Waikato fun.

Hello everyone,

School holidays are here and we have been fortunate to be able to travel around a bit more.  We are exploring the Waikato region where we live.  It is named for the Waikato River which begins at Lake Taupo on the North Island and flows west to the Tasman Sea on the west coast north of Raglan.  When Isa looks at a map of NZ, she says the North Island is like the shape of reindeer’s head (in profile, facing left).  Lake Taupo is the eye and nose is formed by Mt. Taranaki to the west.  I like the image.

We went on one trip to Nikau Cave and Cafe, a drive through hilly farmland to a beautiful location owned by a kiwi couple.  Their property includes a long cave full of stalagtites and stalagmites and you guessed, glow worms and a sweet cafe with delicious food-most of it grown on their farm.  It is named after the native palm tree-nikau which are predominant in the forest around.  The cafe is set in a gorgeous little green valley.  We enjoy lunch and then set out. You have to go through the cave with a guide and as ours introduced herself, she handed out helmets and waterproof flashlights and told us to leave all of our car keys, phones, cameras, behind because we were going to get wet.  We strolled through some paddocks with sheep eyeing us and through the forest full of nikau and ferns and down into the cave.  The hike through the cave was an hour and a half and through a stream the entire way.  We splashed for a bit and then Natalie confirmed that no one was claustrophobic and suggested that now was the time to turn back because we were about to crawl for 15 meters.  On we went, and yep, we all had to crawl and wiggle through a tight 15 meters.  Then the cave opened up to a cathedral like room full of stalagtites and stalagmites and we all turned off our flashlights while the constellations of glow worms appeared.  It was magical.  On and on we went through more water, past huge formations that grow 1 cm/year and curtains and columns of stalagtites and more glow worms.  We saw one tiny trout and one tiny plant and then light coming through at the end. It was just what the website described and so much more.  We headed back to our cafe to change into dry clothes and warm our wet toes in the sunny grass.  

Last weekend, we headed to Lake Taupo with our friends and stayed on the lake front at a bach (kiwi for cabin).  The weather was glorious, clear and sunny and very unusual for the time of year, I’m told.  The water was cold, but we all brought our wetsuits and played and kayaked and collected pumice everyday.  Because the lake is a volcanic crater and there are three volcanoes on the southern border, there is volcanic rock, everywhere.  We hiked to Huka falls which is the beginning of the Waikato River and played in the hot springs bubbling up along the way.  There are lots of restaurants as Taupo is full of tourists and we ate some delicious food and visited a cafe with mosaic furniture and gardens.  Our bach had a beautiful deck overlooking the lake and we grilled and ate out in the evenings.  Our neighbors at the bach had a fishing boat and were so kind to bring us a piece of fresh rainbow trout they caught and smoked.  The lake is full of native rainbow trout and is not stocked.  There are strict rules about what type of fishing and where it can be done.  The fish cannot be sold, so you can’t order it or buy it at the store.  You have to catch it or receive it as a gift.  There are, of course, plenty of chartered fishing boats around.  Taupo is also full of the adventure sports that NZ is known for-skydiving, jet skiing, helicopter rides.  We saved those for some other time and went instead on a steamboat to Maori rock carvings that are only reachable by boat.  The carvings were made in 1980 by a pair of local men and depict a 1000 year old legend of the Maori navigator who first came to Taupo.  They were spectacular.  We headed home and gathered up Jack who also seemed happy after his first kennel holiday in NZ..

Photos to share below.   Much love to all of you!ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Hi friends and family or Kia ora whanau.

Whanau (pronounced like “fawn-o” is a Maori word representing all those who are close to you/part of your family in more than blood sense.  The wh is pronounced like a ph or f in English.  The name for a female teacher is whaea.  The girls teachers are Whaea Hilary and Whaea Jen.  We are almost done with the our first school term here and last week was the big production of Alice in Squanderland.  Below are photos of Isa as one of the family of white rabbits who did their own dance for the show and Olivia as one of the swamp zombies who danced to “Thriller” music and tried to convince Alice to join them is “Squanderland.”. The show was a great success and I was able to practice my make up artistry painting zombie faces…

Also are a couple of photos of the view from school out over the ocean.  The large green field in the middle is the airstrip where small planes land and we stroll across to reach the beach.  No air control tower.  For our Cien Aguas Friends, also some of the girls favorite playground equipment here.  Maybe some will appear at the new playground at school.  

We spent last weekend at the zoo in Hamilton which was fun and great for walking.  Lots of native birds and reptiles.  Went on a week day dinner picnic to a place nearby called Whale Bay and today, it was windy and sunny, so we donned our wetsuits to play in the ocean and on the boogie boards.  Just a few photos below those events.  

I hope you are all well.  It is such an interesting feeling to miss people and events and be enjoying new ones at the same time.Image








Spring time in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wow..It’s been almost a month and the seasons have changed, at least on the calendar. It is now spring here, very springy with changeable weather.  Freezing and pouring rain and wind one day and crystal clear blue skies and calm water the next.  

