Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Although you can fly nonstop from Auckland to SFO, it's much cheaper if you make a few stops along the way. 
So I'm in Fiji on New Year's Eve. More accurately I'm in Fiji for 9 hours. At Raffles. 
No, not that Raffles. 
A German guy I met dropped nearly $50 for a cocktail on a stopover in Singapore
They picked me up in a free shuttle, but they are literally across the street from the airport. That's a plane. 
I'm surrounded by laughing kids going down the twisty slide and butterflies the size of small birds. 
There's even a middle-aged couple kissing under the bridge. Not a bad way to spend your last few hours in the South Pacific.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

goodbye summer twenty sixteen

We are time travelers, one woman said wistfully. As if. 
It's the end of the year. The end of this adventure. 
I boarded a night flight New Year's Eve in Fiji. Nine hours later in LA, it's still New Year's Eve. (The flight attendants, wearing sparkly garlands, did a countdown at midnight Fiji/New Zealand time.) 
Second summer has ended. See you again in June. 

(Happy New Year!)

all good things must come to an end

Someone has booked the beach house for 3 days over New Year's so all of us have to check out, even the WWOOFers. 
The French surfer is flying home tonight; a few of us are headed over the hill to Auckland. 
Only the German woman is at the start of her trip, excited about all the places and people ahead of her.
I give away most of the staples from my traveling pantry: a bag of rice and mango chutney and oatmeal although I'm bringing home the jar of Marmite.
It's a perfect, peaceful spot, so we're lingering until the last possible moment, kicked out of paradise. 
I hope this place is still here next time I come. 
In the mean time, it's back to civilization. 
It's just over the horizon
extinct volcano in the distance 
past the vanishing point. 

Monday, December 28, 2015


Driving down from Northland yesterday, I began to question my decision to spend the last few days close to Auckland. 

I hadn't made it to Matai Beach or Kerikeri or Doubtless Bay and Puketi Forest. And after hours of driving, I got closer and closer but was still an hour away over a windy mountain road. 
All that doubt evaporated once I laid my eyes on Piha, a famous black sand surfing beach separated from Auckland by the rugged Waitakere Range. 
The lodge is a little slice of heaven with a big open central space. Above is the view from my room. 
It's an easy walk up the street and through the forest to Kitekite Falls. 
There were lots of families from Auckland in flip flops with kids and dogs. 
And these crazy people climbing. 
After that I set off for the beach. The town reminds me of Stinson Beach. 
That's Lion Rock. It's even better from the other side. 
You can take a trail nearly to the top, but I left that to more ambitious people and splashed in the waves instead. 
Lots of swimmers though the surf is chilly and a little dangerous. 
The valley is stunning too. 
Someone has rented out the beach house starting tomorrow so everyone staying here has to leave. A few people are flying home today. 

We're all pretending that our trips aren't ending, enjoying late checkout (noon, an extravagance in New Zealand) and the sumptuous view surrounded by trees and  birdsong. 
Hard to imagine a better place to be. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

land of the giants

Hokianga Harbour is a place of many wonders. 
Huge sand dunes, enormous tides, legendary dolphins, and the most magnificent trees of all. 
This kauri, Tane Mahuta or the lord of the forest, is about 2000 years old. It stands 51.5 meters tall and has a girth of nearly 14 meters. 
These four sisters share a root system. 

Te Matua Ngahere is nearly as big, with a girth of 16 meters. It was struck by lightning but continues to grow wider. 

Kauris have delicate, shallow roots, so the largest are protected with boardwalks and spraying stations to prevent further dieback. 
In California I've seen the world's tallest tree (Redwood NP), the widest tree (General Sherman in Sequoia NP), and the oldest tree (Methuselah at the Bristlecone Pine Forest), all in CA. But nothing prepared me for the majestic kauri forest. 
Tomorrow I'll be at the Kauri Museum learning more about local history. 


Saturday, December 26, 2015

bird's eye

Here is the kind of day I had:
When I took the vehicle ferry to Rawene, the conductor only charged me one way even though I was going round-trip. 
He also charged a huge family a rate equivalent to half as many people. The dad asked where I was from and then said it was their first time in the area. 
The recommended gallery cafe across Hokianga Bay was closed so I drove into Kohukohu in search of my 3 pm flat white. The pretty outdoor cafe was closing up. The owner made me a coffee anyway. 
I'm staying in a treehouse. Did I mention that? It's surrounded by birds and trees and sunshine. 
I met Saskia sitting on a beanbag chair near the kitchen and ended up enjoying the views and catching up with her and her partner over dinner. 
The view from the top is breathtaking.