chilling feet

chilling feet

Sunday, December 15, 2013

This Year's Christmas Card: Merry Christmas

            Merry Christmas!!         

(Sarah found these super perfect NZ Christmas ornaments - pretty
much the only thing we purchased to make this tree happen.  They give
our tree a homely feel as our NZ roots deepen.)

Well in the effort to save a little money in postage, we are doing a Merry Christmas blog post this year. It will not feel the same in your hands and you will not get that same fuzzy feeling from getting a card addressed specifically to your or yours, but we hope you still feel our love being sent your way!

We have tried to take a few fun pics from our Christmas tree to add some festivity.  Our tree/branch, stump, and most ornaments were found out in parks while on our walks (no worries, all kosher, we think). No making fun of our tree!

(Yes our tree is just a little bit scraggly but that's
OK by us.  We are loving "Frederick" just the
same.  I named him that and he loves it.)
(Sarah loves finding Paua shells and they are a huge NZ
deal.  People make jewelry and all other sorts of pretty
things out of them.  The Maori have always used them
to decorate their statues among other things. They have
a very distinct look to them!)

(Our garland and rings were made courtesy of Sarah's mad magazine recycling skills.)
(Google has a new auto awesome that tweaks your photos.  It just happened to put the sparkles to this shot of the tree, almost creating the same affect as Christmas lights!  Cool.)
(We discovered this amazing piece of a tree that had been cut almost all of the way through.  We managed to get this bad boy home - very heavy - and then I used it to make one of the sweetest tree stands I have ever seen. Seriously, can you show me a cooler one?  The extra pine needles are hiding the water bowl.  Is it growing out of the floor?)
(Up close Paua Shell and you can see our homemade snowflake in this pic as well.)
(We have talked about Tui birds and these Tui birds are used to decorate the Tui brewing company.  We needed some more shiny on the tree and Sarah was not about to let these go to waste - probably have our time living with the Johnson family in Norfolk for this sort of thinking.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New Zealand is Better with Miriam and Gordon!!

(Yes we look silly but we could not resist taking a pic
in this chair carved right out of a tree.  This bad boy is
just sitting right on a trail.  Not only is it quite a nice
rest option, but it also provides entertainment!)
If you have read our previous posts you already know that Queenstown is a magical place, but now it holds for us an even more special allure.

For just over a month and a few days now, Miriam (Sarah's sister) and Gordon (her most handsome man friend) have been living in Queenstown, NZ and we have been unable to go see them!  It has been quite unusual to have family living here in the same country (and only two hours away) and combining that knowledge with the fact that we have yet to see them - strange indeed!

Well no longer!  Sarah had four days off from work so we packed up some gear and headed up to see our beloved Miriam and Gordon (and it was about time too).  And they have done a great job at settling into the community there, making friends, getting jobs, and investigating much of the mountain trails this area has to offer.  No sooner than we had arrived, we threw on our walking attire and headed up a mountain Miriam had chosen for our first hike together.  So much fun!

It is an absolute pleasure to see people you love and like, but to also do things that you love with those same people is a true blessing.  Our days with Miriam and Gordon were spent traversing amazing trails in the beautiful mountains surrounding
(For our first hike Miriam and Gordon took it easy on us but it still
pretty much kicked our butts - literally.  We were pretty sore from the
hike.  But how can you complain with views like this?)
Qtown, tasting some of the best wines NZ has to offer (everyone calm down - even Jesus drank wine and if for some reason you don't think so it's because you're reading your Bible wrong - see we can laugh), eating at some very fine establishments, listening to amazing music, and having some much needed conversation with our friends.  We cannot really find the words to describe how truly wonderful it was to see Miriam and Gordon and spend this time with them.  Not long after we had decided to move to NZ, Miriam called Sarah and asked if we minded her "crashing our adventure."  We laughed, not only because we have no rights to this truly amazing place, but because (as the blog title suggests) we love love love the idea of family and/or friends being here with us (and we like Miriam more than most...and Gordon, but don't tell them as it might go to their heads).
(These two really love one another.  Sarah is always so much happier
when we are around Miriam.  I am not sure if Miriam knows just how
much she is loved by her big sister.  I suppose it's hard to see b/c she
cannot see a Miriam-less version of her sister!)

Such a fun four days!  As usual we will show most of our adventure in photos because they speak so loudly. I will add some captions to each photo to explain where we were and what we were doing, as most of them have stories worth an entire blog post... but seriously who is going to read them!  Ha. And this is very few of the photos taken.  We hope you enjoy looking through them even 1/4 as much as we enjoyed taking them. If you click on one of the photos it should enlarge the shot and then allow you to scroll through one at a time if you should so desire. Happy day from NZ everyone!!
(While near such wonderful mountains I was able to steal away for a few runs with my new friend Ben - a co-worker of Sarah's who loves to run mountains and such.  He came and stayed with us while we were in Qtown.  Ben took me on some crazy runs - you can hear more about that by clicking anywhere on these words and it will take you to another blog my brother and I write about our running called - Baddrunners.  Get it?  Pretty awesome views though.  This is us running up Ben Lomond, the highest peak nearby.  Miriam and Gordon summited this peak a few weeks ago - it's tough.  Good on them!)
(Taken by Ben during our run, I'm finally learning how to use some of the amazing qualities our camera has!  Be on the look out for some stellar shots in the future thanks to some of the teaching Ben is giving me.  He fortunately has the very same camera.)

