Saturday, November 22, 2014

Edinburgh, mid August, Freiburg, September 2013

Edinburgh, mid August; Freiburg September 2013

 Had a fascinating day. Went out to Heriot-Watt University and got a red carpet treatment; was given the keys to the Museum. "Not everyday you meet an ancestor of one of the founders of the University" , 25 pages of information on Robert Bryson and his sons Alexander and Robert Jr., both clockmakers and scientific instrument makers. Robert Bryson along with 2 others, started the idea of an Industrial Arts Center where poor apprentices could learn the math and science sufficient to be employed ( by people like Robert Bryson). Through his efforts and later his sons,  the Heriot Trust then the Watt trust were amalgamated and is now reckoned by students to be the best University in Scotland, 4th in the UK !
I have made an appointment to the Scottish Peoples Library tomorrow to find out more about Robert Bryson's children, one of whom was my triple great grandfather. Now, I'm off with Czerny. Have simplified the "bagger".  Now only a coat hanger with a bag held taut.  Works like a charm

 Tomorrow, I'm taking a train up to the top of Loch Ness to stay a Ian's cabin on the edge of a tidal river. He normally rents it, but as no one had booked it this week, at least until Saturday, he offered it to me; a nominal fee of 100 pounds. There are some small projects which I look forward to, but the rest of the time will be for exploring. A small town nearby, Beauly,  2 1/2 m away, has a railway station, so I plan to bicycle into town and go towards Mull. 

This evening, we ( Ian, Hillary and I), are listening to a jazz group playing Ellington's music. The band leader was Hollywood typecast, handsome devil in a tuxedo, hair slicked back and just the right curl of lip, inflection and raised eyebrow, bathed in a spotlight, knowing everybody was watching as he snapped his fingers or nodded approval. Some very lovely music; some ear cleaning noise. We sat around circular tables sipping wine. 

I spent the last 6 days in a small cottage on the banks of a tidal river somewhere west of Inverness. The train trip was through the Cairngorn National Park , stunning scenery of gently rolling , massive hills, denuded of trees but with a jig-saw pattern of mosses, heather and gorse up towards the bald rounded peaks. Isolation; no TV, no computer or functioning phone. The property needed some pruning, some branches cut and as I progressed, I discovered  ancient steps leading from the top of the bank down to the low tide water mark, and beyond into the river.  I  pulled up a tuft of broom and found a beautiful sandstone step. I probed and found another. Two days later I had uncovered the complete stairway, about 30 feet long, made by the ancient Ferryman so that his customers could arrive dry-shod on the steep bank. When the tide was ebbing, I swam. It was filmy and unpleasant at slack tide but once it started running, it was clear. I had brought enough food for 2 meals a day and didn't bicycle into the nearby town but once and then only to buy an extension pruning saw with lopper attachments and some eggs.   At first I was cautious as to what I cut, but the more I looked at the hedges blocking the view of the river, the more I wanted to clear them , and the more abandoned I became. In the end, I cleared most of the obstructing branches, cut down some small trees and would, if I had the proper equipment, have gotten rid of everything blocking the view. I'll leave that to Ian.
Days and nights I watched the tides come in, (almost 12 feet from low to high) ; at low you heard the river rippling down a sheet of rapids, at high, the river was silent,  a mirror reflecting the trees and mountains.

I returned to Edinburgh in time to meet David, Hillary's second son, an industrial designer. I suggested he make his fortune on the doggie turd bagger and we discussed various possibilities. Perhaps he will.

Carol's devastating news about Alec's sudden return into extreme care at his hospital took my breath away. He dropped me at the railway station not 3 weeks ago, a smile a handshake, a scratch on the back;  "Come back, soon". Now he's hanging by a thread..... I feel as though I can't be any help to Carol as I would likely become another burden. I can't drive, don't know where things are and will intrude on her tangled thoughts. He's in a Hospice now.
I didn't visit Alec in the hospital;  I want to remember him as I do, not putting on a brave face, not struggling , without tubes. 

My flight to Basel was uneventful.  Hannes met me at the airport; we went immediately to his Gym and the Wednesday evening club for water exercises. Under the guidance of a skilled trainer, we ran and jumped and thrashed in the water for the next 90 minutes. Initially I thought I wouldn't be able to keep up but I did and, the following morning I felt no worse for the effort !

Hannes has bought a motorcycle, the same model he bought when he was 18, a  XT 550 red and white, Yamaha,   beautifully restored, probably in better condition than a new one. We drove to Umkirch, maybe 10 miles, in 65 degree weather. I haven't often been on the pillion and didn't find it comfortable. Can't see anything but the back of the driver's helmet and slowly you find your seat is vanishing as the driver pushes back. However, another neat experience.

On Saturday, Sept 30, Bernd, Katha, Charlie and I drove to Fredrickshaven for Eurobike the largest convention of anything bicycle I ever seen. E Bikes, electrified bicycles were in vogue and almost every manufacturer had one on offer. Basically, they ensure that the rider can climb hills effortless at about 25 km so you arrive at your destination without a sweat. They make no noise, are allowed on all bicycle trails and are sticker-shock priced; anywhere from 2000 to 6000€ !  More that I've paid for most of my cars.

The weather in Freiburg for the past few days has been remarkable;  in the low 70ies, views forever of the Black Forest and the Voges in France. I walked for miles with B & K around Schallstadt. At one point i noticed 2 ultralight, parachute trikes flying towards the Kaiserstuhl.  I was thinking I might be able to convert my hard wing to a parachute. I'll try to find their airport.