We haven’t been out and about as much..Real life things have taken over, like work schedules and school and the flu.  First Dan, then Isa who was the sickest any of us have been in her whole life. 5 days flat on the couch, teaspoons of oral rehydration and antipyretics.  But, we made it and she is back to school and busy rehearsing for a production by all the primary grades called “Alice in Squanderland.” Apparently, Alice goes back down the rabbit hole to find Wonderland covered in rubbish and has to decide to leave it for someone else or help clean up herself.  More exciting details to follow after the show!  In between, more playing on the water.  Dan and Liv and Jack paddleboarding together and Isa and her art on the black sand.  I have been paddleboarding a bit, on the quite water at high tide in the estuary.  Getting braver, slowly but surely, running or walking on the beach several times a week and riding over the bridges and into town on my bike (which our landlord kindly left)!  I am also starting the process to work a bit.. I am definitely not bored but would love to see some patients,  interact with some residents, meet some families and see a glimpse of the medical system here. 

We went to visit some “glow worms”a few weeks ago.  It is actually larvae of a gnat and show up as pin points that glow in the dark. They hang in little clusters in dark foliage  and caves and look like fairy size constellations.  We went to see them about an hour south of us. We went for a short hike in the daytime, had pizza nearby and then back at night with our headlamps.  You hike with the headlamp and turn it off periodically b/c the little worms don’t glow when you shine too much light.  It was magical and fun to hike around in the dark, drippy forest and hear the river nearby.  

Other highlights, we pulled the girls out of school early one day to go to a national high school surf competition hosted by the high school here.  There is a surf academy at the Raglan Area School and the students put together, host, announce and organize the whole event..some of them surf, of course.  I think it’s great that they get to be a part of the whole process.  The girls had fun watching. Olivia said she may want to try it one day.  Isa loves to lie on the beach in the sun and watch.  The black sand on this (west) coast of New Zealand is nice in the winter, warms you right up if you sit on it.  As spring approaches, the local paper says some seal pups and orcas often make their way up the coast.  

The park across the street from us has 4 plots for community gardens and are planted with fruit trees that have begun to bloom.  The mission is to plant fruit trees and other edible plants all around Raglan for anyone to eat.  There are even a few in front of the police station.  We went across to the park last weekend for a “working bee” where anyone comes to help garden and weed.  We dug up some weeds and learned of some of the plants growing there.  There are apple, cherry, pear and feijoa (a local fruit that is said to be delicious) trees just beginning to blossom.  We came home with a colander full of kale and made chips-yum!


Here are a few photos..from the glow worm hike (sorry, no worms visible but we will go back and try again!), paddleboarding, the surf competition.  ImageImageImageImageImage

NZ birthday

Hello friends and family,

First, thank you all for your lovely comments..As usual, life takes hold and I am slow to reply but I do appreciate and enjoy them all very much.   Somehow school, life maintenance, stuff takes up whatever space you give it.

The word is this is winter in NZ, but particularly mild.  I am not sure I would call it winter.  It’s hard to imagine snow and skiing nearby. We have been out and about in the sunshine many days…for which I am grateful.  I do like the rain and clouds but the sun peaky through is great too especially when its only 60 degrees or so.  The girls are settled into school and this week we celebrated Isa’s 6th birthday, with our friends here and a couple of families they introduced us to.  One of them is a many generation NZ family and the other immigrated from Holland and run a large dairy farm in town.  They all have sweet kids and Isa was happy to have them over to celebrate.. Her big sister and another friend arranged all the games for the party and I must say we parents tried not to get too involved and the party was very smooth.  Sometimes our getting involved causes more trouble than letting them figure it out.  See the photos, including Pin the Beak on the Kiwi.  We sang Happy Birthday in English, Spanish, Maori and Dutch which was really fun for me.

Last weekend, we went for a tramp (hike) up the street from us.  No driving needed.  A goat who had broken her chain followed us across a bridge and then settled to chew some grass. We hiked through the bush and looked at some native trees and bugs along the estuary and past many fields of cows.  They looked quite docile but then a handful came snorting and jumping down to the fence.  We couldn’t decide if they were afraid of Jack or thought he was a calf we were trying to steal.  At the end, we passed the small local golf course with mowing provided by their own sheep and lambs.. You can see a picture below.  Funny and something we would never dream of in Abq.

Dan and I went for a paddleboard in the estuary at high tide today. (Sorry no camera) while the girls were in school and before he went to work.  What a great way to spend a couple of hours together.  I have only paddle boarded a couple of times on a gentle river in Idaho and lake near Durango.  The wind here caught me a bit off guard and I almost fell off twice but finally got the hang of paddling, especially turning and we had fun exploring the little coves and bays nearby.  I am not sure I will be hitting the ocean waves anytime soon, but you never know.