(It is staying light now until around about 10pm in NZ.  In Qtown this offers some amazing views as the sun starts heading behind some mountains.  Sarah was taking some great shots of the landscape this weekend and this is one of them)
(I am sorry Miriam that I did not have a better pic of this occasion but thems the breaks.  We went to have some dessert at Miriam's restaurant Sasso - well she does not own it but she does work there.  It's quite nice but the help is really the best part!  If you're in Queenstown head by Sasso and ask for Miriam.)
(The area around Qtown is riddled with some quite tasty wineries that should not be missed when in the area.  The people were knowledgable, clearly loved making and being around wine, and the wine itself was superb.  Having lived in VA for a few years and spent plenty of time investigating the wineries of that great state, Sarah and I were both very happy with what NZ has to offer in the way of wines!)
(I warned you that I would be trying to get fancy with our camera.  One winery we visited focused on making "the bubbly" or sparkling wine - can't call it champagne because of the French rules.  But we learned a lot about the process of making the bubbly that we did not know.  Quite informative.  These bottles, and there were many, have to be turned by hand one quarter turn twice a day for the process to work.  Wow.  I still prefer no bubbles but Sarah likes the bubbly.)
(We visited Cromwell while seeking out various wineries.  It was a pretty little town with a fantastic pizzeria where we ate lunch.  And then there is Old Cromwell which has been maintained to look like it did when first settled - pretty cool.  This shot is taken on the water down by Old Cromwell.  I love shots like this of Sarah and me.  I still have no idea how a clown like me is holding a princess like her, but I'm not letting go!)
(Old Cromwell at a shot - the horse is not real.  It really was pretty neat seeing this place as it might have looked back in the day.  Sarah and I might just have to come back and give Old Cromwell one more looking over when we have time.)
(Well Farmer Gordon has cashed in his crops and is ready to drive in off the land for the day but Lady Miriam has halted his progress by jumping on his tractor... sorry, couldn't come up with anything good there.  A winery with a tractor, so we had to take a photo or two.)
(This grill you see before you is for anyone's use - pretty cool public option.  While we were taking advantage of said grill, this visiting family came up and were enamored by our goings ons, so much so they began taking photos of it. Well we were pretty excited, as you can see, by their excitement and had to document the whole ordeal with some photo taking of our own.  The lamb burgers Gordon cooked came out quite delicious, as did our times with our friends pictured here!)
(Taken right off of the banks where we were grilling, we had a mesmerizing view for our dinner.  With all of this going on our friends were still more interested in our grilling out than these views!  Ha.  But in all seriousness this is the kind of shot that belongs in a magazine - Qtown never disappoints.  Ok, it did rain one day we were there but it was still pretty.) 
(With all of the views that Qtown had to offer this is by far the best.  I know I am biassed when it comes to the beauty of my wife, but just look at that face.  I remember when I was peering into those beautiful green eyes just over six years ago in Germantown Methodist Church at our wedding.  It's pretty hard not to smile when looking at her isn't it?)
(Ok, now this guy is talented.  Gordon met him while working outside of his place of employment, which is actually not too far from this exact spot.  Graeme James (you can click on his name for his FB page) will play an entire song we all know and love by himself.  He begins by playing one instrument into a looping machine, then the next, and so on until he plays them all back together.  With perfect timing, amazing dexterity, and mad skills he plays some pretty fantastic music.  We stayed and listened to him until 2 in the morning one night - that's how good he is!)
(These girls love to hike and be outdoors.  This is part of the hike Miriam took us on the last day we were there.  Gordon unfortunately had to work.  This monster of a hike head up to a restaurant up the mountain.  It's so high up that a gondola can be used to get there instead if one so chooses.  But then you would miss sites like this, and wonderful photo ops.)
(Taken right after the shot above, the water in this area is just so beautiful.  Clean, clear, rippling over the mountains... awesome.  Also, still working on my camera but I think this one came out well.)
(When we reached the restaurant/gift shop area at the top of our hike, we were inclined to stop for a Flat White, which is basically a latte of sorts.  Usually folks will put a heart into the top of the foam but this guy showed real skill!  The fern leaf, which you can see in the foam, is a huge symbol here in NZ.  This is talent, perhaps wasted on my flat white, but appreciated nonetheless.)
(What a great trip!  We love being active.  We love Qtown.  We love tasting wines. We love seeing Miriam and Gordon. Just a good ole' time.  And just look at the weather we had that last day - really three out of four days were pretty accommodating to our outdoor desires.  Thanks to Miriam and Gordon for a great few days!) 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Motorcycles and The Invercargill Blighs

(It was pretty cool how many people were out to watch)
This past weekend the entire city of Invercargill transformed into a motorcycle haven during the Burt Munro Challenge.  Burt, who has been mentioned in a previous post, helped to make the city famous during his lifetime when at over the age of 60 he broke the land speed record for under-1000 cc on his motorcycle that was around 40 years old.  He tinkered and tweaked until it really moved.

In honor of this man and his accomplishments, the city of Invercargill hosts numerous days of motorcycle racing every year.  Quite unfortunately Sarah had to work during the coinciding times of events for this momentous weekend, so I headed out solo with some friends we had recently made during our Thanksgiving dinners to take in some Munro Challenge.

