Sunday, June 29, 2008


Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand and is most often interpreted as "Land of the Long White Cloud" though this translation may be more aesthetically pleasing than technically accurate. Regardless, I have yet to see a cloudless day here, and the cloud formations are breathtaking.

We drove to Piha beach to enjoy the sunset last night despite the thunderstorms, thick rain, hail and wind. The weather here is unpredictable, or rather the prediction always says "rain" and while accurate, as it does indeed rain at some point everyday, it avoids the more difficult question: when will it rain? I am frequently soaked by the rain while the sun is shining, which drives me crazy until I look up and see clouds like this:

Speaking of fascinating and beautiful things in nature and wild sea storms, this is a blue bottle jelly fish that washed ashore at Piha with 10,000 of its friends. Isn't blue bottle a nice name? It's other name is Portuguese Man-O-War. Not such a nice name. I was happy we all wore sturdy shoes as it was hard to avoid all the little jelly fish bodies while walking along the beach. Here's hoping they found their way back home.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Our Lady of Birds

We are bird feeders.

While I am the most enthusiastic feeder of the family, we all enjoy lobbing bread at the ducks and gulls that live by the pond that is on our way to the grocery store. For extreme bird feeding (this is New Zealand, after all) we go to the Auckland Domain duck pond, home to many kinds of ducks, geese, and pigeons. Here you can play tug-a-war with a goose over a stale french loaf (B's a champ at this) while the gulls yell at you for your favoritism. It was at this pond that I realized I am a pied piper of pigeons, a veritable Bird Woman straight out of Mary Poppins (without the singing).

While I tend to consider pigeons to be the rodents of the bird world (filthy, germ-ridden pests!), clearly they don't hold that against me.

Like my first experience handling snakes, the limbic/reptilian part of my brain didn't like birds landing on me and I felt like I was living in Hitchcock's The Birds, while the OCD part of my brain was busy thinking about the scaly, disgusting, salmonella-drenched feet touching my skin. Thank goodness the calm midwife part of my brain triumphed over the rest and I was able to almost enjoy the feeding frenzy.

I love the little sparrows sitting on the fence (are they sparrows? I'm a bird feeder, not a bird watcher.) Why couldn't the little sparrows gather in my lap? Then I would feel like Snow White and I would definitely sing. And, like Snow White, my singing would bring out all the rest of the local wildlife that have been hiding in the bushes, and they too would want to sit in my lap! Mammals on my lap would be glorious!

But it turns out the true Bird Woman in our family is P.

Birds flock to her like pigeons to a statue.

This one did "The Pigeon" dance just like Bert from Sesame Street.

Synchronized perching.

And for once my girlygirl daughter did not totally freak out and scream and do the wiggle-shaky dance of one-who-has-touched-a-leech when they swarmed her and landed on her head, but instead she was still and calm and happy.

(In all fairness, there is no evidence that pigeons spread disease to humans. There is a lot of evidence however, that humans tend to get overly excited about pigeons spreading diseases.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Queen's Birthday Monday in Rotorua / Taupo

This will be a post in pictures. I was thrilled to find out that R's final weekend in NZ coincided with a national holiday here the "Queen's Birthday Monday." (For all you biking aficionados, and those who feel this blog has turned to grrly mush, know that B plans to post soon about his recent dreamy MTBing in NZ. Stay tuned.) So we climbed into our spaceship and went to Rotorua for the weekend.

Rotorua is a geothermal area where hydrogen sulphide gas is emitted from boiling mud pools and cracks in the earth's crust. The entire region smells like rotten eggs, and yet it is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the North Island.

P is not pleased about the stinky steam, although Flat K appears unaffected.
Below a burbling, boiling mud crater at Craters of the Moon.

Black swans on Lake Rotorua. On this beach you can dig a hole in the sand and it will fill with very hot water from the nearby mineral springs.

Okere falls. People not only kayak this, but go down it in large rafts. There is also Black River rafting here, which I am eager to try.

While the boys went MTBing, we went to an animal farm. Here Flat K is trying to sneak into the wallaby enclosure.

An emu, really close up.

And this is my most favorite pig ever, the Kune Kune pig (the Red River Hogs at SD zoo are a very close second). At this animal farm you can buy food for the animals, and if you rattle the bag these pigs will actually sprint over to you! Fantastic!

For a moment I thought we were going to lose Flat K to Boris, but he merely wanted to give her a snort. (hogs - not as cute as sows.)

I'll finish with more beautiful waterfalls with clear blue water. This is Huka Falls just outside Taupo.