Part 1…Taranaki Pioneer Village..History at it best in this region…Here comes the judge!…And, the witness…

Tom stood on the witness stand in the old courthouse at the Taranaki Pioneer Village, a style that may be seen in more modern-day courthouses throughout the world. See the story and more photos below.
It’s been days since we walked in the neighborhood to visit our favorite cows, bulls, and sheep nor walked the muddy distance to the paddocks where the other alpacas are grazing or where Mont Blanc and his mom are located in hopes of improving his precarious health.


What a wonderful view of Mount Taranaki as we made our way out of town.

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t bored or annoyed with the much-needed rain. Seeing the mountains, hills and grass grow greener each day only means more nutrition for the grazing animals and growth of fall seasonal vegetables on local farms.

This sign grabbed our attention while we traveled along Highway 3.

Speaking of the fall season, the clocks changed here overnight, “fall back” not  “spring forward” as recently occurred in the US and other parts of the world that observe Daylight Savings Time. 

The entrance to the Taranaki Pioneer Village.

Here in the South Pacific, it’s been awfully dark upon arising each morning. Now, we’ll be able to adapt to brighter mornings and earlier evening darkness. 

It’s still a bit odd to us, these time and entire day differences. In a mere 13 months, we’ll be on our way back to the US and everything will change. Luckily, sailing across the seas makes the transition less noticeable at a one hour change each night. 

It was interesting to read about the historical buildings.

To date, we’ve yet to experience any major “jet lag” after crossing many time zones on cruises and flights. In almost every case, we adjusted within 24 to 48 hours with only our waking times feeling a bit disrupted.

Continuing on with stories and photos of recent sightseeing, today we begin sharing photos from a visit to the Taranaki Pioneer Village. We stumbled upon this unplanned popular tourist location when we spotted a sign as we drove on the highway. 

Many of the antiques ranged over a 100 year period such as this doctor scale, table, and clock in the visitors center.

It was worth checking out the village, as Tom quickly whipped into the parking lot. With few cars in the lot we wondered if it was open, let alone curious as to what a pioneer village has to offer.

World War I nurse’s uniform located in the visitors center with a old scale to the left.

With the intent of preserving the history of New Zealand, the Taranaki Pioneer Village is an ideal sightseeing location for both adults and children. Following is a description from their website:

“Welcome to Taranaki Pioneer Village!

Open every day from 10 am to 4 pm at Stratford South in Central Taranaki. Open at other times by arrangement.

Phone 06 765 5399

Taranaki Pioneer Village on State Highway 3, just south of Stratford in Central Taranaki, offers 10 acres of Taranaki Heritage. Take a nostalgic stroll through yesteryear and experience an outdoor museum presenting the life of Taranaki pioneers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – recall childhood memories and introduce ‘the good old days’ to the younger generation”

A major central Taranaki visitor attraction that appeals to all ages with modern amenities which contrast with a ‘stepping back in time’ experience as visitors enter village main street.”

Most buildings on the site were moved from other locations in the Taranaki Region to preserve them in one central location such as this building from the Opunake Railway Station, more railroad “stuff” to appeal to Tom.  This miniature train is used to transport visitors through the grounds. We preferred to walk on a beautiful day.

Upon entering the visitors center, we were warmly greeted by two staff members who seemed delighted to see us, a woman at the reception desk where we happily paid the senior entrance fee of NZ $10 per person, US $6.90 per person, and a man who was equally a wealth of information about the venue.

We entered this old courthouse. With no one in sight, we took advantage of a few photo ops as shown below.

We could have spent hours talking to them about New Zealand history but after a half-hour or so, we decided to move along to see what the Taranaki Pioneer Village had to offer and take photos while it was still bright and sunny.

During our entire several hour mid-week tour of the village, we never saw any other tourists. It was pleasant having the entire 10-acre site to ourselves. We imagine it would be busy over the weekends and holidays.

Tom teased me when I sat in the judge’s chair behind the big desk.

Over the next few days, we’ll be posting both exterior and interior photos of the interesting historical buildings we visited including businesses, a hospital, and a variety of homes. Also, we had a funny animal encounter for which we took a video we’ll soon post which may appeal to our “animal lovers” readers.