(I had to take numerous shots to actually catch these guys!)
It was quite impressive to watch different groups of competitors (broken up into packs based on their bikes and how old or fast they are) speed around the small city of Wyndham.  After learning about the life of Burt it did seem quite fitting to see it memorialized with the smell of rubber burning on asphalt at high speeds.  I know Sarah would have loved this high energy, fast racing, seldom crashing, day of motorcycle crazy, especially after her enjoyment of working at Talladega a few years back.  Who would have thought my little princess would enjoy the shaking stadium of race cars?  Well she missed out on this day and the tasty chips (fries for you back home) and a mince lamb pie (sort of the specialty round these parts - a little pie made for one that is amazingly good).  She helped put those who did crash back together as they were brought into the ED.

(What a front yard!  And this shot does not include the gardens just to our
left, the small pond, the small Maori replica house he built out back, or
the amazing playground just to the right)
While Sarah could not make it to the Munro Challenge, we were able to hit up another museum in Invercargill a few days before.  Anderson House Park is a house that the Anderson family built and lived in (obviously), which has now been renovated into a fabulous art museum.  As also previously mentioned in a prior post, we are watching a show called "A Place to Call Home" that centers around the Bligh family from Inverness, Australia set just after World War II.  Driving up onto this property felt similar to the sort of feel one gets while watching this show, and from doing some reading it seems the Anderson family was equally as active in the Invercargill community as our TV family is in Inverness.  We were not allowed to take any photos inside of the house due to the artwork, which is a shame as the house is beautiful inside and out, but we have some nice shots from outside.  
(Sarah catches me enjoying the gardens. Real men like
flowers, I think)

The house is surrounded with walking paths, gardens bursting with vast arrays of colorful flowers, littered with waterways surrounded by boisterous ducks, and a giant playground for any children that one brings with them to the park.  This place is all put together quite nicely and after all of that admission is free when it is the normal exhibit!  The house and grounds by themselves are well worth the visit, so when the art is added on top of the rest it all just "sweet as," as they say round these parts.  We wandered through as much of the house as we were allowed access to (visitors are not allowed up the narrow stairway to the third floor - bummer), and then headed out to enjoy the scenery and the nature walks.  What a perfect way for us to spend Sarah's day off!

I had to put this next photo in at this size because we like it so much.  The other night while driving home Sarah noted a rainbow in the sky - who doesn't like rainbows?  While driving past Queenspark we could still see it and snagged this shot.

Enjoy the rest of the photos - pictures of flowers from the Anderson House Park gardens that Sarah took.  This next week Sarah has a few days off in a row and we are going to finally have the chance to go see Miriam and Gordon up in Queenstown!  If you know them or are interested in hearing some more New Zealand tales about Americans traversing through Kiwi land, feel free to follow their blog as well - click here.  They are fun people and it's been a great read so far!

(We caught a lot of bees doing their business on the flowers - so fun to watch them at work)
(This guy wasn't flying but instead was traversing on the ground. From what we have read about bees we learned that they will continue to fly and do their job until their wings stop working.  Then they will fall to the ground and eventually starve to death.  We hoped he was just choosing not to fly, but either way, he kept working from small flower to flower on the ground! Can't keep a good bee down, or from doing his job even if he is down)
(Fantastically PINK and YELLOW!)
(They have a few of these arched walkways at Anderson House Park - so pretty and inviting)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Is Thanksgiving Still On Thursday??

(our first night of wonderful eating at Simon's house)
NO ONE BELIEVED ME, when I told them how much food Sarah was going to eat.  "She looks tiny and you think I'm joking but when she goes back for thirds or fourths and then does the same for dessert, you will see the truth."

This was the conversation as we gathered with American doctors and their families living in New Zealand.  We felt right at home as for the second night in a row we sat down to fill ourselves with delicious food, "the point," as Neil explained to Regan a local police officer, "is to eat until it hurts and then eat some more."  And while it was not our family, which of course we missed dearly, the next best thing has got to be these folks!

Over the course of the two nights we ate and conversed with people from everywhere.  The stories of how we all made it to a table eating turkey in Invercargill, NZ were quite amazing.  Both dinners had a few locals mixed into the group, which was especially fun because they still tried to cook traditional American Thanksgiving food.  Our favorite was the square pumpkin pie for lack of a proper pie dish. Yes, we made fun of Shona for this, especially since we had the only other "rival dessert," as she saw it (an apple tart which tasted more like apple cheesecake).
(it was Simon's first ever attempt at cooking a turkey and
it came out great - we helped a little near the end with
some advice and tips)

Highlights of conversation:  How Nick from NZ and Samantha from Hawaii met.  When Neil, who has worked literally almost everywhere from Alaska to Bhutan to anywhere in between, told of how when he and his wife moved to the middle of nowhere in Colorado and they slowly got "way too involved" with guns and when they realized they had gone too far. And then Rick adding in his aversion to guns. And then of course I told a story about my love relationship with "Betty," which is what I call my 9mm back home.  A cool talk with Sara (still said the same way as Sarah with an "h" - they say them different here usually based on if there is an "h" or lack thereof) about her uncle in the ministry. And I would be remiss to leave out the talk of Lord of the Rings and asking people about where they have visited.  And these are only from my conversations.  Many times Sarah was in another part of a house chatting it up in what I am sure were equally intriguing discussions.

