Caught With My Pants Down By Dolphin Watchers

Yesterday was quite the adventure beginning with a four-hour hike up and down some pretty serious hills seeing views like the one below.

We were stepping lively in order to meet our boat pick up so we could get back to Picton. You haven’t heard from me in a few days because we have been tucked away in an isolated place with very limited internet access. It was dial-up and could only be accessed from 4-6 pm each day. I almost broke out in hives when I discovered that which is a clear sign that I am way too attached to my internet connection.

The Cougar Line (no jokes please) is the boat that picked us up and later brought us back from a location so special it deserves a post of its own later. Note the front of the boat. You can’t see it, but a door lifts up and opens allowing people to walk up steps from the inside to the deck above.

Three guesses where I was when the boat slowed and the hatch opened? Do you see the skylight opening above the toilet … when people climb up those steps and stand on the walkway they are right over the skylight and able to look down into the ladies toilet.

We were safely far enough from shore that I thought I had time to whip into the loo for a quick break before reaching our next passenger pickup stop. Imagine my surprise when we slowed down and I saw a head appear above me.  Any concern I had was quickly forgotten by the sight that greeted me on my hasty exit from the toilet.

As you can see no one was really paying ANY attention to me. When I stepped out, I saw that our boat was surrounded by about twenty dolphins who were having a great time jumping in and out of the water.

See the dolphin breathing above … they were so playful swimming right next to the boat as you can see below. I was giggling like a little girl at times because I was tickled to see them so close.

The photograph below gives you idea of how close they were to the boat and there were times they got even closer. I was surprised how close!

As the boat began to leave the area, some of the dolphins seemed to want to stay with us and picked up speed swimming along beside us for a short while longer. It was a highlight seeing so many at one time. I’ve seen a few in the past, but nothing like yesterday.

I will try not to let so much time pass before my next post, but some of you will be cooking and eating turkey with friends and family in a day or two so you won’t be reading blogs anyway.

It will be Thursday here in about three hours and while I doubt I’ll be having any turkey or dressing I will spend some time thinking about all the people and things in my life that I am thankful for. I don’t have to have Thanksgiving to recognize the gifts in my life and I hope whether you celebrate Thanksgiving where you are or not, that you have the gifts of friends and family around you each day.


On Being Different

For at least the last four years, I have been getting notes from The Universe. Most of the time I rush past them when they show up in my inbox but occasionally one stops my finger from pressing the delete button too quickly.

This is the one I received yesterday.

Well, actually, Elizabeth, you were different.
You didn’t want a perfect life, a typical life, or even a normal life.
You wanted a one-of-a-kind.
How we doing?
~The Universe

If you asked, I would have to say that I think The Universe is doing alright by me.

Hot Steppin It Through New Zealand Thermal Parks

I’m moving quickly this morning before we leave for Wellington and wanted to give you a look at two thermal parks we had a chance to see recently. I wish I had more time to describe it in detail, but time is short so what I say will need to be as well.

If I were to say smelly, scalding, and beautiful in its varied colors and even the barren bits then you would have a pretty good idea of the experience. I forgot to say that there is a strong scent of rotten eggs in the air … overwhelmingly so in places, but worth seeing if you ever get the chance.

The dried surface can look crusty and firm, but can be very thin and dangerous in places. I have included a couple of shots of some who chose to disregard the signs to get a better shot. Although I am not always known for following the rules, on this occasion I did.

Mother Love – Quietly Sharing The Wisdom

Today I had a chance to meet a blogging friend that I came to know several years ago through her powerful words and images. She begins and ends blogs from time to time deleting posts as she changes her creative direction, but she is always constant with a wisdom that goes well beyond her physical years.

Hay short for Hayley is mother to four daughters the eldest of which is poised and ready for her teen years … a time that most mothers worry will be their undoing. It hardly seems possible that a woman who looks as young as Hay could have had time to birth the girls who are just as darling in person as they have appeared in photographs on her blog pages in the past.

Although I am eighteen years older than Hay and technically old enough to be her mother, I always, always, learn something when we communicate online and now in person like today. Mothering a new little life to adulthood is difficult and most of us just stumble our way through much of the time trying to do the best we can with what we know.

