We left the Bay of Islands and headed back to Lea's house for the night. She lives closer to the airport than Wendy and tomorrow was the day we had to leave the land of the long white clouds for Australia. On the drive home, Wendy said, "If you see anyplace you would like to stop, just holler." Well I am not sure she said 'holler', because Wendy doesn't talk like that, but you get my drift. And so holler we did. There was the sweet church by the side of the road, the grapevines draped in netting that looked like bridal veils (that's on nina's camera, my battery had died), the little farm stand, and the places Wendy already planned on - the Hundertwasser Kawakawa toilets and Ruakaka beach where Graeme spent his summers as a child. WAIT! Toilets, yes, I did say toilets.
Let me give you some background first. New Zealand is full of public toilets. No need to stop at McDonalds, gas stations or public libraries (my usual spots). This country understands basic human needs. They are easy to spot and 9 out of 10 times, very clean. Hundertwasser, an internationally famous architect, was born in Austria and retired to NZ in 1975, eventually becoming a NZ citizen. The town of Kawakawa asked him to design a new public toilet. Tiles were made by students in the local school, bricks came from local buildings and the glass bottle window wall was all recycled. Tourist buses come from all over to both use and admire.
We stopped for tea (lunch really, but they seem to call every- thing tea, except for brekkie, of course), at a lovely cafe near Lea's home. One of the things I most enjoyed about the trip was that we never really knew what surprises lay ahead of us. And there was another in store - Lea's friend, Christine Peek and her garden. We were expecting a lovely backyard full of flowers and we got, a five-acre, perfectly manicured and maintained country stroll garden, full of flowers, trees, hedges, walkways, and vistas beyond compare.
Christine and her husband, Tony, were gracious and informative hosts and let us stroll the grounds while they prepared for a busload of garden club members arriving the next day.We finished our stroll just as it was beginning to sprinkle, so we headed back to Lea's to snuggle in and pack for the next day's journey. It was bittersweet. Nina and I were gifted with greenstone necklaces - good luck, but only when given as a gift. There was dinner of Vegetable Pie, I recipe I came right home and fixed for my family. I worked a bit in my journal, already beginning to be confused about what happened when, and where we went on which day. Wendy had the bright idea of writing out the itinerary for each of us so we would know when and where we had been over the last 6 days, even marking maps with all the places we had traveled. It has proved invaluable to me in writing this blog.
And speaking of writing... Our last morning in Paihia, the alarm clock in Wendy's room went off at 6 am. She could not fall back asleep, so she sat and wrote poetry in the dark, so as not to disturb Lea. A poem for nina and one for me. As we sat in Lea's home that last evening, she copied it it into my journal, along with some parting words - May life bring to you...Surprises that delight you, Laughter that is shared, Happiness that grows and memories to keep.
My time in New Zealand has brought me enough laughter, happiness, and memories to last a lifetime. Hāere ra, New Zealand, ka kite ano (goodbye NZ, see you again).