Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Marlborough wine country

Once again I find myself sitting outside in the morning to write a post about the last few days. I am surrounded by birds in the trees, feeding on bugs in the Pohutukawa, eucalyptus and beech trees on the edge of the property. We have been staying at the A1 Ward Motel in Ward, a tiny community on state highway 1 about fifty km south of Blenheim in the Marlborough region. This motel has proven to be a nice surprise....well maintained and equipped (yahoo! An oven!) and spacious. It's too bad the trees in the central area died as they would have provided lovely shade. 

As we travel these roads, we remark on the similarities and differences with what we know in Canada, but also the contrast between regions here. We started out in the sub-tropical northern end of the North Island, and now we're in the north-east part of the South Island. We drove over more tortuous narrow and winding roads to get here from Nelson (think of the Kicking Horse Pass east of Golden, BC and make that narrower without many passing lanes...and add a few cyclists grimly trying to stick to the painted line on the edge with less than a foot of paved shoulder...) we arrived in Havelock and turned onto the Queen Charlotte Scenic Drive ("not suitable for long vehicles") and continued on a road that was probably the original track, just widened a bit and paved, much like the west side of Okanagan Lake or the Duffy Lake Road. With some relief we took a break at the beginning of the Queen Charlotte Track, a four or five day walk that winds up and down a ridge in the Marlborough Sound. We just walked the first 4 km to Davies Bay (and of course Lloyd had to have his picture taken, but that's still on his camera, yet to be downloaded). It was a lovely walk, almost completely shaded by big lush trees with peek-a-boo views of the sound. 

We left this lush forest to arrive in very dry country. "Hey", said Lloyd, "did we just drive over the ridge into Kamloops?"

This was the beginning of the Marlborough wine region. Just like in the Okanagan, the first settlers grazed animals on the native grasses (mostly sheep) then they switched to fruit--apples and cherries--and then about 40 years ago started growing grapes. Water is a challenge but the growers have deep artesian wells. There are still sheep, cattle and horses on the range lands but the forage looks very sparse. This area didn't get its usual winter rains this year and it's drier than usual.

We visited three wineries on our own on Monday, spending a good hour or more at the first, Yealands Family Wines, where their motto is "Think boldly, tread lightly, and never say it can't be done". Sustainability inspires every decision, and they were the first winery in the world to be certified carbon zero. They plant nitrogen-fixers every few rows and plow that in every year, then plant these legumes between the next rows.

Miniature sheep ("baby doll") keep the weeds down...they're too short to reach the vines, although we did see some clever ones up on the supports at the end of the rows having a nibble!

They've established several wetlands to encourage wildlife...ducks that eat more pests...

We then joined a tour ("Na Clachan") yesterday afternoon visiting several more wineries. About three-quarters of the vines are Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough's signature grape so we tasted a lot of that. Helen, our very informative guide, used to be a contract grower for one of the wineries and showed us how the vines are pruned.

There is also a salt works here. In spite of all these hills, I couldn't get up high enough for an overall view! The pink colour is from an algae bloom.

After breakfast we travel south, not too far, to Kaikoura where we hope to do some whale watching. On the way, we plan to do a three hour walk through Sawcut Gorge, apparently about 1.5 metres wide in places. More about that in the next post!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas in New Zealand

I am sitting outside in the early morning sun this beautiful Boxing Day morning, drinking my second cup of tea and thinking about yesterday's "waifs and strays" dinner. It was certainly our most culturally diverse, and the only commonality was that we were all from somewhere else, travelling in NZ at this time of year. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and we feel really good about having organized it.

Lloyd has enjoyed cooking since about age 12 when he started to do more and more at home. By the time he left home he was very independent in the kitchen, and thinks that he organized his first Xmas dinner in the early 80s. This tradition became known as "waifs and strays" because the people he invited were those without family nearby and might be going without the big turkey dinner, and worse, eating dinner alone. We have carried on doing this, often at New Year's, Easter and Thanksgiving as well, in the thirty odd years that we've been together. It seemed only natural to organize a dinner at this holiday park with our fellow travellers. 

