Tag: Lizard

Hawkes Bay Stay

Hawkes Bay Stay

Napier, New Zealand – December 19, 2015

Leslie and I drove to Napier today. It was about a four-hour drive from our home, north on Highway 2. As we got closer to the mountains, the slopes got steeper. At times, it seemed as if we were driving on a cliff face. Regardless of the pitch, the hues of green were just amazing. It was like driving through the green-section of a box of 120 Crayola Crayons.
The road became very narrow, with numerous curves. The scenery seemed to get more and more beautiful. At a couple of the sharper curves, we encountered logging trucks traveling the opposite direction. It seemed mere inches separated our vehicles.

View from the Rimutaka Pass overlook to the south.

The road summit is at Rimutaka Hill. There was a turn-out there, so we stopped to look. The short trail to the overlook was dirt and gravel. It was also steep. Because of that, Leslie opted to wait in the car. Within 50 meters, I was at the top of the overlook. The view up and down the rugged valley was spectacular.
Signs at the turn-out told the story of infantry reinforcements crossing at Rimutaka Hill during World War I. The pass is at an elevation of 555 meters above sea level, about 1,800 feet. The weather there must be terrible in the winter. I make that assumption because of the drop-arm at the side of the road, near the bottom of the hill.
On the downhill side of the pass, we mused that the mountain road reminded us of Independence Pass in Colorado. The road was very narrow, especially on some of the curves. I am not sure how two logging trucks could pass each other on such a route.

Some directional signs in Carterton, New Zealand.

In the valley, we drove through the town of Carterton. As we drove along the main street, I saw a sign for Paua World. Even though it was a kilometer or so off the main road, I thought we should see Paua World for ourselves.
Paua (pronounced pah-wah) is a fist-sized shellfish with beautiful mother-of-pearl on the inside surface. In English, we know it as an abalone. Paua World is a “factory” that makes a multitude of tourist trinkets from the shells. We bought a couple of things and then hit the road again.

About two hours into our drive, we approached the town of Pahiatua. It was nearly noon, time for lunch. Along the main street, we spotted The Black Stump Café. We decided that was the place for lunch. Inside, the lone waiter immediately brought us water and menus. I spied beer-battered Terakihi, fries, and Harrow’s tartare sauce for $18.50 (about $12 U.S.). I decided I would try that, even though I am not a big fan of seafood. However, I am determined to do better since we live on a beautiful island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Little did I know at the time, my selection was better described as fish and chips. I found them to be the absolute best fish and chips I have ever had anywhere on this planet.

The lunch stop in Pahiatua, New Zealand.

Continuing our drive northeast, we turned onto Highway 50 shortly after the town of Norsewood. We understood Highway 50 had less traffic, and it was more scenic. The route was incredibly beautiful. It was a good thing there was not as much traffic because there were three one-lane bridges we had to cross. Luckily, one could see far enough ahead to determine whether one might meet another vehicle on the span.

Sheep grazing on hillsides near Napier, New Zealand.

Much of the trip wound through rural areas. We saw several hay fields in which there were the large round hay bales. The plastic shrink-wrapped hay bales look much different from those in the U.S. That makes sense, given the climate in New Zealand.

With the one-lane bridges behind us, we began driving through some rolling hills, which were thick with grasses. The wind had picked up speed. It was mesmerizing to watch the wind blowing the grasses. It made the hills look more like a green ocean.

For the last 30 kilometers (18 miles) or so, we drove through one vineyard after another. The Hawke’s Bay area is well known in New Zealand for its wine production. A local map touted the locations of 32 different vineyards near Napier. We were glad to know we would be contributing to the wine economy during our stay.
At about 15:00 we pulled into the parking lot of the Pebble Beach Motor Inn. It is located on Marine Parade, directly across from the ocean. We walked into our top floor room and immediately fell in love with the view from our terrace. It was stunning. If I had a stronger arm, I probably could have thrown a stone and hit the ocean. Just 400 feet down the road to our right sat the National Aquarium of New Zealand.

View of our terrace (right center) at the Pebble Beach Motor Inn in Napier, New Zealand.

After checking in, we made a quick trip to the supermarket to get a few items to stock the kitchen of our room. When we returned to our space, we did not feel like going out. So we ordered pizza for dinner. It was brilliant, sitting in our room, eating pizza, drinking wine, and watching and listening to the Pacific Ocean’s lap at the beach along Hawke’s Bay.
Across the street from our room, in the park between us and the ocean, was a fountain. It was a beacon to all things children and all things seagull. If a group of children was not splashing around in the fountain, then a group of seagulls was there, trying to clean up and taking a drink.

