The Gift

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Five years ago this July, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  It was a terrible moment, and I remember so vividly sitting with my sister Karen in the waiting area outside the recovery room where my dad was laying, asleep in a drug induced slumber after his diagnostic procedure.  His doctor came out an told us what was found on the endoscopic procedure.  He didn’t need say much more….I knew the average survival of someone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Months.  This was it, I thought.  My dad, who didn’t have any chronic illnesses, was not taking any medications, and someone I thought would live forever (just because I’m a doctor, doesn’t mean I’m immune to logic) was likely to die by the next Christmas.

So, with this new information, our family rallied.  We were determined to make every day count.  No matter what was going on in our busy lives, we would take family trips together, have a family dinners once a week.  We would squeeze every last drop of living out of the next few months.  IMG_0355

And we did just that: Las Vegas (above), Jackson Hole, Carmel, San Francisco, Paso Robles, salmon fishing in Alaska, salmon fishing in Oregon, Hawaii…we did it all.  So many great dinners, so many great moments.  We got together to watch Stanford footballs games, and cheered when they beat USC (sorry, Trojan fans).  And we got lucky, because dad’s cancer responded to chemo and radiation, and he had…no, we all had….almost five years of full on living.

In my last blog, about jumping off bridges, I talked about full on living.  Tim McGraw has a song, “Live life like you’re dying.”  A fan or his music or not, it’s a good message.  After all, in reality we are all dying just a bit every day.

And that brings me to this blog.  Cancer has been called The Gift.  Not because you would really want to be told you had cancer, but the diagnosis of cancer brings to the front that you are indeed mortal, and it’s a reminder that you had better (if you haven’t already) begin to live the life you want.  Say the things you want to say, be with the people you love, and do the things you want to do.  And that is what New Zealand has been to us.  A gift.  And here are some of the gifts of the last few weeks.

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On Wednesday, I drove to the Balcutha hospital, as I normally do about once a week.  It’s a small hospital (maybe, 12 hospital beds) in a small town about 100km from Dunedin. It was unseasonably warm for June (14C).  During lunch, I walked across the street and admired the mighty Clutha river (one the largest in Nz) reflecting the winter sky.  What a sight

Last week we went up to Timaru, a town about 200km North of Dunedin, to go to our former nanny’s (Mallory) and her husband0-to-be Nate’s engagement party.  You see, Mallory went to high school in Timaru, and she was back here for a party with all her high school friends.

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The party was fantastic, as was our time in Timaru.  There is a big park at the oceanfront, and on crisp clear Sunday morning we strolled through the beautiful park.

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The boys didn’t need to be told to have fun….

On the way home, we stopped in Moeraki, a small fishing village about 45 minutes North of Dunedin, and home to the famous Moeraki boulders (which I have pictures of in previous blogs).  Moeraki is also home to Fleurs Place, a famous Nz restaurant infamous for its fresh seafood.

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The food was amazing….truly one of our greatest lunches ever.  And Fleur herself was there, helping cook and serve….as she always is.

The drive to Timaru was beautiful, at sunset, with snow capped mountains in the distance.

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A couple of weeks ago the All Blacks were in town to play England.  If you’re not from Nz, you won’t understand the passion Kiwis have for rugby (in general) and for the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team (specifically).  It boarders on hysteria.  We got tickets to the game months ago (it’s a sold out event, in a stadium that seats about 1/4 of the population of the city of Dunedin.

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There we are in our All Blacks scarfs.  Mallory and Nate had just arrived in Nz the night before, and they HAD to make the trek down to Dunedin for the game.

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Matt never tires of tricking ophthalmologists into thinking he needs eye surgery.

The previous week we had organized a wine tasting of some California wines we had brought here, and it turns out we ousted all the Dunedin eonophiles and they, too, brought out some of their prized California wines.

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We even sampled a 1994 Ridge Montebello.  Wow!  In the lineup are wines from Justin, Belle Glos, Regusci, Cliff Lede, Ravenswood, and I’m sure I forgot something…  It was a great evening.

About two weeks ago, on a rare Saturday in Dunedin (we are often not here on the weekends) we went to the boy’s high school fundraising carnival.

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For a few dollars, you got a sledgehammer, a pair of safety goggles and got to whack the heck out of an old car.  It was fun.