May your day bring you unexpected humor and laughter.

Photo from one year ago today, April 3, 2015:

This was the view as we began our daily walk in the neighborhood in Kauai over a four-month period. For more Kauai photos, please click here.

Part 1…Beautiful and hilarious faces…Take a peek for a warmed heart and a hearty laugh…Part 2 in a few weeks…

Check out that smile with grass!

Perhaps it’s just us. Maybe we’re somewhat daft for loving animals as we do finding joy, humor, knowledge, and a passion for their health and well-being as we tour the world.

They often appear to be smiling.  Perhaps, these gentle animals are as happy as they appear.

Whether it’s a bird, an insect, a lion, or one of the endearing alpacas on this beautiful farm in New Zealand, we stop to observe, to analyze, to study online to learn as much as we can.

Many moons ago we wrote about the therapeutic benefits for animal lovers when spending time in their presence. Whether it’s one’s own pet or an animal in the wild, many find a surge of feel-good hormones rushing through their bodies.

The noses and lips of the cria are pink until they mature. This cria is only 24 hours old, hugging close to mom.

Yesterday, as we walked the grounds of the farm, I commented to Tom how spending time with the alpacas makes me feel as if I’ve been infused with an added dose of happiness, unable to wipe the smile off my face.

The bottom teeth are of varying sizes and shapes on each of the alpacas, not unlike in humans.

Looking at Tom, I saw that same smile and sense of peace on his face as we got up close to the alpacas, many of whom have come to know us as we approach the fences at the various paddocks.

Again, we stopped to see the pink cockatoos capture this funny photo from the moment they saw us. Surely, visiting them will be a frequent stopover our remaining time on the farm. 

“Look,” she says, “That weird pair of humans are back, staring at us!”  Even the faces of birds are expressive.

Against the narrow diamond-shaped galvanized chain-link which houses the cockatoos, I tightly positioned the lens of the camera to ensure I got a good shot without any major amounts of chain link appearing in the photo.

Using photo editing software I was able to “erase” any remaining vestiges of the chain links, allowing as clear a view as possible of these exquisite cockatoos.

It’s not unusual to see alpacas with grass sticking out of their mouths.

As I sit here now, sipping Tom’s perfectly made French press coffee, I need only lift my head to peer outside on this chilly morning to see a number of alpacas munching on the dew-covered grass in the side paddock to which they were moved a few days ago. 

Posing for the camera!

They’re moved each week to one of the many paddocks to allow the grass to refresh and regrow. Our favorite paddock is the one closest to the house, essentially in our immediate yard, where we can reach out and touch them from the deck. 

This is Gypsy Rose who loves to look in the kitchen window while I cook.This photo was taken through the glass.

Within a few weeks, they’ll be back close at hand which may be for the last time while we’re still here, as our time winds down and we’ll soon have to go. Over this past almost two months we’ve come to know and love them not unlike we’ve adored other wildlife in our travels; warthogs, kudus, zebras, giraffes, and more in Marloth Park and “Birdie”, albatross and chicks and whales in Hawaii.

There are only a few dark fleece alpacas that appear larger and very expressive.

If we weren’t determined to see many parts of the world, I could easily spend all of our travel time living in wildlife areas or on farms with animals (after this amazing farm experience). 

We love visiting these two located in a paddock further down the road, although still on the farm.  They often appear side by side although they are of the same gender.  Adult females (dams) and males (machos) are kept apart unless mating.

Its not beyond my realm to conceive of spending most of our time in Africa and other wildlife-rich locations although doing so would be less ideal for Tom. Instead, we both relish in one another’s preferences making our travels meaningful to both of us. 

No, I haven’t been disappointed living in countries where a passing bird or an insect may be the only creature within the range of the camera. We always seem to find points of interest and other pleasing aspects of every country we’ve visited.

This female appears to have a mouthful of teeth.

Today, we share Part 1 of some of our favorite alpaca photos…faces…adorable, heartwarming, and funny, if not hilarious.  We’ll share Part 2 on another date over these next remaining weeks. 