Monday I picked Walter up from his apartment and went off for a drive and dinner in some of the old haunts. We wound up at the Rhine, tried unsuccessfully to find a restaurant high in the vineyards but none-the-less had a delicious supper together. He tires easily and doesn't walk very far without "admiring the view". I think he's in good spirits. Elka is amazed that he agreed to join me  again to day to go the model airplane club airfield this morning; got out of bed early, was ready long before I arrived. I guess he just needs a little stimulation.

Had a great golf outing with Bernd. Kataha had the beginnings of a cold , didn't join us, so we promised we'd shoot some pars in her honor. In fact we did; 6 or 7 between us, but also a few 8's due to zig-zag putting.

Luis has grown about 6 " since I saw him last year, now as tall, perhaps taller than Hannes. He came back from a 2 week trip to NJ staying with the  Pagliente's full of everything American. His English is very good and improving daily. He has to give a 10 minute speech in English and has decided to talk about Motocross , pros and cons. He should easily ace the exam as he is knowledgeable and passionate about motor cycles. He just turned 16 !

Kataha and I drove to Baden-Baden about 100 km N of Freiburg. The radio was warning of a major Traffic jam so we got off the Autobahn and took a ferry across the Rhine into Alsace, and continued N on the French side arriving a little late. Others who were caught on the Autobahn had hours to endure stop and go, something like a 16 km "Stau".  We went to see work by Emil Nolde (1867 -1956) an important expressionist artist who's use of primary colors, and globs of them produced a striking effect, particularly when seen from a distance. Up close, his painting seemed out of focus; like scene painting, they got better the further away you were. I found  his paintings of angry seas emotionally accurate, dangerous mountains of water and foam. His early painting of Swiss mountain spirits were amusing and very appealing. Seems he made enough money selling post cards of these images to allow him to freelance and concentrate on his art. He was prolific; an artist I'd never heard of before. The trip back also had the Autobahn backed up. Once again we drove through the countryside and came home safe.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 6 to Aug 12 Edinburgh, Scotland.

Flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh Tuesday evening was great. Had a terrible time trying to use my new travelling phone on a bus that jounced all over the place. I couldn't make a connection and the bloody phone kept putting me back to square one so I had to start all over with tiny letters on a tiny phone ( shit!).  I took a taxi and found that, although I didn't  know it, it , the bloody phone, had rung and Hilary , who,  knowing it was me, drove to meet me. We passed somewhere. I rang the bell and Ian, her husband,  greeted me with a whiskey. They left early in the morning for Ian's Uncle's funeral in Southampton. We had porridge together at breakfast ;  I  fixed a chair, a carving and am working on a lawnmower. Lazy day, reading and putzing. Have to take the dog ut for a walk. He's a black lab named Czerny, which I believe is Czech for black.

 On Thursday night. Aug 8,  we, Hilary, Ian, and I went to see an excellent play " The Shawshank Redemption" an adaption from Stephen King's  novel. Great characters, scenery, lighting. Started at 5 pm and ran until 7:15. My bottom was telling me it was long, but my brain was involved. An impressive study of life in a brutal prison with a warden who acts as a  GOD and treats everyone, guards and prisioners, as his personal slaves. Afterwards we had superb lemon sole with samphire, a delicious seaweed sort of green spagehetti in a tiny French restaurant and then walked home from the center of the City. It was clear, soft sunshine and because we are far north, light until about 10:30 pm. The city IS heaving, streets clogged with people and entertainers, reminds me of Fasnacht, wide streets blocked and only for pedestrians, buskers everywhere, people handing out leaflets enjoining spectators to come to their event. I'm dog and cat sitting for the next week , as H & Ian are going away. It's great as it saves them boarding fees and they are glad to have someone looking after their place. Meanwhile, and around my dog and cat  responsibilities, I can discover Edinburgh.
Friday I experienced an hour of Japanese drumming today, by an English group called Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers who were mesmerizing. "Thundering rhythms on huge taiko drums, choreographed muscular synchronization timed to perfection".. My legs were tired from tapping. Some of the drums were as big as a closet, actually bigger, a dumpster.

I discovered my ancestor, Robert  Bryson has a building named after him at a college, now a University that he helped  found in 1830 something. I'm going to visit on Monday expecting red carpet treatment, tanatrala tantrala!!

I joined Ian for a Chinese dinner with a few of his friends, one a referee for the rugby league and a bit of a poker player, another who played the English version of"Who wants to be a Millionaire" and won 125,000 pounds. Hard drinkers, nice guys, good food.

Due to my close association with Czerny and "poop" , I've devised a device to catch turds when he craps on the street; a stiff coat hanger, bent and sprung to hold a common , small grocery plastic bag, open. When the dog begins to squat, you slip the open bag under his tail and, voila, turds drop into the bag. No fuss, no mess but , sometimes the dog moves away !! and so you still need to roll them into the bag.   Maybe my next million ?

Sunday I climbed Arthur's Seat a dramatic mountain just out the window of my ancient forbearer's place, on a glorious sunny, breezy day. Stunning views of Edinburgh and over to the west, the Firth of Forth; sailboats heeling, seagulls screaming and in the foreground, swaying, long green and tan grasses, interspersed with fireweed. Magic and right in the middle of the city! Hilary returned from an overnight at St Andrews and with Ian's help produced my first ( for this trip ) Steak and Kidney pie. As tasty as I remember washed down with a beer brewed at Herriot-Watt University called "Darwin" made by Two Scots, a Canuck and a guy from New Jersey. How about them apples?

Today, Hilary and Ian went to London for the week.  I didn't go to Herriot-Watt; instead I walked downtown again, about 2 miles, stopped at the Library of Scotland and was given precise information how I should proceed to discover my Edinburgh ancestors; go to the Scottish Peoples Museum. I  walked down the Royal mile to The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Hollyrood and saw that a special show about Leonardo : Mechanics of Man was on offer. 500 years ago he dissected people and drew almost as good, and in some cases better than those illustrated today, by X-rays, MRIs and CT scans. An interactive APP called Leonardo da Vinci Anatomy, with 250 drawings is on offer.

