Cyclone in Fiji...We missed it by seven weeks...

Lilies are blooming in the lily pad in the huge stone pot in the yard.
Many of our less frequent readers have written asking if we were still living in Fiji's during the horrific Cyclone Winston on February 20th, (ironically, the day of my birthday).  Having left Fiji on January 4th to fly to Sydney for our last cruise we were long gone from the islands.  Thank you for all of your inquiries.

We're grateful we left when we did, but saddened by the loss of 42 lives as recorded to date, thousands injured and loss of homes, crops, and livelihood for many of its residents. 

We can't possibly imagine how hard life must be for them now grieving for their lost loved ones and friends along with homes destroyed, no power and water and, as in the case of Savusavu roads to the village completely washed out.

Had we still been living on the island of Vanua Levu high on the hills above the ocean, the house held up on stilts on the ocean view side, we can only speculate on the awful experience of living through one of the worst cyclones (referred to as a hurricane in the northern hemisphere) in recorded history. 
This streak across the sky seemed somewhat long and wide to be from a plane.
Here's a link describing the storm in detail.

A cyclone or tropical storm is a system of winds rotating inward to an area of low atmospheric pressure with a counterclockwise (in the northern hemisphere) or clockwise southern hemisphere circulation; a depression.

As it was, there were power outages 10% of our time in Savusavu without any major storms.  We can only speculate on how long the islands may be without power and public services over the next many months.  I tried writing to our two past landlords on both islands, only to get the messages kicked back as "undeliverable."

Here's a video of some of the devastation in Savusavu, Fiji.

We spent our first three months in Vanua Levu beginning September 8, 2015, flying to Viti Levu, the main island on December 6th, living in Pacific Harbor, eventually leaving for Sydney on January 4, 2016.
View of Mount Taranaki from a walk in the neighborhood.
Five people were killed by the cyclone in Pacific Harbour, the small town where we spent our final 28 days in Fiji.

Here's a video of some of the devastation in Pacific Harbour, Fiji. 

It's hard for us to believe this occurred shortly after we left Fiji.  In our world travels we always run the risk of political unrest, wars, terrorist attacks, accidents, earthquakes, and destructive, life-threatening weather. 

Some of our family members have expressed concern over our being exposed to such devastation to a greater degree by traveling the world.  Sure, airport terminals, flights, and cruises do expose us to additional risks. 
The scenery from a recent drive.
But, as we watch the US news on a daily basis, we're often appalled by the devastation that occurs in our native country; lives were taken by the radicals and lives taken by natural disasters. 

There's no place in the world that is exempt from risk.  We don't take these risks lightly.  As we thrive in this simple, beautiful life in seemingly innocuous New Zealand, we continually hear of more earthquakes in Christchurch, South Island NZ.

On February 11, 2011, 80% of Christchurch and the surrounding areas were devastated by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake as described in this recent news story as more and more quakes continue to occur.  As reported in the news 185 souls were lost as a result of this quake.
The flower blooming season is coming to an end.  I spotted this solitary flower yesterday on a walk in the neighborhood.
It makes no sense for us to spend our lives in fear of what "could happen."  We can only proceed with our journey with a degree of caution and alertness for our continued safety as we pray for those who suffer at the hands of humans and nature.

May the lovely people of Fiji find their way to recovery and healing with the heartfelt assistance and prayers from millions worldwide.  May your lives be safe from harm.

Photo from one year ago today, February 29, 2015:

There was no post on February 29, 2015, when there was no February 29th one year ago with this year as a leap year!  Back tomorrow with March 1st!

Is it true that "time flies when you're having fun?" Last day, new AmeriCARna photos...

Street rod.  We weren't certain as to the model or year.
When we recall living in Kauai, Hawaii a year ago at this time with yet another three months until we were scheduled to depart on the cruise from Honolulu to Sydney on May 24, 2015, it seems like years ago.