A seabird finished with bathing in the fountain in Napier, New Zealand.

Once we got things sorted in our room, we decided to walk to the beach. On the way, we saw a seabird of some sort sitting on a nest in the pebbles under a log. As we watched her, she watched us. She turned her head to keep a close eye on us even though we never approached too close. Unfortunately, the next morning, we noticed she was dead. We have no idea what may have happened overnight.

A nesting seabird in Napier, New Zealand. The next morning she was dead.

The beach was not one of sand, but rather one of gray to black pebbles. The sun heated those small pebbles. I think the largest ones we saw were maybe two inches across. They were all reasonably flat. One afternoon, we decided to lay on the beach. I cannot express here just how comfortable that was. As one wiggled, the pebbles formed to one’s shape. The stones were nice and warm, which made the lie-down all the more relaxing and comfortable. I would highly recommend that to any visitor to the beach.

The sea receding from the beach in Napier, New Zealand.

On our first full day in Napier, we agreed we would go to the aquarium. Over coffee, we read up on the aquarium. We found that it opened at 09:00. We were at the door at 08:55. As soon as the aquarium opened, we made a beeline for the penguin exhibit. The literature noted that penguin feeding occurred at 09:30 every day.
We sat at the penguin exhibit, enjoying the antics of the penguins as they and we waited for feeding time. One penguin swam erratically in circles, appearing quite excited. Several others stood on the wooden pier, looking longingly at the door from which the feeders no doubt used to enter the exhibit. They too were quite animated.

A little blue penguin swimming at the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.

Ultimately, a woman and a man entered the exhibit. The man, carrying a bucket, went to the far end of the enclosure, followed by a flock of penguins. There was also one lone seagull there. As the man fed the penguins, the woman spoke to those of us gathered about the penguins. All of the penguins there are Little Blue Penguins (the smallest penguin species), each of which was rescued from the wild. The rescues were necessary due to any number of maladies; for example, one penguin had lost an eye, another had lost a flipper. Even the seagull, a rescued bird, was missing a wing. The seagull received some fish too.

A man feeding the penguins at the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.

Because of our visit to the penguin exhibit, I realized I saw Little Blue Penguin on a rock in Wellington Harbour. As I rode the train into town alongside the harbor, I saw a lone penguin standing on a small rock, just off the shore. I was surprised to have seen only one that day as I thought they were more of a social animal.
When the penguin feeding finished, we walked to the Oceanarium area. This large aquarium includes a glass “tunnel.” The tunnel allows one to walk literally through the aquarium while many of the fish swim overhead. It was similar to the tunnel we encountered in the aquarium in Valencia, Spain, but for one detail. At this aquarium, in addition to a carpeted path through the tunnel, there was a moving sidewalk too. All one need do is stand still and watch the fish as the sidewalk moves through the tunnel.

The tunnel under the large aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.

We took a trip through the tunnel. Just as we exited, we saw a diver in the tank, right on time for the 10:00 feeding. The diver was adept at communicating to the audience via hand signals and pantomime. It was fascinating to watch the fish swarm the diver each time he pulled his hand from the feeding bucket.

Feeding time at the main tank at the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.

We continued through the rest of the aquarium at our leisure. We finished up at the Fish Bowl Café with a cup of coffee. We sat on the terrace while we enjoyed our coffee. When finished, we took a quick stroll through the Treasure Chest Gift Shop, emerging with our requisite refrigerator magnet.
Our next stop was the Art Deco area of old Napier. A disaster is the reason there is so much Art Deco architecture here. In 1931, an earthquake destroyed much of the city. The townspeople vowed to rebuild. At the time, the fashionable architectural style was Art Deco. For that reason, the central portion of old Napier has an abundance of Art Deco buildings. It was like going back in time. The town celebrates that heritage each February with an Art Deco festival.

A poster advertising the Art Deco Festival in Napier, New Zealand.

We stopped at a street-side café for a leisurely brunch. As we have done so often in the past, we enjoyed our meal as we watched the world.
Near the Art Deco center of the town, there was a bronze statue of a mermaid. It was ever so slightly more significant than the famous mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark; although it does not seem to be thronged quite as much as that statue. The figure is known as Pania of the Reef. A plaque at the base of the sculpture relates the following story. “An old Maori legend tells how Pania, lured by the siren voices of the sea people, swam out to meet them. When she endeavored to return to her lover, she was transformed into the reef which now lies beyond the Napier breakwater. To perpetuate the legend the Thirty Thousand Club presented this statue to the City of Napier – 1954.”

