Taiwan Video 05: Snake Alley - A Father's View

When my Dad visited Taiwan in 2007 I took him to Snake Alley, the famous night market in the Wen Hua distric of Taipei. Snake Alley is something to behold. Everything is for sale there and most things imaginable can be eaten there too. They have all kinds of reptiles and seafood in the restaurants. This is old Taipei at its best, really old. My Dad's thoughts are expressed in the video below.

If you ever visit Taipei, Snake Alley is a must, but not for the faint hearted. Enjoy the video!


New Zealand 04 - The Pictorial

During Chinese New Year 2004 Queenie and I had the tremendous opportunity to visit some of our close friends from Taipei in New Zealand. We had a wonderful, wonderful time. The two weeks we spent on the North and South Islands were amazing and the stunning scenery of New Zealand and the great companionship of Simon and Helen made this trip one of the most outstanding we have ever done together. We have long cherished this trip in our hearts and are now glad to share our travelogue with those who are interested. A pictorial slide show and the table of contents are below. Enjoy!

For full size images, please follow the link below:

The table of contents for the travelog is below with easy links to each entry:

Hope you all enjoy.

New Zealand 04 Pt. 9 - Rotorua to Auckland

(Geothermal Activity in Rotorua)


We would spend two nights in a caravan park next to the lake in Rotorua. Rotorua is famous for its geothermal steam geysers and Maori culture. Rotorua had many tourists, as it is a prime spot for many of the outdoor activities New Zealand is famous for and also the Maori culture exhibitions. We would have a wonderful time here and add tremendous memories to our great trip to New Zealand.

(Next to Lake Rotorua)

On the afternoon we arrived Simon and Helen pitched tent and we settled in to our chalet. The people who owned the caravan park were unsurprisingly South Africans, as the South African Diaspora has been going on for quite some time already. Simon decided he needed a break as he had done all the driving up from Wellington so Queenie, Helen and myself drove into Rotorua and spent some time looking at the geothermal geysers in the park in the middle of the town. We also stocked up on supplies for dinner as we were planning on having a BBQ.

(Paul and Helen in Rotorua)


We returned to the caravan park and enjoyed some time on the side of the lake. The lake was large and like everything in New Zealand, stunningly beautiful. The caravan park also had a lot of facilities including a pool and a spa. While we were in the town Simon had booked the spa for an hour in the evening so we got to spend a lot of time relaxing. Before the spa we enjoyed an early evening BBQ and some great fellowship time.

(Queenie and Helen in Rotorua)

(Preparing Dinner)

In the morning on the second day in Rotorua Queenie and I went to a tourist sheep farm. Since Helen comes from a farm and since Simon had visited her farm many times, they did not come with us. Queenie and I really enjoyed the sheep shearing show and also the introduction to all the different species of sheep. Queenie got selected to participate in the show and she participated well. We got to take our picture with some lambs. We also saw some people spinning the yarn and enjoyed a small part of a sheep dog show. All in all it was a great way to spend the morning.

(Can you see Queenie?)

(Sheep Species)


(Queenie had a little lamb..)

In the afternoon we went to see the geothermal geysers and see some of the Maori culture. At first we walked around looking at the steam pumping out of the ground. The geysers were really impressive and reminiscent of the geothermal activity we see on Yanmingshan in Taipei.

(Geothermal Activity)

(How high does the steam go anyway?)

We next went to a Maori village and were instructed on the proper way to enter the village. They seemed to take it very seriously and certainly seemed to be offended if anyone didn’t tow the line. We also went into the Maori meeting room to watch the traditional dance (Haka) being performed. It was quite exciting. After the show we also ate some traditional Maori food. I cannot remember the name of it but Simon told us the food was prepared in the ground and cooked for a very long time. I remember thinking the food tasted delicious but cannot remember too many other details.

(Maori Village)

(Traditional Dancing)


In the late afternoon we headed back to the caravan park and the lake. We relaxed in the pool and spa again and prepared for our final morning in Rotorua. In the evening we all decided to go white water rafting. One of the rafting tours was a three hour paddle over what we were told was the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. It was a seven meter drop! The photographer interestingly enough was a South African and the rafting guide in our boat Canadian.

