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Quilting in the Desert – After Hours

A lot of what happens at a quilt event like Quilting in the Desert, happens after class has ended.  At this event, it began to get exciting before I even arrived. I had been following the exploits of former student, Gale Wrigley as she drove west, leaving her home in Florida for four months of travel.  She ran into road blocks in Texas that slooooowed her down, and for a while she worried that she might not ever move beyond those  expansive borders.  So, I commented a time or two and we began a friendly repartee about her travels.  However, not for a minute did it occur to me that Gale was en route to Scottsdale to take my class!  What a treat!

The Two Gails - Gale Wrigley and Gail Garber

The Two Gals – Gale Wrigley and Gail Garber

It was just like the reunion of two longtime friends, a natural and comfortable fit!  So, we hung out together, walking across the street for lunch with her friend, Dolores Roseveare.  They had reserved a suite with a full kitchen.  And, they invited me to dinner along with fellow teacher, Louise Smith.

Cooking in the Kitchen

Cooking in the Kitchen

I showed up at the appointed time to find Dolores and Gale in the midst of dinner preparations, with wine already set out – both red and white, which we drank in plastic hotel room cups.

Dining a la Wrigley

Dining a la Wrigley

A lovely Greek feast with couscous, feta, olives and veggies, along with a tasty salad of beets and greens hit the spot.  But the best part was the companionship as we lounged on their tiny patio renewing our friendship and getting to know Dolores and Louisa.   The next afternoon we headed off to the Desert Botanical Garden to view the Chihuly exhibit, but there was much to see at the gardens in addition to the glass exhibit.

Perfect Saguaro

Perfect Saguaro

I’ve always been intrigued by the massive saguaro cacti which grow only in the Sonoran desert.  They grow slowly and must reach ~50 years of age before they even begin to sprout arm buds.  A saturated saguaro can hold up to 200 gallons of water!  But, what I didn’t know was that

Saguaro Skeleton

Saguaro Skeleton

when the cactus dies, it leaves behind a sturdy wooden skeleton, much like the trunk of a tree.  My first exposure to this aspect happened when I checking in at the Cottonwoods Resort . . .

Saguaro Art

Saguaro Art

where a fully varnished saguaro skeleton graced the lobby of the hotel. It was for sale too, for ~$4500.  However, as much fun as it was to see this masterpiece, I was not even tempted — it was taller than the ceilings in my modest home.

I hope to be able to return to Phoenix sometime soon so I can take my time and take in the full majesty of the Desert Botanical Gardens a celebration of all things Sonoran, including

Spiral Cactus

Spiral Cactus

and

Round Button Cactus

Round Button Cactus

In fact, I’ve never seen such an amazing display of the various cacti!  But my favorite remains, the giant saguaro.

Saguaro in Desert Garden

Saguaro in Desert Garden

Bye Phoenix.  Bye Gale.  ‘Til next time!

 

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Cathedral Cove

After a quick lunch, Marion and I headed back out, destination Cathedral Cove, one of the most photographed natural geographic sites in New Zealand.

Viewing the Cove Below

Viewing the Cove Below

Although it was a winter day, many people were present on the viewing platform and trails heading down to the iconic cove below.

Ancient Pohutukawa

Ancient Pohutukawa

This huge pohutukawa tree greeted us as we stepped onto the beach.

Looking Through the Keyhole

Looking Through the Keyhole

Massive doesn’t begin to adequately describe the wonder that awaits at the bottom of the trail.

Cathedral Tower

Cathedral Tower

The natural rock formations formed by the sea boggle the mind.

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

But it’s the scale of the landscape that creates the majesty that is Cathedral Cove!  It is so well worth the hike!  As we climbed back to the top of the cliff,

Sunset at Cathedral Cove

Sunset at Cathedral Cove

the sun was setting on this magical place.

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On the Coromandel – Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach - Return to the Sea

Hot Water Beach – Return to the Sea

Marion and Kerry took me to Hot Water Beach on my first New Zealand trip, in 1997. My memories of that day have remained foremost in my thoughts and I longed for a return visit.  So, when Kerry and his mates set off for afternoon fishing, Marion and I headed south a few miles.  So named because of the hot springs located right on the beach, each day of the year, humans are drawn to this place.

Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach

They arrive in synchronicity with the departing tide, and they begin digging.  Digging what will become the soak pools.  There, they relax in the soothing waters until the sea returns to reclaim it’s rightful place as master of the coast.  If you stand on the beach sand and squish your feet down into the sand, depending on where you stand, it can be so hot that you must move on.  When the tide returns, it is then that the humans begin their frantic, and sometimes hilarious quest to defeat the inevitable, building their sand walls higher and higher in the hopes of soaking a little longer.  Inevitably, with each incoming tide, humans lose the battle.  I think it’s an extraordinary place, and . . .

New Zealand Dotterel

New Zealand Dotterel

so do the birds.  Above is a New Zealand Dotterel who calls Hot Water Beach home. The New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu is an endangered species found only in this country. It was once widespread and common but there are only about 1700 birds left. This serious decline in numbers is due to a combination of habitat loss, predation by introduced mammals and disturbance during breeding.

Protect the Nesting Birds

Protect the Nesting Birds

The Department of Conservation, fences off nesting areas and their observers protect them for the dotterel and other endangered species like the Fairy Tern. Pied Oystercatchers, the most abundant wading birds in New Zealand, also benefit from the protected beaches.

Pied Oystercatcher

Pied Oystercatcher

We found a couple of these little fellows too, foraging on the beach for macro-invertebrates hiding beneath the sand.  There’s room for everyone on New Zealand’s beaches.

 

 

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On the Coromandel – Morning Stroll

Atop Shakespeare Cliff, Marion and I were very distracted by the small birds flitting around us.  Kerry decided to head off for an invigorating walk along the coast (read Up and Down), while Marion and I tried to capture flying things with our cameras.  We first tried for images of the sweetly singing Grey Warbler, a New Zealand endemic, unsuccessfully.  But,

Fantail

Fantail

this little fellow was far more cooperative.  Fantails are the endemic flycatcher, and the little fellow just followed us around as we kicked up insects for him to eat.

Fantail

Fantail

In fact, he often was too close for a decent photo, plus he never held still for a second.  After 1/2 hour or so, Marion captured this image and we descended the two hundred steps back down the cliff, where we continued our morning walk along the coast.

Looking out on the Bay

Looking out on the Bay

When this very fun beach chair appeared right beside the water, we just had to stop to take more photos.

Baby Goat on Vacation at the Beach

Baby Goat on Vacation at the Beach

Our next mini-adventure was the encounter with a woman and her grandaughter,  walking a baby goat on a leash.  We stopped to chat, only to learn that since the family was going on holiday that they decided to take baby goat along with them!  Then, it turns out that

Inga and Yours Truly

Inga and Yours Truly

Inga was a quilter too, and she had heard that I was in New Zealand.  So we took another photo of the two of us, proof that her story was the ‘real deal’.  It was about then that Kerry called Marion’s cell to inquire as to our whereabouts, so we turned around and headed back to the beach house.

Picking Mandarins

Picking Mandarins

But, we had one last quick stop, to pick the Mandarin oranges that grow in the untended tree right beside the driveway to their home.  There is nothing sweeter than a fresh picked Mandarin.

We said hello to Kerry, who was off with his mates to try their luck, catching our dinner in the sea.  We wished them luck, and soon set off again.

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Last Few Days in Paradise – On the Coromandel

View from the Manson's Beach House

View from the Manson’s Beach House

My final days in New Zealand were spent with Kerry and Marion Manson at their beach house at Cook’s Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula.  They were meant strictly for relaxing, something that I rarely get to do.

Lonely Bay

Lonely Bay

The first morning, the three of us set off for a walk to the Manson’s favorite haunts.  First stop was Lonely Bay where the Pohutukawa trees towered over the small beach.

