Friday, July 25, 2014

When Nimue gets tired

I ran across this set of pictures, which give you an idea of what Nimue is like when she is tired after a hike.
Sad tired kid
Sad face exaggerated when asked to smile.
 Really tired.
 Hint of a smile after Ma said something patently ridiculous.
Hopefully this doesn't happen while she is off at camp, because there is no nice Daddy shoulder to lean on!

Across the water

More New Zealand for you this morning:

It being wintertime, we did not do much in the way of water activities, but we did take a passenger ferry from Paihia (not too far from the Treaty Grounds I mentioned a couple of posts ago) across the bay to Russell.  Nimue likes boats; this one was named the "Happy Ferry"

 Given that we didn't head across the water until 4:30, the light was getting low, making everything extra scenic.

We hiked uphill from town to the top of Flagstaff Hill, where the first official New Zealand flagstaff was raised after the treaty was signed.  This was entertaining, as we had just heard all about how the Maori chief Hone Heke instigated getting this flagpole chopped down over and over in the years following the signing of the treaty, as he found things not to like about the treaty.  Our tour guide at the treaty grounds really made Hone Heke out as a kind of a Trickster figure, chopping down the flag every time the British left an opening.

Hiking up the hill had the added benefit of giving us nice views in the warm late afternoon sunlight on the way up,

a chance to discover a nice sundial with a mosaic of New Zealand up top (Did you know sundials are counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere?),
sunset-like views on the way down, 

and a chance to skitter across the beach at the bottom.
 We waited for the ferry as it got dark, and headed back to the cottage for another yummy lamb dinner.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Useful yarn bombing

Now this is a yarn bomb that is actually useful -- the soft cover keeps one from scratching one's bike frame on the rack.

Seen in downtown Sunnyvale this morning.  All the racks up and down Murphy Street got this treatment.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Emus are funny

When we were in New Zealand, I made a point of choosing accommodations that were small and featured animals to amuse Nimue.  It turns out there there are quite a number of home stay/farmstay/B&B accommodations, so it wasn't hard to find these.  Over the course of the week, we saw, fed, and petted cats, dogs, a pig, a pony, a donkey,

chickens (many of which provided eggs for our breakfast),

sheep and goats,


 and emus.

Nimue got to feed the emus; at one point there were five of them all pecking at the food bowl at the same time.  Up close, they look quite dinosaur-like.

The emu farm had a gaggle of juvenile ones penned away in a separate area.  Cute and fuzzy, right?

Also very, very, very curious

and unable to resist pecking at shiny things

Including my camera.  Emus are funny.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What would you do with these?

The first place we stayed in New Zealand had a kitchenette, which of course meant we cooked our own dinner for a few nights.  Arriving jet-lagged at the grocery store, I couldn't resist buying these:
They were labelled "Red Yams".  I know not everyone responds to unknown foodstuffs with an irresistible urge to try them, much less cook them jet-lagged after a red-eye flight, but we do...

Lacking any real knowledge of how they are normally cooked, and also limited to the small number of things we got from the grocery store, I opted to slice them up and butter-steam them on the stove.

Add the rest of dinner: lamb gobbets, spinach, and NZ red wine.  Yum.  It just encourages my bad habits :)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chief Chad

While we were in New Zealand, we wanted to be sure to see some vestige of Maori civilization.  Certainly there are a lot of things that carry into the modern day, with something like a quarter of the population speaking Maori, and many of the place names being based on that language. Funny names like Whakapapa, Mangawhai or Otorohanga, which probably are easier to remember and make sense of if you know the root words they come from.  We don't, leading to navigational comments like "Turn left at Whaka-whosi-what's-it," and "If this is Ngongo-whatever, slow down and look for Route 5 at the next roundabout."

At any rate, I wanted to see some Maori carving and give Nim a chance to learn some history that she might not otherwise, so we went looking for a Maori cultural site and ended up at the Waitangi Treaty  Grounds.