Some women seem born to be mothers and they nurture quite naturally a larger circle than the children at home who call them mom. They pass out reassuring words and alternative possibilities like cookies and juice at a blood drive and do it in a way that seems as easy and natural as breathing. Hay is one of those who can shift your focus with her own honesty and soothe a worried mind with only a word or two.

She and her husband Roger took time today to come down to Rotorua so we could get together for a little while. I so appreciate having a chance to hug and share stories in person. I have said this before and it is still true it really is wonderful and affirming when people you get to know through blogging turn out to be just as you imagined they might be in real life.

Mt Eden April Fool’s Prank – Truth Or Fiction

You hear a lot of stories on the road and this one made me curious as to whether it actually happened as the story was told or if it is perhaps an urban legend gone wild. If any of my readers know the truth, please share it in a comment below as I can’t find a confirmation on the internet.

The Story: About eighteen years ago some University of Auckland students decided to play a big April Fool’s prank on the people around Auckland. They dropped a bunch of old tires into the crater of this long dormant volcano and set the tires on fire in the night so people waking up the next morning were greeted with what they perceived as smoking volcanic activity and before you could say boo, people had packed up their cars to drive to a safer place away from the impending doom. All roads were jammed with traffic and by the time someone walking their dog had taken a look into the crater and verified the hoax it took hours for the traffic to clear and many people were forced to take the day off.

Truth or Fiction?

Cathedral Cove And Other Places For Daydreaming

While out walking a couple of days ago on our way to a place called Cathedral Cove, I spotted what looked like the perfect place to take a nap. From a distance I could see a place in the trees close enough to see and smell the sea, but not exposed in the way one would be on the beach.

We were walking past in a hurry to reach the beach when I told John that I was going back for a photograph. I told him that I wanted to be able to remember it so that if I had insomnia as I sometimes do, I could picture myself there in the grass and focus on that instead of whatever might be keeping me awake.

After a snap or two of the napping place under the trees,we set off once more in the direction of the white cliffs above.

We walked an easy and well maintained path that was shaded with Ferntrees so large that I felt as if we were in a jungle part of the time.

Once we were almost there, we climbed down a long series of steps until we reached the sand on the other side.

John wasted no time in popping out for a bit of sun and photographs, while I stayed closer to the rock wall in the shade.

Yep, that is me sitting in the shade in my hat and even though you can’t see it, I’m wearing a good bit of sunscreen too. If you look a the photo below you can get a glimpse through the cave.

A View From Above Coromandel Town

I know the last thing anyone wants to read is me whining about how I have too many images to sort, but it’s true. There is so much to take in here on North Island, that I can’t make up my mind when trying to decide what to show you. Everything is stunning and I want to upload it all, but you would likely be as bored as someone forced by the obligation of friendship to sort through their friend’s big book of travel pic’s with the returning holiday-maker narrating at their side.

This has been the most interesting mix of different landscapes I think I have ever seen with a huge variety being observed during some fairly short walks.

Flowers are blooming everywhere and the scent of the honeysuckle blossoms warming in the sun made me go back in memory to my grandmother’s house and a time when the smell of summer coming was enough to make a girl want to shout out loud. Giving in to the memory and the sweet scent of nature, I did let out a little whoop sound which had John turning around to see if I was okay.

I told John that sometimes I feel like I am in a Jurassic Park movie with all the Ferntrees scattered about the woods.

On walks like these John can sometimes end up way ahead of me as I am constantly stopping to take a photograph.

Don’t you just expect to see a dinosaur coming around the next gap in the woods?

Just as I was tucking into some dinosaur day-dreams, I head a rustling sound and this friendly cat came down the path looking to have her ears scratched. After give her a little head rub I thought I was on my way to meet up with John when she followed me a bit more meowing loudly.

When I tried to go she threw herself down in front of me rolling around to get my attention.


I called her Cora since I found her above Coromandel Town and when I headed down the path she stayed behind.

