10 Reasons Why You Should NOT Live On “The Island”

 

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Botanical Beach

1.  You will waste your precious time spending hours walking on beaches and checking out tidal pools.

 

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Botanical Beach

2.  You will have to put up with fresh, clean air and a constant breeze.

3.  People are very neighbourly and approachable here.  Expect a friendly wave with the obligatory friendly wave in return. You will have to constantly say “hi,” a tiresome custom.

4.  You will have to tolerate views of lakes and the ocean as far as the eye can see.    

 

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Cowichan Lake – photo credit Alisha (my daughter)

 

5.  Camping outdoors on “The Island” will mean almost no bugs.  You will not have the pleasure of swatting, swelling, investing in bug repellent and Afterbite.

 

 

 

6.  You will have to get accustomed to the colour green.  Moss, ferns and diverse, spectacular trees are found in our forests.

 

 

 

 

 

7.  You will take too many photos and have the challenge of selecting only a few favourite ones.  One of the pictures below is an often photographed little bonsai conifer growing out of an old mossy stump.

This Fairy Lake tree became famous when Adam Gibb’s photo was selected as one of the 100 winning images from 48,000 global submissions for Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012.  Adam Gibb’s photo     

        

 

 

8.  Hiking with friends will consume a great deal of your time.  You will never run out of places to explore.  Decisions.  Decisions.  

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9.  You will want to avoid the Malahat at the end of a long weekend in the Summer.  Taking the  Pacific Marine Circle Route   home will add stress to your day.

You will have to drive an extra hour through a beautiful rain forest, gaze at stunning scenery and endure minimal traffic. 

The extra one hour drive may turn into four hours because you will want to stop and explore the beautiful sites along this route. You may possibly include a leisurely lunch in the picturesque town of Port Renfrew.  

An entirely wasted day! (in Paradise)

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10.  And most importantly, why you should NOT live on “The Island?” 

                                       Will you be able to keep “Vancouver Island” our little secret?

                                               I think not.  Especially when you call it “home.”

 

Dedicated to:  All the visitors that come to “The Island” each year.  The people that make “The Island” their home.  And to Deb,  Widow Badass Blog  who has discovered  our little secret.”

                          

Unusual activity for an erupting Geyser! How far away should I stand?

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I have a great respect for the incredible forces that shape our planet Earth.

Living on Vancouver Island, we are prepared (somewhat) for “the big one.” 

Most of the time, I try not to think about it.

It was difficult to not think about it when we were exploring around Rotorua in the North island of New Zealand.  The geothermal forces were evident all around us.

We were visiting two specific areas:  Te Puia is a large geothermal reserve and contains an eco-cultural centre.  Wai-O-Tapu is a scenic reserve with the largest area of surface thermal activity within the Taupo Volcanic Zone. More on Wai-O-Tapu in a future post.  

We spent the first two hours at Te Puia with a guide, learning more about the Maori culture, history, vegetation and geothermal formations in the surrounding area.

The Te Puia area contains many hot, steaming, bubbling mud pools, pools of boiling water. The depth and appearance of these pools can vary depending on the amount of rain and how often and how long the geysers erupt.

 

Our guide informed us that increased activity in this geothermal reserve often means that other areas on our planet are experiencing changes to the Earth’s surface.  An example he gave us is a tsunami or an earthquake.                      

Interesting and scary!

The Te Puia reserve contains inactive and active geysers. The Pohutu Geyser is the largest geyser in the southern hemisphere.  She (the brochure calls it “she”) erupts once or twice each hour and can reach heights of thirty metres.

We visited the geysers in Iceland last year.  The name “geysir” originated in Iceland.  The Te Puia area had similarities to the Iceland geothermal areas yet also appeared very different.  

 

Iceland 2017:  Strokkur Geysir & Hverir

The Earth’s crust is very thin in both areas.  Our friendly, knowledgeable, very large, robust guide stomped on this thin crust to allow us to hear the hollow sound.  A description would have sufficed.

 I don’t think a demonstration was necessary.  

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At approximately 3:30pm many of the visitors had left.  A few people decided to wait for the next eruption and potential photo opportunities.  After 45 minutes, some of the smaller geysers in the area showed increased activity.

A rumbling noise began.

Then the Pohutu geyser began to erupt. 

