Yalla!

So, before yet more stuff happens to us, I should try to play a bit of catch up. Don’t know when I will finish the description of our little vacation last month, but I hope to eventually.

This last weekend was MEDANZ (Middle Eastern Dance Association of New Zealand). They held their yearly event in Wellington again, which was very convenient for us. Next year it is in Timaru, so we probably won’t be going. Tam managed to get her paperwork in early this year, and thus made it into all the workshops she wanted to (last year she was late, and all the cool ones were full).

Saturday night was the “Yalla!” show, nearly 3 hours of bellydance by troupes from all over NZ, plus some guest dancers from Australia. I used to find lenghty bellydance shows a bit boring. Once I took some lessons it helped, as I knew what I was looking at and could appreciate when a dancer was doing something very tricky. (Often some of the most challenging moves look rather small and simple from the audience’s perspective.) But even so, 15 cabaret performances in a row can get rather dull and homogeneous.

Not a problem with this years show. If anything the theme could be described as: “Bellydance, it’s not what you think”

Examples
– a tribal group dancing to “Du Haast” by Ramstein. Cool and Gothic
– a tribal group called “Kiwi Iwi” doing a combination of bellydance and Maori dance. Tribal with poi! The danced to music by Ociania. (Iwi means tribe in Maori, for our overseas readers)
There was a group that did a Beegees number, while cute and amusing it was not as out-there and original as the previous pieces.
-Beverly (our teacher) led a big group piece called “feeling zilly”, where the dozen people on stage provided all their own music with zills and body percussion. Very neat and enrgetic choreography!

The result was a very fun show. The cabaret pieces became much more involving when mixed into such a heterogenous show. The two Autralian dancers were fantastic, though one had a slight “wardrobe malfucntion” which nearly resulting in her top popping off half way through her number! She managed to get everything reassembled smoothly and subtly while continuing her number. Very profession. And the final number by Sahara (a young Lebanese dancer from Sydney) was so hyper-enegeretic… well, let’s just say that if we could hook up power leads to her, she could power a small city.

Monday

Girls are home (except Victoria). Stephen will have to give you the reunion details, since I was out getting curry when all the nose-sniffing happened. We’ve got them in a separate paddock from the boys, who are hanging out at the fence line, even when the girls wander off out of sight.

We got them loaded with far less drama this time, although Boo still wouldn’t go up the ramp without a squealing, heels-dug-in fuss. Said hi to Victoria while we were up there — I managed to pick her out of a paddock full of 20-30 other Chilean whites, about half with blue eyes, so I can feel pretty good about that. She’s in good shape & Eric says he thinks he may have got her pregnant again, so maybe in a few weeks we’ll be going back for her.

It BUCKETED rain over the weekend, at times. Unfortunately, it bucketed INTO the conservatory, shoddy piece of work that it is. It looks like the teeny little gutter that runs along the outside is not only too small to deal with a super-heavy downpour, it’s not even sloped properly. Water just fills it up, and then either overflows inside the house or right over the door, which was not given the little strip of flashing to direct water away from the top of the door, either. Ugh. In between cells, Stephen got out with a power drill and put a couple holes in the guttering so the water would at least have that extra bit of outlet.

My shopping juju seems to be slowly coming back online. I’ve been looking for a dog crate and baby safety gates to help with the greyhound thing, and for more chairs for when we get the crowds of people over (particularly an issue on game nights). This week at the auction house, there were two baby gates, a dog crate, at least a dozen loose chairs in various groupings of one, two or four, and a couple of narrow bookcases like I had a notion to experiment with. The crate was too small, and the baby gates were part of a larger lot of useless (to me) baby gear, but I consider it a very positive sign, overall.

Vacation Continued (Monday March 20th)

I need to start with pictures of the caravan we stayed in. So special. They had built a permenant awning over the front, making a second room larger than the caravan itself. Ironically the bed was quite comfortable. It may have been a thin mattress over a board, but at least it didn’t sag.

