Hip and Chic Knitters Guide to Auckland and Queenstown

This New Zealand vacation is focused on the most popular destinations because I am accompanying my Mom and her friends on their first visit. We are dividing our time between Auckland and Queenstown.  You might be touching down in one of these two places and needing a yarn fix.

Close to cruise ships in Auckland's Central Business District

Close to cruise ships in Auckland’s Central Business District

The most convenient wool shop is at the Westfield shopping centre at the corner of Albert and Queen Streets right by the wharf: Masco Wool Shop. It is on the second floor in the corridor leading to the food court. It has a great selection of yarn including a large selection of wool made in New Zealand. This was my go to shop when I lived in St Heliers. I could get Debbie Bliss’ magazine here and all the basic supplies. If you arrived in Auckland on a cruise ship, this is an easy location to shop. Hours Monday through Friday 8-6; Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 10-5.

Pat at Woolly For You will help you find fashionable woolens

Pat at Woolly For You will help you find fashionable woolens

On my first visit to Auckland (after a Habitat for Humanity build in Wellington), I stayed at a hostel in Parnell and discovered Woolly For You at 237 Parnell Road in the part of Auckland called Parnell. It is not far from the wharf either and is an easy bus ride or quick taxi ride. You can also walk from the Central Business District if you have good walking shoes. This shop has a good selection of already made sweaters and a small selection of knitting wool too.  I bought a lovely lightweight Merino “jumper” at a more affordable price than you will find on Queen Street.

In Queenstown I walked around town and did not see any knitting wool. My Mom and friends said they saw a shop with knitting wool but could not remember the name. A Google search does not help to identify it. One of the challenges is the term “wool shop” can mean ready-made sweaters or knitting wool. Even “knitting wool” has led me astray. Then there are the disappointing yarn suppliers who carry mainly acrylics (see my blog from Dunedin).

41 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown

41 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown

The shop in nearby Arrowtown offers a variety of supplies for crafters including knitters and quilters. Offering my favorite “good buy” New Zealand wool by Naturally, you can pick up a new project. Quilters may not be able to resist special New Zealand prints for a project commemorating your New Zealand adventure. Anne Murchison at The Stitching Post does not have a website, but she recommends you check out these New Zealand yarn manufacturers and email her your requests: http://www.naturally.co.nz and http://www.countrywideyarns.co.nz. Anne’s email is info@thestitchingpost.co.nz and phone is 03 442 0448.

I have made little progress on the dog sweater project I brought along; maybe because it is summer in New Zealand or because I have had little down time. Fingers crossed I will get something like a sweater for wee Cooper knit on the Air New Zealand flight to SFO.

 

Travel While You Can

Three of the Crazy Eights: friends for 60 years since Aviation Club at Santa Rosa Junior College

Three of the Crazy Eights: friends for 60 years since Aviation Club at Santa Rosa Junior College

I am traveling for 10 days in New Zealand with my mom, Karen, and her two friends Lisa and Nancy. They have been friends for 60 years (since Junior College), so you do the math. It has been fun and challenging.  It is like traveling with teenagers (and I am the parent). We all agreed to meet at the ferry building at 4:00 p.m. and at 4:25 they were still not there and I was very concerned. Unwilling to take my phone I had no way of tracking them or for them to call me if they needed help. I had already called the hotel to check if there were any SOS calls. They show up laughing and enjoying themselves. When I say they had me worried they each tell a different story from “I didn’t remember that we agreed to 4:00” to “I knew we were to meet at 4:00 but I thought the ferry was faster.” I do not want to cramp their style, but I do want them to be safe.

I was telling my friend Steve this story and he looked at me incredulously. “Didn’t you think of taking them for a test drive? Like to the mall.” I couldn’t stop laughing. No, it never occurred to me. Nor did it occur to me that a hotel room on the third floor without a lift is not such a great idea. Or that getting a wheelchair at the airport is actually much more difficult and time consuming than it looks. Or that none of them realize how deaf they really are!  “What do you think those insects are making that racket? (roar of Cicadas in background) “What noise?”  Nevermind.

It is hugely satisfying to give them the opportunity to see this beautiful country. They love meeting my friends and seeing my favorite places in Auckland. And now we are in Queenstown staying at the Rees Hotel thanks to Lisa’s experience as a travel agent. Today is my day for writing and they are off on a lake cruise and BBQ at a sheep station. Tomorrow we all go to Milford Sound.

