5th Stop: New Zealand

A Little Christmas

Posted on: Monday, December 25th, 2000
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A Little Christmas

12/25/00: Waiheke Island, New Zealand


The holiday season “back home” can get nuttier than fruitcake and colder than hell frozen over. Both are good reasons to bow out.

But there are others; celebrating elsewhere makes you re-adapt old traditions and craft new ones, like this centerpiece made of stuff from our yard. We skipped the presents, since this trip is one big gift. But Santa still found us—or so the youngster stated—and left behind the world (a beachball globe with our route marked on it), a Mercedes (Matchbox edition), and a stuffed polar bear (free from the pharmacy with a NZ$5 purchase). Those three things brought as many smiles as a pile of PlayStations. After that, the day was much like any Christmas. Naps happened. The same songs played over and over (although here it’s “a kiwi in a kauri tree”). A few boxes from afar were unwrapped. And of course, the grill ran out of gas halfway through cooking the bird—making for some foul language and a late feast. Peace.

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Another Solstice

Posted on: Saturday, December 23rd, 2000
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12/23/00: Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Solstice Sky

The solstice is one of our most favorite, sacred holidays. Especially the summer version. So we were pleased when we realized that by relocating to the Southern Hemisphere for the winter, we’d get to celebrate two summer solstices in the same year.

We spent the night like we have many others: on a grassy knoll, listening to birdsong, watching the sky turn red, and raising our glasses to the long days.

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The Seafood Situation

Posted on: Friday, December 22nd, 2000
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12/22/00: Auckland, New Zealand


We came to Waiheke to eat seafood for two months. So we were stunned when we got here and found none. Oh sure, a restaurant will have an occasional fish special. And the supermarket has live greenlip mussels—but it’s on the other side of the island.

When we politely decry the situation to locals, we’re fed the same phrases that keep getting repeated around the world: “It’s fished out / fishermen can’t make it anymore / you have to go to______.” Fortunately, that wasn’t the case in Auckland, where we enjoyed several seaworthy meals. And on our way out of town, we headed to the place everyone told us we had to go to: SeaMart, where we scored prawns, a 2-pound crayfish tail, sushi-fresh red-eye tuna, and a big snapper steak. Then we ferried home, fired up the barby, and ate up for lost time.



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Street Smart

Posted on: Thursday, December 21st, 2000
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12/21/00: Auckland, New Zealand

Street Action

It’s hard to believe that Auckland has less than a million people. Her city streets are brimming with stylish bistros, hip clubs, quaint shops, and funky cafes—and so are her many suburbs.

Some of them might be left over from last spring’s America’s Cup, which drew thousands of international visitors, but one gets the sense that the happy inhabitants of the City of Sails actually get out and enjoy its ample charms. We were impressed by the appealing neighborhoods and enticing shopfronts, the rich diversity, and the quaint yet cosmopolitan nature of the place, which these photos only begin to convey.

Street Faces

Street Mural

Street Burger

Street Boat

Street Garden

Street Sculpture

Street Cincin

Street Flowers

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Auckland’s Sky Tower

Posted on: Wednesday, December 20th, 2000
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Auckland’s Sky Tower

Sky City

After nearly a month on our quiet island, we were ready to get gobsmacked by the city—which, incredibly, is just a 30-minute ferry ride away. Auckland winds around the water, with neighborhoods stretching up streets, hills, and dormant volcanoes. No matter where you go, you see the Sky Tower—the city’s new and rather controversial compass.

It’s stacked with restaurants, observatories, and a casino that goes garish at night. We found its omnipresence both unnerving and reassuring. (It was framed perfectly in the window above the toilet in our B&B, for example.) And it found its way into many of our shots. Next time we visit the city, we’ll have to get inside and get a closer look.

Sky Cow

Sky Parnell

Sky Capn

Sky Post

Sky Victoria

Sky Night

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Carols by Candlelight

Posted on: Tuesday, December 19th, 2000
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Carols by Candlelight

12/19/00: Waiheke Island, New Zealand


Being in the southern hemisphere is a bit disorienting. The face of the moon is unfamiliar. The best sun exposure is to the north. And it’s full-on summer here, just when things are getting most frigid—and festive—at home.

So how do the Kiwis celebrate? One lovely tradition is called Carols by Candlelight. Throughout Auckland—perhaps New Zealand—families gather when the sun goes down (about 8:30) in parks and on beaches to light candles and sing songs of the season. Here on Waiheke, the gathering took place on a neighboring beach and featured, among other things, a local church choir, a brass band, an American folk singer, drummers and fire dancers, and hundreds of people scattered on blankets along the curving bay. In a true celebration of diversity, some held Bibles while others went BYOB. We sang along and struggled to keep our candles lit in the wind. It was mostly impossible. But the glow of the night was undiminished and we felt, in a small way, utterly connected to the most meaningful holiday moments we are missing at home.


