Up the mount

Last night we came to Papamoa beach to catch up with some old friends. I worked with Kelly at St James School about five years ago and since then she has been pretty busy, she and Paul have since gotten married and had themselves two little boys. It was great to catch up with Kelly and Paul again and very exciting to meet Josh (4) and Will (2). Those of you who have met Kelly and Paul can guess just how gorgeous these two little boys are. And those of you who have kids can guess just how hectic life is for the Savages now, especially since Kelly is now working full-time.
We started our Saturday morning (early!) with a swim at the local hot salt water pools, is there a better way to start your weekend? It was just the right combination of relaxing with a bit of exercise (one of the pools is a slightly cooler 34 degree for swimming) and a bit of fun. Not sure if it was Si or Will having the most fun as they raced on-the-back-of-a-turtle style with Paul and Josh.
After we dragged ourselves away from the pools Kelly took the boys home for a sleep whilst Paul, Si and I went off to climb The Mount. Probably not as impressive as it sounds since Mount Maunganui probably doesn’t really qualify as a mount as such. Nevertheless it’s an impressive mount / hill on the edge of the sea…. New Zealand may be on the brink of Winter but the East coast has that special sunshine ingredient which we love. So it felt like the middle of Summer to us (from Scotland…) There were lots of local fitties jogging past us (I’m sure one woman passed us twice!) whereas just walking to the top was exhilarating enough for us. The 360 degree views at the top were pretty awesome and worth the climb, especially since we had a local with us to explain the points of interest. Our family fun day in the sun was rounded off perfectly with a yummy kiwi barbie. Ah, it’s good to be home (well, obviously I mean we won’t get too settled here….)

Luge-ing again

Well a trip to Rotorua just isn’t complete without a visit to the luge. Seeing as I didn’t manage the advanced track last time there’s even more of a reason to hit the concrete with avengence. With 5 tickets for the luge in hand, and praying for a distinct lack of school trips at the top we took to the hill. Last time I couldn’t do the advanced track, but this time nothing held me back, and the track impressed. It was faster, bendier, with more two-wheeled antics and some jumps thrown in too, but also over way too quickly. Pete – it’s also been toned down since you were here, the jumps are smaller as people were getting injured – that doesn’t sound like New Zealand! The intermediate track was fun, but not quite as thrilling as last time, so maybe you do begin to get immune to these sort of things. Caroline took the final run down the luge, speeding down like a pro, and oddly claiming that the chairlift ride was the scariest bit…

Return to Rotorua

The only problem with an excellent road map is that you don’t realise when you are close to places, and today we realised that Taupo, Rotorua and their crazy activities were within grasp. So off we went, eagerly checking what would be next, and settling on Quad Biking as a scenic flight around volcanoes just isn’t the same when they (still!) have cloud around them. Opting for the sporty quads we whizzed around the dirt track, down steep hills and through thick bush, until our thumbs could take no more (thumb accelerator = aching thumbs).
The cold night was coming in, so back at Rotorua we headed for the Mitai village to culture ourselves in the Maori traditional canoeing, greetings, songs, dances and of course Haka. The Maoris are also dab hands at cooking too; Hangi is dinner cooked in the smouldering embers of an outdoor fire so that meat falls off the bone, gives it a nice smoky flavour and makes you eat until stuffed. Which we did, mmm!!

The day of almosts

We nearly did a lot of things today, but it just wasn’t meant to be, nevertheless it was still a great day. Kayaking in the morning almost happened, but the wind and rain put a stop to that. We almost went quad biking along a beach that would almost have had us sitting in a (different) hot water beach, but as we didn’t actually pay attention to the “road closed” sign, so we couldn’t get there.
Enough of what we didn’t do, we did find impressive waterfalls leaping down a 50 metre cliff. Sound hauntingly familiar? The viewing platform was unusually positioned right at the top and out over the cliff so you get to look down the falls to the bottom. It allowed us to relive that canyon swing leap from a few weeks ago, and let the butterflies flutter one more time.
P.S. We’ve been slack at keeping up with our blogging homework and we’re sorry, get ready for about a weeks supply soon!

Moody beaches

Beach one today was Piha, home of Lion rock. The huge rock protruding out to sea does indeed look like a very large lion sitting on it’s haunches watching all the comings and goings of this world famous surf beach (once again I think the tourist marketing board might be playing fast and loose with their ‘world famous’, unless nearly every beach is famous for it’s surf!) It would have been a very effective Maori Pa back in the day as it’s steep, craggy climb certainly deterred us!
Beach Two:
Once again the stunning scenery of this country has been used as the backdrop to another film. This time the film was The Piano and the backdrop was Karekare beach (try to imagine a piano in the picture!). We haven’t actually seen the film but the beach has got a moody, dramatic air with the waves pounding, the sea spray causing a fine mist in the distance. We have managed to pick up a cheap copy of The Piano so our task tonight is to compare and contrast.

Convoy no more

We have been in New Zealand now for the best part of two months and for almost all of that time we have had the reassuring view of Cat in her crib behind us. But like they say, all good things must come to an end and today we waved farewell to Cat and our convoy was down to one. 🙁
By now we have pretty much seen all there is to be seen in this country so we were really struggling to find some unexplored wee nook somewhere. After much searching of the map and guidebook we found such a corner just to the west of Auckland. We headed to Muriwai beach first to check out their gannet colony. Unfortunately most of the gannets have flown off and left New Zealand for the warmer shores of Australia (must be the time for leaving New Zealand!) However we did spot a couple swooping around so all was not lost.

