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Final Countdown to Kiwi Land

Written on: Wednesday March 28th, 2007

A journal entry from: The Winter of 2006/2007

Mike suggested we invite Pam and Bill out for a meal as we?ll be leaving in a week so we all ? including Pam and Bill?s 10 year old, Sean, strolled down to the wharf for a meal at Flax.  Pam and Bill are very sociable people, very easy to talk to and we enjoyed spending a night of our last weekend in Mapua with them.


When Mike and Jean were here two years ago they visited quite a few wineries.  This area is very similar to Penticton and there are numerous vineyards and cottage wineries.  One of their favourites was Hemmerfeld which is owned by a lady called Beth.  Beth used to be a nurse but always had a yen to own her own property and grow something.  That something began as apples but, as in BC, the apple industry took a beating and many orchardists pulled out their apples and planted grapes.  What?s so different about Beth is that she also raises sheep but gets so attached to them she can?t sell them for meat and she now has over 100.  She?s named many of the sheep, a habit I think she?ll have to halt if she wants to make a profit out of them.  After golf one day we took a picnic lunch to Beth?s place and she gave us a tour of the vineyards, let us mingle with the sheep who are very tame and we also paid a visit to a small chapel that she?s built on her premises.  Whilst we ate our lunch she regaled us with stories about caring for the sheep which involves pulling maggots from their rear ends, this involves feeding them nuts and whilst they?re eating them she jumps on top of them and pins them down, then picks the maggots out of their backsides.  Apparently if she doesn?t remove the maggots they eventually multiply and invade the inside of the sheep, eating them from the inside out.  This was a very tasty conversation to have with our lunch.  It was fun though and we learned a bit about vines and pruning, information which Mike and Jean are taking home to use on their own grapes. 


We were able to manage another couple of walks in our last week, one was at Tekaka Hill.  We drove quite a way up the mountain and parked the car, then had quite a steep climb for about 15 minutes.  It was a gorgeous day but unfortunately there was a mist overhanging the Tasman Ocean otherwise the views would have been astounding.  The sign at the entrance to the walk cautioned us to be aware of tomos (sinkholes) in the area and along the walk there were signs at various spots warning us of a tomo.  Some of them looked very deep, Roger dropped rocks into them and it did seem a while before he heard the rock reach a solid surface.  My imagination ran riot and I could imagine a Mad Hatter and Alice popping out of one of the holes any second.  The walk was a varied one taking us clambering over kast (marble) rocks in some areas, meadows in others and through beech forests.  It took us about 2 ˝ hours.  The book that Mike had bought informed us that there was a fossilized cow in a shed on the property, Jean and I went for a look but it didn?t seem too interesting, just a few bones.  However Mike pushed his camera in a window and took a photo and when he downloaded it onto his computer later he was surprised to see the head and body of the cow, we?d been looking at its back from our viewpoint.


Another day we drove two hours to Farewell Spit which is the most north western part of New Zealand?s south island.  We then drove along a dirt track for about 8 kms and parked in the Wharareke Beach (pronounced Ferarekee) parking lot.  From there we walked for about twenty minutes until we came across an area of sand-dunes leading to the ocean.  In this spot the ocean has eroded away the marble creating some great sculptures.  The neat thing was that as we walked along the beach the erosion looked different from each angle so it was an ever-changing scenery.  Mike and Jean had timed our walk for low tide so that we could walk along the beach and get into some caves that have been formed by the ocean.  Nature is incredible, as we have discovered on our winter trip, the rocks were shaped into outstanding shapes by the water and we were able to walk into some of the caves for a short distance before we would have to crawl ?didn?t fancy that.  After exploring the caves we walked back along the beach to where a group of people were gathered, we soon found out why.  There were baby seals playing in a rock pool with their parents looking on from a short distance.  I took off my socks and shoes and waded out to the rock pool and was astonished when one of the seals came out of the water at my feet as if waiting for me to arrive.  It sat only inches away from me for a few minutes having a good scratch before it jumped into the water and swam away.  The other baby seals frolicked in the water enjoying the warmth just like lambs enjoy the warm spring air.


On our way back to Mapua we stopped in at Pupu Springs.  Here a well-formed boardwalk introduces visitors to the springs and the natural vegetation of New Zealand.  The springs themselves are quite remarkable producing the equivalent of 40 bathtubs of water each second.  The water is incredibly clear but unfortunately a type of milfoil has been inadvertently introduced into the area which could eventually compromise the clarity.


So here we are one day away from leaving Mapua, three from leaving New Zealand and reflecting on the past five months.  It?s been an astounding time full of marvellous places, people, animals and scenery.  Even the most ordinary day has been emphasized by something whether it?s be a cockatoo asking for a neck scratch, a hole in one, black pigs carried on a guy's back or could it be one of Mike?s culinary creations?   Don?t stop reading now though, we still have Fiji coming up.  With reports of coops, floods and strikes, should make an interesting last week to our winter trip.