Beach bums!

Back to work and school after a short break at the ocean. Wow! We headed up to the Coromandel over the Easter holidays – just a 5 day break here as there are 4 equal (ish) length school terms. Great to have an extended weekend in the middle of the term though. We went straight up to Cook’s Beach on Thursday after work and put up the tent in the dark! Went to bed with the Morepork serenading us and the trill of cicadas ringing in our ears! After a relaxed start to the day we went off to the beach where we had an idyllic time body boarding, diving through the waves and generally doing what you do on a beach. Gus - a job well done!The Nigel - soaking up the sun(burn)!weather was glorious and Nigel ended up looking a bit like a lobster by the end of the day despite having slopped sun block all over whereas Lachlan just looks even more like a native! (Pleased to say that the redness has gone down and Nige is looking a healthy brown now!) Cook’s Bay is holiday home mecca – most of the people we have met in Hamilton have a “Bach” somewhere along the Coromandel coast – there are some fantastic properties and loads of sections being developed for sale. However there are also some very simple almost caravan type baches – just a place to sleep in between sailing and surfing. Very tempting!

Flaxmill BayOn Saturday we decided to try Flaxmill Bay – just 5 mins North of Cook’s Beach. The boys were initially disappointed as itNigel and Gus is a much more sheltered bay with little in the way of surf. However we planted ourselves by the stream flowing into the sea by the cliff edge and found we could wade out and round a corner to some large rocks and little bays. It really was beautiful and we could swim/wade through the channels between the large rocks and explore. It was a bit like above ground caving! The boys decided that it was a great adventure and had a lovely time pottering about. I went back for the camera and Aonghas persuaded Nigel to come too as you could wade most of it! The tide was going out fast and the water was barely knee deep most of the way by now. What a lovely place to swim and relax and just nose around!

Blues FestIn the evening we went over to Whitianga on the ferry from Ferry Landing to go to the Blues Festival. We had read on the website that no “professional” cameras were allowed so didn’t take the SLR and big lens, it also stated that no food or drink was to be taken into the area as there would be traders. However nobody checked our bags and then we found out that you had to buy tokens for beer and you had to buy a minimum of ten tokens at $3 each! (it cost 1 token for a beer!) Since we had to drive back we were a bit disgruntled that you couldn’t buy single units. Anyway it transpired that the beer came in cans so we decided that whatever we didn’t drink we could take back with us! Found some food – not a wide choice but it kept the boys happy and settled down to listen to some music. Keb Mo was playing on the main stage when we arrived and he was pretty good. He was followed by KT Tunstall who was great – very natural, and Aonghas was amazed that someone he has heard on a CD actually exists as a real person and he just stood and watched in awe! He joined in all the songs he knew singing loudly and enthusiastically. There was a bit of a wait then as the stage was rearranged for Ian Brown, by this time it was nearly 10pm and the boys were getting tired. They both curled up and went to sleep during what personally I thought was a pretty uninspiring set. Buddy Guy was the main reason we had decided we had to go up to the Coromandel this weekend and it was well worth the wait. He eventually came on stage at 11 o’clock -ish and just blew everyone away. Awesome! We woke the boys up and though still sleepy they enjoyed the music and the performance too. I tried to take some video with sound with my mobile phone – you get an idea of the atmosphere but the quality is pretty bad! What an amazing guy, so much energy and stage presence and just sheer skill. His “duels” with the pianist were exceptional and being able to see it on a big screen as well as on the stage meant that you could see all his facial expressions and the fingerwork on the piano. At the end of the show we made our way back through the throng to get the shuttle bus to the ferry and finally got back to the tent in the early hours tired but happy!

The weather turned overnight and Sunday was a bit cooler and cloudier, a few showers broke the day up so we took advantage of the change in temperature to go for a bit of a walk. We went back to Flaxmill Bay to walk over Shakespeare Cliff. Where there’s a trig point …..A pleasant walk through the bush up to a vantage point marked with a trig point and a stone marking the landing of Captain Cook in HMS Endeavour. We then walked down a track to the beautiful Lonely Bay. An isolated little sandy crescent shaped beach with huge rocks, rock pools, sea caves and arches. A brilliant place to explore; we paddled in the sea, climbed over and through rocks, swung on tree branches, explored the rock pools and the caves and I delighted in the array of shells which abounded. I spent quite a long time rearranging shells, seaweed and pebbles to create Goldsworthy-esque pictures in the sand – very satisfying!

Lonely BayLachlan testing himselfNigel - Lonely Bayshells!crab!my own little monkeys!

Then I realised that the boys and Nigel had disappeared so chased after them to the rock pools where I was startled by the scurrying and scuttling of a couple of large red crabs! Managed to get a couple of shots of them and then realised that they were everywhere! They were being washed into the spaces under the rocks by the sea and then finding their way into the crevices ntil the tide came back in to let them back out to sea. Caught up with the boys and told them what I’d found and we all went back to be fascinated by them – all sizes from tiny little ones to others twice the size of your hand! Some had yellow spots and some were red and some had stripes – really beautiful!

