We first met Erl and Elaine Russell in Masterton in 1987, on the occasion of visiting their daughter Helen on our South Pacific sweep of that year. Helen had been an AFS friend of Yvette Perodou, who lived with us in 1984-85. We knew her that year (Helen & I ran together in the Bay Breakers race that year in SF) So we stayed with Erl and Elaine in 1987, saw them again at Dave Green’s and Helen’s wedding of 1991. Elaine died about 5 years back, but when we reached Tauranga this year, Erl was looking pretty fit for a 90-year old, had a strong handshake, was still able to walk briskly with the help of his cane. Erl rode with us on the tour bus as we viewed the Tauranga Port facility last Tuesday morning. But alas, on Thursday morning, he was found dead in his condo by his caretaker. Erl Russell lived for 90 years, the first 87 of them in Masterton, the last three in Tauranga, 6 hours drive to the North. Too soon, his funeral will be held Tuesday, Feb 5 in Masterton. We will miss that event, and Erl too.
Wednesday we left Tauranga after picking up our rental car there, and caravaned with the Green family south to Lake Taupo to stay in their family’s house there near the lake. But en route, we had lunch in Rotorua, and viewed the Blue and Green Lakes nearby. Here’s the Blue Lake on the left, and the Green Lake on the right. The Blue Lake is blue due to reflections from above from its white Rhyolite and Pumice bottom; it is open to public recreation. But the Green Lake, on the other hand, is a sacred Maori place where no public recreation is allowed. It is green due to its shallow, sandy bottom.
On the way from Rotorua down to Taupo, we visited the Buried Village. Once known as Te Wairoa, on the morning of June 10, 1886, it was virtually buried by the volcanic eruption from nearby Mount Terawera. We strolled through the excavation of Te Wairora, to see huts once inhabited by Maori and white residents. A couple of hotels were also destroyed in the event. If you look at the accompanying photographs, you see Mt. Terawera on the upper right
before and after the volcanic event; Below to the left, you see how the eruption leveled the entire village of Te Wairoa, covering it with mud and lava, and destroying all the structures, not to mention trees, in its path.We traveled the site for an hour, including hiking down to the beautiful waterfall on the site. It was interesting to stroll through the now-peaceful site, see the many excavated huts and other structures, and to imagine what it must have been like to actually be a part of the event.
We arrived at Taupo to take roost in the family vacation home owned by the Palmerston North-based Green family. Since we saw it last some 22 years ago, it’s been remodeled under the aegis of Bruce Green, Dave’s architect brother. A very nice, comfortable place, with great access to Lake Taupo, not to mention a stunning view from the deck, to wit:
Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake, we’re told. It had a gently sloping shore near the cabin, so it was easy to go out and swim with the boys and enjoy the warmish lake water..
We were together with the Green family at Taupo when the news of Erl Russell’s death came, as quite a shock to the whole family, who’d just seen him two days before. So plans changed; Greens went back home to Tauranga, and we stayed a night and then off to Masterton, ~4 hours south. We stayed there with John & Jan Ramson, friends we’d met and stayed with while Dave and Helen were getting married lo these 22 years ago. Our daughter Heidi stayed with them later on, and they’ve stayed connected over the years:
One good reason for stopping in Masterton was to check on the livelihood of the California Redwood tree I had planted on Jan. 6, 1991, the day after Helen & Dave’s wedding. It was planted in Russells’ backyard, but since Erl & Elaine have left us, properties have shifted ownership over the years. We did manage to get into the yard and see these two trees, one planted by me, the other by John Watney, also of Los Altos. They had grown quite substantially over the years, maybe about 20-30 feet tall. Sequoia Sempervirens forever!
On our “free” day in Masterton, John & Jan took us down to one of the North Island East Coast most scenic attractions, the Castle Point Lighthouse, See it above, along with Castle Point itself, the big rock to the right.
Have to apologize for covering so much ground in one blog post. Our internet connections have been sketchy to non-existent for several days. At the moment we’re in Christchurch, heading off again to internet-unknown regions tomorrow. But there’s lots to say about Wellingtons and Christchurch, and we’ll see you next time, OK? 😉