Kiwis, Anyone?

Who in their right minds would want to be called Kiwis? But the New Zealanders love the label. And our hosts are as enchanting as their extraordinary country. Their terrain, especially the South Island, is an encyclopedia of outdoor Wows: wild coastlines with pancake-shaped rocks, glacier-laced mountains, rainforests with teeny-tiny orchids…and of course iconic green hills saturated with sheep. Impossibly beautiful, says Randy.

No regular blogging from here – it was hard to get the glowworms, fur seals, and alpine parrots to explain themselves along the way. But I thought I’d throw out a few fun snippets and 20 of Randy’s pictures. Not a perfect match, but you’ll get the idea.

New Kid on the Block: Unlike Australia, with a 40,000 year history of Aborigines, NZ was first inhabited just 700 years ago – by Polynesians who clearly got lost. Parochial me always referred to Australia and New Zealand in the same breath but, at 1400 miles apart and very different histories, they are (duh) 2 really different countries. But there’s a mysterious common root in the rugged guys and captivating accents.

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Possum fur: There were no land mammals here until recently so wingless birds flourished until scoundrels like possums and groats were introduced. So the Kiwis are determined to eradicate these pests through possum bounties….and possum fur for sale everywhere. Love my new possum socks.

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Eco on steroids: How do I not make this sound cynical? Let’s just say that NZ makes Oregon look like an Arrowhead Stadium refreshment stand. You have never seen more environmentally correct products or eco-lodges. Made me want to throw trash around and smoke cigarettes. And don’t get me started on eco-activities – white water rafting, heli-hiking, trail running. What about dull, quiet hiking? We’re so retro – mostly.

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It’s all cricket: Despite the eco-bent, there are signs of more civilized society here, like cricket in Auckland (darling white outfits, I must say) and terrific wine. Actually, this observation is much less interesting than Auckland’s being built on 50 volcanoes, several of which are active. Wonder if the next eruption will upset the cricket game.

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Made-up species: When the early naturalists were here they had either limited knowledge or limited imagination. They saw something that looked like a cod so they called it a cod. Looks kinda like a robin? Let’s call it a robin. Turns out the new species were WAY different but the old names stuck so it is all very confusing. Thank goodness they renamed the alpine parrot the kea (which can impressively unzip backpacks looking for treats). Naughty Kea.

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Shrek, the rogue sheep: Unlike his 28 million NZ sheep buddies, Shrek escaped the shearer by hiding out in a cave for years. You can see from picture below (guess which one – not Randy’s) why he has been the darling of NZ.

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Glowworm Inspiration: What an amazing, other-world spectacle! To go into a cave or a ravine in darkness and see zillions of tiny glowing lights! Honestly, I could have ended the trip after that evening and felt it was all worth it, especially after hearing this Kiwi rhyme:

I wish I were a glowworm
His life is never glum
How can you be grumpy
When the sun shines out your bum?

And some random pix

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01BD8E65-53C3-4682-894C-0EE250E5A86D(Check out the people specks? Scale is huge)

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Weird, Dude

From the tree ferns with strange unfolding stems to the tallest hardwoods on earth (300-ft eucalypts) to giant purple bottle-brush like flowers, the vegetation is other-worldly. In fact, 60% of the flora/fauna in Tassie are found no where else.

Of course, the Hudsons are in hiking heaven, with a different national park each day. Adding to the fun are hopping wallabies on the trail, snouted hedgehog-like echidnas guzzling ants, and day-glo orange lichen. And Stan, Tassie naturalist extraordinaire, whom we met in the woods. Great color all around.

 

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Where the Really Bad Boys Went

If you thought Australia was far south, go south some more – to the island of Tasmania. Viewed by 19th century Brits as the end of the earth, it was a last stop penal colony. Thousands of convicts in Britain were sent to prison outposts in Australia (seen as more humane treatment than the gallows – hmmm).

But some continued to misbehave so they were sent on to Tasmania. 75,000 very bad boys ended up here. So “Tassie” has evolved with a funky mixture of tortured history and isolated, natural beauty. Perfect Gothic vibe.