This is the location where an agreement between the British crown and the native tribes was negotiated and signed in 1840.  The British saw this as an expansion of their empire; the Maori saw it as a way to assert their land rights in the face of incoming colonists and a way to allow the British to enforce laws and control various foreign ne'er-do-wells. Despite some misunderstandings and resultant war skirmishes in the early days, the treaty of Waitangi is seen as the founding document of modern New Zealand.

We took a guided tour, which was a good choice, as our Maori guide was irreverent, full of information, and liked to tell a good yarn.  After a compressed version of 19th century New Zealand history in the museum, we headed out to the waka house.

Waka = ceremonial war canoe.  Most excellent.  In this case, it was Ngātokimatawhaorua (all the canoes are named), a 35-meter behemoth that weighs 12 tons and requires 76 paddlers.  The largest ceremonial war canoe EVER.  It was donated by the Maori for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the treaty.  They do actually take it out on the water once a year on the anniversary in February, which has got to be quite a sight.

Our tour guide seemed to revel in the canoe's name, rattling it off at high speed and with great easy as he told his stories.  Ngātokimatawhaorua.  Ngātokimatawhaorua. Over and over and over again.  It probably would be fun to say, if I actually could.

The canoe was full of fun carvings.

It was made of wood from three massive kauri trees; you can see the joints.

If you know not the kauri, they rival any of the big trees we're familiar with in California.  This is the stump of one of the three used for Ngātokimatawhaorua.

There were also several other waka at the site.  Most photogenic.

Having seen art/weapons/boats from both, I'm not sure who would come out ahead in a hypothetical Maori vs. Viking head-to-head.  The boat making and navigational skills certainly appear to be evenly matched, as might ferocity.

Our tour included a "cultural experience", which looked to be a music/dance/war skills performance in the carved meeting house.  What we didn't know was that there was some audience participation.  When we got to the meeting house, our group was asked to choose a chief.  No one else stepped up, so Chad, being a good sport, became our chief, and after a small amount of instruction, set forth to see if our "tribe" was welcome to visit.

First, don't flinch when this fellow comes out bellowing and wielding his spear.

Second, accept the token of peace and slowly lead the tribe forward as the scary dude backs up.

Third, sit in the seat of honor up front, listen to the very loud welcome (trying not to flinch at brandishing of blunt weapons), respond to welcome speech, and press noses in greeting with the resident chief.

Chief Chad performed his duties admirably.

Then relax and enjoy the music and the rest of the cultural skills demonstration.  As wife of chief, I also got to sit up front and try not to flinch at spears being brandished in my face.

Afterwards, we took a few pictures showing Maori faces of aggression.  Apparently men stick their tongues out (you see this in a lot of the carvings) and women just bug their eyes out.  We did ok, I think...

Then more exploration of the site.  Nimue enjoyed running around the flagpole set at the site of the treaty signing.  Note that there are three different flags -- the 1834 flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, the 1840 Union Jack, and the New Zealand flag instituted in 1902.

Touristy?  A little bit.  But most enjoyable and interesting, and we picked up a bit more history than we might have otherwise.  And I just like carved boats.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ziplining fun

Yaaay more New Zealand stuff c: This time it's about ziplining,  an awesome sort-of sport that we experienced in the most epic way possible during our stay in Rotorua.

When you zipline, you're attached to a line that is strung from platform to platform, so when you jump off the platform you're on, you "zip" to the next platform, and so on and so forth. Like this:

See, there's Mom having fun and making wood pigeon noises. Awesome, right?

So, normal ziplining is fun, but this was probably at least ten times as exhilarating as regular ziplining. Why? Because we were fifty feet up, zooming on ziplines at least one hundred feet long. It was a) AWESOME, b) AWESOME, and c) did I mention AWESOME? We had so much fun!

We also saw some local wildlife, including silver tree ferns

and tomtits.

There were not only ziplines, but also bridges, swing bridges, and trails. It was great!