Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Dear 30

The baby of our group celebrated a special birthday while we were away at new year. She was turning the big (little) 3-0 and feeling quite distraught about it. She worries her youth is over and is not yet convinced that she's actually entering the best decade of her life so far. Fair enough, too. I remember the painful third-life crisis that hit at 30. And then 32 became the five best years of my life.

Here are some things Dear 30 absolutely does (or does not) believe at this point in time but will soon learn - and it's just the beginning.

Dear 30

"I can have dessert now AND cake when we get back to our place. I go to the gym, you know."
Sure you can - but just for tonight because it's your birthday. Soon, going to the gym will no longer give you a lifetime pass for two desserts.

"My favourite shoes aren't that comfy but they look really good."
One day you'll reverse that statement and breathe a sigh of relief.

"I don't need to write it down. I'll remember it."
Ha ha ha ha ha ha! What's that thing called that you tow behind a car? Oh, a-a-a ... caravan! What three things did I need from the supermarket? Not the four things I came out with. Why did I walk into this room?? No idea ... *retraces steps and gets distracted by something else*.

"I don't need as much sleep as you guys. I can get up the morning after a late night out and still be fine for work."
Sleep is now the ultimate prize that you will do anything to win. You will come to covet it more than money, wine or a new car. #fact

"I dye my hair because I like it to be different shades, NOT because I have grey hair."
Yes, for now. But stretch out the time between colouring it just a bit longer than normal and check again.

"I ALREADY grown up. I've faced some pretty big life situations and dealt with responsibilities you'd never have dreamed of."
True, you certainly have. I had, too, by 30. But I vividly remember the moment I felt like a grown up. I was driving home from work after a very difficult day and night. I'd spent much of the day trying to deal with an unimaginable scene that had presented itself 24 hours earlier. I'd just been on the phone and made what I realised was my very first grown up decision. I was 35.

"I'm still young. Well, at least I'm younger than all of you."
Yes, you are. But soon age will become just a number and you'll choose to embrace it like we all have.

Happy birthday, Dear 30. The best is yet to come.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Someone Knows Something

I was a huge fan of series 1 of the Serial podcast. A true crime story told over several weeks, I marathoned one episode after another two summers ago and was left hanging out for more. The second series didn't grab me so much. I couldn't develop any empathy for the protagonist so have put it aside while hoping there may be a third series in development.

Someone Knows Something (SKS) is similar to Serial in that it is a true-crime podcast that develops over eleven episodes. Presented by Canadian writer and filmmaker David Rigden, SKS investigates the cold case of 5-year-old Adrien McNaughton, who disappeared without a trace while on a fishing trip in Eastern Ontario in 1972. It's a small town story re-examined decades later through fresh eyes.

SKS is not as sharp as Serial. Its pace is slower and generally less engaging. It's almost a journey back to a time to when things operated differently to how they do now. But it's still an interesting case and one that I enjoyed delving into.

Stories such as this cold case blur the lines between investigative journalism and what could (or should) have been part of a police investigation. I couldn't help asking myself why some potentially key witnesses were never interviewed at the time or aspects that we'd now consider standard practice in any investigation were seemingly overlooked. There may be valid reasons. Perhaps these techniques weren't available in 1972? Surely someone would (should) have sent out sniffer dogs before cadaver dogs were deployed to search for remains more than 40 years later?

I've already downloaded series 2, ready to listen to, perhaps in the form of another marathon session or during the next rainy weekend.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Rule of fifty

Life's too short to read a bad book. Actually, I decided a few years ago that life's too short for a lot of things, but I'll focus on books for now. You see, I've been reviewing the titles on my TBR (to be read) list and it's now longer than ever. I didn't manage to achieve my Goodreads reading challenge last year but have reset it once again to 24 books in 2017, or approximately one every two weeks. It doesn't sound like much but when my brain is at full to overload capacity, reading is one of the first pleasures to drop off.

I plan to stay on track with my reading challenge this year. Yes, really. You see, this year I have a strategy. I'm getting better at choosing books I'll finish but still struggle to abandon a book part-way through. It's just not in my nature to stop pursuing something; even if it takes forever, I'll finish it one day.

Book lover Nancy Pearl has come up with a true pearlism. It's called the rule of fifty and makes perfect sense to me as a reader. To quote Nancy Pearl:
"If you're fifty years of age or younger, give a book fifty pages before you decide to commit to reading it or give it up.

If you're over fifty, which is when time gets even shorter, subtract your age from 100. The result is the number of pages you should read before making your decision to stay with it or quit.

