A Travellerspoint blog

Can't Come Up With a Good Title

sunny 22 °C

It's hard to believe that another week has gone by - it was pretty quick and there's comparatively little to write about. However, as we know we're likely in the running to win the new Giller category - "Travel Blogs", we need to maintain the elevated prose that has made this blog space known the world over (well, at least in small parts of Ontario, Alberta, and BC). The past week was dominated by renewed vigour in the planning of our upcoming trip to New Zealand's South Island, where there is an overwhelming number of things to see and do. You'll read about all of that in a few weeks though - for now you'll need to get out all the slack you have and cut it for us as you read this brief recap of our past week.

The gripping part of the week really began on Tuesday, when Jenn travelled to Otumoetai College to observe how things are done in an English classroom at a different but also really large high school (2000 students) in Tauranga. She enjoyed seeing the co-ed school and reported that it felt much more like her school back in Canada, though she only saw 2 classes. Meanwhile, Tim began work on the 2010 edition of the Cronsberry Christmas Newsletter while simultaneously cooking up a batch of Coq au Vin. That night, Tim and Jack went to inline hockey and sweated away half their substantial body weight.

On Wednesday Tim discovered just how out-of-reach the printing of the Christmas Newsletter is going to be this year. While everything in New Zealand is more expensive than in Canada, printing is almost criminal! Hence a digital version of the newsletter this year. After everyone else finished their formal commitments at school, we all drove over to Mount Maunganui and did some souvenir/Christmas shopping.

Currently New Zealand teachers are involved in labour strife, which here involves "rostering home" a designated grade once a week. Since Year 9 students were "rostered home" on Thursday, this left Jenn with a little more flexible time, which meant that Jenn and Tim could go out for lunch for a change. So we did - to De Bier Haus. They have fantastic seafood chowder! That day was rounded out by the writing of Christmas cards and some wicked games of handball between Jenn and Jack. Here's a photo of that action:

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The weekend was forecast to be a wet one, so we didn't really plan much. After making a banana cake in the morning, we all set off for the library, which turned out to be the busiest we had ever seen a library anywhere at any time. It was like a media scrum outside the parlimentary chambers! Later in the day, Tim and Jack walked down to Jack's school to throw around the boomerang and play some handball. The real treat came in the late afternoon when we took the banana cake and went for dinner to the house of Jenn's colleague Sharon and her husband Rick. As usual our hosts were fantastic, and we continued learning more about New Zealand through the visit. Bronte and Jack really hit it off with Sharon and Rick's kids too!

Finally it was Sunday. After Bronte and Jack made cupcakes, we headed down to "The Mount Bookworm", a used bookstore. There we traded in some of our previously enjoyed books and got new ones. We followed this up with a trip to Copenhagen Cones, but luckily we only needed to drive a bit further down the street rather than fly to Copenhagen itself. Friday night was the real last day of Bronte's underwater hockey - recall that last week it needed to be postponed because of excessive chlorine in the pool. Bronte had a great time as always. Here's a few photos from that event:

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Believe it or not, that's it! We know, it's pretty tame without mention of volcanic activity. Next week will be much more exciting as we've already got a couple of outings planned. But you'll need to visit again next week for that.

Posted by tcrons 22:18 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Bronte's School

Another Canadian Perspective!

sunny 22 °C

With the Allore family's recent visits, Claire took the opportunity to attend school with Bronte for a day to see what NZ school life was like! You can see her description of her school day with Bronte, with pics, at the Allore's blog - but go fast, they are due for an updated post from their South Island trek soon (and then you'd have to scroll down to find Claire's post). Click here to go there now!

Posted by tcrons 23:44 Comments (1)

Sea Lettuce and Pools of Antimony

sunny 22 °C

This past week was one where we started revisiting some places that have held our fascination over the past 10 months in New Zealand. Cutting through the fact that we still need to go to school and go to work and to sleep in (Tim) is the larger reality that we really don't have too much time left in this adventure. With that in mind, we started the long process of saying goodbye to some of our favourite places, while growing more excited about what's left to see (such as the entire lower half of the country!). Here we go with our week in review:

On Monday Tim ventured back over to the Tauranga Hospital and met with the infection control lead once again. They had another great conversation about the practices here in New Zealand as they compare with the way things are done back home. Tim was not all that surprised that a day in the life of a hospital infection control professional is not all that different here. He handed over some samples of resources sent from the office back home, and returned to the house feeling a bit more satisfied that he had at least done some semblance of work while in New Zealand. Understandably he was quite exhausted by the effort and slept for the rest of the day.