The first destination of the day was the Hukutaia Domain. This is a small (5 Ha) bush reserve. It is not a proper bush reserve as would be done today, as the amateur botanist who founded it some 70 years ago collected plants from all over New Zelaand and transported them there. It does mean there are something like 1600 different species within that 12 acre area, though. In the midst of it all was one very local tree, Taketakerau. This is a Puriri (NZ Oak) that is somewhere between 2000-2500 years old, making it one of the oldest trees in the world. Until about 150 years ago the cavity beneath the tree held chief-bones, and the place was seriously Tapu. As is so often the case, pictures do not do it justice, but here is an attempt.

We then started our drive along the coast, stopping into various points of interest along the way. East Cape still has a very strong Maori presence. Every little bay had one or more Marae (meeting house). The guide book mentioned the carvings in the War Memorial hall in Omarumatu, and after driving around a bit we found it- on the local Marae. We asked permission of the locals, and they let us in to view the place. We also tried to check out a church in Torere, but the tribal offices were closed for lunch, so we couldn’t get the key, and as the church was on Marae land, we didn’t want to wander around looking through windows.

All of the Marae we passed had beautiful carved gates, each a work of art in its own right. One carving we stopped to photograph was the gateway to a local primary scholl. (!) What a school entrance!

After a bit more noodling around we made it to Te Kaha, a town about half way along to East Cape. There we cut inland to Maungaroa Station. Tam had booked us two nights on the station, as it sounded cool, was inexpensive, and offered horse riding. We stopped briefly at the Te Kaha store to pick up groceries, but decided to hold off (they had not restocked eggs yet), figuring we could just come back later.

We were so, so wrong.

As the advert for Maungaroa says “The adventure begins the moment you turn off the tarseal,” and boy they were not kidding! The access road is 16 km long, through the Raukumara Ranges. Gravel. Abyss-like cliffs-of-doom in places. Bigs rocks in the road, which required removal before the car could progress. A couple of stream/small-river crossings. It took us a good 45 minutes to cover the 16 km. I was curious if this was a “real” station, or simply a largish farm “posing” as one. Nope, real station. When the front gate is 4 km from the house, you know it is big. This was our first view of the house.

Really, there are houses in there. Look in the back right corner. I like the photo, as it gives some idea of scale. Maungaroa station is 26,000 acres, though most has reverted to bush and they now only farm 3000 acres of flats along the rivers.

We stayed in the renovated shearers quarters. Very nice. Gas fridge, gas stove and gas hot water. Which was good, as there was no electricity unless you turned on the generator. The great irony was that if you cranked up the generator, you could turn on the TV and watch Sky!

Now, the really impressive thing is that this whole huge station was run/managed by a couple in their 60’s (Lynn and Malcolm). They had help come in for mustering and shearing, but otherwise it was just the two of them. I get the feeling that if the world exploded, they would only notice when the Sky satelite went silent. (And they loved Sky, until that came along they had no contact with the outside world, as no TV or radio signals could be detected back in those remote mountains.)

Maungaroa station was probably our favorite part of the trip.

BIG GAY 'PACAS

Right, so. General news, because we have been slack with the blog. The rest of the vacation and pics and stuff will go up eventually.

We’re taking the plunge and going to have a go fostering ex-racing greyhounds. I was looking into this back in the States before we moved — but then of course we moved. I looked into it again once we got settled, but there didn’t seem to be any organized greyhound adoption groups until a couple months ago. New Zealand Greyhound Racing has itself put together and launched an adoption program. As a foster home, we’ll be taking a dog fresh off the track and teaching it the basics of how to be a house dog. Once it’s got the basics down, and we’ve had time to assess its personality, it’ll go on to be adopted into a permanent new home. Pretty cool ! The dogs are intially assessed to see if they are likely to be able to live with cats, and we’d only be fostering dogs that are. We’re getting a house-check from the program manager on Wednesday, and then sometime after that we’ll get our first foster. Expect photos.