I then realized I was very near the graveyard of Robert Bryson: " The New Carlton Graveyard", actually about 200 yards from Hollyrood on the side of the hill rising to Princess Street. After a 1/2 hour search I found it, facing south, cleanly carved in pink marble. Two plaques on either side of the main one to Robert Bryson, "Clockmaker in Edinburgh for 50 years". Ironically the descendants who died later and had their names carved in the sandstone support have not faired as well; their names are fading. I'll go back and scratch them legible.  Marble is best for posterity. I took lots of photographs and will get to Scottish People's Museum and Herrioit-Watt maybe tomorrow?

 Czerny and I continue our experiment.  I'm getting quicker at noticing the moment and deftly place the "bagger" between his hind legs.  So far, so good. Gets a little awkward juggling the dog pulling on the lead, a full, hot bag, house keys and trying to open the door. Life is tough in the tropics !  All love and best wishes, Dad, Dadadski, Nick

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A day in Hawai'i, the Big Island, January 6, 2013

Yesterday we drove south to Hilo from the west Kona coast and then north towards Wiamea to connect with the saddle road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the 2 big volcanoes on the island. Hank, Marla, Niah, Heather and I piled into the rented Honda 7 seater with the idea we'd stay overnight with old friends from Alaska, living on the Hilo side.
The saddle road climbs to 6600 feet passing through a military area where there is a toilet.  The wind was blowing 50 mph. Note hair standing 90 degrees to H, M&N and driving away from the area, a fine dust filled the air and swirled down the highway like brown snow. 
At the top it's a moonscape which, going down the other side, changes to fringes of green grass and small hardy trees; then to ferns and forest and finally to full blown jungle, elephant ear leaves clinging to vines weaving around mango trees, milo, banyan;  from dust and wind to torrential rain; windshield wipers, full on. 
About an hour and a half into the drive we came into downtown Hilo, a ramshackle place of corrugated roofs , peeling paint in pastel colors. Great atmosphere.

We met our friends in an extraordinary Mexican restaurant. All  8 of us ate delicious meals for less than $70.! The Hilo farmer's market was just across the street including many stalls offering artist's handwork. Heather and Marla got stuck, for about 1/2 hour,  on a guy who happened to be a graphic artist and poet, selling soap. His work took a decidedly pornographic tilt. "Filthy Farmgirl" was his banner and naturally" Filthy" superseded the name of each of his many soaps. ( Bitch, Cock, Teacher, Ass etc..) He looked like Mark Twain in his straw hat and goat tee. The descriptions of each soap on the wrapper were very funny. He said, some people smelled the soap, others just bought it for the poetry (?)
It rained, heavily during the 2 hours we were in Hilo: twice while we were sheltered under tents in the market, once while in a Co-op Art Gallery, and once while in a Ukulele store. Between squalls, the sun blazed ;  Hilo weather, wait a few minutes and the weather's different.

Our AK friends, Tim, Cashell and Cassin their  4 year old son, made a delicious Northern California steak dinner. Afterwards, Cashell stayed home with the kids, while the rest of us drove the 30 miles to the rim of the volcano crater to watch it glow red - pink - red, casting color onto the night clouds above. It was cold, perhaps mid 50ies in 30 mile winds which the ranger said probably gave us the best view possible because the winds cleared out the hovering smoke. Above, the milky-way blazed between passing overcast. 

During the night it rained like 100 skeletons dancing on a tin roof. Nice to be cozy in a warm bed while outside was awash. Once it stopped the night chorus of tree frogs resumed, no volume control but lovely.

Today we awoke early to coffee,  buck wheat waffel cakes , peanut or cashew butter and Cashell's home-made jam. Minutes after eating we headed out in 2 cars to one of the most extraordinary beaches I've visited perhaps 20 miles from their house. Down a narrow road lined with a cathedral of towering trees where we had to yield to oncoming traffic because of the narrow parts.  Gnarled trees framed the ocean. 

12 to 16 foot waves curled offshore and broke into foam and rushing water to the delight of surfers and boogie boarders who caught them at great speed and ditched just before they ( the waves) smashed onto volcanic rocks. The air was a fine mist and smelled of the sea, fish, seaweed, wet stones, jungle;  exhilarating and archetypically Hawaiian. The ocean dragged stones back into the sea with a most satisfying rumble.

I wandered into the jungle and discovered a 20 foot diameter, hot pool with one guy, stretched out floating on his back , a Cheshire cat smile on his face. Niah put her feet in and said " OOOH , I want to go in." As you see, the pool filled quickly with family and friends.
Lunch was at a 20 acre Farmers market:  Thai chicken with hot peanut sauce, Mexican tacos and burritos, French crepes, Hawaiian BBQ Huli chicken, Greek something or other and more on offer, chased with Coconut milk and exotic popsicles. Many of the same sellers from the previous day in Hilo were present but now we knew their wares; 3 more T shirts, some books, tiger eye stone. I had a great conversation with an old guy who was a certified Tahitian drum maker carving  3 foot long , 3 to 6 " diameter Milo wood. It is a warm, pinkish wood which cuts cleanly without breaking or splitting. A favorite wood of carvers in NZ as well. He was probably my age, no teeth, but happy to be making these remarkable instruments. I  drummed, beat 'em up one side and down the other. Would have bought one but they weighed a ton.