We arrived here at the Richmond Top 10 Holiday Park on the 23rd. One of the first things we did was check out the communal kitchen...was there an oven? At first we thought there were only microwaves, but closer inspection revealed (whew!) there were two countertop convection ovens. Checking the cookware was the next step, and we found only one roasting pan, but were able to augment this later with a new one from the park's central storeroom. So things were lining up as we hoped, and  the next big adventure was a mammoth grocery shopping trip where, yahoo! we found a three kg fresh turkey, so no thawing needed.

Meanwhile I decided I wanted to rent a bicycle for these few days over Xmas because "Tasman's Great Taste Trail" is nearby. This is a former railway, decommissioned in the 50s but much of the road bed was still available. My emailed inquiries late on the 23rd brought one positive reply from Nelson Cycle Hire, conveniently located at the airport which is right on one of the cycle routes. Lloyd drove me there, I selected a bike and helmet and then off I went! Our rendezvous point was "Stoke Brewery" which we estimated to be only a few km away. Well, both of us got lost and I actually arrived first in spite of a few wrong turns (the connecting cycle routes are on roads and not obviously marked). I discovered that what was marked Stoke Brewery on my cycle map is actually McCashin's Brewery, makers of Stoke ales. As a result Lloyd had trouble finding it too! I had finished my "flat white" coffee and had knit a few rounds before he finally showed up to my relief, because we only have one phone between us. He then settled into a beer tasting...

...very generous servings (about 6 oz) of four beers and one cider. I had the cider of course....very good, made from locally grown Granny Smith and Braeburn apples. I then headed off to find the coastal route to Rabbit Island, our next rendezvous point. This is a newer part of the trail, mostly gravel and Boardwalk, the wiggles along the edge of the inlet. I stopped to read all the interpretive signs and watch the birds feeding in the estuary and as a result didn't arrive at the destination for another two hours. It was a glorious ride...no cars and very few cyclists too. A quick picnic lunch, and we decided to load the bike in the car to carry on wine tasting. It was too late in the afternoon for me to try to cycle to the wineries and too much waiting for Lloyd. We went to three wineries, all delightful, and very reminiscent of our Okanagan wines...the oldest was Siefried, established by an Austrian immigrant in the early 70s.

So, back to the dinner...on Xmas Eve, after supper we wandered around the grounds to talk to people and find out who might be interested in joining us. About eight said yes, others said no, they were either leaving or joining family for dinner. But the final count was closer to 15, attracted by Lloyd's preparations in the kitchen on the day. So here is a description of our "waifs and strays"...
Ruth and Joan, lifelong friends from Australia (but Joan has lived in NZ for most of her adult life)
Peter and Veronica from Norfolk, England travelling in a camper van for the first time
Phil, a widower from England
Kevin (from France) and Helena (from Spain) who have been living in their van in this park while they work on a nearby market garden, and who said this is the first time they spent much time with other guests--that this was the first social gathering organized here
John and his wife and two delightful kids from South Korea...they've been living and working in NZ for about three years. 
A Japanese retired couple who alternate three months in NZ and three months back in Japan
And finally, some real Kiwis! Jason and his new wife of six days are travelling the South Island on a four week mountain biking holiday. They chose to come away at this time because this is their regularly scheduled summer break.

It was a splendid meal. Lloyd cooked the turkey, stuffing, and gravy and roasted new potatoes. Others provided asparagus, raw veggies, salads, kimchee and rice balls wrapped in tofu! Truly an international feast. And lots of NZ wine of course including some sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.

Here's me on my bike before I cycle back to drop it off... Behind me is our rental car and a corner of our cabin.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Now in the South Island

I have some catching up to do! We spent December 18th in and around New Plymouth, first of all visiting their fabulous museum, Puke Ariki. The centrepiece of their Maori collection is a set of five magnificently carved wall panels discovered in a wetland in 1971. Shortly after that they were smuggled out of the country and sold to a Swiss art collector. A few years later, this man's daughter was kidnapped and in order to pay the ransom he put some of his collection up for sale including these panels. The NZ government succeeded in halting the sale but were unable to have them repatriated. In 2013, the collector died and the government successfully negotiated with his heirs to have the panels returned. 

After a few hours in the museum, it was time for a little exercise and we had a pleasant walk along the waterfront where once again we found some woven flax leaves...

and then on the edge of Mt. Teranaki up to Wilkies Pools.

The clouds around the mountain summit started to clear just as we heading back into town,

...and then as we were leaving the next morning we were treated to a beautiful sight...

