10 November 2011

Taupo & Palmerston North

Cloud factory
Cloud factory, aka a Geothermal Energy Plant

The internet has been playing hard to get for the past week and a half, in case you noticed the lapse in blog posts. We spent a week in Taupo with a family that runs a kennel & cattery on their property. I could definitely operate a cattery, but the incessant barking makes the kennels less appealing. Sam and I had fun, though. I went on a baking spree and picked up a new cookie recipe that we quite like:

Chewy Lemon Crisps

125 gram butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sliced almonds*

1. Preheat oven to 175ºC or 350ºF.  Line two trays with baking paper.
2. Cream butter & sugar together until light & fluffy.
3. Add egg & beat until well combined.  Stir in lemon rind & juice.
4. Sift flour, baking soda & baking powder.  Fold into mix.
5. Drop heaped teaspoons onto trays with 5cm of space between.  Sprinkle almonds on top.
6. Bake 10-12 minutes each tray.

*If you don't like almonds, dust with icing sugar after baking instead.

Sam and the calf

The road south from Taupo
Leaving Taupo, we could see the peaks of Tongariro National Park to the south.

Tongariro drive

The Mounds
Jolene amongst "The Mounds" in Tongariro National Park.

We stopped at Mordor on our way to Palmerston North.  The rocky landscape was rough, but it wasn't as bleak as Frodo & Sam found it, with white topped mountains and blue skies.  The drive into the park was dark and cloudy, but the peaks were well above the cloud cover.  The drive out of the park was all downhill and did not require the engine what so ever.  We coasted out the entire 13 km, reaching nearly 110 km per hour (about 70 mph).

Tongariro epicness

Tongariro National Park

None sighted yet

Our hosts in Palmerston North live in a somewhat isolated river valley outside of town.  Their house, across the river from the road, is only accessible by a foot bridge and a half mile driveway beyond it.  Sue drove down on a quad bike to collect our suitcases.  In case you're wondering how they built the house, as Sam did, they used to have an SUV which they bounced across the low, rocky river until it eventually collapsed from taking such a beating to its underside.  The house itself is off the grid, using a wind turbine, solar panels, and occasionally a generator for power. 

Sue & Ralph's

Sue & Ralph are a neat couple; Sam enjoyed playing with Sue's guitars and other instruments and discussing alternative energy with Ralph.  We enjoyed going out with them to a couple social dinners with their friends and families, and we spent a few hours exploring the property and scaling one of the hills behind the house.  My feet got soaking wet on that hike, so Sam agreed I can buy some galoshes, or gum boots as they're called here.  He was lucky enough to fit into some waterproof hiking boots our first host Olive was trying to get rid of.

We are now in Otaki, about an hour north of Wellington on the Kapiti Coast.  It's a pretty small town, one that we didn't intend to stop for, but Sonja and Tim sent us an invitation on HelpX that looked too good to pass up.  We're only here a week, but we could easily stay much longer.  The family is very nice, and they have two friendly dogs, white doves, chickens and a grove of olive trees with which they produce their own oil.  Our cottage is by far the most self-contained accommodation we've had through HelpX, with its own kitchen, lounge, and bathroom.  The work is great, too!  In addition to our HelpX chores, Sam will be doing a bit of paid work, a first for us on this trip.  All in all, life is good.


Katherine said...

I'd love to hear more about your hosts' use of off-the-grid energy! What a beautiful place to live.

Rosa said...

That house and its location seem really amazing!