Tweezers…a wonderful invention

I don’t know who invented these wonderful implements, but I am greatly indebted to them. Tweezers come in very handy, especially now that I am approaching the age where pesky hairs appear in places you don’t want to know about.  If I didn’t have a tweezers in my arsenal, I definitely would be looking like Vincent Van Gogh within a week.

I actually owe my life to a tweezers. (Well, not really; that was supposed to get your attention so that you read on!)

Many years ago, before the dawn of our children, Allan and I were upstate on vacation enjoying a dinner in a restaurant. I decided to have the turkey with all the trimmings and was eating it with gusto when suddenly a bone got stuck in my throat. I kept trying to dislodge it with bread to know avail, so I finally said to Allan “I think I have a bone in my throat…let’s go.” We went back to the car and he got the flashlight and looked down my throat. “Yes dear,” he calmly stated, “You indeed have a bone like a Lilliputian arrow stuck on the side of your throat.”

Now up until this point, I was talking fine, but once confirmation was made as to the bone situation in my throat I immediately scream whispered “GET ME TO A HOSPITAL.” Allan mused to himself “If I only had a tweezers”. Now I’m thinking…great…fine time for him to be thinking about shaping my eyebrows, but then a real sense of panic came over me as I realized what he wanted the tweezers for. Knowing that the man had obviously gone mad, I repeated my whispered plea, this time with teeth clenched, “GET ME TO A HOSPITAL”. But we were in a town God knows where, and it was dark. Where is a hospital when you need one? Allan says again…”If I could just get a tweezers”. With that, he starts the car and within a few blocks, he sees a 5 and 10 cent store. He jumps out, but they had just closed. He’s banging on the door saying ” My wife has a bone in her throat ” (quite dramatically, I might add) “and I need to buy a tweezers”.

Now I’m in the car thinking the man has gone over the edge and I’m seriously thinking of climbing into the drivers seat and taking myself to the hospital, but the thought of leaving him at the door of the store and having him possibly be taken off to a nut house by the 5 and 10 cent staff kept me glued to the seat. The people mercifully unlocked the door and let him in to buy the tweezers. They made him pay for the tweezers right away, too, obviously not realizing the direness of my situation. Now mind you, they had to find the key to the register, unlock it and fire it up. Newspaper headlines began to run through my head “Women Succumbs To Bone in Throat As Husband is Delayed at Cash Register Paying for Life Saving Tweezers”.

He eventually came out with this long, pinch-nosed deal and said “Open wide”.. like he’s a dentist or something. I’m thinking, I hope this works or I’ll be at the hospital with a bone AND a tweezers protruding from my throat. Try explaining THAT to the hospital staff!!! But, Allan, without hesitation, deftly put that tweezers down my gullet and plucked that bone from my throat. My hero!!

It was quite awhile, however, before I stopped pulverizing my turkey at family Thanksgiving celebrations and tweezing my eyebrows on occasion can still gives me the willies!

The DISHWASHER Escapade circa 1972

When Allan and I were first married and living in an apartment in Floral Park,  I had an encounter with a dishwasher.

Growing up, the only dishwasher that my family had was me. I would stand at the sink in our kitchen and wash and rinse the dishes and stack them in the drainboard to be dried later. I knew nothing of the workings of an automatic dishwasher, so you can imagine my elation when we moved into our little love nest and I realized that I now had a machine to do the dirty work. It was a top loader and it rolled out from under the counter top whenever its services were required.

A number of months went by and one Saturday while on a cleaning binge, I thought to myself “Gee, I guess it’s time I cleaned the dishwasher”. DUH!! I was obviously not the brightest newlywed on the block – about as sharp as a marble to be precise. I mean really, doesn’t the dishwasher interior get “clean” every time you hit the “Start Cycle” button? And to further prove that I was indeed not the sharpest knife in the drawer, I decided that it needed to be cleaned with DISH detergent. That’s what I had used all those years to make dishes sparkling clean, so why not use it to clean the inside of the dishwasher?

Exactly how much dish washing liquid a village idiot should put into a dishwasher to have the inside come out sparkling clean, no one knows. Suffice it to say, I obviously used a tad too much; a little bit of that stuff goes a long way. And of course, since I wanted the dish washer to be super clean, I probably added a decent amount. And maybe a touch more after that.

Things were going well at first. The dishwasher filled with steamy hot water and started the cycle. Then suddenly, after about 10 minutes, froth started to ooze from the top of the machine. Then bubbles started coming out even faster, cascading down the front, streaming down to the floor and making their way to the side door. “I Love Lucy” episodes had nothing on me.

I hit the “cancel” button, but alas, it was too late. Upon opening the door of the washer, bubbles literally exploded all over and they kept coming, and coming, and coming.

I yelled for my dearest who ran in and practically knocked himself out navigating the slippery floor. We grabbed some pots and started scooping bubbles (which were now about a foot high) to deposit out the door of the house and onto the patio. Now we not only had bubbles all over the kitchen…the suds were starting to fill up our patio.

And still the bubbles kept coming. Did you know the more you try to add water to bubbles, the soapier the situation becomes? Yeah, well I didn’t know that and as I tried to rinse out the dishwasher and douse the floor with water to defeat the foam, it just made matters worse.

I’m sure Allan was rethinking his spousal choice by now, but at least he couldn’t say he married a slob. We had the cleanest dish washer, kitchen floor and cement patio on the block.

