Thursday, May 26, 2005


I just scraped the side of our rental car. Jeeeezus. The horrible sound keeps reverberating somewhere in my body. It's not too bad, just a big nasty scratch. It can't be more than a $1000 new zealand. That's only $723 US. Shit.
We're in Kaikura. We left our little chapel yesterday with many fond farewells. I'm going to post the website for that place just in case anyone reading this wants to go stay there. It was wonderful.
We headed over towards the airport to take in the International Antarctic Center, which was voted the number one attraction in NZ two years ago. A 'must see'. Well, they didn't say who was doing the voting. I reckon it was the board of directors for the International Antarctic Center. It was okay I guess, lots of little signs to read, lots of little video screens to watch, some big displays. Sorry, but not the best. I actually liked the free museum a lot better.
Afterwards we watched a juggler in Cathedral Square. At the end of his show he balanced a bike on his chin for ten seconds (we all counted loudly). He told the kids "now, if your mommy and daddy don't give you $5 or $10 to give to the funny man, it just means one thing and one thing only: they don't love you". Pretty funny.
Anyway, we got out of town and headed up for Hanmer Springs, about an hour and a half North. It was okay. We had a nice soak for about two hours and then a hair raising Mr. Toad ride over the mountains in the dark to Kaikura. We had a glorious full moon to keep us happy and great music blasting to keep me awake, but I began to regret that we weren't seeing this in the daylight. Alas.
I need to find a way to banish regrets. Even scratched car ones.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Our little church in Christchurch

All is well. We landed in Christchurch two days ago right at sunset, though it was so foggy the transition to darkness was muddled. Finding lodgings in a new city is always stressfull for us and this time was no exception. It was cold, visibility was poor and we kept having to leave the kids in the car whilst checking out places. I had plans in place, but they all fell through and we spent almost two hours in frustrating search when I had a brainwave!
I had once contacted a woman who had a house for rent outside of town. Only the house is actually a very old church from around 1880 or so. It was about 7:30pm when I called and I thought it was a very long shot, but she remembered me and yes it was vacant and she'd just 'shoot over' to get a fire going and make up the beds. We drove through the foggy dark way out into the country side and actually found it! And it was even better than I ever hoped. Absolutely beautiful, with the old wood and gothic windows and doors and three bedrooms with super comfy beds and the nave is a gourmet kitchen. A beautiful old pot bellied wood stove for heat. We were all so excited to be there, and it was less than the motel rooms we'd been looking at!!!
The next day, after we got Kaytea and brought her back, the fog lifted and my god, there are mountains in the background and a little river wending through the yard with old willow trees. Just stunning.
The family that runs it is so friendly and they homeschool their two boys! They live next door in the bigger, newer church. We have the smaller original one. It's smaller, but huge!
We just asked to stay an extra night, since we all love it so much. And they have kayaks and canoes to ply the little river with!
So yesterday in the afternoon we drove over to Akaroa, the little 'French' village on the Banks Penninsula. A major tourist draw and for good reason. For Krista and I the country side we drove through smote our hearts. It was the most beautiful land we've seen in a country chocked full of beautiful land. I won't try to describe it here, I'll get a few pictures up soon. The town of Akaroa was indeed charming and we had a lovely lunch with Kaytea, our first meal together, with little birds flitting inside to steal crumbs. We looked out over the harbor, with boats at anchor and a little lighthouse on the edge of the bay. I could go on.
Today we 'did' Christchurch, which is to say that we took the antique trolly around and went to the Cathedral and climbed the bell tower, we went to the Museum and the Art Center--which is a whole complex of shops and resturaunts made in the former Oxford College grounds--an astonishingly lovely place, then walked through Hagley Park and saw 150 year old trees that just took our breath away, and strolled along the Avon river. It was all beautiful and enriching and now we're all tired and maybe will just come back tomorrow. Kaytea and I are in the blessedly warm and cheap internet place whilst Krista tends the girls who are eating ice cream out in the cold autumn air.
More later............

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Things are picking up...

