Thursday, January 31, 2013

A night out in Paihia

Hello everyone it's Paul, coming to you with my first post. It's been an amazing time so far and we've seen some amazing things, but nothing as amazing as what I saw last night.

Christine and I had dinner at a nice beachfront restaurant and had shared a bottle of wine. Usually this leads to some bad decision making i.e. another bottle of wine or staying out all night at the bar or both! 

The culprit
This night, not being any different from other nights, went along the same path. After dinner we walked straight into the bar next to the restaurant to mingle with the other travelers seeing the sights at the Bay of Islands. The plan was (like it always is) to go in, have a drink or two and head home because we had to get up early to catch a bus to Cape Reinga. We sat at the bar, ordered our drinks and took in the ambience of this small town bar. Shortly after getting our second drinks, the Aussies playing pool came over and challenged us to a game. Not wanting to seem unfriendly, we accepted..and 2 drinks became 3. With the 2 Aussies was an older American who popped in for a drink and a Brit (his name is Simon, really it is) traveling on his own. After a lengthy, sloppy game of what I think is supposed to be pool (and 2 more whiskeys) the bar was closing. An excellent time to head for home (our new American friend is thinking the same thing). However, the other 3 gentlemen weren't having it and off we went in search of another place that was still open (like Christine or I would say no).

The bar at Mako Beach Bar (first bar) - I was impressed with how smooth it was
The next place had a little more of a local flavor and was filling up since it was the only place left open (at midnight). At this point, everyone was pretty well intoxicated and each person was buying rounds for everyone else which created an abundance of drinks. We brought everything over to our table and began playing pool. 

At this point I feel it is very necessary to explain who the Maori people are (in a very broad sense). They discovered and settled New Zealand some 1100 years ago. They are very proud of their heritage and still hold to many of the old ways. They were extremely war-like and that aggression is reflected today in their love of rugby (New Zealand All Blacks are almost always world champs) and their willingness to engage in fisticuffs. They are now regular citizens of New Zealand, having shared the land with England for 300 years or so, but maintain ties to their tribe and its land. That should be enough to go on, so back to the story.

So the Brit and I were playing against 2 Maori in an even more horrendous game of pool when one of them took one of the abundant drinks we had on the table. She didn't ask or say thanks and walked off to talk to someone she knew. At this point "Auntie" came over to find out where the drink came from. Whether she was their aunt or anyone's aunt remains to be determined; that's just what one of the guys called her. At the start we could make out most of what she said, but the more she spoke, the worse our understanding became. Maybe it was the New Zealand English/Maori accent, or the missing teeth or the fact that she was hammered or all of it together, but she just sounded like the low rumble of big engine; fitting because "Auntie" is a big lady. 

Our British friend smoothed things over by saying he allowed "Auntie's" niece/daughter (we're not sure) to have the drink. "Auntie" was upset or embarrassed and explained many times to Christine that she would punch her niece's face in for doing this. Christine, being Christine did her best to calm her down. Satisfied, the Brit and I went back to playing pool. Soon after, I returned to grab my drink and I noticed "Auntie" was still there and was now helping herself to another one of the drinks on the table. She mumbled something to me to the effect of me being tall, but not that big. She walked behind me, bear-hugged me and picked me up. Now this really fired up Christine...and she told "Auntie" to get her big meat hooks off me that I was her husband (poetic license people; Christine might have said damn dirty paws - I was drunk remember?). Now I couldn't tell if "Auntie" was remorseful or embarrassed because Christine was yelling at her like a child, but I didn't care and just tried to get back to the pool table - quickly. Especially since Christine and "Auntie" were threatening to punch each other in the face. In Christine's defense she was only repeating "Auntie's" threats to show that she wasn't afraid nor was she going to back down. As I walked away "Auntie" claimed I grabbed her butt and Christine and her were back at it. Somehow, somewhere along the way Christine and "Auntie" smoothed things over - I think, but it was definitely time to go. We said our goodbyes - Christine and "Auntie" were even hugging - and we headed back. On the way home Christine told me that as they were hugging "Auntie" was mumbling how she was going to punch Christine's face in and so naturally, Christine returned the threat. There was also a lot more of Christine having to tough-talk this woman to show her who was boss. 