Most of these faces shown today were taken with our old camera. I’m anxious to capture more with the new more advanced camera, especially now as their fleece has begun growing back after their annual springtime shearing, making them even more adorable.

Ears tucked back for the photoshoot.

Smile with us, laugh with us, and hopefully, you too will feel a little rush of endorphins and feel-good hormones from the sheer joy of such simple beauty in the faces of these somewhat peculiar-looking creatures.

Today, we’re off to the winery.  Back tomorrow with new photos!

Photo from one year ago today, March 9, 2015:

It’s hard to believe it was a year ago we visited new friends Bev and Sam in Kauai who’d invited us to movie night at their home. Bev and Sam are the couples from whom we’ll be renting the fabulous villa in Costa Rica in 2017. This photo is of a small portion of the grounds of their beautiful home in Kauai.  Bev explained that these red bamboo stalks on the right as Lipstick  Bamboo.  We continued on the pavers set in dense grass for an interesting tour of their gorgeous, former botanical gardens home.  For more photos, please click here.

Is it true that “time flies when you’re having fun?”…Last day, new AmeriCARna photos…

Street rod. We weren’t certain as to the model or year.

When we recall living in Kauai, Hawaii a year ago at this time with yet another three months until we were scheduled to depart on the cruise from Honolulu to Sydney on May 24, 2015, it seems like years ago.

Although not an American-made car, Tom got a kick out of this Volkwagon Beetle, similar to Herbie from the movie, the Love Bug, on the street in Opunake.

Many memories of the eight months we spent on four islands in the Hawaiian archipelago remain fresh in our minds, when we consider the past nine months since leaving Hawaii, it feels as if we’ve had a wide array of experiences.

There were dozens of hot rods in the annual AmeriCARna procession.

Yesterday, Tom received an email from a friend, he’d made in Kauai, Pat from Wisconsin, with whom he’s stayed in touch via email. Pat and his wife had recently returned to Kauai for their annual vacation/holiday, sending Tom a new photo of our temporary home in Princeville during our four-month stay.

The local children got a break from school to visit the car show.

A pang of pleasant memories washed over me in seeing this photo. As long as the four months living in Kauai seemed at the time, we loved every moment, in the same manner, we’re feeling during these three months in New Zealand.

1949 Mercury as shown.
There’s no doubt that a year from now, we’ll look back at our post from these current three months on the farm in Taranaki with a similar sense of awe and appreciation over the exquisite time we experienced.
1959 Cadillac.

Yes, time does “fly when you’re having fun” as evidenced during these exceptional days and nights in New Zealand.  We always ask ourselves the question, “If we could live here long term, would this location appeal to us?”

A classic car.
1942 Ford or Mercury??? Any comments?

The answer is clear to us…we don’t want to live anywhere permanently unless it becomes absolutely necessary due to poor health which logically will occur at some point. Although, we do hope to return to a few favorites down the road for shorter periods, health providing.

Mid 60’s Cadillac.

The dream of continuing in our travels until the very last days of our lives is lofty if not impractical. What percentage of seniors in their (hopefully) 80’s and 90’s or more, continue to be able to travel on a regular basis, away from medical care and able to haul luggage, often spending hours in airports, boarding cruises, and visiting points of interest requiring hours of walking and standing?

Another classic car we weren’t able to name. 
Often we encounter seniors of advanced and varying ages using wheelchairs, walkers and rarely, if ever, hauling half of their luggage load through airports from one area to another, as we’ve often done these past years. This is a reality we must face every day in our travels as we look to the future, attempting to do so with grace and acceptance.
A ’67 Pontiac GTO, one of Tom’s favorites.
Side view of ’67 GTO.

Also, it may seem as we’ve aged as if time flies more quickly since we retired and no longer awake to an alarm clock in order to get to work on time. Perhaps the daily maintenance of our lives becomes less cumbersome as we choose to no longer spend endless hours engaged in strenuous tasks we undertook in our younger lives without giving it a thought.

’60 Cadillac convertible.

Many give this “winding down” process more credit than it deserves. Maybe the quality of our lives is extended by staying active and engaged in the many tasks and activities we enjoyed in our younger years. 

’59 Cadillac, two-door hardtop.

