Poor Otis

Well, poor Otis is back in the shop again. We knew he needed to go back, but it is still a bummer. We seem to have gotten a lemon despite Carl’s 500,000 page report on him. Makes me wonder about Carl now. I had been invited to an event put on by a local private equity group showcasing Kiwi startup companies looking for angel funding. Since this and my Auckland excursion to drop off Otis coincided, I decided it might be fun to go. Plus, I didn’t feel like driving back forth from Cooks Beach in a day.

It wasn’t too bad of a drive and I got to Mr. Motors before the rain really started coming down. I talked to Keith and made him get in the car and drive around with me for a while so I could make sure that he heard all the noises that Otis was making. He heard them. Good. I pulled everything out and got into the POS loaner car they gave me and headed over to the mall to buy a few things. Always great to travel halfway around the world so I can go to the mall. Ugh.

I drove to the hotel, got checked in, and then watched the rain just come down in buckets. I was hoping it would let up so I could walk over to the event. Regardless, I was glad I was not driving in that weather and was happy with my decision to stay in Auckland for the night. By the time the event was going to start, it had stopped raining and I walked over to Spark Arena—it is where a lot of concerts are held in Auckland.

I checked in and they directed me up some stairs. It was definitely a bit intimidating because this was a huge room full of people and I did not know a single person there except for our investment advisor, Jon. Luckily, it is New Zealand so getting random conversations started were not too hard. The event started and I went to my assigned table where Jon and some of his other colleagues were. It was a surprisingly large event! Each group made a short pitch on their startup. The one that I thought was super cool was the biometrics collar for dairy cows that you could also use to train and command them to do stuff. We had some good food and wine and I got to meet some really nice folks. I stayed out too late, but it was fun nonetheless and I was glad I had attended.

That is a very muscular mussel!

Cooks beach has been quite relaxing and very low key. Mostly we just hang out with Romy, do some beach walks each day, take the kayak out and go for bike rides. I can see why people like it here. Every weekend it gets busy as the crowd from Auckland shows up. Now, busy is relative, mind you. On Monday there are 4 people on the beach. On a busy Saturday, there are 15. And it’s a pretty big beach. I’m sure it’s much busier in the summer.

Romy has gotten used to us. She seems to have gotten the hang of our routine and is super excited in the morning when she hears we are awake. This means that breakfast is not far off!

The bike riding is pretty good but quite limited and almost always costs me $10 to take that dang ferry. Road 309 is my favorite. I did a forest road one day that was nice but brutally steep. The start was down a flat paved road and then it took a sharp right turn and started to climb. I kept thinking the 12% to 15% grade would relent, but it didn’t. Just straight up. My old body just isn’t up for those kind of climbs anymore, but I made it to the top. It was like the start of Alpe d’Huez. Flat then painful, except Alpe d’Huez turns left and this one turns right.

Just like this but with way fewer drunk Dutch fans.
Flat. Straight up. Straight down. Ouch.

On my way home from one ride up the 309, I stopped at the store to shuttle some groceries home. I kind of wanted to test out the viability. All in all, it went pretty well and I was able to carry a fair amount of weight without too much trouble. So if we did live here in Cooks Beach, I would definitely want to work out the grocery shuttle on the bike thing. It would have all gone perfectly except I did spring a leek. Da da dum.

I sprung a leek

On my birthday, we decided to drive out the 309 and go see a grove of Kauri trees that has some of the last few giants on the Coromandel Peninsula. The area used to be covered in Kauri forests, but they got extensively logged.

“In just over 100 years, logging and burning transformed the northern landscape from forest to farmland. By the early 1900s, most kauri forest had been logged. Although there was growing concern for the survival of remaining native forest, the high value of kauri timber meant that the forest was still exploited. A final push to extract the last of the kauri swept through the north in the 1920s and 1930s, reducing the forest to the few patches that survive today.”

— by  Joanna Orwin

As mentioned previously, the Kauris are now dying off at a phenomenal rate due to a fungus-like water mold Phytophthora taxon Agathis. Many of the forests in Northland are closed now and almost all of them require you to wash and scrub your shoes when you enter and exit. Sadly, it does not seem to be helping fast enough. That is why I wanted to go check out this grove. Susanne had never seen any of the really big ones and it had been since 1981 for me.

We drove over the 309 which wasn’t too bad other than the crazy kiwis driving like bats out of hell and cutting corners right and left. Doh! It wasn’t a long walk into the grove, but the trees were impressive. It is sad that they have been reduced to this, but I am grateful to have at least been able to see them.

We wandered around for awhile just trying to imagine what it must have been like when the whole peninsula was covered with them. The ferns living in the branches of the trees made them really seem like they were from another planet.

We did decide to go and try the one nice restaurant in Cooks Beach, Kaizen. They have a pretty good wine list and mostly a shared plate concept on the food. We ordered a variety of things, that were pretty good but not particularly memorable. There was a couple sitting on the two-top next to us and they, as is the way here in Aotearoa, started up a conversation with us. They have a house here in Cooks Beach right on the beach and also live in Auckland. We had a nice chat and I always appreciate that people are so willing to just have a friendly conversation.

We always learn a bit more about living here each time. The one thing for sure is that you need to be within reach of a major city if you ever really need to get something complicated done health-wise. You can get the basics in the more rural areas, but you will be heading to one of the bigger cities if you need more than that. Something to keep in mind.

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