Friday, October 15, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
We made it to Hahei (meaning the breath of Hei) and phoned a sea kayaking place and scheduled an afternoon tour, then headed out for some hiking to Cathedral Cove, a pink sand beach dominated by a large white arch diving into the deep green sea. It was lovely, but we didn't dally too long as we had to rush on back to make the same basic trip by kayak.
Which was awesome. It was only us on the tour. Our guide was great. He told us about Hei, who founded Hahei, and who became chieftain of the land because of his nose. See, there was an island in the bay which looked--if you were told to see it--like a nose. Seen from below. Kind of. A battered nose for sure, but forcing people to realize the island really looked like his nose could have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But for the Maori, if a geographical feature looked like someone's body part, then they could claim the gods had made it for them. In fact, everything you can see from the top of that anthropomorphic bit of land is yours too. Kind of a nice alternative to the homestead act.
We paddled between island, over shoals, through arches and finally back to Cathedral Cove where we went exploring some caves for a bit while our guide made us some nice hot chocolate.
And then we headed back through a bay full of sting rays in time to get back in the car and leg it to Hot Water Beach. Now this place was awesome. So awesome. At low tide, you can rent a trowel and head out to this strip of beach between some cliffs and the ocean and dig out a natural hot spring. Even walking along the beach if you force your feet down much, you can reach the sometimes scalding water.
We hiked out in the darkening shade even as the sky stayed light blue until we got there. Not that it quite got dark before the colors intensified into a deep blue green. We chatted with a couple from Manchester who let us borrow their trowel while digging out our pool while waves crashed behind us and the lights all went out. Lying on our backs, a cloud of stars and the night wind came out: chilling and gorgeous.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
The Maori have found an interesting compromise between tradition and cashing in on modern tourism. Traditionally--because members of other tribes were usually hostile and after either your food, your women, or your naughty dog--no one could enter the marae, or village green, except members of the tribe. Rather than letting that tradition fall by the wayside, they just induct visitors into the tribe, so that they can tour the Marae and village meeting house.
We were able to tag along with one of the many school groups coming through Ohinemutu that day.
PS, the hangi was so so. I've heard they're incredible, and since they bury the food for hours and hours with blazing hot stones or lumps of iron to cook them, they're pretty dramatic, but I can't say the food's a reason to visit New Zealand. But there are plenty of others.
Monday, July 12, 2010
I have no idea how many travel guides we ended up with in
We finally made it to Waitomo caves towards the end of our trip. Although I was thinking of it mainly as a must do, I was excited to see in person the strange green constellations glowing in the cave’s dark sky. Looking at the glossy adds of amazed tourists in boats or tubes, I thought it’d be an experience like no other. And that’s exactly what it was, but not at all in the way I expected.
Practice makes pretty.
We hadn’t booked ahead hoping for some kind of winter deal, I suppose and that’s what we found. Rap, Raft n’ Rock gave the best deal and even included a tour guide who gave us some fun impressions of various American stereotypes. He did a mean valley girl. And after jumping into wet suits, donning some head-lamp helmets, and practicing abseiling down into the caves we went.
There was an initial disappointment. Yeah, there were these little green dots glowing in the dark above me, but it seemed just like the adds. Just like them. As in, as good as being there. This sensation was kind of puzzling at first, but I think part of it was that getting up close to something you’ve only seen in pictures usually reveals a wealth of new sensory information and more nuanced impressions. But at first it was, “huh, there they are then.” Exactly as they’d looked in the magazines only now I was standing in a rushing, eel-filled river and it was really dark.
Kill joy, I know. Traveling with me’s a pain.
So, there I was in a fit of underwhelm when we got a close up look at and explanation of fate’s cruel capacity as exhibited in its unstinting persecution of the little glow worm. The disgustingly fascinating facts are these.
- Glow worms aren’t worms but maggots.
- Their glow lures flies into small, sticky strings which they then hoist up to suck out their insides.
- They have no anus.
- Their undischarged fecal matter fuels their glow.
- They pupate into a fly with no mouth ergo they must mate before starving to death usually within a day or two.
Glow worms far away.
A bit closer: the hanging strings that come out of its mouth to catch flies.
on the left and its unexpelled waste towards the right.
Vile, fascinating things. No anus, then no mouth? I feel these bugs need an entire evolutionary apology to explain how nature could miscarry such an abominable creature. The wizard behind the curtain of these lovely-seeming worms is a grotesque monster.
The bioluminescent constellations above us.