Is it possible if we stay active, stopping to embrace many of the most simple pleasures in life as well as the heart-pounding profound experiences we often find in front of us, that we can enhance those later years taking advantage of every seeming fast-flying moment in time? 

1933 street rod with a license plate, HER33.

We’re making every effort to capture those types of moments in our hearts and minds through preserving the fine memories in our posts and our photos living every moment in time to the fullest in the process. 

As the cars entered the venue, they were parked in neat rows.

Instead of spending a lot of time recalling past experiences as the basis of our existence, as seniors often do, we’re attempting to live in the moment as much as we possibly can and, of course, looking to the future in order to continue the process.

We wandered up and down the rows in case we missed any of the American-made vehicles.

This moment, a sunny day on the farm, I’ll soon step outdoors to perform the simplest of tasks, hanging the laundry on the clothesline, finding it to be a pure pleasure with the soft grass under my bare feet and the gentle humming sounds of the alpacas, music to my ears, as times seems to standstill.

Another street rod.

May every moment of your life stand still long enough for you to stop and embrace its magic.

Photo from one year ago today, February 28, 2015:

Spring flowers began to bloom as spring came early in Hawaii’s tropical climate one year ago. For more photos, please click here.

Birthday dinner in another fabulous New Plymouth, New Zealand restaurant…

View of Mount Taranaki, while on our way home last night after my birthday dinner.

Thanks to our family, friends, and readers and our thoughtful landlords, Trish and Neil, for the wonderful birthday wishes I received in the past 48 hours.  It means the world to me and I appreciate each and every acknowledgment.

Returning home last night, we found this pretty plant from Trish and Neil on the doorstep.  Wow! 

How is it possible that the relatively small city (compared to many other major cities in the world) of New Plymouth, New Zealand with a population of over 74,000 including all the farm and surrounding areas, has such great restaurants as far as we’re concerned?

Sure, we’ve only dined out twice. But, when perusing the list of 126 restaurants reviewed in the area, we see a general consensus of overall quality food even in many of the more out-of-the-way casual establishments.

A table was set for a large group at the Orangery.

Last night’s choice for my birthday dinner was The Orangery located in the Quality Hotel in downtown New Plymouth. A 20-minute drive from the farm, the scenery along the way is so breathtaking the drive is over quickly. 

The restaurant was cozy with comfortable seating and arrangements.

Nothing in the town is hard to find with the clearly marked road signs with well laid out streets. There’s a number of one-way streets. But Tom’s learned to navigate the area with ease often surprising me as to how well he’s learned his way around.

Tom was looking forward to bread!

As a passenger, I pay little attention to how we get to a specific location than the interesting scenery on our way. Last night’s drive to town was no exception. Before we leave “home” Tom takes a quick look at an online map, finds the location and without hesitation finds our destination. His innate ability to find most locations always adds to the ease of our travels. 

Wearing the same clothes as in many photos.  I’ve noticed little holes forming in this top and sadly must say goodbye soon.  Does this mean I get to buy something to replace it? Tom will cringe at the thought of going to the mall.

Of course, I’ll give him credit for having a great sense of direction when I’m totally inept in this area. I can get lost in the grocery store. It’s not that I’m not capable. It’s merely a matter of paying attention. With a short attention span, I really have to focus to find my way anywhere. 

This serving cart was rolled to our table in order for Denise to make Tom’s entrée tableside.

Luckily, as a couple, we fill in the blanks for one another even when dining out: Does he want to eat his salad or vegetables when he’s focused on the potatoes, meat, and bread?

At The Orangery last night, although we ordered different main courses, he supplemented my lack of starch, sugar, or grains by handing over his salad. As usual, with no premade salad dressings work for my way of eating when they’ve been made with soy or vegetable oil, which I don’t consume. 

Diane fired up Tom’s Steak Diane Flambé using Pernot and white wine while I took this shot. 

I usually order a cup of full-fat sour cream to which I add my liquid sweetener (which I carry in my pocket in a tiny bottle), salt, and pepper for a delicious tasting dressing I use almost every day. I’ve given up trying to find mayonnaise or salad dressing when all are made with soy, “seed” or vegetable oils, none of which I consume. 

