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At Home With the Stitchbury’s

We slept well in Blenheim and arose at a leisurely pace. We shared a two bedroom suite and had a lovely time visiting before we packed up Lucy for the final run up the coast. We stopped in Blenheim to visit Grant’s uncle in a rest home. We had a nice visit and I must say New Zealand takes excellent care of its elderly.

We then headed for Picton to catch the 2 PM ferry across the strait back to the north island. We checked in at the pier and had two mile “stroll” from the ferry checkin station toward downtown Picton to find lunch. After lunch, we drove onto the ferry and we were told to park right next to a cattle truck. The smell was, shall we say, atrocious!

The trip across the ferry took almost 4 hours and the strait was a bit rougher than our earlier trip. By now, I was familiar with the continuous parade of turquoise water and towering mountain peaks and rolling mountainous hills. I didn’t take a single picture the entire day. Our goal was to get home to Napier.

We arrived in Wellington without incident and set out along the west coast in a fine, misty rain. Eventually, we headed inland toward Palmerston North and arrived around 9 PM. We made a quick stop at the New World market (a grocery store) to see Sam and then Alex took the wheel with a promise to get us home by 1130 PM. The night was clear with a full moon and a sky full of foreign constellations. I sat in the back seat with the moon roof open to the sky and marveled again at the wondrous sites of the past two and a half weeks.

I began to dream of starting my own New Zealand themed coffee/“pie” shop called Pukeko’s (Poooooh-keck-ohs) and introduce America to “flat white” coffee and “savory” pies and lovely pastries. Then, the clouds, like reality moved back in on my fantasies and I realized with a heavy heart that our time in New Zealand was drawing to a close. The clouds thickens and hid the full moon and the sky became gray and dull.

We arrived at 1130 PM just as Alex promised and the boys were waiting for our arrival. After greeting their parents, the boys dispersed to their rooms and I fell into our bed.

It is now late morning and there is nothing pressing on our agenda other than a “leisurely” walk to the top of the hill across the road from the Sitchbury home. I’ve looked up at the tiny matchstick figures of other walkers on this hill with some dread, but as long as my cracked ribs will let me, I will soldier on. I have discovered there are very few obese people in New Zealand. Everyone walks everywhere constantly and this had given this country a very healthy lifestyle. America could learn from the dietary and daily walking habits of the Kiwis. 

I am looking out the dining room window at the brown grass covered hill we are about to attack. Two and a half weeks ago, I would have fainted at the prospect of tackling such a hill. Now, it has become a “leisurely stroll”. I will continue when I return!

Well! That was far more than a leisurely stroll. Across from the house a brown, grassy hill rises into the overcast morning sky. In the far distance, I can see two people passing over the apex of the hill. They are very small and this one face made me realize this was a very large hill. My chest was hurting more than the day before and I was even more convinced I had a least two broken ribs. Each breath was an agony but I was determined to press on.

We started across the green grass toward a path leading up the hill. It was slow going as parts of the path were very rocky with rolling stones. I did not want to fall again! in some places, the path was little more than a shallow rut where the sheep had worn out the grass on the own wanderings up the hill. In other places, the path was very steep. But, we made it to the top with much complaining and huffing and puffing.

At one point Sherry paused to give Alex a hard time and two fascinated sheep looked on. We ended up at a bench placed in memory of Alex’s sister who passed away in 1996 from ovarian cancer. Later on after recovering from the walk, we went to downtown Taradale, a suburb of Napier where we found some more sheep much more sedate and immobile. All in all, the day was restful and the pain in my ribs improved as the day passed on. We ended up around the dinner table at “tea” cooked by Sherry. Not sure how that will be received, but we shall see. Here are some photos from our trek up the hill.

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Now for some more rest as we contemplate the return to America.

North Island Highlights

We are now heading up the west coast of the south island back toward Napier. I have many pictures I did not share because of wifi access and time pressure. Today, I want to show a map of each area of our journey and a few pictures I haven’t shared before.

We started out spending two days in the largest city in New Zealand, Auckland high up on the northern tip of the north island.



Here we are in the Skytower.


My new friend, Grant.


With Alex and Grant on the ferry from Auckland to Devonport.

