Monday, 21 May 2018

New Zealand - knitting and ice cream roadtrip

A perfect combination - a good friend to guide my travels, knitting, ice cream and New Zealand!
Actually, my first taste of NZ wasn't ice cream, it was feijoas. Apparently so abundant that people in Waiheke lock their cars in the feijoa season to stop people putting them in there! They look a bit like limes but are part of the myrtle family - Acca sellowiana. They are tasty, rather aromatic when ripe, and make good jams and chutneys.

Of course it wasn't long before Sue introduced me to true NZ cuisine in the shape of ice cream from Island Gelato in Auckland's harbour area. What a selection - I had Waiheke plum as my first taste, it was every bit as good as it looked.
Auckland harbour is a busy port, with views across to an active volcano as a bonus.
Some of the silos had been painted and displayed a poem - hard to get a good photo without falling into the water.
We also (of course) visited Auckland's premier yarn store and met the lovely Cheryl. I will do a separate post about my travelling yarn choices, suffice to say that here I was spoiled for choice.
On day 2 we went by ferry to Waiheke island, a beautiful and relaxing place just a short hop fro bustling Auckland. We had a lovely lunch with Jane and Cheryl at Blackpool (really!), and a walk on Onetangi beach 
 and a drive up to the trig point to enjoy the view .
Next day we set off on our road trip, carefully planned by Sue to have knitting and ice cream stops every day.
First stop was at a service station at Papakura where there is a Mohair and Possum store selling yarn. 
Possums are a non-native invasive and destructive pest in NZ, so although they look cute they are trapped and their fur adds a lightness and softness to wool blend yarns. 
I like the idea of after dinner socks!
That day's ice cream stop was at Pokeno, where we could have had 14-scoop cones - but we didn't. Not the best ice cream, but a nice view. 
We stopped to buy Nashi pears and juice from a farm, and then bought avocados from a stall in Tirau, where we also visited the merino shop.
You can see a photo of the dog head public loos in my last post.
we stopped for a sandwich lunch in Tokoroa and saw tatau designs and carvings.
we passed through very varied scenery, rolling pastures, hills and forests which reminded me a bit of Scotland - except that we dont have palm trees and tree ferns in our forests. 
Arriving at our motel in Napier in time for sunset
we dropped off our bags and then headed to a very popular fish and chip shop -  I'd never had this kind of fish before but it was good.
As we sat eating our excellent fish and chips on the seafront we witnessed the moon rising, huge and golden, out of the sea. It was extraordinary.
The next day was easter sunday 
Quite early in the morning we went to the Hastings farmers' market, which was really vibrant and full of good things.


For our daily fix of ice cream we were at Rush Monro's in Hastings before the shop opened! Their feijoa ice cream was worth the short wait, and their shady garden with fish ponds was the perfect place to enjoy it.
A brief stop at a small craft and bric-a-brac market brought a couple of new perspectives on kiwi culture, and a three-sided cribbage board. Lunch was a picnic in a shady spot near the site where evacuated Polish children were housed during WWII. Then on to Carterton for Sue to make a quick family visit before heading to our motel in Martinborough.
An evening of knitting on the patio was a good way to relax after the long drive - and to collect lots of insect bites, as I discovered next day!
in the morning we had a browse round the arty and crafty shops in Martinborough
and then headed south to Pirinoa. Our destination was Palliser Ridge Farm, where we joined the regular knitting group in the farm's immaculately clean shearing shed.


Lisa and Kurt run the farm and have developed a yarn business using their Romney wool.
The knitting group ladies were welcoming and we enjoyed meeting them, sharing hints and tips and a little local intel.
Kurt then drove us in his ute to see the new cabin high on the ridge which they are renting out to visitors.
With a stunning view over the strait to the South Island, the cabin would make a perfect retreat for two.
It was lovely to meet this family, raising 10,000 sheep, 5,000 cattle and two small boys in such stunning surroundings, and their yarn is everything a good wool yarn should be.
From Pirinoa we drove over a high and winding mountain road to arrive in Khandallah, Wellington just as it was getting dark. We spent the next day in Wellington, visiting Stansborough Mill where they produced the specially-dyed yarns for costumes for the Lord of the Rings films. The colours are dyed on a natural grey base from Stansborough Grey sheep which I believe are a strain of Gotland. i dont recall visiting any ice cream parlours in Wellington but I do remeber a very good scone in a cafe with a lovely mural outside the loo.
Leaving Wellington next morning we headed north on the return leg of our road trip. One stop at Sanson for morning coffee in a former church, at Bulls where we found an incredible shop full of tiaras (Bull-a Bling) and Utiku for the wool shop,
then  on to lunch at Taihape at the famous Brown Sugar cafe, where I had beetroot latte for the first time.
In Levin we called at the St John's op shop (charity shop) and bought yarn, as you do. It is a long way from Wellington to Taupo and after the excitement of driving through a desert and past three volcanoes (one extinct, one dormant and one active) we needed something to pass the time. This is where the RoadTrip Random Stripe Generator was born - for more on this see my later post on Colour, Pattern and Design in New Zealand. We stretched our legs with a walk on the shore of Lake Taupo before meeting our hostess at her 1970's styled house. 
Next morning we went to see the yarns at Ngongotaha Agridome, a farm visitor centre, before going to Rotorua. We visited the Maori village of Ohinemutu with a marai (meeting house),

and thermal vents 

as well as St Faith's church with woven and carved panels inside. 



The obligatory ice cream at Lady Jane's in Rotorua, and then on to Wai-o-tapu thermal area, where there are hot pools, coloured pools, boiling mud pools and lots of tourists.


The yellow-green one, called the Devil's Bathtub, made our eyes sting. From there we called at Huka Falls 

where you could almost feel the ground vibrating with the power of the water. After a second night in Taupo we headed back to Auckland, stopping in Cambridge to visit Edie & Co.'s beautifully set out yarn shop, and Duck Island ice cream parlour in Hamilton.
back in Auckland, I had a day in the city, inevitably returning to see Cheryl at New Zealand Fabrics and yarn and eventually settling on a jumper's worth of Outlaw Yarns possum blend, which I then carried round the Auckland Museum, learning about Maori origins and culture, and the volcanoes which formed the Auckland area.


We spent part of Sunday at the Auckland Cultural Festival, a lively event with families enjoying music and food from a huge range of cultures. Monday was my last full day in NZ and we headed north-west out of Auckland to visit Tin Shed Yarns where Fiona MacBride welcomed us to her ultra-organised workspace where she spins, designs and knits.
After a quick lunch stop we headed to our final woolly destination, with the best address ever: Jumbuck Carding, Pinchgut Road, Kaukapakapa. Sandra showed us her vintage English carding machine and the lovely soft Polwarth fibre she washes, dyes and cards, as well as many items she has knitted and crocheted. Two very different women but both passionate and enthusiastic about their work.
On the following day I left New Zealand for Australia - but that's a different post. I gathered lots of Colour, Pattern and Design ideas, as well as lots of wool, but those will also be in other posts. I made some new friends too.  I loved my time in New Zealand, and am very grateful to my good friend Sue for taking so much time to show me her home-land. It was my first visit but hopefully not my last - next time- South Island!

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