But some of the best memories have been unplanned. Like listening to my Mom and Lisa cutting up whilst trying to answer the trivia questions on the Air New Zealand flight to Queenstown. The Boxer Rebellion occurred in which country? “South Africa!” they cry in unison with confidence. “China” I mumble looking up from my book. They just laugh.  Then they joke that the airline could give them the same questions on the return trip to Auckland and they won’t necessarily do any better!

Or laughing hysterically at a silly car racing competition inside a supermarket on the show Top Gear. Mom and I were watching in our bedroom at the Rees Hotel and laughing so hard that Lisa and Nancy came in to see what they were missing.

Mom, Lisa and Nancy are taking joy from a motto one of the parishioners offered as we were leaving St Philips Anglican Church on Sunday:

Travel before your medicine bottles outweigh your luggage.

Addo Elephant Park

Guest blog by Mara V. Connolly

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

I arrived at Addo Elephant Park, South Africa’s 3rd largest national park on Christmas day right at opening at 7am by myself in a borrowed car.  The park is unique, encompassing 5 of the 9 environmental biomes that South Africa.  The section of park I was entering is home to the bulk of the  550 strong elephant population, lions, spotted hyenas, zebra, kudu, black rhino, buffalo, and much more.  I was beside myself that you could actually drive yourself through such a park, amidst predators and animals big enough to topple your car.  I was about 2ks into the park taking a photo of a black headed crane when the borrowed car stalled.  Interesting.  The car never restarted and I quickly ascertained that I was dead in the water.  The park map had the park manager’s number who cheerfully answered my Christmas wish call for help!  He came along within about 30 minutes and promised to send a couple guys to help me and sternly told me to wait IN MY CAR.

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

As I sat by myself waiting, I saw a massive Kudu cross the road in front me, a gorgeous bird of prey I later learned was a chanting goshawk, and 3 wart hogs chasing each other around a bush.  Several people asked if I was ok as I waved them off because nearly everyone thought I’d spotted something REALLY good to sit idle for so long.  Two wonderful brothers stopped and checked every fuse (they were electricians) and spark plug in the car ruling out a hoard of nasty reasons the car might’ve died.  As they had their heads under the hood and I dutifully stood watch, a Swedish tourist drove by asking us if we knew there had been lions spotted in the very spot we were early in the morning.  I later found out there was a lion kill only 100 yards from where I spent two hours!

Mara and elephant

Nothing we tried revived the car so the two awesome park workers were working on tying a rope to my car when a herd of elephant came over the hill right toward us.  The moment was one that crossed all culture and language.  6 adult elephants and 9 baby elephants paraded within a 100 yards of us.  We all stood mesmerized by the beauty of the scene.  After the elephants were out of sight, I got a tow out of the park and promptly signed myself up for guided game drives.  The gift of the car dying was that someone else drove me around all afternoon leaving me fully attentive to taking photos.

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

photo by Mara V. Connolly

I had an EPIC Christmas day seeing over 400 elephant, and a variety of other creatures.  To put the day into perspective, I spent the next day on an even longer game drive and only saw about 30 elephants.  We did see two lions at a distance the second day which is a special treat as there are only 11 lions in the park.

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

The other gift I received for now being on foot and having time on my hands that I wouldn’t have had if I’d driven the park was finding two “hides” where you are sequestered in a nearly hidden structure that allows you close viewing of a bird nesting area and a watering hole for elephants.  I happened to arrive at the elephant hide just as the herd of elephant that likely passed me in the car arrived to drink and frolic in the water.  Being at ground level so close to the herd was amazing as you heard all the sounds from grunts to calls to the sucking of water to simply hearing them walk.  The experience was special as you literally felt as if you were in the situation, witnessing the creatures first hand.

Photo by Mara V. ConnollyPhoto by Mara V. Connolly

The last gift I received for the car dying was that my accommodation changed as my friend could only find one hotel who would agree to picking me up from Addo.  What great fortune as the Zuurberg Mountain Inn also runs game drives and one of the guides picked me up and let me join the end of their drive back up to the top of a mountain above Addo.  An epic way to end an epic day.

Mara V. Connolly is a professional photographer, coach, facilitator, resume writer, and leader.  Her life purpose is to be radiant illumination igniting passionate possibilities. You can read more blog posts from Mara at http://maravconnolly.com.

More Penguins!

I am blessed to have friends who are also great photographers.  If you loved Mara V. Connolly’s post on African Penguins then you may find this Ted Talk on penguins  interesting.

Dee Boersma does a great job of explaining the appeal of penguins and why we should care.  This next Ted Talk is specifically about the penguin rescue of African penguins from an oil spill that Mara referenced in her post. Listen as Dyan deNapoli describes the heroic penguin rescue off the coast of Cape Town.

