30 November 2008


Thanksgiving has come and gone again. Another year of celebrating the feast with creative ingredients in unfamiliar lands. No traffic to deal with on the busiest travel day in the states, not when you're nowhere near the states. No last minute dash to the store for a can of pumpkin. Just a lot of explaining to do. "Why do you need a turkey?"

There are a few benefits to spending Thanksgiving thousands of miles from home. The first that comes to mind is the legitimate reason to celebrate pre or post travels (or both, if lucky) with close friends or family, a big bird, and lots of pie. I try to fit as many Thanksgivings in as possible. If you and I are hanging out in July and I know I won't see you again until April, I'm likely to suggest a turkey feed.

In addition to multiple celebrations, there is the opportunity to share out-of-control feasting with people of other cultures. Once the initial shock at sheer quantities subsides, most folks get into the idea of eating to the point of loosening a belt. Comes quite naturally to some, it seems.

And then there is the joy of the hunt. Not rifle and camouflage hunt, more like treasure hunt with the treasures being cranberries, pumpkin, any fowl resembling turkey, and sweet potato. There have been successful hunts, and disappointing ones, but the meals consumed on the last Thursday of November never let me down.

Ireland 1996: An entire roast salmon, lots of goat cheese, homemade jams, and fresh bread. Cold toes, damp air, and the smell of peet bricks burning.

Ecuador 2000: Chicken, purple sweet potatoes in a faux-pumpkin pie, and my best stew from leftovers yet. Overcast skies, surf shorts, an oven with no temperature settings, guesswork at its best.

New Zealand 2003: [take 1] An enormous meal out at an Indian restaurant, figuring all that really mattered was overeating. [take 2] Realized a few days later we'd been off by a week, had a completely reasonable amount of salmon and asparagus at a picnic table in a campground on the actual day.

Chile 2005: Turkey, 'cranberry sauce' made from fresh cherries and a ton of lemons, New Mexicans representing with chipotle stuffing. On the back porch, sunshine at the new table, the AzĂșl racing by below us. Hannah insisted I wanted to eat out of a bowl. She was right.

Costa Rica 2006: Some random gringo restaurant with a holiday feast deal. Took away all the fun of the hunt, left more time for the beach. Topped it up with some homemade pies out of canned pumpkin carted down from SC by the Hunters.

China 2007: Searched high and low with a phrase book and no language skills for turkey. Settled for roast duck, served cold in the end, with classic mashed potatoes, green beans, and a super sweet white cake for dessert.

New Zealand 2008: Roast chickens and ham, Jason's grandmother's sweet potato pie recipe, a Carmichael family tradition of Thanksgiving baked beans, cranberry sauce, and pies. A remarkably delicious feast cooked in the bright kitchen of the Riverview Holiday Park, a first away from home for some of my compadres.

29 November 2008

maruia falls

Nick Roberts with a perfect line

Not all the lines were so perfect

28 November 2008

cook strait

Leaving Wellington and the rest of the North Island behind. On to Picton and all that the South Island holds in store for us.

27 November 2008


I have a new appreciation for plastic. Got to see how a kayak is made, kiwi style. The boys at the Bliss-Stick factory took us in and let us wander about, even let us buy some boats fresh out of the oven. Quite a process, and quite a crew. Good to see something so quality come out of such a homegrown venue.

Bliss-Stick Factory this way.
Miles from any town. Really close to the put-in.

25 November 2008

river valley lodge

Not so far from the little town of Taihape a dirt road winds through the open pastures above the Rangitikei River. Down along the banks of the river, tucked in amongst canyon walls, sits the River Valley Lodge. The pace at the Lodge is slow and intentional, the owners and staff are genuine and quick to smile. The veggie garden is rich with life, the deep green pools of the river are cold but inviting, and hiking trail on the opposite bank climbs into native forest.

Touted as one of New Zealand's top adventure lodges, RVL is gradually making a shift away from high impact tours like Kiwi Experience (the notorious green bus of young travelers suffering from various stages of hangovers). The Lodge will soon be better suited for smaller groups on longer stays, for people who might take a bit away, and might leave something positive behind.

Brian Megaw has a vision for this piece of paradise. He has long since planted his roots along the Rangitikei, and it's clear that he wants for the people who visit the Lodge to walk away with more than a hangover.

The Lodge offers various levels of accomodation, a spa facility with masseus, homecooked meals, a steady flow of cold beer, and a pristine river environment. Rafting trips in the Rangitikei Gorge are a popular excursion from the Lodge, as well as horseback riding trips. Check out their website: www.rivervalley.co.nz for more information.

Brian Megaw, owner of River Valley Lodge

23 November 2008

20 November 2008


Inside the red Hiace, in a partly burned candle, on the middle console. That is where Adam is.

18 November 2008

16 November 2008

global fest

A celebration of diversity in the community around Rotorua. A good use of a weekend afternoon, a welcome change in food options, a perfect way to break out of the school routine.

15 November 2008


A nickname. Perhaps a curse, more often an expression of personality and character, gifted by someone else. I've known some great ones, still amused by the stories of summer days spent with Jelly, Special, Airplane, Shotgun, Sully, Simpy, Hutch, Foo, Utah, and Speardog.

Now time for the current roll call: Trop, Buck, Tino, Sizzle, Mongo, Jorgo, Big Tuna, and Squid. These are the names we use every day. I respond to Dibs, like 'I got dibs on the ice cream'.

12 November 2008

kuirau park

Right in the town of Rotorua. A town park churning with heat from underground, bubbling up in the mud and steaming out over the mowed grass. So very unusual.

the bath house

Went this morning for a peek at the Rotorua Museum inside the grand bath house built in 1908. The thermal waters and boiling mud of Rotorua was considered not only a worthy tourist attraction, it was also just what the doctor ordered at that time.

11 November 2008

09 November 2008


Sunday morning. Spring in the Southern Hemisphere.