Monday, December 29, 2008

12/26/2008 - The Best Day So Far

Up bright and early today, after all we have to get some boating in. By 10:30AM, the trailer is attached and the car is fired up. Day is clear and warm. Given that all of us have the complexion of whitewash, copious sunscreen is applied.

IMGP0940.JPGJust launched the boat, a Zodiac with a 90-horse outboard. Baby goes like stink.

The slight crispness of the air is offset by solar energy, so even at full speed it was quite comfortable. Water is glassy and flat all the way around to Richard's place, one of Sara and Nick's friends who came over yesterday.

IMGP0943.JPGComing up the driveway at Richard's.

Kerikeri is located on the Bay of Islands, which is as idyllic as it sounds. Richard just happens to own a lot of land within a safe harbor, and a house that overlooks the bay.

IMGP0944.JPGThis place was actually featured in a major New Zealand home magazine. Shocking, I'm sure.

IMGP0945.JPGMy first mince pie. It is a dessert, and it is damn good. Jon wanted to help me record the moment.

Lloyd and Laura made it over as well, and we all walked down to the beach grotto. This is made up of a beach house that contains the kitchen alongside a big, round, outdoor table. Lunch was served, which was fantastic. This is the first meal that has been without alcohol in some form for 2 days.

IMGP0947.JPGThis area was also featured in the magazine. There is a wood-fired pizza oven at picture right. In case you need pizza while camping down here.

After a long, luxurious lunch, we say our farewells and head out for a mini-tour of the area (A "tiki" as Nick calls it. Nick, if I got that wrong, let me know.) The wind has picked up a bit, and suddenly the powerful outboard has those of us in the front of the boat doing some serious bouncing.

We end up out at a collection of rocky islands well out in the bay. Time for more swimming (yes, mom, we waited an hour after eating). Plan is to collect mussels for dinner.

IMGP0948.JPGBirds nest in the rocks. Nick has been attacked in the past by gulls. Luckily, I have the 'fro to protect me.

Once again, it takes a few minutes to get used to the water, but before long we are snorkeling after nice, big, green-lipped mussels. Jon manages to find the mother lode.

IMGP0949.JPGThat's me, living the subsistence lifestyle. It's just so TOUGH!

IMGP0960.JPGThis is Sara and Sally, who hijacked my camera.

Eventually, we got musseled out and headed back.

IMGP0953.JPGSuch a day.

By that time, it was approaching dinner. The mussels were steamed in a special wine sauce after being cleaned of the random sea creatures living on the shells and the extremely tough "beards" that they use to hold onto rocks..

IMGP0962.JPGMmmmm. Musselicious.

I got to feel very helpful as I was making my famous mashed potatoes, for which I give my mom full credit. As I was making them, Sara's comment was, "Anything with that much sour cream HAS to be good." She is so right.

Corn and tri-tip beef rounds out the meal.

IMGP0966.JPGPutting down mussels as an appetizer.

IMGP0967.JPGYou just feel like singing the Star Spangled Banner when you see a meal like this.

I packed down food like no other, and helped with dishes. Yes, mom, I was a model guest.

We all retired to the back porch to drink wine and toast marshmallows. This was my last night with the Hampsons, as I had set up a bus to Auckland to bring my ailing bike to the Specialized dealer there. The bus leaves at 9:10AM tomorrow morning. I am getting reflective as we put down more wine. I am really going to miss the Hampsons and the Armitages. So far, I have really been at this trip alone other than the brief periods when people would be at the same campground or helped take me into town. Over the last 3 days, I've been with my friends continuously, and it has been wonderful. Sara and Nick have been so kind to me. It just doesn't feel like I have only known them, really, for eight days total. It feels more like years. I am really going to miss Sara, Nick, Sally, and Jon.

IMGP0968.JPGAs a counterpoint to the above mushy paragraph, here is Jon putting down marshmallow in a less-than-heterosexual manner.

I am also cultured in the ways of port. I've never had it, which again floors the British crowd. The port makes it around the table (the tradition is that the port does not touch the table until everyone has been served). It is drunk with Stilton, a form of blue cheese.

Whoa. Port is very good. I am informed that this port is probably one of the top three ports in the world. I go for another round.

The Stilton is, shall we say, pungent. Luckily, it tastes much better than it smells.

After finishing out the port and Stilton, it is time for a hunt for Kiwis using Jon's new Mag-Lite. Nick saw one for the first time on his land just the day before. The port and wine makes us less than stealthy, and no kiwis are found despite an extensive search of the yard.

It has been a wonderful day, and I would say the best day so far in my trip. I go to bed very happy. But maybe that was the port.

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