Saturday started late and leisurely, with a phone call from my sweetie. After breakfast, some email, and some pre-planning for the upcoming Paperwork Dance (the container with all of our stuff in it is due into Auckland in a week, and I must learn the steps of the dance that will let me guide it through Customs and MAF (the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry — they have to prevent stuff like fruit flies and hoof-and-mouth coming in) with a minimum of trauma), we pulled out the map book and picked another more-or-less random road to drive up. This was started with a jaunt to Riverstone Terraces, which is a new subdivision carved into a less steep bit of the hills across the valley from Silverstream. Chris tells me it was an ugly brown gash in the side of the valley for quite a while, but is looking more attractive now that it’s greening up a bit. I had a passing interest in it, in that it’s one of the areas where the lot sizes are somewhat larger. It was…. interesting. Certainly very bare in between the houses that have been put up already. The lots (they call them “sections” here) were marked out with neat brown wooden fencing, festooned with “For Sale” and “Sold” signs from various realtors.
After a quick spin through there, we decided to see where the left fork of the road went — “Moonshine Hill Road”. It went — twisting and snaking along the edges of the hills — up through more of that lovely high country farmland:
Unlike the Horokiwi road, though, Moonshine keeps going up and off the edge of the map, until it meets up with another twisty little white road that itself runs between Akatarawa Forest and Judgeford. Which is to say, off into the boondocks. Very high, pretty, sheep-infested boondocks, though.
After Moonshine, we stopped into Totara Park, which had some nice bottom land properties with ponied paddocks. It looked, however, as though a long rain and a good strong sneeze would be about all it took to get the Hutt River to decide to shift its bed to run through the ground floors of the pretty little houses there. We continued on and drove a little way up into the Akatarawa Valley, where we stopped at this lovely little cottage with a terraced herb garden perched on a cliff above the river. The garden was a riot, even in what is effectively late November, and the shop was packed full of herbs and all the stuff one makes with them. If I were the sort of person who liked to make soap, or hand cream, or magic potions, I’d be all set right there. They even have classes in the tiny little enclosed porch. Must come back in the spring. I don’t know what the little thing is growing on this stump behind the moss, but it was neat. The pony was just hanging out munching on the side of the back road where we turned around. (It was one of *many* we saw this weekend, at various little farmlets. Different breeds. There must be some tiny pony fad going on right now. Doesn’t it have the cutest ears, though ?)
The bird, photographed in the garden, is called a fantail, on account of the little display it makes, fanning its tail out and in. (Flashback to three years ago, Stephen and I on vacation, marveling at the new birdlife:
“Excuse me, can you tell us what that bird is called ? The one that fans its tail in and out ?”
“Ah, naturally. How about the one that looks kind of like a robin, only black ?”
“That’s a black robin.”
“Ah. Right. How sensible. And the black one with the little white frill that sounds like a refugee from the Lucasfilm sound archives ?”
“That’s a tui, mate.”
Wanna know why they use the Maori name for the tui, but came up with a neatly descriptive name for the fantail ? Because the Maori name for the fantail is Tiwakawaka. Actually, that’s only one of several Maori names for it, all of which are pretty long, and most of which are descriptive of its behavior in some way. Like the hummingbird in South American folklore, the fantail is thought to be a warrior bird, and its bobbing, jumping display — especially the way it swings its tail back and forth like a spear — is compared to the haka, the Maori challenge dance. Hikers like them because they’ll follow you down the trail, fanning and cheeping, waiting for you to stir up yummy bugs for them to eat. (Aside: The robins that are black are not precisely the same as the black robin, which is an endangered species confined, I think, to the Chatham Islands.)
Saturday night was the birthday party that Chris and I were invited to last week. It was in the third floor function room at Molly Malone’s, an Irish pub on Courtenay Place (the one place in Wellington where the sidewalks stay firmly unrolled all night — at least on weekends). Had some of the best pub grub I’ve had in a long while, then went up and had a fine old time. There was live music all night, all provided — and some even composed — by the party-goers themselves (there was quite the pile of instrument cases in the corner). They started out with an oud and violin duet, then progessed through raucus celtic, raucus bluegrass, country and western (I have to tell you it was a treat, a *treat*, I tell you, to hear the same guys switch from their best Clancy Brothers Irish accents into Wayne Newton drawls), and even a bit of jazz. By the time Chris and I staggered out, well past our usual pumpkin time, they were playing the Doors. Tim and Liz (the oud and violin player, respectively) dragged Chris and I onto the floor for a bit of impromptu contra dancing at one point. Karl would have been appalled. He’d have enjoyed the hell out of it, but been appalled nonetheless. Tim and Liz have promised to take us to an ME jam session next Thursday night. Score !