I'm been a bit behind on the blog, because our internet connection has been up and down on the road. A lot has happened in the last few days! We drove south from Whangerei on Thursday, stopping along the way at a cheese shop and spending more than we should have on some very fine cheeses. One, a walnut cheese, reminds me of pecan-crusted cheese balls from Smith family Christmas gatherings. Being a cheese lover is an expensive habit, so after this moment of weakness we have resolved to return to our frugal budget.
We worked 2 days for a lovely couple on the north shore of Auckland, doing a few chores in the yard such as mulching, clearing away creeper vines and stacking wood. Roger & Suzy were both very sweet, but Suzy was under the weather while we were there, so we didn't spend as much time with her as with Roger. We also met their son and one of their daughters, who brought along her adorable twin 4-year-old girls. At one point, the girls were looking at a family photo, taken at a wedding. "There's grandma, nobody, nobody, grandpa," one said, pointing at the people in the photo.
"So if you don't know their names, they're a nobody?" I asked.
"Yes," they agreed with a giggle. I pointed at Sam and myself.
"So who are we, or are we still nobodies?" After a moment's thought, they looked at each other, giggled some more, and said, "You're still nobody!" in those cute little kiwi accents.
|Rainbow and Rangitoto, a volcano at the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour.|
We spent an afternoon walking down the coast of the north shore from Forrest Hill to Takapuna, exploring volcanic rocks exposed by low tide, examining shells, and chatting with a friendly woman and her grandson whose dad lives in Austin.
After Roger & Suzy's, we went to stay with another Susie, a CouchSurfer, in West Auckland. West Auckland is beautiful, with its tall hills overlooking the city. We decided to head into town on the first night with Susie, so Sam could meet up with an online friend from Coromandel. We ended up missing him, but we checked out the scene at the "Occupy Auckland" movement that had begun that day.
The next day, we drove to our first West Coast beach in the country, Piha. The drive was beautiful, carrying us through the Waitakere Ranges and Auckland Centennial Park. Eventually we came to a lookout over the beach. Lion Rock sits in the middle, dominating the scene.
|Taitomo Island at low tide.|
The west coast of New Zealand is known for its black sand, caused by the iron content derived from the ancient volcanoes in the area. While the sand doesn't look very black in my photos, it looked dark underfoot, and the tiny black particles seemed to adhere to my skin more than normal sand.
|Sam gives Jolene a checkup in Piha after some funny noises.|
We finally came to a consensus about the name (and gender) of our car. I liked the name Priscilla for my down-under chariot, but Sam liked Max for some reason. Sam didn't like my suggestion because our former landlord was named Priscilla (or Prissy, as she called herself), and I didn't like Max because this car is a female! On the drive down from Whangerei, Sam solved our disagreement by suggesting Jolene. Now we only need to get Dolly on the iPod to christen her and it's official.
Sam and I left Auckland on Monday, stopping along the way to visit our first HelpX hosts, Graeme and Olive, and their current house full of helpers. As we drove south of Manukau City, I turned to Sam and said, "Every second this car moves forward is the furthest south we've ever been on Earth."
We landed in Thames, at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula, and settled in with our new hosts, Patrick & Christiane. It's been great so far, and they're big fans of ethnic food, so it seems my curry cravings will be sated. We started out last night with a spicy green curry. Christiane and Patrick thought it was a bit too hot, but I thought it was perfect. I realize I've been missing my hot Texas food. I've been checking all the grocery stores for fresh jalapenos, to no avail, and I even bought a jar when I found it, though I prefer them fresh. Before you start feeling sorry for me and try to mail some over, be warned that customs does not allow fresh food into the country, especially anything with seeds. Goodbye, jalapenos. See you next year.