Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In a Cave Up in the Hills

There is something primal about being deep inside a cave.  The modern activity is called spelunking and ...NO, I do not spelunk.  That involves fitness and equipment like ropes, helmets and bat repellent.  

But we recently learned there is a significant cave a few hours drive from Nelson where one can have an underwater rafting experience within, and there are glow worms. And who doesn't love glow worms?

So off we went to Charleston to see Jeff, the owner of the operation.  He set us up with full wetsuits, life jackets and helmets with lights.  We hopped on a little bus which took us to a teensy train.  The rails were only about 12 inches apart.  I think it was made by the Lionel company.

The train dropped us off where our guide, Doug, handed each customer a big inner tube and led us up 130 steps to the cave entrance.

This was no Carlsbad Caverns.  This was much more primitive.  It was only discovered in the 60's.  Our light was provided by the helmets and many heads hit many low overhangs, all in a heavy wetsuit and carrying a large flotation device.  

There were many of the stalactites and mites that we all know.  Back in high school my science teacher explained how to tell the difference.  He said to think of  a girl... the tights go down.  Get it?  It has always worked well for me.

Finally we got to the lowest level of the cave and entered the underground river.  It water was not very deep and we were never cold.  But when we all turned off the headlamps, we saw the best glow worm display  ever.

The glow worm is unique to New Zealand.  They are small larvae living in dark wet areas.  They send out "fishing lines" that are sticky and poisonous to small bugs.  To attract the bugs, the worm turns on a light in her ass.  Case closed.

But we, floating along the underground river witnessed the light show.  I never get tired of looking at these little predators.

On leaving the cave, we floated on the river in the bright warm sun back to the little train.  Of course, some of us zoomed along with Doug and enjoyed the ride.

The water level being rather low, I myself choose to get my fat ass stuck on about a million rocks and had to stand up on slippery surfaces only to plop down again while getting attacked by angry sand flies who lost many relatives in the glow worm holocaust... and somehow blamed me!

When I got back to the car, I had to apply many coats of.....

                                   Botanica Scratchy & Itchy Skin Gel

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Get Your Kicks

When I was just a teen, my favourite TV program was Route 66 where 2 young guys travelled across America in a Chevrolet Corvette.  Buzz and Tod were very cool and nobody imagined they were gay, which they certainly were not.  Today, Martin Milner is 81, George Maharis is 84, and I am 66.  When I informed my brother Rick of that number, his reaction was a mix of dismay and sadness.  It sure made me feel much better about the whole thing.

My best present was a visit from Chloe and her parents.  We sent the adults down to Queenstown for New Year's Eve while we kept the kid, who is 6 these days.


She swam in the bay on Rabbit Island, rode horses, ice skated, petted baby goats, played with ducks and eels in the river and laughed, danced and told stories for days.

Plus we had a birthday party with cake and ice cream.  I have been forced to eat what was leftover in addition to the carrot cake which was baked by Kimberly.  So you can imagine what I look like these days.

Then we all went to Golden Bay, the sweetest spot in all of New Zealand.  We had secured a bach on the estuary where we hiked, kayaked, swam and cooked.  By the way, Brandon has an exercise program that was created by Green Berets or Navy Seals.  It was hard to watch his going through the manoeuvres.  But he is in amazing shape.  It is good to see him keeping up my tradition.

The Grove where much time was spent hiding and looking for Hobbits.

Wharariki Beach cave with seal peeping behind the rock.  

This place is wild and natural as when the earth was molded by Jesus.  It is often extremely windy.  But that would not stop us.  We hiked in and as long as Chloe had her sunglasses and was wrapped in a towel, all was cool.

Nearby was a cave so we went down with a group. There were the usual stalagmites and tites, but it was a dry cave, so no glow worms.

Back in Nelson, Chloe met some friends of ours that had a proper collection of stuffed animals.

So to review.... I am way younger than my early heroes   We had lovely visitors.  I am fat.
Some of us are not so lucky.  They are only 57 and planning on living forever.

Lucky for me, this gal is blind.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Another tedious assignment. I was to present myself as Reporter for Ye Wilde Tomatoe at The South Pacific Mini Games Sailing Competition taking place on the atoll of Aitutaki. As usual, my editor, Mister Jack Martin, Esq. would cover the tariff for the trip.