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Melbourne: Street Art Gone Wild

Back on the blog – inspired by the strange world Down Under. The winds are taking us to Melbourne, Tasmania, and New Zealand and I’ll try to capture a few of the unexpected treasures.

Street Art Gone Wild
Melbourne is a lovely, cosmopolitan city (no fewer than 6 people reminded us that it had been named yet again the Most Livable City in the World). The parks, food, waterfront and friendliness contribute, but it is the ubiquitous street art that charms us. (OK, the wrought iron decoration on all the Victorian-era houses, even tiny ones, is cool, too. Apparently there is more iron wroughted here than in New Orleans – the product of iron ship ballast and the need to gussy things up 13,000 miles away from England.)

But back to Street Art. Controversial for many years, it is now embraced and celebrated with festivals, galleries, schools, etc. So come to Melbourne to fuel your inner angst.

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Need something a little more soothing, if not strange? From the Gardens…

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Problem-solving and the U.S of A.

Moncton, NB

Back on the Canada mainland, we still had our “plane problem.” The safety notice had not miraculously disappeared. Of course, we jettisoned our plan to fly to Sept-Iles, Quebec – 300 miles north of Quebec City on the St. Lawrence. Mingan Archipelago Nat’l Park with the weird rock formations will have to wait.

Instead, Randy made multiple calls to “people who know about these things” and we put together a gameplan that begins today: Doranne flies home commercial from New Brunswick to KC (complicated routing but what the heck). Randy waits for fairly clear weather (no IFR) and flies in segments at higher altitudes back to his trusted folks in KC.

An “ticklish” trip from start to finish. In the unlikely event you’re wondering about all the tickles here north of the border:

To a mariner, a tickle is a narrow, dangerous body of salt water where the current can change direction without warning and unseen water hazards lurk. To this day, people refer to a dangerous predicament as a ticklish situation. Newfoundland has more than 200 ticklish spots, while New Brunswick has at least seven, including Dark Tickle, Tickle Beach and Timble Tickle.“ (Heritage Dictionary)

Update: Both home today, Randy safe and sound through rows of thunderclouds on Lake Erie.

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Thanks for reading/putting up with this blog! More Coasts and Characters from Wales in late August

 

 

Cape Onion, Goose Cove and Food Dreams

 

As our trip among the Newfies was winding down, we came upon hiking hotspots with great foodie names like Cape Onion and Goose Cove and Berry Hill. Maybe they named these because of some French culinary heritage (remember all the L’Anse stuff?).

Or maybe because it is so DARN HARD to find food around here. Honestly, there were so few restaurants that we ate dinner at this one place 3 nights (yummy cod tongues +) and had small grocer fixins’ every lunch. We started to dream about KC steaks. Thank goodness the walks were stunning (and check out the miniature village someone built at the end of a dirt road on a rock – go figure). Those helped divert thoughts from rumbling stomachs.

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Into the Wild

Forteau, Labrador
Once the Hudsons were North, we wanted more North, despite some warning signs. The Lonely Planet Canada guide, which is normally fairly chirpy about adventure, noted that “Labrador is cold, wet and windy, and its bugs are murderous. Facilities are few and far between.” Another hint, from history: In 1909 the government apparently tried to sell Labrador for $9mm but there were no takers.

Not deterred by this negativity, we pressed onward, crossing the Straits of Labrador on a ferry, with no set plans or reservations. Luckily, we found a pickup truck to rent and we started driving up the coast on the one road in this huge, sparsely populated province. Take a look – what do YOU think?
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Yep, Stark, treeless, boggy, (and buggy)….mile after mile. According to current maps, the main/only road though the province is paved just 65% of the way. And even “paved” is pretty rough – in an area the size of Montana. An old, towering lighthouse became a beacon of Fun History. Turns out the Strait’s “shortcut to Europe” was proving to be a mess for ship traffic in the early 1800’s with its icebergs, wind, and fog. So after hundreds of shipwrecks, the lighthouse was built in 1850 and life got a whole lot better for southern Labrador.

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As for the Hudsons, the road stayed rough and the bugs got rougher…and we finally did what smarter people would have done long before: returned the pickup and headed back to the ferry, bound for more lovable Newfoundland.
P.S. Labrador mineral production is now $2B a YEAR – should have bought it when it was on sale for $9MM.

