I’m back in Aukland, where Merriel meets me and takes me to their 15 acre holding at Onewhero. A roomy old house, just right for the two of them. I last saw Merriel and Peter nearly forty years ago in Kenya, and we have much to catch up with. Every morning they tend to their six pint-sized Dexter cattle – cows, calves and a growling grovelling bull, clearly very frustrated. They also have sheep, chickens, and a thriving vegetable garden. It is a great life for an active retired couple. They overlook acres and acres of farmland, and the following morning on the way to catch up with my coach Merriel detours through a rugged, wilder New Zealand, which is more like my original idea of the country. I meet up with my coach at a place called Bombay, and return to Rotorua. At Maunganui we pause, and walk a little way up the “mountain” overlooking a beautiful beach, breakers, and blue, blue sea. We prepare for a Maori hangi and feast. Different from Hawaii, but very effective in its own way. They also perform a dramatic “Haka” for us. Although I had ordered, and paid for, shared accommodation, this is the first time in my travels I actually have to share a room. Jean from Leeds is most congenial; she also enjoys hiking, and has a husband behind at home. There follows another crowded day. I wish there were more time to savour all these treats. A most interesting forty minutes at the Maori Arts Centre. The Maoris are very proud of their culture, nor are they ashamed to absorb European customs and way of life. Their meeting house is very warm in colour – browns, deep yellows, oranges. We visit an Anglican Chuirch, designed in the same way – and there on the right facing the lake, etched into a plain window is the Christ, walking towards me “on the water”. We wander round the mud pools, see the geysers spouting upwards from close to, and sit on the hot slabs – not for long. One gets used to the sulphur smell after a while. A short ride in the coach to Rainbow farm and another guided tour, this time by a “Kiwi” round the trout pools and aviary. They aren’t allowed to buy or sell trout here and the penalties are heavy. Instead, they buy licences to fish only for their family (but, to get around this, you can catch your own, then take it to a restaurant for cooking!). Then a farm show, conducted with brash kiwi humour, but we are a good crowd and rise to the slapstick occasion. How they keep it up for four shows every day beats me. Four of us are taken to the far side of the lake to stay on a deer farm. Our host had been a dairy farmer, but decided that was too much like hard work, so switched to deer, (see my previous blog) which is just as profitable but half the work. An open plan, glass-fronted dwelling on a hill high over the lake. A beautiful view in the sunshine, and colourful garden. We are taken to see the deer, riding behind a tractor on a risen platform, with their sober labrador comfortably crouched high up front on the giant shovel. This is a stud farm, so there is no harvesting for venison and suede leather. But their antlers are cropped annually and auctioned to the Koreans for aphrodisiac purposes. That evening we are served delicious home-caught and smoked trout. A delightful “country-stay.” Yet another longish drive to Wanganui on the west coast, via Taupo. We pay a quick call at the Wairakei steam field thermal plant, then go up Mt. Ruapehu, North Island’s highest snow-covered peak. We drive almost up to the snow-line and see the start of the Tangariro crossing trail. The country is much wilder on this side – farms are larger, sheep singly grazing the hillocky landscape; the occasional horse and beef cattle; red pines the preferred plantations. Wanganui is an uninteresting town on the river of that name – or perhaps I’m just getting a little tired of all these towns. Eugene, our driver, is a wealth of information, and clearly loves his country and his job. A former forester, he is determined we’ll go away with at least some knowledge of the country’s timber industry. It’s time to prepare for a dash to the South Island…
- A Whole Year has Passed
- Dear Friends
- A Happy Christmas!
- The Wilds of Tribal Scotland
- Exquisite Sounds
- “Diverse” Settings For Two Reasons
- New Book Release – Jane Bwye – “Going It Alone: A Beginner’s Guide To Starting Your Own Business” (Non-Fiction)
- Slow Burners and Book Reviews
- A Spirit of Place!
- The view from a country churchyard