So, with no understanding of things nautical, I packed the Speedo and put on my best front.

I can’t figure out to whom the finger of blame should be pointed at just yet but, the international dateline and also daylight savings were happening at the moment of our departure. It was like being propelled through Time’s Microwave. As a result, we were late getting to the airport and some "special handling" was required as the plane was already backing up. Someone in our party did one of those “eye roll” things when we finally were buckled in.

On landing, more peril struck. The Aitutaki Golf Club apparently shares a few holes with the airport road. Without warning, our limo was bombarded by extremely worn golf balls, so useless a kiwi golfer would only spend 10 minutes searching for one in the rough. To protect my fellow holiday makers, I had the chauffeur stop. Donning a protective snorkel mask and venturing out for a look-see, I spied the dreary golf course where the locals were simply poor strikers. Hastening my retreat, I screamed for the driver to step on it, advising him to not spare the horses.

Wild Tomato had set us up at the Tamanu Beach Resort, with a self catering unit. The ubiquitous white sand and wavelety lagoon beckoned at the doorstep.

It felt like being inside Nature’s paintbrush.

The lagoon is pure turquoise, warm as a child’s bath, and swarming with thousands of fish just waiting to be ogled.

Tamanu Resort also boasts one of the only restaurants on Aitutaki. The cuisine is high quality and there’s a well stocked bar for serious imbibers of addictive drink.

I performed my customary reconnaissance and was soon accosted by the official greeter. This was a colourful rooster with an unusual gait, reminding one of a Monty Python spoof concerning “silly walks”. However, as his sauntering was indeed, silly, it was at the same time… dare I say, “Cocky”?

On closer inspection, I saw that the poor fellow had but a single claw.

It's not often you see a one foot cock.

Eventually, at the well stocked tavern, I sat with a Hobie coach to get the low down on the race which I already forgot I was covering.

It was a lot of blah, blah, blah. All the same, I liked the cut of his jib. He was there with his partner, whose jib was a cut a few notches above his, if you catch my drift.

Motor bikes cost 25$NZ. In a day, one can cover all the roads including everyone’s driveway. We stopped near the flash Aitutaki Lagoon Resort. Not in Esquire’s budget but a short trek along the sand gets to their beach where you can charge drinks to someone else’s room.

The best place to eat around there is the Koru Café.

Owned by young Kiwis, they have delicious, creative meals. Items can be spilt between two people, but get your own milkshake. Trust me.

I would be remiss were I not to mention the sand flies and mosquitoes. They’re everywhere and have a sweet tooth for Jews. I purchased a huge tub of a product called Bushman’s Plus. Containing 80% DEET, there were warnings about not getting it in the eye. Within minutes, some got in the eye. What followed was yelping, rinsing, and mockery.
They say, “On Aitutaki, you don’t do, you be.” But Being became boring.

Then we discovered the best activity on the island – Capt. Puna’s Aitutaki Adventures. For reasonable cost, Puna takes you on a lagoon cruise. There’s heaps of food and breaks on idyllic islands. Snorkel gear is included and the views contain all the usual suspects, plus giant clams.

We had tea on a former Survivor tribe location. Somehow, during an impromptu ballot, I was voted off the island. I was totally blindsided. Apparently, my partner formed an allegiance with Captain Puna. Plus, I nearly drowned during the wading challenge.

Later another rest on famous One Foot Island where they will stamp your passport for a small fee. Oddly, all the roosters on One Foot Island had the required number of appendages.

Finally race day arrived.
Unfortunately, we showed up 3 hours late.
Luckily, there were lounge chairs and a well stocked bar close by.

Had I ever gotten around to witnessing the competition, my story would have ended something like this:

“It was a tight race for second in light weather but beautiful conditions at Aitutaki lagoon yesterday as Cook Island’s Taua Henry jockeyed for the wind with New Caledonia’s Jessee Benso and Jerome Esplass. The Cook’s Junior Charlie crossed the line with room to spare.

There’s already been an outright winner declared in the sailing regatta – Aitutaki lagoon. Everyone involved was in absolute awe of the picture postcard setting for the eight days of sailing.”

On leaving, the picture postcard Cook Islands make everyone pay a departure fee, $55 each.