We’re looking to buy another alpaca, “Homerange Cinnamon Snow”, a white female, with a white male 4-month-old at foot. We weren’t *planning* to get another one, but she actually looks like she’s got traits we’re trying to breed for (more demonstrably than any of the ones we’ve bought so far, in fact), so we know we’d kick ourselves later if we passed her up. Again, expect photos.

Last night, we went to a “road-show” put on by the Alpaca Association president, to present the corporate plan the council has come up with. MMMM, yummy politics ! However, Eric was there, and he confirmed that Galadriel has finally scanned pregnant, so we’ll be going to pick up her, Cariboo, Joy and Concetta this weekend. YAY ! FINALLY ! He says Galadriel is very easy to handle and friendly (*our* Galadriel ? The little black toad ? Huh.) He thinks Victoria has some hormonal… quirks. He says he needs to shift her out of the pen when he’s doing pen matings, because she knocks the male off whatever female he’s on and mounts in his place !! He says he’s got another female that does the same thing & he’s managed to get that one pregnant, but it takes some tricky handling (I hope to find out more about this on Saturday).

So all our jokes about “Our alpacas can beat up your alpacas”, and Victoria scaring off the stud males turned out a little closer to truth than we were expecting. Hah !

Vacation Continued (Sunday the 19th)

The day started extra early due to the end of daylight savings time. Since the office of the campgroud would not open for another few hours, we decided to go and take a walk in the Mahia bush reserve to kill some time. It was quite a walk, lots of down in the first half is a warning for what would come in the second half. Clearly this was ideal climate for Nikau Palms (the southernmost palm tree species). I think Nikau Palms are cool. They are also really slow growing, a 2-meter high one will be 30-50 years old.

While these Nikau’s were 100+ years old, we certainly noticed that there were no large Rimu or Rata trees left. That is true of many “brush remnants” around the country, all the commercially valuable trees were taken out 100 years ago, so the only old trees are ones nobody cared about. Have to wait another 300+ years before we get big Rimu in them again.

After checking out of the campground we cruised up to Gisborne for lunch, and a visit to the i-site. There we got the recomendation of going around East Cape clockwise (I had planned to opposite), as the views are better. So we set off north along SH2 up the gorge towards Opotiki.

We did take a 35 km detour to the Tarndale Slip. Yes, we went to see a big erosive landslide, in a weird fit of geekiness. It is apparently famous amoung geologists for being the largest of its type. Started 100 years ago, and it will not be stopped until the large hill/small mountain is all eaten away. It grows a few more meters every year. The poster child for why it is important to keep steep hillls forested. NZ has huge problesm with erosion in the central North Island hill country, something that needs to be addressed now, especiallly with climate change. Just in the 3 years we have been here there have been multiple storms that caused thousands of slips all over the bare hillsides. You can see them when driving across the country. Not good.

In the first picture I am walking downn the road to the slip face. Notice the cracks in the road? That is where the slip is eating into it, and taking it away. A few years before the road carried on past the top of the slip face. No longer. In fact as you can see in the thrid photo, the slip is starting to eat in around the “end” of the road where you park your car. Soon they will have to back up the end another 100 meters.

We did meet and chat with a local science teacher who had come to see the slip, and was considering bringing his high school students up asa field trip. In the background you can see a whole stand of trees that is in the slow prcess of sliding down the mountain. The scale of the slip really does not come across in photos.

Afterwards it was the simple drive up the gorge to Opotiki. Gorge driving is always fun, what with windy roads and cliffs and all. With all the evidence of slips and wash outs, Tam asked “I wonder if that ever happens when a car is underneath?” The week after we drove the road, it did! Some fellow was swept over the cliff and dropped 20m into the river by a landslide! Hit the river bottom with such force the engine fell out! But due to seat belts and air bags (and other motorists who came to his resuce), he survived! So remember to wear your seatbelt, you never know when a mountain might attack!

We spent the night in a caravan park by the ocean. Very nice listening to the ocean waves. The caravan was… special. A 1950’s vintage model that was now “permenant.” Cooking dinner on the hot plate was a fun challenge. More on that later.