Saturday kicked off with a delicious breakfast at my B&B with a couple from Italy (he was also half German, and they spoke in a mélange of the two tongues) a woman from Melbourne, Australia, and of course our Kiwis hosts.

breakfast! yes, I managed to eat ALL of it, even the basil garnish.

Active discussions of how great NZ is and how it’s actually really kind of hard to understand them ensured – very fun and multi-cultural! Walked downtown, via the main touristy shopping road of Queen Street to take a ferry over to Devonport, a quaint little town with more of these adorable historic cottages I so love. Lunch was a quick take-out snack from a recommended, packed full bakery there – small hot individual spinach and feta quiche and some sort of cookie thing called a meltaway (which basically became a ‘throw away’ after one bite; the yellow inner filling between two ostensible shortbread cookies [they were too squashy for that] was supposed to be passion fruit, but had no taste and was the consistency of frosting, which –save for the cream-cheese on carrot cake type– I generally hate). In an effort to salve my conscience for the food waste, I crammed the remainder into in my day bag, thinking, “perhaps I’ll eat it later when I am hungrier.”   All I succeeded in doing was glopping a buttery grease stain all over my brand new, neatly packaged in its own nylon bag Baggu reusable shopping tote. Sigh.

Stopped by tourist information and obtained a ‘historic walking tour’ brochure which started off stunningly, pacing a row of the cottages that overlooked a park bordering the water – and then started wending uhill through less remarkable but still pretty neighborhoods, but then seemed to go on FOREVER – I kept checking the map to see if I had gone awry.

beach at Devonport

Well, when possible, anyway – I have noticed that they seem to be a little erratic with their street labeling. Not all intersections will have both streets marked, and be assured that the direction you most desperately need to have verified will be the one they neglected to grant a sign to.  My original plan was to briskly do the walking tour and a schlep up this particular hamlet’s volcanic mountain for some views, so I began to get rather impatient and antsy as I was anxious to get ‘home’ to accomplish some work.

However – I did get to see 1) Kiwis assembling for a wedding at a village church in their finery [I have noticed that many Kiwi women seem to favor short, slightly ruffled skirts in a small floral pattern, which somewhat dissonantly showcases their often highly sturdy legs] and 2) Kiwis heading to their parliamentary voting, which takes place on a Saturday. At first I thought, “A Saturday???  Who came up with THAT crazy idea?” but then I realized that’s so much better than a TUESDAY, when voting must be squeezed in around work. The sad truth is, U.S. voter turnout rates would likely be even lower if it didn’t offer the lure of playing hooky from the workday for a half hour or so – I believe people would be reluctant to disrupt their Saturdays for it.

It was hard to remain impatient in the sun-warmed, jasmine-scented air, though, and eventually I found my way out of the historic walking route to the start of the path to the mountain summit. After some waffling –it had already taken me twice as long as I thought to do the walking tour alone!–  I decided to scale the little peak before heading home. Glad I did – more amazing views from every direction; more gale force winds on one side (buffeting me bodily; whipping the camera strap against my face – quite briskly too! Funny to watch, I am certain.)

view from Mount Victoria

birds sunning themselves on an isolated bench on the mountain slope

view from Mount Victoria, other direction - such surreal looking trees!

I descended the hill, caught the ferry back, then nabbed the bus back to my general vicinity to expedite my return to work (and rest the weary feets, too!). Did some office work in my room, then was invited by my hostess to join her and her husband for ice cream and strawberries, woo! This morphed into me watching the election results, discussing politics, and just generally shooting the breeze with Tony, a marvelously funny and smart guy – lovely couple, these folks – til after 11 pm. Once I gave up around 10 on going back to work, I accepted his offer of a glass of Kiwi wine. He poured me a petite dose of a chardonnay first, then a second glass of a Sauvignon Blanc that was so incredibly, fruitily fragrant it smelled like a moscato, though it tasted just like a Sav – like an oenological hat trick!