I hope you are all well in your own worlds.  Sending you lots of love,


new routines

Hi family and friends,

The girls started school 2 days ago at the Raglan Area School and so far, so good.  They were a bit nervous but now state that their days are “good, very good” and ” I don’t like it, I love it.”  Cool.  It is a public school, grades k-12 and with 450 kids, quite small.  There is a large Maori population and a part of the school is devoted to Maori culture and language.  They opened the term with an assembly that included some prayers in Maori.  Although their Spanish is not used in school here, I think being immersed in a foreign language in NM has helped ease the transition here, new accent, some new language, new routines.  The school has several playgrounds, lots of access to the nearby bush (forest) and water in the estuary and and incredible view of the ocean.  The kids all get a break for “morning tea” and lunch..outside several times a day.  I love that.   I don’t have a picture of the view, but here is a link to a video about how the school is one of NZ’s “enviroschools”. http://tvnz.co.nz/meet-the-locals/2008-episode-94-video-1898249.  You can see some of the school grounds.   I feel lucky, again, for all of us to have this experience.

Dan is settling into work and after some initial gasps at the inefficiency has learned where some of it comes from, is enjoying working with the ED residents and says that everyone is so nice.  There also seems to be a higher acuity/illness of patients (fewer who don’t have primary care or a seeking narcotics) and lots of procedures.   He had Monday off, and we went for a hike in a local reserve, with labeled trees which is great for me as they are all different.  Hiked along a stream, up a ridge, across a cow field and onto a great view of a local surfing beach. It was gorgeous.  Then we had a picnic on the beach near our house before picking the kids up at school-can’t complain.

For our biking friends, there is a mountain bike race here in its 4th year and growing all the time called the Karioi classic-50 Km around Mt. Karioi.  Our friend John rode along with a few hundred other folks.  There are some professional and serious racers and some locals who hop on what ever bike they have and just do it.  One of the local people rides the whole thing on a single speed bike.  I notice that the “gear” here is not so important.  People seem to ride/walk/hike/run/live with what they have and not need the latest or greatest.  I am awed and inspired and humbled by that.  So if anyone wants to try out it next year, keep it in mind.

I haven’t taken any photos recently-probably a shame b/c the last two days have been sunny and glorious, as my friend says.  Soon.

Much love to all of you!

Winter day at the Beach.

Winter day at the Beach.

A photo of a rainbow out our door. And the next day at Ruapuke (Two Hills in Maori) Beach the next day. sunny and freezing, we followed a stream to the ocean which was crashing away. the kids and Jack sledded down the black sand dunes on their boogie boards.

Feeling good

Sunday evening and we just spent most of the day outside.  It was mild and partly sunny and great.   Our big news is that Jack is here!! Yesterday, we picked him up from quarantine, where he spent 10 days.  It was about an hour and a half drive from here among fields and fields of cows and sheep and green hills with mountains in the distance. He seems just like his old self and the people at Pethaven, where he was, were very friendly and said was a great guest.  Thank goodness!  It seems surreal that he is actually here. He went crazy running in the grass and on the beach and at the park with the kids today and is snoozing away now.  

We are pretty much settled into our new home.  We have become very cozy and it is nice to not have so much stuff.  Tomorrow is trash day and you have to pay for the trash bags that the waste people pick up so we are encouraged not to throw much.  There is also good recycling and the waste facility here also recycles and composts and runs a second hand store.  You can take just about anything up and they will recycle it or sell it.  We have purchased a few very handy things from the store there, Kaahu’s nest,  ourselves.  

We have also been spending tons of time with our dear friends here and enjoying every minute of that.  They have made our transition so smooth and friendly and I feel so very grateful.  

Here are a few photos from today.ImageImageImageImageImage

Here we are…day 4 in NZ. It’s almost

Here we are…day 4 in NZ.  It’s almost 7 am and still dark, winter here.  Rainy last night but yesterday was gorgeous, 50s and sunny.  The kids played at the black sand beach in town and hopped into wet suits and went out on the paddleboard with Dan.  Feels like vacation…and we are here for a year!


We are living in Raglan, a small surf town and harbour on the west coast of the North Island.  About 3,000 residents. Lots of water all around and rolling green hills mixed with all the trees and plants that grow near the ocean.  There is lots of agriculture, dairy cows and sheep and pigs.  It’s beautiful and in many ways reminds me of growing up in Steamboat.  The small town with one main street, meeting people you recognize every day, green hills. No snow but there is a mountain/ancient volcano nearby, Mt. Karioi, who resembles the head of woman and is called the sleeping lady.  We live about a block away from the bay so there is calm water and the levels change with the tide. We have gathered tons of shells already and can also walk to town, our friends school, where the girls will go in a month or so, the park.  

More pictures to come soon..We hope you are all well!!