We then drove (about six hours) to Wellington on the 19th, unfortunately giving short shrift to the southern part of the North Island! We took our time however, taking a few coffee and lunch stops. We stayed in Wellington for two nights with new friends, Margaret and Keith, fellow members of the Affordable Travel Club. Keith helped us make the most of our one day in Wellington. The first stop was the fabulous national museum Te Papa ("the treasures") where we took an introductory tour ably guided by a sparkling Italian woman who spoke beautiful English and has been in NZ only 8 months. She is here on a working visa and feels she's landed her dream job, guiding tourists. After a quick but late lunch we took the cable car up the hill (Wellington is very hilly, much like Auckland and San Francisco) to the Botanic Gardens, but first taking a picture of Lloyd sitting in one of the restored 1903 cars...

At about 5 pm we stopped for some much needed refreshment (beer and cider) at the Backbencher tavern across from the parliament buildings, before finding a great dinner at another gastropub. A full day! So ended our explorations of the North Island.

On the 21st we flew to Nelson on the South Island. It was a very hot day, about 30 degrees, and even the locals were complaining. Nelson is a pretty city of about 45,000 people, with a very lively and artistic town centre. I found a fabulous yarn shop named Cruella's, and another shop, a co-operative called Fibre Spectrum. In both places I bought a ball or skein of yarn, my new rule of buying one of something in any yarn shop. I have changed the course of my travel knitting projects....the purple & green double knit shawl continues at a snail's pace, and I've reached the heels of both socks. I have abandoned the plan of the double-knitted socks, in fact have mailed that yarn home! Instead I have switched gears a bit, and will be knitting socks with whatever sock yarn I buy along the way. My new rule is that it must be NZ yarn, and I will add Australian yarn to the mix when we get there!

We stayed with another ATC couple, John and Connie, on the outskirts of Nelson. They live in an adobe mud brick house, off the grid powered by a windmill and photovoltaic panels and solar water panels. 

And they have a fabulous view! 

We have really enjoyed our ATC experiences...we arrived as strangers and left as friends. (http://www.affordabletravelclub.net/)
Another reason to come to Nelson was to visit WOW, the wonderful World of Wearable art! (Www.wowcars.co.nz) They share space with classic cars--a surprising combination but it works!

This was my favourite piece, Flow of Creation, by Kirsten Fletcher of the U.K.

We didn't move very far from Nelson, just about 8 km or so, down the road to a holiday park in Richmond where we have a self-contained cabin for four days. We have loaded up on groceries including a small turkey and are hoping to find like-minded foodies amongst the other guests for a potluck Xmas dinner, similar to the "waifs and strays" dinner that we have hosted at home for years. I will let you know how it goes in a few days! We are planning to spend some time at the beach, walking on some of the many trails nearby, visiting wineries, and of course finding some knitting time in the shade.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Adrenaline adventure!

New Zealand is well known for its adventure tourism, and we decided to get in on a little of the fun by signing up for black water rafting through one of the Waitomo caves. (http://www.waitomo.com/black-water-rafting/Pages/black-labyrinth.aspx) so there we were at 1:30 pm on Wednesday, struggling into damp wet suits (wondering what other smelly bodies had been in them...), getting fitted up with a hard hat and headlamp, and listening to the safety instructions delivered with great Kiwi humour....such as, "Go to the toilet before you get into this wet suit because this bootie acts as a plug in your boot and then you will marinate in urine for the rest of the trip, plus you will continue to feel the effects of this for the next 48 hours!" We were led by three enthusiastic guides in their twenties, two Kiwi (one female, one male) and one German woman, all with great ways with words. Safety was paramount and to that end, the very first activity was to practice jumping backwards off a dock into a steam before going into the cave. The purpose here was to learn how to jump properly because we would have to do this twice to go over waterfalls, and secondly was to get thoroughly wet and then warm within our suits. So we each picked an inner tube, placed it around our bottoms, and jumped off backwards...what fun! This helped enormously in erasing my fear of "keeping up" when I witnessed much younger people than me having some issues with this.
So into the cave we went...inner tube over shoulder and climbing down, down, down to where finally the water was deep enough to float. Sometimes the water was rushing swiftly and we had to form a "human eel"...put our feet up on the tube in front for that person to grab onto, and then grab the boots (making sure we could feel the feet...another set of safety instructions) of the person behind. And other times the water was very calm and we had to paddle with our hands to keep moving, all the while gazing up at the glow worms on the roof of the cave, looking very much like a star-studded sky. (The glow worm is the larval stage of an insect, Arachnocampa Luminosa, and uses bioluminescence to attract other insects for food.) Jumping backwards over waterfalls was great fun! I don't have any pictures of us, however here are a couple from the company's website.