 

We expected to watch it erupt for about two minutes, and half an hour later it continued to erupt and increase in height.  This created waterfalls coming down from the rock area.  An hour ago there were no waterfalls in this area. 

I didn’t feel confident staying close by, especially after all of the information from our guide.  There was a hotel nearby that had been recently closed due to geothermal activity on the site. Te Puia (weblink)

The ground beneath the building was unable to support it.

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I left and walked about one kilometre back to the entrance of this geothermal reserve.

              If any significant events occurred in this area, would one kilometre make a difference? 

The staff at the entrance reassured me that length, height, and time between geyser eruptions vary a great deal. 

               I didn’t see any of the staff hanging out at the Pohutu Geyser right now.

I have a lot of respect for the natural forces on our Planet Earth.  I am very aware that geothermal effects, earthquakes, tsunamis are beyond my control.

Unusual and increased activity may occur near an erupting geyser.  The thin crust of the Earth may not be able to support my weight.

If I am nearby, I plan to distance myself at least one kilometre away.  I may be safer.

                At least in my mind.

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 “Safe and Sound” back at the entrance

The Mystery of the Eleven Eggs

Eleven eggs in one nest?  A puzzle!   

We were tramping (the New Zealand word for “hiking”) in the Central Otago region of NZ.  This area has many cave-like tunnels created during gold mining in the 1800’s.

 

                         Central Otago Region, NZ 2/1/19

My husband was exploring inside these dark tunnels and he was  encouraging me to go in there with him.  I was adamant that I was not going into a manmade tunnel in an isolated area, especially in a country known for it’s earthquakes. It was not a good idea for him to go in there, either.

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                         Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

As he was coming out of a tunnel he caught a glimpse of a nest.  It was well hidden behind brush on the side of a wall.

We were surprised to find eleven eggs in this concealed, camouflaged home.

These eggs were large.  Much bigger than robin’s eggs, yet smaller than chicken’s eggs.  What bird is capable of laying eleven eggs?

At that moment, we saw a rabbit running over a hill.   Neither one of us wanted to consider the possibility of The Easter Bunny.  How foolish.  Yet, my husband and I just looked at each other, scratching our heads.

 

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                               Rabbit, Hokitika, NZ 2/5/19

One of the first things I noticed about NZ is the numerous, diverse birds and waterfowl native to this region. 

What kind of bird and what size of bird would lay these eleven eggs? 

We had no access to wifi so I couldn’t ask google questions. 

We did not disturb the eggs, spending a brief amount of time taking  photos.  One of the eggs appeared to have a crack in it.  This egg may have been damaged or a chick was ready to hatch.

 

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Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

We came across very few people on these trails, spending our day tramping in the desert-like hills.  When we met a couple of hikers, we did not share information about the nest or the eggs. We wanted to keep this bird’s secret hiding place safe. 

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                         Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

For the rest of the day we carefully scrutinized the different birds we saw.  We couldn’t imagine how any one of them could carry eleven  eggs.

In the evening we did have access to 100mb of wifi.  It was a faint, slow, inconsistent signal. Sometimes we could see words.  Other times we could see photos and words. We were hoarding our wifi mb and using them sparingly. 

A quick check into Messenger to see whether any new family news.  Then, our priority was to google “what bird in the Central Otago region of New Zealand lays eleven eggs?”

We compared our photo of the eggs to other pictures online.  We are quite certain that the eggs we found are from a Pukeko bird and more likely Pukeko birds.

 

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                       Pukeko Bird, Aukland, NZ 2/24/19

The Pukeko bird is very common and widespread in NZ.  Pukeko birds have a complex social life and a highly variable mating system. The birds may nest as monogamous pairs, polyandrous (one female, two or more males), polygynandrous (the male and the female have multiple partners) and polygynous (one male with multiple females, although the female will mate with only one male).  Are you still with me? 

 

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                       Pukeko bird, Aukland, NZ 2/24/19

Each female will usually lay four to six eggs.  A nest can contain as many as eighteen eggs. Multiple breeding females will all lay eggs in the same nest.  All group members contribute to chick care. Weblink    Link      

The eggs in this nest likely belonged to two or more Pukeko birds sharing the nest.

We learned Pukeko are very territorial and aggressive, especially when defending their offspring.  We didn’t see any birds near this nest. 

Even though Pukeko birds are abundant and widespread  throughout NZ, they are new to us. It was interesting to learn about their complex social groups with multiple breeding males and females. We were very fortunate to uncover this nest which prompted us to learn more about the native birds of NZ.  