Tuesday held open a whole valise of excitement for us. In the morning it was Jack and Bronte's "Athletics" day at school. Both Bronte and Jack participated in their track and field events with verve, and despite coming away without any hardware for the shelf, both had a lot of fun. As Tim and Jenn couldn't be in two places at once, Jenn went to work as is her obligation, and Tim went to Jack's school to capture a few of the many exciting moments in Jack's competition:

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Following that action, Tim made pizza dough and then sped over to the Tauranga Art Gallery to catch an oil painting demonstration of the style of the old Dutch Masters. Neither Rembrandt nor the Van Eycks were there in person. That evening, Tim took Jack for another session of inline hockey training, but this time Tim joined Jack on the "ice". Tim taught Jack that the inline hockey playing surface has a significantly higher coefficient of friction and "sliding" to stop a goal only results in a bruised shoulder.

Meanwhile, our Canadian friends the Allores were packing up for the next leg of their journey. We were sad to see them pull out of the driveway on Wednesday morning, but happy that we'll all be together for Christmas way down south at the cottage we have rented not far from Queenstown.

At Tauranga Boys College, Jenn's senior class was in the last phase of their in-class instruction, as next week they no longer attend but instead start studying for their state exams which happen at the end of Gr. 11, 12, and 13 for NZ students in core subject areas. Despite the occasional challenges, Jenn has enjoyed teaching this particular group, and wished them all well. She even posed for a photo with the class - she's the nervous-looking one in the front row! Jenn also witnessed the students do a haka for the Year 13 students at the final full school assembly. As part of the school tradition (haka when they start as Year 9 students, haka when they leave in Year 13), the seniors also do a haka in response, but it was very hard to capture on film. Here it is almost live.

Tauranga Jenn's Class

Tauranga Jenn's Class

On Thursday evening, Jenn attended Senior Academic Prizegiving at Tauranga Boys College. She was truly impressed by the calibre of students called up to the front to receive their awards. As difficult as it is to believe, many of the year nine boys that make life challenging for teachers at TBC actually mature into students who accomplish great things. While academic achievements were the focus of the night, many times the words "represented their country in the sport of..." were noted. Sure, the country only has a population of 4 million or so, but that doesn't detract from the tremendous accomplishment of representing New Zealand on the worldwide stage for one thing or another. It was truly impressive.

On Friday we went out for dinner at a place called "Blue" at Mount Maunganui. The food was tasty, and afterwards we walked along the beach in the fading daylight. The Mount beach is such a great place it'll be tough to finally say goodbye in a few weeks. One of the things about the beach that we likely won't miss is the sea lettuce. On Friday parts of the surf was vivid green as tonnes of the stuff crashed onto the beach. No matter though, we skirted around the green section and moved on to more picturesque vistas. Here are some photos:

Maunganui Sea Lettuce

Maunganui Sea Lettuce


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Saturday after a quick skype session we aimed the Capella towards Rotorua for one last go. We've talked about Rotorua a lot on this blog, because it's such a cool place and there is sooo much to do. Bronte's favourite place in all of New Zealand (so far), is Wai-o-tapu in Rotorua, and so we thought we'd visit it one last time. If you'd like to go, you can visit it overhead here. There were subtle changes since the last time we visited - back in February it wasn't quite as orange and green. Despite short sections of heavy acidic mist by the antimony-ringed Champagne Pool, we left quite happy. Here's a photo and a video:

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From there we drove a short way down the road to Rainbow Mountain. After munching some lunch, we hiked partway up the colourful hunk of rock before moving on to our next destination. Here's what we saw:

Rotorua Rainbow Mountain Crater Lake

Rotorua Rainbow Mountain Crater Lake

Onto "The Redwoods" we went. After cruising the gift shop, we took in a short loop walk through the forest. We'd been here before too, but the magesty of the towering trees was something we had to see one more time. Here's a view:

Rotorua Redwoods stroll

Rotorua Redwoods stroll

Finally, we made our way into town and called in to Lady Janes for an ice cream cone before piling back into the Capella and returning home to Tauranga. Following a short rest, we headed over to the home of Jenn's work colleague Lesley (whose son was in Jenn's Gr. 12 class too), where we had an extremely tasty traditional kiwi meal of pumpkin soup, lamb roast, and pavlova. We had a great time chatting with our kiwi hosts who are all so incredibly friendly.

