Day 1 of Mavora Lakes Horse Trek

In the last post I already wrote about day 1.  Here I will simply post the pictures from first day.  I simply stood in one place and took pictures while slowly spinning.  The screen was not working on my camera so some of the pictures are almost identical.  For now you get to see them all.  The hut is where we slept at the end of the day.

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Trip to New Zealand continued

The JET Boat. We didn’t go, but it looked pretty fast.

After our hike along the Milford track. We were ready to take a shower and sleep in a proper bed.  We spent the first night in Te Anau, and then caught an early morning bus to Queenstown.  While we spent several days there we took very few pictures.  The city was very touristy and not to our liking.  Unfortunately we were stuck there through Christmas.

Candle LadyThey did have a small market, and a great ice cream store.  The ice cream place was awesome.  Too bad they aren’t a chain… they could go a long way in the states.

We took a walk through their botanical garden which was nice, but is encircled by a disk golf course.  The park had a nice pond full of ducks and various birds.

She was the most interesting part of this city.

She was the most interesting part of this city.

All around the park were signs saying “don’t feed the birds” and everywhere you looked there were people pretending to not be feeding the birds.  The lake was nice, and the views were also nice, but I think we were a bit too tired to really enjoy it.

At least there are some pictures

At least there are some pictures

After Queenstown we headed down to the Mavora Lakes area where we started our 4 day horseback riding journey.  This was a ton of fun.  There were a few mishaps, and the owner didn’t seem to really be intune with what was going on, and brought her young kids along.  Needsless to say, we were less than impressed with her.  But the horses (for the most part) were fun, and the scenery was perfect.

Oh, she was wearing a black dress.

Oh, she was wearing a black dress.

Day 1 we started at the upper half of the south Mavora Lake, and rode south from there.  The road was also open to 4 wheel drive vehicles, so occasionally we had to make room for them.  This only happened within the first few hours though.  We made a lunch stop at a small hut.  Our guide made lunch, and we enjoyed the indoor safety from the sand-flies, as we call them at home black-flies.  From there the road got pretty steep, and we could see out across the valley which was split in 2 by the end of a mountain.   There were herds of cows and sheep grazing below, and a small slip from your horse meant certain death.  An hour or so in we have to ford a river/stream.  Our guide’s horse had never been on this trail before and was not happy about water… or being ridden in general.  Karen’s horse was just a follower, end of discussion.  Fortunately, Dave’s horse was happy to lead, with Dave at the front they pushed through the streams/rivers.

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Garden Update

We haven’t posted new pictures of our garden in quite a while, so I ran out quickly this morning a snapped a few shots.  I hope you enjoy.

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Trip to New Zealand – Milford Track

This was a very beautiful section of our trip.  Rather than taint it with words, we will just post pictures.  We are aware that there are duplicates.  These are inserted for double the enjoyment!

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Daily Commute in the Rainy Season in Samoa

Every morning my host family picks me up and brings me to work.  By the time the van/truck gets to me, there are already about 9 people in the vehicle.  We stop along the way toApiato pick up a few more people.  We usually top out around 13 people, but there have been times with more.  When the van comes this isn’t so bad.  They don’t have a nun van, but it is big enough to hold 9 people no problem, though any New Yorker would be complaining about a lack of space, and the heat.  Some days it is overcast and raining quite heavily.  Then the van is even worse because the few small windows are shut.  This can be downright uncomfortable.   When the truck comes on mornings like today you breathe a sigh of relief and know that you will not be hot.  But you will be wet.  As we cross the mountain there is a daily dense fog and torrential rain at the top.  Sitting in the bed of a pickup truck with up to nine other people can be quite interesting.  Today there were only 5 of us, and randomly as it started to rain someone in the cab of the truck started shoving sheet plastic out of the window.  I have never seen this plastic before, and have no idea where it came from. It was however a happy sight for us.  We grabbed it and crowded around in the bed hiding under our new found shelter.  Sheet plastic has this way of blowing around in the wind though, so it certainly was not 100% effective, but it was better than nothing.  Usually we just sit there and deal with it.  Now, I know everyone reading this has done it, and if you haven’t you need to try it to get the experience.  Go for a drive on a rainy day.  Get on any road of your choice where you can get up to at least 50mph.  Attain that speed, roll down your window and stick out your hand.  Now, imagine that feeling on your entire body.  The rain turns into little water bullets pummeling your body and face.  They hurt especially badly when they hit you in the ear, and eye… but you have to be a special kind of stupid to be looking right into the rain at that speed.  Ok, refocus. Vehicles inSamoaare not well cared for.  Consequently, they have stuff break on them all the time.  First, there are 3 vehicles that the family chooses from.  This week alone there have been 2 flat tires, one bad master cylinder for the clutch, a snapped clutch cable.  Flat tires obviously aren’t too big of a deal.  Clutch issues are a bit trickier.  What do we do?  We have a rope, tie it to the bumper of the working pickup truck with 13 people in it in the torrential rain.  Tie the other end to the front bumper of the broken pickup truck and drive up the 7 mile climb to cross the mountain.  So your thinking, ok sounds ridiculous but whatever, a 2 ton truck can do this no problem.  Everyone has someone they know with an oversized truck that only seems to waste gas except for the 1 or 2 times a year when it really comes in handy.  Anyway, this is not a 2 ton truck, nor is it new.  It is a ½ tonToyotaof sorts which can not be purchased in the states.  So ½ ton truck, 13 people, and another ½ truck being towed going up and over a mountain.  Amazingly, we make it every time.