We were probably in the cave a couple of hours, and I was glad to reach the end. It was a great experience but probably not to be repeated (I am not keen on wet suits, and it amazes me that our guides spend all day in them!) It was exhilarating and fun, however one of the best parts was stripping off that suit and getting into a shower, followed by a snack of hot tomato soup and toasted bagel. I was hungry after all that adrenaline!

We are now in New Plymouth, back on the coast after the past week in the interior. We drove here along the "Forgotten World Highway" through some spectacular scenery, including a single lane tunnel 180 metres long. The road was narrow and tortuous for much of its 155 km length, including one 12 km stretch of gravel through a heavily forested gorge. We climbed up, up, up and over and down, down, down, several "saddles", fortunately not meeting too much oncoming traffic! When we weren't in forest or bush, the cleared land is pasture for cattle and sheep. No crops are grown here, not even hay, because there's no flat land. The pastures are series of hills, many conical in shape, all etched with mini terraces from years of grazing animals. I didn't take any pictures, preferring to take all this in with my mind's eye. It was so varied that I felt a few photos wouldn't do the landscape justice.

Along the way we stopped for a drink at the Whangmomona Hotel, a building dating back to 1895, and now the only real place of activity along the road. The population has dwindled here as farms have amalgamated and people have moved away. 

We are now about to go into the New Plymouth CBD to check out the museum and art gallery, and find out where to walk for a few hours on the slopes of yet another volcano, Mt. Taranaki. It last erupted in 1755 so not expecting to see even steam venting. It is shrouded in cloud at the moment.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Art Deco one day, a walk in the alpine the next

On Monday we drove to Napier, a town on the edge of Hawke Bay, thinking we might do some wine tasting in this preeminent wine area of NZ, but no, we ended up taking a guided walking tour through the CBD (central business district). Napier was devastated by an earthquake in February 1931, and the town was rebuilt in an Art Deco style, because that's what was considered modern at the time. This rebuilding took about two years because the town council resigned and handed over responsibility to two commissioners to make all the decisions. 

It wasn't until the 1980s that the people of Napier realized the scope of this historical treasure...to have such a collection of Art Deco buildings in a small area. Some were starting to be redeveloped or razed, and the protests began. New buildings now are built in similar style, or "inspired" by Art Deco. This is one example...

On Tuesday we drove south along Lake Taupo, stopping in Turangi to inquire about short walks in the Tongariro National Park. We learned how to correctly pronounce the name of the park's visitor centre: Whakapapa (the "wh" is pronounced with a soft "f" rather unfortunately!) We were hoping the clouds would lift so that we could see the volcanoes in all their glaciated glory, but no. At least the weather remained fine down on the loop trail to Taranaki Falls.

I have been intrigued by all the ferns--from tree ferns to ground cover--in the bush and forest, and now have a new appreciation for why the fern is the symbol of NZ (like the maple leaf for Canadians). The proposed designs for the new flag use the fern. Maori designs, new and old, incorporate the fern in all its stages from the tight fiddlehead to the gentle spirals as it  unfurls. These are some alpine ferns from our walk yesterday...small compared to a shoe! 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Exploring the volcanic zone

The knitting adventure continues!  Keiko! You were right! I really did need to have a simpler knitting project to offset the very complicated double knit lace project, so I succumbed to buying yarn for a much simpler project...socks... We took a wrong turn out of Kawakawa, and came across the "Crafty or Wot" shop at a farm on Highway 1 (www.craftyorwot.com) and I found some lovely NZ sock yarn. What a relief! Some knitting that I can carry along with me!

As opposed to the more complicated double knit lace...progress to this point:

We are now making our way further south towards our ultimate destination of Wellington on December 19, but meanwhile we had a most enjoyable couple of nights on the Coromandel peninsula. On Friday we borrowed a spade and went digging on Hot Water Beach. About two hours either side of low tide, hot water (as high as 64 degrees C.) bubbles up. You can dig your very own hot pool to soak in, but we were scheduled for an outing on the water in a glass bottom boat (www.glassbottomboatwhitianga.co.nz) so we didn't hang around long enough to actually dig something we could sit in. 

