We’re sitting here, out on the balcony of our apartment in Austria. Vienna, to be precise.
While consuming our gourmet meal of baked potato, baked beans and salad (compliments to the chef, Liesel), we were treated to the sight of a glorious double rainbow. I was looking out for it because the temperature dropped, the Sun was low enough and clouds were in the right place. Suddenly, there it was. One rainbow at first and then, coyly, the second one emerged.
If it weren’t for the building over the road, we might have seen one end, if not both ends, of the rainbow disappear into the sea, something neither of us have ever witnessed.
Hang on a minute, you’re thinking… Vienna? The sea? Have you gone mad in all that hot sunshine? Well, no, I don’t think so.
Actually, we’re still in New Zealand, of course, and we’re staying at The Austria Motel in Paihia. Our room is called Vienna rather than just plain old Room Number 1.
We booked this place through Airbnb, and I think it’s the first time we’ve not booked a private house via that site. (This is going to cause all sorts of problems when I do a statistical analysis of our travels. Does this count as Airbnb or Motel? Should I split Airbnb into two sub-categories, Private Residence and Motel? And should the Turning Up At A Motel category stay? Should I categorise by how the booking was made or by the type of accommodation it is? Nightmare.)
It was raining on our final morning on Waiheke so that made it easier to leave. Fi was having her hair cut so we thought we’d have breakfast out rather then disturb her and the hairdresser in the kitchen. We went back to Onetangi for a s-l-o-w breakfast. Our ferry ticket was for 1.30pm and although we considered catching an earlier one, that didn’t prove practical: the preceding boat left at 11.00am.
After the leisurely breakfast, we took a short walk along the beach but a few drops of rain soon sent us back to the car. We did see some wildlife though: a snake on a house and a flock of oystercatchers on the beach.
At the ferry port, I wandered around to pass the time and to get some exercise. The sea water was beautifully clear although I didn’t see any interesting wildlife here. I did however find a wonderful art installation on the beach. I think the underlying message is one of hope, that a good day will come along soon when you can take that leaky old boat out onto the water one more time.
After driving off the ferry, we followed our noses to and through Auckland, headed north on State Highway 1 and listened to our own music! Yes, it took some doing but we beat the totally nonintuitive control panel of this awful red car to connect my phone by bluetooth and to actually get sound out of the car’s speakers.
It was a very pleasant drive, the landscape was very changeable but always easy on the eye. Fields of cows and goats and even horses outnumbered fields of sheep, which was surprising. Also surprising was the amount of traffic. We thought it would ease off once we left the big city, but no, there were many more people on the road than anticiapted.
We found our accommodation in Paihia easily and settled in for a good night’s sleep.
In the morning, we went for a walk along the track to Opua Forest Lookout. It was a 40-minute hike through the bush mostly in an upward direction, but shaded under the canopy. (Actually, the word for ‘hike’ in NZ is ‘tramp’ but I’d feel awkward telling Liesel one day, “I’m just going out for a tramp.”)
The view from the lookout was stunning. We could see all the way round from Waitangi to Russell, with the sea and a few islands in between. This is why I particularly wanted to revisit the Bay of Islands, with Liesel.
There was an enormous cruise ship in the bay. A middle-aged couple also enjoying the view were discussing the pros and cons of going on a cruise. “It’s not just for old people, any more” was the consensus. And the crew come from all over the place, Italy, Switzerland, Australia, even Ukraine. So now you know.
The soundtrack to our walk, hike, tramp was provided by cicadas. I saw a couple of them fleetingly as they climbed a tree, but mostly we saw nebulous clouds of bugs just too far away to study in detail.
Once again we enjoyed the fractal beauty of the ferns. I think New Zealand could make use of this plant as an emblem of some sort.
On the way down, we enjoyed watching a family of quails crossing the path: Mum, Dad and six, seven, eight chicks. And another one. The chicks avoided falling into the ditches either side of the path which is quite a feat for such a little bird.
We also met two groups of Chinese people heading up, and both asked how long would it take and would they have enough time before running back for their coach? Liesel and I were glad that we had no such schedule.
There was a craft fair in town which we walked through very quickly: there’s always something really good that we can’t afford and/or don’t really need and/or don’t want to carry around with us.
While not looking at rainbows and eating on the balcony, we’ve been watching the goings-on in his lovely little town. It’s very popular with tourists: this is my third visit in 25 years too!
The New Zealand flag by our motel has faded with time. The limp, pink, white and blue of the union flag in the corner is a metaphor for something.
On the other corner is a new New Zealand flag featuring a fern. And I was saying they should celebrate this plant just a few paragraphs ago!
You can go on a sightseeing helicopter ride, and the helipad is just along the road, so it’s a bit loud and drafty when it comes by.
We saw the traffic warden doing his rounds. He was marking car tyres as he walked by: he’ll come back after the permitted 120 minutes to check up. His 8-stone frame is quite intimidating and made much more fearsome by the hi-vis vest he’s undoubtedly sweating in.
We saw red parachutes hanging in the air, over the water it seemed from our viewpoint, but we have no intention of doing a skydive this time. Although, when I saw the poster advertising a jump from 20,000 feet altitude, very nearly in space, I was momentarily tempted. 12,000 feet is my record. So far.
At regular intervals, the coaches disgorge their passengers who set about seeing the town with one eye on the clock as mentioned before. We did a couple of one-day guided tours in Japan and it’s really not the best way to see a place: too much information, too fast.
This KitKat was much nicer than some of the weird KitKats sampled in Japan!