April’s weather has been nicely mixed with just enough rainy winter days to make us appreciate the warm summery ones with highs of 20 and lows of 12. The rain can be very strong at times, almost akin to snowstorm proportions (or perhaps I am just getting soft). One day, all of my outpatients cancelled due to the inclement weather, half of the hospital employees left early and I drove home at 15km/hr with very poor visibility despite the windshield wipers on maximum. All due to the torrential rain!

The days keep getting shorter, so we start our before-work morning runs in the dark. By the time we’ve rounded Mount Maunganui, we are greeted with the sun rising over the Pacific. Not a bad way to start the day, even in the rain!

One weekend in Auckland area, we stopped at rugged Bethells Beach to take in the orange cliffs, ironsand beaches and moody sea. Note that we did not join the hard-out surfers in the chilly West Coast waters. While in Auckland, we caught up with the Canadian contingent when Ralph threw June a surprise birthday party aboard the Booze Cruise. After carefully orchestrating the arrival of the unsuspecting birthday girl onto the ship, we sailed around the Auckland harbour.

ANZAC day was celebrated on the 25th of April. ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC day acknowledges the soldiers who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey in WWI. People living in NZ, Aussie, Samoa and the Cook Islands acknowledge ANZAC day by taking part in ceremonies and wearing poppies, just like we do for Remembrance Day.

We took advantage of the public holiday to fly to the South Island. Christchurch, or Chch as it is affectionately known, looked and felt like Ontario in the fall. Trees that are native to NZ do not have leaves that change colour and fall off; therefore, they do not call the season fall, but always autumn. Chch has been invaded by foreign species that do have colour-changing leaves that make Chch look and smell a lot like home. We were lucky to have my friend, Dee, a Chch native, to act as our tour guide, though we did have to resist her persistent suggestions that we, the tourists, go punting down the Avon River.

Jack and I boarded the Tranzalpine train to the West Coast through the Southern Alps. Our final destination: Hokitika. In Hoki, we met up with a master greenstone carver who helped us to design, carve and polish our very own greenstone creations. This turned out to be an arduous process taking almost 12 hours. Hoki is a small town with many greenstone shops. We were told that much of the greenstone comes from British Columbia and passes through China for carving en route to said NZ shops, though were assured the greenstone that became our carvings were from the Southern Alps we could see from Hoki. Equally patriotic to both my countries, I’d be happy with Canadian jade or NZ greenstone.

In arriving back on the North Island, I was reminded of New Zealand’s Maori name: Aotearoa, which means land of the long white cloud. The pilots circled and circled the skies looking for a gap in the cloud and fog and eventually switched to an airport in another town and approached the landing from the sea, scooting along over the tops of houses on the way to the runway. Yikes!

 In other news, Jack just finished his second lot of swimming lessons and can successfully complete two lengths of the pool. Next session, they’re going to move him from the heated kiddie pool to the cold lap pool. Hooray!