January 13th

Yesterday (the 13th for us) we drove farther north toward the Ninety Mile Beach.  We wanted to be sure to eat at the world famous Mangonui Fish and Chip Shop which, according to our New Zealand travel guide, is “new Zealand’s best fish-and-chip shop.”  Well, it was good, but it wasn’t that good.  Actually, I was hesitant to eat it anyway, since I always get indigestion after eating anything greasy.  I lucked out this time, though, probably because I made sure to eat plenty of lemon wedges in order to cut the grease.  (A good excuse to eat lemons, anyway–you know me and lemons!  Ha ha!)

Mangonui was a cool little town right on the coast.  There are quite a few little towns like that–they remind me of Sausalito, CA.  Touristy with interesting little shops, etc.  All the towns around here are very clean and nice.  They have recycling bins sitting out in front of the houses.  I noticed they seem to recycle everything, including glass (I can’t find any place in Kalispell that will recycle glass).  There was a funny old guy playing his guitar and serenading us with cowboy songs under a big tree along the street.  I took his picture, & he thanked me (probably hoping for a handout).  I wanted to take my time looking at stuff, but “someone” is constantly hurrying me along.  Why, I don’t know…

Ninety Mile Beach (actually it’s 90 kilometers long, only 60 miles long, according to the concierge at the hotel who, by the way, was a cute 20-something very knowledgeable guy with terribly bad breath [according to Bill–I didn’t get that close]).  The beach was huge (duh!) and really pretty.  When we stopped to ask for directions for how to get to it, the lady asked whether we had 4-wheel drive.  We didn’t, of course, so she said to park & walk over to it.  We soon saw why.  As we started walking, a bunch of locals in 2 vehicles came barreling past.  One, a small pickup with no 4-wheel drive, immediately got stuck.  Bill went over & helped push them out of the deepest sand, & then they were on their way.  The sand hardened up the closer you got to the water.  (They didn’t need his help.  There were several of them in the vehicles.  One guy, the biggest one of the bunch, just stood there watching & eating something.)

But as I was saying, the beach was really beautiful, but boy was it WINDY!!!!  And I was shivering.  No swimming, snorkeling or even laying out for us.  (Which was fine, since Bill was in a hurry anyway.)  I picked up a few shells, although I probably won’t get them through Customs as far as Australia.  Oh well.

On the way back we stopped at a small winery.  The winery guy had about as much personality as a dish rag, but his dog was cute, although a bit mopey.  The wine was pretty good, so we bought a bottle.

Speaking of winery guys, while we were at the Fiji airport, we met a young (only 22) guy who had taken the plane with us from L.A.  He was wearing some funny striped shorts–that’s how we remembered him.  Anyway, we talked to him while he was sitting at a bar eating a plate of chips (french fries) and drinking a “girly” flavored beer.  (I ordered one, too.  Mine was bright pink, his was bright yellow.)  He said he was from Canada (I think he said Toronto, but Bill claims he said “Brunswick”).  He said he had gone to school at Niagara & had taken “Vinology.”  He had learned all about the wine-making business & so was on his way to Adelaide, Australia to work at a winery there.  He had applied all over Australia for jobs & was able to take the best one.  That sounded really fun & interesting to me, & he was an interesting kid.  (Speaking of Adelaide, though, on the news later we saw that they were having some terrible fires burning there.)

We stopped in Paihia on the way back to the hotel so I could buy a phone calling card for our new prepaid phone that we had bought earlier in the day in Kerikeri at another Vodaphone store.  (You buy the phone, then you have to buy a calling card.)  Kerikeri was a really neat town.  It “overflows with orchards and galleries, and the main road into Kerikeri is an art and craft trail bordered with cafes, confectionery manufacturers and wineries,” according to our map.  It had some good stores, such as a chocolate factory, a fudge factory, a restaurant called “Posh Nosh,” and some nice looking wineries.  Of course, we didn’t stop at any of them!

Other interesting signs along the way included, “Too fast?  Lose your wheels” and “ALCOHOL + SPEED, DEAD AHEAD”.  We also saw numerous dead possums strewn along the roads.  Those poor things must be an endangered species by now.  (Speaking of small animals, we sure have plenty of bunnies around the hotel.  They seem to really like to eat the bermuda grass.  Bill said that he had called ahead to make sure the hotel had plenty of bunnies.  “If you don’t have any bunnies,” he said, “we won’t stay there.” 🙂

Last night for dinner we just ordered room service, since we were tired from driving.  (It’s quite stressful, for Bill & I both!)  I had seafood chowder, which was really good.  There are all kinds of things in there, like green lip mussels, crab dumpling, & I probably don’t want to know what else (squid & octopus make me squeamish).  Bill had a steak sandwich with ciabatta bread, which he said was good.

Speaking of food, the night before last, we ate in Paihia at The Aquarium Restaurant.  It was a round (or octagonal) building with a big round aquarium in the center of it.  We sat right on the pier in an outdoor room, which was walled in with thick clear plastic blinds to keep the wind out (a lot of places around here have those, which makes us think that those “Westerlies” are quite a common occurrence).  I ordered a shrimp linguine with coconut sauce.  It was delicious, but I couldn’t eat all of it.  Bill had scallops with a portobello mushroom, which was very tasty too.  They were kind of stingy with the scallops, though.

Today Bill is golfing, so I can lounge around for a few hours (finally!).  Last night while posting photos, I somehow got them layered on top of each other, so I’ll try to do better with this next batch.  Stay tuned!