I’m confident Mr. Martin will reimburse.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cheeseburger In Paradise

We met some new people recently. They are ex-pat Americans. Steve is a builder of homes and Carleen is an artist. She makes wall hangings, mirrors, using small pieces of tile and glass. Robin would understand the process. The results are hanging all over their huge villa style home in the hills. It is very eco friendly with all the solar heat and water collection tanks. They even have a restaurant size pizza oven fueled by wood from trees they grow on one of their many acres of property. After seeing Carleen's work, we ended up with one of her mirrors in our lounge and if I know Kimberly, there will be a few more items.

The other day, I was over there and had a cheeseburger that was remarkably tasty. Apparently, they purchased 3/4 of an organic cow and had it butchered for the beef.

I wanted to get in on the deal and obtained the name of the farmer/butcher fella. He agreed to sell me 1/8 of a cow from the remaining meat. He promised the cow was grass fed and not mad at all. Steve's named his beast Bruce and I think we got a piece of Willis.

We ended up with over 100 pounds of organic beef for about 350 US dollars.

It was completely packaged and labeled. There are all kinds of steaks, hamburger (they call it "mince" here), sausages, stew meat, roasts and schnitzel.

My siblings will remember our Mom and Dad buying bulk cow meat back in the day. They had a "coffin" style freezer in the basement holding an endless supply of dinners. Our New Zealand freezer is not that big and we needed to move things around to make room, but we got it all in. However, Ice cream needed to be gobbled standing up. Now our freezer looks like Rick's, I guess.

Things have changed a bit. Kimberly will eat meat as long as it is organically grown. Already, I made a beef stew in the crock pot which was outstanding.

Even though I did not hunt or kill the beast, there is a positive and primitive feeling about supplying food for the tribe.

Next, I plan to invent the wheel.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shake It Up Now, Sugaree, I'll Meet You At The Jubilee

I think that was a close one...we may have dodged a large calibre bullet.
Last week, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand. That is the largest in the world for the year and the biggest here since 1931 when the town of Napier on the North Island was leveled.

258 people were killed.

The good news is that since they had to rebuild the whole city, they decided to go entirely with the architecture of the day, which was Art Deco. Who knew it would become a classic mode for the ages? Today Napier and South Beach, Florida and considered the two best preserved Deco towns on earth.
And guess who likes that style?
Yep, the little missus.

Every year they have a week long festival with parties costume balls, exhibits street fairs, food, music. A few days before all that is a huge concert at a major winery. The Motown Event will star The Four Tops, The Temptations, Mary Wilson Of The Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas, And The Miracles. OK, it ain't Michael Jackson, but we will be there. All thanks to an earthquake.
God loves us special.

Possible new exciting work location for "Scoop"?

The latest tremble was really deep in the sea on soft rock and had little effect on anything here. Could have been much worse.
Nothin' shaken on Shakedown Street.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Pardon My French

Last week, a young dark skinned man was over served potential fatal drugs and the resulting accident has been masked in a deepening cover up that is slowly being exposed.

In other news, Michael Jackson died.

But the real story comes out of Wellington, the capitol of New Zealand and we were there to witness it all.

Kimberly and I have been wanting to go to an All Blacks rugby match since we got here and when we saw they were to play France on the Noth Island, we immediately purchased the best tickets, slightly cheaper than the sky boxes.

France, as you all will recall, knocked the Kiwis out of the World Cup competition in 2007 partially due to a very bad call by the ref, Wayne Barnes. Now it was payback time and we wanted to witness the slaughter.

We flew up and had a nice room at a boutique apartment right in the center of town with a sweet view of the water and free parking. There was excitement in the air in addition to the pouring rain and ripping wind.

We bundled up, wearing 4 layers of long underwear and sweaters. Kimberly even donned a ski parka she purchased in Alaska. Getting to the venue, known as the "Cake-tin" was cheap and easy as the city has excellent public transportation.

After the national anthems and haka, the game commenced and was quite a spectacle. The crowd was a lot different than those you would see at USA football. Much more subdued, but still lots of drinking of beer. At the beginning, some French fans let loose on to the field a tri-colored rooster named Pepito . Apparently a cock is the symbol of the country. The SPCA is still investigating that one.

The rain and wind continued, but we, with our flash seats, were under cover and totally dry. NZ won in a close battle and home we went surrounded by happy kiwis and friendly fans of the French surrender monkeys. There were absolutely no negative comments between the two camps as everyone went into the city for more alcohol.
Imagine our shock when we awoke to the news the following morn.