Although not an American made car, Tom got a kick out this Volkwagon Beetle, similar to Herbie from the movie, the Love Bug, on the street in Opunake.
Many memories of the eight months we spent on four islands in the Hawaiian archipelago remain fresh in our minds, when we consider the past nine months since leaving Hawaii, it feels as if we've had a wide array of experiences.

There were dozens of hotrods in the annual AmeriCARna procession.
Yesterday, Tom received an email from a friend he made in Kauai, Pat from Wisconsin, with whom he's stayed in touch via email.  Pat and his wife had recently returned to Kauai for their annual vacation/holiday, sending Tom a new photo of our temporary home in Princeville during our four month stay.

The local children got a break from school to visit the car show.
A pang of pleasant memories washed over me in seeing this photo. As long as the four months living in Kauai seemed at the time, we loved every moment, in the same manner we're feeling during these three months in New Zealand.

1949 Mercury as shown.

There's no doubt that a year from now, we'll look back at our post from these current three months on the farm in Taranaki with a similar sense of awe and appreciation over the exquisite time we experienced.

1959 Cadillac.
Yes, time does "fly when you're having fun" as evidenced during these exceptional days and nights in New Zealand.  We always ask ourselves the question, "If we could live here long term, would this location appeal to us?"

A classic car.

1942 Ford or Mercury??? Any comments?
The answer is clear to us...we don't want to live anywhere permanently unless it becomes absolutely necessary due to poor health which logically will occur at some point.  Although, we do hope to return to a few favorites down the road for shorter periods, health providing.

Mid 60's Cadillac.
The dream of continuing in our travels until the very last days of our lives is lofty if not impractical.  What percentage of seniors in their (hopefully) 80's and 90's or more, continue to be able to travel on a regular basis, away from medical care and able to haul luggage, often spending hours in airports, boarding cruises and visiting points of interest requiring hours of walking and standing?

Another classic car we weren't able to name. 

Often we encounter seniors of advanced and varying ages using wheelchairs, walkers and rarely, if ever, hauling half of their luggage load through airports from one area to another, as we've often done these past years.  This is a reality we must face every day in our travels as we look to the future, attempting to do so with grace and acceptance.

A '67 Pontiac GTO, one of Tom's favorites.

Side view of '67 GTO.

Also, it may seem as we've aged as if time flies more quickly since we retired and no longer awake to an alarm clock in order to get to work on time.  Perhaps the daily maintenance of our lives becomes less cumbersome as we choose to no longer spend endless hours engaged in strenuous tasks we undertook in our younger lives without giving it a thought.

'60 Cadillac convertible.

Many give this "winding down" process more credit than it deserves.  Maybe the quality of our lives is extended by staying active and engaged in the many tasks and activities we enjoyed in our younger years. 

'59 Cadillac, two door hardtop.
Is it possible if we stay active, stopping to embrace many of the most simple pleasures in life as well as the heart pounding profound experiences we often find in front of us, that we can enhance those later years taking advantage of every seeming fast flying moment in time? 

1933 street rod with license plate, HER33.
We're making every effort to capture those types of moments in our hearts and minds through preserving the fine memories in our posts and our photos living every moment in time to the fullest in the process. 

As the cars entered the venue, they were parked in neat rows.
Instead of  spending a lot of time recalling past experience as the basis of our existence, as seniors often do, we're attempting to live in the moment as much as we possibly can and, of course, looking to the future in order to continue the process.

We wandered up and down the rows in case we missed any of the American made vehicles.
This moment, a sunny day on the farm, I'll soon step outdoors to perform the simplest of tasks, hanging the laundry on the clothesline, finding it to be pure pleasure with the soft grass under my bare feet and the gentle humming sounds of the alpacas, music to my ears, as times seems to stand still.

Another street rod.
May every moment of your life stand still long enough for you to stop and embrace its magic.

Photo from one year ago today, February 28, 2015:
Spring flowers began to bloom as spring came early in Hawaii's tropical climate one year ago.  For more photos, please click here.