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The Patey Clan, Icebergs, and Garbage Bins

St. Anthony, NF
The reason you know this is a small town is that most everyone is named Patey, including Lynn, the 77-year old energy ball we stayed with for 3 days. The cemetery is full of Patey graves and there are Patey streets and brooks in town. It’s one big clan and has apparently been around St. Anthony for 300 years.

Houses and plantings here are simple, uniform, and tidy. One communal norm we especially admire is their garbage Bins. No plastic dumpsters here…Everyone has one of these personalized gems out front. And don’t get me started on the tidy wash lines.

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While I am sad that Lynn Patey did not want her picture taken, Clyde Patey, whom she claims she does not know, was happy to pose. At 84 he loves nothing more than cycling around this hamlet and chatting. Lynn and Clyde – in fact everyone we met – are hail, hardy, smiling folks. Surviving the brutal 8-month winter is not for wimps and people are pragmatic and calm. They laugh easily.

For example, Lynn thought it was hilarious that Randy wanted ice in a glass of water. She kept no ice cubes but insisted on something better: a piece of iceberg she kept in her freezer, 13,000 years old. This sounds preposterous, but it’s fact: St. Anthony is on Iceberg Alley, an area of the North Atlantic strewn with icebergs that chip off the glaciers in Greenland and float south. So Randy got a taste of ancient glacier and, when Lynn suggested he pour some “liquor” on it, he happily obliged with gin. She herself preferred Baileys.

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When I asked Lynn what people in Kansas City should know about Newfoundland she said: “Tell them winter is long but life is slow and people trust each other. That’s it.” The dozens of carefully stacked woodpiles and lobster traps by the road on the outskirts of town (with no “keep out” warnings) is fine evidence.

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360-Degree Whales

Who knew St. Anthony was the capital of humpback whale feeding? And the season happens to be NOW. Many of you have no doubt seen these big guys before, in Iceland, California, Cape Cod, etc. But the Hudsons had never seen so many blowholes from the shore, or so many breaching, jumping, showing-off whales from a boat. Honestly, they were 360 degrees and CLOSE, within 200 feet of the boat…often 4-5 at a time. No killer whales here, just the huge cute ones with no teeth (just baleens for filtering fish). Zeke would have gone wild.

 

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Past and Current Vikings

L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland

Way, way up here on the North Atlantic Coast, Leif Erickson and Gang stormed ashore 1000 years ago. L’Anse is a place you may remember from elementary/high school history – because this was where archeologists found in 1960 definitive relics of a Viking village in N. America. The Norse bad boys (and some women too, turns out) made forays to Labrador and New Brunswick for wood, fur, and iron, but home was L’Anse. Well, at least for decade, when they decided that the Native Americans were too hard to deal with and they went back to Greenland.

This is a very very cool UNESCO site with sod long houses, etc. But rather than prattling on, I’ll leave you with some pix from Randy and a great piece on the Vikings in National Geographic you might have seen in March 2017.
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/03/vikings-ship-burials-battle-reenactor/

Let’s move on to the Current Vikings on this tip of Newfoundland – the men that tame the seas to bring us shrimp, crab, and turbot. We came upon Chad and Gang while prowling the dock in St. Anthony and asking – of course too many – questions. Cleaning their nets for shrimping, they were getting ready for a 3-day trip and were happy to yak.

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Fishing in the North Atlantic is dangerous work AND highly regulated. But at least it is now diversified. This wasn’t the case when we visited in the 80’s, when cod fishing was all-important (as it had been for 5 centuries). In 1992 the Canadian government shut the cod fishing industry down due to overfishing and it still hasn’t come back.

So Chad’s father and now Chad have shifted to other fish we love to eat. Regulation is still a sensitive topic here, since the moratorium put 30,000 out of work with “the stroke of of a pen.” I was tempted to ask Chad why they didn’t just try a Viking raid on the feds. But instead I told him I was glad they were now fishing for crabs, too, since the crab nets are really cool – they look like lampshades. See below.

_H7A4491_H7A4622_H7A4506Diversifying has helped saved the day for these fisherman. Wonder if they might consider a Chinese flight training school?