We went along the coast into a marine reserve. Since the reserve was established in 1992, the number of fish and other marine life has vastly increased. We saw snapper, red moki, blue cod, and more through the bottom of the boat. I could have watched all these beautiful fish for longer. Almost more fascinating were the gannets diving for fish. They circle up above and then suddenly dive, folding their wings into their bodies just before entering the water, popping back up with little fish in their beaks. Apparently they die of blindness because of years of plummeting into the water.

We are now at the Huka Falls Resort for 4 nights very close to Lake Taupo. Yesterday (Sunday) we had a nice wander along the river to the falls, visited the Volcanic Activity Centre which is a great little museum explaining the Taupo Volcanic Zone, and finished off the day at "Orakei Korako". This is a thermal area a little off the beaten track. Access to the hot springs area is by a little ferry across a lake, and then the walk through and around is on well-maintained boardwalks. Twenty million litres of hot water bubbles up and flows over silica terraces every day.  

And mud bubbles up too.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Still in the North of the North Island, NZ

A quick post while I still have a few MB of free wifi...
We spent a most enjoyable three hours at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the treaty between the British crown and the Maori Chiefs was signed in 1840. This treaty was translated into Maori and reads slightly differently...the critical difference being one of sovereignty vs governance. Plus the British didn't uphold their end of the bargain very soon after signing. I am of course vastly oversimplifying the situation, but the upshot is that there has been recognition of all these misunderstandings and injustices within the last twenty years, and the government and the queen herself have apologized. The treaty is being used to address all these issues and control over certain lands is now in the hands of local Maori (for example the management of the Waipoa Forest in the north). Four seats in parliament are reserved for Maori, and the language is taught In all schools, with some schools solely Maori. We were shown around the grounds by a young Maori woman, and she talked about the Treaty Day with some diplomacy...she said that this is a day to celebrate, no, commemorate the treaty...a subtle difference between celebrate and commemorate...

This war canoe was built from giant Kauri logs for the centennial in 1940 using traditional methods and materials with the exception of the nylon rope. 

Walking through the mangrove flats near Russell...

Came across these plants that the Maori call "flax" and which they use for rope and baskets. See how a passerby has woven the ends into attractive knots!

Every tourist has to stop to admire and use the famous Hunderwasser toilets in Kawakawa! He was an Austrian born architect who made his home in NZ and this was his large project before he died in 2000.
Another selfie in front of a giant Kauri...

Monday, December 7, 2015

Exploring the far north

The Christmas trees...Pohutukawa...are blooming in New Zealand. We first noticed these beautiful blossoms just starting to come out in Auckland and the further north we've come, the more prolific they are.

Up in the far north, the more idiosyncratic the mail boxes have become!

Our first stop Saturday morning was Tane Mahute, the largest Kauri tree in NZ, standing proudly in the Waipoua Forest, protected since 1952. This tree is over 50 metres tall and almost 14 metes around, and somewhere between 1200 and 2000 years old. You can just barely make out Lloyd standing on the platform in front. 

Continuing north, we stopped just above Hokianga Harbour to walk out onto the headlands above the entrance.

Our destination Saturday night was the Whatuwhiwhi Top 10 Holiday Park in Doubtless Bay (so named by Captain Cook in his log when he sailed by..."doubtless a bay") for two nights. We contemplated driving all the way to the top, Cape Reinga, to see where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific, but this would have been a long 90km drive there and the same back. Another option would have been to take a "Dune Rider" coach but the attraction seemed to be sliding down sand dunes on boogie boards at the cape. Instead we opted for a leisurely visit to Gumdiggers Park (www.gumdiggerspark.co.nz). This is an authentic preserved gum field, over 100 years old, still belonging to the descendants of the man who bought the land in the early 1900s, intending to farm but discovering instead the wealth of gum underground from an ancient Kauri forest. These massive trees appear to have died all at once from some cataclysmic event such as a Tsunami (larger than the one to hit Thailand and Sri Lanka most recently) and then were buried in peat under sandstone for thousands of years. When damaged, the Kauri produces great amounts of sap. This conceals into hard lumps and falls off. After thousands of years this sap is hard and fossilized. It is also known as New Zealand amber. The older gum can be carved, while the younger gum was used by the Maori as fire-starter. When the Europeans arrived, they started mining the gum for use in varnishes and paint. The living conditions for these miners were very similar to those of the gold miners In the Cariboo. They were almost constantly in water up over their knees, and their boots (originally leather and then rubber) appropriately were called "gum boots" as opposed to Wellingtons. Interesting that Canadians also call them gum boots... The owners have chosen to leave this park as it is rather than excavating it for more trees (the wood is still commercially viable) however they have excavated one pit to show off a huge tree in situ.

