June 3, 2017, 5:54 a.m.
Road trippin’ and farm livin’
Cambridge, New Zealand
The last few days have been a road trip adventure outside of Auckland with Mary. We started on Thursday afternoon, making our way due west to the black sands of Piha beach, driving along beautiful scenic routes and stopping for some great views of the forests and ocean. The final lap of our journey climbed high into the mountains and then down to the beach along narrow windy roads, reminding me that I do indeed still get car sick in specific situations. But we arrived at Piha just in time to see the sunset coming down over the black sand, large cliffs, and extremely turbulent waters. There were surfers braving the cold and the powerful tides, but on the whole it was a secluded area allowing for quite reflection and appreciation of the nature. I came back to Auckland feeling a little car sick but overall serene and peaceful.
This serenity has largely continued over the last few days as we headed to our next destination on Friday out near Hamilton and Cambridge, small towns surrounded by large swaths of farmland and the cows, sheep, chicken, ducks, and pigs that come with such an environment. My current location is in a very nice house on a small farm.
On arriving to the new home I had the chance to feed the hosts’ chicken and the ducks from the palm of my hand – a first for a city dweller like myself. There isn’t much more to say about Friday, except that we explored Cambridge a bit and had a very nice but expensive dinner – probably the best I’ve had so far during my travels. Half a duck (not any that I fed earlier) with a glass of wine and a dessert that I cannot remember the name of, but there is a video in which I pour hot dark chocolate on a white chocolate ball that then opens up like a flower. That was the dessert of the night.
The next morning our hosts prepared a large breakfast -- yogurt and a fruit salad that included persimmons, feijoas, and tamarillos. Those last two I had never heard of before this trip much less tasted. That was part one of breakfast. Part two consisted of avocado, toast, and scrambled eggs made from free-range eggs laid by the chicken that live on the farm. Our hosts also laid our orange juice and made me a flat white. Folks, it does not get better.
Except then the adventure started. And it started in Hobbiton, the Lord of the Rings / Hobbit movie set containing all the little round houses in which hobbits live. Well, in reality just the exteriors, and I still prefer to call it The Shire as that is the name of the location in the books. In any case, the set was built on an actual, working farm, though I imagine these days it makes far more revenue from all the tourists that come to visit. I saw rolling hills, flocks of sheep, and many colorful, artificially aged little hobbit holes. Walking around the farm was a lot of fun, and it culminated in a sit down at the Green Dragon Inn by a fireplace with a ginger beer in hand.
Next, Mary and I headed to the city of Rotorua, a place known for strong geothermal activity, deep-rooted Maori history, and a pervasive smell of sulfur. We did not have a great deal of time to explore today (more Rotorua tomorrow), but we visited the Redwood forest, and the Green and Blue lakes. Walking through the giant redwoods was a pleasant and peaceful experience, that I could use more of in my life. The sheer scale of these trees is awe-inspiring. The lakes and surrounding countryside were beautiful, and the Green Lake is particularly interesting as it is sacred (tapu) to the Maori and has a green tint due to the presence of algae, but overall there isn’t much to report. I am told the lakes and waterfalls on South Island are the ones to get excited for.
And then it was once again time to return to the farm. As we drove home we saw the sun set over the hills and paint the sky with red streaks. It has been nothing but nature (and hobbit houses) these last few days, and in general landscapes and natural beauty has been the theme of my vacation thus far. It will likely continue this way for a while. Mother earth is full of wonders.
Signing off for now!
NEW ZEALAND (NORTH)