We left Tim, Cashell and Cassin in the parking lot in another downpour and returned via the west coast through Wiamea stopping at Asaka Falls, a 400 foot high cascade up a twisty mountain road. Sadly... it was raining, ( surprise!), so we didn't hike the 45 minutes to the plunge pool. A brief stop at the Parker Ranch Mall for a pee and ice cream and then back over the Mamalahoe Highway in fading sunlight to Kailua-Kona where we began 36 hours ago. Trudy and Larry had prepared a supper of Alaskan boar chops, sweet potatoes and salad. Another super Hawaiian day.!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Last Day in NZ, April 6th

The “Walk About” chronology has been turned up-side down. My last blog was Feb 7th. Since then, every day, in the last two months, has been full; 9 am to 10:30 PM (or later), when I’ve fallen into bed, pleased and exhausted. On my off days, I caught up on chores; washed clothes, wrote PC’s, and usually felt that writing any more would be a chore. (As you know, my bursts of enthusiasm are rarely short).

I’ll start this one with my last day in NZ, (April 6th), when Neil and I drove to Piha (pronounced Pee Ha), on the Pacific Coast 40 km from downtown Auckland. He picked me up at 7:30 am and we sliced west across suburban Auckland. He drives like an eel, slipping quickly, easily into tiny spaces, rarely using the brakes. In ¾ of an hour we had reached a twisty, dirt road at the edge of the jungle and drove upwards to the spine of the Waitakere mountain range. Neil’s car is a 2000 Mazda with both automatic and manual gear shift which actually is pretty cool as with a flick of the gear shift you move from one to the other; once in manual, to change gears, a tap backwards lowers, forward, raises the gear. This is incredibly helpful on tight, steep curves, where a lower gear keeps the car at a safe speed. Arriving faster than expected we “s” turned down the other side of the mountain heading for a place called Whatipu which 80 years ago was the terminal pier of an amazing mountain tramway responsible for moving millions of board feet of Kauri timber from the Piha forests , ( 30 miles north, along, up and over a spectacular cliff/shore coast.)

The track has been gone for 50 years but the overhanging rocks at the beach still show where the rails ran; some rail connected to a few broken timbers under the incoming tide. It was cold, blowing hard and threatened rain as we walked over the black dunes approaching a blustery surf. The sea grass tendrils snaked over the path like cords. Had to watch my step or get flipped. Neil thoughtfully lent me a pair of open toed “swamp” shoes so I wouldn’t soak my only pair of shoes, my desert boots, a day before leaving NZ. I wore my jazzy, pin stripe, synthetic, long pants (which seem out of place in these conditions but they’re comfortable, don’t show the dirt and dry quickly.) We both soon slipped into our wind breakers. The shoreline was deserted, a raw wind blowing the foam backwards off the waves and surf crashing onto black volcanic sand; a wild place with whispers of days past. Imagine logs 15 to 20 feet in DIAMETER, each lashed, overhanging it's own 39' flat car, trundled into the sea, floated off, and then tied to an expanding boom to be transported by steam ship 50 miles to the Auckland docks. Wish I’d seen it.

After-wards, we breakfasted in the sunshine at a tiny general store on the shore of Huia with tables fronting a stunning bay surrounded by towering cliffs. From there we went to the DOC center, (Dept of Conservation), built on the edge of a cliff and surrounded by a wooden deck jutting out into open space, 1500 feet higher than our breakfast place.

We were in awe, an incredible view looking down on silver fern, the mouth of the bay, and in the distance Whatipu. Forty feet below the deck, on the sloping forest floor, a 30 year old Kauri had grown; the top crown now breasted the decking we stood on. The trunk was clean, silver grey for the first 25 feet and then there were nubs of vanishing branches below the crown of leaves. This tree cleans itself as it grows, the ultimate carpenter’s dream, no knots in pure lumber. To the early New Zealanders, 1880-1910, this tree was as good as gold, the backbone of a thriving timber industry, Kauri was exported all over the world.

The DOC center was immaculate, well laid out and the information provided about the Kauri Tramway, most helpful. An illustration clarified how these giant logs were moved from Piha over an 1800 foot mountain and down the other side to Karekare where a horizontal track along the shoreline and through tunnels delivered them to Whatipu. (Supposedly the name was given to the place by a Maori chief. It doesn’t mean he relieved himself; something to do with dramatic crashing surf ??)

Karekare is in a valley with a small river cutting through 75’ high sand dunes guarding the beach and is about ½ way between Piha and Whatipu. We crossed the stream and passed beneath a forest of Pohutukawa trees with their giant twisted branches before coming onto the beach where Neil had planned to walk south towards Whatipu. As the tides were ebbing, a fairly wide stretch of black beach was available. We passed a place where he remembered, not 10 years ago, a cable attached to the cliff to allow folks to pass safely at high tide. Most of that path had eroded, the cable limply hanging; it would have been a hairy crossing as the trail was, perhaps, a foot wide and a slip would cause a 30 foot, backbreaking drop to the stones below. It was still windy but the sun warmed the black sand and us and our jackets came off. A three foot high cairn on the beach was a reminder of quick fogs and sudden rough weather; we continued on, hugging the coast.

The vertical cliffs clearly illustrating the incredible volcanic forces of the past; “S” shaped rock seams melding with giant inverted “U”s, all above midnight black, igneous sand. We searched for a train tunnel somewhere in the cliff face without success. (Later we saw a map showing we had not gone close enough to the cliff to find it.) The sand dunes turned into shoulder high reeds, cut grass and bog. Sometimes we had to backtrack as a path dead-ended or brought us to a sheer drop into the sea. After about an hour moving south we turned back because our path was blocked by a wide river and our time was short. We heard the sound of the surf and “bog whacked” towards it. Pairs of Paradise ducks, the female with a white, the male a black head greeted us with a whistling yodel. They supposedly pair for life and if one dies, the other partner pines away. A frightened pair flew over a 200 yard open stretch of water. It appeared shallow so Neil waded in, to check out the depth. When I saw it was only mid thigh, I rolled up my pants and followed. Once across, we squished onto the beach and started back to Karekare and our parked car. Great rollers were smashing onto the beach leaving mounds of 10 inch high, frothy white foam.