Last night’s ordering was a little tricky when many items were made in sauces using flour, corn starch, or sugar.  After handing the food list on my phone to our conscientious server she showed it to the chef, who suggested I pick out a protein source I’d like and he’ll make it befitting the list.

Tom’s main dish included a side of mashed potatoes (not shown here) and a salad which he handed to me.

The food was wonderful, fresh, perfectly prepared, and served. Tom ordered the Steak Diane Flambé served tableside with mushrooms, garlic, onions, mashed potatoes, and a side of bread. I ordered the prawns sautéed in garlic butter, a side of avocado in place of veggie, and a mixed greens salad. Adding Tom’s salad to mine I had enough to eat between the salad, avo, and prawns.

Guess who ate this entire loaf of bread with special New Zealand butter? I tasted the delicious unsalted butter.

The biggest problem for me when dining out is the prospect of leaving hungry. Without bread, potatoes, or any starches, a portion of protein, salad and a small serving of a suitable vegetable may not be substantial enough to fill me up. 

Based on the fact I don’t eat any more often than once every 22 to 24 hours due to my commitment to a ketogenic, (LCHF – low carb, high fat, moderate protein) intermittent fasting way of eating, once I begin eating the one meal, hunger kicks in. It’s funny how that works.

My fluffy dish of sour cream and sliced avocado. Tom’s huge bowl of mashed potatoes is beside his plate.

As it turned out the meal was satisfying and I left feeling comfortable, not too full. Tom, on the other hand, was stuffed and uncomfortable. It’s funny how that works.

We had a very pleasant dinner in the lovely décor of The Orangery heading home before dark when we were able to take the above main photo of Mount Taranaki. Upon driving up to our cozy temporary New Zealand home, we noticed a beautiful flowering plant with a card from Trish and Neil wishing me a “happy kiwi birthday.” 

The combination of Tom’s salad and mine created an ample portion.

These thoughtful owners have made this experience on their alpaca farm memorable with their “over the top” consideration and kindness. We couldn’t be more grateful. When I wrote a heartfelt thank you email, I promised to diligently care for the blooming plant to ensure they can enjoy it later when we must leave it behind when we fly to Sydney on April 15th.

It was a happy birthday in many ways; hearing from loved ones, many messages by email with more wishes on Facebook than I can count. Tom’s sweet message on Facebook, a public declaration of his love, also warmed my heart. 

My prawns sautéed in butter were cooked perfectly and well seasoned.

This morning we left before 9 am to head to the Farmers Market Taranaki for eggs and produce including a trip to the grocery store. Thus, the late posting today.  When we returned “home” we spotted Miss Jessica looking our way from the paddock. Yes, it’s a good life in New Zealand…a very good life.

Photo from one year ago today, February 21, 2015:

A year ago today we headed to Waimea Canyon but the “vog” was so thick we couldn’t see a thing. For more details of our Kauai overnight road trip, please click here.

Yesterday’s road trip…Mount Taranaki, a rain forest and a botanical garden…More garden photos tomorrow…

Our favorite photo of the day.  Zoom in to see this bee’s facial features.  Amazing!

After writing yesterday’s post which we uploaded by 10 am after a very early start, we looked at one another and said, “Let’s head out!” We’d written about how little we’ve been traveling while living here in New Zealand enjoying our surroundings to the degree that we haven’t been motivated to leave for even a day.

We crossed numerous streams and rivers on our way up the mountain, including driving over this one-lane bridge.

When we do travel, we prefer sunny days for better photos and viewing scenery, but after being in for many days after Tom’s over-week-long illness, except for a night out for dinner and another outing for grocery shopping, we were excited to get on the road. 

We read this sign to get a lay of the land.  Inside this building, we were able to grab a map of the gardens to assist us on our walk.

Without a big plan in mind, we headed on to the long drive through winding country roads to steep winding mountain roads, not unlike those we experienced long ago when we spent three months in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy in 2013. 

We got a kick out of this display for free coffee.  With no receptionist in attendance, one could help themselves.

By far, those mountains in Italy had some of the steepest winding roads we’d driven in our travels, except for the Atlas Mountains we traveled in Morocco in April 2014. 