Sunday came and after a lazy morning of pancakes and skype, Jenn and Bronte went shopping on The Strand. Meanwhile, Tim and Jack collected Jack's friend-from-school Ryan and headed over to Memorial Park for a play. A lot of climbing and train riding later, they returned to the house for a couple of games of handball on the driveway. Here's Jack and Ryan:

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Our week came to an end after Bronte's final underwater hockey session was cancelled when one of the pool crew put triple the amount of chlorine as required into the pool. We'll wrap up the hockey next week instead! So there you have it, another week done. The planning for the end of the school year continues, and we are getting positively giddy about our South Island trip following that. Drop back in next week for another installment!

Posted by tcrons 21:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Bathing in Kerosene

sunny 19 °C

Another exciting week has faded into the sunset of our time in New Zealand, and once again it was filled with plenty of bling. We learned, we slapped pucks, reunited with friends, and put ourselves in precarious situations. All in the name of memories! Go ahead and don your fire-retardant gear, for we are ready to describe it all:

Things got off to a quick start, and by the end of Tuesday we had a couple of non-routine things under our belts. First the haircut-that-Jack-hates was inflicted upon him, and then that evening Tim took him to the Mount Action Centre for some inline hockey training. Jack was invited to train with a group of older boys, and Tuesday he excitedly stepped onto the "ice". He soon learned that although most of the boys had never skated on real ice before, they certainly knew how to ring the pucks off the crossbar. By the end of the session Jack was exhausted but happy. Here he is in action:

Tauranga_J.._hockey.jpg

On Wednesday Bronte had the opportunity to travel to Auckland with some of her schoolmates to hear the Auckland Symphony Orchestra perform. It was part of a school-based program and while Bronte really enjoyed the two pieces they played, she reported that the rest of the program was aimed a bit young. While that was happening, Jenn was busily teaching her classes - as well as breaking up a heated shoving match in the classroom. She showed those boys her Chuck Norris stance and they soon settled down to give the attention they usually give to Jenn's lessons. Meanwhile, Tim hiked the Aongatete Swimming Holes trail, and while the water was bone-chillingly cold to the touch, it would be a great place to have a dip in the summer. Here's a sample of the scenery:

Aongatete waterfall

Aongatete waterfall

Nothing happened on Thursday except a lot of cleaning of the house.

Friday saw the return of our Canadian friends the Allores, back from their salmonella-fest in Fiji. We quickly hooked them all up to IVs and fed them therapeutic slices of Banoffee Pie until they were fully recovered. At nightfall we could see the fireworks of Guy Fawkes Night in the distance. Apparently Guy Fawkes was some dude who was involved in some plot to overthrow the government of England back in the 1600's, but the details of why this is celebrated with fireworks and burning effigies is lost on us. If you really want to know more, click here.

Saturday was a day of major excitement. In a fit of poor parenting, Jenn and Tim put Bronte and Jack in harm's way when they went to tour White Island - an active marine volcano 49 km off the New Zealand coast, and which you can see overhead here. Hopefully you won't be rolling your eyes thinking, "Great, another volcano story". If you are, you can just shut your computer down right now, because that's exactly what this is! After our survival a couple of weeks ago when visiting Mt. Ruapehu, we decided to risk life and limb again and take a stroll around New Zealand's other active volcano - White Island. This is what we saw as the boat approached:

White Island Panorama

White Island Panorama

Along with the Allores who were right there with us, we were handed hardhats and gas masks on the boat, and we were then piled into a Zodiac and motored across the last stretch of water to the shore of the island itself. The guides lead us around the place, stopping frequently to describe the features. One such feature is an old sulphur mine. Back in the early part of 19th century there was mining operation that, despite several owners, only managed to kill numerous workers rather than turn any kind of profit. A Canadian company was one of the owners. Long, tragic story short, the crater collapsed and the wave of debris swept 10 miners to their deaths. Eventually the operation was abandoned around 1933 and the island volcano was sold to the Buttle family, who still own it today (imagine owning your own volcano!). Although it was a pretty cool (irony) place to be, it was not somewhere you'd want to spend any more than a couple of hours. Content with the knowledge that the thing hadn't erupted since 2000 (hey, that's 10 long years ago!), we followed along and took in stuff like this:

White Island walking to the crater

White Island walking to the crater

White Island Cronsberrys by raging fumerole

White Island Cronsberrys by raging fumerole

White Island Bronte Jack

White Island Bronte Jack

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We eventually found our way to the heart of the crater itself where there was a steaming pond of green acid. The guide informed us that the measured pH of the lake is -0.5. We did not go any further! Wearing the provided gas mask was a must owing to the fog drifting off the surface of the pond, and it didn't take long for us to move on. Here's a view of said lake:

White Island Crater Acid

White Island Crater Acid

The tour brought us to a spot where there were chunks of sulphur lying about, and the guide even stopped us at a stream trickling along towards the ocean, where he encouraged us to taste it. He then laughed hysterically as we were all burned by acid. Just kidding. Jack did taste the water and didn't really think it tasted like anything, despite the guide then informing us that some people think it tastes like blood. Here's more photos:

White Island Bronte with sulphur nugget

White Island Bronte with sulphur nugget

White Island Jack tasting the water

White Island Jack tasting the water

Eventually we came to the remains of the sulphur mine where the processing was done. It was strew with the detritus of a bygone time. You can see more photos of the place by clicking here. Here's a video of our travels:

Safely back on the boat, we began heading around the island before returning to the mainland. We were visited by a humpback whale, but its appearance was brief and the location of its next breath unpredicatable, so you'll have to wait for a few weeks before we can show you photos of other whales.

On Sunday we had a quick breakfast and then headed out Rotorua way with the Allores to hike a trail by Lake Okataina. It was a pleasant walk, but terribly short. Jenn enjoyed chasing Jack and battling for photo supremacy. Afterwards we lunched by the lakeside before heading to our next destination. Here's some proof:

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After lunch we drove to the low-profile but really nifty attraction called Kerosene Creek, which you can see overhead here. This creek is fed by a thermal hot spring and is quite picturesque, with steaming water gurgling along a twisty little creek bed. There are two waterfalls along the creek - the first quite small with a little pool big enough for 3 or 4 people, and further downstream a larger, deeper pool with a more powerful, but still small, waterfall. We changed in the bushes and plunged into the water. It was very relaxing, albeit a bit smelly owing to the mineral content. Digging our toes into the gravel at the bottom of the pool reminded us of Hot Water Beach! Here are some photos:

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Following that relaxing dip, we journeyed back to our house in Tauranga. Tim and Paul Allore made a batch of fudge for Jenn to take to work the next day, and the kids watched Wipeout. All in all, it was another spectacular week!

Posted by tcrons 20:01 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Te Waihou - The Blue Spring

sunny 19 °C

The past week was lower-key for us, until the weekend of course when we staged a dinner for kiwi friends, had a party, and drank from a puddle. It was a far cry from the magesty of snow-capped peaks that we walked amongst the previous week, but our pulses still quickened. The past week has really lifted our spirits as well (don't get the wrong idea - we haven't been depressed or anything of the sort), because summer is arriving. It's been sunshine pretty much every day and the temperatures are climbing back to make this the New Zealand we were greeted by some nine and a half months ago. Now, on with the show this is it:

Nothing really happened of note until Thursday. Our Canadian friends the Allores returned to our home in Tauranga once again for a few days before they jetted off to Fiji for a week. Bronte took advantage of the opportunity and brought Claire along to school with her for the morning. Claire apparently had a great time meeting Bronte's friends, seeing the school campus, assisting Mr. Arthur (Bronte's teacher) with a math lesson, and meeting Mr. Diver (the school principal). While all that was happening, Tim and the rest of the Allore Clan walked the beach for a bit. Tim commented that he really needs to start spending more time at the ocean as soon it will be far far away. Here's an image captured on that particular beach excursion:

Maunganui View Down the Beach

Maunganui View Down the Beach

Jenn's excitement for Thursday was "Restaurant Night" at Tauranga Boys College. This event sees a quiet portion of the school transformed into a restaurant where the evening is catered by the students. Jenn had a great time sitting with her teaching colleagues and she reported that the food was spectacular. She returned home nicely sated. Everyone else in the house had to settle for Tim's efforts at BBQ steak - luckily there's still some Montreal Steak Spice in the house from the last import.