The 30 mph onshore wind blew the foam across the black sand, which appeared like white crabs, twisting and turning, intact until, in 100 feet or so they hit dry sand and vanished, sanded to death. Never saw such a thing before so I took a video.

Driving out of Karekare valley required 15 minutes of 1st gear ; the road going up a grade that was a steady 30 degrees. We reached the spine of the mountain range turned north and headed to Piha, one of the best surfing beaches on the west coast.

An overlook high on the road gave a panoramic view of a mile long curved beach with Lion rock, centered and looking out to sea. Our road down to Piha was as twisty and steep as the previous two. Neil had hoped to show me a “blow hole” where ocean waves are forced under overhanging rock and gushers of water explode into the air.

We scrambled under over hanging cliffs to reach an impassable point where the returning tide blocked our way. The curious thing about this place; every rock or stone or pebble was glued to the cliff, even though they were 30” in diameter or hundreds of pounds and 90 percent of the bolder/rock/pebble were exposed. The smaller ones on the cliff face seemed like hand holds in a climbing gym, screwed and crazy glued to the wall. Even those directly under the cliff on the shore ,(which one would think would be loose because they had eroded off), were tight as a tick, couldn’t find even ONE to scavenge as a souvenir.

This place is obviously a surfer’s hideaway with every kind of lodging from sumptuous to lean-to and lots of tattooed dudes with boards. Today, in 6 hours we beach hopped to 3 beaches. Each was completely different from the other and as usual we got a lot of “trekking” under varying climatic conditions. New Zealand regularly offers 4 seasons a day. We drove back to Pakarunga in less time than it took as we returned after rush hour, stopped at the RSA, (Retired Serviceman’s Assoc), to debrief over a few jugs of Tui beer.

Lesson learned, over and over, don’t let what appears to be lousy weather in the morning intimidate you to change your plans, persevere, do what you planned, as in New Zealand it will most likely turn out fine. Neil and I had an emotional farewell, we’d happily traveled together, on and off for 7 weeks, consequently, distracted I left my fleece jacket on the back sea of his car, (which he happily delivered next day just before I left for the airport). Rose and Gordon had created a delicious curry for my last supper. I spent some time checking the couch surfing blog to see whether a host in Honolulu had responded to my request for a bed. No luck... but another super day. I fell into a pleased, exhausted sleep.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tsunami fishing weekend - March 12-13 2011

Phenomenal.. we happened to be at the one spot in NZ where the Tsunami came ashore. Port Charles on the Coramandel. Friday we had heard about the tragedy in Japan. Awoke early Saturday, 6am to see what that meant for us, lodged in a "Batch",( summer home), on the shoreline of a funnel bay. As we ate our breakfast some of us wandered out under massive Norfolk Pines to see what appeared to be a one meter bore coming towards us. ( Like the one in Turn Around Bay in Alaska ). It struck the shore to the left of the bay and bounced into the right hand corner, swept past where we were standing, filling the bay way above the high tide line of previous days, a roaring river of brown water traversing and parallel to the shore line. Bloody Hell ! Huge logs went past at about 10 mph ; then , it slowed down , went slack and all went back, perhaps a 1/2 mile, leaving fish flapping in small pools. The Mauri family staying with us immediately jumped into the bay and started catching fish, picking up cockles and oysters but there was a lot of concern as it was obvious that another surge was building. " Get outa" thir, it's chenging, it's dengerous!" Every 9 minutes for the next 3 hours the tide changed from full to absolute slack. Our first wave came at dead low tide. Probably saved us from what happened later at full high tide.

After watching 10 tide comings and goings we felt reasonably unconcerned that the tsunami was going to have any negative effect as, so far, nothing serious had happened. We, Neil, Graham, Graeme and I, went surf fishing in Sandy bay, a half hour drive over a mountain where really funny things happened. Graham cast a normal 30 yards and Neil, quickly walked out as the tide receded, to tell him that there were no fish on his hook. He stood in 8" of water. Graham ran towards Neil, cast again and then again before he started to back pedal to keep out of the water of the incoming tide. When he reached the beach, his line was 200 yards out in deep water! Then the tide went out and his hook was lying 200 yards out on wet ground. Completely nuts. Shore casting didn't work so we decided to drop a long line , hooks on meter centers. Graham prepared to take a kayak out trolling as he drew the line off the beach . He placed the boat in the water, arraigned the fishing rods in the holders, began to sit down; but by this time the water was 10 meters into the bay. He was sitting in a boat on a sandy beach watching the water disappear. We roared with laughter! " How you going to paddle that boat?" He eventually got it in the water about 50 meters from the shore. The rest of us tied bait and slowly released the line as Graham paddled out. He succeeded but when we pulled in the line a half hour later, every hook was shiny clean. We surmised, tiny fish stripped the bait; the bigger ones had left for the ocean.

