Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wheels - a stroke of luck

As I have mentioned, this was my first international trip. It was also to a location that had only a peep-hole into the inner workings of the place. Planning is a bit difficult, especially since we were flying standby and were not even sure we would get there. I saw on the Island website that there was continuous transportation in these little shuttles and assumed we would use those; though I was not aware of how you catch them or what the schedule was. I was hoping to figure it out, or as a last resort ask a local.

We were walking up road from where we were staying past Gooseberry Flat toward another little town that I can't recall the name of. It was a long, but pretty walk. When we arrived I saw two things that struck my interest. First, there was the smallest library you could ever imagine. I love libraries and this little one simply stole my heart. It was the size of a tool shed and had quite a number of books for its size. The "librarian" was the sweetest old lady. I spoke with her for a bit, but my wife had an extended conversation with her. Poor lady. Her adult son had recently drowned on the other side of the island while swimming. There was a serious undertow that caught him.

The next thing that caught my attention was a small car rental place called Great Barrier Island Rental Cars (what else). My boys and I walked over and asked the gentleman if he had any available. We were informed that he only had a convertible. What tough luck :). The price was right and we could drop it off at the airstrip when we left since the next renter was landing there. We would not need to take the shuttle again. I filled out the papers, paid, and drove the cute little car over to where my wife was still talking with the librarian. She was thrilled and hopped in as we took off back to the lodge.

Now there was one catch: the steering wheel was on the right side and you drove on the left side (opposite of the US). As I casually turned into the right lane I soon found myself facing a car coming right at me. I remembered at the last I was supposed to be on the other side and lost the game of chicken by darting over to where I was supposed to be.

So it was back to the lodge where the bakery would have fresh goods. Among other items, I decided to try something called a "potato top". It was a small pastry with a meat and vegetable filling topped with mashed potatoes. I liked it and got a few more during my stay. With full stomachs and a sharp set of wheels, we were ready to plan our day and take off - on the correct side of the road this time.

Awakening in another country on an island

I awoke before the rest of my family the next morning. It was my first time off the continent of North America and the first time I awoke on an island. I stepped outside to a beautiful lush green view of a morning with dew all around. There was the thumping sound of the generator that I was still new to. I walked around the lodge area and immediately saw that planned or not, the grounds had quite a number of interesting plants that I had never seen before. While I do not recall the exact timing on my trip of each photo, I did take a number of pictures of the trees, bushes and flowers that struck my fancy. I hope to add these pictures over time.

I was close enough to the beach to hear the ocean waves and I took a quick walk over to the beach in Tryphena. I must say it is not a beautiful beach, yet it was still nice to look at for this mid-American man. Off to the right there is a nice distant view where tall grasses meet the sea. After looking at the beach for a few minutes I walked back toward the lodge and noticed a small shop area next to the lodge. It only had a small store, a bakery/cafe and a gift shop. The store was open and I flew in to investigate what unique food items they might have. The thought of something that can't be gotten in America was exciting. Most of the items in this category were in the candy and drink section. I selected a ginger beer and a peachie drink and brought them back to our room. As the family was starting to stir, I opened the drinks and we all got a taste. My oldest and I were quite fond of that peachie drink and wish we had brought some back.

After telling them of the store next door, we went back together to take another look. As the bakery was expecting a shipment an hour later, we also reinspected the beach. My youngest found some rocks to climb around on. We then decided to walk up the road for a bit to explore. We found a cemetery in Gooseberry Flat which was surrounded by lush green foliage and had some interesting markers. We then got back on the road and determined to walk even farther. My next post will tell what this road led to.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Tried the Lemon Cordial Recipe

I recently tried the Lemon Cordial recipe in a previous post in hope of recreating the magic taste of Lemon and Paeroa. While I am sorry to say it did not, the cordial is great. One part called for cutting the peel off the lemons. When you do this the whole room is full of a wonderful lemon smell.

After it was complete I tried it and as I say it was delicious. I tried all kinds of blending: regular water, carbonated water, sprite, 50/50. While the taste was in the ballpark, it was not the same. I found one of the best uses for it was to put in ice tea with one part cordial and 4 parts ice tea. It is like a super lemon in your tea. In fact it is like super lemonaid or lemonaid on steroids.

If you are creative, like to try things and don't whine when they come out differently than expected I recommend it. Some of the ingredients may be hard to find. Just remember the tartaric acid is the same as cream of tartar. The two must give some twisted blend of sours that just one would not provide.

