New Zealand Part 2 of 3 – The North Island

He Says: After a couple more days in Auckland we headed far north to Pawarenga to visit more family. I guess you could say it was a nature retreat. Avril, TB’s cousin, lives there by herself surrounded by the “bush”. There was no running water except for the kitchen sink so the toilet was a longdrop (outhouse) about 50 yards from the house on the backside of a hill. I have to admit I enjoyed the breeze every time I had an appointment there. The shower was a three walled hut outside the house with almost no pressure and just enough hot water to avoid hypothermia, so there I didn’t enjoy the breeze as much. 🙂

Of course Avril is used to all this so I think she enjoyed watching us adjust. It was definitely “primitive” compared to what we’re used to but enjoyable nonetheless. If I’ve learned anything while working overseas and traveling, it’s that you never need as much as you think you do, and it’s amazing how you can adjust to being without creature comforts – many times being without them is liberating.

Our second day there, Avril took us to the parochial Maori school where she works and arranged for the kids to perform their hakas, traditional Maori war dances, for us. Hundreds of years ago, tribes would would perform their haka to intimidate the other side into surrendering before going in battle. Nowadays they’re done for tourists and before rugby matches. So it was serious business for the children to do theirs for us. Some of the boys were a little embarassed to take off their shirts in front of their guests but the teachers assured them hakas should never be performed with them on. Like I said, serious business. Soon enough, one of the boys was yelling in Maori prompting the rest of the school to do the same. In sync, they all began yelling, beating their chests, stomping their feet, slapping their arms, sticking out their tongues and bulging their eyes. I quickly understood how this could’ve be intimidating. (Check it out –

After the hakas, the kids sat on the floor while the teacher explained we would all be singing “Stand By Me” together. Luckily, I know all the words so I had no problem singing along with them. Just so happens this was my favorite song (mostly because of the movie by the same name) when I was about the same age as these kids. What’s your word for that, Uncle Jerry? Synchronicity? 🙂 The whole thing gave me goosebumps. Thanks to all the kids who made it so special!

We left Pawarenga for Onemana, a small community right on the beach, where TB’s Uncle Richard lives. His house has an outstanding view of the beach and little islands scattered throughtout the bay. The living accomodations were lush and we enjoyed every minute of them. Our time there was spent doing what you usually do with family who you don’t see often. Drinking and talking. Probably more drinking than necessary by the end of it.

We actually sobered up enough one day to go fishing. TB found in Alaska she doesn’t quite have her sea legs, so she stayed behind. Myself, TB’s dad and her uncle left without her and, unlike the Big Silver in Alaska, I actually caught a few fish. These were snapper nowhere near the size of a silver salmon but it was still fun. We caught nine all together then took them back home for dinner. We had a lot of good fish ‘n chips while in NZ but somehow they’re better when you catch the fish yourself.

The rest of our time was kind of a blur because we did so much. A few days later we headed for the Scallop Fest in Whitianga. I’m pretty sure we had a lot of fun because I don’t remember most of it and my souvenir was a wine glass on a string you could wear as a necklace. Enough said.

We also went to Rotorua to see the thermal pools and geysers and smell sulfur. We visited more family, Brian and Lenor, somewhere south of Hamilton. They took us to a cow farm and showed us how they milk several hundred cows every day. Not exactly interesting in itself but Brian, who’s somewhere around 80, NEVER wears shoes. So watching him walk barefoot through manure made it very interesting.

Soon after we were packing again to fly for Christchurch and visit more family and friends on the South Island.

Wine tasting in at Villa Maria in Auckland - TB's cousin Graeme works here. 🙂

Visiting Tane Mahuta - The biggest tree in NZ

Opo the friendly dolphin.....get your mind out of the gutter. 😉

Avril's nature retreat in Pawarenga. Back to the basics. 🙂

Ensuite with a view and a breeze.

A special haka just for us.

The view from Richard's balcony.

At the Scallop Fest in Whitianga.

A guy who just finished streaking at the Scallop Fest. 🙂

The snapper we caught for dinner at Richard's.

Hanging out with the locals in Rotorua.

Brian showed us how to milk cows. I was a natural. 🙂