I just took out some of the whining bits of my last entry. I was complaining about not meeting folks. As soon as I was done I got into a lovely conversation with the cafe owner, who ended up inviting us to stay on her 300 acre land for free! What a trip.
The next day, as we were about to head south down the Pacific coast highway, I struck up a conversation with my favorite cafe server dude and he and his friend talked us into heading over to the East Coast and going down that way, along the Tasman Sea. Well, that was a very good thing. We ran into beautiful weather and have seen really wonderful sights. Actually, that was our original plan and we only changed it after hitting that freezing weather in Wellington. Today we visited a seal colony and pet a big goat we met out in the middle of nowhere, we toured an old gold mining camp (an attraction run by the original mining family there) where we got to walk along the ore cart tracks through actual mine shafts. That was amazing (a bit scary too). Then we saw the famous 'pancake rocks' and blow holes. It's funny how you see a little photo of some attraction and think, hmmm, will that be worth a stop? Well, usually here they are. Lonely Planet has been very helpful today.
Now we're getting our photo cards put onto cd. Krista's was actually full--a first! We're in a little town called Greymouth, which is the biggest town on the whole West Coast.
It's a bit like California here, without any people. We were sitting in a cafe overlooking the highway--the only highway North-South, and I realized we were seeing a car maybe every 5 to 10 minutes. Jeez.
Tonight we'll get down to Hotitaka and then on to the Glaciers tomorrow.
We had good news from Kaytea. She flies into Christchurch on Monday. By having rearanged our itinerary, she'll get to tour the city there with us, then we'll go up for the whale watching. Way cool.
So all is good and we're on the right track. I feel such gratitude to the cafe fellow who nudged us over to this coast. I've got his picture posted, by the way, under the title 'double shot'.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Rainy Day in Golden Bay

Very disconcerting, watching the passengers disembarking from the little twin prop airliner, from our observation deck vantage point. The Nelson airport is tiny and the airliner is tiny, we're only about 50 feet away. It was clearly Kaytea's plane--no doubt about that. But which one was Kaytea? Sure it had been at least a year since we'd seen her, and I heard she was ill for a bit. But had her appearance changed that dramatically that I couldn't even recognize her. And was she too shy to look up and wave? No and No.
The somewhat unwilling clerk for Air New Zealand finally told us that a Catherine M. had been booked but not boarded her flight. "From Auckland?" No, from San Francisco. Shit.
I began the laborious process of kicking myself, for not checking e-mail before we spent 2 hours driving over the hill. Not that we could have anyway--the cafes don't open that early. Okay, so I kicked myself for not getting a cel phone weeks ago. 20 minutes later we were checking our email at the Internet Outpost in Nelson. Sure enough, there was an Urgent!!! from my sister. Kaytea's passport had a glitch and they wouldn't let her board the plane! Poor Kaytea! What a drag. All packed, all psyched up, at the airport ready to go. Fortunately she's not on a "no fly list" and not enroute to Guantanamo Bay. Could be worse.
So she'll miss Golden Bay and our little beach house. Which is too bad, but not catastrophic. We're cramming in some last minute sightseeing that we'd been saving up to do with Kaytea and gearing up for full on sightseeing mode. We'll be zooming down to Christchurch to pick her up and staying for a few days, then whale watching in Kaikura--where sperm whales live year round. Maybe the Waitomo Caves and a few days on the Coromandel Penninsula.
We really have had some amazing times here. Yesterday we went to Pu Pu springs, the clearest fresh water springs in the world we're told. They sure were clear. Divers come to enjoy the reef like grotto and the amazing visability. It was lovely.
We've seen wonderful trees and rock formations. Our sea kayaking took us out to a little island (which Eden calls 'skull island') which had an amazing nesting colony of big rare sea birds. That was like something from a Nova special. We got to see seals too, up close and personal. We hung out for a time on a deserted beach, accessible only from the water, with the signature golden sands. This was our farthest point and while we were there the bay, which had been mirror like, began sending waves our way. Small waves. I pushed Krista and Eden's kayak off and by the time India and I were out and turned around they were far ahead. With the two of us paddling I figured we'd catch up in a few moments. We paddled like mad but somehow they kept their lead. I mean, Eden was not adding to their momentum in any way, and we were working non stop.
Turns out that Krista was terrified by the waves and the thought of being caught out with Eden in dangerous conditions (most unlikely!). Somehow her adreneline rush gave her super human strength!! We still laugh about that. The kayak guy actually gave us a partial refund for our 'full day' rental, we got back so soon. Oh well, it was great.
The cafes are great. Nothing like 'em back home. Really yummy food in every town and really good coffee. And lots of cute cafe workers too!
And the traffic roundabouts. Gotta mention them. Once you get the hang of 'em they really work great.
I'm ready to start being a bit more outgoing in meeting folks, what with my hearing somewhat restored. It's about time we made some friends in this Country.
Love and Hugs
ps we did finally get a phone! If you are dying to call us for some strange reason, let me know and I'll send you the number!

