We welcome the Kerikeri owners home and enjoy a lovely dinner with them while catching up on their trip, our time in Kerikeri and the antics of Paris and Monte. After savoring the last walk with these special pooches, we depart another treasured house and pet sitting experience. Even though we are sad to be leaving Paris and Monte and the amazing birds (both familiar and new), we are grateful to have had the 3 weeks with them.
We point our rental car to the South and the coastal town of Leigh where we have afternoon tea with a gentleman whom Tim’s folks had met on a cruise 2 years earlier. He gave a series of presentations on the ship related to their journey across the Pacific. It’s a small world - we reflect on our marine science backgrounds: he and Tim connect on the mapping side of things; he and I happen to have attended rival high schools in Southern California, and 15 years ago he worked with a colleague of Tim’s whom we are headed to see next.
Feeling fully comfortable driving now in New Zealand (well, perhaps I am still very “un”comfortable in the passenger seat), we take our time heading toward the west coast of the North Island and the Tasman Sea. At one farm stay, we occupy the “weka” room, reminding us of that special bird sighting. Big smile! At another juncture we stumble upon a cafe at the base of an old quarry which is being reclaimed by a public park and gardens. We enjoy an art installation, plants overtaking the ruins and a hike amidst newly planted kauri trees and up through the rainforest.
Our destination is New Plymouth. This area is home of the Mount Taranaki volcano, Egmont National Park and black sand beaches. On our way into the city, we stop to see the “Three Sisters” rock formations on the coast and are lucky to visit during low tide for a close look at these eroding giants. We have seen a documentary about a woman who has been photographing their physical changes for over 15 years. New Plymouth is a good-sized city and has a fabulous Coastal Walkway used by bikers, walkers and runners. We enjoy the walk along the Tasman Sea and search out the kite surfers, one of whom is Tim’s colleague, Trevor.
Tim has actually never met Trevor in person. This is an “on line” relationship and after staying with him and his wife for 2 nights enjoying their hospitality, generosity and companionship, we all laugh. It has been a successful internet date. Is that a swipe right or left? Trevor and Lisa share their native and local experience enriching our understanding of the geology and Maori history of this area. Tim visits Trevor’s work to see a demonstration of their use of CMV, the open source mapping project that Tim leads. I enjoy a walk to the Rewa Rewa bridge where the rain shrouds my view of the volcano, but a rainbow appears instead. Best of all, Tim and Trevor talk beer and sample Trevor’s impressive home brews. It truly is a small world.
Upon departure we visit the recommended Pukeiti Botanical Gardens and Park. They are located at the edge of Egmont National Park and Mt Taranaki (which has remained hidden from us in the clouds). As we leave the manicured and beautiful gardens to tramp up through the lush, wet and muddy rainforest to Pukeiti Summit, we feel we are experiencing pre-historic New Zealand on some great adventure. We see not one other person, and it is amazing. After a walk on Oakura’s black sand beach, the clouds separate to reward us finally with a view of Mount Taranaki!
We head on down the road settling into an Airbnb farm stay with friendly sheep when the weather turns. The rain here never seems to last too long. Locals tell us that this fall and winter in New Zealand has been milder than normal. We feel fortunate as the weather has not stopped our adventures in any way, but the whispers of climate change are loud and clear.
Off to a night in Hamilton - the launching point for our next and final house sit in New Zealand…