Holidays in New Zealand

With the holidays over, summer is in full swing on Waiheke. I’m told the weather doesn’t get really good until after Christmas and it should continue through March. A tropical cyclone (hurricane) is currently churning through the South Pacific. It probably won’t strike New Zealand as it rarely gets tropical storms. As I listen to the weather forecasts, I realize what a foggy grasp I have of South Pacific geography.

A Headline in the Gulf News, 23 December 2004

"Doctors and Police—Holiday Hours" (Police have holiday hours?!??)

Santa Comes to Waiheke

Christmas Day arrived bright, sunny and warm. This will take some getting used to, my genetic code has cold and snow programmed for this time of year. Steve and I opened our gifts in the morning and so did Sam. She went wild with excitement as her friend Kelsi sent her a reminder of New England—a stuffed squeaky lobster. We drank our coffee to the sounds of squeak, squeak, squeak and eventually Sam settled down to snuggle with the wrapping paper that must have carried the scent of Kelsi.

Later in the day, we took a hike along a nearby trail. It leads from the beach at the end of our road, going up hill steeply and then curving along the coast of Te Whau Point. The first time we walked this route we ended up cutting through an olive grove and someone’s back yard to get to the road; it was getting late and we had no idea the trail was so long. This time we set a limit of an hour each way because we needed to get back for Christmas supper. The trail passes several small, deserted beaches. In places it clings to the hillside with a steep drop-off. Ever the daredevil, Sam raced along the path and down to the beach for a romp and a swim before we turned back.

Marine and Mark hosted a late afternoon Christmas luncheon for Rocky Bay neighbors. We all "brought a plate" and shared good food, good wine and good talk. Everyone exchanged small gifts and Sam was delighted with pig’s ears from Marine. Sam never gets these things—I hate those dog chews that I can recognize, ears, hooves, tails, whatever—so she was content chewing away under the table.

New Years Eve

On the last day of the year, Steve and I decided to go to Auckland to do some shopping or at least we tried. Many places were closed; some because it was New Years Eve and others for a week or two around the holidays. On my solo jaunts to the city, I’ve managed to walk for miles usually in search of some weird item. This visit was no different; I was looking for the Kapiti cheese shop. It is located near the redeveloped yacht basin, a large section of the city that was rebuilt with expensive condos, restaurants and shops for last year’s America’s Cup races. The cheese shop however is a relic and has been there for some time. Kapiti makes a lot of really good cheeses as well as ice cream and the shop sells their own products and imported cheese as well. Steve couldn’t resist buying ice cream cones for us both—chocolate chocolate chip for him and honey fig for me.

The ferry had been mobbed. As a vacation spot, Waiheke is pretty crowded this time of year. Because we arrived in October, we’ve only seen it in the summer when the island's population balloons to about 30,000. In the winter, it’s about the same size as Cohasset (8,000 plus or minus), so we should feel right at home. We took Sam with us on our shopping trip for reasons that have to do with "quarantine guilt". As we boarded the ferry, the ticket-taker asked us for our dog ticket. Dog ticket? We didn’t know we needed a dog ticket and, of course, the line behind us was very long. Steve offered to have his 30-trip ticket punched for Sam, but the man insisted this was too extravagant and let Sam ride for free this time.

Part of our shopping was to look at new digital cameras to replace the one that I soaked. Steve had done some initial research on the internet and I, of course, had strong opinions—as many megapixels as possible while still being easily stashed in a backpack. Oh, and able to withstand getting wet in random downpours. We stopped at one of the large camera shops on Queen Street, a long commercial street that has been the focus on much carping in the local paper: too crowded with Asian students, too dirty, too this, too that. After trying out several cameras—all but the model we most wanted to see—my eyes glazed, a sure sign of technology overload, and we headed off to think about it while we continued our city trek.

We went back to Waiheke on the 4:00 ferry which was even more crowded with people going to the island for New Year’s Eve—young women dressed in angel’s wings and young men carrying cases of beer. Steve wondered aloud whether there was no beer on Waiheke? We were pretty tired after trekking around the city and made the serious error of stopping at the supermarket on New Year’s Eve. I just wanted to pick up a few things for dinner but the store was mobbed. Most shopping carts were stuffed with chips and bubbles (NZ for Champagne). The check-out lines went the length of the store; it took much longer to pay than to shop. As we pulled into our driveway, Mark appeared to ask us if we wanted to go to a party on the other side of the island. I’m afraid not; we were beat and in bed by 10:00.

Ringing Out the Old Year

To celebrate New Year's Day, we had arranged to call our friends aboard the lobster-boat Windemere, who were cruising into Boston Harbor for the First Night fireworks display. We phoned late in the afternoon here, about 11:00 p.m. Boston time, and wished this group of old friends, with whom we’d spent many a New Year's Eve, the best for 2004. It was wonderful to talk to all of them, but Steve and I both felt pretty homesick and lonely after we hung up. We took Sam for a walk at the local park. It has a high hill and two young men were trying to fly a parasail glider, maybe a Christmas gift. We watched for a while and applauded when one of them finally took flight. This and a good New Zealand red wine with dinner improved our spirits.

The holidays seemed to stretch on endlessly. After New Year's Day, everyone has Friday off too and most stores are closed. The Rocky Bay Memorial Cruising Club has its annual regatta on January 2nd. We’ve decided we really must join, even though our boat is 12,000 miles away. The Cruising Club is right around the corner and it’s annual dues are $15 (about $10 US). This seems like a pretty good bargain for the bragging rights of belonging to the Rocky Bay Memorial Cruising Club. We wandered over to see the events, but it was too early and only the sandcastle competition was going on.

With a bright, sunny day and not much to do, we decided to put together a picnic for dinner and dropped by to invite Mark and Marine. We went to Trig Hill, a quiet park with picnic tables, that Steve discovered on one his bicycle rides. It has a great, almost 360-degree view of vineyards and the ocean beyond.

Cabin Fever Strikes

By Sunday of this second four-day weekend, we were wishing all this celebrating would end—too much time off and serious island fever. We drove out to the country in the east end of the island to explore. Everyone else seemed to have the same thing in mind as we often had cars behind us as we snaked around the twisty, hilly roads. At Passage Rock Winery, we stopped for a break. Steve had a latte and orange cake, I tasted their Forte 2002 which is a blended wine of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and malbec grapes. It was really good and definitely on the A-list. The café at this winery is very low key, with a small building, a pizza oven and tables spread around on the lawn. It is also very dog friendly, with at least five other dogs lounging around when we arrived with Sam. I offered a couple sitting near us with an older sheepdog some of Sam’s water for their dog, but they declined saying they lived down the road and had just come to escape their cabin fever.

Post Script

I didn’t get a handle on Christmas until November, which is actually early for me. By the time I bought gifts and packaged them up, it was December 8th. Because I was mailing so "late", the lady in the post office told me I had to use very expensive International Air Mail to get things to the US for Christmas. Well, one box got there about a week later, one made it just before Christmas Day and a third was delivered several days after New Year’s Day! Resolutions for 2004: mail Christmas gifts in October.

Photos; just a few, Santa can be so slow.


Last update:
Monday, December 27, 2004
Copyright 2004 - Ellen Freda