Cultural Awareness

We have been settling in to our bach in Hawkes Bay quite nicely. At times it is exciting and at times it is boring. I guess that is what we were trying to achieve—a slice of real life. And if you are going to do that, why not do it in a place that is beautiful, has good food, wine, and friendly people.

That said, not all has gone as well as we had hoped. Sometime you can see, in hindsight and quite plainly, that just maybe you made a bad decision. It usually starts with subtle clues that you should notice but you don’t. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Anyway, the day started with another hike up to Te Mata Peak, but via a different route called the Ridge Trail. It was a glorious day in the high teens (see? I’m trying to get calibrated to Celsius) without a cloud in the sky. I totally bungled the navigation and then fool-hardedly argued with Susanne about it and was in the end proven to be utterly wrong. Doh. So much for the human-GPS title.

We walked through the redwood forest where there were a couple of dudes setting up some fencing. Evidently they were getting ready to move some sheep through there. As we climbed up the ridge we heard a lot of dogs barking and could see the sheep being moved across the paddock. There were probably 6 or 7 dogs all working together with a shepherd to keep everybody in order. It was amazing to watch.

Once in Colorado, we went and watched sheep dog trials in Carbondale and it was captivating to see how good the dogs were and how much they loved the shepherd job. I am sure it is a hard job, but border collies are incredibly smart and able athletes that crave a job. We stood there for a good 5 or 10 minutes just watching the dogs and shepherd work the sheep. So cool.

Sheep being herded by a bunch of dogs

The hike up the ridge was staggeringly beautiful and exciting at times with some steep exposure. Some old Kiwi without a shirt and without an ounce of body fat blew by us as if we were standing still. Sheesh. I did want to give him a brochure about the dangers of skin exposure to the sun, but I don’t think I could have caught up to him, nor would he have appreciated the message.

We had decided that we didn’t want to cook that night and were both craving some Mexican food. We saw there was a Mexican restaurant in Havelock North that had pretty reasonable reviews, so we decided to risk it and try it out. (Ominous music playing in the background, btw).

We first stopped by Smith & Sheth to try their wines. The sommelier from the other night at Deliciosa had recommended them. It was a combination of wine bar and winery, since they served both their own wines and others. They had some nice wines. They even had a Grenache from Santa Barbara—”A Tribute to Grace” Wow! Evidently she is a kiwi winemaker that moved to California and fell in love with Grenache and studied how Mick Unti was producing his Grenache! Double WOW!!!! Unti is our favorite winery in the whole wide world. What were the odds. Crazy. It was pretty good, but nothing like Unti’s.

We paid our bill and the dude at the register asked where we were off to. We said we were heading to dinner at “Mamacita.” He kind of winced a bit and said “oh, that’s just around the corner.” We didn’t think too much about his look at the time. (Precursor clue #1).

We walked into the restaurant and it was almost empty (Precursor clue #2) but we figured it was still pretty early so no problemo. We sat down at our table and started to study the menu while we listened to Tito Puente and other Cuban greats serenade us with music (Precursor clue #3). On the wall was a map of North America with it clearly centered on the US—Mexico was dangling off the edge (Precursor clue #4).

The menu was odd. There were tacos and quesadillas, but very little else resembled Mexican food. We decided to get some chips and guac. The guac was pretty good. The chips were ok but sort of sweet and the “hot” sauce on the table was not hot and was REALLY sweet, basically chili-flavored sugar water (Precursor clue #5).

The chips were followed by some shrimp with slaw and some pork ribs. The shrimp came out and they were cooked properly and the slaw wasn’t bad, but it seemed to be more a Southern dish than Mexican. The ribs were oozing in a sticky sweet sauce with sesame seeds on them (Precursor clue #6). Ok, maybe it’s just me, but I racked my brain and couldn’t think of a single time in my life that I had ever had sesame seeds in Mexican food. It was bad. The meat was cooked ok, but the sauce was straight out terrible, and—you guessed it—sweet. Doh. Should have known. Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern are all fine in New Zealand. Mexican? Just say no. Bummer. We drove home and drowned our sorrows in a lovely Clearview Semillion. Lesson learned.

