Two weeks in New Zealand is not nearly enough, but it’s a start.
We departed on the long journey to Wellington on May 7th. As funny as it sounds to recall the famous movie it really did involve Planes, Trains and Automobiles. We drove to catch our favorite commuter train, the South Shore Line, in Michigan City and departed at Millennium Station. We caught a great Greek lunch at Roti and then headed down to the Washington Station to board the CTA Blue Line to O’Hare. While waiting to board the train we met Dave Russell, a cool drummer who showed Anya how to play the bongos.
The flight from Chicago to LA was nothing compared to what came next. From LA to Auckland, NZ, the flight is more than 13 hours! Fortunately, Air New Zealand is wonderful. Great stock of new release movies makes the journey seem shorter and the food is excellent. Dinner and breakfast both had touches of homemade quality, such as almond cake for dessert. Flying to NZ you cross the international dateline, so it is in fact tomorrow there, 16 hours later to be exact. No wonder they say that New Zealand is place to be if you want to see the sun rise before anyone else in the world.
Imagine our bleary-eyed surprise when we were greeted by a representative of the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ) upon arrival at the Auckland airport. FINZ was the association sponsoring John’s visit to Wellington. We were so pleased to be greeted a Kia ora (a greeting used by the the native Maori) by the FINZ Fellow, or a senior member of the organization, and be bid a good short one hour journey to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital and the site of the FINZ conference where John was to speak.
Being in NZ a few days before the conference, we grabbed a rental car and drove an hour to the north to the Kapiti (pronounced KAP-i-tee) Coast, which is noted for its fine beaches. We wound up staying in the Paraparaumu Beach at the Lindale Lodge. It was obviously “low” season at the lodge since we were the only tenants, except for the many cows and sheep which we enjoyed visiting in a nearby pasture. Lindale also has some lovely tourist shops. John located a store with many different types of honey, and also a cheese shop. If you have never had New Zealand cheese before, you are missing something. The stuff is of the amazing, creamy buttery variety which you do not quickly forget. In town, there are also many lovely shops including a fish and chips place. Being bourgeouis Americans we did not realize that tomato sauce (ketchup) did not automatically come with the chips/fries but it was not a major inconvenience. The fish was fresh and downright heavenly.
Just to north of Lindale is Wainkanae Beach, where we found a cool bird preserve called Nga Manu (na MAH-nu) which is Maori for The Birds. Nga Manu was the first, and only place where we saw the famed Kiwi bird. Because the Kiwi are nocturnal, unless you are really quick or lucky you will not likely see one unless you are at animal facility with blacklights like Nga Manu. We were lucky to have arrived just before feeding time. Our guide was very knowledgeable and let Anya assist in feeding our feathered friends.
After our journey through Nga Manu, we found there to be little commerce in Waikanae Beach, save for the The Drift Cafe. This inviting and homey restaurant features amazing gourmet dishes (John had the prawns–exquisite) in a cozy setting that includes a fireplace, a couch and lounging chairs. After this repast we roamed the beautiful beach area which is filled with gorgeous sea shells and many other interesting finds.
After the trip to Kapiti, it was time for John to get back to Wellington for the conference. Gretchen and Anya were there only momentarily though before departing north along the eastern coast toward the noted architectural city of Napier. Gretchen had read about Napier as a child and fulfilled a “life long dream” in reaching the city. I can offer little narration regarding the trip, but they did return with a some cool photos.