An unexpected AmeriCARna 2016 event in New Zealand!...A road trip like none other...Photo shocker at end of page...

This 1946 Chevy had "Tom" on the license plate.  Go figure!
When we noticed a brochure under the doormat outside the front door a week ago we decided attending this American only traveling hotrod and classic car show could be fun.

This map we keep in the car confirmed the easy route from New Plymouth to Opunake.

Although we've never attended any car shows in our travels, especially now that we don't own a car, attending the AmeriCarna 2016 event in the Taranaki Region held special interest for us as Americans.  To be able to see the Kiwi's enthusiastically waving the American flags was delightful, beyond all expectations.

The quaint town's variety of farm and implement stores were decorated with American flags and banners.
Detailed information on the many stops the 650 classic cars make on their journey through the Taranaki Region provided many options with one in particular that appealed to us, the hour drive along the ocean to the quaint town of Opunake on the Surf Highway (SH) 45.

Before the cars arrived at the event centre some were parked along the street while owners stopped for coffee and breakfast at the various cafes.
Other options included a litany of locations where the parade would travel over the full three day event, beginning on Thursday, February 25th, ending today, February 27th with no locations more than a few hours from downtown New Plymouth.

The main street was lined with US flags and decorations.
Based on the location of the farm the most logical venue for us was the show was yesterday's event in Opunake.  Neither of us are big on crowds and traffic, avoided when possible. Opunake provided the most suitable opportunity appealing to our preferences. 

Even the local bank got into the festivities.
The biggest and most crowded events (with all the same cars) were last night (Friday) and again today and tonight in downtown New Plymouth where the  main streets are closed for the parade and the later parking of the vehicles for viewing. 

Tom dashed across the street for this photo op.
Street vendors with fabulous smelling burgers and fried foods is a vital part of the festivities.  If we attended the evening events, we wouldn't be able to dine when nothing would be appropriate for my way of eating.  The visit to Opunake was perfect when during the day, we easily bypassed the delicious smelling food vendors to later head home to our own tasty dinner.

As we wandered down the street we continued to be amazed by the festivities and enthusiasm of the locals.
Yesterday, in Opunake, we had the benefit of both the full parade and later the parked viewing on all of the cars which had made the drive as we had.  We left an hour earlier than the cars were due to arrive in Opunake leaving us time to visit with many owners of the shops and restaurants that lined the streets of the cozy town.

The café owner stopped to say hello as she finished decorating this mannequin.
After our tour of the town, we found a great parking spot close to the Sandford Event Centre and we were able to watch each of the cars as they arrived twice, once as they entered a nearby intersection as they headed to the event centre, again as they drove into the event centre and a third time while parked on the grounds of the event center.

The procession of car began from the highway to the event centre while we stood with the crowds at the intersection.  We started taking more photos when they were actually heading into the event centre at a much slower pace. More photos tomorrow.
Although the event in Opunake was crowded we were freely able to park, move about and be up close and personal with the cars.  It was ideal when we had to opportunity to talk to some of the car owners as they proudly displayed their own unique vehicles. 

We couldn't have been more surprised to see this Minnesota State Trooper vehicle (we're from Minnesota, USA) at the show especially when we didn't see such cars from other states.  Ironic, eh?
From the AmeriCARna's website"Americarna's first event was in February 2007 and limited to 550 vehicles.  We wanted the event and every aspect to be about quality not quantity.  From those who attended the inaugural event, you (the public) told me we had it right."

Tom couldn't resist being in this photo!
As Americans, it was a special day for us, away from endless political spewing on the news and sad state of many US and world affairs.  The waving of the American flag by the joyful Kiwis, driving their American cars and having the time of their lives, made it a special day for us we'll always remember as one many meaningful experiences we've had in this magical place.

More car photos with a new story will follow over the next few days. Please stop back!

CARpe diem!

Photo from one year ago today, February 27, 2015:
One year ago on a last night out of town in Kauai, a little strip of clouds added to the view of the setting sun in Poipu Beach, Kauai.  For more photos, please click here.