It’s funny what happens every Monday when Deb and I return to work after a weekend off.  One of our colleagues never fails to ask where we’ve been.  And invariably, when we tell him, he just shakes his head and admits he’s never been there.  Now, with just weeks before we return to the US, we cherish our time here even more.  We know this will end.  We are bound and determined to squeeze every last drop of fun to be had, to relish each moment.  Why, just yesterday as we were leaving the grocery store I looked up at the clouds and saw this magnificent sky.

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Life is short.  Make every moment count.  If you love someone, tell them you love them.  If there is a bridge, and sufficient tethering equipment, just jump!

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Enjoy, and cheers,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jump!

It was 30 years ago, 1984, and Van Halen’s title song could be heard ’round the nation.  “Jump.  Just go ahead and jump!”

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The photo above is in Auckland, and that’s Deb in midair…..

Ten months ago, when I boarded  Air New Zealand’s 747 bound for Auckland I knew about the Kiwi tradition of bungy jumping.  And I wanted no part of it.  My brain was (seemingly) in control.  I had 3 kids to put through school, a parent and grandparent to watch over…..so, so much responsibility.  For the first three months I was here by myself, and I lead a safe, pursuit of trout oriented life.  Then my family arrived, and we started vacationing for real.  We rode in helicopters, sea planes……so it was naturally bound to happen we would find ourselves near a bridge, or a canyon, thinking about taking a jump.

About three months ago we were in Queenstown, and the boys and I took our first leaps (I blogged about it then..).  We returned to Queenstown a month or so ago….bound (bad pun) and determined to do more jumping.  You might say we jumped at the chance to do it again (worse pun).  Even Deb jumped (but don’t tell her doctor that).

What changed my mind?  Why the change of heart, from conservative forward thinking doctor, to an adrenaline junkie?  (Alright, maybe nothing that dramatic…)

Why the confident smiles (or even goofy faces…if you’re Matt) as we stand on the Kawarau Bridge?

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What is life, if not the sum of your experiences?  My first jump, well chronicled in a previous blog, really got me to thinking.  I remember standing up there on the ledge, looking down into the canyon more than 200 feet below me.  And I remember the nice young men, who stood there with me after securing the web of harnesses, saying to me, “OK.  Whenever you’re ready, you can jump.”  Time stood still.  Truth was, I wasn’t ready.  I would never be ready.  How can anyone be ready to jump off a ledge?  But I jumped anyway.  I’d had months to think about that experience, and the next time we found ourselves in Queenstown, I didn’t need to be asked if I was ready.  I was ready. The men at the platform of the Kawarau Bridge  (the original AJ Hackett bridge jump) counted down…”3″…..”2″…..but I was leaping off the bridge before they said “1”.

I think jumping has become a metaphor for our time here in New Zealand.  Living life full on.  No holding back.  If the door’s open, go through it…if it’s not open, see if the door is locked, and if it’s locked, try the door anyway.

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We try something new almost every weekend.  From spearfishing in a very, very cold ocean so close to Antarctica, trying our hands at target shooting, to jumping off bridges, ledges or tall buildings.

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Nike came up with the slogan, but it’s true.

Just do it.

Cheers,

dave

 

When words aren’t enough.

New Zealand is a majestic country.  Sometimes, even when you’re right in the thick of the majesty, you know you can’t capture what is right in front of you….though you try if you’re lugging around a Canon 7D.  Isn’t that what man has been doing since he (she) figured out how to recreate images…whether on a cave wall, a canvass, a piece of photographic paper, or a computer screen.  On a recent trip to Queenstown, we were blessed with magnificent weather.  Sunny and crisp one day, snowing the next.  The mountains surrounding Lake Wakatipu and the town of Queenstown are breathtaking.  It’s no wonder one of the ranges is named ‘The Remarkables’.  So, in it’s heavenly form (since we were sent to Queenstown by an angel), I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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This was the view, directly across Lake Wakatipu, from our rooms.  We stayed at the Matakauri Lodge.  If you ever get the chance to go there, please do (a treat, for yourself…you deserve it).  You’ll be in good company….The Royals (Kate and William stayed here when they were in Nz two months ago…), Brad Pitt, rumored to be there this weekend….

