaking up the warmth of the sun whilst watching the girls play in the sand and Tim disappearing in the sea and I can truly say it was one of the best birthdays I have ever had! (Except for missing my twin sister and family, I’m sure we’ll make up for this next summer in Antwerp.)


I gave the girls one important task : search the beach for shells, bring me back a selection each and I will choose one special shell from each selection.  Tim joined in as well.  I know have three very special birthday presents!

At around a quarter past four we slowly made our way back to Medlands Bay to catch the water taxi back to Kaiteriteri where we arrived shortly after 5pm.  Half an hour later we were back at our bungalow.  John and Angela had already returned from their trip to the Pupu springs and caves and both men offered to go out and get fish & chips for my birthday supper.  This was followed by yummy, but very filling banoffee pie.

After supper, the grandparents kindly offered to help the girls with their diaries and put them to bed whilst Tim and I went back into Motueka to upload the latest blog entry and make phonecalls to my parents and twin sister – HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNEKE, LOTS OF LOVE FROM ALL OF US!

As Belgium is 12 hours behind I could carry on celebrating my birthday a little longer …  Now, how shall I celebrate the next day of my birthday???

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Tui 2

Awake with the dawn chorus to enjoy the latest tui concert. Once again I was astonished by their perfect pitch along with their grasp of melody, (implied) harmony, rhythm and musical form. I heard two of them doing their own thing, both in G Major and faultlessly in tune with each other.

The first one stuck to a simple ostinato; a crescendo of repeated ‘D’s resolving onto the G below. The second had clearly attended the Tuillard School and performed something more adventurous (quavers in a staccato 3/4 rhythm, crotchet approx 60):

G B [ A (rest) high F# (rest) G B ] A F G (rest)
where the [bracketed section] is repeated several times.

And yes, there is a flattened 7th low F natural at the end, the beginnings of chromaticism. (I hope it doesn’t go all Schoenberg by the end of the week…) Furthermore, the tui experimented by changing the B to a C and then seemed to prefer it – it does eliminate the nasty augmented fourth buried in the closing notes, after all.

Now the three examples I have cited in these pages are all in G Major, all follow well-defined (and largely diatonic) implied harmonies, all have a clear rhythm and all resolve satisfactorily at the end. What’s going on here? Has anybody done research on this?

Frustratingly, virtually every time I get the video camera out to record a tui’s song, it shuts up… But I have witnesses – Kirsten started whistling the first tune around the house and Ellen would let me know whenever she heard it so I could try recording again.

Anyway, this morning it was back to sleep for a while (no, I didn’t dream it all…) and then up to go into town to see the Sunday market and have another go at getting my parents’ laptop fixed. As for the latter, no joy; the other internet place had no external DVD drive at all and we’re unlikely to find much expertise in the remoteness of the West Coast over the next week or so. The market provided us with some raspberries and cheese as well as more reading books for the girls and a jade pendant for Hannah. We also took a quick 20 minutes to upload blog entries and check emails.

As we drove back for lunch the rain set in and it stayed pretty wet for most of the afternoon. Diary writing, DVDs, the curiously addictive pyramid puzzle (which is called Lonpos for no apparent reason), new books to read – indeed, Ellen finished her 96 pages of adventure stories and moved on to her unicorn book. A healthy snack of kiwi fruit, apple, raspberries and cherries – and an opportunity to model some novel ear-rings.


After tea with the grandparents we all braved the drizzle to find the source (or resurgence, rather) of the river that runs at the bottom of our garden. It’s 5km up at the end of our road, followed by a short walk through dripping ferns to a deep rock pool tinged blue by the copper (we are now drinking bottled water as a precaution against local heavy metals). The water disappears into the top of the hill, works its way through subterranean passages and re-emerges here, welling up out of the cliff face.

Riwaka resurgence.

Mist on the water.

A pleasantly sandy swimming area was empty but for ducks, but the girls had fun playing along the bank and collecting stones and bits of shell for grandad to admire. The rain eased off and we stayed until 6pm; time for supper. Back home we made a gratin using the left-over Christmas vegetables, fried the remaining roast potatoes and ate these with some big and meaty sausages. No room for dessert…

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The morning after

We all had a lazy start to Boxing Day, with Ellen being the last to surface around 9am. (Although the girls may be going to bed later than they would do at home, their later mornings here ensure that they still get roughly the same amount of sleep.)