Little did he know way back then, that the adventures with his bride would continue for all these years. And that’s why our blog is titled “The Escapades of Pookie and Allan!”

Leaving Auckland for home

Our flight was at 7:40 pm so we had the whole day to relax before the coach took us all to the airport.
We slept late and had a really nice breakfast and then went off to tour the Art Gallery.

There were some interesting works in the gallery…in particular, the collection donated by hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson, who developed a deep affection for New Zealand after taking a sabbatical there with his family in 1978.  His wife Josie and he donated their artwork to New Zealand because they were so impressed with the Māori children and how those kids were in awe of the paintings when they looked at them when they were first displayed. Julian and Josie felt they wanted to donate their collection where it would be appreciated. The donation comprises 15 works by famous artists…. Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Paul Cezanne, Salvador Dalí, André Derain, Henri Fantin-Latour, Paul Gauguin, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian and Pablo Picasso. The collection also features paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture. Allan knew of Julian since Julian was the keynote speaker in a morning financial conference years ago, and Allan was on a panel at the conference in the afternoon.

The Robertson’s lived in New York City in an apartment overlooking Central Park and the apartment had all of the art on display. One painting by Picasso was hung in the bathroom because his wife didn’t like it.

We had a quick bite to eat and then sat with the group in the hotel lobby till it was time to leave.

We said goodbye to our new friends amid tears and Allan and I boarded our Air New Zealand flight. Our new friend Debbie was also on this flight. The flight was extremely turbulent for hours with everything bouncing around. You could hardly eat or drink…the liquids were slurping over the rims of the glasses.

Around 10 pm after dinner was served, flight attendants came around and made up our beds. I have to say, the mattress they put down was the thickest and the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever had on a business class flight. I slept great.

In the morning they dismantled our beds and served breakfast and we arrived in Houston. Going through security and rechecking our bags for the flight to Newark was a breeze.

Unfortunately, our flight to Newark was delayed for over two hours so we didn’t take off until much later than planned. We finally arrived in Newark, but our luggage came on a different flight and was at a different terminal. Since our driver had been waiting for us for hours, we decided to have United send us our luggage and hopefully it will arrive today. We arrived home around 2:30 am and went right to bed.

It was the trip of a lifetime and we had so many adventures and first experiences. We will never forget Australia and New Zealand. It was a long trip…but so worth it. We did it all! See you for the next journey!

PS…Yesterday, our luggage arrived at Lehigh Valley International Airport and Allan and I went over and picked it up. YAY! And now…to do the laundry!!


My favorite in the collection

Auckland – Harbor Bridge – Bastion Point – Wintergarden

This is our last day on our month long trip through Australia and New Zealand. Tomorrow we fly home. Our hotel in Auckland is in the center of town and is quite lovely and the breakfast this morning was amazing! We’ve been very lucky that all of our hotels have been wonderful and the breakfasts, except for one hotel, have been excellent. But if truth be told, we do get some of the best rooms since we have traveled with Overseas Adventure Travel – Grand Circle so often.

We boarded our coach for a tour around the city, stopping first to see the Harbor Bridge. Before the bridge opened in 1959, the only way passenger vehicles could cross the harbor was by ferry which was a time consuming, expensive and thus became an infrequently made journey. Situated on the nation’s main artery (State Highway 1) more than a billion cars have travelled across the steel bridge since it was constructed.

As we traveled along, Catherine mentioned that prostitution in New Zealand is legal. There isn’t a red light district like in Amsterdam and there are no pimps. The ladies are called sex workers, they pay taxes, and usually work out of their homes.

We passed where New Zealand’s America’s Cup boat is being housed. There was a sneak peek offered to the public a few weeks ago, but for the most part, the design is a well kept secret until the race.

We passed Holy Trinity Cathedral where Sir Edmund Hillary was buried from. Sir Hillary was a mountaineer and an explorer and he and his Sherpa became the first climbers to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. He led an amazing life and Allan and I are members of the Sir Edmund Hillary club with Overseas Adventure Travel since we have travelled so often with them.

The next stop was to Bastion Point (you can google about its interesting history) and then on to Auckland Domain WinterGarden. The gardens were spectacular, with many gorgeous flowers that I have never seen. The display changes regularly within the glass houses, but the flowers blooming at this time were truly rare. One glass house is heated and shows lush tropical and heat-loving plants while the other house displays temperate plants changing with the seasons. There also is a fern area that is dense with different types of ferns and trees.

We went back to the hotel to spend an afternoon on our own before the Farewell Dinner tonight. Allan and I walked around since it was a lovely sunny day, after this morning’s sprinkle of rain.

At 5:30 we all took the ferry over to enjoy the Farewell Dinner. We had a lot of laughs and we were sorry that our time together is ending. You really get to know people very well, being with them every day for a month. It was a good group and we traveled well together.

We went back to the hotel and Catherine gave a recap of our time together. It’s amazing to realize all the wonderful adventures we had here in New Zealand. The country is beautiful with its volcanoes, glaciers, meadows, beaches, and of course the majestic mountains that were covered in snow.

Catherine gave each of us a little gift and a written award to go with it, highlighting something that we did that she remembered that she thought was great. Allan got shot glasses and his award read “The award for being able to say he actually fit in a hobbit’s house!” I received a lovely woven little bag and my award read “The award for being a wahine toa and making it through the nighttime tree walk!” Too funny! BTW… wahine toa means warrior woman. Yep…that’s me!!