On Day 3 we traveled to the Waitamo Caves where we were not allowed to take any pictures. Then on to Alex and Grant’s friends house — Russell and Linda. We spent the night there just out of Hamilton/Cambridge area in the midst of farmland and then set off the next morning for my most anticipated destination, Hobbiton.


In the real garden at Hobbiton.



The bridge to the Green Dragon pub.



Our guide, Shawn handing out cider at the Green Dragon Pub.




We left the Hobbiton area and headed for the thermal playground of Rotorua.



Here we spent two days in the area seeing the sights and sounds while I got sick from the virus that had shut down Sherry for the past two days.


In our “shared” condo in Rotorua.


Riding the gondola in Rotorua and then riding back down on the Luge.

After two days, we headed out of Rotorua toward “home” to the Sitchbury household in Napier. Along the way, we stopped at several thermal “playgrounds” with hot bubbling mud pits, volcanic steam vents, and colorful chemical pools.





We arrived for our first weekend in Napier and settled in for two nights at home. Here we traveled up to Te Mata, the high peak overlooking Hawke’s Bay and Napier.




Sunday evening, we headed out for Palmerston North to meet with the Stitchbury’s oldest son, Sam. We spent the night there and got up on Monday morning and headed on into Wellington.


Here we visited the WETA workshop and rode the cable car up the side of the mountain overlooking Wellington and its harbor. On Tuesday, we boarded the ferry to cross the strait to the south island.








And there I will stop for today and continue our review of the south island later. For now, my feet feel as tired as Bilbo’s feet.

New Zealand — This Past Saturday and Sunday

Sunday and Monday in New Zealand saw our intrepid travelers leaving the fair city of Napier and journeying southward to Palmerston North. There we spent the night after visiting with Alex and Grant’s oldest son, Sam. Monday morning we headed into the winding hills and mountains of the southern part of the North Island toward Wellington.


Wellington resides on the sea with a large harbor. We will boarding a ferry in the morning for a three hour journey across the sea to the south island. Pictures below are from Saturday and Sunday in Napier and Monday in Wellington.


Napier is a beautiful and quaint town as I mentioned in my previous posts. We drove southeastward to Te Mata, a large mountain overlooking Hawke’s Bay. It was a beautiful sight as you will notice in the photographs below. We took some time to walk the streets of Napier, do some shopping at a market place and ended up at the beach. Then, we drove to the top of the “bluff” a precipitous cliff in Napier proper overlooking Napier’s harbor. That evening, we had a Kiwi barbecue with grilled chicken kabobs, steak, sausage, patties and “jacketed” potatoes and lovely desserts I mentioned earlier.


Sunday, we had the privilege to worship at Napier Baptist Church. I have met only a handful of New Zealand natives in Napier. But, when Sherry and I walked into the church, we felt instantly at home. When we were greeted by the members, it was like rekindling an old acquaintance. I had an opportunity to talk very briefly about my depression book and had several conversations with members of the church after the service during the “tea”. We sang several worship songs. Two young people were baptized and the pastor invited friends and family to come and stand around the baptistery during the ceremony. He also invited anyone who wanted to share a prayer, Bible verse, or a word of encouragement just before the actual baptism. It was stunningly moving and profoundly beautiful. 


It seems the modernized world is now turning against Christianity. Even here in New Zealand, Grant tells me that persecution is beginning. We are already facing persecution in America and I would say the Christian’s greatest mission field IS America. We are called judgmental, intolerant, legalistic, hate mongers, and man other names I will not repeat in this blog. It is true that there are many who claim to be Christians whose behavior warrants such prejudice. But, true followers of Christ; true disciples of Christ are compelled by unconditional love, not hate. It is this love that pulled us into the church family instantly. In fact, I would say that a Christ follower could walk into any real, committed gathering of other believers (called a church) and feel the same kind of caring and acceptance we felt here in New Zealand. Wow! It was a balm to soothe my soul. It tells me that we must press on with our love and devotion to the Creator God of the universe who is also flesh and spirit among us. It tells me that we are more than a footnote in history; more than a cult of strange folk; more than a smokescreen for hateful fundamentalism. We are called Christian because we are like Christ!


On to Wellington. Just a few words about this city. It is much smaller than Auckland but a large city in its own right. It spreads out over lush, green hills overlooking the harbor with tight, narrow streets surrounded by tall modern buildings and preserved historical buildings. I fell in love with Wellington instantly. It reminded me of London while Auckland reminded me more of Paris. I would go back to London and Wellington in a heartbeat.