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The hotel has a dock….to park your yacht.  When we first arrived the afternoons were very windy.  And the whitecaps on the lake provided an amazing contrast with the deep blue lake. The next days were colder.  Cloudier.  In the morning, clouds hung low in the sky.  It was erie.

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But sometimes the sun would peak out just before sunset…just to tease you.

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Then the storms came in and changed the whole landscape.  Snow, capping the mountains.

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And the snow continued to fall.  On our way out of town, passing through the vineyards of Gibbston Valley, our last image of this amazing place.

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It stayed cold here in Southern Nz for a few days.  It even snowed in Dunedin the following day.  But the cold didn’t last, and the following weekend we were treated to bright sunshine and warm (13 C) temperatures.  And, for days there was no wind, and the Otago Harbor was like glass.

 

 

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With weather like this, I had to head out to Allen’s beach and capture the cliffs and the Pacific.

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One of the great things about winter this far South is the light, which provides amazing contrast on the hills.

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But the water was magnetic, drawing me back.

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And, finally, one evening the sun set behind Stuart Street, which rises up through the hills surrounding Dunedin.

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So that’s my world….which I enjoy sharing with all of you.

Cheers,

 

 

 

Mum’s Day 2014

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Yes, I’m a bit behind…but it’s still May.  Back home in California I end up working most of the Mother’s Days, so it was real treat for both Deb and I to be off work that day.  (I asked to be put on the schedule that day, but to no avail).  Autumn was holding off winter, and we woke up to bright blue skies that day.  “What would you like to do today, Debra?”  We all asked (knowing she would answer with a four letter word…..’HIKE’).

So off we went…

It had been a cold night, and we were braced for very chilly temperatures, but after a short drive towards the end of the peninsula, we arrived at the trailhead to very pleasant 60 F weather and clear skies.  It was a beautiful hike out along the edge of the peninsula, with high cliffs towering over the Pacific, a hundred feet below us.

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Of course, we walked through lush verdant fields of grass… and of course we saw many sheep.  And of course, since Matthew was with us he chased the sheep.

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It was so peaceful (after the sheep ran away, forcing our little sheep herder to pursue a more relaxed pace).  Is there any better sight for a parent than watching your kids blissfully walking along a path?

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We hiked for about 5km; a respectable distance (except in Deb’s book).  Then, we were off to town for a Mum’s Day lunch at a cafe.

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Now, you might not think this is so dramatic, but remember, it’s mid-May, in Dunedin, and they are SQUINTING from the bright sunshine.  It was warm, too!.

We had a great lunch, and then it was off to the beach (you can’t let a sunny day go to waste) we were watched surfers and strolled along the sand.  Then it was off to some Gardens just down the road from us.

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You can see the sun casting long shadows; we squeezed out every last ounce of sunshine that day.  Then it was home, and I cooked a seared venison dinner (sorry, for the vegans in the audience) paired with a Central Otago Pinot.

Deb smiled the whole day, and of course we did too.  I was thinking of all the mums we know in our lives, and wishing them, too, a happy Mother’s Day.

That was two weeks ago.

Yesterday it snowed in Dunedin, and the city basically shut down.  The boys didn’t have to go to school (they were SO disappointed!).  But, we’ve got our wood stove, the heat pumps, and some nice Pinot, so it’s all good.

Sweet as,

Cheers,

 

 

The Underwater World of the Cook Islands

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Let’s see, where did we leave off?  A warm tropical sunset, Mai Tais on the deck?  Yes, somewhere like that…..

Much of our trip to the Cook Islands was spent in the water, so much so in fact I wanted to dedicate most of this post to the underwater world of the Cooks.  In Rarotonga, we stayed at Sea Change Villas, almost exactly at the half way point around the island (from the main town, and only town).  Our villa was just across the street from the beach, and as I mentioned before, it didn’t take us long to get into the water (minutes, in fact).

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The reef which surrounds Rarotonga provides a great, sheltered lagoon for snorkeling.  Most of the water inside the reef is only about 4-6 feet deep, or even more shallow at low tide.  At times, it was life being inside an aquarium.

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It was easy to lose track of all the different fish we saw.  Easily a hundred different kinds of fish.