Sculpture of a Maori legend in Napier, New Zealand.

We went for a swim near the Port of Napier. The water was anything but warm. Regardless, it was fun. When we left the beach, we drove back toward our hotel. I just happened to see a sign pointing up a road to Bluff Hill Overlook. I took a quick right turn and headed uphill. The closer we got, the more narrow the road became. I was delighted we did not meet another vehicle on the way up.
Once we parked on top of Bluff Hill and walked to the fence, we were astonished by the view. It was probably a 270-degree view of the area. We had a commanding view of the port. It was just amazing how many trees were on the dock, waiting for shipment out of New Zealand. One of our taxi drivers said the logs were destined primarily for either Japan or China. Quite frankly, with the environmental consciousness in New Zealand, I was surprised that so much timber is exported.

Thousands upon thousands of logs waiting to be shipped out of the port in Napier, New Zealand.

Ascending the pass from the south side.

Commemorative sign at the top of Rimutaka Pass.
View to the north from the Rimutaka Pass overlook.
Looking from the south toward the summit of Rimutaka Pass.
Road sign on Highway 2 in New Zealand, warning of Kiwis crossing the road.
Closer view of sheep grazing on hillsides near Napier, New Zealand.
A dog near the side of the fountain, seemingly playing hide and seek with his owner. This is in Napier, New Zealand.
View along Marine Parade in Napier, New Zealand.
A young boy playing in a fountain in Napier, New Zealand.
A man fishing from the beach in Napier, New Zealand.
View of Cape Kidnappers from the beach in Napier, New Zealand.
Wild grass at the summit of Rimutaka Pass.
Looking toward the port from the beach in Napier, New Zealand.
Pebbles on the beach in Napier, New Zealand.
Trees along Marine Parade in Napier, New Zealand.
Several seabirds departing the fountain in Napier, New Zealand.
A seabird seems to be doing the backstroke in the fountain in Napier, New Zealand.
Some flowers in the median of Marine Parade in Napier, New Zealand.
Enjoying some Sauvignon Blanc wine on the terrace of the Pebble Beach Motor Inn in Napier, New Zealand.
Vacancy sign as evening comes in Napier, New Zealand.
The view along Marine Parade at sunrise in Napier, New Zealand.
A breaker at the beach in Napier, New Zealand.
On the beach in Napier, New Zealand.
A pohutukawa tree, affectionately known as a Christmas tree, in Napier, New Zealand.
The Millennial Sculpture in Napier, New Zealand.
Sitting by the fountain in Napier, New Zealand.
The National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier.
Penguins waiting to be fed at the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.
A lone penguin at the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.
This woman explained what was happening while her colleague fed the penguins at the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.
The fountain changes colors throughout the night in Napier, New Zealand.
A starfish at the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.
A shark in the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.
A pufferfish in the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.
The diver feeding the fish in the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.
Christmas decorations National Aquarium style in Napier, New Zealand.
Some koy fish in the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.
A lizard in the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.
An alligator in the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.
A sea turtle in the National Aquarium in Napier, New Zealand.