Harbor Bridge

Building where the New Zealand’s America’s Cup boat is housed.

Bastion Point. Michael Savage Memorial

Where Sir Edmond Hillary was buried from.

One of the glass houses at the Wintergarden

Fern garden

The Arapuni Swing Bridge – Sanctuary Mountain – Auckland

Yesterday, we had a long drive to visit our last city on this fabulous tour, Auckland, the most populous city in New Zealand.

On the coach Catherine mentioned again over the microphone how proud she was that I overcame a fear and conquered the swing bridge in the Redwood Forest. Everyone cheered! I said, “I’m still recovering…but thank you!” Too funny.

Our first stop was the Arapuni Swing Bridge, (yes…a swing bridge) located not far from the Arapuni power station. It has a span of 499 feet and is 178 feet above the gorge. I went to the bridge to see if I could walk across it. Yeah…no!!! The bridge was bouncing, the view to the bottom was death defying, and I only went one foot on it and turned around. Allan did go partway out to take a quick photo. The bridge was built in the 1920’s to allow workers access to the power station construction site.

Our next stop was Sanctuary Mountain that has one of New Zealand’s largest fenced in eco-sanctuaries and one of the world’s longest pest-proof fences. It is the habitat of many endangered wildlife.

Our guide explained how the fence works to keep predators out of the forest so that the endangered wildlife will have a chance at survival. Xcluder is the factory that manufactures the fencing and after many trials, they built a fence that does not allow pests to jump over, climb over, dig under, or get through. Here are some fence facts that were on a sign at the Sanctuary:

  • The fence includes more than 850,000 staples, 50,000 battens, 8,500 three metre posts and 240km of high tensile wire
  • An electronic surveillance system operates 24 hours per day to detect fence breaches
  • The volunteer effort in maintaining the fence and monitoring pests involves more than 250 hours per month and the equivalent of 37 full time staff. If the fence has been breached, a volunteer is there within 90 minutes to catch the intruder.

The kiwi in the sanctuary were endangered at first, but now, the kiwi living in the forest have multiplied and the forest is now overpopulated with them. This year the sanctuary is going to have 300 kiwi moved to other conservation projects around the North Island. This is a world first in terms of scale and complexity.

Before we were allowed to enter the forest, we had to brush off our shoes and walk on a box that splashed water on the bottom of our shoes to clean them. Then only a few of us could go into a kind of cage-like area at a time. As we entered, we had to close the door before we opened the next door to enter the forest. This was so that pests outside the fence couldn’t sneak in with us.

Our guide was wonderful as we hiked through the forest with its gorgeous foliage, ferns, huge trees, and birds singing all throughout. Often our guide would pause and we all remained quiet so we could hear the chattering of the avian life. We heard kiwi as well as ruru, kaka, and many other bird calls. Our guide pointed out unusual mushrooms, fungi, berries, and told us about a tree (can’t remember the name) whose leaf can be used for toilet paper in the bush. Years ago, since the leaf has a whitish back, people used it as a postcard and mailed it, but the post office no longer allows that practice.

We had a nice lunch and then it was on the bus for the ride to Auckland. On the way, Catherine talked about the government in New Zealand and about taxes etc. People think New Zealand doesn’t have taxes, but that isn’t true. There’s something called a pay rate that goes for maintenance for the parks, rubbish collection, roads, etc. That tax is paid to the local government. The income tax is a separate tax that goes toward education and medical care.

Schools are rated 1-10 with 1 being in the poorest of the poor areas to 10 being the affluent areas. The lower number school gets subsidized by the government and the children get extra curricular schooling, breakfast and lunch programs, books and anything they need for the kids to succeed. The #10 schools… parents raise money on their own with fundraisers as they do not receive monies from the government. The money raised goes towards helping the kids study abroad, extracurricular activities, etc. Sadly, the #1 school kids have it tough and some just drop out because their parents are so poor, they don’t have the incentive to help their kids succeed.

Between 1970 and 1982, if a child had an accident or became incapacitated, the child was forcibly taken from the parents and put into a psychiatric facility, even if the child had no mental problems. The children were given shock treatments and were abused, and neither the parent nor the child had a voice. Catherine spoke from experience as her younger brother was hit by a car when he was 6. He was paralyzed on one side. The government took him and put him in a psych ward and he was given shock treatments. Visiting was very limited, so her parents were not able to do anything for him. Her brother died in the facility and now she is a member of a group that monitors asylums to make sure what happened years ago never happens again.

We passed a lot of cattle on the way and we noticed that some of the cattle had orange paint on their backsides. Catherine told us that the farmers castrate some of their bulls. They also paint the tails of the cows orange. This tail painting can be a reliable tool to tell when a cow is in heat. Even though the bull is castrated, he will still want to mount the cow and then the paint rubs off the cow telling the farmer she’s in heat. The farmer then paints that cow green…meaning she’s good to go and the farmer brings in a bull that hasn’t been castrated to do the job. Tail paint apparently is a tried, tested and proven method and one I had never heard of before.

We finally arrived in Auckland which is a very busy city. Lots of people and traffic. High priced stores like Bulgari, Patek Philippe, Dior, and many more. We took a short walk around and then went to a restaurant called Occidental for a delicious dinner of green-lipped mussels. Allan and I also enjoyed a dark stout beer.