After breakfast I hitched a lift into town with my parents to help them get their laptop sorted out. However, the first three internet places we tried were closed and the fourth was unable to provide an external DvD drive (we need it to reload Windows from a recovery disc). There was also some supermarket shopping to do, so it wasn’t a wasted journey, but on the way back I spotted that one internet cafe was now open. The proprietor spent half an hour cobbling together an optical drive from his boxes of spare/faulty parts at the back of the shop (an old PC drive along with a power supply and an IDE to USB adaptor) but nothing seemed to work. ‘You’ve picked the worst day of the year to come in’ was his encouraging comment (the place was hardly heaving, though) and we suspected he had overdone the festivities yesterday – one other internet cafe would not be open until 2pm to allow the owner some recovery time, presumably. So we decided to cut our losses and get back home before the shopping defrosted; at least he had the decency not to charge us for his unsuccessful efforts (that probably wouldn’t happen in the UK).

Meanwhile the girls had showers and Kirsten caught up on the washing, as well as ironing the girls’ self-designed T-shirts.


The three generations then played ‘Frisball’ (a scary simultaneous barrage of flying frisbee and bouncing ball) before lunch, allowing us to burn off some of those Christmas calories, though after Hannah got zapped on her forehead by an errant frisbee we played safe with three-a-side football followed by a penalty shoot-out.

A sandwich lunch (we have so much bread to get through) and then a restful afternoon watching ‘Shrek 3’ and ‘Ratatouille’ (yet again). My parents came over for tea to share the mince pies and brandy snaps that we had no room for yesterday (much better to spread the seasonal dietary onslaught in this way) and then we went chez eux for another burger barbecue – followed by scrumptious Kapiti triple chocolate ice cream back at our place (well, it needs eating up before we move on in three days’ time).

Girls showing the grandparents their scrapbooks/artwork.


It has been an overcast yet dry day, but the temperature is still comfortable enough for sitting outside; the main problem remains the little biting flies, which all seemed to go for me tonight. [By the way, I was getting confused the other day. Chocolate won’t keep mozzies at bay, and indeed mosquitoes are necessary for pollinating cocoa plants; I was thinking of the dangerously spurious advice to drink lots of G&Ts as protection against malaria – don’t do it!]

We all need this rest period over Christmas; it’s nice not to be packing up and moving on just yet, and we haven’t felt the need to go out and see the sights every day. We’re glad to have some space and seclusion here; the same money might only get you a room with a kitchenette in a motel (and that’s what we’ll be doing near Fox Glacier) so our bungalows are ideal for these ten nights.

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Maori Christmas

and a Haka New Year to all our friends, readers and contributors…


While we still don’t quite know who all of our 50 to 80 daily followers might be (and apologies if we’ve missed you off), we send Zealand’s Greetings to:

Oma & Opa
Ann, Michel & Mathias
Carl & Sofie
Tante Rita, Wendy, Wim & Yenna
Ellen & Sven
Saskia, Peter, Lucas & Lisa
Steven, Hilde, Fee, Emma & Tiebe
John, Yuko and Haggis
Auntie Gwen
Christine, Rod, Alex & Oliver
Ilse, Mindy & Sari
Veronique, Hans & Yenthe
Ann Bruyninckx
Ann Vandecasteele
Esther, Anthony, Molly & Reuben
Libby, Rob, Eleanor, Grace & James
Jo, Tim, Eve & Ellie
Mandy, Stewart, Matthew, Jack & Charlie
Sally Abbott & family
Rosie Brewer & family
Sarah, Paul, Emma & Alice
Lisa, Mark, Lauren & Samantha
Claire, Archie & Isaac
Julie, Charles, Amy & Grace
Marie, Paul, Olivia & Ben
Deb, Ollie & Riley
Jo Lawrence & family
Elsa, Gabriel & Xavier
Rob & Kamaly
Ian & Martine
Bryan & Trudie
Jonathan, Laura, Tabitha & Thomas
Chris, Charlotte, Will & Ted
Roy, Polla & Lili
Mike & Liz
Nick H.
Margaret & Julian
Clive & Jean
John & Di
Pam & Peter
The Firth Family
The Miller Family
The Wallop Family (Its a small world after all)
The Arnell-Smith Family (6outofoz)