This is "Auntie" - Christine secretly snapped a photo of her right before punching her in the face (just kidding)

We never learn to listen to the small voice in our heads that says "Go home now," but if we did, we never would have met "Auntie"! All-in-all, a great time was had by all, no one was hurt and our new friend "Auntie" will be joining us for Christmas next year!

Walking back to the hostel at 1:30am


We arrived in the Bay of Islands yesterday and are staying in Paihia for two nights at a lovely hostel called Seabeds. The town is nice and I took a liking to this church. Here are some shots as we walked around this quaint town.

St. Paul's Church built from Kawakawa stone
Walking along Marsden Road
Seagulls chillin' by Te Ti Bay
Paihia Beach

As a special treat, Paul will be blogging about our evening in Paihia. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Coromandel Peninsula

Yesterday we spent the day driving to the Coromandel Peninsula - home of great beaches and most known for Cathedral Cove. It took 45 minutes each way to get to the cove but it was worth it! Another note to self - when Lonely Planet says it's a short walk, don't believe them. Always bring a pair of sneakers. Walking on dirt and gravel in flip flops is not a good idea!

At Hahei Beach - dueling seagulls...
Before starting our 45 minute hike
Hiking along the trail to Cathedral Cove

Rolling hills along the way - where are the hobbits already?!?
Paul enjoying the view
We made it to Cathedral Cove!
Crazy waves crashing down
In front of the cave
Paul looks tiny next to the entrance 
It's no big deal holding this thing up - Paul does it with one arm
View of Cathedral Cove
Beautiful view
Paul hiding...again

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

We're in New Zealand!

We arrived in Auckland on Saturday, January 26.

Flying over New Zealand 
Getting closer to Auckland
We've landed...
in Middle Earth...Paul is excited
Another stamp!

Paul and I have been busy exploring the surrounding area. We are lucky enough to stay with my cousins, the Pan Family in a suburb of Auckland for the first few days. They even took us to the Auckland Harbour our first night.

With cousin Pan Li
Harbour at dusk

We heard the best way to get around New Zealand is to rent a car...another thanks to my cousins for scoring us a good deal at a local rental company - less than half the price of a Hertz or Avis! It does take some time to getting used to driving on the right side of the car on the left side of the road.

Paul getting familiar with the Vitz...

We started exploring on Sunday and went up Mt. Eden to see a spectacular view of the city as well as the crater.

View of the city from Mt. Eden

Can you see the crater behind us?
New York is 14,197 km away

We also ventured to the Auckland Domain, a large park with nice trails and duck ponds.

We felt like we were filming in Jurassic Park along "Lovers Walk"
Paul is trying to hide from usual
Some of these geese looked fake

On Monday (a holiday for Auckland Anniversary Day) we headed to Waiheke Island via ferry. We finished earlier than expected and since the days are so long, we decided to visit Murawai Beach (where a gannet colony lives) and swing by Arataki Visitor Centre (where there are really nice views) as well.

The city skyline as we depart Auckland for Weiheke Island 
Weikheke Island; we did not partake in wine tasting at the many vineyards...learned our lesson in Napa!
Self portrait as we walked around Oneroa 
Paul is getting impatient with all my picture taking while on the ferry back to Auckland
Murawai Beach
Gannet colony behind us

You can see them better here...
We actually went inside that cave - it was cold, dark, and smelled like dirty sea water - we didn't stay long
I don't know why I'm doing a jumping jack pose, perhaps to show how small I am in this frame
Putting the tripod to use!
The ever Regal Paul

Random Shots of the Week - Fiji

I didn't forget about my "Random Shots of the Week" are some from Fiji...

Paul loves his hammocks...this is at the Sofitel

Paul's classic's an island
Shell on Modriki Island
Paul doing his best Bane impression with a stinky coconut - yes, we finally watched The Dark Knight Rises!
Close coconut shots of "HELP ME"
Paul was working the camera - we pretended I was shooting Madonna's "Cherish" video
Eating some coconut on the Seaspray
On Yanyua Island - I'll remember this when we get back to the states!
It's water...
Sunrise shot from Coralview Island Resort
Beach at Sawa-i-Lau caves
Purple shell at Coralview Island Resort