Muriwai is for the birds...

Trip Start Dec 01, 2009
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Trip End Jan 23, 2010


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Where I stayed
Alice & Richard's home

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Saturday, December 5, 2009

Arrived into Auckland after a surprisingly tolerable 26 hrs traveling from LAX to Auckland (via Vancouver & Sydney).  We were greeted oh-so-warmly by Alice & Richard Mandeno, Mark's host parents from when he was a 16-yr-old foreign exchange student here.  A solid rain dowsed the area, and the traffic kept us from making good time driving from the airport to the seaside town of Orewa.  Although this probably wasn't so fun for the driver, it gave us lots of time to look about, and Alice, the super tour guide, narrated viewpoints all along the way.  

The sun was shining and birds were singing when we opened our eyes the next morning, promising a delightful day.  Can't recall when we've been so spoiled by hosts, but we've had wonderful meals, comfortable beds, and fantastic company in this lovely pair!  Today, we began our search for a vehicle by visiting a couple of car lots.  No choice made yet, but hopefully soon.  We stopped at "BeesOnline," an apiary, restaurant, and honey shop extraordinaire.  I never knew honey could have so many distinct flavors and varieties, nor did I know that some may have antibiotic properties.   I'll have to be sure to share some of the amazing lavendar honey we now have with Lauren (though the Brins Run honey may still be my favorite--we'll have to do a side-by-side taste test!).

The highlight of the day had to be our visit to Muriwai, a beautiful spot on the west coast of the north island, not far from Auckland.  We came specifically to visit a gannet colony, but as you'll see from the images, there's plenty to enjoy for more than just folks who enjoy observing bird-life.  

 For those reading this from the northern hemisphere, you'll need to recall that it's late spring here.  This puts a different flavor on the holiday season.  Christmas at the beach anyone?  You'll notice Mark standing in front of New Zealand's own Christmas tree, the Pohutukawa, with it's red "bottle brush" like flowers.

The gannets (or takapu)  themselves are fantastic to watch, and seem not too bothered by humans at the viewpoints along the tops of the cliffs.  Fuzzy chicks were already half the size of their parents, but we didn't get close enough (nor have a good enough lens) to get any clear shots of them.  Adults were either perched atop the cliffs or offshore bluffs, or flying in circular patterns, chatting all the while.  The males were still defending territories or displaying their prowess, and pairs were courting and mating here and there.  It was delightful to watch their antics so closely.  Could have watched them for much more than the hour or two we were there. 

But instead, we had a nice walk down to the beach where we were treated to a delightful picnic lunch complete with salad from the Mandenos' garden, Alice's home made chocolate-covered kiwis and tasty mugs of coffee, then a short walk into the bush to listen to Tui birds singing.  We recorded it for all to hear, but for some reason the audio file was lost.  We'll try again for the magical sounds when we get another opportunity.

On our return we stopped at a New Zealand-made crafts shop, a store-front space filled with hundreds of stalls where local artists and artisans sold their wares.  It was somewhat like an open-air craft fair, but kept permanently indoors instead.  A great idea.

Even closer back to Orewa, we visited Kumeu River winery for a taste. White wines were the highlight here, particularly chardonnays that have received 90+ ratings from Wine Spectator.  This winery has been in business for more than 60 years, and the matriarch told us stories of its beginning, while we sipped a few of their top wines.  If you can find a bottle, their Hunting Hill and Mate's Vineyard Chardonnays were our favorites. 

Loving it here already!!!

P.S.  For those new to blogging, you can click on the photos at the bottom to enlarge them and scroll through them.  Be sure to go to the last uploaded image to see some video!
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Comments

Aimee Rose on

Sounds like fun! Glad you made it there safely. I didn't know you were buying a car. Will you try to sell it before you leave? To a person or a dealership? That's a good idea.

Mark on

yeah, we hope to sell it to anyone! just before we leave. A 2 month rental is more than $3000 so a car bought and sold for anything less is a deal.

Annie Borling on

Wow... so jealous already! These photos are great. Can't wait to see more. It's snowing here in Flagstaff today. We're supposed to get a huge storm this week. Take care and safe travels!!!

jeanine on

sounds so cool. you 2 lead a charmed life!

Angelo Pappas on

Glad to hear you made it safely to NZ. Enjoy the summer weather. Just finished shoveling 2' + snow off the deck here at KFLG. I'm eager to hear more about your progress. Thanks so much for sharing. Kind Regards.

wynnejoy
wynnejoy on

Wow!!! 2 feet of snow, golly! Guess we left just in time! We're loving soaking up the sun!

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