Ok.  So when I was FaceTiming (thank goodness for how Apple products can do this all for free) back home we became immersed in a different type of conversation.  What day should people in other
(the square pumpkin pie! It really was tasty)
countries celebrate Thanksgiving?  I asked this of my family because for the first time I've recognized how truly American this holiday is of course.  I mean, I have no idea why people all over the world do not celebrate with us for surviving that first winter, but they do not.  I purposed, if maybe just for arguments sake, that we should celebrate it when it's the actual day in America, since not only is this when it is deemed to take place, but also this is when all of our family and friends will be celebrating.  I was met with quite a bit of resistance on this issue, which I thought was funny because this came from a group celebrating Thanksgiving dinner on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving Thursday so that they could celebrate with the "other" side of the family the next day.  Come on.

A few changes we noticed here from back home at this time of year:
1.  For some reason the store is not filled from top to bottom with pre-made pumpkin pies.  This was quite confusing and I wondered where they were.
2.  Though we were not making pumpkin pie we had a recipe that demanded puree of pumpkin.  Nope.  Not to be found anywhere in the entire store.  Upon talking to those who did make pumpkin pies (even the square one), they had to make them from scratch!  Awesome for us, hard for them.  There is no pumpkin pie ready in a can either!
3.  Some of our American friends had some nice twists on traditional dishes.  My favorite was Neil's mixture that looked like sweet potato casserole of some kind but was actually a spicy dish that goes well with currie.  It was fantastic.
4.  The weather.  As we are now fully engaged in the thralls of a nice Spring, our Thanksgiving day (if my family wins the argument) was around 19 degrees celsius (for those too lazy to google the difference that's around 66 degrees fahrenheit). I was wearing shorts! Celebrating Christmas and New Years in a warm area will be a new experience.  
5.  So mostly it was the total absence of pumpkin pies everywhere, but not seeing some sort of pilgrim/turkey decor in stores and around town was kind of sad.

What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? I'm glad you asked. Amidst all of the memorable experiences I am having here in NZ, I am most thankful for having an adventurous wife, without whom I may have never seen this beautiful land and know any kiwis. She is beautiful, intelligent, funny, and everything I want in a woman, so naturally I am thankful for her in general and the fact that somehow I've strung her along this far, but this year I am most thankful for her adventurous spirit.

I'll end today's post with another poem from Madeleine L'Engle.  It's a short one and a favorite of mine:

The Birth of Love

To learn to love
is to be stripped of all love
until you are wholly without love
until you have gone
naked and afraid
into this cold dark place
where all love is taken from you
you will not know
that you are wholly within love.

Happy Thanksgiving from Down Under!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Secret of Shells

(I'm listening to Marc Cohn this week. If you'd like to listen along click on the video to the right - he's known for the song Walking in Memphis - not sure why Marc is just lying there the whole time in this video... oh well)

Have you ever put a shell up to your ear to see if you can hear the ocean?  I remember being told as a child this was true, "Just put the shell up to ear and listen."  While I am fairly certain that in the end what my ear is detecting is simply the wind making its way through the shell, however, is it not fantastical to imagine instead that a mystical connection still exists between the shell and the ocean that once was its home?  I can identify with this idea.  As a child growing up in the Northwest corner of Ohio and quite far from the ocean, the giant conch shell my parents kept in our house was elusive and indeed magical to me.  Not only did the sound of the ocean travel through this alien object, but almost as impressively one could blow through it to create quite a horn-like noise that belonged on some ancient battlefield.  Fittingly our father used it often at the end of the day when we needed to come home from playing for dinner.  When you heard the blast of the shell you best come running!

(Shells galore.  Many of them had been bleached out
pretty badly by the sun, but Sarah was willing to take
the time to look through and find the good ones)
My wife has the ocean running through her veins.  It is a part of her, and as strange as ocean/beach life is to me, it is a home to her, a place of nourishment and familiarity.  In many of our posts I have mentioned, even centered thoughts around, Sarah's love for being near or on any beach, or anything that even resembles a beach.  And yet as I sit here and try to understand how she loves the ocean and everything about it, my heart whispers, "yes, but it is so much more."  And so it is.  The peaceful delight that comes over Sarah when she is walking down the beach is unexplainable.  There is no walk that is too long, no shell that does not deserve utmost attention and likely also upon close inspection may simply have to be brought home. The cold wind might wrap it's weary arms about her but she notices it not (which says a lot because Sarah does not like to be cold).  Wind battered and smiling she saunters along, arms full of all of the shells she can carry, and every time we leave is too soon.

As we finished all of our walks out at Sandy Point (though there are still trails not marked on the map), we found a long string of beach that connects past Whaler's Bay and heads up yonder to the rest of Oreti Beach.  It was not part of why we came out that day but of course we had to walk it - there is no point in even arguing it.  "Ok honey, let's walk down the beach but I'd still like to hit the trails we came for so is it alright with you. I'd like to leave enough time to come back and do them tonight."  She nods in agreement but I know better. As soon as she hits that beach it is going to be almost impossible to wrench her free of it.  So we walked, enjoying the weather and views.  I wondered if this part of the beach were ever wide and flat enough for the Burt Monroe motorcycle
(What a beach!  Forest at it's side... very peaceful)
races, figuring in the end it probably was not at this particular portion of the beach.  Sarah bounced along as happy as could be, searching the beach for washed up treasures and thinking, I can only assume based on her face, of puppies playing with newborn babies with freshly baked brownies nearby (that is really how happy the beach makes her).  Some moments we walk hand in hand, while others we spread out a little so we can investigate various finds.