Yesterday we explored the historic town of Mangonui, a safe harbour for whaling vessels since the late 1700s and settled by Europeans in the 1830s. There are many attractive wooden buildings, possibly still standing because they're made predominantly of Kauri timber. We had delicious fish and chips at the "world famous" Mangonui Fish Shop, before going to the Whaling Museum across the harbour at Butler Point (www.whalingmuseumbutlerpoint.com) for our appointed time of 2 pm. We were given a fabulous tour by Jan Ferguson whose parents bought the property in 1970. Whaling, like gum digging and gold mining, was sure a dangerous way to make a living.

We are now in Russell at another Top 10 park for a couple of nights. We have been renting cabins at these places so as to cook either in the larger communal kitchen or in the simple kitchenette in the cabin. Each park has a "bed for every budget" whether that is a place to pitch a tent, park a camper van, or stay in a cabin. There are even more deluxe choices, e.g. motel units with ensuite bathrooms and full kitchens. 

Today we are taking the foot passenger ferry across the inlet to Paihia to visit the historic Waitangi Treaty Gounds. More on that in the next post!

Friday, December 4, 2015

On the Kauri Coast

...searching for the elusive Kiwi...the nocturnal flightless bird, not the fruit or the person...

On Wednesday morning, we picked up our "Jucy" rental car (like Rent-a-wreck), a grey Nissan sedan, and successfully drove out of central Auckland onto the motorway heading north. We only had to go around the block once more to get pointed in the right direction, giving us a little extra time to get used to driving on the left. The motorway ended within a few hours and we were soon on a two lane highway, winding our way through farmland and beach resorts. We turned west on state highway 12, stopping at the Kauri Museum. We almost didn't go in because the admission is $25 pp but we are so glad we did. We arrived in time for a guided tour by the daughter of one of the founders, a descendant of settlers arriving on this coast in the 1860s. These folk thought they were coming to farm but they had to clear the land first. Much of the timber was the Kauri, a huge dense hardwood...slow growing and long-lived. Another industry was "gum", the resin exuded when the trees were injured. The museum has beautiful examples of the furniture made from the Kauri...

...and a massive 22.5 m slab cut from a tree recently felled by lightening.

Kauri is now a protected species, being so slow growing, and has not been cut commercially for 50 years. As we drive through the countryside we try to imagine what it would like forested instead of the bucolic farmland of rolling hedges and green grass. Fortunately there are some preserved forests such as the Waipoa Forest, where we can get a good idea...

The only Kauri being milled now has been dug up out of swamps, and is up to 40,000 years old. Nelson's Kaihu Kauri (www.nelsonskaihukauri.co.nz) is one of the few remaining mills that cuts these ancient logs into slabs that eventually are made into furniture and beautiful carvings. 

The Kauri grow straight and tall with a massive girth. The lower branches are like plugs...

that are shed as the tree grows, resulting in wood that has a dense grain without knots.

As for that elusive kiwi? We went on a guided night tour through the nearby Trounson forest (a 1200 ha island of protected forest free from most predators except the ubiquitous possum).  Our guide shone his red light (red doesn't disturb the animals) at the forest floor searching in vain for these flightless birds. We heard them calling in the distance--a high pitched call from the male and a more guttural response from the female--but no luck. We rented this red light the following night to try again on our own, but no luck. Last night, third time lucky! We saw two birds foraging contentedly, not paying any attention to us. They were bigger than I expected, much like chickens and making soft murmurs.

We've also had a little beach time. This is a 100km stretch of sandy beach that is actually a legal road for 4WD. Fortunately we saw only three other people. The water isn't warm enough yet for swimming but perfect for paddling.