Confession: I have zero credibility as a food blogger. Each and every meal we had was spectacular. Nothing less. Even the eggs were amazing. By the time I thought to take a photo of our beautiful whole fried fish with vegetables, there was only a head and a few gnarly fins left. This photo marks a real improvement. Photographic proof that one of us put our spoon down briefly.
I have been a total loser at travel blogging, too. How you can tell is that I’m at a hotel with a kiwi on the roof. It’s close to the airport, I leave New Zealand at dawn. When I was supposed to be taking descriptive photography with footnotes of our location, I was standing around with my mouth wide open, looking exactly like a dorky American tourist. Perish whatever cool impression any clinic participants might have had of me. It’s erased by seeing me in a Hawaiian shirt and pedal pushers, standing next to the guy who wears socks in his Crocs. In other words, we had the very best time.
We did tourist things. We saw the most creative and awe-inspiring Gallipoli exhibition at Te Pappa in Wellington. Zealandia is a gift of love to our planet, worth every stride. (Not as great as my bush walk with Olly Tasker, but really, four-year-old boys know how to do it.) The Dude Rancher and I soaked at Rotorua in the hot springs. We kayaked the waters of Abel Tasman National Park, in our own inimitable way. I sat in the back and steered badly, so we switched places, giving him a chance to do the same. We took the alpine train to the western coast, gasping at the views and sipping gin & tonic from a bottle. We survived a lake tour on a 76-year-old amphibious truck used in WWII.
Here’s my advice about using Uber in NZ. It never goes well when the Uber driver drops you off at a beach before you find out there is no cell coverage or Wi-Fi. We were stranded. The pregnant woman with the puppy wanted to help but was already late for an appointment. Next, we asked a man, visiting the area for a spiritual retreat, if he would drive us 5km to the nearest town. He agreed to do it for $30. Upon further consideration, he upped it to $50. Enlightenment is never cheap.
Here’s my advice about using Airbnb. Consider booking locations with the exact same confidence you’d have going to see a horse you found on Craigslist. Some of the locations were wonderful. Sometimes it’s what isn’t mentioned that matters most. Like the photo was taken back in the 90s. Or when they say there’s Wi-Fi, they mean in the house where they live, not the room above the garage, which is where you stay. But all ads read as “Eleven-year-old bombproof, kid-safe, FEI Dressage schoolmaster, free to a good home.”
Sometimes I got touchy about Wi-Fi and was given the look we give surly teens who never put down their cell phones. Can we just have a moment of silence to honor my sainted barn manager, keeping an eye on twenty-plus animals, most with weird issues of one kind or another? She has a lousy job. Without Wi-Fi, we both become daytime drinkers. Some compassion, please.
The varmint highlight of my trip was a very fine hedgehog. I saw fewer dogs than expected, one Airbnb had more cats than the nation at large. But it was the birds in New Zealand that caught my eye. I learned birdwatching on my little prairie pond, but the birds here are just spectacular. They welcomed me with a huge flap. They deserve a blog of their own, not sullied by other details. Soon to come –an all-bird blog. Complete with an endangered species that looks like a parrot-chicken.
The flora here is outlandish, lush, and alive with thousands of shades of green. You can hear the earth breath, the plants have heartbeats, and for someone like me, passionate for the planet, it is a healing place. That said, I’ve chosen this photo as an answer to all the talk about down-under physics. How you can tell that I’m down under is they call this tree a Norfolk Pine. In NZ, gravity is a bigger question than which way the toilet water swirls, obviously.
We took a few boat trips, with the best one, a four-hour whale watching tour, scheduled for today. It’s rainy and windy; thirty-knot winds work out to 20mph prairie wind. That’s enough that riders can’t hear me yell, a dream come true for my clients at home. Too much rolling on the sea means I would show up for my first Australia clinic pea green with food on my clothes.
So, we’re hunkered into the hotel. The Dude Rancher gently snoring, meaning audible in Colorado if you listen, and I’m sipping a nice New Zealand wine and preparing for my
ground assault clinic tour of Oz. (I think that’s the approved nick-name, but we’ve been over this. I can barely order coffee in my native tongue.)
And finally, how could I tell that I’d had enough vacation time? We were punting on the Avon in Christchurch. Sounds sophisticated, doesn’t it? But I got all weepy trying to make a meaningful connection with some ducks who were making strafing runs at the boat, looking for treats. If you know me, you know about treats. Sadly, there we were, the ducks and I, each a profound disappointment to the other.
I’m certainly not admitting an addiction, but if I don’t see a horse in the next 24 hours my teeth are going to turn black and fall out.