There’s A Hole in the Ground

Well, it’s time to play catch-up. Despite all my best efforts at blogging in the here and now and trying to keep things updated and close to the actual event, sometimes I just stop blogging because I am enjoying the here and now.

You see, we are home now, back in the States and it’s just not quite New Zealand. We saw a lot on the way home, which I will of course share at some point, and now we are home with very mixed feelings. It has its nice points for sure, like being in our own little house again with our own kitchen. Natasha has her beloved stuffed animals to play with again, and Thanksgiving is coming. (I love an American Thanksgiving, and that’s something that Kiwis don’t have.) But we miss a lot from Down Under. Things like amazing scenery and the urge to rush outside because if you don’t, you might miss seeing something spectacular. Fun accents wherever you go, washed carrots, and the sense of exploring whenever you exit the door.

I’m sure it’s just a matter of creating those same feelings wherever you are, but sometimes you just can’t create amazing scenery. There simply aren’t big hills to climb where we live in the midwest, or rocky coastlines.

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So to pick up where we left off back in October, Logan and Maria were still with us and we were exploring more of Abel Tasman National Park. On this particular outing, we drove up the mountain pass towards Takaka with an extra passenger. Just before we started up the mountain, we picked up a backpacker who was hitchiking. That added something new to the drive!

We weren’t going all the way to the town of Takaka right then since we wanted to stop at Harwood’s Hole, so Nikko hopped out before we headed back the gravel drive to the entrance to the hole. He wasn’t there when we came out, so we assume he got a ride down the mountain.

Meanwhile, we were hiking in the most magical forest I’ve ever encountered. Everything was mossy and green like a rainforest.

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There were bogs.

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And rocks to climb over. (This was considered an “easy” walking path.)

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And purple mushrooms.

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And leafy, lettuce-looking moss.

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And of course, a ginormous hole in the ground. It was so massive, we just basically sat down and stayed there. You couldn’t really see the bottom or the entrance because of the angle, so we just observed. There were some German hikers there at the same time and one guy in particular was more daring than us. So we just watched him climb and prayed we wouldn’t watch him fall. (He didn’t.)

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On our way back out, it might seem cliche, but I really wanted my picture with a sheep. The road went right through their pasture and was rather picturesque. (But what isn’t in New Zealand?!)

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A Scottish Highlander met us on our way out as well:

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So from there, we let Maria take the driver’s seat and we went down Takaka Hill to the town in search of milk. As faithful readers might remember, we searched out milk in Central America and Europe, so it was only fitting that we do it here as well.

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When we first came through Abel Tasman National Park, we saw the sign “Raw Milk” out by the road and stopped to investigate.

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This was by far the most elaborate set up we’ve encountered. Village Milk even has a website and obviously, it’s not illegal to sell raw milk in New Zealand.

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Their shed, right on the farm was complete with a fridge containing clean glass bottles to purchase, and a sanitation process that steams customer’s containers before the milk fills them.

We weren’t prepared to get any milk that first time, but this time we brought our empty water jug and procured some. It cost $2.50 a litre. (New Zealand dollar.) Kind of appropriate that Logan and Maria were here when we actually bought some, since Daniel and I met on their dairy farm and have so many great memories of times spent there.

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On our way home we had enough time and sunlight to show Logan and Maria Split Apple Rock. This time it was at low tide, and we could get a lot closer to the rock and explore some of the caves nearby.

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Instead of me bringing little treasures home without a clear purpose for them, I photographed my finds.
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In Which We Traverse Curvy Roads

With our second round of visitors, we decided to take them to our second favorite location, Cape Foulwind. (Our top favorite spot was Castle Hill.) The roads here can be very curvy when you need to climb over mountain passes and such and after only walking or biking for a couple weeks at a time, riding in a vehicle again can give some folks a bit of carsick feelings. Maria and I weren’t feeling that great, but we finally arrived.  It was definitely warmer this second visit, but I tell you, that place is quite appropriately named because the wind can be very breezy.

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This time we decided to hike a little further than last time and we went all the way to the lighthouse and back. The sign says it takes about an hour and 15 minutes to walk one way, but on our return trip, we tried to hurry along without stopping a ton of times and it only took us 45 minutes. But we really were scurrying.

This picture does not accurately illustrate the height of where I was standing. It was windy and a little worrisome to stay too long…

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Can you see this sign? It says, “Please keep children by you at all times.” So it was very handy that I had a child to keep near me for my own safety. :)
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This is not meant to look like a worn out group of trekkers, truly. We were attempting a serious look. It might not have worked…

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Following Cape Foulwind, Logan drove us to Pancake Rocks. It was another quick visit, but the rocks were still just as amazing.

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Third and Final Time

One last climb up the hill to the Centre of New Zealand. This time, Natasha did it all by herself. In her own imaginary world, pausing quite often to pick flowers, sing a song, talk to herself and eventually we made it to the top.

