Wednesday, January 21, 2009

ABC Style Guide

Browsing on the ABC Radio National website MB stumbled on this excellent online style guide.
When writing MB often trips up on grammatical challenges such as accents over the "e" in French words, ie café or résumé.
Buying an Australian style guide sets you back a quite a few dollars, so this online guide is an excellent resource for writers and bloggers.

Well done Aunty.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Veronica Loop Track, Mt Taranaki

As you can see in the photo, MB & MDR managed to do a walk on Mt Taranaki. The pair opted for the 2 hour Veronica Loop track from the North Egmont Visitor Centre in the Egmont National Park. They also detoured to a lookout a bit higher up and met some locals who showed them a better lookout site further up - this is where the photo of the pair was taken.
The weather turned out to be absolutely perfect with not a cloud in the sky to block the view of the cone. The walking tracks are excellent, albeit lots of steps and the National Park is only an easy 30klm from New Plymouth. MB is looking forward to returning some day to tackle some more tracks.
On the way back to NP the duo visited Lake Mangamahoe and were surrounded by a posse of hungry ducks, quacking for some food (shades of the "Penang Botanical Gardens Monkey Incident"). The not so shy ducks really enjoyed the sesame crackers MB & MDR shared with them.
This was also another good spot for yet another photo opportunity...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wilderness in the 'Burbs

This beautiful stream is just down from the Timandra Lodge in New Plymouth where MDR & MB are staying, apparently trout can be caught in this stream too. There is a rather steep track down through the reserve and at night you can spot glow worms with a torch. There are quite a few trails in the reserve and they are really well signposted, a delightful reserve to have on one's doorstep.

Capt'n Chaddy

First full day in New Plymouth and the weather is superb, a great day for a harbour cruise on Happy Chaddy's harbour tour, in his 1953 built British lifeboat. This is a one hour tour that starts with the boat free falling down a slipway into the water, bit like a theme park (Tip: Do this tour on the low tide as the slide will be longer).
Captain Chaddy is a real identity and full of amazing stories, a real old sea salt, during the tour he plays some cheesy sea shanties and takes the boat around some sugarloaf rocks where you can play spot the seal.
The passengers down the back can put out a fishing line and tinny MDR's line picked up a nice sized Pacific Salmon, which the pair cooked up for dinner that night after handing over $2 to have it filleted.

Before the tour the pair dropped into the Govett Brewster Art Gallery which is hailed as the best regional gallery in NZ. It's a very nice venue but the modern "installation" type of art doesn't really do a lot for MB. The coffee shop was pretty good, apart from the snooty harridan at the counter.
MB overindulged the night before at Andre's L'Escargot and had to have an afternoon nap, which severely cut into the touring. Andre's L'Escargot should be added to the NZ Foodie's Hall of Fame, a wonderful restaurant, superb service and a really lovely dinner, venison for MB & duck confit for MDR.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pukekohe to New Plymouth

The duo set out at 8:45am today from Puke for a few days down in New Plymouth. Back in Pukekohe Mike recommended we visit the Waitomo Caves en-route and of course do some hiking around Mt Teriyaki near New Plymouth. As Hamilton is also on the route MB insisted on visting the Hamilton Gardens, with a perfect sunny day for strolling through gardens.
The 120 acre gardens turned out to be the best MB has ever seen in the southern hemisphere with MDR seconding that opinion. There are a series of "paradise" gardens, with themes from Japan, China, India, Italian Renaissance etc. which are stunning. MB also enjoyed the herb garden and the "sustainable backyard" food garden, she also saw for the first time a Chinese gooseberry (kiwifruit) plant, in fruit too. The on-site Cafe was excellent as well. The pair plan to visit again on the way back north as time didn't allow them to explore more.
Next stop was the Piopio berry farm for a picnic lunch on their shady lawn with fresh strawberries and blueberries for dessert, doesn't get much better than this, although pick your own berries would have been fun.
At about 4pm just before New Plymouth is White Cliffs Organic Brewery, dropped in there as well for a taste. MDR inquired as to where the ingredients are sourced and learnt that the hops are bought from Motueka on the South Island and the grain comes all the way from Germany. MB was interested to see that they were selling two litre plastic bottles of beer, just like a big bottles of soft drink.
Arrived in NP not long after and after a bit of tooing and froing (sans Tomtom) found the Timandra Lodge and checked into a little cottage which has turned out to be delightful. The lodge is actually an old mansion set in bushland and boasts a tennis court and outdoor BBQ, no spa though. MDR has his cable TV sports channel and MB has a wireless internet connection, plus a bunch of walking trails at their doorstep.
MDR has found a local acquatic centre and is off doing laps. Dinner tonight at Andre's L'escargot, which has pavlova on the menu - MB figures as it's her birthday she can indulge in her favourite dessert.
Haven't seen the volcano yet, it's shrouded in cloud today. MB can't wait to see it, as volcanoes go it probably rivals Mt Fuji for scenic value.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Walking Mt Treppass in Pukekohe

Just behind Philip & Emma's house is an excellent walk which starts as a boardwalk over some swampy land, then rises steeply through a little patch of forest. The path then switchbacks up to the summit of Mt Treppass where one can enjoy 360 degree views of Pukekohe from the rotunda there. MB is now just about able to do the whole walk up without stopping, good practice for walking Mt Taranaki, near New Plymouth, where the pair are heading to tomorrow for a few days.

