Sunday, March 13, 2016

New Zealand, Part II: Sweet Reunions

View of Kaikohe area. Mike and Vanessa's property is behind the hill.

Note: This is not strictly a chronological account. In some cases I have changed the order of events to discuss them along with others that involve the same people, rather than switching back and forth.

While we were staying outside of Kerikeri, we also visited with our friends Mike and Vanessa. (Mike and Kevin worked together in England in 1989, too.) 

Mike and Vanessa live about a 40-minute drive away from Mark and Allison, so they joined us in Kerikeri for a barbie (barbeque) early in our stay. Although we had not talked about the current American election campaign, they knew we would NEVER be Trump supporters. But Mike and Vanessa, like Mark and Allison, enjoy a bit of teasing, so what do I get greeted with, right off the bat? Several copies of Trump buttons that Vanessa had clipped from a newspaper! Thanks a lot, you sneaky Kiwis!

The X's are a bit cheesy! I don't have a sophisticated photo-editing program.
We all got a big laugh from that “gift.” (Unfortunately, I was having such a good time, I neglected to get any more photographs of that evening.

Later, we visited Mike and Vanessa in Kaikohe (Ki-KOH-hee), where we had lunch and took a tour of the town. It’s a pleasant little town, and about 70 percent of the population is Maori.  Like a lot of small rural communities these days, it is struggling. However, we were impressed with how the locals are working together to build spirit in the town. Throughout the village, young artists have painted portraits of local citizens who have contributed to the town or who have achieved success in the wider world. Let’s hope the murals inspire others to pursue their own dreams.

Some residents of Kaikohe have achieved fame on New Zealand 's famous All Blacks rugby team.

Mike and Vanessa now live an enviably relaxed lifestyle on their organic farm.  Having sold a successful business in Aucklan­­­­d several years ago, they bought a large section of land outside of Kaikohe. They have­­­ cattle, an orchard, and even a hydroponic garden in a greenhouse. What’s more, they have an outdoor pizza oven which they used to bake some of the best pizzas we have ever had! We are still salivating. (Again, sadly, I neglected to get photos of all of us eating pizza, including Mike's and Vanessa's friends, a friendly couple whom we enjoyed meeting.)

Mike is a master of the pizza oven!

Doesn't Kevin look stylish in the hat Vanessa made at a traditional crafts class?
Vanessa with her two little loves, Oscar and Pipi.

Although the best part of traveling in New Zealand is reconnecting with friends, we explored on our own as well. We spent most of one day at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between representatives of British Crown and many Maori chieftains on February 6, 1840.  Waitangi Day is New Zealand's national holiday, and Waitangi is a beautiful place.

We took a guided tour, which showcased the fantastically carved Maori war canoes that were carved in the 20th Century, using traditional methods. The largest is 70 years old and could hold a crew of 80 paddlers and 55 passengers.

The Maori meeting house on the site was only completed in 1940, for the treaty’s centennial. Following a traditional greeting outside, we entered the building for an enthusiastic performance of Maori music and dance.

We concluded our visit to Kerikeri by participating in a quiz night at a local pub with our friends. It was great fun, even though we finished far out of the money. Kevin and I steered our team wrong on one answer that we should have known. The clues included photographs and the statements such as “I am the 44th largest city by population in my country" and something like "founded in the 16th Century." We suspected it was a former Spanish territory, and we thought it was in Florida. We guessed Orlando and St. Augustine (though we really thought St. Augustine was too small, which it is). The answer was Miami. But we thought Miami would rank much higher than 44th! It turns out Seattle is much larger—it’s 20th. See what we learn about our country by traveling?

We had a good time at quiz night, even if we didn't win.

Next: More on the North Island.

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