Alpacas mating...Video...Time consuming process...Not as simple as one may assume...

We took this video during the mating.
This morning at 9 am we're heading an hour south for an exciting local event, returning late in the day. We'll be back with photos over the next several days which we're looking forward to sharing.

The males, called Machos, are kept in a separate paddock in order to maintain control over the mating process.
Today's post prepared late yesterday and completed early this morning is a bit more rushed than usual.  Hopefully, the included video and photos speak for themselves.

We're continually amazed by the amount of work required by Trish and Neil to manage this 100 alpaca farm, both of whom are also working away from the farm in a high level profession requiring considerable work and commitment.

The pair are placed in a smaller paddock for the purpose of mating.  Notice the others looking on with considerable curiosity.
In itself, managing this farm could easily be a full time commitment.  And yet, effortlessly and diligently they both spend many hours each week with nary a complaint.  They love and care for these unique creatures with the utmost of love and concern.

Not only are they busy providing nutrient rich foods a few times each day laid about the paddocks in dozens of colorful bowls as a adjunct to the hay and grass the alpacas graze but, several entire herds in the various paddocks must be moved frequently to newly greened pastures.

The courtship is rather quick but the event can last for 45 minutes.
Moving the various herds of alpacas from one paddock to another is quite a sight to watch.  The alpacas have become accustomed to this process and in their gentle ways, they respond to the carefully managed process that Trish and Neil perform with what appears to be relative ease.

We couldn't help but laugh over the looks on the faces of the others during the mating.
For us neophytes, its looks a lot easier than it really is.  Add the constant handling of baled hay as an additional food source for the alpacas, the annual shearing of all the alpacas, the attendance at alpaca shows throughout the country where they frequently win blue ribbons and awards.

Trish and Neil oversee the mating to ensure all is going well.  The Macho is wearing the harness used to bring him to the mating pen.
The record keeping is a big part of the management of the farm with each alpaca tagged and named, as is the case for the cria shortly after birth.  As much as we're enjoying the playful entertainment by these amazing animals, we don't take lightly the responsibility required in all of the above...including the mating process.

We don't profess to know much about the breeding of alpaca other than the answers to questions we've asked of Trish and Neil as time has allowed with their busy schedules.

We were up close during this particular mating.  Others we've observed from a distance.
Today, we share the snippets we've gleaned, hoping if any of our readers have more specific questions they'll refer online for more information with many sites providing details.  Here are a few points of interest we gleaned in the process:
  • Females, referred to as the "Hembra" with the male referred to as the "macho."  Males and females do not live together in the paddock and are only brought together for mating purposes.
The other hang close so they can watch. The cria were chasing one another mimicking the making behavior.

  • Hembra can be bred at one year of age and continue to breed until they are 14 to 15 years old.  Machos reach maturity at 2 to 3 years of age.
  • Hembra are referred to as "induced ovulators" meaning they do not have a specific cycle.  They can be mated at any time while ovulation is induced by the actions of the macho.
The female will only resist if she's impregnated from a prior session which immediately is terminated ensuring Trish and Neil there no need to continue.

  • Gestation is approximately 11.5 (from 335 to 342 days) months.  Hembra can be mated two weeks after giving birth of the "cria" of which there is only one birth per year.
  • 14 days after mating, the female is reintroduced to the male.  If she is pregnant she will not sit down for the mating process.  Instead she will engage in what is referred to as the "spit off" test by kicking, running away and spitting at the male.  Its this process that enables the farm owners to determine the Hembra is in fact pregnant until further blood tests at a later date.  If the "spit off" doesn't occur, this means the Hembra is not pregnant and she cooperates in the mating.
He was no worse for the wear after the event.
Having witnessed this entire life cycle at various stages since our arrival over one month ago we feel honored for the experience as we continue to observe this miracle of life.