Ready for lunch in Napier, New Zealand.
Our server for lunch in Napier, New Zealand.
Trying on a mask in Napier, New Zealand.
Trying on a pink hat and boa in Napier, New Zealand.
The museum in Napier, New Zealand.
The city hall building in Napier, New Zealand.
The Soundshell in Napier, New Zealand.
The lawn between the fountain and the Soundshell in Napier, New Zealand.
A chrome globe near the Soundshell in Napier, New Zealand.
Pohutukawa trees near the museum in Napier, New Zealand.
Seeing an old car on the street in Napier, New Zealand is not unusual.
A scooter parked outside Cafe Divine in Napier, New Zealand.
Another view of the city hall building in Napier, New Zealand.
A traditional Christmas tree in Napier, New Zealand.
Detail view of an overhead door in Napier, New Zealand.
A mannequin in the Farmers store in Napier, New Zealand.
A bouquet Christmas decoration in Napier, New Zealand.
A touring car in Napier, New Zealand.
A unique wall on the museum in Napier, New Zealand.
The Tom Parker Fountain in Napier, New Zealand.
View toward the Soundshell in Napier, New Zealand.
One of the many Art Deco buildings in Napier, New Zealand.
A decorated lawnmower in Napier, New Zealand.
Some bird of paradise flowers in Napier, New Zealand.
View of the wall through some bird of paradise flowers in Napier, New Zealand.
More of the beautiful flowers in Napier, New Zealand.
View of the port in Napier, New Zealand.
A view of the Pacific Ocean from the Bluff Hill Lookout in Napier, New Zealand.
A Norfolk pine near the Bluff Hill Lookout in Napier, New Zealand.
The safe swimming area near the port in Napier, New Zealand.
On top of Bluff Hill in Napier, New Zealand, a geodetic beacon used for surveying.
A musician at a local pub in Napier, New Zealand.
The museum in Napier, New Zealand.
A half-moon during the day in Napier, New Zealand.
A homemade earthquake detector in Napier, New Zealand.
People enjoying a ride in a touring car along Marine Parade in Napier, New Zealand.
The bar at the Thirsty Whale in Napier, New Zealand.
A Kiwi leather bank near the homemade earthquake detector in Napier, New Zealand.
Love on driftwood.
The fountain at night II.
The fountain at night III.
The fountain at night IV.
The National Aquarium at sunset.
A sculpture commemorating fishermen. The sculpture is next to the National Aquarium.
Yellow flowers at Bluff Hill Lookout.
Flowers at Bluff Hill Lookout.
Another grouping of flowers at Bluff Hill Lookout.
Purple flowers at Bluff Hill Lookout.
Some deeply purple flowers at Bluff Hill Lookout.
The Pania of the Reef statue.
The green hills on the way to Napier.
A ship making for the port.
A stunning blue sky!
Looking across Hawke’s Bay.
Two men walking a dog.
A woman walking her dog by the fountain.
A jogger passing by on the beach track.
Marine Parade in the afternoon.
An afternoon moon.
The Shed 2 restaurant.
Some of the restaurants on West Quay street.
Fishing boats.
A portion of the marina.
People enjoying the entertainment and a lovely evening on the deck.
A dog waiting patiently for its owner.
The BBQ pizza was delicious.
The evening’s entertainment during cocktails and dinner.
A Norfolk Pine.
The pebbles at Pebble Beach.
An incoming wave at Napier.
The Black Stump Cafe.
The other lunch guest.
Lunch at The Black Stump Cafe in Pahiatua, New Zealand.
A section of Highway 58 on the way to Lower Hutt.
The lush vegetation in New Zealand is amazing.
The Tasman Sea with Kapiti Island just on the right.
Even on a cloudy day, it is beautiful.
Such a lush landscape.
An antique tour car driving by as we sat on the terrace of our motel room.
The bar at the Thirsty Whale restaurant.
The Thirsty Whale.
The Way Home