My experience with glow worms was also the exact opposite of how I came to understand Maori art which seemed grotesque at first but was actually really lovely. Stay tuned for more on that in this reverse chronological tour of
End of part 3 of 3... or perhaps more. It really was an awesome trip.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Heather and I made this Pinata for Diana's birthday. I asked Diana what her birthday wishes were--meaning in my mind breakfast and dinner foods--and she told me she wanted a fitted baseball cap (I forget the size), roller skates (ditto), and one other thing. Anyway, I'm sounding like a jerk who doesn't care, but I remembered at the time but ignored them to bring her, in almost her own words, 'the best present ever.' A direct quote would be more like this:
Me: Be honest. Is this the best present you have ever received?
Me: In your life?
Me: Including the inestimably precious gift of life our sweet mother gave you?
Diana: Hmmm... yes.
Before the bestowal of the gift, I was imagining all the ritual suicides that would ensue from the Pinata's sheer beauty, from the utter shock of seeing something so perfect and heavenly in this mortal realm.
Part of me realized I might have been setting myself up for disappointment. But another part of me had such faith in the glory that was the pinata, I knew it would absolutely blow their minds back to the stone age. It'd be like the opening scene in 2001 space odyssey if you replaced the monkeys with my family and the black intelligence-bestowing effigy with the pinata.
Anyway, here's what happened:
I was so happy when her petting the Pinata didn't make the fuzzy crepe paper come off.
So, I was probably the most excited. This video captures only the tiniest slice of the ecstasies I felt about the pinata which--let's remember--completely ignored the birthday wishes Diana had given me. But I guess the lesson there is that you don't always know what you want more than anything else in the world. And the lesson in me being such a freak about how awesome it was is that it is more blessed to give than to receive. And the lesson I hope to be learning from the tons of requests for our new and unimprovable Pinata kits is that sometimes doing something awesome can make you millions... millions and millions of dollars... with which you can do more awesome things... not as in something that is more awesome, but as in more things that are awesome... in their own uniquely awesome way.
Oh, and Annie would never have believed that we'd made it ourselves without some pictures to prove it, so here's one for any skeptics out there:
There, that's enough! You've seen enough of our secrets...
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The plan was to fly out to
The first night at the coast, the sea was booming and furious.
Then we found some last-minute, ridiculously cheap flights to
And now we’re in
So plans change, classes wait, roads are and aren’t taken, and I get some things done and leave some newly-invented alphabets for another lifetime or world, and all the time keep moving from the almost violently beautiful Oregon Coast (note: highway 84 along the Columbia is a long, scenic procession of sharp slopes covered in green trees with intermitten cliff faces looking over a sometimes placid river broken by rushing waterfalls—i.e. gorgeous.), to the lovely Carson valley, to a warmer California coast and on to New Zealand which, by the way, is getting kind of close to the farthest point on earth from Hershey, PA where you can stand on land.
Friday, April 9, 2010
This last weekend I went down to see the Cherry Blossoms in DC. The trees circling the Tidal Basin were a gift from a Japanese Emperor in the early 1912 (or thereabouts) and again a couple decades later. From my time in Japan, I gained a fondness/fascination/love/ardent desire/violence of affection for these trees which the Japanese name for the flower more than the fruit. Cherries, in Japanese, can be translated as "fruit of the cherry blossom," which sounds circular and ridiculous in English, but makes sense in Japanese... that could probably refer to a lot of things actually... quite a lot.
But I digress.
Heading down I was expecting/hoping/wanting a zen experience. Something that connected me with Japan, or my memories of it. Something transcendental. I wanted to stand in light filtered by the cherry blossoms. To have gentle winds come and blow the pink petals over me as I recalled haiku such as
let me fall
pure and radiant
(found in the jacket of a kamikaze pilot)
My zen mindset eluded me while shuffling through lines and groups and hordes of visitors. Even when the wind blew and cherry blossoms fell on us all, the jean-clad photographers with cameras larger than newborns standing contrapposto in the hot spring sun scowling beneath sunglasses. But then, while doing laundry a couple days later, I was reading some Kenko, an early Japanese essayist from an anthology I used in a class but never finished. Kenko wrote about visiting a small village, making his way down "a moss-covered path until [he] reached a lonely-looking hut. Not a sound could be heard, except the dripping of a water pipe buried in fallen leaves." Enjoying the "sprays of chrysanthemum and red maple leaves" he is amazed that someone might live there and then notices a fenced tangerine tree enclosed in a forbidding fence and is immediately disillusioned by the whole scene.
So, my imagined ideal discomfitingly butting against the actual, is still fairly zen and Japanesey. Plus, Kenko goes on to ask "Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless?" and wonders where the poems written about "going to view the cherry blossoms only to find they had scattered" or "on being prevented from visiting the blossoms." So, perhaps I need to write the poem "on going to see the cherry blossoms and seeing everyone else going to see the cherry blossoms."