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There were many of the same fish in Atutaki, but there we also saw many more of the giant clams.  There were huge!  The largest was over three feet long, and as impressive as the size was, the colors were also so vibrant.

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And the corals….wow.  So many different kinds, so many different colors.

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Also in Atutaki, we saw Great Trevaly….huge fish (45 pounds) which came really close to us….wondering if we had something to eat, or maybe wondering if we were good to eat.

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Too bad Matthew didn’t see one when he had his spear (of course, it would have taken it, and him, out to sea).

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On our last snorkeling day, we saw some amazing fish, but none more spectacular than this lionfish.

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Ohhh, I miss it all so much.  And there was nothing life spearfishing in the chilly Dunedin waters last Sunday (water temperature about 49 F) to remind us of just how great the water was in the Cooks.

And I’ll leave you with a funny story.  Deb and I were talking this week….just idle banter….and Deb wondered aloud where we might go for our 20th wedding anniversary (it’s still years away….but she’s a planner!).  I had just read more about the Cook Islands, about how there were 15 of them, some of them so remote a ship might only come there once a month….with pristine lagoons and abundant fish.  I said, “That’s the place I would want to go!”

“Oh.”  Deb mused.  “I was thinking Paris.”

Oui.

Cheers,

Dave

 

 

 

Now we’re Cookin’ !!!

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One of the great things about living in New Zealand is your proximity to the South Pacific.  Just after Easter, the first term of school ended for the boys, and Deb and I somehow managed to get a week off work during the boys’ two week break between terms.   Hmmmmm, where to go?  The Cook Islands are a 3 1/2 hour flight from Auckland, with daily departures flying Air New Zealand, so it didn’t take long to pull the trigger and book our flights.  So, Friday evening after work/school we headed to the Dunedin airport and boarded a flight to Auckland, where we would stay the night before our flight to Rarotonga the next morning.

The Cook Islands, we learned, are spread out over thousands of km in the South Pacific.  There are 15 different Cook Islands you can visit, but the only international airport is on the island of Rarotonga, an island with a population of about 9,000 people.  About 80,000 people visit Rarotonga each year; we added four to that number.  We boarded our flight Saturday morning, and stepped off the plane in Rarotonga on Friday afternoon (crossing the international date line).  It was inspirational.  The airport, as you would imagine, was small and you stepped out of the plane into the open air….ahh…but what warm tropical air it was!  We were met by a driver from our lodge who offered Deb and I champagne and the boys chilled water.  A good start.  We drove to our lodge, and within minutes were in our swim suits heading to the beach with our masks and snorkels in tow,  to catch the last bit of sun.  The water was soooooo warm! (about 80F).  The sun set about an hour later, and this was our first sunset  (not altered at all by any photoshop).  Yes, we thought, we are going to like it here.

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That night, after basking in the glorious sunset, we set out for dinner.  We didn’t have a car yet, and our lodge had said there was a restaurant just a few km down the road that offered a pickup and drop off service….well, that seemed like an easy choice.  Another easy choice for Debra was deciding what to order first…..

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This started the intensive and exhaustive comparative study of who makes the best Mai Tai’s on Rarotonga. Such the researcher, Deb is.  That night Ryan and I had the catch of the day, which was broadbill (swordfish).  It was amazing, and a good introduction to outstanding fish dinners to come.

Our next day, Saturday, coincided with the weekly market day in town.  The boys wanted to stay and chill in the room (we had our own deck and plunge pool, so who wouldn’t?) so Deb and I rode the lodges’ bikes into town.

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There is one road around the island which is about 22 km in circumference.  Our lodge was exactly at the half way mark around the island, and that meant about a 45 minute bike ride into town.  Most of the island people drive scooters and it’s not uncommon to see two people on a scooter, or one person carrying a bag of groceries in one hand and driving the scooter with the other.  The island had many mountains, but fortunately the road near the ocean is all flat.  At the Saturday market, there was all sorts of food, clothing and knick-knacks.

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And fresh fish!

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Yep, you’re reading that right.  $20 for a fresh yellowfin tuna!

In the afternoon, after we returned from the market, it was back to the beach.