Marion and the Pohutakawa tree

Marion and the Pohutukawa tree

I asked Marion to pose beside the behemoth tree for perspective.  Pohutukawa trees ring the coastline in warmer parts of New Zealand, clinging to every rock and crevice.  They bloom bright red flowers right at Christmastime and are called the New Zealand Christmas tree.

Lonely Beach

Lonely Beach

The beach at Lonely Bay is covered with shells.  It’s where Marion has collected the extensive shell collection displayed at both her beach home and her Hamilton home.

Shakespeare Cliff

Shakespeare Cliff

After a stroll to marvel at the geology of Lonely Bay, we headed for Shakespeare Cliff, where . .  .

200 Steps

200 Steps

we got to enjoy a Step Workout!  It’s about 200 steps, cut into the rock cliffside, to the top.  But,

View from Shakespeare Cliff

View from Shakespeare Cliff

the view was incomparable.  I could see our footsteps on the beach and I wondered if I could zoom in close enough with my Canon XS 40 to capture them.

Footsteps on the Beach

Footsteps on the Beach

And, this was just the prelude to my final, magical day in Paradise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Maungatautari – Sanctuary Mountain

I first came to the mountain in November 2011 with friends from the United States.  My Kiwi friends, Kerry and Marion, joined us there for an evening of Kiwi spotting – the birds, not the people.  With  47kms of predator proof fence enclosing 3400 hectares in a sea of pastureland, it is the largest ecological island on mainland New Zealand.  It is, without doubt a must-see experience.  I could not wait to return!

Predator Proof Fence

Predator Proof Fence

So,

Birding in the Dark and the Rain

Birding in the Dark and the Rain

Marion and I headed out long before the dawn.  Right about the time we began pulling our binoculars (bins) out, drops began to fall from the sky.  Not to worry though, Marion had six (yes, 6!) umbrellas in the back of her car!

Sunrise at Maunga

Sunrise at Maunga

It was a little eerie to walk in the darkened forest.  We could hear, but not see the birds as they awakened from their nightly slumber.  We climbed to the top of the observation tower in time to greet the rising sun.  There is nothing more magical than to be alone in the forest with only wild birds as your companions as the sun kisses the earth.

View from Maunga

View from Maunga

We didn’t see much in the dark and the rain, but the clouds lifted as we headed back down the hill for breakfast at Out in the Styx.  Upon our return an hour later, things were quite different.  This time, the only drops were those that fell from the wet vegetation that towered above us.

Tall Natives

Tall Natives

We walked toward the feeding area where we were thrilled to see a very large, and very red parrot!

Kaka - Image by Charles Cummings 2011

Kaka – Image by Charles Cummings 2011

Maunga staff feed the birds in this area once daily around 11 a.m.  And the Kaka, one of the native parrots of New Zealand, were waiting.

Stitchbird, or Hihi

Stitchbird, or Hihi.  Image by Charles Cummings 2011

We also had good looks, but not great photos, of the native Hihi, or Stitchbirds, that came to the nectar feeders.  Small and fast, it was only with extreme patience that my friend, Charles, managed to photograph this individual when we were there in November 2011.

In Maunga Forest

In Maunga Forest

In addition to the birds, just being in a primeval forest among the ancient trees can be a life-altering, almost religious experience.  My favorites were the giant silver ferns, the national symbol of New Zealand.

Fiddlehead frond

Fiddlehead frond

It is easy to understand the Koru symbol, so widely used in this beautiful country when one gazes upon the gently rounded, unfurling of the new fern fronds.  However, not all ferns seem to grow this way.

Baby Ferns

Baby Ferns

Some just seem to carry and nourish their newborns until they are large enough to survive in the cold, hard ground.

Marion's Maunga Leaves

Marion’s Maunga Leaves

Along the way, Marion continued to gather leaves for her dye pots.

Looking at Maunga

Looking at Maunga

As we walked out of the forest, our short visit at an end, the skies were brilliant and we could see Sanctuary Mountain in all its glory!  Sanctuary Mountain will be one of the stops on my New Zealand Tour in April 2014.  It is pure magic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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