Screw it, we decided to go back to our beach. Neil parked in the shade under the pines, ( 3-4 feet above the road surface parallel to the beach and 6 - 8 feet above the normal high tide mark). I was in swim trucks, barefoot , and started picking up new bits of drift wood delivered to the beach by the last wave. Other people watching the bay started making warning sounds. " It's bigger and really moving. Holy shit, look what's happening in the bay, the water's boiling". I had left a towel hanging on a stump just off the grassy bank which moments before had been 2 meters above the surging water. By the time I had taken 3 steps and grabbed the towel, the water was mid calf and debris was pushing against my legs. Someone shouted " Git the cahs outta thir", meaning the depression in front of the Batch. I sloshed/ran through the house into the back yard towards the tent to strip and save the bedding and place it on a woodpile ( which fortunately didn't float off ) and stuffed " chilly bins" , portable ice boxes under the tent floor so it wouldn't be flooded. As I got the last mattress out, a 2 foot high surge of water rounded the corner of the house and instantly filled the backyard. Most of the cars made it up the road to high land. One, to which no keys were available, flooded to the seats. A farmer offered us his pasture for the night and, lock, stock and barrel, 18 people moved to a site, 400 feet above the bay; Tsunami survivors in a meadow filled with cow flaps, no worse for the experience besides lots of wet gear, ( which dried out under a moonless night in the starlight of the milky way.)

As the weekend came to a close, I thanked my hosts for putting on one of the best weekends ever; "you really didn't need to go to so much trouble. The food, drink and company were fine; The Tsunami was " over the top" .

We found out later that almost no other place on the North Island was affected. Love and All best wishes, Nick, Dad, dadadski

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New Zealand Feb 7 – 8

Returned to Pakuranga where Allan had made a delicious curry dinner. Met Neil at the RSA and agreed to leave for Piahia (“ pie here” but the r is silent) 350 km north, next morning at 10.

At Waipu a tiny town of 200 was a museum describing the longest migration to NZ of Scots through Nova Scotia 1832 to Australia 1834, and finally to Waipu 1836 where they settled and flourished. They brought tools and skills learned in the NS boat building and lumber industries and applied them to the incredible timber available in NZ.

We spent the next 2 nights in the “ Pickled Parrot” Backpackers lodge; bunk beds, noisy, hot, mosquitoes and snoring. Didn’t bother me at all but, Neil found a motel owner willing to rent at ½ price ( the season had been very slow and ½ was better than 0 ), so we moved into a kitchenette with separate beds and a swimming pool for $25 more a night than the Backpackers!

I wandered about this highly touristic town. High speed boats, sailing cruises with dolphins thrown in, a trip to the 90 mile beach, jumping out of airplanes, the highest paraglide behind a boat and so on. I beach combed and then saw a fair on the meadow designed to sell stuff to cruise ship passengers. First guy I talked to was a bowl turner and my virgin intro to Ancient KAURI a most extraordinary wood. It is usually mined ! 40-50,000 years ago by carbon dating an immense Tsunami felled standing Kauri , many 3 – 4000 years old at the time, all in one direction and silt deposit buried these immense trees. The pitch or GUM these trees produce will preserve them almost indefinitely so the wood is workable in anyway lumber can be used. These trees grow to be 40 feet in diameter and 90 feet to their crown. They shed their limbs leaving no knots; the ultimate carpenter’s dream. When the British came here they had just lost America and their source for the timber need to build masts for their navy. Kauri represented an incredible resource and may have been one of the deciding factors to colonize New Zealand and a treaty with the Maori in 1840. Anyway, ancient kauri, specially the roots which have so much fire and chatoyancie ( the way the grain reflects light, like tiger eye), from deep brown of red and orange, naturally excites any wood worker like me.

Back to the fair: the bowls turned in NZ are much heavier than those of Hawaii, more substantial, with a robust heft that makes one feel it will last forever. Of course, the turner looks for Chatoyancie and like a water color painter, stops at the right moment which is so crucial to the beauty of the piece. He also sand blasted designs onto flat sections of highly polished wood. Very effective. This wood is orgasmic! The highlight of my NZ trip has been meeting carvers and woodworkers. More later...

In the same art fair, I noticed hedgehogs made with folded paper and a lady who was creating paintings using white glue to hold sand or broken shells in bold, Maori patterns. Probably uses a profile cut out, of which she has 100’s. She also centered a Paua shell into 2” deep frame and I saw where another inspiration for Maori tattoos.

Neil suggested that I walk from Hururua falls to the Treaty meeting ground. My first walk in a NZ jungle! I was struck by the beauty of the ferns both in their live and dead forms and especially the Koru, the one with a giant fiddlehead surrounding tiny heads within; “a wheel within a wheel a turning”. Although the symbol of this fern is everywhere in Maori carving and culture, I still haven’t found one carved to exactly represent it. I guess I’ll have a go. The walk took me alone , along the river’s edge. Some cliff overlooks dropped, completely unprotected, to the water, 50-70 feet below. I walked on through forests of fern and giant Pahootakawa trees (another favorite tree found at the steep sea shore edge; it has amazing thick branches, twists and turns and the old boat builders found them to be ideal for crooks, bows or any place great strength at funny angles was required). The trail came down to a mangrove forest, quite different from Florida’s. Separate trees growing 10 to 15 feet apart, in standing water with hundreds of coral-like, 6 to 8 inch long nubs of new growth, sticking up from the swamp floor. I stood for a while on a bridge and noticed a swirl. I focused and saw what had earlier been described as a “Tiger” trout, a fish the shape and size of trout, but with slashed yellow claw marks top to bottom on a transparent, nearly watercolored fish. Hard to see them. Wish I had my fly rod with me.

The trail was only 6km long but it took me nearly 3 hours for all my stopping and playing. I whittled, photographed, had a quick skinny dip, and finally made it to the Waitangi Treaty grounds. Great views of the Bay of Islands, a stupendous Maori war canoe, made of three hollowed out pieces of Totara, stitched together with vine and glued with Kaori gum. Bow and stern carved in traditional geometric style. The place where the 1840 treaty was signed was pre-fabricated in Australia, a fairly normal English house with lovely flower gardens and a well laid out vegetable garden (10 acres or so). The Maori Lodges (a marae), is more recent and the interior has specific carvings panels, 12 feet high, 2 wide representing 16 of the separate tribes (the Maori were very well represented by the treaty which gave them rights to their traditions and traditional lands. From what I gather, they feel that the Europeans took their land from them, the Europeans contend that, had colonization not happened, the Maori were doomed to the fate of the Christmas Islanders. They had used up all the countries resources and had resorted to cannibalism, eating each other for food). I have been tangentially immersed in Maori culture since I arrived as there is a Maori TV station, they are everywhere in modern society and most museums seem to concentrate on educating the traveler with Maori legends and history.