It is not in my style to post without pictures, but I have not taken any pictures while in the truck.  Check back later this week for more New Zealand Trip stories.

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Trip to New Zealand

Roni Wrap at the Dunedin farmers market

Now that we are back from our vacation in New Zealand and have finished despidering our house, we have some time to make a few posts on our vacation.

We started out in Auckland.  We went to The Loving House vegan restaurant.  We had bought a groupon for this place and were not disappointed at all.

The Camina... The south's answer to the Camaro?

I can only remember that we got something which had a mushroom roll in it.  Anyway, the food was strange but very good, and the groupon was an insane value.  It was cold and an otherwise unmemorable evening.

Get ready folks, this camina will blow your doors off...

The next morning we flew with Jet Star to Dunedin.  Dunedin is supposed to have the best farmers market in all of New Zealand.  It was nice, but we found it hard to believe that it was the best…

Mints with class... sorry it's on its side.

until we went to some others later in our trip.  It was small but had all of the essentials to make it nice.  We bought some cherries and bread, and found a vegan restaurant that we couldn’t pass up.

Karen in Te Anau

Of course we got a Roni Wrap and also tried the All Hail Kail Bowl.  Our choice was ok, but the food around us looked much tastier.

We also found ourselves walking through the museums just to escape the cold windy rainy day.

Dave in Te Anau

The weather was a nice change from Samoa, but a little too extreme for day 2.   Mid afternoon we headed over to Cadbury world for our chocolate tour.  It came with a short movie about the company and then a tour.  During the tour our goofball tour guide was to give

A beautiful morning in Te Anau

out candy to people (KIDS) who answered his questions correctly.  In the end he gave the kids pitty chocolate because Karen blurted out every answer except for the 2 that I blurted out.  Granted some of the questions the kids would never have gotten, the kids eyed Karen with hatred.  Much to our disappointment the chocolate was horrific.  Everything had some sort of filling or topping.  There was not a single piece of just chocolate.  Feeling let down we walked over to an artisan chocolate place called Patagonia.  We bought some over priced chocolate, it was good, but the lady was rushing us around, and not really paying attention to what we were saying.  Good chocolate, bad service.

To finish our day off we headed over to the Speights brewery tour.  This was the best beer making tour we have ever been on.  The tour lasted about an hour, which took us through old and new parts of the brewery, and then there was the drinking hour which followed.  We sampled all of the beers they brewed there under the Speights label, and then enjoyed a few more glasses of our favorite.  The drinking room had a bar where the guy would fill your glass, AND the wall had taps coming out of them so you could fill your own glass if you wanted to.  We left there giggling and tripping over ourselves.  The money spent on the tour was well worth it, and was the highlight of Dunedin.

The next day before our bus left we went to the Otago (maybe) Museum.  It was a nice place to burn time waiting for the bus.  I seem to remember they had nice bathrooms.

Our bus ride was uneventful, except that the driver was very chatty and helpful with questions.  The bus was also amazingly empty and HUGE.  We drove along the short presidential highway, which links the towns of Clinton and Gore.  If you don’t understand why it was called the presidential highway, you should do some research on past presidents. Our bus arrived in Te Anau that evening.  We checking into our hostel and went to sleep.