Big trees

Today’s destination was the Waipoua Kauri Forest home of the world’s second largest tree. With names like ‘God of the forest’ and ‘Father of the forest’ we were expecting some pretty big trees. Nevertheless we were blown away by the size of these giants. The world’s largest trees are the Californian sequioas which were pretty big, however when you see Tane Mahuta (God of the forest) emerge through the gap in the other big trees you could say it’s a pretty close thing. This giant is a whopping 6 metres wide and certainly lords it over the forest. Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest) is equally impressive. He is techincally New Zealand’s second largest tree because he is not quite as tall as ‘the God’ and his trunk volume (how much wood you’d get if you were to chop him down) is not as large, however, he is wider than ‘the god’ and has a girth of 16.4m which has to be seen to be believed.

From the beginning to the end of New Zealand in one day.

From the start to the end in one day, not bad eh? Probably not what you’re expecting though (although some form of extreme sport involving a fighter jet would have been good). We started off in Waitangi, site of the first treaty between Maori and European settlers to share the land and considered to be the start of modern New Zealand. Beyond the controversy that surrounds Maori and European relations, the area conveys an old-world and pioneer feel, as though you could imagine the settlers arriving on the shore. It’s also a melting pot of the two cultures with huge war canoes and Maori town hall next to the first governer’s house.
Later that afternoon after about 20km of rough unsealed road we reached the end of New Zealand at Cape Reinga, the most northerly land (technically not, but as far north as any road goes) and the turning point for our journey as we’ve done west, south, east and now north. It’s quite surprising that there is a road and that they are starting to seal it as there is literally nothing but a car park, toilet and unmanned lighthouse – keeps us tourists entertained at least I suppose! Not only is it about as far north as you can go, it’s also where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet which causes huge waves to oddly break far off the coast. Maori also believe that when they die their spirits come to Cape Reinga and leap off an old tree to reach their mythical homeland of Hawaiiti. It may sound a bit silly to some, but it’s no sillier than meeting your maker, and I reckon it’s a nice place for a spirit to leap from. I’m sure there are still a few nooks and cranies of New Zealand left to visit so that should keep us entertained for the final couple of weeks.

She’s a Lady

Today began with an early start and a race up the road to get to the Bay of Islands. However, we did make time to stop at the Hundertwasser toilets. They are world famous so I know you will have heard of them. No? Well they were created by an ecentric painter / architect from Austria and well, lets just say, as public conviences go these are quirky!
When we arrived in Paihia we hooked up with Glen, our skipper for the day who promised to show us around the Bay of Islands on board his yacht, ‘She’s a Lady’ (I made the mistake of asking how she got her name and was told it was because she was high maintenance. Huh!)
Our track record with sailing led us to believe that the weather probably wouldn’t be great and it would no doubt rain. I’m thinking of our last day trip sailing from Brisbane, heart of the sunshine state but where it rained all day for our sailing expedition. Sure enough as we set sail it looked like a rather grey morning. There was also not a great deal of wind around (kind of a pre-requisite for sailing) which meant that we kind of drifted along in a very relaxed manner, which set the tone for the rest of the day. We drifted past many islands, some very exclusive and privately owned. How do the owners get to their homes I hear you ask. By boat more often than not but we did also spot a helicopter hanger (ah how the other half live!) As we came close to where the islands stop to reveal endless miles of sea, we chose our very own deserted island and dropped anchor. We passed up on the proposed swimming although we did brave a wee bit of kayaking, alas despite the glass bottom I saw nothing except some rocks and the sea bed. We also climbed the hill of our wee island and were rewarded with 360 degree views of the area and a light spattering of rain.
After what were quite possibly the best sandwiches ever we boarded ‘the lady’ once more and continued with thè ‘relaxed’ sailing back to harbour.


Although you could probably rename New Zealand Sheepworld, that’s not what we’re talking about here, instead there is a theme park (well, a farm) dedicated to the woolly four legged creatures. Some may think we’re baa-rmy but we were up early to make sure we saw the sheep shearing show, goaded on by the guide book hinting at a chance to shear one ourselves. Alas there was no such opportunity, which is a good thing as the clippers were exceptionally sharp and could easily whip a finger off (I’m 90% sure our travel insurance doesn’t cover sheep shearing). The sheep dogs were particularily impressive – the handler told one to “get the sheep” and two minutes later sheep were running over the hill and were pinned against the fence as close as they could get to the handler. Then came my part in the show, helping to sort the sheep according to the colour on their heads. Armed with a three way gate, the dogs barked the sheep along a passage way to the gate where I flapped away trying to get the sheep going the right way. Squashing a couple of heads in the process, I only got a few wrong which means I am good enough for a job in Australia but not New Zealand. The show ended with us holding milking bottles as lambs stampeded in, obviously well drilled for what was in store. Somehow Cat managed to be the last one with milk left and was surrounded by the lambs eager for the last drops, not sure if that is an enviable position…