Today we have a tour of the city by coach and we then have the rest of the day free to explore. Our Farewell Dinner will be tonight, so I will write about today’s happening later tonight.

BTW…regarding the kiwi, here is an interesting article you might like to read:

The gorge below

Sanctuary Mountain

Fungi like coral.

300 year old tree

The beautiful landscape outside the forest.


Green-lipped mussels. Delicious!

Nice dark stout

Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley – Rotomahana Lake – Hobbiton

I meant to mention that when we started our New Zealand tour, our guide Catherine gave us some fruit that grows in her garden. It’s called feijoas. The fruit is sweet and tart and is similar to the guava family, but I tasted pineapple in it. It was juicy and quite good.

Also, I spoke with Catherine about the Maori face tattooing and she said they really only do ink tattoos these days and do not do the face cutting anymore. First, it is a barbaric practice and second, the people who were doing it are no longer around to teach the practice. In Australia, the Aborigines still do it, but it is restricted to Arnhem Land.

By the way, all is fine with our hotel room. They fixed the heat and the temp is perfect.  Also, the weather has been amazing. We’ve had sunny days and beautiful autumn temps. It’s been a perfect time of year to be here. 

One of my favorite opera singers is Kiri Te Kanawa who was born in New Zealand to a Māori butcher. The butcher was already married, so Kiri was given up for adoption to a Ngati Maniapoto family. She was trained in operatic singing by a nun and went on to earn international acclaim. 

This morning we started our day visiting the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley, the world’s  youngest geothermal system. This hydrothermal system was created on June 10, 1886 by the volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera. 7 small villages were lost and 105 lives were lost. All plant, bird and animal life were lost as well. 

The eruption affected Lake Roromahana and the area is now a major tourist attraction.  It contains Frying Pan Lake which is the largest hot spring in the world and Inferno Crater Lake, the largest geyser-like feature in the world although you can’t see the geyser since it is at the bottom if the lake. 

After the volcanic eruption, when everything was wiped out, the now native forest is the only New Zealand example of a re-establishing of vegetation without any human planting. It truly is remarkable. 

We hiked all through the area, sometimes walking on the edge of the crater. The foliage was magnificent and so amazing to know that Mother Nature did this all on her own without the help of humans planting the seeds.

After our hike we boarded a boat and cruised Lake Rotomahana (warm lake). This was once a very small lake but after the 1886 eruption of Mt. Tarawera, it became 20 times its original size, combining with Lake Rotomakariri (cold lake), thus becoming the regions deepest lake. 

There were Pink and White Terraces that were  natural formations once labeled the 8th Wonder of the World. People travelled from afar to New Zealand to see these amazing terraces that we now can only see in photos since they are below Lake Rotomahana. 

We cruised past the steaming cliffs where the hot springs are evident in the mountainside and we stayed in one area for a few minutes to witness a geyser spewing hot water and steam. The boat tour times it so we were able to be right in front of the geyser when it let go. It was pretty spectacular.

We had lunch and then some of us took a bus to visit the Hobbiton Movie set. 

Peter Jackson had looked for a perfect location for the Lord of the Rings films, and he found it during a helicopter flight as he searched the countryside in New Zealand for the ideal spot. He saw it when he flew over Alexander Farm, a 1,250 acre sheep farm. 

As the story goes, Jackson approached Mr Alexander with a knock on his door, but Mr. Alexander was watching a rugby game and wasn’t pleased with the interruption. Fortunately, it was just about half time, so the two men sat down and worked out the how-tos and wherewithals and a deal was made to use the farm for the filming. Mr Alexander had never read the novels, but I’m sure with the way the novels are timeless and Hobbiton is so popular, he is very happy he stopped viewing the rugby game to make the deal with Jackson.

After suitable negotiations, work commenced in transforming part of the farm into sets for Hobbiton and the other parts of Tolkien’s Shire. Heavy equipment was moved in by the New Zealand Army and 37 hobbit holes with gardens etc were created. 

It was a huge undertaking. Generators were installed, sewage had to be dealt with, and feeding of over 400 cast and crew had to be undertaken.  They even took all the apples off a huge apple tree on the farm and replaced it with fake plums so that the film was true to the story…since a plum tree was in the writings.  Also, during filming, the man-made pond became the home of some bull frogs and at times, the actors couldn’t hear each other because the frogs were so loud. The frogs had to be collected and relocated to another pond on the farm. 

The original set wasn’t built to last, but in 2010, the set was reconstructed to a permanent basis for the filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and Ian McKellen came back as Gandalf and was joined on location by Martin Freeman. 

There are now 44 hobbit holes on view although it is only possible to enter a few of them, all of which have small, unfinished, earth-walled interiors. The homes are built to one of three different scales. In addition to the smallest ones built to the correct size (hobbits are smaller than humans), some are built to a larger scale to make the hobbit actors appear smaller, and some have been constructed in a “dwarf” scale for scenes containing dwarves. Apart from a few exceptions, the color of the front door indicates the scale, for example hobbit holes with a blue door are built to the correct human size. 

It was so wonderful to walk around where the filming took place and listen as our guide told us all the little intricacies of the Shire. 

After the tour we stopped into the Green Dragon and had a beer. It was a magical afternoon. 

We had a delicious dinner and then it was off to bed since we have a big travel day tomorrow to Auckland. 

The Hobbit house was so much fun to go through. More pics below.

