Tuesday, 11 May 2010

NZ North Island 1

Muriwai Beach
 Close to Auckland but a million miles away in atmosphere. A beach set on the edge of wonderful farming country, Muriwai is a west coast black sand beach, very unusual to a Sydneysider who has grown up with golden sands. Unusual but extremely beautiful - and treacherous as I think most west coast beaches are in NZ. The don't call it the 'wild west coast' for nothing.

One of the most fascinating places I visited 20 years ago on my first visit to Auckland was the Gannet Colony at Muriwai. In those 20 years, the gannets have expanded their territory from the rocky outcrop to the cliffs along the shore. I believe this is one of only two onshore gannet colonies in NZ, with about 1200 pairs of birds coming here to breed each year.

This time I was at Muriwai late in the gannets' season, and most young were out getting their own food, but some huge and apparently fully fledged chicks sat on the rock screaming for food, a parent making an unerring landing next to its own offspring to stuff fish into the gaping maw.

Two more pretty pictures of Muriwai, both taken from S&T's balcony. Not a bad view to live with.
A misty morning above and the big sunset below.
There are more - I took 2000 photos but I'll just pop in a few now and then. I feel I have two homes in New Zealand, the one in Picton and the one in Muriwai, and while the views are stunning it's the friends who take me in and care for me so lovingly that make both places feel like home.

Friday, 7 May 2010

NZ South Island travels

First of all, a photo to prove that Meg and I actually managed to get together for lunch at her favourite gallery in Nelson, The Suter.  Meg is the incredibly energetic weaver/blogger from Unravelling and we met a couple of years ago at a writers' retreat held in the Marlborough Sounds at The Portage Resort Hotel. I also met chef Maree Connelly at the same retreat, and while Maree & I also met for lunch, this time in Picton, I didn't take a photo. It was great to catch up with them both, though we do all meet frequently on Facebook. Picton is the gateway to The Marlborough Sounds - just gorgeous in all weathers.

I'm afraid it's been a month since I last posted. So to catch up I thought I'd progressively add photos of my trips to New Zealand and then bits of Australia, so today is South Island day. I stayed in Picton with my friends, the owners of The Portage, lazed, rested for most of the two weeks, ate good food, drank lots of NZ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wine, played with black poodle Anoop, and had a couple of trips out to the hotel by water taxi (see pic above) - and more great meals there. The hotel is more easily reached by water than road (long and windy) and there is something wonderful about zooming along in the salt spray between the hills of The Sounds. One of my most memorable moments was coming home late in the evening and seeing the entire Milky Way spread from one side of the Sounds to the other. Sheer magic.

Once at The Portage the views just continue to be wonderful. You don't have to do a thing - just be there. Can you imagine sitting on the verandah, glass of wine, fish & chips at hand, watching the sun set. Can you tell I'm pretty much in love with this place?
 After two wonderful weeks of this it was farewell to A, D & Anoop - thanks dear friends - as usual, it was a wrench to leave you all. But then, onto one of my other favourite modes of travel. The InterIslander Ferry which plies between Picton on the South Island and Wellington on the North. The InterIslander takes cars, trains (goods not passenger) and people and on most days is a very compfortable three hour trip. On a rough day, and I've only experienced one, it's not so good and when the seas are really too rough the sailing is cancelled. I love watching the cars rolling on board and the general busyness of the scene.
Sailing through Cook Strait is very beautiful, first with The Sounds on either side, then a short stretch with just the sea and vague outlines of land in the distance, then suddenly the North Island comes into view. Having said that, I think this is still the South Island in the next photo.
Once at Wellington I got a taxi to the airport, did a bit of hanging around and then caught a flight to Auckland where I was met, taken off to dinner in the city with my hosts S&T and finally, after a long day fell into my very comfortable bed in the house above Muriwai Beach - another gorgeous location! How lucky was I? More later.