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At the bottom, there is a nice grassy field for playing games and throwing frisbees and letting your dog run. It is the location of the first Rugby game played in New Zealand and nearby is a small playground and some swings. After swinging briefly, Natasha scampered off to the slide, but left her shoes behind. We all had started to follow Natasha, but Logan noticed the forgotten ballet flats and calmly picked them up saying, “I assume she wants her shoes…” I had to capture the moment since it always makes me smile to see a guy holding little girl’s shoes. :)

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In Which We Take a Strenuous Shortcut

So Daniel has hiked Grampians Reserve, and I have hiked Grampians Reserve. Now, we ALL have hiked Grampians Reserve. But not without some huffing and puffing.

It started out easily enough; a grand spring day, with spring bursting out all over.07-028

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However, we didn’t start at the same place Daniel or I did when we did it alone on the more traveled pathway. Instead we began directly behind our house kind of in the middle and went…straight up the side. Kind of where no path was. It was an adventure for sure, and we’re all proud of ourselves for surviving the uphill climb. Daniel will forever be our hero for he carried Natasha on his shoulders the entire way.

Here we have Maria giving us a much more enthusiastic outlook on the whole ordeal than what was actually happening. But, truly, we didn’t complain too much.

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The top, as expected, was worth the climb.

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I probably should have taken into account that Daniel’s legs were already wobbling from the climb up before attempting this little stunt, but it all turned out fine. Logan’s help was truly needed, since I haven’t perfected the getting-up-alone-process.

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We’re always a little miffed when Natasha is on her own feet again and immediately says, “I’m hot!” She just rode up the entire side of what we call a mountain, and yet she still has the audacity to say she’s sweaty from the sun. But it just wouldn’t be the same without her along and we’re glad she adds such laughter to our conversations.

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The walk down, naturally, is much easier. It’s when you realize just how important your knees are to the whole process of walking.

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It’s All in Who You Know

We all know this, but I’m continually being reminded of it. Remember when I mentioned that I sat beside a pilot on the flight from Auckland to Nelson? We had planned on getting a taxi, but he offered to drive us to our holiday house that night, and we gratefully accepted. I’m very glad we exchanged numbers and all those numbers were exchanged and saved correctly, because that meeting was most serendipitous.

We had Greg and his family over to our house to share a meal when Wes and Lydia were here, and they introduced us to Pavlova. When here, Greg offered to take us out on his boat sometime. Once again, we took him up on his generous offer. Wes and Lyd have since gone home, but now our good friends Maria and Logan have come down to visit us (!) so they happily joined us out on the Tasman Sea last week.

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We liked going fast and hitting waves.

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Greg’s son Misha joined us and he patiently and kindly explained all the various lures to Natasha, and Daniel did try fishing, but the waves were too rough even when we were sitting still for very good fishing opportunities.

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The wee one sat a little too long in the bow and was feeling a little bit woozy…so we brought her out in the open, and gave her a ginger pill for motion sickness.

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The Boulder Bank Lighthouse has become somewhat of an inside joke, which I will now share with you so you won’t feel left out. When Wes and Lydia flew in, they noticed the long strip of land on the Nelson port, and a white lighthouse. Lydia was curious about it, so of course I looked it up and discovered that it is possible to walk to the Boulder Bank Lighthouse. The specific walking info from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation’s website says, (and I quote):

“A walk along the Nelson Boulder Bank is an opportunity not to be missed. The eight kilometre walk, from Boulder bank Drive to ‘The Cut’ takes 2-3 hours one way. The Boulder Bank is rough, dry and very exposed, so be prepared for all kinds of weather and wear strong shoes.”

Well, as you might imagine, we quickly decided it WAS an opportunity that we didn’t mind missing at all, and left it at that.

Fast forward then to explaining the story of the lighthouse to our second round of visitors, and Logan and Maria both agreed with our previous conclusion that it wasn’t imperative to visit this lighthouse. However, when Greg took us out on the boat, we mentioned our amusement at the “opportunity we were missing” and he said we could stop by when on the boat. Imagine that. Skipping the 3 hours one-way walk over rough rocks and treacherous weather conditions, to see the lighthouse that shouldn’t be missed in the first place!

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It was another happy circumstance that we would have missed, but didn’t have to since we knew someone who offered us a boat ride. And, we gratefully skipped the 3 hour rocky hike!

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Here’s the view from the lighthouse, looking back towards Nelson:
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Since the waves were too rough for lingering in to fish, we headed back to the port and some of us took turns driving the boat. Even the youngest of our party, who was feeling less seasick by now.

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The following evening, Greg’s wife Ros, invited us over to share some BBQ with them, so we were able to get to know them even more. It was a fun evening with more pavlova and introduced to us a Kiwi favorite candy: Pineapple Lumps.

Thank you so much Greg, Ros, Misha, Soren and Nathaniel, for sharing New Zealand with us!
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