Holy smokes, I Live in New Zealand.

Labour Weekend in the Far North.
October 25, 2007, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Actual Travelling | Tags: , , , ,

Far North 003

For those of you who were wondering what on earth happened to me over the last week, the answer is…holiday long weekend!

Labour Day Weekend sort of snuck up on me and I didn’t have time to prepare the world for my disappearance. The holiday holds the same premise as it does at home: 8 hour work week and how the worker fought for improvements in living conditions. A great reason for a holiday, I will add, thereby ending all political commentary associated with this post.

I took Friday off to head north with my New Zealand boss, his wife and a friend of hers. He drove the four hours as I was useless to the trip. The roads are quite twisty in rural New Zealand and rendered me carsick after about 45 minutes. It was one long car ride. We stopped at a pharmacy just before our final destination so I could buy motion sickness pills. “Sea Legs”, they are called. They are wonderfully effective and 100% non-drowsy.

It was countryside at its finest. Wide open views and plenty of cattle and sheep around. There aren’t a lot of trees in agricultural areas, and it is not uncommon to see large, volcanic remnants completely sodded over as pasture for livestock. Some estimates peg the amount of forest cover in New Zealand at 25%, where almost the entire coast was forested prior to European settlement.

The bach (pronounced “batch” and synonymous with “cottage” for all you Canadians) was in the little town of Taipa, a cluster of a few hundred people at the end of a chain of four-or-so similar little areas. Evidence of recent growth was everywhere, with siltation fences ringing hills and new roads running along the hills to new home sites. I am told that most agricultural lands with good views have received subdivision consent and that quite the surplus of approved development sites exist in the area. Seems pretty Wasaga Beach to me, only few pesky teenagers around. Lots of families and retirees.

I spent most of day one recovering from the carsickness and the 5:30 AM departure from Auckland. Dinner was a barbecue feast, followed by a little ice cream and a straight-to-bed performance on my part. Day two was when the adventuring began, starting with a 5:30 AM fishing trip off the rocks beneath Rangikatipi Pa.

Far North 001

A “pa” is a historic Maori fortress/settlement. They were positioned on the flattened tops of hills and surrounded by fences. For an enemy to attack, they would have to wind through the fencing in order to reach the settlement. This made for a pretty unfortunate offencive disadvantage. Pas dot the New Zealand countryside, with my boss pointing out four from one particular vantage point later on in the weekend.

Seafood is a big part of the New Zealand culture. Our goal was to catch a Kahawai (lazily pronouned “cow eye”) in order to prepare sashimi (raw fish) for lunch. The boss caught two big ones that made for perfect eating a few hours later. Me…I caught two small fish perfect for throwing back in the water. Better than nothing, I suppose. To prepare the sashimi, the fish needs to be drained as soon as possible. This means killing the fish and draining the blood. This is about as wholesome looking a process as it sounds. I did not take any pictures. While this was going on, I was scraping mussels off of the rocks. They were fantastic. While I was fishing, my boss did the same. Just like the fishing, he is a better mussel harvester than I.

After fishing, my boss’ wife took me out to scoop shellfish out of the nearby estuary. Simply put, you stick your hand into the muddy bottom and scoop out live shellfish (pippies, cockles and others). Those were left in freshwater pails for a couple of days to get the sand out of the flesh in advance of their barbecuing. Delicious.

Far North 006

I also went for a long distance run that became a hill run because of all the hills along the road. Still a solid 8k. I did a swoop through Manganui (Maori for “big shark” because of the sharks in the nearby bay), where I received a tour from my boss on day two. Manganui is the tourist centre of the Greater Doubtless Bay Area (my moniker for all the shoreline communities in the area) and features a New Zealand-famous seafood restaurant and several tour buses parked at any given time.

I also made it to Kaitaia, the last stop on Intercity’s coach line and home of a terrific steakhouse. We had dinner with my boss’ parents, although I did a much better job when they came over for dinner at the bach the following night. Which is where the story gets interesting…

Far North 024

As the most urbain person at the table, much fuss was made over my squeamishness over certain aspects of the rural culture of New Zealand. Having served my time on an estate residential lot in Puslinch Township, I was not completely ignorant of the situation. But I certainly had never seen or heard of a sheep’s head making for a good meal. What you are looking at in the photo above is me eating sheep’s tongue, with everybody having a thorough laugh at my expense. Sheep’s tongue can be best described as tofu gone hard, or sausage of a fine consistency but lacking much taste. It is best eaten immersed in the tastiest sauce imaginable so as to distract you from the fact that you are eating a sheep’s tongue.

I told this story to my fellow urbain coworkers, whose first collective reaction was “ewwww”. I feel initiated now.

You can view the best of my weekend photos here. I will be going back to the Far North over the Christmas break as part of a camping road trip.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

‘Ewwwww’ is right. I can’t imagine. And, question, how big are they? Are they large-tongued animals? Did you eat the whole thing?….Well worth the site visit tonight!

Comment by Melissa

sounds quite lovely…..excellent scenery

Comment by Blacksheep

Perhaps you should specify “less cultured N. American urbains”? :oP Good for you for at least trying all foods that seem wacky to the rest of us. Eating animal offal is definitely an acquired taste otherwise. Now you’ve got me wondering how lamb liver’s like compared to pork or beef liver.

Carsickness notwithstanding, can you drive in NZ? If memory serves me right, NZ drives UK-style, left up, right down.

Comment by PianoMan

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