To Our Kiwi Friends

By: leelefever on February 8, 2006 - 2:44pm

By itself, New Zealand has been amazing – as expected. But it has been the people, especially the ones that have opened their homes and hearts to us that have made it truly special.  We had a wonderful time with everyone.

Rachel and Regan, you were our introduction to New Zealand and showed us Auckland and got us started on the right foot with the Kiwi lingo and L&P. We’ll always remember “sweet as” and “yeah nah yeah”. Thanks for the bbq dinner too (and the wifi)!

Robin, our guide to Devonsport… thanks so much dinner and teaching us all about Auckland, including politics.  The folk music concert was a great time- sorry we had to run to the ferry so abruptly!

Hal and Trish, our personal guides to Hawkes Bay wineries.  Thanks so much for the tours, salmon dinner and a great night outside the campervan with great company and nice broadband! J

Maitland, we had such a blast with you man!  Peka Peka beach is such a special place- you’re lucky to be able to hang out there.  We loved Wellington too and hope we can hang out sometime, maybe in another galaxy at least.  Thanks too for the wifi love.

Dan, a perfect Christchurch host, from whom we learned about things such as kiwiana (like Americana) and the social history of NZ.  Thanks for the food, lodging, wifi, hospitality and introducing us to your friends.  Go well!

You all have a place to stay in Seattle ANY TIME and we hope we’ll see you there.  Just remember we’ll be there in 2007. Cheers!

For the first set, I played very very perfect (Heineken Open, Auckland)

By: sachilefever on January 12, 2006 - 5:41pm

Our Auckland hotel was near the Parnell District which we heard was a nice place to meet friends for a martini and for higher priced shopping. Our hotel, though just fine for us, was not on this level – it was near Parnell, not in Parnell. We happened upon a Tennis Centre just three blocks away with banners announcing the Heineken Open tennis tourney. Soon after, we saw it on TV. How cool!

I have watched many many hours of tennis on TV, but not one professional match in person. It was Massu, a Chilean player with a particular loud and fanatical group following him, vs. Hrbaty a Slovakian player that had beaten Massu twice before. The way the French umpire’s accent rolled these names, Hrbaty’s name sounded like “Halibut”.

Of course we had no idea who was playing when we were waiting in line, hoping for more people to leave, so that we could buy evening tickets. “We only have Lufthansa stand now” – which were the cheapest tickets, but we had individual seats over the center of the main court. Looking across the way, we saw many of the more expensive seats were concrete stadium benches.

So, the evening match began with just a few drizzle drops. One point – Massu. One point  - Hrbaty. Then the umpire called a delay. Not even one game or set yet. The only time we’ve seen a dark cloud here happens at my first pro tennis match. Luckily it cleared in 30 minutes. The match went on.

We could hear champagne glasses and dinner plates clinking from the court level boxes throughout the match. Elderly gentlemen were texting on their cell phones next to their wives with large colorful hats.

Lee rooted for Massu, along with the overwhelming cheers of the Chilean fan group who yelled at every point “Chi-chi-chi! Le-le-le! We want Chile! Yay!” The ump wasn’t too pleased, but they would become silent the moment each serve began, so the ump couldn’t scold them. He did, however, scold a man walking up the beacher stairs in the other stand. “Sit down please, for the serve.” Again, with a heavy French accent.

In the end Massu, formerly ranked #9 in the world,  won 6-2, 6-4. He revealed his assessment in an interview after the game. “What did you think of the first set?” asked the emcee. Massu got a serious look on his face and with broken English explained, “For the first set, I played very very perfect.”

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Volcanoes and Bunkers

By: leelefever on January 9, 2006 - 1:13pm
One of the striking features of Auckland is the volcanoes that surround the city.  When Rachel and Regan picked us up a couple of days ago, they said "We thought we'd take you up to some of the volcanoes around the city.  I thought - volcanoes?  Really?  As it turns out, there are dormant  (not extinct)  volcanoes all around.  Compared to something like Mt. St. Helens or Mt. Rainier in Washington, these are tiny, just a few hundred feet high.  They provide great vistas for viewing the city and other volcanoes.  Our favorite was North Head on Devonsport, where we snapped this shot.
Speaking of Devonsport, we met Robin Capper there last night.  Robin is a local and someone I met through a guy named Buzz Bruggeman, who knows most of the people on earth it seems.  Robin helped us learn more about local culture and politics and joined us for a folk music concert at a place called The Bunker.  As it turned out, it was in a real bunker on the top of Mount Victoria and was thoroughly entertaining. Folk singers (here and in the US) seem to be very, um, folky and they like to sing along.  In a rather weird moment, we saw "House of the Rising Sun" played at very low volume with a "flying V" guitar.  Here are a couple of shots from Mount Victoria...
For some reason, we were under the impression that we'd pick up our campervan today, but, as we found this morning, it's tomorrow. So, we have one more day in Auckland before heading north.

First Day with Locals in NZ

By: leelefever on January 7, 2006 - 11:43pm

Well, we made it.  The flight was overnight and we actually got decent sleep.  We've made some really good friends in Rachel and Regan Cunliffe.  I originally met Rachel through my blog at and now we're sitting in their living room in New Zealand. This is a great example of how blogs work to bring people together. They recently had an interview published about their work with blogs and the New Zealand version of American Idol.

 Rachel, Regan and Sachi

Lacking wheels for a couple of days, they have been kind enough to wheel us around to places we couldn't visit otherwise. My favorite was the Muriwai Beach on the west coast of New Zealand.  There was a stinky, but otherwise amazing Takapu (or Gannet) sanctuary.  So many birds.  Here are the pics from the day...

Muriwai Beach: 

 A Takapu in Flight

 Lots of Birds
















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