The tides have not been in our favor, so we have not been able to make it back out to Ocean Beach for some walks. We have filled our times with other strolls in the area. It has also been super windy, which doesn’t make it nearly as pleasant to walk on the beach. We scoped a place out in the northwestern part of the valley that looked like a nice trail along the Ngaruroro River near Fernhill. We passed a chocolate factory which we sadly did not stop at. Next time.

A lovely little path

It was a lovely little trail and it was a pleasant temperature. We strolled along for a couple of miles and then decided to turn around because it had moved away from the river and we thought it might be better on the other side.

The one lane bridge was not advisable on foot, so we drove over but didn’t see anything that looked like an appealing trail on the other side. So instead we decided to head over to Taradale and check that out; it was like Havelock North and seemed to have some pretty nice houses. And, there were a couple of nice wineries, so we’ll have to go back and taste.

It took all of 4.3 seconds to drive through Taradale. Nice, but not as nice as Havelock North. It was still a bit early for wine tasting so we decided to head over to a Maori historical site called Otatara Pa. I guess it was one of the most historically significant Pa (fortified villages) in New Zealand. It was a pleasant 1.5 km loop around the site. You could see why they chose it as it had great views over the entire valley.

I would not want to be charging up this steep hill straight into a bunch of burly, motivated, tattooed warriors waiting to club me over the head for intruding on their land.

Maybe we could just have a nice glass of Hawkes Bay Chardonnay with some Kumara chips and you could teach me about your culture and heritage?

That sounds way mo’ betta.

After the Pa we headed over to Church Road Winery for yet some more wine tasting. Do you sense a theme here? It was good and the environment was nice. There was a super muscular dude that looked like a pro rugby player. Would not want to try and tackle him. No sir. The food looked great and they had a nice outdoor seating area, so we will definitely come back.

The weather has continued to be iffy. We had wanted to do an overnighter to Sunrise Hut, but that was out of the questions when we saw on the weather report that it was expected to be 75 kph winds with gusts up to 120 kph. No thank you. Even for me, that did not sound relaxing.

The pushy Japanese lady has not relented. She hounds us every single time we get into the car. Over and over and over again. It is super annoying, at least for me. I get irritated and try to do the analysis of just how much I might be willing to pay to replace her with another system that will let me listen to Eva Cassidy or something. But no. She yells. I get irritated. It doesn’t help.

Susanne on the other hand, being a far more zen-like person, has taken it upon herself to learn Japanese. Now, I am not sure how far it will get her in Japan as I know they will be thinking this woman has lost her mind because she keeps going on and on about a missing SD card, but they will understand her clearly. She learns a new language; I just get irritated.

Pushy Japanese Lady
Language student

The wind was howling so we decided to drive down to Napier and go the aquarium and check that out. The Japanese lady yelled at us as we head out and parked on the Marine Parade.

It was a pleasant little aquarium. Nothing special, but after you have visited the Monterey Bay aquarium, everything is pretty much a runner-up. We enjoyed it nonetheless and it was a nice little distraction. They even had a whole room on the geology of New Zealand! Yeah! Not sure why that is in the aquarium, but yeah!!!

We tried to go to the botanic gardens, but the parking was ridiculous. I went around twice, but the parking spots where so narrow I thought Susanne would start yelling “Ay-ay-ay, Ay-ay-ay, Ay-ay-ay” if I tried to pull in. This is a throwback to her mom who, was the best radar alarm system known to man if there was even a chance something might go wrong while driving. No need to trigger that one!

So we decided, fuck it, dude, let’s go to the Urban Winery and do a tasting and have some lunch. The wines were quite good and the food wasn’t bad. Susanne’s risotto wasn’t really risotto, but it was at least tasty. More veggies and rice than risotto. The gluten-free bread was good and the humus was super lovely.

The wine maker had discovered these weird, egg-shaped, concrete barrels in Argentina that slowly moved the wine around while it aged. They looked like an alien, but the wines that came out of them were quite good.

Weird egg thingy

To end the day we went to the store to buy some supplies. It is funny how, when you are in a different country, it is the subtleties that escape you and you can cause humor, annoyance, or both with your lack of understanding. In the New World Market in Havelock North, I kept wondering why people kept glaring at me and getting irritated by my actions. Finally, I saw it. Their aisles were not two-way. Further, they had so politely indicated to everyone, which direction the flow should go. I had missed that. Doh.

A not-so-subtle cue to the culturally unaware.

So much to learn.

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