And then it happened.

We wandered upon what must be at least a football sized section of the beach absolutely filled with shells. I am not sure if Sarah gasped but she might as well have for I know she was doing so on the inside. It was pretty difficult to get Sarah to leave this find.  I was ready about five minutes after we arrived upon this smorgasbord of shells, while she was still slowly meandering back and forth through it (as she was "working on leaving"), and this was even after I promised I would bring her back and let her wander to her heart's content.

(The lagoon did not offer the best
pic so here we are posing in front of
it. Smile for the lagoon!)
Well in spite of my worry, we still had plenty of time to make it up the trail to the lagoon.  Fortunately at this point the sun does not go completely down until after 9pm - quite nice.  We strolled past an amazingly dark wooded area, which as far as I could tell was due simply to the closeness of the trees and their blocking out the sun.  I have never seen such a dense set of woods and I found it difficult to look too long into the darkness of those trees (I know, I've watched too many movies and read too many books for certain).  The lagoon was nice, the mysteriously dark trees intriguing, and the wild life along our trail beautiful, but the whole time it felt as though we were not walking on the beach to me.  I do not think Sarah felt this way as she had left the beach behind, but still it lingered, crowding out our lagoon (as well maybe it should for there was not much to see of said lagoon).  It was a like a third person walking down the trails with us.
(The photos did not quite capture the
darkness but I tried)

Thinking back to conch shell my parents kept at home, if I close my eyes I can still hear the ocean through that shell in memory.  So far from the shores and yet there was the ocean reaching through to me.  Sitting in New Zealand I feel perhaps a little bit like the shell itself.  Do I seem as strange to these Kiwis as that shell did to me?  I wonder can they hear the rushing winds blowing over the Northwestern corner of Ohio?  Can they smell the slow cooking ribs of Memphis on us?  Hmm, such strange thoughts and though right now they seem quite normal and I almost hope it is possible for my home to reach through me into this distant land.  I suppose in ways that it does, as New Zealand reaches into us and mold us some too.

(Hey, I like the beach too, just not like whatever Sarah has for it.  Not yet.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Seals, Penguins, and Sea Lions, Oh My!

(A penguin blind - a little building put together so that
visitors to this bay can watch the penguins and bother
the little guys as little as possible!)
Day One of the Catlins Adventure:

The Catlins is certainly one of the must sees in New Zealand (and now a favorite of ours), especially on the Southern island, found on the Southeastern coast. As described from the link provided above, "The Catlins is an area of great contrasts and natural beauty with an abundance of wildlife. From magnificent coastal cliffs and headlands, long sweeping beaches, coves and sandy bays; to extensive temperate rainforests, waterfalls and rolling farmland, the Catlins is a fascinating, rugged place 'off the beaten track.' " This succinct summary of the Catlins is nice and tidy, but it does not cover the half of it as you will see from our photos.  As with all things, there is most likely a certain sort of romance that exists for us as we travel through the Catlins that many of the Kiwis do not have simply because they are raised within the atmosphere (although there were plenty of NZers on holiday visiting the area and they seemed quite excited to be there as well. Maybe everyone goes coo coo over this area).  For instance, there are no penguins nearby where we grew up and so the opportunity to see them close up and in person was something we became quite excited by. Much of the coastline and land here has been formed by what we kept hearing referred to as "The Weather" - it is always affecting the formation of the coastline.   

I rather liked the idea of having a poem in the last post and it seems relevant for this one as well in searching for words to describe the beauty we saw the past few days.  I'll stick to Madeleine L'Engle again for this one - "Shout Joy" from Lines Scribbled on an Envelope:

"O sing unto God/ and sing praises unto his Name
magnify him that rideth upon the heavens/ praise his Name/ Jah!
shout it/ cry it aloud upon the wind/ take the tail of his steed
and fling across the sky/ in his wild wake/ Jah!
he cannot be caught/ he cannot be fled/ he cannot be known
nor his knowledge escaped/ the light of his Name
blinds the brilliance of stars/ Jah!
catch the falling dragon/ ride between his flailing wings
leap between the jaws of the lion/ grasp the horn of the unicorn
calling with mighty voice/ Jah!
caught in the star flame/ whipped by comet lash/ rejoice before him
cry above the voices of the cherubim/ shout alongside the seraphim/ Jah!
bellow joy behind kings/ scattered by the quaking of his hills
fleeing before his fire/ rush like snow through his thunderous flame
crying with gladness/ adoration of his Name/ God is Lord/ Jah!