The Canadian guide spent his life on the rivers of the world. He would spend Northern summers in Canada, Southern summers in New Zealand and the time between in Nepal. He certainly seemed to get around quite a bit. The preparations for the rafting expedition were meticulous and we were properly instructed in all contingencies and safety procedures. This is very unlike Taiwan where we mostly figure out things by ourselves.

As can be expected the most exciting part was indeed the seven meter waterfall drop. When we hit the bottom we thought we were going to sink or tip over. We managed to retain our balance. At another part in the river the guide said we could get out the boat. Simon and I jumped out and were only then told we would have to shoot the next rapids outside the boat. Well we figured it would be safe or they wouldn’t let us do it. So we went through the rapids on butts and it was a lot of fun. As all good things must, our rafting expedition came to an end and it was time to head off to Auckland.


We were to spend one night in Auckland and leave New Zealand the following day. Helen’s mom had kindly offered us accommodation in her home and we were glad for it. Unfortunately she couldn’t be there to see us but we were really appreciative of her hospitality. We drove into Auckland in the late afternoon, unpacked the car and then decided to drive into the city.

(Helen in her mother's house)

Simon and Helen showed us some of the impressive seaside areas in the city and took us up the sky tower, which I believe is the tallest building in New Zealand. Some of the floor tiles in the Sky Tower were made of glass so when standing on them you could see the road at the bottom. It was scary especially if you are afraid of heights like me. We had a spectacular view of Auckland from the top and were even offered the opportunity to do a base jump from the top. We all declined the offer! There seems to be extreme sporting opportunities everywhere in New Zealand, perhaps that’s why they are so damn hard to beat in rugby!

(At the top of the Sky Tower)

After the sky tower we walked a bit through the town and then Simon drove us through the main street. The main street was mad. Simon and Helen told us the youngsters like to drive their cars down the main street on a Friday night playing music and making sure everyone sees them. Apparently it’s the cool thing to do. It certainly does jam up the street. We took quite a while to get through but it was great seeing how they hung out on a Friday night.

On Saturday morning we went for a walk in the park near Helen’s mothers home and then all too soon we were heading towards the airport. The end to our trip had come.

It was hard to believe two weeks had ended so quickly and so dramatically. We had such a great time in New Zealand and we were especially thankful to Simon and Helen for their tremendous hospitality and for their willingness to take so much time out from their busy lives to spend the entire vacation with us. We were sad to go but we all had to get on with our lives. Simon and Helen came to visit us in Taipei the following April and also visited us in 2007. They are dear friends and we miss them!


New Zealand 04 Pt. 8 - Mt. Doom and Beyond!

(Mt. Doom)

Meeting Sandra in Massey University

On Tuesday, we climbed into Simon and Helen’s car, bid farewell to their home and drove to the Massey University Campus in Palmerston North to meet an old friend of mine, Sandra, who was studying there. I met Sandra shortly after I first moved to Taiwan in 1998. She had visited New Zealand and decided she wanted to study there. Her campus was about an hour away from Wellington and we arranged to meet her for lunch.

On the day we left Wellington it was very cold. The drive to Palmerston North was quick. The Massey Campus was very beautiful and as I recall surrounded by a lot of natural vegetation. We finally found Sandra in the foreign languages department I was very happy to see her. It is always fun meeting people you know in different parts of the world and its great to see how they are moving on with their lives. We went over to the University cafeteria for a warm lunch. As I said, it was a very cold day and going into the warm cafeteria was very good for us. We all got some piping hot food and settled down to an hour of chatting and catching up.

(Us with Sandra)

Mount Doom

After a very short hour or so Sandra had to get back to class and we had to get back on the road. We were heading to the mountain used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings. I believe the mountain’s real name was Mt Ngauruhoe. We took our leave from Sandra and headed north. Mt Ngauruhoe is where we were going to spend the night.

The weather was still dismal but the drive pleasant. The views on the North Island were very different to what we had seen on the South Island. There were many more sheep farms and far fewer trees. Most of the countryside was used as pasture for the sheep. As we got closer to Mt Ngauruhoe the landscape became increasingly desolate. Mt Ngauruhoe is a volcano explaining much of the landscape.