Peter Jackson said about the set… “It seems as if you could open the circular green door of Bag End and find Bilbo Baggins inside”.

Kiwi Hatchery – Māori Village – The Whakarewarewa Forest – Redwoods Night Lights

Well, for the first time, even though our room is brand new, there are bugs to be worked out. When we arrived, the heat was blasting and we couldn’t shut it off. We called maintenance last night and they came and apparently shut it off. So all through the night, we had no heat since if we turned the thermostat to any setting, cold air spewed out.

We went to breakfast hoping to warm up, but since a conference is going on, we were put in the semi-outdoor area which was really cold. There was a heater but it didn’t cast much warmth. The food was a bit cold and the coffee was really, really strong so I had a cup of tea to warm up. And since the area has sliding doors to separate the cold from the heated area, there was a gully where the doors slid along and, of course, as I was trying to get my friend over under the heater, I twisted my bad foot in the gully. OUCH!!!!

We had the front desk guy in to try to fix the heat since it’s either boiling or freezing. He said he’d have to get maintenance because he agreed…for some reason it was either hot or cold…nothing in between.

Then I showed him how the towel rack pulls off the wall. His expression was hilarious as his eyes almost bugged out of his head and he said “OH WOW!!!! Never saw that before!!” Hopefully all will be fixed when we get back later today.

We boarded our bus and everyone wore masks as many people have come down with some kind of bug…fever, coughing, and feeling miserable. The rest of us are hoping we don’t catch it.

We visited The National Kiwi Hatchery this morning and learned all about kiwi, the icon of New Zealand. The kiwi hatchery is the largest and most successful kiwi hatchery in the world and is the leader in kiwi husbandry, egg incubation systems, hatching techniques, and kiwi chick rearing.

Kiwi tend to live in pairs, forming monogamous couples. These bonds are generally till death and have been known to last over 30 years. About every third day, the pair will shelter in the same burrow together. The relationship tends to be quite volatile and physical, the female generally calling the shots over her smaller partner. Kiwi are more mammalian than bird-like in that they have a belly button and they have an umbilical cord. The eggs of the kiwi are very large and would be the equivalent of a human giving birth to a three year old. The egg takes up about 20% of the mother’s mass. And most times, the kiwi has two eggs brewing at once.

After the kiwi hatch, the mom leaves and the dad sits on the egg. (I’d leave too after birthing a three year old!!!!) The dad kicks the egg with his foot to turn it, sits on it, and keeps kicking and sitting on the egg until it finally hatches which can take about 80 days. The mom eventually comes back when the chick has hatched and has gone on its own and the dad and the mom mate again.

After the baby is hatched, it sleeps for 48 hours and doesn’t have to be fed for five days since it has already received nourishment from the yoke of the egg.

The eggs and the baby kiwi are very vulnerable and are eaten by possum and other animals in the forest. Only about 5% of the kiwi survive in the wild. Dogs that are not on leashes are particularly lethal to the kiwi since they enjoy eating both the egg and the chicks. In 1987 a dog was loose in Waitangi State forest. For six weeks it rampaged through the forest killing every kiwi it encountered. By the time the dog was found, perhaps as many as 500 of the 1000 kiwi living there had been slaughtered.

The kiwi is the only bird in the world that has nostrils at the end of its beak. It can sniff out its food below the surface.

At the hatchery, we learned how the volunteers look for eggs in the wild and bring them back to the hatchery. They candle the egg to make sure there is a chick inside and then they incubate the egg, turning it 4 times a day while waiting for it to hatch. The kiwi doesn’t use its beak to peck out of its shell but rather uses its shoulders and legs. This takes about five days.

After the chick is hatched, it is taken care of until it is old enough to survive in the wild, and volunteers then put the kiwi back in the area of the forest where the egg was found.

We walked through the kiwi nocturnal house. They keep it very dark since the kiwi have sensitive eyes and can’t see very well. We weren’t allowed to take photos while in the house. We did see a few kiwi and the guide said we were lucky because sometimes, they are in their burrow and do not come out.

It is the end of the hatching season so there was only one egg in the hatchery, but its shell was cracked so it was in the ICU area and we couldn’t see it. They actually put duct tape around the shell to try to save a chick whose shell has been cracked or broken.

We did see one chick that was already quite large and he would eventually be out back into the forest. Some kiwi are about the size of a chicken.

It was very interesting learning all about kiwi and it was truly a unique experience.

After we visited the hatchery, we went to an authentic Māori village in Ohinemutu, home to the Ngāti Whakaue tribe.

Our guide Nicky (his Māori name was too long to remember) guided us around. He told us all about how the Māori live and how they use the geothermal resources to cook and to bathe which they have done for centuries. His family goes back 35 generations and his grandmother now owns most of the land. He is considered a chief. Catherine chose one of the men in our group, Tom, to be our chief, and Tom greeted Nicky and told him that we came in peace and we were honored to meet with him and to hear about his ways and his life. Nicky said a prayer and then we sang a song to him that we had been practicing. The words were:

Te avoha. (Love). Te Whakapeno. (Hope).
Me te rangimarie. (Peace). Tatou tatou e. (For all of us)

Then some of the group performed the hongi, the traditional Māori greeting performed by two people pressing their noses together and then deep breathing as one. The greeting is used at traditional meetings among Māori people, and at major ceremonies, such as a pōwhiri.