Boulders Penguin Colony

photo by Mara V. Connolly

Guest blog by Mara V. Connolly

During my recent trip to South Africa, we traveled to Cape Town where on the eastern side of Cape Peninsula lies the Boulders Penguin Colony, a part of the Table Mountain National Park system that includes Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope, and Table Mountain.

Boulders is home to a declining, and endangered rarity of land-based African Penguins, often called Jackass Penguins as they bray like donkeys.  The Boulders website stated that in the 50 years from 1956 to 2009 the worldwide population of African Penguin breeding pairs declined from 150,000 to 26,000;  an 80% decline over 50 years attributed to human interference from habitat destruction to oil spills. Boulders colony also declined from 3,900 birds in 2005 to only 2,100 in 2010.  (http://www.sanparks.org/parks/table_mountain/tourism/attractions.php#boulders)

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

photo by Mara V. Connolly

For 550 South African Rand (about $5.50 US at the time) you gain entrance to both Boulders Beach where you can lounge and swim amidst penguins who also appear to be vacationing from their colony a couple of beaches down the way, and the Boulders Penguin Colony itself that you view from boardwalks.

photo by Mara V. Connolly

We arrived just after the park opened at 7am to having the place all to ourselves.  We started at the colony and were amazed at the flurry of activity going on with hundreds of penguins and cormorants making a racket of noise.  The “braying” of the penguins had me in amazement because when I closed my eyes and listened, I envisioned a whole herd of donkeys, yet when I opened my eyes, a whole beach of tiny little penguins belting out ‘hee hawing’ is what confronted me!  Watching the penguins’ transition from beach to the ocean was awesome and mesmerizing.  They are go from being intensely awkward and limited on land to graceful and powerful instantly by tipping over and freeing themselves in the water.

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

After a thorough investigation of the colony we headed back to the beach which was now thoroughly crowded a short hour later.  Still, an incredible experience climbing over boulders to the outer beach area with curious penguins watching us as much as we were watching them.  Floating about in the frigid ocean with penguins gliding around you is an experience of a lifetime.

photo by Mara V. Connolly

Mara V. Connolly is a professional photographer, coach, facilitator, resume writer, and leader.  Her life purpose is to be radiant illumination igniting passionate possibilities. You can read more about her leadership adventure at http://maravconnolly.com.

Photography on the Delta

Guest Blog by Bill Reid

Walnut Grove Bridge taken from dock with sun setting behind.

Walnut Grove Bridge taken from dock with sun setting behind.

Google Earth Walnut Grove, California and you can’t miss the dock to the north of the bridge where these pictures were taken. Everyone has Google Earth, right?  The stroller we recently bought for our future granddaughter has an iPad holder!

Joking aside, You don’t need an iPad or fancy SAT NAV to get to the River Road, just follow your nose south from the intersection of Broadway and Freeport Boulevard in Sacramento and enjoy the scenic route through the Sacramento River Delta. The scenic route is about 30.4 miles and 44 minutes on a relatively curvy levy road (state highway 160).  A faster route down Interstate 5 to Twin Cities Road is also a pleasant drive at 28.5 miles and 36 minutes.

The River Road south from Sacramento is one of my favorite local drives. I still remember one of the first times I drove it in an old VW convertible in the late seventies. No NAV then. Those were the days of typewriters and whiteout.

Boat dock at Walnut Grove with bridge beyond.

Boat dock at Walnut Grove with bridge beyond.

One morning early in the new year, I decided to take photographs of the sun rising over the River for a website I’m building. I left a little too late and missed the best light so returned later in the day for some sunset shots.

Walnut Grove is a pleasant stop along the Sacramento River.  There is ample parking and a selection of restaurants with tables outdoors, even an art gallery or two. I enjoyed an ice cream while waiting for the sun to set.

The boat dock is accessible to the public although children must wear life jackets. There is a lift for handicap access and there is a portable toilet. The boat dock affords a good vantage point for photography with ample space for tripods and equipment.

I have returned a few times since to test different equipment and media. In the age of tablets, digital cameras and smart phones, I am going back to using film, but that’s another story. The light is different on each occasion and the sunsets can be spectacular as the weather changes.

Bonus Photo: Walnut Grove bridge (in color).

Bonus Photo: Walnut Grove bridge (in color).

Bill is an architect by day.  He lives in Sacramento with his wife, Claudia.  His images can be purchased on his website:  www.breid.photoshelter.com