(Looking out a window waiting for penguins to come back
a long day fishing)
You might be wondering what the word "Jah" means.  One of the Hebrew words for God found in the Old Testament is generally pronounced Yahweh in English.  Often the Hebrew letters, as I was taught in my seminary days, can be transliterated with a "j" or "y" sound in English.  Yahweh or Jahweh.  Joseph can be heard pronounced Yoseph.  Yeshua is Joshua, which is also the Hebrew name for Jesus (that's his Greek name btw).  Jah is the first part of the name Jahweh.  The favorite little bit of information I have learned about this particular word surrounds its translation.  Most folks will tell you that it means, "I am," and this is a pretty widely accepted translation.  However, as Hebrew can be a little tricky, one professor pointed out that it can also be translated as, "I will be who I will be."  As this is a name that God chooses for Godself (Exodus 3 - the history of the name is a little complicated), it does hold obvious significance and for some reason I just love the second translation better.  At any rate, I have shared this poem because while walking around in the Catlins I too felt like shouting "Jah!" as we enjoyed the sights.  Feel free to shout Jah as you view the photos from this post.   

Our trip started over at Kaka Point, or almost the farthest Eastern section of the area.  A quaint little town with some nice beachfront property, we only spent a little bit of time traversing the beach here because we had our first objective in sight - Nugget Point!  Not only does Nugget Point boast a fantastic lighthouse (and we are always up for visiting lighthouses - the Virginia/North Carolina coast got us onto lighthouses), but the map showed it as a sight for seals, yellow eyed penguins, and more! On the road up to the lighthouse we visited the penguin viewing area.  After a short trek down to the sweet penguin hide, we sat and watched for any signs of penguin activity.  As we were a little early (they come out around dusk to come home) we waited around twenty minutes when suddenly we spied movement!  The camera was able to catch a few pics of this early bird coming home, but unfortunately were were just outside of our zoom capability.  If you look carefully to the left side of the log you will see it (him/her?), having just taken great care to jump up onto the drift wood.
(Can you see the penguin?)
He then carefully dismounted on the other side of the log and worked out of view to his nest (the chicklings are supposed to hatch sometime next month! We may have to go back.).  It was not much of a sighting but it was the first time either one of us had seen any kind of penguin in the wild! Pretty amazing.  On the way back down the hill we stopped and saw two more but they were even further away.

Post penguin watching we continued on our way up to see Nugget Point. It is thus called nugget point due to the shape of rocks which can appear to look like giant golden nuggets that have been carelessly dropped into the sea apparently from giants (Jack and the beanstalk reference - and yes I am reaching).  As you can see from the photos they do resemble, to some extent, golden nuggets although I am fairly certain their semblance ends only in appearance and not in make-up (because they are still there). There were some spectacular views from this area and something else you can note from the pictures - "the weather" was hard at work while we visited. So much wind, ocean, rain, and other elements of nature have been constantly crafting out these shorelines into works of art for some time now (it was a little
(seriously there is a seal down there)
chilly and windy/rainy). On our walk back  to the car we then spotted our first sighting of a wild seal!  Again, not the best photo of the sight, but down that hill, if you look extra carefully, you will see the shape of a seal, which also looks remarkably like a piece of wood.  We did see it move, which confirmed Sarah's sharp spotting, and while she was looking at the first one I saw another one swimming in the water - again, so dang exciting!  But outside of our second outing to the penguin blind in a chance for more happy feet action, we jumped in the car to head on for more NZ! (More photos of Nuggets Point below)
On our way towards our first night's slumber we stopped by a place called Tunnel Hill.  This bad boy was carved out the old fashion way, with a pick and a shovel (or as a the sign said "by hand").  We were walking down the path and chitter chattering about what we were going to do next when I looked down and saw what you see me standing before in the picture.  I am not sure I physically stopped in my tracks but there was something about seeing this tunnel that gave me pause.  At 250 meters and with only a small glint of light in the distance, this historical tunnel gives a haunting feeling. Yes we walked through to the other side, my torch in hand (gotta talk local - flashlight, not a blazing stick on fire unfortunately as that would be cool) and it was significant to feel the craftsmanship all engulfing us.  On the walk back Sarah suddenly spurted, "Turn your flashlight off you scaredy cat!" I can tell you I really did not want to do so, especially because I can think of around about fifty or so horror movies that kick off with just such a statement. But, pride usually wins (which is why people die in those movies) as it did here, and we walked in the dark cool corridor for a little bit before I resumed using my torch.

Last week I shared a song that was stuck in my head and which incapsulated where my heart was for the post.  One of my favorite bands over the past few years has been Of Monsters and Men.  Not only have we been hearing parts of their songs in countless ads and in the background when we visit stores, but their music feels like it comes from some strange new land (which makes me think of here).  While writing this post I am listening to their album and do not want to deprive you of the opportunity as well!
(not only a great song but an incredibly unique video)

(Waking up after the cold cold night. I love this shot)
Day Two of the Catlins Adventure:

Back to the trip.  Part of the fun for this adventure was being able to simply drive through the countryside, look on a map, and then just pick out what we felt like looked fun.  There was of course some research done before we left, but for the most part our adventure was left loose around the edges so that we would have the freedom to explore (you can follow along if you like with this online map by clicking here).  By this point in time we had reached the moment to look for accommodations - or in other words a place to put our tent.  Naturally, right around the time we went to plop our tent out, it began to rain rather significantly. We made the mistake of heading down the beach to look for sea lions when it got a little worse.  So, a little wet and chilled, we scoped out a few other camping areas to be sure that we had the best option and then head into town for a nice cuppa to warm up.  A little bit warmer, the rain let up and we finished setting the tent up right around the same time it decided to rain again (did I

mention it was a wee bit cold?).  With some cold fingers we finished up our night by heating up our dinner in the common room, getting ready for bed, and then reading some Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkein) via the kindle.  Unexpectedly the temperature continued to drop, to what exactly we do not know, and through the the night we could hear slushy material sliding down the outside of the tent.

