Sunday, April 4, 2010

Kiwi Quest 2010 - I heart NZ ice cream!

Hooray! Uncle Ross has been pronounced fit enough for travel.

Photos: 1) A Maori carving to greet your entry to Ruapekapeka Pa 2) A view of the remaining ditch and bank defenses 3) Exterior view of the most famous toilets in New Zealand 4)The gate to the ladies loo 5) Sunset in Paihia (Bay of Islands)

Well, although I suspect he doesn't feel fit enough for travel, the doctor has give carte blanche for Liz and I to drag my poor uncle to the Northland part of the North Island for the weekend. Hopefully, the beautiful scenery will help him mend quickly!

Our first, and arguably our most important, stop of the day is in Waipu (say "why-poo") for ice cream. This isn't just any ice cream; this is very critical and very delicious ice cream! It's another hot day of summer here so ice cream plays a terribly important role in helping our bodies stay cool in the sun while we drive. Liberal application of sun cream on my Northern Hemisphere pale body is also on the list, but ice cream is first. This time, I opt for two scoops: coconut marshmallow (a rather alarmingly unnatural shade of pink) and cookies n' cream. I did have my eye on my favourite down here (Goody Goody Gum Drops), but I'm trying to keep expanding my culinary horizons away from home. Besides, I can't go back to Canada and sing the praises of delicious NZ ice cream if I've only ever tried one flavour.

Liz and I slowly amble down the main street in Waipu, carefully ingesting our medicinal ice cream and passing a prostrate Ross in the car. Poor guy. We find a little park and sink down onto some great benches in the shade of a big tree. Boy, it's hot here! I may not be the world's slowest eater (I have a friend who could compete for that record), but I am a pretty slow consumer of cold treats and Cadbury cream eggs, so eventually we start back to the car while I try to keep up with the pink trail of ice cream heading down my arm.

Our next stop a little further north is in Whangarei (say "fen-gah-ray") where it's time for a spot of tea at a little roadside coffee shop. We haven't had much for lunch yet (ice cream doesn't count because it was for medicinal purposes) so Ross and I share a piece of pear & blue cheese quiche. Oh dear. This is really going to test my taste bud limits! You see, my dad is quite fond of cheeses that smell like dead animals or hockey equipment that hasn't been washed in months, but I'm quite picky about cheese and tend to stick with bland ones that I know well like mozzarella, marble, and cheddar. I've already tried edam and goat cheeses on this trip, so I feel that I should try this gnarly-looking blue cheese. I put 3 rice-sized pieces on my fork, stab a giant piece of pear, and chew frantically. Maybe if I swallow fast enough I won't notice the cheese flavour? Nope, my mouth tastes mouldy..... {gag}. Well, at least my dad will probably be proud of me for trying.

Our next stop in this beautiful country is near Kawakawa to see the Ruapekapeka Pa, a Maori warrior stockade left over from their battle against the British in January, 1846. You can still make out the ditch and bank defenses, and luckily they've put a fence around the well because it sure looks like a long way down. The great thing about this Pa besides the interesting history is the view! It only makes sense that a defensive position should have long sight lines, and now the visitors get to drink in the beauty of the surrounding forests. There are lots of signs around to inform and teach all that you want to know about Ruapekapeka Pa, or you can also look here:

Since Mother Nature is a part of daily life, we now find ourselves in Kawakawa, home to the most famous toilets in the whole country: the ones designed by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser who lived in the area from 1975 until his death in 2000. I first encountered his fabulous bright and cheery style when I was in Austria and Germany in 1992. Being a lover of colour myself, I was drawn to his plentiful use of it, along with the simple lines and recycling of materials long before the three "R"s became so popular. I was a bit sad when I discovered he would no longer be creating such fun and entertaining art pieces, but I did have fun exploring the toilets in Kawakawa, made even more special after I learned that they were his last project, and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. You can learn more about the artist and his work here:

What ho! At last we are in Paihia in Bay of Islands, a beautiful place to rest our heads for the night. Although they have a Swiss Chalet Lodge, we've chosen other arrangements, and once we get Ross settled for the night, Liz and I strike out to find some dinner and take in the lovely surroundings. After noshing on some delicious cream of leek with bacon soup, salad, hot chocolate, and key lime pie (I should eat dessert more often if it's always this good), we took ourselves on a tour of this tourist town, including a stop down at the ferry terminal for photos of the sun setting, as well as up into the hills to check out the fancy houses and fantastic views. Tomorrow, I'm on a solo bus trip for the day to Cape Reinga while Ross & Liz take a break across the water in Russell, but in the meantime, here's a piece of New Zealand historical knowledge for you to mull over: Te Tiritiri o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) was signed here in the Bay of Islands on February 6, 1840.

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