The next 2 days were spent doing touristy things. First day was “Swim with the Dolphins” , 2nd day “ The 90 mile beach, sand surfing, Cape Reinga, The Gum Museum and a store called “Ancient Kaori”. The first was on a wet day and visibility was limited. We found a pod of 50 or 60 dolphins frolicking about and were told we could not swim with them as there were babies present. ( This is most of the time so the claim to swim is mostly bs and promotional). The second day started at 7am and returned to Piahia about 13 hours later. We drove about 500 km in a fairly comfortable bus; normal routine, on the bus for an hour, 20 minutes off.

The 90 mile beach was actually 64 as it had been estimated by someone in the 1800’s and the name has stuck. Tide tables must be considered as the beach vanishes in high tides and many vehicles have been drowned if the driver miscalculates. Interesting for the first few minutes. Reminded me of flying the trike 5’ off the sand in Portugal but, of course, we were inside a modern bus, no wind and lots of people. As we left the beach we stopped at an immense 1000 foot high sand dune where the riders were offered the chance to body board. Single file they ( not me) followed the bus driver, a young guy full of beans, to the top and chucked themselves down a 45 degree slope. Some came off and had to chase their lightweight boards across the slope. I believe that a few managed to make 3 runs before re-boarding. Sweaty work.

Cape Reinga , the most northern point of NZ has an ancient lighthouse. It is also the place the Maori believe their souls leave to return to their legendary Hawakii, from whence they originated. Very dramatic coastline plunging 1000’s of feet to a snarling ocean. Great ocean wind on a sunny clear day. One has to be careful as NZ’s ozone offers much thinner protection than say, Hawaii. I thought I had a good tan, but in 1 hour of NZ sun, I felt as though I’d been too close to a furnace.

Our return took us to the Gumdigger’s Museum, a place where Slovenians mined the Kauri gum to be used for turpentine and various other shellacs. Extremely hard work as the trees had to be “discovered or felt” with long iron rods poking into the ground. Then they would dig down and along the trunk in hopes of finding the gum , ( like sap from pine trees, except, if they were lucky, in very large quantities.) The last generation of gum diggers realized the dynamite was quicker and the fastest of their family, a young girl, set the fuse and ran. Gum is no longer in demand as synthetic finishes have replaced it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