(Don't Count them, you will fall asleep!)

(More Sheep)

Mt Ngauruhoe is famous for its snow in the winter and is a popular ski resort. There were quite a lot of ski lifts and many smaller chalets on the mountains. Most of these chalets were empty and the ski lifts inoperable since it was summer and no skiing was possible.

(On the Way to Mt. Doom)

We arrived at the foot of Mt Ngauruhoe, checked into our hotel and decided to spend time on the mountain slope. When we arrived it was freezing and it even started to snow a little. Queenie and I couldn’t believe it was still summer. We were dressed as warmly as possible but we were still cold. Walking up the mountain slope was also very tough. The volcanic rocks were very rough and jagged and we were very surprised by how difficult the walking was. We tried to walk as far as we could but we were cold and exhausted and decided it was best to head back to the car and go back to the warmth of our accommodation.

(The Slopes of Mt. Doom)

(Cloud Over Mt. Doom)

The evening was uneventful. We cooked food in the chalet and stayed inside most of the evening as it was too cold to go out. The next day, Wednesday, we woke up early to drive to Waitomo Caves. The drive to the caves was nearly the same as the one the previous day. The views were still spectacular with many farms and sheep. We could also see the further North we moved, the more developed the island was.

Waitomo Caves

By the time we arrived at the Waitomo Caves we had left behind the bad weather and were enjoying the sun. The caves were apparently very important to the Maori people and were famous because of the glow-worms on the ceiling. We walked through the caves with our tour guide and were then taken on some boats on the river that ran through the caves. The worms were fairly interesting to look at but we had to be quiet and were unable to speak. The caves were worth the visit.

(Simon and Helen)

(Queenie and Paul)

(Simon and Paul)

After leaving the caves we headed towards Rotorua. We stopped at a few towns and rivers along the way, but it all seemed so much more cultivated than the South. The drive was very relaxed and we were glad that the distances were not as great as they seemed on the South Island and we were not too rushed. Being able to relax and take it easy was good for all of us and I think we all really enjoyed the time spent together.

(Taking a Break)

(Mutton Chops)

After a few hours driving we finally arrived in Rotorua and were now heading into the final stages of our journey. We stayed in a Caravan park in Rotorua. Helen and Simon camped and we stayed in a small cottage. We were glad to arrive as we knew we would be able to stay there for some time and not drive to far the following day.

New Zealand 04 Pt. 7 – Goodbye Pork Pie

(Queenie in Wellington)

Back to Nelson -- Goodbye Pork Pie

We left Abel Tasman and drove into Nelson. We went and did some shopping for supplies. I had not shaved in a week and needed to find a razor. We finally went to Helen’s friends house where she was living with her boyfriend. They were both doctors and I think (if I recall correctly) she had just returned from a medical mission to some poor country.

Meeting them was fun. In the evening we were all going down to the local park for a screening of one of New Zealand’s classic movies “Goodbye Pork Pie.” It was fun sitting in the park with all the locals watching the film but I wouldn’t rent the film on DVD. Watching it where we did, and sharing the experience with others was great, but I say bring on the Lord of the Rings or something else. Anyway, it was fun.

(Movie in the Park)

The next day was Sunday. We woke early and went to see Simon’s uncle. Simon’s family had come from the North Island to spend time with him so we got to hang out with them again. We had a huge breakfast together and then it was time to head back to the ferry and home to Wellington. After an all too short breakfast we left, handed in the car, jumped on the ferry and were on our way.

(Simon's Family)

Back in Wellington

The journey back was uneventful. We were sad to leave the South Island. We really enjoyed the previous five days tremendously and felt it we were leaving behind the best part of the whole trip. We were wrong.

Getting back to Wellington was good for all of us. Queenie and I decided to spend the Monday in Wellington by ourselves and give Simon and Helen some time off from entertaining. What we didn’t realize was the Monday was a public holiday. Nearly EVERYTHING was SHUT! Here in Taipei it is completely different, with the exception of Chinese New Year, everything is open on public holidays. It is the time people go out and buy stuff and eat out with friends. Eventually at around 10:00am some things started to open, but the town certainly wasn’t in full swing.