With very best wishes from Tim, Kirsten, Hannah and Ellen

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Yule blog

I don’t believe it … it’s Christmas morning, Father Christmas has filled the girls’ stockings, there are presents under the Christmas tree and Hannah & Ellen didn’t get out of bed until gone 8 o’clock! This would be unheard of back at home …

Before our breakfast of pastries (chocolate and fruit) the girls investigated their stockings (well, Tim’s trekking socks to be more precise). They found in them plastic tubs filled with sweets, apples, tubes of glow sticks and puzzle games which they both liked a lot. Even though we are a long way from home and obviously didn’t get any post, we still managed to fill nearly two shelves with Christmas cards.

The morning was spent quite leisurely with both girls playing with their presents and the grown-ups getting ready for cooking our Christmas lunch.

The cooking arrangements were such that neither of us had a lot to do. Angela & John took care of the two chickens, sausages, bacon, gravy and half a dessert. They kindly bought the pavlova base which Tim and I then decorated with cherries and strawberries. Tim was in charge of the roast potatoes (which grandad had peeled), onions and parsnips and I chopped and boiled the carrots and broccoli. It all worked out perfectly and all the food was ready for 12.30pm.

After lunch in the garden, we cooled off inside with a glass of wine and more presents (for the girls). During the day both girls read all the books and pretty much finished all the art presents they were given. There was a joke book, a book about poo(!) and a book called “Meerkat Mail” which is about a travelling meerkat writing postcards to his family. The family motto is : “Stay safe, stay together” – I like that! The art projects were two engraving sets and plain t-shirts for the girls to decorate. Hannah did a beautiful cat on her t-shirt with coloured stripes on the sleeves and Ellen drew Rapunzel in her castle and also decorated a mini t-shirt for Muffin (her cuddly dog).

Later in the afternoon, Tim and I popped out briefly for a stroll down the lane

We then sat down for a very light supper of crackers and cheese. This was followed by the girls again volunteering to write their diaries. It has become part of their daily routine, which is fantastic, no more struggles to get Ellen to sit down and write about her day, she is almost doing this independently.

After they finished their diaries and Tim put our Christmas photo on the computer we all piled into the car to drive to Motueka to try and get an internet connection and to phone my parents and sister in Belgium (with my Vodafone deal I can phone any landline in Belgium for $2 for 2 hours). We first tried outside the library as that would be free, but no luck. So off we went to the i-site office where we parked outside, paid $5 and had one hour of internet access. While Tim managed to update our blog and put our Christmas photo on, I spoke to my family. It was 8 o’clock (their time) on Christmas morning, and still dark and very cold, whilst here in New Zealand it was 8 o’clock in the evening, and still light, warm and sunny – ahh, it’s such a hard life all this travelling …

Not quite sure what our plans are for Boxing Day, all the shops will be open again (they only close on Christmas day), but we will all meet up in the evening for our second BBQ of the week!

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Nick of time

Christmas Eve; time to go out and begin our Christmas shopping. We left the girls with Nana and Grandad mid-morning and hit Motueka, expecting to return a little after lunchtime, perhaps. As it turned out, we were late back for tea…

For even laid-back New Zealand was verging on hectic today – we’ve never seen such busy roads and shops here. We began by scouring the High Street seeking inspiration for the girls; fortunately a few gift shops came up trumps for the sort of small but entertaining/useful presents we were after. A couple of portable puzzles (arranging clumps of joined balls to make various 2D/3D shapes, etc.), some glow sticks, a skipping rope and an inflatable/deflatable ball. We also got some UV protection tops for keeping the sun off while they are in the water.