If anyone tries this I hope you will comment on your experience.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Pohutukawa Lodge

We had made reservations at the Pohutukawa Lodge for our stay at Great Barrier Island. Phil and Maire (hope I am spelling that right) are the proprietors of this nice place. Maire is from Ireland, Phil is from New Zealand and they met in Germany. When they settled down at GBI to run this lodge, Maire named their restuarant/bar the Carrach Irish Pub to remind her of home. A carrach is something like a canoe and they have quite a large one in the front of their place.

The picture above has a view of the back of the lodge. The large set of 4 windows is from the restaurant and just to the left of that is the room we stayed in. The first thing you notice (after the beauty) is the thump, thump, thump sound of the generators throughout the island. There is no other sources of electricity. At some point in the night, the generator stops and they switch to battery power stored from the day. There is just enough juice for a few lights to run. Our two sons thought this was great fun to be roughing it without electricity.

We decided to take a quick nap before dinner as we were somewhat jet-lagged. Boy were we in for a treat at dinner. I had already looked at their menu from the states and decided I was going to order Fish and Chips! Though I loved the dish, I wish I had waited one more night to order that. Phil is a wizard in the kitchen and quite an amazing chef. That night the special was an Indian cuisine dish of curried chicken and would only be served that night. Though I was tempted, I dutifully ordered my fish and chips while my wife got the special. Phil would be in the kitchen moving quickly here and there doing this and that. At the key moment, smoke would be billowing from the kitchen doors obscuring our vision. Suddenly Phil would walk out with dishes in hand of the most tasty and delicious variety. We dream of his talents to this day.

After dinner, we observed some of the local folks at the bar and tables. We were to see similar faces over the next few days. Then we would also see some of the patrons in the kitchen on other days. Work on the island is an interesting setup. I don't claim to understand it, but most have several jobs and bartering is quite common. We went to bed and being next door drifted off to sleep with a background noise of the laughter and conversation of the pub patrons and the droning of the generator. We were out solid until morning.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Two ways from Auckland to GBI

There are only 2 ways from Auckland to Great Barrier Island. There is Fullers Ferry that goes to the island most days as the schedule varies according to time of year. By ferry it takes about 2.5 hours to get there. The other method is a charter flight. There are two charter airlines that fly to GBI: Great Barrier Airlines and Mountain Air Great Barrier Express.

On our trip we took Great Barrier Airlines and flew in the smallest aircraft in their fleet as shown in the picture. There were 6 passengers on the flight. Besides our family there was a father and his little girl. I was surprised at how common flight back and forth to Auckland was among those who live on the island. I would think that would get expensive, but they somehow manage it.

It takes about 30 minutes to fly to the island and it is a breathtaking aerial view over the island when you get there. The airstrip is on the side away from Auckland, so you get a good view before landing on a grassy airfield. That is quite an experience to land in a field without solid pavement underneath. After stopping, you walk to a very small "airport" that is about the size of a large tool shed.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Recreating the magic taste - could be

Since I can't get L&P in the states, the next best thing is to try to recreate the taste. I had a few bottles I was able to acquire recently. While drinking it, I tried to recreate the taste using several different blendings of common store bought items. Then I would taste my trial recipe against the real thing. To no avail. When I drink it, it tastes more like lime to me than lemon. It has a snap to it, so I tried mixing ginger ale with lemon, then lime, then both. The true taste keeps alluding me. I would be happy if I were even close, but nothing was.

I did find the following on the internet that takes time to make so I have not had time to try. Some day soon, I will try and report back on its success. I have my doubts because L&P is carbonated. This is not. Anyway, the recipe is from the following link:

Real lemon cordial
6 lemons
1.8kg sugar
30g tartaric acid
30g citric acid
60g Epsom salts
2 litres boiling water

Grate the rind from the lemons and then squeeze the juice.
Dissolve the sugar, tartaric and citric acids, and Epsom salts in boiling water.
Mix in the grated rind and juice.
Pour into bottles.
Before serving, dilute with water to taste.
Note for New Zealanders: My Grandfather's family lived in Paeroa. Grandpa told of how his Mother would send him over the fields with a billy to collect water from the local spring to mix with this cordial. The original 'L&P'!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Giant Bottle in Paeroa, New Zealand

Here is a picture of the giant bottle of L&P in the town of Paeroa, New Zealand. This is the place where L&P was first created and bottled. Now of course, it is bottled by Coca-Cola but so far I have not found any available in the US :(

Friday, September 30, 2005

Google Earth view of Great Barrier Island