The Way Home

Grand Junction, Colorado – September 7, 2013

The day started quite early as is always the case when leaving Guyana. My flight was the 05:35 Caribbean Air flight. Usually, the motor pool driver would pick me up at about 02:30 or a little earlier. Today, traveling on the same plane was another colleague, so the driver talked me into a 03:00 pick up. The driver and the other passenger arrived at 02:50. As the driver was loading my luggage, he told me we had to pick up one other couple. That got my stomach tied up in knots because it usually takes about an hour to get to the airport.
At about 03:00, we arrived at the other couple’s house, as the driver backed into the driveway, he said, “Oh shucks! I’m getting a flat!” He got out and opened the rear hatch. Now I started to get nervous since the time was ticking. The driver closed the hatch and got back in the Suburban. He told the guard to let the residents know we would be right back. He said to us the tire was not completely flat, so he was going to drive back to the embassy and switch vehicles.
Off we went! Luckily it is only about two miles from where we were.
When we arrived at the embassy, the driver parked the Suburban in front. He walked into the compound to get another vehicle while we stayed outside. By this time the left front tire was completely flat. We removed our bags and waited. Soon the driver emerged from the compound. We loaded up and began the drive back to the house.
We arrived at the house and picked up the residents. As we departed, I nervously glanced at the clock on the dash, 03:28.
Even though our progress slowed because of the occasional large truck doing 25 mph, the driver got us to the airport in just about 40-minutes.
As I walked into the terminal building, I was astonished at how many people were in the small airport. That was due to the relatively short time before departure and the fact that Caribbean Airlines had two flights taking off within 25 minutes of each other. I went to the shortest line and got checked-in reasonably quickly. About 40-minutes later I was on the plane.
We took off right on time. We landed at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago a short 55 minutes later.
There are many things in this world I don’t understand. One of them is the handling of passengers arriving at Port of Spain from Georgetown. In Georgetown, to get into the waiting area, one must pass through a full-body scanner. Also, shoes and bags must go through an X-ray machine. That is very similar to the U.S.; however, upon landing at Port of Spain, all Georgetown passengers go through the same routine again. That is what I don’t understand.
After getting off the plane, one is in the concourse area of the airport. That is the “secure” portion of the airport. But, instead of being allowed to sit and wait for the connecting flight (which is always the same plane parked at the same gate) one is forced to be screened again. One could argue that it is a security flaw since the screening only consists of a metal detector and an X-ray machine. Since there is not a full-body scanner, there is a possibility that dangerous, non-metallic items could be introduced to a passenger and be brought into the secure area undetected.
When I made it to the end of the screening line, I was surprised that it was easily 100 meters to the screening area. That did not count the zig-zag portion of the line. The line inched along at a painfully slow pace. By the time I got back into the concourse, I only had about 25 minutes to wait to board the flight to Miami.
The flight from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago to Miami, Florida was scheduled to depart at 08:30, so one would think boarding would begin at about 08:00; it started at 08:18. By 08:36, everyone was on board. Regardless, a flight attendant did not close the door, nor did we push back from the gate until 08:53. “We just completed the final paperwork,” was the explanation from the captain. Oh well.
About halfway through the flight, when I looked out the window, I found myself feeling almost disoriented. Looking down at the ocean, it was just as blue as the sky. In the distance was a small thin layer of clouds. They appeared to be at about our same altitude. It was difficult to tell if we were flying upside down or right side up when focusing on the clouds! It was beautiful, though.
As we neared Miami, flying over and near the big island of the Bahamas, it struck me how crystal blue the water was. It was a beautiful shade of turquoise.
Landing at 12:35, little did I know there was another travel surprise coming. Leaving the gate where the plane parked, one has to go up an escalator and then walk to immigration. When I got to the top of the escalator, in between me and the first moving sidewalk, there was a large crowd of people just standing there. I thought it was some tour group, so I began to walk around. Then I noticed it was three lines. At the head of each line was a Customs and Border Protection officer. They were checking everyone’s passport. I went back to the end of a line and waited for my turn.
On my customs form, I wrote that I had been to Guyana and Suriname on this trip out of the United States. When I handed my passport to the agent, he did not look at it at first. He pulled out the customs form, looked at it and then at me. He asked why I had been to those two countries. As I began to answer his question, he saw that my passport was a diplomatic passport. He immediately said, “Oh, never mind. Have a good day, sir”. Off I went to immigration.
I passed through immigration and customs quickly. As I exited, I found myself in Terminal H. I had to go to terminal D, but first I had to re-check my baggage and get my boarding passes. That all took about an hour. Luckily I had a three-hour layover.
Of course, my gate could not have been D2 or D3; it was D42! What a hike! When I got near the gate, I had a quick chicken Caesar salad and waited to board.
The flight to Dallas, Texas, was uneventful. Upon arrival, I made my way to gate B10. Directly across from B10 is a TGI Fridays, so I decided to have dinner. I had the Dragonfire Chicken. It was particularly marginal.
Emerging from Fridays, I discovered my gate was now B24. Once I got there, it was only about 20 minutes until we boarded.

Gate B24 at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
The flight to Grand Junction, Colorado was pretty. We were flying almost directly toward the setting sun. There were quite a few clouds. The sunlight hitting them was beautiful. Unfortunately, none of my photographs did the sight justice.
About two hours later, I was on the ground and heading for Fruita, Colorado.
During my time in Fruita, I was able to relax by pursuing my passion — photography. The following are some of my favorite shots from this trip.

A dragon fly lit on Tyler’s hat for a while.
The water spigot.
Cattle in a nearby paddock.
A wider view of the cattle.
A cow and her calf stopped to see what I was doing.
A freshly cut paddock.
A hummingbird and wasp in competition for a sugary drink.
Maybe a little too close for comfort?
A dandelion ready to blow away.
The Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado.
An old mixer in the Main Street Cafe.
A woman walking by The Main Street Cafe.
Detail of a water fountain outside The Main Street Cafe.
The Independence Monument in the Colorado National Monument near Fruita.
A canyon wall in Colorado National Monument.
Detail of a canyon wall.
A dead bush provides contrast.
Layers of sand that are millions of years old.
Prickly pear cactus.
Prickly pear cactus II.
A rock formation in Colorado National Monument.
A lizard sunning along side the trail.
In places, the sandstone seems almost liquid.
Detail of the sandstone.
Another lizard sunning by the trail.
A rock formation in Colorado National Monument.
The trail leads to the far rock formation.
Clouds gathering over Colorado National Monument.