Dec 7th 2010 - Ness Valley, Nr Auckland, NZ
Well I can hardly believe we have been here a whole week! We have been watching the news and hearing bulletins from home in the UK and know just how lucky we are to be here in warm and sunny New Zealand whilst the UK is experiencing the earliest widespread snow and plummeting temperatures for many, many years! We have certainly had a "narrow" escape!
So, what have we been up to then? Well, not a great deal really. We have been relaxing quite a lot in order to gently ease ourselves over the jet lag and really we have done very well. Fortunately we got off to a good start as we arrived in the early hours of the New Zealand morning and went straight to bed so it really helped us to adjust to the different time zone.
Clive, Lindsey and Radar enjoying a gin and tonic on the decking!
We are staying with my great friend Lindsey Britton. I met her on my very first day at infants school when we were five and we have been friends ever since! She unfortunately has to go to work every day but as she has a company car she has allowed us the use of her van, so Clive is now "White Van Man"! At least it means we can get about a bit. We went to do a big shop a couple of days ago! It is amazing how much more interesting supermarkets are in other countries and this one was no exception. Obviously there are most of the things we are used to at home but not necessarily the same brands. However the fruit and veg here is fantastic and much more varied than at home but the piece de resistance is the fresh seafood - words cannot describe the varieties of fish, shellfish and crustacean, yummy!
We arrived here last Tuesday and on Wednesday evening, jet lagged or not, we went with Lindsey and her sister Philippa to the local pub quiz! It was a very strange quiz, not least because most of the questions related to New Zealand!! The questionmaster was a young lady but there were flat screen monitors all around the pub with pictures relating to the questions. In the end we came eighth, which wasn't bad at all considering one of the teams had 14 people on it!!
We have been spending quite a lot of time just relaxing at Lindsey's lovely house, which is set in the most idyllic of surroundings. When she bought the land soon after she moved out to New Zealand it was just part of a field with a fence around it, there was no house here. She appointed an agent and told them the type of house that she wanted, an old colonial type house preferably made of Kauri wood. The Kauri is a native New Zealand tree and they can grow to vast proportions, however they were felled almost out of existence some years back and became protected so the only kind of Kauri wood you can get today is bog Kauri, trees that have been preserved in a bog! Anyway, her agent finally came up trumps and found the perfect house for her somewhere up in the mountains. She saw it, loved it straight away and bought it. The next step was to saw the house in half and load each half onto a flatbed truck and transport them to her "section" (that's what they call plots over here). Part of the fence had to be removed to allow the trucks access to the land then the two halves were jacked up and the lorries left, then the house was put back together again! I defy you to find the join!! It is a lovely house and she has put a lot of hard work and TLC into making it a beautiful home. The grounds, which were once just a field are now beautiful graceful gardens filled with native plants and trees, it really is a wonderful place.
Lindsey's lovely home in its beautiful setting
On Saturday afternoon Philly and her friend Ann invited Clive to go and play golf with them so Lindsey and I took her little dog Radar and Philly's dog Saphie for a lovely walk along the beach at Eastern Bay. We couldn't actually go on the beach itself with the dogs, as there are restrictions during certain hours in the summer season, so we walked along the grass verge instead. It was a lovely day, the sun was shining and the sea looked so inviting I wished I had brought my cozzie along but it was back at the house! There were lots of people taking advantage of the weather though and the beach was quite busy. Well when I say busy, I mean for a New Zealand beach - this is quite busy!!
The beach, Eastern Bay
After our walk we made our way back to Philly's house where we found the three golfers sitting out on the decking supping Speight's (a rather nice New Zealand beer!) so we joined them! Whilst we were sitting there Lindsey felt something tickling her arm! She looked down and saw what she took to be a little spider, however on closer inspection she realised that it was a tiny baby Mantis! You can tell from the hairs on her arm just how tiny this little chap actually is!
Tiny baby Mantis!
From the sublime to the ridiculous, a few nights ago Clive heard something banging against our bedroom window trying to get in! He couldn't actually tell what it was but he knew it was big! The next morning Lindsey found the culprit a little dazed on the decking outside our window. She told us it is called a Huhu Beetle - all I can say is I am very glad it did not get into the bedroom that night! I have to admit though as beetles go this is quite a pretty one but it is sooooooooooooo huge!!
Huhu Beetle and Clive's glasses!
Besides these insects there is lots of amazing wildlife in New Zealand, especially birds! Every morning we awake to the most amazing dawn chorus, which sounds quite different to the one at home. One of the noisiest birds sings right outside our window, its a Mynah bird! They are very common here in New Zealand and are known locally as Suicide Birds due to their habit of pecking on roadkill carcasses! There are also thrushes, finches and swallows in Lindsey's garden but they don't look quite the same as the ones at home. There is another beautiful bird called a Fantail, which we saw on the Ponga tree outside our bedroom window the other day but by the time I grabbed the camera it had flown off! Never mind I'm sure there will be another opportunity - watch this space!
Welll I think that is about it for now. I will put some more photos in the gallery and be back shortly for another bulletin.