Bay of Plenty

Trip Start Jan 10, 2005
Trip End May 10, 2005

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

After arriving back at the farm, we travelled with Kris and Grant to the Edgecumbe to stay with Grant's mother, Margaret. Although a little grayer, Margaret has not changed much in 20 years and she's still the spritely, energetic person she was when I first met her. It was at Margaret and Ian's that I received the phone call from Jim Sayer in 1985 to tell me my Grandma Kennett had died. It seems like a long time ago.

Two of the three of Grant's kids, Ashleigh (16) and Matt (11) came along with us. They live with their mother in Auckland, but spend every second weekend and holidays with their dad. We also met Justin (14) who returned to the city to play rugby.

There were six children in the Law family: Jan (deceased), Bruce (Irene), Grant, Robin (Doug), Gregory and Donna (Ian). Three of the six married Canadians. All live within an hour of their mother except for Grant who is about three hours away.

The onslaught of people does not phase Margaret in the least. She very much enjoys her family and cooks wonderful "teas" (suppers) for us - I quickly remembered what a good cooks she is. She is always trying new recipes and is her own worst critic when it comes to her culinary skills, always "biffing" food into the "bin" when something doesn't turn out as good as she would have liked. Kris says that you could feed a small country on what Margaret chucks out. (It seems strange to those of us whose parents who lived through the depression years in Saskatchewan.)

We tease Margaret when she confuses my name and Kris', though we are used to it; Grandma Armitage (my mother's mom) could never get us straight - our names are very similar (and we're only a year and 11 days apart in age). Margaret had also mentioned to me in a letter that she kept thinking that Martin's name was Simon. All we have to do is mention it and she's calling him Simon more often than not.

Since Ian died, Margaret has taken up stitchery and belongs to a stitchery club. There are lovely candlewicked pillows, Hardanger tablecloths, embroidered blankets and pictures throughout the house. Her flower gardens are also spectacular, though, of course, she modestly states that they're not at their best right now. I remember that she had two small beds - now there's several very large ones. They must require a lot of attention, particularly when you're caring for them year round!

Kris and Grant have also come to Margaret's to work on the "bach" - pronounced "batch" - short for bachelor house (cabin) - that they've built with Bruce and Irene at Lake Rotoma. Kris, Ashleigh, Matt and I painted. Irene and family purchased the paint for the interior and could only get dark tones on sale, so put a great deal of effort into toning down the burn-your-eyes-out gold that they'd selected! (Hopefully we were successful - it was a much more tasteful lemon yellow when we were done with it.) Martin and Grant attended to the flooring. Tradesmen are hard to get in New Zealand, so it made sense for Martin to help out with the floor while we were there. At the drop of a hat, he could have had a job in either Australia or New Zealand doing flooring.

Mercifully, the landscape in the Bay of Plenty is flatter than some we've driven through. Margaret lives on the Rangataiki plains by the Rangataiki River. Just offshore is White Island, an active volcano. A fault line runs from White Island all the way to Mt Ruapehu in Tongorio Noational Park further south on the north island. (There was a small earthquake during the one night we were at Margaret's, but neither Martin nor I woke up.) An earthquake in 1987 did significant damage to homes and businesses in the Edgecumbe area and a hill appeared that never existed previously. Although very rare, there was also a cyclone in this area on November that cut a swath through forests and paddocks, badly damaging any buildings in its path.

This is kiwi fruit county. Kiwi fruit grows on vines much like grapes do, but higher off the ground so that it can be picked easily from below. The fruit originated in China and was called the Chinese gooseberry before it was brought back to New Zealand and propagated into what it is today. Heather and I picked kiwi fruit when we were here; I was amazed at the size of much of the fruit - it can grow three to four times the size of what we see in Canada, but much of that is sold to countries who are very particular about their produce (like Japan and Germany). Years ago, many farmers ripped out their kiwi fruit orchards and established vineyards, but kiwi fruit is now making a resurgence. Kiwi fruit is now commonly grown in Calfornia as well; the "Zespri" label indicates that it is New Zealand grown.

Monday (April 25) is ANZAC Day in New Zealand and Australia to remember those killed in Galliopoli, Turkey during the First World War. (ANZAC is an acronym for Australia New Zealand Army Core.) Over 44,000 Allied troops were killed at Gallipoli. This year marks the 90th Anniversary of Galliopoli; the Prime Ministers of both Australia and New Zealand, John Howard and Helen Clark, attended a commemorative service in Turkey. (You may have heard the controversy on the news - in order to accomodate the people who were attending, the road into Galliopoli had to be widened and there was a fear that a number of soldier's remains would be unearthed.)

Since the shops were closed and we couldn't get the flooring or any more paint, Kris, Martin and I spent a couple of hours hiking from Whakatane (pronounced "Fa-ka-tan-ee") to Kohi point to Ohope ("Oh-hope-ee") along the "sea" (as they call it here). (Most of the Laws are fitness nuts and ran to Kohi Point and back - the walk was enough for me!) We hiked through the forest on the hills, listening to the Tui birds that sounded like one-bird bands (i.e., many instruments). From our vantage point on the hills we could see the white sand beaches, Whale Island and Whakaari (White Island).
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