We had a pleasant day walking around the town together. We didn’t do too much and just enjoyed relaxing, window-shopping, gift and souvenir shopping and eating in small cafeterias. In the late afternoon we headed back to Simon and Helen’s house to have dinner with them. We also had to once again get ready to leave as the following day we would start our four day trek to Auckland. On the way we would visit some friends, see some caves, see Mt. Doom, visit Rotorua and view Auckland from the top of the sky tower. We were looking forward to the trip but were sad to know that in only five days we would be on a plane heading back to Taipei.


New Zealand 04 Pt. 6 – Kayak Adventures in Abel Tasman

(Abel Tasman)

Friday morning dawned! It was sunny and hot, the perfect weather for two days on the open sea in a small kayak. This would, as it turned out, be one of the decisive points of the whole trip in New Zealand, especially for Queenie and me.

We got to Abel Tasman no problem. The kayaks were booked and we were meticulously coached in how to use the kayaks properly. All safety procedures were explained and all contingencies thought of. We would be carrying everything we would need in the kayak including sleeping bags, clothes, drinking water, food and tents. I mean everything. Helen had seen a program on TV about couple that had kayaked through Abel Tasman for a few days (maybe a week) and how they had planned a gourmet meal for each night. Helen wanted to do the same thing. So she had prepared the ingredients for a gourmet meal and everything was stashed in the front and back of the kayak.

We then said goodbye to our trusty car realizing that we would be providing the power of our mobility for the next two days. We thought it would be OK if we went slowly. So did Simon and Helen. Actually Simon and Helen are far more outdoors kind of people than we are and so were quite ready for the trials and tribulations that lay ahead. We weren’t!

In the beginning all was smooth sailing (rowing). There were no strong currents and no significant head winds. We were quite happy to paddle slowly. Although it was hot, we were well protected from being burned and we could always splash water on ourselves if we got too hot. Paddling on Abel Tasman was beautiful. We thought the view of the vegetation next to the sea was very beautiful and we really enjoyed the trip. We also found some nice beaches to hang out on and to rest on. All in all it was really enjoyable.

(Paul in Abel Tasman)

(Helen and Simon in Abel Tasman)

(Us in Abel Tasman)

In the afternoon trouble struck. We were trying to reach our final resting destination. We needed to paddle around a rocky outcrop and then into a quiet bay. After that, there would be a small haul to the next bay, which had a bigger camping ground. Simon and Helen vanished around the outcrop in double quick time. But the sea was getting rougher and swells bigger. The headwinds were also coming on stronger. Queenie was in the front of the kayak and was therefore being smashed by the wind and the sea every time we went through a swell. Every time that happened she couldn’t see and tried to clear her eyes but to no avail. I was at the back of the kayak paddling with all my might but the wind and ocean were pushing us closer and closer to the rocks. After about the most frightful hour of fighting both the wind and the sea we managed to move past the rocks and into a quiet bay. It had been a daunting task and at the end quite scary. Of course Simon and Helen were nervously waiting for us on the beach.

Queenie then decided we would camp there. We were both exhausted and there was no way in the world we would get to the bigger campsite. In retrospect the decision was the correct one. We walked to the bigger camping area and there were so many people there. Where we were there were two other tents only. We could enjoy the silence of nature and get to know the other people in our area without to many disturbances.

(The Campsite Beach)

We first secured the kayaks, pitched the tents and got food cooking. Helen was in her element and the food she prepared was very delicious.

(Preparing Dinner)

The couple in the tent near us came over and had a chat. They were from Israel. He was a captain in the tank division and was engaged in the conflict in Gaza and the West Bank. He hated it. He was on leave and said he didn’t want to go back to Israel. He said if he could stay in New Zealand he would. Him and his girlfriend/wife were really friendly. She too had served in the military. They also told us they had purchased a car in Auckland. They mentioned there was a car dealership that specialized in selling and buying cars to and from travelers in New Zealand. All in all it would work out cheaper than the rent. Of course if they sold it back to the same dealer they wouldn’t get as much money back. But there would be some sort of return.