Folk Singer

Fire Dance

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Life’s a Beach

Posted on: Sunday, December 17th, 2000
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Life’s a Beach

12/17/00: Waiheke Island, New Zealand


The best thing about living on a beach is probably the sound of the surf. On a good morning, it almost drowns out the 7 am hammering at the homesite right behind us.

But another bonus is the endless collection of shells and sea creatures the rising tide deposits on the shore twice a day. We’ve seen giant jellyfish and starfish. Hermit crabs and clams. Jackpots of sand dollars. Here are a few pieces that we’ve collected. Of course, we’ll return them to the sea (per NZ law) when we leave this lovely place.

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Bush Views

Posted on: Friday, December 15th, 2000
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Bush Views

12/15/00: Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Jesper in Bush

Over the past month we’ve been trying to figure out why New Zealanders are so concerned about bush. Some Kiwis are urban types, others tend farmland, and lots of them gravitate to beaches. But no one ignores bush.

The Powers That Be, we hear, have stated that bush can no longer be removed; it’s to be a permanent part of the landscape. Even respectable property owners with big ideas can’t touch it. If you do—or it catches fire or dries up—they’ll make you replant it at your own cost! Naturally, this infuriates some folks. Does not my vote count, they ask, or at least my intent? No, say those with Absolute Power. Bush rules rule. Thus bush lovers are most pleased. They put on their best puppy-dog faces and point out that, if conditions are right, bush thrives and matures quickly. That in as little as four years, it will appear nearly natural. Those who disagree resist briefly, mutter under their breath, perhaps even pound the table in the pub. And then they go back to their farms and beaches, quickly and quietly, like good little citizens.

We warned him about its dangers, but this young boy was determined to investigate the bush.

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Carving in Stone

Posted on: Wednesday, December 13th, 2000
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Carving in Stone

12/13/00: Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Stone Sculptor

Limestone carvings appear throughout the island. Here, a Maori gentleman touches up a piece that greets visitors to a Maori retreat that overlooks a quiet beach.

This particular sculpture is a receptacle for gifts (coins) from those who visit the retreat and want to contribute for what they use. Another, nearby, calls upon ancestors to protect guests and haunt any who do harmful things while on premises. Sun, wind, and rain actually strengthen and smooth the artworks over time, he explained. But sometimes a crack occurs that needs a bit of love and attention.

Stone Closeup

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Interview: James the Gardener

Posted on: Monday, December 11th, 2000
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Interview: James the Gardener

12/11/00: Waiheke Island, New Zealand


We’ll be on the island of Waiheke for two months. And although we’ll probably always have plenty to say, it’s only appropriate to let some other people have a voice too. So we’ll introduce some sunny citizens of Waiheke from time to time. We begin with James, a hard-working and talented local gardener.

Q: So how did you get into gardening?
A: I just love plants. I did other studies. But someone suggested gardening for me as a form of healing, the plants really responded, and I’ve done it since.

Q: How many gardens do you tend?
A: 35. People keep recommending me and asking me to come back.

Q: How do you manage so many?
A: Fortunately, they’re all on the island—except one—that’s part of a marine sanctuary on Goat Island north of Auckland. Also, I just started employing someone.

Q: Still, how do you keep yourself inspired and fit?
A: You really want to know? Meditation. I meditate three times a day—about self-realization. Usually about a half-hour, but ten minutes will do it.

Q: Is it hard to grow plants here, since there’s no extra water?
A: Not really. You just have to make sure the plants are settled before winter. And know what plants will do well where. The winds and salt air near the beach make for a different environment than just one block inland.

Q: Have you always lived in New Zealand?
A: Almost. I grew up on the west coast, actually, where it’s much more rugged—with dark greens and black sand and intense storms. And I lived for a while in Switzerland.

Q: How long has Waiheke been your home?
A: Nine years. This is really my home now.

Q: Why?
A: It’s a magical place with so much spirit. The people are so diverse, friendly, and accommodating. You can be yourself. Someone with a million dollars and a big Jeep mixes with someone who goes barefoot.

Q: Is that part of being on an island, you think?
A: Island life is different that way. You have to chip in and care for one another.

Q: Are there any things about New Zealand you’d like to change?
A: There are probably some things to look at; we’re still a young country. We’re so far away and there’s so much room that we are a bit isolated. But that’s changing, I think.

Q: Do you have a computer to see yourself on our site?
A: No. I don’t even know how to turn one on! (Laughs.)

Q: Then please stop in and we’ll show you. Thanks for joining us.
A: It’s been my privilege.

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