We have solved The Mystery of the Eleven Eggs. 

As for us and our tramping adventures?  After 42 years I have learned that I cannot tell my husband what to do, even if I want to protect him and prevent any serious mishaps. 

I can only stand by, capture the photos, and be prepared to seek help if necessary. 

If any unfortunate predicaments do occur I will continue to be a caring, supportive, loving wife.

I will not say “I told you so.” 

 At least not out loud.

 

fullsizeoutput_7433                      Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

What do you do when you love Mussels as much as I do?

 

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You visit Havelock, New Zealand, the Green-lipped Mussel capital of the world. Definitely one of our favourite days exploring NZ!

This area is in the spectacular Marlborough Sounds region on the South Island of NZ.

 

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We left early on the Pelorus Mail Boat out of the town of Havelock.   This boat delivers mail, supplies and people to remote coastal areas.  There are no roads, ferries or cruise ships.

Living out west on Vancouver Island, we have had the opportunity to spend the day on mail boats.  It is a nice way to let someone else do the navigating and spend a relaxing day enjoying the scenery.  We were looking forward to a break from driving the challenging NZ roads.

 

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It was a gorgeous day, some areas calm, some windy with stunning scenery in every direction.

 

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The captain and guide were very kind, fun and knowledgeable about the history and wildlife in this area. 

The Green-lipped Mussels are endemic to NZ.  The name comes from the distinct emerald green colour of the shell.  They are sometimes called Green Shelled Mussels or NZ Mussels.  They may have anti-inflammatory health benefits for some people. (weblink)

We saw many mussel farms in the inlets of Marlborough Sounds.  Up until now, I have enjoyed eating mussels, although, I had no idea how mussels grow in the coastal waters.

 

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Spat (juvenile mussels) are collected, where they wash up attached to clumps of seaweed.   Spat arrive at a mussel farm and are transferred to ropes in seawater until about 6 months of age.  They are removed and then reseeded onto long stretches of rope, and grown for another 9 to 12 months.  They are then harvested. 

Most aspects of farmed and wild mussels are identical. The mussel farms are located in the same areas where wild mussels thrive.  Mussels require sheltered areas. There are over 600 mussel farms in NZ and they cover thousands of hectares of marine space. (weblink) (link)

We saw some boats go by carrying huge white bags.  Each of these bags contain over a ton of mussels.  These boats were obviously very low in the water.

 

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We stopped at a remote lodge for lunch.  Of course, we ordered the mussels. 

I bit down on a mussel to the sound of a crunch.  Was it a piece of shell or my tooth?  Hiding underneath the mussel was a pea-sized crab.  More on this later in a future story.

 

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We stopped for a hike on a secluded beach.  The only access to this area is by boat or helicopter.

 

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We came across colonies of beautiful, big seabirds called Gannets.

 

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We were introduced to a huge insect endemic to New Zealand called a Giant Weta.  It is described as a relatively harmless insect.  Only a few of them bite.  I didn’t know which side of the fence this Weta belonged, the biting or the nonbiting side.  And using the term “relatively harmless” does not make me feel better. 

 

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A highlight towards the end of the day was to have a large school of Bottlenose dolphins swim around us.  Even, Trish, the guide became very emotional. Although she travels these inlets every day,  she had never seen this many dolphins stay as long to play. 

 

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We have been surrounded by breathtaking scenery and incredible natural beauty in NZ.  Every day has been an adventure.  We have learned about the history of the Islands.  We have been fortunate to witness the diverse marine life and wildlife native to this country.

Exploring the Marlborough Sounds region on the Pelorus mail boat was definitely a highlight for us. It was one of our best days in New Zealand!

 

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And what will I continue to order for my favourite meal?  Mussels, of course!

 

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How much do you rely on Wifi, the Internet, Google?

 

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No wifi again.  This time for 5 days. 

The past few weeks in New Zealand have been filled with amazing adventures, exploring and long road trips.

 It was now getting to the end of our trip.  We arrived at Cook’s Lookout Motel, Paihia, an area called the Bay of Islands, the very north part of the North Island.

 

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The information about this motel had indicated access to wifi.  I had planned a couple of days of catching up.  Messenger and FaceTime with the family.  Surfing the internet.  I wanted to read the blogs I follow.  I was planning to research some information to add to my stories. 