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The water, for us, was like a magnet.  On Rarotonga, like many of the Cook Islands, the island is surrounded by a coral reef (you can see the waves breaking on the reef in the distance).  The reef keeps the lagoon waters calm, and I think you can appreciate the lagoon is also quite shallow.  In Rarotonga, in particular, the water inside the lagoon is shallow, and rarely more than 6 feet deep.  Since we went snorkeling almost every day (and many days we went twice a day) I’ve decided to post another (whole) blog on the underwater life (and pictures) of the Cooks.

Saturday night, after our first whole day, it was back to more exhaustive Mai Tai research….

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It’s a hard job, but as the saying goes, someone has to do it.

On Sunday, the boys and I went out on a charter fishing boat to try and catch some tuna.  The seas outside the reef are not calm.  We were all sporting scopalamine patches, and we didn’t get seasick, but was that water rough!  We were tossed around like a Cesar salad at the Ritz.  But in the end, we got a yellowfin and two skipjack tuna.  They filleted the yellowfin, and we had about 5kg of fresh yellowfin filets…..the best tuna we have EVER eaten!

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Since the minimum age for driving a scooter is 16, we decided to rent a car for the remainder of our trip (also, it was far cheaper….only $35 a day to rent a car, compared with $25 a day per scooter).  You definitely want some mode of transportation on the island, since there are great snorkeling spots at several different locations (remember you have bring all your gear, too), and when going places after dark it gets a bit dicey unless you’re in a car (they don’t want people riding bikes, or scooters after dark because of the high rate of accidents).

One of the unique things about Rarotonga (and I’m sorry I didn’t get any pictures of this) was all the dogs we met.  The dogs rule the island.  They are everywhere.  They stand in the middle of the street and just look at you when you’re heading towards them in a car.  Fortunately, the maximum speed limit on the island is 50km/hour, so it’s easy to stop, but the dogs there just have no fear of cars.  Or anything really.  But, they were also so friendly!  We made many, many dog friends during our visit there.  One time, while Matt and I were fishing in the shallows for bonefish, a couple of dogs followed us.  Fishing for bone fish is a sight fishing kind of thing…..and as soon as we spotted a bonefish and started casting to it, one of the dogs ran and jumped in the water to chase the fish.  It turns out that for certain dogs, this was a favorite past-time.  Chasing fish.  Well, Matt and I never hooking a bonefish, but we made a lot of dog friends….

About a 45 minute flight from Rarotonga is the island of Atutaki.  The lagoon of Atutaki is huge, and the snorkeling is supposed to be even better there than on Rarotonga, so after talking with some of the locals about all this, we decided to do a day trip there.  Oh, and this year, for the 50th Anniversary of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, all the photography for the models was taken on the island of Atutaki…but that had NOTHING to do with our decision.  Interestingly, Air New Zealand’s safety video (the one you ignore when the plane is taxiing for take off) this year uses the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models and was filmed in Atutaki.  But again, this had nothing to do with our decision.

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Here is the bustling Air Rarotonga desk at the airport.

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We boarded the plane early Wednesday morning for our trip to Atutaki.  The Rarotonga airport is a metropolis compared with the Atutaki airport.  Our day on Atutaki was a water-themed day.  We went from the airport to a pontoon boat, on which we would spend most of the day.

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We headed offshore, out towards the reef and the islands surrounding Atutaki.  The deep blue color indicates the deeper water of the lagoon, and then the water turns turquoise as it gets shallow.  Our first stop was honeymoon island (we were thankful to be the only boat there, as I feared the boys might explore the island, only to find honeymooners there seeking solitude…).  On the island were the largest hermit crabs we’ve ever seen.

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And, some of the most beautiful water we’ve ever seen.

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It was a bit of mixed day weather-wise at the beginning of the day.  It was actually raining a bit when we first boarded the boat, but as the day progressed it got more sunny.  The dark clouds provided a very cool contrast with the water colors.

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For lunch, we motored out to One Foot Island, and there saw water colors I’ve only dreamed about.

