Back on the farm in Waiterere Beach: Most of the
property is given to tree farming. Went out into the woods with Murray to learn about
growing, thinning and harvesting pine trees. For every 1,000 you plant you can expect to
yield about 350 at the end. Each mature tree should fetch about $300-350 NZ. All
around the farm is the sweet smell of pine. In between the blocks of trees are open
paddocks, which are leased out to local farmers for cattle grazing.
During the day, Murray helped us make small modifications to our bikes: strengthening
our back racks, making foot peg extensions, painting rusted bits, etc. During the
night we were treated to other activities like rabbit and possum hunting! Chris took
to hunting immediately. After a short lesson by Murray on how to shoot the
22-caliber rifle, we were off in the ute (pickup truck) driving through the forest at
10:00 at night. Renate, Chris, Sheba (their mixed breed dog) and I were in the back
of the ute while Murray and Waka (their slightly spoiled Jack Russell terrier) sat in the
front. Renate used a spotlight to shine on the paddocks and trees while Chris
readied the gun. I just held on for dear life. Surprisingly for someone with
no experience, Chris shot with great accuracy and bagged 3 possums and 1 rabbit (moving at
speed!). The dogs ate well that night! For those of you non-New Zealanders,
possums and rabbits (non-indigenous animals) are considered pests (similar to rats) and do
considerable damage to the flora and fauna. They are actively culled to allow the
native plants and animals to eke out an existence. The next day I played Shotgun
Annie out in an open paddock aiming for an old beer can.
Besides the tree farm, Murray and Renate also have a horse trekking
business called Black Forest Horse Treks. On a beautiful Sunday, sunny afternoon,
they treated us to a 2-hour horse trek. We walked (well mine walked while the others
trotted and cantered) through the forest and then came out of the trees and onto the
Chris was on Prince and I was on Jazzy. Chris looked like a real jockey, lifting out of
his seat while trotting like hes been doing it all his life. I on the other hand
feel very foreign on my horse. The horse wants to trot and canter straight away and I get
a quick lesson on using the reins to get him to slow down. The horse trails around their
property are really scenic, lots of ponds, pine groves and meadows. Prince and Renate take
Chris on some fast cantering trails while Murray takes me on a slow walk.
Go Chris, Go Chris, Go, Go, Go!
Chris was having fun galloping his horse until his stirrup broke and he
fell to the ground. There were no injuries and he hopped right back on to
gallop again. On the beach, the horses loved being in the surf. Chris' horse
liked it so much that he decided to lay down and roll in it. Luckily, he was able to
step off the horse before being rolled over upon. After the roll in the surf, Chris
and his horse galloped down the beach past me and my horse. My horse got jealous and
wanted to gallop too. I'm a very novice rider and held on for dear life. I was
doing well and even felt like I was enjoying myself until the horse slowed down. The
only problem was that my body kept going forward and, losing my balance in the stirrups,
tipped over the right side of the horse's head and into the surf.
No injuries, just a wet bum and lots of sand everywhere. When I get up I realize how
many muscles have been pulled and wonder if I can get back on. Renate can't resist, and
tells Erin the best thing to do is get right back up and ride! When we returned to the
farm my leg muscles were so sore that I couldn't walk for the next two days. Whoever
compares riding a motorbike to riding a horse is crazy! It's far more tiring riding
Renate, and Murray -- along with Waka....
Tuesday the 11th, we said goodbye to Murray and Renate, promising to see
them in a few years whilst on their own RTW trip. It's another beautiful day as we
make our way up through Lake Taupo to Rotorua. Our friend Sally Turner from
Queenstown now works in I.T. for the Dynasty property group which owns the luxury Heritage
group of hotels. She happened to be working in Rotorua while we were there and
invited us to stay with her in the hotel. That night after a wonderful dinner in the
hotel with John the GM, we jumped into our bathing suits and headed off to enjoy what
Rotorua is really known for, it's thermal pools! Smelling like sulfur but feeling
like being wrapped in a warm blanket we bathed for almost 2 hours at the famous Polynesian
Spa. What a nice way to end a long day of riding!
Wednesday 8am, September 12th = Tuesday 4pm, September 11th in New York: Tragedy
strikes! We turned on the news, waking to the horrific news of the terrorist attacks
in the United States. At first we thought it was a promotion for a new movie, some
Bruce Willis action/adventure flick. Very slowly, we realized it was very real.
It's hard to find the words to describe what we felt, sickness, sadness, disbelief,
fear, anger, all of it. We were glued to the hotel TV and watched CNN all that
day. Thank goodness for cell phones and email as we scrambled to contact our
families and friends in New York. My brother Mike works across the street from the
Pentagon in Washington, DC but had taken a sick day to celebrate his birthday. We
were very fortunate, having many friends that work in the World Trade Center complex, all
of which were lucky enough to get out alive. Many no longer have offices or even
jobs to go back to now. Their buildings are just a pile of rubble now. Many
have lost friends and colleagues. Now I fear hearing about the deaths of former
coworkers at Morgan Stanley (one of the biggest tenants in the World Trade Center towers)
or former students from Columbia University who I taught and worked with. This will
certainly haunt us for the rest of our lives.
What does hearten us is the support we've received from our friends around the world
and our Kiwi friends in particular. That first day of the attack we received many
phone calls on our cell phone from friends offering their condolences for what had
happened in our home town, our home country. If we had to be away from home for
this, then I am glad we were here and not somewhere else. Now, nearly 5 days after
the attack, we see many homes and businesses here flying the American flag at half-mast to
show their support and solidarity with us. The flowers and cards left at the US
Embassy is overwhelming. The US may get a lot of criticism but at a time like this,
all peace-loving countries are coming to stand beside us (and to aide us) against this
most evil act of terrorism. On a global scale we have many more friends than
Sept. 13th, we tore ourselves away from watching the news, said goodbye to Sally and
drove to the East Cape. As it was not the happiest of times to say goodbye to Sally we
hope to see her one last time in Auckland before we leave. It was a very nice drive,
but we didnt make it all the way out to the East Cape, only as far as Te Kaha. The
weather was gloomy and Chris was tired. Driving back towards Whakatane we decided to
stay at the pretty little beach town of Ohope. Ohope is wealthy, by the looks of the big
fancy homes here, and has a wonderfully long, sandy beach. There are good views of White
Island (still active volcano) and its white plume of smoke and Whale Island.
I could just make out the outline of an oil rig way off in the distance. Still needing to
reflect on all that had happened in the last 48 hours, I took a walk at sunset from our
caravan park and was amazed at the colors of the sky, deep orange and yellow to violet and
soft blues. Magic place. I made a mental note to keep this place in mind for a
summer holiday home some day.
September 14th we awoke at sunrise and took another walk on the beach. The sky
was as clear as could be with only the white plume of smoke rising up from White Island.
We set off early and stopped for breakfast and a look around the town of Whakatane
(pronounced Fawk-a-tawny with the wh sounding like an f in the Maori language). It
has a pretty little waterfront area and a busy harbor with little fishing boats coming and
going. It is white bait season so many were out in the shallow water with their big
nets, hoping to grab the white bait as they swim out to sea. At the head of the
harbor on top of a rock is a beautiful slender statue of a woman.