The next day or two was spent shopping for our hike along the Milford track, and enjoying the scenery in this sleepy little town.  We also took part in an astronomy lesson which was quite nice and FREEZING.  The guy had the best laser pointer ever.  He would point it in the sky and the clearest green line would stop directly on what ever he was talking about… We NEED to get one… and a 12inch or larger diameter telescope.  His laser pointer was supposed to be able to shine a dot 7km away, did I mention it was green?  My birthday comes on December 23 which is close to Christmas and Hannukah.

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How to make Coconut Cream / Pe’epe’e in Samoa.

Coconut tree

Slender, brown

Swaying, standing, growing

You are the dick of the pacific, your cream is on everything

Coconut tree.

by Rivka Rocchio 2011

Husking a coconut!

Coconut milk is something almost everyone enjoys.  It’s good in curries, cookies, smoothies, and much more.  But fresh coconut milk is a treat that few Americans get to enjoy.  Instead, we have to go to the store and buy a nice, shiny can (for an exorbitant price).  Not so in Samoa.  Here, you can ask any child over the age of ten for some coconut cream and fifteen minutes and buckets of sweat later, it will be placed in front of you.

A coconut with the husk removed.

It doesn’t get any fresher than this.  (Both Karen and I can make coconut cream ourselves, but it takes us about an hour – so instead we like to employ small children to perform the labor).

The first step is to collect some coconuts.  There are three ages of coconuts – niu, popo, and o’o (youngest to oldest).

Husk on, Husk off

Niu are best for drinking.  O’o are sprouted coconuts.  Popo are the ones you want for coconut milk.  To collect your popo, walk around under some coconut trees. Watch out for falling coconuts though! A falling coconut can kill a person just as quickly and effectively as a fired gun.

Next, you have to husk your popo.  Coconut husks are about four inches thick and made of a fibrous, spongy material.  There should be a coconut husking booth at every carnival and fair… It’s all about the technique.

Scraper bench!

To husk a coconut, smash it onto a pointy stick and peel, using the stick as a lever.  This takes a lot of practice.  Samoan people can husk about three coconuts a minute.  Karen usually falls on her butt and then gives up.  She even manages to destroy the husk so completely that no one can get the husk off.

Crack that coconut!

That coconut goes right into the garbage.

Once the coconuts are totally husked, you are ready to crack them open.  How do you crack a coconut open? Use a big freaking knife.  Hit it really hard in the center with the back side of the knife until it cracks in half.

Out comes the water. Drinkable, but not as good as a niu.

Let the coconut water spill on the floor – popo water is not great for drinking.

Finally, you are ready to actually make the coconut cream.  Take a seat on your coconut scraper.  This is a little bench with a metal scraper attached to it.

Scrape it, scrape it good!

Sit astraddle the bench facing the scraper, grab a half a coconut, and start scraping the coconut flesh out.  This is a LOT of effort.   The result looks like shredded mozzarella cheese.  This step is a mix of technique and brute strength.  Scrape just a pinch too hard and you will find out what shredded hands look like.

The progression.

Once your bowl is full of scraped coconut, get out your squeezer.  WTF is a squeezer right?  A squeezer or tauaga is made from a very soft wood similar to banana wood.  The wood is scraped clean with a small knife.  Next, small cuts are made and strings are pulled apart from the branch/trunk – sort of like string cheese.  Once you have an acceptable amount, you have to stretch it, squish it, bend it, pinch it, and mess it up.

Making a tauaga or squeezer

When you’re done, it will resemble a pulled-apart Brillo pad. This is your tauaga (also useful as a sponge).  Place your tauaga on top of your shredded coconut.  Scoop up the shredded coconut in your squeezer and start twisting.  The coconut milk squeezes out between your fingers – a delightful sensation.

give it a good bend.

After the cream is squeezed out, throw the shredded coconut to the chickens.  ‘Ua uma!

This whole process has taken about fifteen minutes for a Samoan person – that and a lifetime of practicing.

getting ready to squeeze

So, next time you complain about the cost of coconut milk – think about how hard you would work to make your own, and swallow the five dollars per can.

Coconut milk! Pe'epe'e

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