Along the way we spotted a cool bag (i.e. a bag for keeping things cool), something we’ve been hunting for a while. Anyway, by now we needed food, so we shared a 12-inch roll from Subway before finding the library to investigate its computer facilities. All the machines were booked for another 20 minutes, but fortunately they have wifi so we could use our laptop immediately – and for free.

So there followed an hour of downloading emails, uploading blog entries and checking weather and money (that’s all one can do in the time, so still no photos – sorry). The bad news is that the library is closed for the next four days, so we’ll try to find alternative means of connecting to keep you updated.

Finally to ‘New World’ supermarket to stock up for the next two days. We seem to have spent an alarming $420 (just under £200) there to get us through our first week on the South Island, but (i) it is Christmas and (ii) we’d probably be spending a similar amount were we back in England. Our outlay on presents should be considerably less than usual, however; we adults are pretty much doing without gifts, although Kirsten and I have bought each other another bar of chocolate. [All we need now is a packet of sheep-shaped mints – baa humbug…]

So what is our Antipodean Christmas going to be like? Sunny with a touch of cloud, and around 22C (we hope). For lunch we have twin stuffed roast chickens with roast potatoes, parsnips and onions as well as carrots and broccoli; a pavlova to follow (we bought a kilo of plump cherries from a roadside stall today). Mince pies and muffins for tea (no heavy fruit cake) and probably very little for supper.

We forgot to pack any stockings, so the girls have pegged up two of my (clean) hiking socks next to our Christmas tree (provided – along with lights – by Alex, the owner). We have no chimney, but Hannah and Ellen are not too alarmed at the prospect of an elderly gentleman finding alternative means of breaking into our house overnight, as long as there is something for them in the morning. Hannah did wonder how Santa can get through so many mince pies in one night, but then reasoned that perhaps he has nothing to eat for the remainder of the year.

And to all, a good night!

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Ankle biters

A pleasant surprise to get up and find that the breakfast table has been laid – perhaps it’s the girls’ way of telling us that they’re hungry…

Kirsten’s bites were such that she didn’t feel up to a serious walk today; her feet were still swollen from the insect onslaught. So we opted for a drive over the hills and far away to Golden Bay. Another hairpinny journey as we wound round tight bends, their severity indicated by the advisory speed limit; the worst was a 15km/h loop. Incidentally, we wondered why all bend speeds end in ‘5’ when all other limits are rounded to the nearest 10, but I suppose that it makes them easy to distinguish; ‘5’s are temporary but ’10’s are lasting.

Just under half an hour later we reached Takaka where we headed straight for the i-Site. We visited Pupu Springs nine years ago, and this was to be our next stop today. Curious that we remember the springs but nothing else of the journey to reach them (I do recall sections of road elsewhere around South Island – down the West coast, across the bottom to Dunedin, up from Christchurch.) Anyway, we were told that Pupu Springs (which form a sacred Maori site) were closed – we mustn’t touch/drink/swim in the water – but we could still view them.

The official reason is to prevent the spread of Didymo (an invasive microscopic alga, also charmingly known as rock snot), but elsewhere in New Zealand the advice is simply ‘Check – Clean – Dry.’. Well, I say ‘simply’, but you are expected to dip your kayak (or whatever) in a 5% dish detergent solution and then dry every last drop of water from it every time you move from one waterway to another. Am I cynical or might a few people not bother going to such lengths? And waterfowl can easily spread Didymo anyway…

The Pupu water is (contrary to what the name might suggest) the clearest spring water in the world, although I couldn’t find an explanation as to why. To demonstrate the point, they have set up a giant periscope to allow you to look the length of the main lake, underwater (although ‘looks pretty clear to me’ hardly proves anything). By the way, ‘pupu’ refers to the bubbling of the springs, one of several onomatapoeic Maori words such as ‘ha’ for ‘breath’.

Pupu Springs.

Dancing sands.

Artwork from an information board.

We completed the half-hour walk through the regenerating manuka forest around the springs.

Exotic NZ flora…


We then drove to Pohara for a picnic lunch by the beach (pate and salmon sandwiches for the adults, ham and salami for the girls). A sunny day but any warmth was neutralised by a stiff off-shore wind. Nevertheless, we spent some time on the sand after lunch to give Ellen some more spade time. Although some other families were braving the choppy sea we didn’t feel any overwhelming urge to do so ourselves, even if it is one of the safest beaches in the country.