(We took a bunch of photos of these two - presumable mother and child.
They kept snuggling and it was so cute.  I like that this one makes it
seem as though the baby sea lion is giving us a tired backwards wave)
Yes, we were too cold and slept little, but then we woke up to beautiful day you can see in the next photo (plus most of the rain and bad weather waited until we were no longer out and about seeing sights which was actually pretty nice of it). Ready to walk some of the cold out of our legs, we got moving as quickly as possible, and after fueling up on the fruit we brought, headed down to the beach walk once more.  This time the weather was exponentially better and we actually walked for a few hours. Our walk started in Surat Bay, taking us past a shipwreck sight, to Cannibal Bay (thus named because human bones were found in the sand dunes), and past some hearty (though mostly napping) sea lions!  The signs suggest staying 10-20 meters away from sea lions, for their and our safety (though I think mostly ours), and this was not too difficult because they are huge (and though they were rather inactive, reportedly they move quite quickly on land when they are motivated to do so). We kept a healthy distance.  
(Caught these guys going for a swim or some fish)

As I glance back at these photos, I find it near impossible to believe we are the ones who took them - while on the same beach, just walking by! There cannot be too many wild animals of their size and might that simply look up at you as you walk by and seemingly shrug their shoulders so that they can go back to sleep improving their tan.  There were one or two that watched us with a keener eye (such as the mother), but overall they were mostly unimpressed by our presence. Cannibal Bay only had one solitary sea lion napping the day away.  I speculated he had been banned from Surat Bay for behaving badly and was in the proverbial time out of sorts (his family may have just been fishing). We finished our walk back to Surat Bay, almost literally walking onto a sea lion that was sleeping up on the sand dunes, and then headed off for there was much more to be seen!
(seriously, not my new hair style)
Our second day in the Catlins was mostly a day spent working towards the Cathedral Caves, which can only be seen at low tide and was near where we wanted to try and camp for the night. But one cannot say we were simply wasting time as we went from one magical sight to the next. While it was still windy as seen here in this photo of my modeling my cuppa (it's really just my new hair style - I call it the high wave), I think of our second day mostly as a day of waterfalls.  The Catlins consist of a lot of coastal rainforest, which makes for some nice walks leading to rather pleasant waterfalls. Weaving our way from waterfall, to estuary, to waterfall, to walks that show how a forest grows, to waterfall, to
(yep, I keep saying it - Kiwis make
pretty awesome walking trails just
so we can go and visit waterfalls in
the middle of a rainforest)
(Smile, smile, smile - tis a waterfall behind
you! We lingered at each waterfall as she
would just stand there and watch the water.
I too felt the pull to just see the water take
its liquid course)
historical sites, we walked a bunch of little walks all adding up to quite a good distance (our legs are still recovering). The good part about waterfalls, besides the greatness they possess of their own accord, is apparently Sarah enjoys them almost as much as she does the beach. Just look at that smile beaming on her face, in spite of the fact that she did not want to pose for any photos after the cold, wind, hats, and traveling had not made her "camera ready." As always, I do not get what she is saying or thinking as I just see the same beautiful Sarah. Yet every time I post another photo of this little lady I just hope that she will find it share worthy.

We discovered plenty of worthwhile sites on our way to the mystical Cathedral Caves but it is certain that they tower above in comparison of straight up fantastical allure when set next to our other sites (as fabulous as they are).  The site is maintained by a family (who has some sort of ties to the olden days) and each person wanting to see the Cathedral Caves pays five dollars for entry. After a few warnings about getting wet and slick rocks, the attendant gave us a fair forecast about the conditions of a relatively high low tide - which translates into "btw, you will most likely get wet." The biggest mistake we made in the few days of

adventuring was not paying attention to the other tools at our disposal. Both of us had strap on sandals we could have used to simply walk through the two to five feet deep water, depending on how you time the tides, but we both thought our chances were better than they were at remaining dry.  While we both paid for this mistake with wet hiking shoes/boots we could not wear again during this trip, we did not allow this little hiccup to dampen our experience of the caves (at least not in spirit). Arriving at the caves after a short hike down through the forest and a walk down the beach, it is almost unimaginable to suddenly wander upon these gargantuan caves. As with all of our chances at capturing the beauty of this country,

our attempts to take pictures that truly represent the height of these caves are lost as soon as we push the button. How can a photo illustrate the wonder at looking back down and actually seeing what does represent a cathedral entrance as if it was some ancient church now abandoned to the congregants of waves and the strange shelled creatures attached to the rocks? Also, amazingly enough we did make it into the caves without getting wet (at least beyond what our shoes are designed for at any rate). It was upon our attempt to leave we found the ocean refusing to cooperate, and ourselves barely incapable of outwitting it. As it turns out it the ocean is quite a wild opponent with hard to read attacks - ocean wins this round. 

I apologize for the long post (more wonderful pictures to come).  Please feel free to enjoy another Of Monsters and Men song/video if you would like as a break.  This album is fueling the post!