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The boat driver (boat owner) employed his whole family in this business.  His wife drive a little bus, which picked us up at the airport and took us to their house where the boat was docked.  His kids did a lot of the cooking and preparation for the lunch on One Foot Island, and the food was so authentic and tasted amazing…especially after snorkeling all morning.  There is a shack on One Foot Island which also doubles as a post office, and you can  (for $2) get your passport stamped there (we did).  After lunch, we snorkeled for another hour and half, and no one wanted to get out of the warm (82F) water……. but, we had a 4:30 flight back to Rarotonga, and at 3:30 we were still in the water.  Our boat driver knew we had the flight to catch, and where we were snorkeling was a 40 minute boat ride from his dock, which was a 15 drive from airport.  So, at 3:35 he got us out of the water.  Don’t worry, he said.  We’ll be there in plenty of time.  We tried not to worry (it’s difficult to do, even in paradise), but sure enough we arrived at the airport at exactly 4:30, in ‘plenty’ of time to walk onto our (awaiting) plane.  No worries, mate.

It was an easy flight back to Rarotonga, and by the time we landed we were already wanting to go back to Atutaki.

In Rarotonga one day, we spotted this sight, which we were fortunate enough to capture…..

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I wonder if the chicken sensed the irony.

There is one minigolf course on Rarotonga, and it was great fun.

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The rest of our time on Rarotonga was spent snorkeling, eating amazing fish, and completing our exhaustive beverage research.  We enjoyed all being together, off work and out of school…it was good to relax.  I wonder if that’s something I can learn to put on my CV ?  ….”He’s a guy who really knows how to relax.”

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Our last night in Rarotonga was memorable for it lingering sunset and, again, more liquid research.

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As the evening progressed I saw one of the most unusual sunsets I’ve ever seen….to the left, where the sun was setting the sky was a deep blue, and to the right the sky was pink, reflecting off the high clouds above the island…so in one picture there is both a blue and a pink sunset….wow!

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The flights that leave Rarotonga are interesting.  For example, our flight left Rarotonga at 2:30am.  Ouch!.  We were able to sleep for a few hours before our flight, and all in all, it wasn’t as trying as we thought it was going to be (we got into Auckland at 5:30, and boarded a plane for Chirstchurch and then one more plane to Dunedin).  How could we tell we were nearing Dunedin?

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The dark clouds gave it away.

But, firmly lodged in our memories is this..

 

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Next- the underwater world of the Cooks.

 

Cheers,

Dave

 

 

 

 

Happy Easter! (sponsored by the New Zealand dental association)

It’s Easter morning.  Deb has gone to work already, and I’m the only one awake in the house.  This is the sunrise outside our front window right now.  No kidding.

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The Otago harbor is glassy, an unusual site especially for the last week, during which we have been pounded with rain.  It is a quiet morning.  Outside, the morning stillness is broken by the call of a tui bird (a song similar to a mocking bird), and inside the house there is the hum of the heat pump I have just turned on (no central heating for the Dunedin homes, which are most heated by ‘heat pumps’, or electric heaters, installed in a wall of the house).  A mug of Peat’s Anniversary Blend coffee sits steaming on the coffee table in front of me. I grasp the warm mug, which takes a little of the chill off my hands on this Autumn morning, and sip the dark brew.  That needed  fuel of life begins to coarse through my veins, and I feel alive.  Life is good.

The Peat’s Anniversary Blend was a thank gift from our out-of-town company, Dylan and her mom, Desirre, who arrived two days ago. They have always wanted to see New Zealand…now, here there are.  While it’s fun to live here, sharing the joys of living here brings it up a notch.  I was very fortunate to not be on call this weekend.  By this weekend, I mean the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Easter weekend.  It was just last week I found out I had all four days off (everyone, except those on call do).  Really, I asked.  All four days?  Why do I get Friday off?  “It’s Good Friday.”  They answered.  Alright, I kind of understand.  What about Monday, though, why do I get Monday off? (I know, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, and should never look a gift horse in the mouth) “It’s Easter Monday, of course.”  Right, Easter Monday.  How could I not have known that?  How big of a Holiday is Easter here?  Well, on Good Friday, there were no grocery stores open.  None. (And, quite suddenly, the HUGE crowd at the New World grocery store on Thursday night makes sense….back to the tool shed comment).  In fact, virtually no stores were open, anywhere.  Wow.  I wouldn’t have guessed that.  We did find a couple of restaurants open, and had a great dinner at Salt, in St. Clair overlooking the stormy surf.