Yum Cha at Sunshine, Auckland

MDR & MB visited the concrete jungle (Auckland) yesterday for some retail therapy, a visit to the Maritime Museum and the movies. The pair had one of the best Yum Cha meals they had ever experienced at Sunshine Restaurant in Market Place, just near the waterfront in Auckland CBD. Sunshine was recommended by Lonely Planet and didn't disappoint.
The portions were large, the buns were full of meat and the service was super fast and reasonably priced, 10 out of 10.

Spearfishing in Crayfish Bay, Coromandel

MDR taking advantage of local knowledge. These three young chaps took him to nearby Crayfish Bay where he speared 9 fish.
The young chaps had just bought spearguns that morning and speared 3 fish between them.
Getting to the bay involved a walk up to the southern of the beach at Opito Bay, then a hike over some hilly private farmland to the small cove called "Crayfish Bay". Didn't spot any crays. MDR dubbed the outing the "Biathlon".

Otama Beach, Coromandel Peninsula

MDR & MB visited the very large contingent from Pukekohe making a two week camp at the Otama Beach Summer Campground. This site is a lovely grassy area with very basic facilities - long drop dunnies and water fed to parts of the campground from an adjacent dam. It's a true getaway with no power and no mobile phone access.
The beach is stunning, bordered by a very large sand dune and one never tires of the view to the outlying islands off the beach. Walking over the dune is something else, the sand is white, silky and feels almost sensuous.
The Pukekohe crew are great fun, incredibly generous and could not have made MDR & MB more welcome. A spare tent and airbed was available so MDR & MB could stay a couple of nights. The pair abided by the camp rules and did the dishes that night with the other new arrival, Janine. Dinner numbers on the first night were 21 and the next night increased to 28.
Philip was pretty chuffed with his new speargun, he had speared a fish without even diving underwater, just merely floated on the surface in a life jacket. He was giving MDR a hard time about it and challenging him to an Aussie v NZ competition and pressing neat tequila on MDR to give him a hangover. This spurred MDR the next day to head out with Philip's speargun and spear 9 fish. Yet to hear of Philip's latest catches as he is still there and out of phone range.
MDR & MB happened to be there while NZ was having a heatwave and did catch a bit of sunburn, but it still wasn't as hot as home in Cairns.
Lots of holiday homes in this area and MB would love to go back for a longer stay some other time.

Fruits of the Sea at "Club Med" Otama Beach

A bucket of NZ Greenlip Mussels harvested by Jeremy, Janine & MDR at low tide on Otama Beach.
Jeremy cooked up a storm with these mussels, they were absolutely superb and went down a treat with the 28 guests at the campsite!

First day at Otama Beach

Took this pic during the "heatwave". More pics on flickr.

Coromandel Oysters

MB & MDR spotted this shop on the road just in front of the oyster beds in a large bay south of Coromandel township. Naturally the pair visited so that MDR could get a fresh oyster fix.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


If you heard an advertisement on the radio in Australia offering security services from a company called "Cactus Security" would you take it seriously? MB heard just such an ad. yesterday on the radio whilst driving into Auckland. This company really exists. Not long after that she spotted a "Gull" service station. She wouldn't go near that servo with a bargepole. A few days before in a fashion boutique in Whitianga (pronounced "Fitianga") browsing for a hat, MB was told to try the "Show Shop" further down the street. MB was a bit perplexed as she wasn't sure what a "Show Shop" could be. The sales assistant repeated it again a bit more slowly and was actually saying "Shoe Shop". MB never ceases to be amazed at the never ending variations of the English language that develop between disparate groups.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Rooseville Reserve, Pukekohe

MDR & MB didn't do their after dinner hilltop walk (just behind Philip's house) last night, got carried away watching episodes of Kenny on DVD. So today they went to a large reserve in Pukekohe which is cris-crossed with walking tracks. Today is another picture perfect day, again with just a hint of a cool breeze.
The reserve resembles a mini rainforest, filled with Totara trees and native palms, even found some indigenous art! Reminds MB of Summer Heights High. Graffiti appears to be a big problem in NZ, it's absolutely everywhere. MB even noticed some of the orange direction tags nailed to trees on the walking trail had been painted over with black spray paint.

Downtown Pukekohe

Nice olde worlde shop in main street of Pukekohe. This lovely old sign is a classic.