Traditionally, men receive a Mataora tattoo on their face – as a symbol of nobility. As māori believe the head is the most sacred part of the body, facial tattoos have special significance. Moko kauae is received by women on their lips and chin. A moko kauae represents a woman’s whānau and leadership within her community, recognizing her whakapapa, status, and abilities. Nicky did not have any facial tattoos as of yet, but he has decided on who he wants to do the tattooing and what he wanted tattooed on his face. He has already bonded with the tattoo artist, since both of them have tragically lost their brothers recently.

I believe I already posted about how the face is cut into the design the Māori wants on his or her face. The first cut is deep and when that heals it is cut again in the same area. After it is done a third time, the ink is then put into the areas that were cut, making permanent markings. The modern tool is a needle, although some artists alternate between traditional and modern methods. While the needle is faster and more precise, hand tools bring the ritual more in line with how it was done traditionally. I should have asked what method Nicky was going to have done.

We did see a Māori with the tattoos today and he played some music for us. This apparently was a rare and unplanned encounter, so we were lucky to be able to talk and listen to him.

We walked around the village and went into the Anglican Church and also saw the numerous areas where the geothermal gases are being released. One part of the sidewalk was cracked recently where the gases were escaping.

We enjoyed lunch in the cafe that is run by the Ngāti Whakaue. I had a delicious decaf cappuccino. We bid Nicky goodbye. He had us bow our heads and he said a prayer before we left, thanking God for the beautiful day and for meeting with us and sharing his life with us.

From there we went to the Whakarewarewa Forest, where a diverse range of exotic tree species and native undergrowth reside. The forest is most well known for its stand of Californian Coast Redwoods. They were truly magnificent to see as they all competed in height to tower over each other. We saw ferns and palm trees and the walk was just lovely. The forest path had rocks and tree roots all throughout, which wasn’t the greatest for my wonky foot, but I soldiered on and when I got back to the hotel, I took some Advil and Tylenol and rested so I could participate in tonight’s night canopy walk.

Redwoods Nightlights is one of New Zealand’s top places to visit. We had been there this afternoon of course, walking through the redwoods, but tonight promised a walk ABOVE all the trees. 9 meters high off the ground… which is 3 stories….30 feet!!! WTF was I thinking????? I have a terrible fear of heights and actually can only go up two steps on a ladder. Catherine said since it will be dark, I won’t see how high up we are. NOT!!!! I could see everything and after I went up the circular ramp which went up and up and up and started on the first swing bridge, I was hyperventilating and pretty freaking scared. But you can’t go back…so on I went, clutching the side rails and praying it would soon be over.

It apparently was beautiful so they tell me… with 34 lanterns designed by a world-renowned designer…David Trubridge. But I hardly saw anything since I just wanted to get down on terra firma. The walk over the swing bridges is almost 3,000 feet long with 27 platforms where mercifully, I could stop and catch my breath. There were 28 suspension bridges and it took about an hour to complete. I had more fun having my wisdom teeth out. I barely looked at the light display and the lanterns.

So all in all, between my wonky foot, the terror of the Redwood Night Walk, and the problems this morning with the heater, the day was not the best.
Catherine said she was so proud of me, as was Allan, that I did something that was really out of my comfort range.

We returned from the night walk and went directly to the bar. That should sum it all up!

Kiwi and egg on display in the hatchery

Nicky our Māori guide

St Michael’s Anglican Church in the Māori village

A Māori who we had the opportunity to speak with.

Whakarewarewa Forest

Very poisonous fern to touch

People would pull off the fronds and lay them in the forest so they could find their way back. The fronds almost glow like silver.

Beautiful trees all throughout the forest

Carved from red wood trees

Entrance to the forest

The night walk in the daylight

The swing bridge

My cappuccino at the Māori village

Our group in the redwood forest. Look at that trunk!!!!

The night walk lanterns

Still clinging for dear life.

The swing bridge


Today was a travel day. We flew first to Wellington and then on to Rotorua where we will be staying for three nights. Rotorua has about 77,000 residents and 75% are Māori.

When we were in the Wellington airport, we ate lunch while we waited for our next flight. Catherine said that O.A.T used to spend a few days in Wellington, but they don’t anymore since the feedback the company received was to stay longer in Queenstown and Rotorua. I’m so happy they changed it since Queenstown was wonderful and the four days we stayed there were fabulous.

Catherine has asked us to start conversations with the locals and she gave us questions to ask. 1. What do you love about New Zealand? 2. What is your favorite food? 3. What would you like to see changed in the country.
I’ve been busy asking the questions and so far, these are the answers:

  1. The people, the beauty of the country, nature
  2. Pasta, Lamb, Rice and Chicken, BBQ
  3. I’m happy with the government now, I’d love to see the rivers cleaned of algae, I’d like the government to allow people who have two homes to let the homeless live in one while the residents were at the other home.

Interesting answers to the questions. And today in the airport, the lady I was speaking to said New Zealanders can’t believe that with so many people living in the United States, how can Trump and Biden be the candidates for president? Interesting. I told her most of us agree!

We boarded our plane which was a turboprop and the flight was great. Instead of seeing the mountains and glaciers of the South Island, we flew over volcano and geothermal terrain on the North Island. There is geothermal activity all over caused by the underground thermal springs and you can smell the sulfur in the air.