Once back at the car we decided to go for a coffee in a cafe called Eggcentric – it had a good write up in the Rough Guide. Lovely cakes and as the book said a quirky setting – some impressive sculptures decorate the gardens and the restaurant itself but we weren’t impressed with the service. To be fair we arrived as they were setting up for the evening session (about 5pm) but it was no excuse for their rather rude and unfriendly manner. Probably won’t go back!

We packed up on Monday morning and set off for home stopping on the way at a place called Onemana. Very posh holiday home spot – we’d decided on there because Nigel had seen some photos on Flickr with that tag and thought it looked nice. Turned out the photos he’d seen were of another beach just down the coast from there! Nevertheless we had a pleasant sea bird - to be identified!afternoon playing in the sea – big waves and quite a strong current. There was only a small area which was safe to swim in as there is a dangerous rip. The murk of the morning had passed and once again we basked in the sunshine. Whilst we were enjoying playing in the ocean Nigel went for a stroll along the beach and took some brilliant pictures of the sea birds. When the boys tired of the sea they dug a castle with impressive sea defences to keep the encroaching waves out! It didn’t last though – another lesson learnt about the power of nature!

Back to the realities of everyday life unpacking more boxes and work. I have an interview for a Maternity leave job in about an hour’s time so I guess I’d better go and get ready! Booked in for relief work for the next two weeks at the same school so no time to sit around ….. tum te tum! (Tiddle I po… as Winnie ther Pooh would say!)

P.S. Got the job!

Car

Spent another Saturday searching for a car. Not our favourite activity at all 😦

Anne had gone round some yards during the week and had found one with a reasonable selection of stuff and a guy running it who seemed OK (well for a car salesman anyway!)

The problem when there is a wide choice is it makes it harder to choose – bit of a paradox really! We had gone with the intention of driving some Mazda MPVs and Honda Odysseys and had done a fair bit of online research as to what years etc to go for. After climbing through various ones, sitting in seats, working how the back seats rearranged themselves, we ended up taking out a Toyota Estima! Fortunately we had also researched this, just hadn’t come across any on our previous weeks foray round the yards. The Estima seemed to have more room all round and a reasonable seating arrangement.

Like lots of the car yards, this one had two other sites within 2 or 3 miles (there are lots of car yards in Hamilton) so we went for a drive over to one of them to see what else might be available. We weren’t too happy with the Estima as it seemed to pull to the side a bit and was a bit ‘used’ inside. At the second yard, however, was another Estima, slightly different model, slightly older but $2000 cheaper. Decided to take that for a spin to compare with the one that we had just driven. This second one was much better, no pulling, tidy inside, even has electric curtains!!

Had a good drive about in this and by the end were happy to sign the dotted line. Most second hand cars go in for an AA service before purchase so ours was booked in for Monday. Main note from the examiner was that the air conditioner fan was a bit noisy! Our new car!This was at the end of Monday when the guy from the yard phoned up. He arranged to come and pick Anne up on Tuesday morning (today), took her to the bank to get a cheque and then to pick the car up. It’s now sitting in the drive so Hooray! we can drive off somewhere this weekend.

Sunday

Took taxis, buses, trains and then a 5.4km cable car ride up to see the “Big Buddha” – very touristy but, hey, why not? This is supposedly the largest seated Buddha in the world and yes, it is big! We sampled the “delights” of the Buddhist vegetarian food in the Monastery. As the Chinese New Year is soon upon us, the monastery was busy with people giving thanks for the year past. Huge incense burners smoked everywhere – you could buy incense ‘sticks’ 6 inches across and 3 or 4 foot long!

Had a demonstration of the proper way to make Chinese tea. Think it explains why I was never too impressed in the past when I had bought some and tried to make it pretty much in the western fashion.

Saturday

Went in the funicular up Mount Victoria. Pretty hazy unfortunately but still the views were impressive – especially the building that was still as tall as we were most of the way up the hill.

Came back and toured round Kowloon. Every time we went out Nigel was harangued by Chinese tailors offering to make him a suit – not sure what that says about his style – but it became a bit of a joke, especially to Lachlan who found it highly amusing!

Friday

Besides the stunning skyline, there is so much jammed in between the buildings roads, tramways, elevated roads, elevated walkways, huge escalators. It’s actually possible to get about on the island. without hitting the roads at all. Saw all the sights in Hong Kong, the boys loved it as we travelled by Star ferry Star Ferry across the harbour and then rode the tram from one end of the line to the other. Wandered about shops on the island and jostled our way through the melee of people in the narrow streets – the noise of street vendors, car horns, mobile phones ringing, the smells of street corner food stalls, the bright colours of the neon signs and shop displays as well as all the Chinese New Year decorations everywhere was quite overwhelming but also exciting.

Thursday

Well we have got here! Gus and Luggage

After all the hustle and bustle of the last few weeks a few days of luxury in Hong Kong are really welcome.

What an amazing place! We weren’t quite sure about going to a big city but the skyline is terrific and we have a great view from our 20th floor room in the Harbour Plaza Metropolis Hotel. Got bamboozled into a “package” when we arrived which meant that we had access to the “Club Lounge” where we had an even better view of the harbour, buffet breakfast, afternoon tea, evening cocktails and free internet access plus a pile of other extras that we didn’t really use! It was lovely to be pampered for a short time!Hong Kong at night