Yesterday, Saturday, was the Dunedin Farmer’s market.  I’ve written about this before, but it’s always a treat to experience it through new eyes.  Deb had to work yesterday, and the kids weren’t interested in the market, so Desirre and I braved it alone.  We had so much fun and I had to admit, Desiree’s ‘let’s just try it’ spirit was infectious.  I even sampled the New Zealand Whiskey…..at ten in the morning.  Ouch.  We bought so much stuff!  Lettuce, cheeses, wild venison, free range eggs, potatoes (which we had to buy, because they were named ‘Desiree potatoes’), falafel mix and hummus.  Some of the eggs we bought were normal size, and then the farmer also had some ‘extra large’ eggs.

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We asked him how these eggs came to be so large, thinking, maybe it was a bigger hen or a different variety of hen…but no, he said, on his farm he let the hens die of old age, so some of older hens only laid an egg every third day or so.  These are the eggs that are so large.  He didn’t have many chickens on his farm, he said, just enough to know them all by name.  About 150 or so….

 

Much of the lettuce here is hydoponic, and it’s so beautiful that when we got home we put the lettuce in water and we’re using it for a centerpiece.  And then we’ll eat it.

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After a holistic, Earth-friendly trip to the Farmer’s market, where else would you take an out-of-town guest but….The Warehouse…Dunedin’s answer to Walmart.  Desirre and I were on a hunt to pick up some Easter egg coloring supplies.  Only, it turns out, no one does that here.  OK, we’ll have to look up how that tradition started, but what next?  It’s not like people here don’t celebrate Easter (heck, they gave me four days off work), they just celebrate it differently.  Like, with chocolate.  The thing here is Easter chocolate.  And when I say chocolate, I mean A LOT of chocolate.  There were aisles and aisles of Easter chocolate.  Each aisle seemed to advertise a bigger and bigger chocolate Easter egg.  I think I managed to find not only the biggest chocolate egg (1kg of chocolate!), but also the one of the most unusual.  And, this stuff has been selling for weeks before Easter.  Somehow I think the dental association is behind all this…

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Last night we went out to the end of the peninsula where the albatross colony lives, but we were there to see the blue penguins.  These are very rare, and they are the smallest penguins in the world.  They go out to sea in the early morning, and stay out at sea all day, finding food.  They are wary (they probably seem bite size to a lot of predators) so they wait until dusk to come in to shore to sleep.  It was dark as a large group (almost a hundred) of us walked down a long path to the viewing platform by the seashore.  Then, we spotted a raft (that’s what a group of blue penguins is called) of them came swimming into shore.  They waited, just momentarily, at the surf’s edge, then used the surf to propel themselves up on to the rocky shore.  They then hopped up the rocky bank and waddled to wherever their particular nest was located.  The low bar penguins nested close to the shore, but those over-achievers nest high up the hills, some as much as 400 meters up a steep hill…..a long waddle for a little penguin whose stature, on a good day, barely stretches to one foot.

It’s now almost 11pm on Easter evening.  It’s been an awesome day.  This morning, after a pancake and bacon breakfast, we headed out to soak up some sun at the beach.  The weather was absolutely amazing…maybe even the best day ever in Dunedin since I’ve been here.  No wind and about 22 degrees and for almost the whole day, pure blue sky.  Wow, what a day!

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When we got back from the beach, we colored (no dye to be found) Easter eggs…..seemed weird doing this to free range eggs, but we’ll be eating devil’s egg sandwiches most of the week so why not free range deviled egg sandwiches?

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Then we had the kids go upstairs for a bit while the grown ups hid the eggs, and then we let them loose to find all 18 of the eggs (we were too easy on them….it only took them about 10 minutes to find them all).

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We wanted to squeeze every last ounce of sunlight out of the day, so after the Easter egg hunt we went kayaking in the harbor, and then off to Sandfly beach to see some yellow-eyed penguins and sea lions.  We made a nice roasted chicken dinner with potatoes and kumara and had a fire outside and some marshmallow roasting.  We star gazed until just a few minutes ago, and the sky was dazzling…..just billions of stars (and I saw two satellites).  Just now, there is the sound of rain drops on the roof, which means it’s time for bed.  What a Dunedin day…what an Easter.

We hope all of you had (and have, for those of you on the ‘other side’ of the dateline) a wonderful Easter.