A small surprise was WETA, the special effects workshop for all of Peter Jackson’s films! I was so excited, but I was not allowed to take pictures in the actual workshop!


 I am now sitting in my hotel room, tired, weak, hopefully coming out of this cold I’ve had for five days. I am praying for safe waters in the channel tomorrow as we journey to the south island. I am praying for a healthier tomorrow. More will come in the days ahead as we hit the South Island. We me a couple returning from the south island today and they told us to be prepared for “scenery overload”. Bring it on!

Below are pictures from Te Mata, the highest peak overlooking Hawke’s Bay and Napier. Followed by this are photos of Sherry at the beach. And Alex’s favorite flower. Finally, the sheep you see are right across the street from the Stitchbury house!

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New Zealand Days 4 and 5

It is Saturday morning here in New Zealand, Friday America time and I just witnessed one of the most moving and beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. We are now in Napier at Alex and Grant’s house. I’ve gotten behind on my blogging so I wanted to catch up on the photographs.


Let’s see, on Tuesday we drove to Waitomo cave area and went through the cave with the glowworm grotto. The glow worm is a fascinating insect. The female lays an egg in the caves then dies since the adult male and female insects have no mouths! The egg hatches and the larva emerges as the glow worm. The worm has a bioluminescent tip that glows in the dark. The worm spins a long single thread. The thread is sticky and the light attracts moths and insects in the cave. When the insects fly toward the glowing light (and this also includes the aforementioned adult insects) they get stuck on the thread. The glow worm then pulls the thread up and feasts on the insects. This fat and happy life lasts for 9 months. But, eventually, every larva turns into an adult. The male adult is waiting patiently for the females to emerge from their cocoon and impregnates them immediately before they die from starvation. What a life!!!


I could not take an photos within the glow worm grotto. A river passes through the cave and at the bottom of the cave we loaded onto a boat in almost total darkness. Our hostess, Dorene then pulled us quietly through the grotto. In the hushed silence where only the occasionally tinkling of water drops from the stalactites broke the dark solace, we moved through the grotto like the Phantom of the Opera gliding his boat across the waters of Paris underground. Above us were thousands of tiny blue green glowing dots. To me it was a wondrous site. To the glowworm, it was just life. Just a passing through this world from egg to larva to pupae to adult. All on a 10 month cycle. The difference between the glowworm and me, of course, lay in my ability to appreciate the beauty of what I was seeing. More on that later.


Here are some pictures from our cave trip.


Witomo Glowworm Cave

Witomo Glowworm Cave


The Cave Names I can’t quite yet pronounce.




In the Caves


More caves

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On Thursday and Friday, we traveled to Rotorua where the lake filled a huge extinct volcano crater. But, the volcanic activity was far from dormant. Below are numerous photos of the thermal “playground” around Rotorua. The air was cool and crisp but tainted with the odor of sulphur. Our room was situated overlooking the beautiful lake. By now, I was getting Sherry’s cold and I spent the first night in Rotorua shaking with a high fever. Alex, a more than capable nurse, watched over me as we sat on the patio overlooking the lake beneath a billion glowing stars. I was shocked to recognize Orion’s belt and Scorpio and there, above me was the Southern Cross ruling the southern hemisphere sky as our Big Dipper and Polaris, the north star, ruled the northern sky. Alex talked me through my fear of having some kind seizure due to my high fever. Here I was sick in a foreign country my mind filled with fears that most people would never think about (as a doctor, I know too much!) and yet, I was at ease with Alex just a few meters away. I was very thankful she was there to watch over me. I made it through that first night. Thursday and Friday were busy days visiting Rotorua and its many hot springs, geysers, and steam vents. Here are some photos from that visit.


The Thermal Playground


A Caldera


The Artist’s Palette


The colors are from different chemicals


Sulphur deposits


The Devil’s Bathtub


Bubbling hot mud!


Huka Falls


The Jet Boat at Huka Falls


Sherry at Huka Falls


Lake Taupo


Waipunga Falls

I will pause now for a day or two. We are resting up here at home in Napier before tackling the South Island. Tomorrow (Sunday) we will go to church with Alex, Grant, and their boys and I’ll have more to say then. For now, I am resting and trying to heal.

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