After chatting for a while and enjoying the silent rushing of the ocean onto the beach, we turned in for the night. It was a really beautiful evening and one we haven’t forgotten in a hurry.

(Our Tent)

Morning came all too soon. We struck camp, packed the kayaks and were on our way by mid morning after a small breakfast snack. The plan was not too spend the whole day on the water. We kayaked a little further out on the second day and landed up on a small island that had a beach and some interesting rocks. We decided that was the ideal place to swim and to have lunch. So we did!

We must have stayed there for a long time. By the time we left it was getting towards the middle of the afternoon. Simon had decided he didn’t want to paddle back to shore where we would drop off the kayaks. Instead, he constructed a sail out of our ground sheets. There was a strong enough wind behind us and so we spent the final hour on the water holding the two kayaks together and holding up the groundsheet/sail to be blown onto the beach. It was the easiest sailing we had ever done and it was fun. One of the many great memories we had of New Zealand.

We handed in our kayaks, showered and went for a late afternoon snack at a real beach side restaurant. Although the food we had eaten on the kayaks was far more delicious, the air conditioner inside the restaurant was appealing. After eating we would head back into Nelson and stay with some of Helen’s friends for our last night on the South Island.

New Zealand 04 Pt. 5 – Northward Bound



On Thursday morning, after a light breakfast, we got in the car and headed north. The objective for the day was to hit Punakaki and, if the tide was right, see the waves exploding through the rocks. We then planned to drive up to Nelson and spend the night with Simon’s uncle. On the Friday we had a date with some two-man kayaks at the Abel Tasman nature reserve but now we are racing ahead.

So on Thursday morning we left Larry’s house and drove north. The views were the same as what we had seen the day before: a dramatic coastline with a rough sea. We drove for a few kilometers (cannot remember how far) and arrived at Punakaki. Now this is the one place on the North Island with a lot of tourists. The reason being the pancake rocks. These rocks really do look like pancakes and, apparently, when the tide comes in, the water shoots out of the rocks, and as I recall, create natural fountains.

(Us at Punakaki)


(The Pancake Rocks)

Unfortunately we were there at the wrong time and the tide would only be coming in much later in the day. We couldn’t wait as it would mean arriving in Nelson very late. We spent some time walking around the rocks and taking the obligatory snap shots (see above) and just enjoyed the weak sunshine on our skins. Of course there were the regulation tourist shops selling all kinds of trinkets. We weren’t tempted! We really enjoyed the view though. We could walk along trails on the rocks and get some great views of the ocean. However, after an hour or so we decided to leave.

The Buller River and Lake Nelson

We said our goodbyes to Punakaki and started to head north again. Once again the magnificent view of the ocean was there to meet us. After driving for some time it was time to detour inland. We then started to cut in and head east. We were once again immersed in the forests and saw great views of the mountains. There were also many rivers crisscrossing the landscape.

One of the bigger rivers, the Buller, had a small beach and an access path. So we headed onto the beach and just relaxed in the sun. Then Simon decided it was time to swim so he headed upstream, jumped in the river and floated down on the current. We all decided to join him eventually. Although the water was cold, it was good fun! We did it a couple of times but the current was quiet strong and we soon decided to rest on the small river beach.

(The Buller River)

(Queenie and Helen on the Buller River)

(Queenie Approves)

After we dried ourselves off we were back in the car heading north-east. We drove on relentlessly without stopping. The landscapes and the views cascaded over us and we felt as if we were in Eden.

When we were just south of Nelson, Simon turned the car around and headed in somewhat the wrong direction. He wanted to take us to some see some lakes. When we arrived we were awestruck! We turned a corner and there was this crystal clear water surrounded by snow-capped mountains. We had bought some food so stopped the car and decided to have picnic there. We couldn’t think of a better place. Pristine beauty is the only wya to describe the overwhelming sight before us. We saw similar lakes in China and I am sure they exist in Europe and other parts of the world but the magnificence of nature always takes our breath away!