Cafe Berne, Pukekohe

Another addition to the Food Hero list. MDR & MB dropped in here yesterday (& today) for a coffee and were very pleasantly surprised when they were told on ordering a double shot coffee that all their coffee was made double shot! Pleased to report the coffee was good and strong and also really hot. Tops marks to Cafe Berne.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Kawakawa Bay, North Island, NZ

This lovely vista is Kawakawa Bay, the first ocean sighting for MB & MDR since they arrived.
After some web surfing MB found an oyster farm outside the pretty village of Clevedon, about 40 minutes from Pukekohe, so the pair headed over there today. Pity MB didn't call first as the oyster farm was closed until Tue 6 Jan 09. Foolishly MB relied on the oyster farm's advertised opening hours on their website.
Not to be deterred the pair did some touring around the coastline and stopped at Orewa Point for a mini picnic (minus the oysters which were going to be starring attraction). The sea around these parts is a beautiful turquoise blue and according to MDR quite warm.
On the way back the duo spotted the Italian Country Market (between Clevedon & Papakura). This deli was a real find with some seriously good produce. It's run by Bart from New York who comes from a long line of Italian stone masons, but it wasn't a calling he aspired to. This shop is a real food lovers' haven with the duo stocking up on some local Olive oil plus the most delicious, huge South Island cherries.
Driving to Clevedon wasn't without incident, MB & MDR are sans Le Tomtom relying on foldout maps and road signs to get around. The pair got lost in Papakura both times, however the signage to Clevedon, after Papakura, was fantastic. MB is wishing they'd gone to the trouble of buying and downloading an NZ map and bought the tomtom with them, maybe one can be hired? Otherwise the "cordial relations" are going to be stretched to the limit....

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wright's Water Gardens

Sunday dawned clear and sunny, a good omen for Philip's camping trip. After an early morning spearsfishing lesson on the driveway with MDR, the guys packed the trailer, with MDR showing off his very nautical knot tying skills. The Pukekohe crew finally got away at 9:30am, not too far behind schedule at all. MDR & MB are now home alone and for their first outing decided to visit the nearby Wright's Water Garden, which is only about 15 mins from Pukekohe.
This is a beautiful garden established in an abandoned quarry next to the Wauku Waterfall and features spectacular water lilies and lotus flowers. Being summer the lilies are all in glorious flower, creating a wonderful multi coloured display, well worth a visit.

Saturday Night in Pukekohe

Philip's parents cooked up a storm on Saturday night.  Mike diligently sought out the best fresh produce that morning and that night with Jacquie produced a gorgeous dinner.  Jacquie's vinaigrette was particularly good and the dessert was superb, strawberries are grown locally and are at their best right now.
Dinner was at Philip's sister's house and after a few glasses of NZ pinot noir, the grown ups all loosened up and got into some lively discussions, expecially with regard to the planning for the upcoming camping trip.
Maddie, Monica's youngest produced an itinerary for the first day of the camping trip which got everyone chuckling.

Maddie's Itinerary

A little travel agent in the making!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Pukekohe, New Zealand

MDR & MB landed in Auckland at 00:30am on the second day of the year after a comfortable flight on PacificBlue (VirginBlue NZ carrier). Philip & Emma met the pair at the airport which is about 20 minutes drive from their home in Pukekohe - exceptionally nice of them to do an airport run at such a late hour.
First thing next morning, Philip was in boot camp mode and had us walking up the hill, in the rain, to his swank new home, the "Citadel", where he and Emma will live while they build their dream home on a nearby acreage.
Philip & Emma showed the duo around Pukekohe, however MB is totally confused as each time they go somewhere, it's via different route. The team also went to nearby Tuakau, birthplace of Sir Edmund Hillary, after a hearty lunch at the Autobahn when finding that just about everything is closed on 2nd Jan due to it being a public holiday. Tuakau is known locally as solo mum town and there is no signage or monument commemorating the town as the birthplace of Hillary. This struck MB has pretty remiss as it would be quite a tourist drawcard.
First night into the trip and MDR & MB cooked a coq-au-vin for dinner with a free range chicken which was very tasty.
After dinner another walk was had by the team, this time in the reserve behind Philip's place which has recently been re-vegetated with NZ natives and looks spectacular.
Wine is pretty cheap, bought a Pinot Noir from France for the princely sum of $7.99. Fresh beans on the other hand were $17.90 per kg (at the local supermarket). Pukekohe by the way is located in the market garden hub of NZ.
Luckily MB found out about the local farmers' market on Saturday morning which was great for fresh greens, beans were only $2.50 and beautifullly fresh.
Breakfast today for MDR & MB at the Farmers' Market was some delicious fried pork dumplings from the Fongs. When Philip turned up a bit later turns out he knew the Fongs and was given a big serve of Fried Rice on the house. Everywhere Philip goes, he knows someone and always has time for a chinwag.
Philip & Emma head off to the Coromandel for a camping trip with the extended family tomorrow and preparations have been pretty feverish. MDR helped Philip find a speargun today at a spearfishing shop in Auckland. MB whispered to Philip on their way into the shop that MDR wouldn't leave without buying something. Sure enough just as the team were about to leave, after having quite a chat with the owner, MDR spotted some good dive belts and bought one. MDR couldn't understand what the rest of the team found so amusing about him buying something....