Our coach took us to the Government Gardens that are near our hotel and we also saw the Rachel Spring. The Rachel Spring (Whangapipiro) is a geothermal pool that is a popular attraction for visitors to Rotorua. The pool is smaller than other thermal springs in the area. The flowers in the Government garden are blooming since Rotorua is warmer in climate than Queenstown was. It was in the 30’s when we left the South Island and now we are in the 60’s. There is a thermal Polynesian spa within walking distance to our hotel, and you can choose to soak in the public bath or have a private couples room. We’ll have to see if we have time to partake.

Our hotel room is beautiful…brand new. They are refurbishing all the rooms so we are lucky to have one of the newly refurbished rooms.

We had a delicious dinner and then it was off to bed. We have a busy day tomorrow.

Rachael Spring

Our jet boat group!!

Pedro our jet boat driver from yesterday.

Dart River Jet Boat –

I added a photo below of the rainbow that arched across the waterfall during our cruise yesterday. So lovely. Also, I found out today that it rains in Milton Sound more than 270 days a year, so we were so extraordinary lucky to have such a beautiful sunny day.

Yesterday I mentioned purchasing a winter hat. A few days ago, I purchased a beautiful shawl, made of the same material…merino wool, possum fur, and silk. I told you in a previous post how the possums are decimating the wildlife and the land in New Zealand. They came from Australia and were introduced to New Zealand in the 1860’s to start a fur trade there. The population got out of hand quickly, and now the possums are hunted, poisoned, trapped and shot and conservationists are seeking alternative solutions to rid the country of these pests. They eat the birds eggs so the birds are in danger of becoming extinct. There are currently over 47.6 million possums in New Zealand.

In the meantime, scientists have discovered that possum fur cannot be knitted like Merino wool, but it is hollow and holds warmth very well and it never freezes. They realized it can be incorporated with Merino wool to make beautiful garments. It takes about 18 possums to provide 39 lbs of fur and when combined with the Merino wool, the outcome is outstanding! My items are 53% Merino wool, 40% possum fur, and 7% silk. They are warm, soft, and just beautiful. So for now, possums that have been hunted or trapped are used for at least some good.

We were able to sleep in today and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. We did a bit of laundry and then at 12:30 we walked over to get the coach for our adventure of the day: Jet boating on the Dart River!!

We had about a 45 minute ride to where the jet boats leave from, traveling all along Lake Wakatipu and enjoying the beautiful mountains. We were bundled up with lots of layers since Catherine said it would be windy and cold on the water.

We arrived at the town of Glenorchy where we would depart from in our jet boat. Glenorchy is a little town with 400 residents. The jet boat folks gave us heavy rain slickers and life jackets and we were also given gators for around our neck that we were told to pull over the top of our heads so that we could tuck our sunglass frames inside so the sunglasses didn’t blow away.

We boarded the jet boat and were given safety instructions and then…we were off. It was exhilarating and a lot of fun!!! Our pilot Pedro did 360 degree spins in the water every now and again, letting us know he was going to do one by circling his hand above his head. He had to navigate the shallow waters and the rocks and we zipped through and around curves, holding on for dear life. The handle bars we held onto were heated, so that made our gloves nice and cozy.

Pedro stopped every now and then to make sure we were all okay and hadn’t turned chartreuse, and he would then tell us about the mountain and the areas where parts of The Lord of the Rings was filmed. He also told us he came from Brazil but fell in love with a kiwi girl and didn’t want to leave this beautiful country. He’s been driving the jet boats for about four years.

According to Wikipedia, “A jet-boat is a boat propelled by a jet of water ejected from the back of the craft.” It differs from a powerboat in that it does not use a propeller that sits under the water. It draws water into a pump inside the boat and then expels it. It rides along the surface of the water for the most part.

In the 1950’s in New Zealand, a Kiwi by the name of Sir William (Bill) Hamilton, developed the Hamilton Jet unit. You can read more about him in one of the photos posted below.

We were out in the jet boat for about two hours, cruising between the beautiful mountains and enjoying the ride. It was a fabulous adventure!

We came back around 5:15 and went to dinner with the group at 6:15. We have flights tomorrow to the North Island flying first to Wellington and then on to Rotorua.

Seeing the South Island of New Zealand has been amazing! Christchurch, Canterbury, Otago, Milford Sound, Queenstown! Just fabulous! Looking forward to seeing what the North Island adventures will be.

Below – The rainbow on the waterfall during yesterday’s cruise in Milford Sound.

Sunrise this morning in Queenstown

Our friend Sharon caught a photo of an Aotearoa in flight. Great pic!!!

Along the Wakatipu River

Black swans with their cygnets

The peak in the distance was in Lord of the Rings.

The pilot has to avoid the rocks. The waters are very shallow.

My Merino wool, possum fur, and silk hat and shawl.

Milford Sound – Fiordland National Park

Just want to mention before I talk about today’s fabulous adventure… The views from the gondola yesterday were really beautiful. I guess I was so giddy after going up such a steep incline, I forgot to mention how spectacular the panarama was that was spread before us when we reached the top. It was really amazing!

Today Catherine told us the story of Shrek the Sheep. It’s really an amazing story and you can read about it here:.

An interesting fact about New Zealand’s wildlife… Sheep, goats, deer, etc. have all been brought into the country over the years. The only indigenous mammals in New Zealand are the bat and marine mammals.

