OK, one of the worst thing about last year :
my journal that i had kept in Bali which included not only my experiences but also the jokes people told me, the great one-liners i over heard, and the lists of fish i saw diving at Tulumben in Bali was nicked out of the rental Jeep. Gone gone gone. sigh . . . I have another now, but i am only just getting back into writing as it was such a blow to have the first one lost. Not to mention all my Xmas postcards from Bali to you were in it, and about 20 gorgeous Ishtar feathers I had been giving to people from time to time... arrrghhhh.

New Year’s in New Zealand :

This place is so gorgeous! I had visions of doing the South Island in a couple of days, bombing down the east coast to Dunedin and seeing glaciers, and then up the West coast and hanging in Golden Bay in the North tip . . . wrong. John and I took the Ferry over the Cook Straight from Wellington and rented a car and drove north to Golden Bay and the Nelson area immediately.

Our first night was at the Trout Inn : a completely out of the way place that felt like something out of a movie : "How’d you find THIS place ?" they kept asking us. But they were nice enough. A maori woman in the bar, Lynn, gave us the phone number and info for the chief of a Moari Tribe in Rotarua in the North Island so we could see them spin traditional poi (upon which fire spinning is based) when we head up that way. And while John and I were playing pool, another guy, Cyril, also Maori, welcomed us to come up to his remote inlet near French Pass where he is an Oyster Farmer. . . ; he said we were welcome to come stay with him and the missus. The warmest kindest people !

When we made it to Takaka, we ended up by default at the Junction Hotel, a very old establishment that no one around stays in. . . there wasn’t anywhere else, and it is actually quite decent. The best part is that if we go off somewhere and don’t come back until 2 am, and we haven’t found an alternative place to sleep, we can just sneak in and take a room and pay up the next morning, and they don’t care a bit. They leave the vacant rooms with their doors open so you can tell easily : ) They have clean towels, good pillows, HOT showers, a real bathtub :loooong one too-- and a laundry room : what more could you ask? Oh wait! They have an actual house parrot. A real Kea, the native New Zealand parrot, which is not commonly kept as a pet. Quite rare to have one, actually. His name is Joey and he is ancient. And really sweet. They’ve let his beak grow waaaay too long, so I might have to see if I can trim it for them.

Saturday night we stumbled in on a big party at the River Inn : four bands, two of them we saw before and after dinner and going back to the hotel to shower and clean up. . . Landline and Salmonella. Seemed like everyone we’ve talked to was at that party.

A couple of nights ago, John and I ate dinner at Milliways : the Restaurant at the end of the universe. Thing was, the people there hadn’t a CLUE! We kept asking for the talking cow, and if Hot Black had been in, but they just blinked at us like the sheep dotting every steep hillside. The food was excellent. And in the bathrooms, they had these incredible handtowels. And of course I forgot my towel stateside . . . and then on two separate occasions I heard people say "What a lovely hand TOWEL" and then "hey, they have nice TOWELS in there" and I finally realized it was a message from the gods and popped in a took the one they had left out for me. "Never go anywhere without your Towel." At which point John went in and collected his. It really was intended. We tipped well : )

I got lost looking for the place we were going to check in for the night, and ended up driving about two and a half hours through incredible tall mountains on mostly gravel roads, crossing a flooded ford, and being wary of darting mad hares in the now full moon, and two of the incredible possums (more lemur-like, really) came out to peer at us and then run down the road in front of the car. Lots of dead ones on the highways. Sad.

We eventually encountered our destination: World’s End backpackers -- and went to sleep in bunks in a common room with about a dozen snoring hikers. . . .

Two nights ago we stopped at the River Inn and John ended up connecting with Pete, a fire spinner from South Africa and they did some fire together in the pasture between the Inn / pub and the beach. In the almost full moon. It was lovely.

I am off today to hike Abel Tasman park and beaches. John is sleeping in after a party he went to last night with some fire performers. I opted out as we had had a grueling day being driven around in an enormous Mercedes Benz behemoth around the farthest north point of the South Island, Farewell Spit. It was funny : these huge buses go bounding across the sands, down the coast, stop at beaches, bounce up incredibly steep roads to the top with 360 degree views (I took a panorama shot) and then down to the lighthouse at the end of the Spit. John and I kept escaping from the domineering cow at the helm. . . I thought maybe she was the Talking Cow, but the sound coming over the speakers in the bus was more "okeweekle spork sheep bleuveghal lighthouse inceitlnatingable World War Two drivelationsakljdbog" then anything intelligible.

Seated next to me was Carol, this incredibly wacked woman who is One of Us. I really regret not finding out how to contact her again. She is so cool. And kept up the funniest u nder-her-breath tirade about the driver ("what do you think she does for excitement" flouro-jelly wrestling?) and commenting on the other bus (oh that’s the EnZed euthenasia program: ("Over 80s Nudist Leap Frog Teams are boarded up on these "Tours" and then left stranded out in the dunes until the Caspian Terns pick their bones white : hey, how come THEY get air condintioning? They won’t be needing that???") She was so fun.
At the first beach we stopped at to walk among the rocks (watch for seals, they say) John found a red octopus! It was amazing! Soft and suckery and sooo alien. It was a couple of feet long, it was surfing in the tide and I played with it for a while and then put it back in the deep water just in case it wasn’t thrilled about being on the sand.

Taylor, a 9 year old boy whose favorite colur is green challenged me to a race down the dunes. They are Sahara dunes : extremely tall and you can throw yourself right off them and either run down in seeming slow motion, or do what I did, run down until about 3/4 of the way and then throw yourself into a roll and spin down the rest of the way . . . Sand everywhere : nose, ears, etc. But worth it!!!

We ate dinner at the Mussel Inn and talked to the owners and then kidnapped their son Henry as John’s native guide to a party almost an hour away. He got back this morning, leaving me the car, and now I am off to Abel Tasman to hike the beaches and woods, and then back by 1 pm to collect him to go horseback riding on perhaps the most gorgeous beach I have ever seen a photo of : )

ps. the html code for my elipsese is &#133 . . . herb caen would have cared.

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