|Wow, this weekend was the icing on the cake called New Zealand! We took the bus on Friday in the pouring rain and were met at Cooper's Beach by our friend, Fay Patterson. It was just minutes up the road to their bach and we dropped our bag and went walking on the beach. The rain had lifted and stayed away for the entire weekend. We walked along the beach and then up through town and back to the bach. We met Clive, home from work, and headed back to the beach for a swim and TuaTua collecting.
Now Tua Tua digging is a cultural event bar none! First you have to learn the Tua Tua Dance. The tua tua, a triangular shaped shell fish, lives a few inches under the sand. You use your bear toes to find the squishy parts in the sand. Then to affirm that this is indeed a tua tua spot, you are required to do a version of the twist. If satisfied, then you quickly dig up the tua tua with your fingers. They usually are found in groups. Tua Tua means fruit of the sea. After you have a bucket full, fill the bucket with sea water and go for a swim. We swam along this beautiful beach. The sand extends around the bay which is flanked by many jacaranda trees. This tree blooms a fluffy red flower at Christmas. Wouldn't that be a lovely sight? We swam and boogie boarded in the surf. Then it is time to shell the tua tua. This is a bit tricky, but we were keen to try our hands at it. The ripping of the "tongue" was a bit icky, but we managed that as well! Fay then took these and food processed them and with a little magic(eggs, flour, curry...) turned them into fritters. These were absolutely delicious and served with just-off-the-tree lemon! We had Terikihi fish and chips with salad for supper. We were then treated to videos of ourselves, would you believe,?! on our trip to Alaska!
Then next morning we were up and on that beach for a long walk and then a dip in the ocean. After breakfast and picnic packing, we were on the road. First we drove to a Maori Paa - a defensive tiered hill built for war. From here we had 360 views of Doubtless Bay and the olive orchards below. When Captain Cook sailed by, he is reported to have commented, "Doubtless a bay"! and hence the name.
From here we drove to the Kauri gum park and toured through. These ancient trees were found in swamps and with carbon dating they are thought to be 45.000 - 50,000 years old! They must have been magnificent -huge trees which can live to 1000 years! At the base of these dead trees the "Dallies" (Dalmations - or Croatians) would dig up lumps of gum -from about the size of a small football to golf ball sized. These were found around the roots and required a lot of digging. The average hole was about 8 - 10 feet deep. The gum smells of turpentine and is used in varnish, lino, perfume manufacturing. The men lived in burlap sacking shacks with actual fireplaces attached. It was obviously wet and muddy and they used the newly developing rubber to make suitable boots for this messy job - gum boots! For baths, they flooded the holes previously dug!
On to TeKao road for an ice cream. From here we went on to Cape Reinga, the most northerly tip of NZ! This is the spot the Maori believe the spirit jumps off to the next life. There is a light house on the point and the rocky cliffs below. The Tasman and the Pacific oceans crash together below and splash up violently on the rocks. Very picturesque.
Then on to Tapotupotu Bay for lunch. We had "filled rolls" from the "chilly bin"! (ham and egg buns from the cooler!) We managed to remember the flask of hot water for tea, but not the tea bags! That's okay, we had a little 'bubbly' instead! From here we went around the corner to a fresh water stream and the most amazing sand dunes. From out of the back of the SUV, came two plastic sleds. Yep, up we climbed to slide down into the stream! What an absolute hoot! The hills were steep - perhaps too steep for snow sledding, but what fun on sand! Very fun indeed and although Fay seriously cut Jim off, disaster was averted! From here we drove on 90 Mile Beach - this expanse of beach extends along the west side of the coast. From our point of view there is no commercialization here at all. Just beach and lots of it. We drove with the sun roof open and our heads poking up - wind in our hair! What an experience!
But the day was not over... we stopped at Kauri Kingdom to wash the sand off the SUV. They have an under-the-car-device that you drive back and forward over till the sand is all gone! We went into the store to see what the local craftsmen do with Kauri wood. Beautfiul dining room furniture,(35-40,000 dollars!) coffee tables and in the middle of the shop, the largest Kauri tree ever - standing upright with a carved, curved set of stairs up the inside of it to the next floor! Wow!
Back to the bach for brandy and Scheppes Dry Ginger Ale. The ginger ale here is the color of weak root beer and very tasty - could be the brandy? hmm? Steak on the barbie!
Next morning, up and into the ocean for our prebreakfast swim. Bacon and eggs (all done on the barbie!). Then off for an ocean boat ride. We launched the boat and had a lovely swim in a calm bay. We ate our lunch on the boat - filled rolls and chelsea buns (de-lish!) This time we remembered the tea bags, but not the hot water! ( too much brandy last night?) We returned to the bach, did Sudokus in the sun and then went for a swim. When we returned from the showers, Fay had organized a cocktail party with the neighbors. A fun group of people. They have been coming to this property for years. A young American student teacher was rooming with the principal ( a friend of Patterson's). He is on an international practicum - maybe like Melissa?
Our last morning and our last swim and Pattersons got us to the bus. It came so fast, I didn't have time to cry! I'm sure I would have. This was just a great weekend with fabulous, generous and gracious hosts. Another top ten! Clive, if you ever get a new boat, I have thought of a name for her - "Nothing Fayz Me!"