New Zealand Feb 2 to Feb 6th, 2011

My flight to Auckland was uneventful; 9 hours starting at 9:45 pm Jan 31 and arriving in NZ at 5:30am Feb 2nd. Can’t figure what happened to Feb 1; something about International Dateline.
My ears were completely plugged, no pain , just like being in the bottom of a well so I spoke softly to people who universally said, “ Scuse mi”, and I had a hard time understanding the Kiwi vowel shift where an a becomes an e, an e becomes I ,and so on. Caught an express bus/taxi which combines folks going into Auckland. I reserved a hotel room but, as I arrived at 9:30am ( felt much later to me, I‘d been awake for 22 hrs), my room would not be available until 2 pm. I left my gear in an unlocked room with LARGE signs indicating one did so AT YOUR OWN RISK and went out to explore the city. My hotel was more or less at the top of a mountain and thus walking downtown was literally down Queen Street at about a 30 degree slope. Easy going. First place I visited was the Theatre complex, a bit like Lincoln Centre, with a large open square and benches ideal for people watching ; an Opera House, a Theatre and cinemas. I met a Maori guy with dreads and a face of geometric tattoos who asked what I was doing there. When I told him I was interested in volunteering to work in any theatre he shook my hand and said, “ Good on ya” and than strode away.
Fast food restaurants of every Nationality are cheek by jowl all the way down Queen Street. Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Polynesian, MacDonald’s, Wendy’s etc.. I was woozy and trying to stay awake, time seemed to have stopped. I struggled up Queen, my heart drumming in my ears until I got to the top, a cross street which everybody call “K” street it’s name is 15 letter long and unpronounceable. Thankfully it was fairly flat. I found a restaurant overlooking a canyon, Muir Park, which at the turn of the last century had been a slum and shanty town. The city purchased the land and made a grass and tree covered space; if it had been covered with snow, would have been a black diamond run. City is nearly vertical. I had a “belly buster” breakfast which tasted of nothing. Don’t mean to knock the Kiwi’s but their food has no imagination. The coffee was excellent.
I got back to the hotel early, hoping I could get into my room. No luck. Sat drowsily in the sun in an open courtyard until I was collected by a lovely Indian girl who showed me my room. I was unexpectedly surprised as it was lovely, a spacious kitchenette with adjoining living room and bedroom on the 11th floor, a spectacular view, uphill, to University buildings. The hotel was filled with many nationalities; seems typical of the city as I heard varieties of language that were new to me. Took a shower and fell into a deep sleep until about 6pm.
Walked DOWN town again but this time to the gorgeous harbour. Sail, power and fishing boats everywhere confirming the claim “ City of Sails”. The architecture is fascinating, a jumble of different styles which, for me, harmonize to produce one of the most lovely cities I’ve visited. The use of colour in the glass office buildings is dramatic; vertical shapes that curve with roofs that hang over like sweeping Victorian ladies hats. All sorts of levels and heights, the history of building from Edwardian sandstone structures to modern and in between, huge billboards of surfers advertising Coca Cola. Sprinkled around are sculptures. Other than the breath stopping hills, ( steeper than San Francisco’s ), it’s a most appealing place.
The hotel was booked solid the next night so I cast around to find a Youth Hostel, just up a 60 degree street. Whew! I dragged my suitcase up the hill stopping to rest it at each parked car by leaning it against the back bumper and waiting until my pulse dropped below 90. YHA is a backpacker hotel offering inexpensive lodging all over NZ. I checked in and then went looking for a Network Café to check e-mail and see if I had any positive response to my couch surfing requests.
Yeah! Rose Wang and Gordon Hill said, “ The house is full, but please come if you enjoy a crowd” I caught the number 50 bus to Pakarunga and was dropped just outside “Cascades Motel”. 11 Hamsey street was nowhere about until the Motel owner got out his A to Z(ed) and found it on the other side of small park. I was warmly welcomed and introduced to 3 Check Slovakians ,( Zed, Anna, Peter), 1 German ( Alec), 2 Slovenians( Anna, Mejec), Allan Martin a NZer working for DHL and a resident tenant and of course my hosts, Rose and Gordon who is soon to be 65. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Columbia in the late 60ies, is widely educated in entomology, biology ,botany and specialized in everything TURF for golf course, parks and residential landscaping. Rose is from Taiwan, a Buddhist with a core belief that she was put on earth to help and enjoy other people. Both seem to welcome any chance to make travellers lives’ easier, sharing meals, driving to buses or harbours , showing them the sights in the neighbourhood. Peter, one Check guy was ripped off by a garage who said they would fix his vehicle, took payment and then refused to do so and further , knowing he was under a time constraint, would not return his money or the vehicle. Gordon immediately contacted the Consumer Agency responsible for business practices on Peter’s behalf.
I was supposed to bunk in with Alec, but as he had just arrived from Kuala Lumpur and was sick, it was decided I should sleep in a tent on the back lawn. Everyone pitched in and I got a lovely big space ; when the rain started, a soothing drumming sent me to sleep. About 5 am Kui Kui birds woke me with their melodious song, curiously interspersed with frog croaks. Gorgeous flowing tones and then “greeckk”; emanating from a bluish black bird the size of an American Robin.
Unlike Robert in Hilo, HI who had a “Groceries” donation glass jar, Rose & Gordon ,( R&G), expected each guest to bring their own food. No matter, Anna & Mejec made a huge breakfast and everyone was invited. Gordon & I went to pick Tatiana up from a bus stop; from Grenoble, she had brought her kite surfing rig which fitted between us in the middle of the car. As Anna & Mejec were leaving that day to look for work, Tatiana got the couch. The Checks were sleeping in a mini-van in the driveway.
Friday evening, Alan invited us all to the RSA ( Returning Servicemen Association) for an evening of drink, dancing and dinner. The hall was filled with ex-military guys, some watching rugby on a large flat screen, others chatting and, once the 3 piece band started, dancing to mostly golden oldies, American 50ies music. Sorry to say, dinner was tasteless. A carver-y of roast beef, pork, Yorkshire pud, carrots, spuds, cauliflower all without any spices; however, the desserts were excellent. Seems the chef is a pastry man.
I was introduces to Neil Armstrong, not the first man on the moon but rather a guy soliciting funds for a colon cancer charity. During our chat he mentioned that he was driving to Piahia ( pronounce Piehere, the r being silent), the Northland on Monday and if I’d like to join him I could see a lot of this country while he called on prospects.
I offered to pay for lodging during the trip, he agreed he’d pay for gas. We both agreed that we’d look for backpacker type accommodation; as he said, “ I can’t afford jazzy places collecting money for a charity”.
A full blown Sculpture Tour along a portion of Waiheke island was on offer Sunday and everyone at R&G’s place decided to follow me there. 7 of us caught the 45 minute ferry ride from Half Moon Bay to Kennedy Point, the a 20 minute bus ride to the starting point of the Sculpture trek around the coast. About 40 sculptures were placed in, on, down and around the steeply banked coastline.( Not dissimilar to Scotland’s craggy shores). I laughed at one entry ; profile, full-sized, photographic cut-outs of naked human figures scattered in the meadows, picking berries behind bushes and down to the beach; a virtual nudist colony. Another reminded me of Galsworthy’s work, his “s” shaped brick wall through oak woods; this one was a double “W” of split firewood logs, horizontally cabled together 8 to 10 feet high; leaning left and right to make an unsteady, drunken wall. It was probably 90 feet long and , naturally had people photographing each other doing the “leaning tower of Pizza” routine, holding up the tumbling pile.
A very beautiful “O” sculpture of polished granite stone , 7 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, had two holes cut into it. The holes were knapped to create a contrasting texture. It was called “Anchor stone” and sold for $22,000NZ. Gordon & I lost the rest of the gang somewhere on the tour. No matter, we walked back to Oneroa (ohney rowa) and I checked out galleries. Two wood carvers lived in the neighbourhood. I took their names and planned to get in touch. John Freeman had lots of Kauri and some of his excellent work was on display. He had carved a frontal nude in elm; the grain followed the curves beautifully. The weather was crystal clear , blue skies contrasting azure water and sailboats filled the harbours. Super day!
That night I met Neil again at the RSA club He had written out an itinerary of the next 5 days with suggestions of places I might like to visit on the trip. Whoee! North to Cape Reinge the most northerly point of NZ.
Still to come: 5 days in the Northland with Neil
Carving with at the Arts Factory
Fly fishing in the Tongariro River with
The Tongariro Alpine crossing. 19.4 km trek over 3 volcanoes.
Love and All best wishes, Dad, Nick Dadadski