A quick detour to look for penguins (no, you might glimpse one crossing the road at night if you’re very lucky)

and then back to Takaka to have an ice cream – even a ‘single scoop’ was huge, somehow including two different flavours. Then the winding road home, bringing us to the turning to our road at exactly the same moment that my parents got there… (They walked quicker than they had planned and thus caught an earlier water taxi.)

We cooked lasagne for all of us, doing our best with limited ingredients and a Pyrex dish which was rather too large, but it filled us up and Hannah preferred it to our usual efforts (the beef mince was of a good quality). My parents provided a fresh fruit salad for dessert and we sat outside in the evening sun – not too many blackfly up at The Gallery.

The girls then spontaneously volunteered to start writing their diaries – such a contrast from the days when Ellen would moan for 15 minutes before getting down to work – and they said they wanted to carry on writing in Australia and South-East Asia. I couldn’t resist noting our six-year-old’s quote of “Ooh – that does need a bit of a repair, doesn’t it?” when she saw the fading ‘New Zealand’ title on the front of her diary…

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Musical Tuis

B – G – A – D – B – G – A – (rest) – B – G – A – D – B – (rest) – high G – (rest)

This is the song of the tui in our garden at Foley’s Creek. It is remarkable for its consistency: perfect pitch every time as well as precise intervals between the notes, and also its measured metronomic staccato 4/4 rhythm. To compare most birdsong to music is stretching things; pretty burbling, tweeting or warbling maybe, but generally nothing that you could transcribe straight onto the page (bar the hackneyed descending major third of the cuckoo). So I am astonished by this tui in particular; others have had their two- or three-note motifs, but this is a well-structured composition 16 crotchets long. Why/how do they work within the confines of diatonic melody (i.e. using the white notes on the piano)? A random sequence of notes is likely to contain quarter-tones (or worse) and end up sounding ‘modern’, or what my mother calls ‘toothache music’. Even a random sequence of white notes is unlikely to be ‘melodically viable’. So do tuis have a ‘good ear’ and intentionally produce tunes that sound nice? Is the melody genetically determined, is it learned or is it improvised, developed and then adhered to? Do we have here the musical avian equivalent of Remy the rat? I hope there is an existing body of knowledge out there, but we are still internet-less so I can’t find out just now.

What of the rest of today? Around 10am we drove down to one of our local beaches, Little Kaiteriteri, and spent a good 90 minutes on the (particularly orange) sand; plenty of shells to collect, and Ellen devised treasure trails with paths to follow and objects to dig up. The adults felt quite drained of energy and rested awhile on our towels. Sunny, but enough wind to make us keep fleeces/cardigans on.

Little Kaiteriteri.

Little Kaiteriteri panorama

Around lunchtime we continued to Motueka to grab a bite to eat at a cafe. Several choices along the High Street, but we went for Patisserie Royale which offered slightly chewy filled baguettes and a delicious coffee eclair for dessert. Once our hunger pangs had been assuaged, we were ready to face the supermarket where we stuck to our list pretty accurately for once… Kirsten also topped up her pre-pay mobile phone ready for those Christmas calls.

Back to The Gallery around 3pm, allowing time for us to bake a small batch of iced biscuits for tea (six – one each). Tricky with no kitchen scales, but we managed. My parents invited us to share their barbecue, and the girls wrote their diaries while our potatoes baked in their foil jackets. Some good New Zealand meat, too; burgers in a wholemeal bun and some hefty slabs of tenderised steak. Just the thing to celebrate the arrival of summer (and to annoy everyone freezing back there in Europe). The sandflies are annoying us, however, and the itchy bites can drive you crazy (despite all our soothing creams and zappers).

Tomorrow my parents are walking a section of the Abel Tasman track as well as taking a water taxi the length of the coastline from Kaiteriteri to Totaranui, so they’ll be out much of the day. We’ll see what state our bites are in – maybe do a walk or perhaps drive up to Golden Bay.

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