(Helen, Simon and Queenie)

(Helen and Queenie)

(Beautiful Lake)

After a too short a time it was time to leave. Once more we bundled into the car and made our way north to Nelson and Simon’s Uncle’s home. Simon had not seen his uncle in a while but he was kind enough to offer us accommodation for the night. We were there within a few hours and arriving in Nelson meant saying goodbye to the wonderful natural environment we had grown to love over the preceding three days.

Simon’s Uncles home was very welcoming and we felt at home. We got there a little before his Uncle did so we drove around in the neighborhood a bit. Once he arrived, we prepared a BBQ. After the BBQ Simon got busy preparing the equipment for the next day’s kayaking adventure in the Abel Tasman nature reserve. We chatted with Simon’s uncle for a bit and then turned in earlier than usual. It had already been a long few days and we would need all our strength the following day. Now was the time to rest and replenish, and so we did.

Taiwan Video 04: Taipei Summer Dress

Last year I took Dad and Yvonne to the the Culture University at the top of the mountain that overlooks Taipei. We would then walk down the Tien-Mu trail, into Tien-Mu and have lunch. We went up by taxi, took in the view and relaxed.

When we went into the university this couple came passed us. This dress is typical in Taiwan in the summer! The guys all wear dark, long sleeve clothing and the girls, well take a look for yourself.

New Zealand 04 Pt. 4 – Hanmar to the Wild West Coast

(Horse Riding in Hanmar)

Horse Riding in Hanmar

Hanmar is a small Hamlet nestled in a mountain valley halfway between the west and east coast on the Northern part of the South Island. Hanmar is famous for its hot springs and, as most of New Zealand is, outdoor activities. Hanmar is truly beautiful and we really enjoyed waking up there and walking around the town. Although it was a beautiful sunny morning, it wasn’t too hot.

Since Taiwan has many hot springs Queenie and I were not too interested in the hot springs at Hanmar. We decided to spend the morning riding horses. Simon and Helen opted for the Hot Springs. There was a variety of horse riding options available including one hour, three hour or all day rides. We opted for the shorter one-hour ride believing our butts wouldn’t handle anything longer. So, after a small breakfast snack with Simon and Helen we headed off to the horse-riding farm.

When we arrived we were assigned our horses and were instructed on how to handle them and how to control them. Nevertheless it was still fairly intimidating for us. I have ridden horses before, but very seldom and a very long time ago. Queenie had never ridden a horse up until that point. Nevertheless the guides were very patient (as all Kiwis seem to be), answered all of our questions and gave us a lot of sensible advice like "don’t fall off."

The horses they gave us were very well natured. Queenie’s was incredibly lazy and preferred just to stand around and eat rather than go anywhere. Queenie did have some trouble getting her horse to move forward.

(Cowgirl Queenie)

(My Horse Won't Go!)

The ride itself was spectacular. We started in the valley and headed up onto some hill-side trails. Going uphill on the horse was fine, but coming downhill was a bit more troublesome as my horse wanted to run and I didn’t want it to run downhill. I thought falling off the horse while going downhill wouldn’t be too much fun. At the top of our trail we had a magnificent view of the basin in which Hanmar is located. It was beautiful.

(The View)

(We are really riding)

However, after riding for an hour our butts were sore and we were glad to get off the horses. They were wonderful animals but we would rather walk on our own two legs. We then headed into Hanmar to find Simon and Helen in the hot springs. When we did find them they seemed to be very relaxed. Simon said he had seen some All Black rugby players in the springs. After they finished, we went and had a picnic in the park and then decided to start driving to Greymouth.

(Simon and Helen in the Hot Spring)


The drive to Greymouth was uneventful but the scenery didn’t disappoint. As I recall we were either surrounded by forests or could see high, snow capped mountain peaks in the distance. We just soaked up the view knowing it would be a long time before we would see anything like that again. Although there are high mountains in Taiwan, we sadly seldom leave Taipei and therefore live in a perpetual urban landscape.