Mathieu Bastareaud, a young French player, was said to have been beaten on the street outside his hotel. The perpetrators were 5 "South Pacific types, Maori or Samoan". The player required stitches to his face and was whisked back to France. Meanwhile, the mayor of Wellington was left to apologize to the world for the horrible behaviour of the denizens of his city and country.

Oh, the shame we felt.

A few days later, the truth started coming out. Mathieu now admitted he was excessively drunk and tripped in his hotel room cutting his face on a table. He offered up a lame apology to our country and his coach said sorry too and that he was just a naive 20 year old after all.

But that's not the end of the story. Today's news says that what actually happened was the enfant terrible was so drunk and aggressively stupid that one of his teammates punched him in his idiot face to convince him to straighten up. That's how he was cut....French Friendly Fire. And Bastareaud blames it on the peaceful New Zealanders. The players, coaches and team doctors were all in on the sabotage.

The denouement is that the lying bastard has currently being treated in an unnamed Paris facility due to severe psychological problems.

Something tells me his rugby days are over.

Adieu, bete noire.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Slumdog Millionaires

By now, thanks to the media, a young Kiwi couple is being both hunted and haunted by the entire world. Just today, I got a link to this "story" from my shiftless brother, Barry, showing an article from the Denver Post, all the way over in America. Isn't that place having enough troubles of its own? What do they care about meaningless New Zealand trivia??

I feel it is my duty, as a fellow resident, to set the record straight regarding these completely innocent partners.

Yang and Gao in happier times

Last week, Mr. Leo Gao and his lovely mate, Miss Kara Yang decided to take a little holiday. Their home city of Rotorua on the North Island was experiencing inclement weather and an undisclosed location in Asia seemed like a nice alternative. They shut down their gas station, which wasn't doing all that well anyway. As a matter of fact, they recently filed for bankruptcy... and what better stress reliever than a vacation, I ask you?

Packing up Miss Yang's daughter Leena and sister Aroha, the intrepid pair took a little money from their back account, and LEGALLY left the country.

That should be the end of the tale.

But it doesn't work that way, sir. The media is a hungry beast and must be fed.

It turns out that Gao had a line of credit, or as he liked to call it, "A rine of cledit" for NZ$100,000. As far as I know, a rine of cledit means you can borrow that amount from the bank whenever you need it because you are an honest, hard-working, trustworthy good customer, as Gao was.

Some complete moron at their bank, Westpac (a bloody Aussie establishment), must have had too many Foster's for tea break because instead of depositing the 100K into Gao's account, she plunked in 10 million. The woman, a 30 year employee, is now receiving mental counseling paid for by Westpac to help her deal with the mistake and further prepare for her eventual sacking.

I don't know about you, but if I checked my accounts and saw I was a bit heavy in the cash department, I certainly wouldn't go narking to the bank. I would assume, being honest and trustworthy, they simply increased my rine of cledit to help carry me through these troubling times. Isn't that waht banks do? Help the customer?

So Yang and Geo go of to who knows where, (Interpol says Hong Kong)

Now all hell has broken loose. The Internet is abuzz, calling them thieves, and Bonnie and Crydes. Yang's mom, Sue Hurring, a hairdresser, swears her daughter is honest, but a little stupid. As far as her feelings toward Mr. Gao, she says, "Well, if you really want to know, I'd like to wring his blingin' neck." (Readers should note that "blingin'" is a term of endearment in Rotorua.)

Westpac officials are embarrassed, but steadfast. They have not lost the entire amount, merely about 4 million the couple withdrew for travel expenses. All the same, the bloodsucking Aussies want their last pound of flesh. The question is, "At what point would you quit bothering to look for your 4 million dollars?"
Having little faith in world police from CIA to KGB, they have employed their own independent bank investigator. They say he is fair minded, but doesn't have a sense of humor. Maybe you don't give a care about Yang and Gao, but my God, think of the children!!!!

There is little doubt that the vacationing couple have not realized they are being hunted. It is hard to enjoy a holiday when you heave to keep looking over your shoulder. The latest rumors hint that Gao has had to alter his appearance to hold onto some degree of privacy. The once handsome inscrutable young man now is said to look like this:

I say, leave Leo alone!