Fascinating to talk politics and economics with a resident of a country that’s so similar in many ways, but so different. (Plus Tony and Marlene spent time working as truckers in the U.S., so they know about both countries, which helps them explain some of the differences in a way easy for me understand.) They have a party proportion system here – I believe about 8 different parties won at least a small share of Parlimentary seats. Their version of the Republican party carried the day, though their Green party got an unprecedented vote share as well.

I hit the hay hard and then was awakened ridiculously early -5:20 or so- by happy noisy birds up early singing. I packed up in prep for picking up my campervan, and then jumped right back into work.  I was in a bit of a panic over not having written all night like I planned, but the cultural experience was not to be missed; I could not regret it.  But I decided to ask to get all packed and out of the bedroom, then move to the living room to use the WiFi and electricity til I had to go get the van. No problem, said my accommodating hosts, and the Mrs. welcomed me to actually set up at their huge dining table in the kitchen to work. They both departed for work/errands while I remained there, beavering away.

It occurred to me around 11:30 am to check the open hours for the van rental place, being a Sunday. Pulling up their website, I noticed they had no Sunday hours. “Hm,” I thought, “strange. Is someone going to be posted there just to meet me?” I retrieved my reservation confirmation from my email folder and noticed immediately with chill that the reservation said ‘Saturday’….

Yes, that’s right, in what I am sure is a carryover from my inability to grasp what day it would be down here when I reserved the camper, I had internalized pickup day was Sunday – so CERTAIN was I of the day, I didn’t even bother to check the dates at any recent point. Well – ooops!!!

THANKfully the B&B has only me here right now and thus it was not a major issue for me to lurk for one more night, as I ascertained when Tony popped home for lunch and was met with my wail of dismay and a babbling explanation of the problem. Having discovered the necessary delay in my plans, and after looking mournfully out the windows all morning chained to my laptop at the PERFECT day (finally, after gale force winds and intermittent rain the 2 days prior), I resolved to break from work and go out for a bit of fresh air and sun (the terrible noseburn and neckburn I garnered the day before notwithstanding). I walked down the path the bus had taken me on the day before, which went past the leafy green U of Auckland campus, and on to downtown’s Queen Street again, where the annual Santa Parade was taking place. I am not a major parade fan but thought I’d take a look and shoot some pics until, about 5 minutes in and two shots later, the camera shut down.

one of two shots I managed to squeak out of the Santa's Parade

Yes, crummy Ikea batteries are not good performers in a camera. So I headed back the way I came, determined to knock out some more work.

Feeling slightly woozy partway back – it’d been hours since I’d eaten – I stopped at Galbraith’s Alehouse – a brewery and restaurant – for a little refreshment. As I was choosing a beer to go with my potato leek soup I was enthusiastically accosted by a friendly Kiwi, Ross, who insisted so heartily on me having his suggested beer – a Norwegian one, Nogne IPA – that he bought it for me. He was temporarily escaped from a heavily pregnant and grouchy wife, he said, and after I invited him to sit with me while I ate, regaled me with a non-stop rat-a-tat flow of chatter that I could only understand about 40 percent of, due to 1) speed, 2) accent deciphering, and 3) unfamiliar lingo (for example, he kept saying, ‘E.I., E.I.’ at points where something was self-evident, I guess – even my Kiwi hostess had no idea what that meant.)

However, this allowed me to eat my soup nearly uninterrupted and make it back to the house in decent time to work for the remainder of the evening, and arise today ready to get the campervan – for REAL this time – and head out to…… er, well – I’m not sure where. Once I pick a direction, it won’t be hard to figure out where to stop, but the initial direction is the sticky wicket.

My relative down here (we’re just going to call him my Uncle Jon, for the sake of simplicity, though the real relationship is more circuitous) was most adamant that I make a beeline for the South Island. I have to confess this idea had been playing in my own head, and my psychic massage therapist, when we were discussing my trip plans, favored this idea as well. My Kiwi hosts are reasonably adamant that I should head out to the Coromandel peninsula – also very small towns, but much closer to Auckland, and will be flooded with folks from the city once school lets out – upon departure.  I do WANT to meet locals (hopefully by then with practice I’ll be better able to understand them!)  So perhaps, if I book ahead a few places for the end of the trip, it’d be a benefit to go then. Time to do a little spot research…