Not a huge fan of driving through mountainous roads, yesterday I was at ease with the automatic transmission of our rental car and the lack of the necessity to pass slow-moving vehicles in front of us. We didn’t encounter more than a half dozen vehicles through the mountains making the drive relatively easy and comfortable.

As we commenced our walk, we spotted this gardener at work.

We hoped to get to the Visitors Centre partway up Mount Taranaki but when it began to rain during our walk through the Pukeiti Gardens and rainforest we decided it might be wise to head back down the mountain, realizing that scenic views would be impossible on the cloudy rainy day.

The Pukeiti Gardens is known for its world-class rhododendron collection exquisitely set within a rainforest with the flowering season from July through March. We were grateful to have arrived during the season to be able to see and take photos of the beautiful flowers and gardens. Every so often, the sun peeked out, allowing us a few better quality photos as shown here.

The rhododendrons are in full bloom at this time of the year, summer in New Zealand.

Here’s a little info from the Taranaki Regional Council’s website about the origination of the beautiful gardens:

“A vision fulfilled:
One man’s dream has literally flowered at Pukeiti on the slopes of Mount Taranaki — a garden renowned worldwide for its stunning collection of rhododendrons and other plants, and an institution that is much a part of the region as the mountain itself.

Founder William Douglas Cook’s vision was a vast natural garden of rhododendrons. Today that vision is a reality, thanks to the efforts of Cook and countless volunteers and members of the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust through the decades since the garden opened in 1951.
(To read some stories from the early days, click on “History and culture” in the navigation panel at left.)

Pukeiti has the largest collection of rhododendrons in New Zealand, its sub-tropical vireyas known as the world’s finest. It also boasts major displays of cardiocrinum, hostas, hydrangeas, magnolias, primulas, liliums, bulbs, and alpine and herbaceous plants, all against a backdrop of luscious native bush and dramatic Mount Taranaki.

The Taranaki Regional Council assumed ownership of and responsibility for Pukeiti on 1 July 2010, as a result of an approach from the Trust. The move secures the future for Pukeiti and its unique collection of plants.

The Council also owns and operates Tupare, and Hollard Gardens, Kaponga, on behalf of the people of the region.”

The walkways were easy at the beginning of our walk.

Had it not rained, we’d certainly have stayed longer walking further along the many kilometers of trails. But soon, as we began trekking through mud and slippery rocks, we knew it was time to get back on the road.

We continue to be in awe of the maintenance and care in this lovely country. There appear to be few, if any, rundown properties, bad roads, or trash on the sides of the road. We’ve yet to encounter a “bad” or unsafe-feeling area in the Taranaki Region. At public venues, such as Pukeiti Gardens, clean restrooms are readily available. No fees are required to enter the gardens and rainforest.

The rainforest is beautiful. Well coated with repellent I never received a bite. Tom, without the use of any repellent, was never bitten. Surprisingly, we didn’t sense any biting flies, mosquitos, or sandflies in the rainforest.

We only encountered two other parties and one gardener in the gardens on the less-than-ideal day but never felt ill at ease in the secluded rainforest. Back home in the later afternoon we were pleased for the experiences and look forward to more similar outings.

Today is by far, the rainiest day since our arrival, much-needed rain to provide a greener pasture for the grazing alpacas and other grazing animals throughout the country. 

Unable to find the name of this structure online (metered wifi), we assume it may be a Maori (indigenous people to NZ) tribute. Please correct us if we are wrong.

As I listened to the pelting rain pounding on the metal roof during the night, I thought about the alpacas. This morning, as I stepped outdoors to see how they’re doing in the heavy rain, they were all busy munching on the grass picking up their heads to look at me, with the adorable funny little smirk on their faces, none the worse for the wear.

Feeling relieved, I wiped my bare feet and returned back indoors for what will surely be a quiet day at home.  We don’t mind a bit. Each day is a treasure.

We hope today will be a treasured day for YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, February 17, 2015:

The Nene Bird is the Hawaiian Island state bird, evolved from the Canadian Goose with which we’re very familiar after living in Minnesota. These geese are commonly seen in Kauai, where we lived for four months a year ago. Please click here for more details.