The owner of the motel had a complicated story about major wifi glitches in this area the past few weeks.  No wifi for guests right now.

It was slightly disappointing.   Although, not unexpected.

Over the last two months in New Zealand we often have had minimal or no access to wifi.  Sometimes, we were allowed only 100mb of use. 

 

I really didn’t know how much I rely on the internet until it was no longer available:

  • Researching my husband’s spider bite:  symptoms;  should he see a doctor?
  • The weather forecast each day
  • Sending birthday wishes to friends and family
  • Is the Giant Weta harmful?
  • Names of bird species we encounter
  • Booking excursions
  • Opening times of attractions
  • Prices
  • Restaurant open/close times
  • Restaurant menus
  • Checking emails
  • Confirming our flights
  • World news
  • Who won best actor category at the Oscars?
  • What would you add to the list?

 

Version 2Giant Weta – “New Zealand’s most recognizable creepy-crawlies”   weblink 

 

Version 2Kea – species of large parrot found in the forested and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand  weblink

 

What did I do without wifi for 5 days?

  • I finished reading books I had started at the beginning of this trip.
  • I went swimming.
  • I did more tramping (New Zealand’s word for hiking).
  • I wrote stories.
  • I took photos.
  • I watched the sunrise and sunset.
  • I sat outside, breathing in the fresh sea air, truly enjoying the scenery.

 

 

Version 290 mile beach – North Island, New Zealand

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Do I miss not having wifi?

We have gone camping in areas on the west coast of BC and in the Yukon where we were truly unplugged.  I plan for it, and I actually look forward to the respite from the online world.

 

Version 3Long Beach – Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada

 

My stress level and angst significantly decline when I am oblivious to the daily news, fake and otherwise.

Wifi affects almost every part of our lives now.  It is how we communicate, surf for information and often do our shopping and our banking.  Our entire vacation was researched, planned and booked using the internet.

 

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I did not miss access to wifi while we were on the Bay of Islands.

We were there for only five days.

The first thing I did when I arrived home?

I plugged in my computer. 

 

Postscript:  I wrote this story about one week ago while we were still in New Zealand.  We experienced a wonderful, life-changing adventure.  Everywhere we went we met kind, thoughtful New Zealanders.  I am deeply saddened by the tragedy in Christ Church this week.  My heart goes out to the victims, the victim’s families and all of New Zealand. Unfortunately, this is not fake news.

 

Contemplating a Tattoo in New Zealand

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Tattoos are popular.

I have nothing against them.

Just not for me.  Not right now. 

 

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We were watching the surf on the Coromandel Peninsula, on the North Island of New Zealand.  The first thing that came to mind was my daughter’s tattoo.  It’s funny how an image can evoke a memory.

The waves on this beach reminded me of the tattoo of a heartbeat.

 

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Having raised teenage daughters, the concept of tattoos was brought up at a young age.  I didn’t bring up the topic.  They did.

The buzzword phrases were:  pick my battles and allow them to make their own decisions.

I chose my words carefully.

My advice was “think about it for one year before you do anything.  This is a permanent decision.”

Their first tattoos were initials of each other’s name.

 

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Artwork was added. 

 

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About ten years later, my daughter was excited to show me her new tattoo.  This tattoo was the image of the actual heartbeat of her little girl. This tattoo meant a lot to her.  It was symbolic of the precious gift of her child.

 

My daughter now has two heartbeat tattoos.

 

 

 

 

The first thing I saw on that beach in New Zealand was an image of a heartbeat. The waves had created distinct peaks on the shoreline.  Possibly the ocean’s heartbeat.

 

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For me, it brought up the memory of my daughter’s tattoos.  Symbolic of the priceless heartbeats of life.

 

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I may get a charm, or a pendant as a special, meaningful keepsake.

I don’t think I will get a tattoo.

Not right now. 

I may change my mind.

 

What does the word “Magical” mean to you?

The rain stops.  The sky clears.  The air is crisp and cold.

Just for one night, time stands still.

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Tens of thousands of twinkling lights.

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An illusion. A mystery.

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A feeling of enchantment.

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Children’s smiles.

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Removed from everyday life.

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Thankful for this moment in time.

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For we are all children, in awe of the Magic.

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I wish everyone a year filled with Magical Moments in 2019!

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