Today we saw a kea parrot. The Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot and lives in the high mountains of New Zealand. They are beautiful to see, and are highly intelligent. They have been known to turn on water taps and once one Kea locked a mountaineer inside an outdoor bathroom. However, they can cause a lot of damage to cars… Particularly to the tires as they like to peck on them to sharpen their beaks, thus shredding the tires.

We started our day very early… Eating breakfast at 6:30 and on our coach at 7 for the long drive to the west coast of the south island…to visit Milford Sound which is 173 miles from Queenstown, traveling the Milford Road.

The Milford Road is much more than just a way to get to Milford Sound. This was an amazing journey through Fiordland National Park. We passed through magnificent glaciers, valleys that were carved by glaciers, waterfalls, clear ice blue rivers that looked like the waters of Antarctica, and of course rainforests… All in one journey.

We crossed through the Main Divide of the Southern Alps and the highest point we climbed to was 3,083 feet. It began to snow and we watched as the beautiful mountains were covered in a blanket of white and the valleys were filled with snow. It was early in the season for this to take place, so we were extremely lucky to be able to see it.

As our journey began upon leaving Queenstown, we passed Lake Wakatipu. Lake Wakatipu has a ‘tide’ or actually a seiche, which causes the water to rise and fall about 4″ every 25 minutes or so. Maori legend thought a monster named Matau, was sleeping under the lake and it was his heartbeat causing the rise of the water. Apparently, Lake Geneva has this same phenomenon. We didn’t have time to witness the seiche ourselves, but visitors do sit at the waters edge and have fun timing it. It’s a pretty reliable rise of water every 25 minutes.

We passed hay bales in the pastures and everyone calls them marshmallow fields because the bales are wrapped in white plastic and look like giant marshmallows. Some bales are wrapped in pink plastic and some in blue. The farmers buy these colors especially for breast and prostate cancer awareness and the extra money they pay to purchase the colored plastic is donated to those causes.

We continued our journey through Fiordland National Park which was made by glaciers 100,000 years ago. There are waterfalls streaming down the mountains, a rainforest, lakes, and fiords. It is a beautiful passage to Milford Sound, with something different to see every few miles.

We made a pit stop at Te Anau, known as the gateway to the fiords and we enjoyed a coffee and did some quick shopping. I bought a really nice merino, possum, and silk hat to keep me warm.

We got out of the coach to stretch our legs at Mirror Lake and we walked along the boardwalk through the beautiful woods. Unfortunately, it was raining so we weren’t able to see the reflections of the mountains that make Mirror Lake so famous.

We went on our way and entered the Eglinton Valley. It was carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago. Beech trees line the valley and there is beautiful tussock grass below. I actually saw effects of a beech landslide that I mentioned in a previous post.

It started to snow and the mountains were covered very quickly in a winter wonderland of beauty. It was awe-inspiring standing before the towering mountains and looking up and feeling so insignificant. The scenery looked like a postcard. We couldn’t believe how beautiful it was.

We passed through Homer Tunnel which is a 1.2 miles tunnel through solid rock. It took over 19 years to complete and before it was built, there was no access road to Milford Sound. The tunnel passes through Darran Mountain.

We also stopped to view Mt. Tutoko, thought to be named after a Maori chief. It is the highest peak in Fiordland National Park – 8,934 feet. We were able to see the peak as we gazed up since suddenly the clouds parted.

We found ourselves in a beautiful rainforest as we traveled through Cleddau Valley and then we finally arrived at Milford Sound and boarded our boat.

Upon going aboard, we enjoyed a box lunch and a glass of wine, and then we went up on deck to view the cliffs, the glacial valleys, and waterfalls. The Milford Sound is apparently one of New Zealand’s most visited sights. We saw dolphins as we cruised along, but did not see any penguins that are sometimes there, as they had not yet migrated back from Antarctica.

The sun was shining and the sights were amazing. Palisade Falls, Bowen Falls, and Stirling Falls. The boat goes up close to Stirling Falls and you get covered with the mist. Legend says that the waterfall’s mist makes people look younger. I was drenched in the mist so you probably won’t recognize me tomorrow as I’ll look so young!!

The boat went into the Tasman Sea for a bit and then turned around and sailed back to port. It was a two hour cruise and we all enjoyed it immensely.

We boarded our coach for the long ride back to our hotel and arrived at 7:45 and had a bite to eat.

It was a fabulous day…Long, but absolutely wonderful.

On our way to Milford Sound

Seeing the sunrise on the way to Milford Sound over Lake Wakatipu.

The marshmallow field. Photo below is the beech tree landslide evident on the mountain with the tussock grass in the field below.

Mirror Lake

And suddenly…. it’s snowing!!

The snow on the mountains was magnificent! Looked like a postcard.

Mt. Tutoko

We took a side trip to the Swiss Alps! No… Just an unforgettable stop in Fiordland National Park.


The rainforest

Our boat on Milford Sound. And suddenly… The sun is out!

Sailing through the fjord to the Tasman Sea

Two of the many waterfalls

Approaching the sea. This is where a glacier, a rainforest, and the sea all meet at the same time!

Entering the Tasman Sea.

The Stirling waterfall. The boat went very close to it and we all felt the mist on our faces.

Homer tunnel through the mountain.

A kea parrot. Photo taken by my friend Sue.

On our way back to the hotel. Beautiful scenery.

The sunset on our way

Lammy travels in the bus wherever we go!

Some treats we ate along the way