He even offered a little smile for the camera.
Now, we're off for our upcoming busy day and will return tomorrow with a new story and photos of a popular annual event in the Taranaki Region.  Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 26, 2015:
One year ago, we visited Spouting Horn in Kauai where spouts in the lava formed from  which the ocean spouted as the waves washed in and out to the shore.  We could only imagine how majestic it would have been on a day when the waves were more aggressive.  For more photos, please click here.

The photos ops never cease in New Zealand...Traveling far not always required for maximum enjoyment...

This "piece of art" in New Plymouth is playfully typical of Kiwi's great sense of humor.
There's no doubt if we traveled the day's drive to reach the ferry to  visit the South Island of New Zealand with a 3.5 hour ferry ride, we'd be in for a lot of surprises and amazing scenery.  When we first arrived over five weeks ago, doing so had been a possibility.

We notices ducks swimming in the waterway.
As we researched plans for the future, paying well in advance for upcoming cruises, airfare, hotels and vacation homes, we came to the realization that the cost of traveling to the South Island didn't fit our current budgetary guidelines.

This waterway runs through downtown New Plymouth with a small waterfall.
Having recently paid  NZ $5730, US $3800 for health insurance with a substantial tax bill upcoming on US income tax day on April 15th, we've had to pick and choose what makes most sense at this time.

As the ducks approached the waterway, they began to "go for it."
We're not unlike most people deciding on "vacations/holidays" as to when they make the most sense financially.  The round trip cost of the ferry to the South Island  $552, US $300.  Add the cost of fuel, hotels and meals on the road, we'd easily spend upwards of NZ $3011, US $2000 for a five day getaway.

Even taking a minimum of five days with two full days of travel time getting to the South Island and back, leaving us only three days to travel which isn't in essence enough time to visit the highlights.

It all happened so quickly I had no time to change the camera setting for better shots.
As always in our worldwide travels, we have to pick and choose what makes the most sense.  Living entirely off our monthly income plus saving for pricey future plans such as Antarctica and South America, we aren't able to do everything we find appealing.

We couldn't stop laughing as we watched the ducks navigate the waterfall.
A part of the challenge for us is making all of our world travels work financially as well as encompassing our desires for vast experiences.  So far, with as much world as we've seen to date, we've been confident with our decisions as to where we travel, our experiences and upholding the maintenance of our carefully planned budget.

The area near the waterway.
We have no margin for unplanned/unbudgeted events, only emergencies that may arise from time to time.  Regardless of how good a "deal" we may receive on vacation home rentals, we still continue to have many other expenses in our travels. 

Calm waters out to sea in this area.
The fact that we're always paying well in advance for future travels in large lump sums has had a bearing on what we choose to do in the interim.  This strict adherence to our budget is the only way we can continue to travel the world.

In a way, its not unlike my strict dietary guidelines.  If I didn't follow this way of eating, always requiring a certain degree of self control and sacrifice we wouldn't be able to travel when I'd be subject to poor health. 

Elephant pained on side of building in downtown New Plymouth.
Its not a whole lot different with managing money...a certain degree of self control and sacrifice are necessary.  Often we write that we don't like to travel far from our current location with a substantial part of those reasons revolving around the fact that traveling costs more money. 

Paying for two places to "rest our heads" at night just doesn't make a lot of sense to us on a regular basis, although on a rare special occasion we may choose to make an exception.

Walkway along the river in downtown New Plymouth.
As we continue to relish in every aspect of the beautiful expansive Taranaki Region, we feel comfortable being able to continually find interesting and appealing points of interest and experiences we freely embrace.

Thanks to all of our readers for sharing this continuing journey with us wherever we may be.  Have a filled day engaged with the activities that work for you, for your health and well being and your way of life!

Photo from one year ago today, February 25, 2015:
At first, the tree we saw at the Hawaii National Botanical Garden, one year go, we thought this tree had been painted which would be ridiculous at the tropical garden. Upon closer inspection, I could hardly believe my eyes.  It is a Rainbow Eucalyptus or Eucalyptus DegluptaFor more photos, please click here.