Day Three (and the last day so hold tight) of the Catlins Adventure:

Our second day ended as the first - in a tent. After a short reading from our Hobbit tale, we almost instantly fell asleep after our previously chilly night, sleeping soooo much better this time round. Upon rising, with the sun as an alarm clock, we grabbed a quick cuppa of coffee at the place where we stayed and then headed for the one waterfall we had not hit the day before, which is conveniently located only about two minutes up a road from the campsite. Staying dry on this one and while it is no put down on the other waterfalls, we were happy to discover McLean Falls to be the grandest of all we had seen on this trip. One just has to wonder if the locals ever decide to start their day the same way and how great it would be to have the opportunity.

A little shoot down the road, and after a few lesser walks or stops, we arrived at Porpoise Bay. Porpoise Bay is a notorious dolphin nursery and home to a very rare porpoise called "Hectors Dolphins." A loss to us, these dolphins were not back yet from their winter move up the coast in search of slightly warmer waters. Soon they will return and most likely with pups in need of some training as they grow (pretty sure we will have to revisit this site too). When they are present, however, one can simply swim out and if you remain still the dolphins will usually swim over to check you out!

Porpoise Bay and Curio Bay, our next great hope at seeing yellow eyed penguins again, was extremely close. So as we waited for dusk and our best chance at seeing another penguin, we climbed rocks to watch the crashing waves smash against the coast, searched waves for early dolphins that might be arriving back to the bay, took more pictures, and then visited a few more local sites. This included a long windy 

walk out to Slope Point, the Southern most point of New Zealand's Southern island. Sitting almost smack dab equal distance between the Equator and the South Pole, we once again found a sign leading us towards an Antarctic voyage. As you will see in picture below if you keep scrolling, Sarah decided to get as far South as possible, even leaning parts of her body over the cliff... goodness. But onto Curio Bay!

Well we sat, waiting for dusk and whatever that means to a penguin, and finally we were rewarded with an up close encounter! We did have something to keep us busy as you might be wondering why this penguin is walking through such a strange environment. This little guy is wandering through a petrified forest and back up to a nest built up beyond the rocks in some brush. A site full of petrified logs, trees, and other strange items all combined with yellow eyed penguins - nice. It was amazing to watch them suddenly appear out of the waves, jump onto shore, and then make their slow but sure way up to their nest. Definitely worth the wait. Also while we were waiting, Sophie a German hitchhiker, came up and asked us which direction we were headed. After a short conversation she headed off to get her bag out of the car she had arrived in and Sarah and I looked at one another with astonishment. We
were certainly not "petrified" (get it) at the notion of giving someone a ride, but there are always considerations to be made. Fortunately she was a great person and we enjoyed getting to know her. We invited her to stay the night at our house and in gratitude she cooked us dinner and breakfast. If this was always the deal we would pick up more folks!

After watching our penguin friends wander on past us and picking up an extra passenger, we headed for home with only one last stop before us, Waipapa Point which offered both a lighthouse and possible sea lions in one stop. It did not disappoint. With a nice walk up to this quaint little lighthouse we turned to walk down onto the beach in search of sea lions and saw this:  
(Nap time)
"Um, guys, you're sort of blocking the entrance to the beach. Do you mind moving over a little bit so we can come down?" The best part is that as we slowly walked down towards them there was another giant one off to the right hidden behind the grass! So as you look the right and see Sarah crouching to take a picture with this sea lion, she is actually about equal distance from the three laying in the first picture. While they were content to keep on sleeping it still made me a little uneasy to have her so close. After we had started back up the track I noticed two guys who had walked up and were getting really close to one of them. This idiot reached over and touched one, while standing only a few feet from the three others nearby. The one he touched turned and looked at him and gave a nice deep growl, while at least one or two from the other group looked up to see what was happening. I honestly thought I was about to see this guy get sea lion whipped. But he backed away and while they were still paying attention their nap-like state also seemed to keep them wanting to sleep more than killing a human, thankfully.

We made it home and slept like babies, worn out from the trekking and fun. Hopefully you have enjoyed hearing about the wonder that is The Catlins. Enjoy your day and when you are in awe of something shout "Jah" in adoration and thanksgiving.  

(Our first day with sea lions and Sarah was more timid - probably better this way)

(This is the female sea lion we almost came walking up on - how did she get up here?)

(This walk takes one through the natural stages of a forest - pretty cool)
(I kept telling Sarah that we could just go up and join the snuggle fest)
("So we should build this awesome pathway through the marshy field so that people can go out and see the estuary and birds." Lets do it)
(This American designed farm tractor was used by a wood mill to transport trees)
(Cathedral Caves entrance - walk in and get wet or try to scale the walls and still get wet)
(It was fun climbing though - a little slick)
(One of my favorite shots from the Catlins trip coming back up the second Cathedral cave)
(This makes me think of the elusive Sasquatch pictures where he's walking across the scene)
(Rainforest rocks)
(So many excellent waterfalls)
(Nugget Point)
(The trail back from the lighthouse at Nugget Point - you've got to be kidding me!  Amazing)
(Tunnel Hill)
(You're telling me it's normal to walk through dark tunnels with your flashlight off?)
(Sarah proving she has been farther South than me)