(Towards Greymouth)

(Snow Capped Peaks)

(Traffic Jam on the Main Road)

After a couple of hours driving we finally pulled into Greymouth, a small town on the West Coast of the South Island. The town seemed asleep to us, considering it was a Wednesday afternoon. There was no one around. Simon and Helen’s objective for the trip was to take us to see the pancake rocks in a place called Punakaki. We would only be able to see these rocks on the following day but still had to find accommodation nearby. We therefore headed off to the nearest tourist information center.

At that time the information center was coupled with the local movie theater. While Queenie and Helen were phoning different places of accommodation, Simon and I wondered around the lobby. Then, suddenly out of nowhere we heard this old lady trying to get our attention. We went to speak to her and she said to us the movie theater had the largest screen in New Zealand and insisted we go inside and have a look. Well, we did for a few minutes. The screen was indeed huge. And can you guess what was showing? You got it! The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

By the time we had come out of the theater Queenie and Helen had arranged accommodation at a place called the hexagon or octagon (cannot really remember) but it was named after a shape. We came to know this place as Larry’s House but we are getting ahead of the story.

So anyway, we decided to spend sometime in Greymouth. We needed to pick up supplies for dinner and also went to a quaint little coffee shop with newspapers decorating the walls. On the way out of Greymouth we stopped by the river that runs adjacent to the town and looked at it rushing into the ocean. We stood on the embankment and caught our final glimpse of Greymouth.

Two years after our trip to New Zealand, Simon and Helen would move to Greymouth and live there. They are still living there now.

Larry's House

(The West Coast)

We headed out of Greymouth towards our accommodation. The sea on this side of the Island seemed rougher than on the Eastern side and Helen and Simon said this part of New Zealand had a reputation for being rustic and remote. The ocean did indeed seem to be wild and we were impressed by the diversity of views and scenes New Zealand offered.

After a bit we finally arrived at Larry’s house. As you can guess the owner was a guy called Larry. He used to be a machinist and his wife worked in a home for children in Greymouth. Larry was now a retired organic farmer who tried to live off the land. He had built some chalets on his property and offered accommodation to travelers. Of course he was vegetarian but had a well-equipped rustic kitchen for his visitors to use.

(Helen Preparing Dinner)

I mentioned to Larry I would like to buy some beer and he said something really strange. He told me to take his flagons into the small local town and fill them up. I never understood what he meant as I had never used a flagon before. He went into the house and came out with two large jugs he said were flagons and that we could fill them up with beer at the local pub. Well, we never asked twice. Simon and Helen stayed back to prepare the food and Queenie and I drove into the town to buy some French fries and beer. As soon as we walked into the pub the bar tender looked at the flagons and said at the top of his voice "I see Larry is out of beer again." We had a good laugh at that knowing we were truly in small town New Zealand.

After buying the beer we headed back to Larry’s house to enjoy a wonderful meal with Simon, Helen and Larry. Larry spoke a lot during the meal. He told us his son would go down to the ocean in the early mornings, stand in the water and that dolphins would come so close to him he could touch them. He also spoke long about the loss of virtue among the young people in New Zealand and how he felt young people don’t respect their elders anymore. He told us a tragic story of how he had been beaten up at a party by some 20-somethings when he tried to break up a fight and how they had broken his wrist. He also spoke about the dying of trades in New Zealand and gave us a long history of his career as a machinist. Listening to him speak about his experiences in New Zealand was interesting and I wish now, four years later, I could remember with more clarity the things he said. Sadly I can’t. But the experience was worthwhile and the company pleasant.

(Larry's House)

(Larry's Garden)

Larry’s house is nestled in the forest with a view of the sea and was a beautiful place to say. I would argue it was probably the most beautiful place we stayed in on our whole New Zealand trip. We saw so much natural beauty but it would be difficult to argue there was a more beautiful location. Of course being so rustic there were huge spiders on the ceiling of the communal shower. Larry didn’t seem to perturbed by the spiders and didn’t want to kill them.

After a peaceful night’s sleep and a wonderful early morning breakfast, it was time to leave. When we left Larry’s house Helen commented she was glad we had had a real West Coast Experience. We were glad too! Larry’s house was a unique place and we have often in the years after thought about Larry and his home on the wild West coast of New Zealand’s South Island. If we ever went back I would like to look him up again.


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