Manly Beach – Soft Sanded Surfer Heaven


Elizabeth Harper & John Winchurch - Manly Beach, Australia

I posted the photo above on Facebook, but since not everyone has a FB account I thought I would share it here as well. I snapped this on Manly Beach when we took the ferry over from Circular Quay in Sydney. The wind was blustery that day with a storm approaching and we only had a moment to put our feet on the soft golden sand before the raindrops came to chase us off. Even though a storm was hovering just off shore while we watched, surfers were taking advantage of the waves.

Manly Beach Surfers

John Winchurch - Manly Beach, Australia

Here’s a look at Manly Beach from the other direction. There are huge trees near the beach that look like a type of pine and remind me of trees along the northwest coast of the US, but still are a bit different from any I’ve seen.

I’m typing in a coffee shop called Gloria Jean’s which has free wireless for one hour with a purchase. Free internet access is hard to find in Auckland so I have to keep things short. We’ve been paying for it in our room, but I tend to use it up too quickly as the download is limited and expensive.  Gloria Jean’s has good coffee, friendly staff, and yummy low-fat muffins, but my hour is almost up and it’s time to run off to see more of Auckland.

I will be back later to tell you about an amazing musician I met last night on Victoria Street here in Auckland. His name is Luke Hurley and you can hear and read more about him by clicking here.

His music was so good that after listening only long enough to snap a couple of photos, I paid $20 for a CD. We had a long listen back in our hotel room and loved it! Plus, I found out something very interesting in the minute or so that he paused to meet and speak with me. I’ll tell you next time when I have a minute to post.

Luke Hurley

Amazing Auckland

Auckland, New Zealand

I can’t stop to talk for long this morning as there is so much to see, but I just had to share this photograph from yesterday. We took a short ferry ride that gave me a chance to see the city of Auckland from a distance and it was stunning from every angle. I’ll be back in a bit with more photos hopefully later today.

We’re having a great time here and I wish I could could drop more images into this post, but my online access is limited so I can only leave you with a taste for now and the promise of more to come.

Things That Fly In Sydney – Birds, Bats, & Qantas Airlines

If asked what I found most interesting during our three days in Sydney you might find it a bit different to hear that I was completely intrigued by the airborne creatures and not the traditional sights more familiar to most.

While I found images like the famous bridge and Sydney Opera House good for a photo opportunity or two, it was the birds and bats of Sydney that captivated me.

We flew into Sydney on a Qantas flight with seats near the wing so the engine was in my line of sight for much of the flight. I noted to John that our plane had Roll Royce engines which was unlike any airplane that I had flown on in the past.

Rolls Royce Engine On Our Qantas Flight

I was a bit alarmed to see that the day after we arrived another Qantas flight out of London headed to Sydney had a problem with its Rolls Royce engine where pieces of it fell off. I hate flying anyway so I did a bit of obsessing about our flight in December when we fly on Qantas from New Zealand to America before deciding to leave it to the Qantas folks to sort it out. Everything about our Qantas experience personally has been good so I am going to go with the assumption that our flight home for the holiday’s will be as well.

Going back to my topic of birds and bats, this little bird kept trying to steal my banana bread when we first arrived. We had stopped for a coffee and a bite to eat in the  Botanic Garden on our walk to our hotel room and I was amazed by the bird sounds and sights all around us.

Sitting with our backpacks while John went inside for our coffee, I saw something that looked unusual from my chair in the shade and I could barely wait for him to come back so I could move in for a closer look.

Fox-faced bats were everywhere and I sought out a volunteer the next day who gave me an education regarding these bats and the problems they are causing for the park with tree destruction as well as the safe way they intend to relocate many of them to another location. They are protected and as I learned, play an important role in plant pollination.

Rainbow Lorikeet

The Rainbow Lorikeets I saw were using their brush-tipped tongues to get to the nectar in the pink flowers above. According to the people who work in the Botanic Gardens in Sydney, the nectar ferments in the heat and makes the already noisy and gregarious birds even more vocal as it makes them a bit drunk.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

This was just one of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos that we saw all over Sydney. I was surprised at first, but quickly became used to seeing these large noisy birds that can live up to 100 years.

I will be back with more fun things to share about Sydney a bit later as it’s time to explore Auckland, New Zealand where we woke up to blue skies and a view of the water this morning.