Okay. Sorry to drag you through all that.

Monday, May 09, 2005


Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

More tramping. That's the ocean off in the distance. Never far away here.


Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

The twin on the right, our little house on Tata Beach. Nice digs and cheap.

Sculpting on the Beach

Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Something about New Zealand seems to bring out the Artist in many people.

Sea Kayaking

Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Our sea kayaking venture off of Abel Tasman National Park. Fun.

Our Home Away From Home

Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Our living room on Tata Beach. Great view of the bush and Golden Bay.

Cafe Culture

Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Double shot at Zippy's, rob's favorite cafe in Nelson.


Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

The trail to Wharariki Beach. Incredible wind! There was a beautiful little river below and we got to see a seal pup splashing and playing in the water.

Those Pies!

Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Foreign Foods.

Coming Into Picton

Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Our beautiful ferry ride through the Marlborough Sound. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr.

The Mists Of Rotorua

Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

The whole town stunk like sulpher--notice Eden's expression!

Back in Takaka

I promise, nothing gross in this posting. No more about ear shrooms. The doctor thinks I'll get better. Eventually. Meantime there's codeine. Thank god.
Big News: Kaytea Golden, my sister's eldest daughter and all around wonderful 20 something neice, is coming to finish off these last weeks of New Zealand with us. She's due for some adventure I reckon and wants to throw in her lot with us. We pick her up this next weekend at the Nelson airport!!
This goes to show that I've really been leaving some stuff out here. Like how nasty the kids have been and how nasty Krista and I have been. Poor Kaytea!
Well, I've just uploaded a bunch of photos, so enough of my jabbering. The kids are out in the car, reading. (we got a library card!).

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Shitake farming

It's a little known fact that I have a doctor phobia. I didn't really realize it myself. But the tip off should have been when blood was seeping out of my left ear and I still didn't seek medical attention. In fact, I had an ear infection for almost two weeks and was just hoping it would get better on its own. It wasn't until the pain got so bad I was ready to kill myself that I relented and let Krista take me to the clinic.
Of course this was the morning we were supposed to be leaving Nelson and we had already packed up and checked out of our apartment. Turns out the clinic was only a block away, and because I had waited till a saturday it cost double. Which was only $100 NZ. Oh well. The doc looked in my ear and said 'yuk'. She wrote me a prescription for antibiotics (but not for pain killers) and told me not to travel, that I'd need to get my ear suctioned out on monday. So we checked back into our apartment and I got to meditate on the whole 'for want of a nail...' thing in between the searing agony which kept getting worse up until the apt on monday. By then I was thinking more about suicide than I like to admit. I remember waiting in the hospital holding my head and trying not to scream.
Finally it was my turn and the wonderfully perky nurse practitioner brought me back to lay on the operating table and began suctioning out my ear. I should mention that because I have a wee little hole in my eardrum (as the doctor put it) I can't just have it lavaged out like Krista and India had done in Bali. Apparently what she saw in there was so extreme she stopped and attempted to find a physician. Incredibly, the local ear specialist happened to be in the hospital, and came right down. He took over and suctioned what looked like a small shitake mushroom out of there. It seemed to be growing on my eardrum itself and it was really something having it pulled off. New Zealand is birthplace to all these extreme sports, like bungee jumping, korbing, etc... I suggested maybe they offer ear suctioning as a new one.
As soon as he got that thing out of there the pain was 98% gone. I was practically weeping with relief.
It was obvious that they felt really bad about charging us for the treatment (surgery really). It goes against their principles. But I was happy to pay the $150 NZ charge and wondered how much it would have been in the US.
This was a week ago today, and I wish I could tell you I'm all better. Alas my ear seems to still be sprouting mushrooms and I'm going back in to have another go. I'm hoping they'll give me some sort of dangerous anti fungal drugs this time. I'm also looking forward to hearing out of my left ear again.
So anyway, this is actually my excuse for not writing anything here for what, almost 10 days? Sorry. I'm just glad to be alive.
Now that I've wasted all computer time on this tale of woe, I just have a minute or two to tell you how great it's been here otherwise.
The day after my surgery we finally headed over the (big) hill to Takaka and Golden Bay. By far the loveliest place we've seen in NZ and also the warmest and sunniest. Coming down off the hill we saw a small green farming valley below us, surrounded by towering mountainsides, that was so beautiful it took our breathes away. It was the Shire. Really.
Oh well, I have to go. Next time I'll tell you about our neat little house, and sea kayaking and all.