Since that number gets smaller and smaller as we get older and older, our big reward is that when we turn 100, we can judge a book by its cover!"
I still have many years until I can judge a book by its cover, but for now I'll give the rule of fifty a go and hopefully meet (or exceed) my reading goal as a result.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Kayaking to Cathedral Cove

Visitors to the Coromandel are spoilt for great scenery with lovely coves, bays and beaches interspersed with hilly landscapes and farmland. Having done most of our exploring on land, we took to the water to visit one of the region's most famous attractions, Cathedral Cove. Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours organises guided tours to the cove, which is only accessible by foot, boat or kayak.

Sea kayaks
Leaving from the beach at Hahei and paddling through the marine reserve at Mercury Bay on tandem sea kayaks, the tour is about three hours long. It took us an hour to kayak around to Cathedral Bay (at a leisurely pace - and with breaks to admire the scenery and learn about the landscape). We came ashore for morning tea at adjoining Mare's Leg Cove and walked through the beautiful, naturally formed archway.

Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove from Mare's Leg Cove
The Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours website boasts world famous cappuccino for morning tea. We certainly were impressed with the range of barista-standard coffees prepared on the beach by our guide while we explored the cove. You're seeing hot chocolates, lattes and a flat white in this picture.

Beach barista
The return journey took about 45 minutes, aided by rafting the kayaks together and putting up a pirate sail that pulled us along for a bit. The tour is quite expensive but still a great way even for beginner kayakers to experience this part of the Coromandel.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Wine and liqueur tasting at Purangi Winery

Although the climate in the Coromandel is warm and sunny, it's not really known as a wine growing region. Purangi Estate winery is a great place to stop for food and drink on the way to nearby Cooks Beach.

Established in 1985, Purangi Winery uses traditional methods to make wines and liqueurs based on organic principles. There is something really refreshing about a relaxed countryside winery that presents itself without the frills and grandeur of many modern vineyards set up to mass produce for overseas markets.


For a gold coin koha (donation), you can sample your way through their cellar list. We tasted several fruit liqueurs including boysenberry, plum, rhubarb and guava, feijoa, passionfruit, persimmon and ginger, as well as limoncello. Most were too sweet for my palette but we did like the aged port and bought a small bottle to take home.


If you're after some lunch, there is a quaint, rustic style bar and restaurant serving wood fired pizza, along with a games room and outdoor picnic tables.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Horse riding at Rangihau Ranch

Rangihau Ranch  is a family-owned ranch at Coroglen, south of Whitianga. It has been farmed for 35 years by the current owners, who clearly love the land and everything they do on it. Their stables are well maintained and their horses beautifully looked after, healthy and happy. We visited Rangihau Ranch at new year and had a great afternoon trekking around sheep and beef farmland.

Rangihau stable
We had some very nervous (and downright scared) riders in our group but the staff were very patient and supportive. Having not ridden a horse since my early 20s, when I used to trek each month or so, I was hoping it would be much like riding a bicycle. I was delighted to discover that it was! My body remembered what to do when riding up and down hill and moved into the right position for some short trot sprints. There was no cantering or galloping this time, so I'll save that for my next trek.

Beware the horse!
If you're looking for a way to enjoy some beautiful Coromandel scenery from land, then take a horse trek at Rangihau Ranch.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Hot Water Beach

Happy New Year! 2017 is going to be epic.

We're in the Coromandel for new year. It's my first visit to this part of the country and one that's long overdue. It's a great place to relax with friends. We're enjoying the beautiful weather and a range of activities within an hour of our accommodation, but more about that later.

Yesterday, we drove out to Hot Water Beach, famous for its ... well, hot water pools on the beach. Considered one of New Zealand's premium destinations, visitors flock to this tiny town armed with spades to dig their own little spa pools in the sand. And the water certainly is hot.
It's hot in there!
The water is heated by a reservoir of hot water and heated rocks two kilometres beneath the surface. It is a remnant of volcanic activity that occurred in the Coromandel region 5 to 9 million years ago. There are two springs that are accessible for two hours either side of low tide.

This is the tranquil view you'll meet when you first arrive at Hot Water Beach. It really is beautiful.
Hot Water Beach
This is the view of the side where the hot water pools are. Zoom in and you'll see hundreds of people clambering over each other in a relatively small patch of sand. Some are digging and damming sand dunes while others are enjoying the fruits of their labour. A few pools that have cooled down are left abandoned as the tide rushes in and their patrons have jumped into another in search of hot water.
Hot water pools
We stayed for an hour, jumping between holes and soaking our feet in various hot pools. It's a beach like no other. Imagine my surprise to read this article about Hot Water Beach etiquette on the very day we were visiting. Sure, it's crazy and hectic but it's also a wonderfully unique experience in a beautiful part of the world. I don't think beach goers would expect to find a deserted attraction, especially during the busy summer holidays.

Don't let the busyness put you off. Hot Water Beach is definitely one to tick off your travel bucket list.