On Friday Tim prepped for the evening meal which would see our kiwi friends the Dixons over, while the Allores made their way to Auckland to board their flight to a tropical paradise. Dinner went well, and afterwards Aaron and Tim took the boys, Ryan and Jack, to the Mount Action Centre for inline skating while Jenn and Deb cleaned up (how fair is that??). During this episode Jack was invited to attend training for the peewee inline hockey group on Tuesday nights. He's pretty excited about getting back into hockey, so we'll give it a go.

On Saturday we entered phase 2 of Bronte's Birthday Celebrations. In preparation for the festivities, Jenn baked a scrumptious birthday cake. Meanwhile Tim washed the Capella, and prettied up the lawn. After Bronte's friends arrived, the fun started. Tim took the crew to Baywave for a go at the wave pool and water slide. Then it was pizza and cake, followed by some outside gaming. Although it was certainly the longest birthday party we've ever hosted, we think everyone had fun. Here's a couple o' photos:

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Sunday was a day for hiking. The sun was out, and half of the Cronsberry family was anxious for the fresh air and the New Zealand landscape. As all of us except Bronte have been battling colds over the past week, we wanted to get out of the house. Joined by part of the Dixon crew, our destination that day was the Te Waihou Walkway. This particular spot was spotted the previous weekend as we drove past on the way back from Tongariro. The large sign and the jammed parking lot told us that there must be something worth looking at, so after some research we decided we had to go. With lunch packed, we set out and were not disappointed. From the moment we saw the river running alongside the trail we knew it would be a smile-fest. The trail followed the Waihou Stream as it wound through the valley. The further upstream we went, the clearer the water seemed to get. It seemed like the perfect spot to float along on an inner tube on a hot day, until we touched the water and found it to be a tad chilly! As we rounded a bend in the trail, the water started to become intensly blue, and so clear you could see right to the bottom (sure, the stream wasn't really that deep, but the water was incredibly clear). We even spied some reasonable sized trout in a couple of the deeper pools. Here's the scene:

Te Waihou River from Above

Te Waihou River from Above

Eventually we came to a place called the Blue Spring, which you can see overhead here. We discovered it is very appropriately named. We rested and had lunch beside an area where the river widened a bit and where there was a pool of the bluest water we'd ever seen in our lives. The Waihou Stream is quite the thing - it is fed by several springs that bubble out of the ground further upstream at a rate of 42 cubic metres per minute. Whether it be winter or summer, the temperature of the water is a constant 11 degrees. Apparently, the high clarity and intensely blue hue of the water results from its pureness. The blueness results from the absorption of red light (leaving blue), and the clarity comes from the lack of particles which are filtered out during the extrordinarily long time the water takes to make its way through the aquifer (up to 100 years from the Mamakau Plateau above). Here's more photo evidence:

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Being in the presence of such a postcard-like place, we lost our normally cautious heads and dipped our drink bottles directly into the stream. Tim's Public Health Inspector colleagues back in Canada will likely think that he will finally get the water-borne illness he has deserved for so long, but there's actually little fear of illness. The nearby town of Putaruru draws its water supply directly from this stream, and does not treat it before distribution to houses! We'll report back next week if we experienced any cramping. As a final look at the area, here's a video:

We made our way back to the car, and from there went to our next quick stop - the Arapuni Swing Bridge, which you can see overhead here. This is a foot bridge that crosses a gorge over the Waikato River. The dam is further upstream and the accompanying hydro station 50-some metres below the bridge has been around since 1929. Hello vertigo. Here's Jack testing out the worthiness of the engineering marvel:

Arapuni Jack on Swing Bridge

Arapuni Jack on Swing Bridge

That was it for the sight-seeing. Should you wish to see more photos of the Te Waihou Walk, click here. We headed back to Tauranga and readied ourselves for the next event - Bronte's underwater hockey. We did that, and Bronte had a lot of fun despite another thrashing by the other team. Although it was Halloween, back at the ranch we didn't really participate! We had candy ready, but the event isn't fussed over here at all. Sure, we saw a small handful of kids out in costume, but nothing like back home. Instead, we were content to watch the first half of The Cronicles of Narnia - Prince Caspian. The movie was shot here in New Zealand, and once again it was pretty cool to see spots on the screen that we could identify because we had visited them before. So that's it, we went to bed and the week was done.

Watch next week for a return to the volcanic scene again, this time on the crater lip of an actual steaming, bubbling, fully active volcano. If we don't get overwhelmed by fumes we'll report back with photos and video same time next week. Have a great one!

Posted by tcrons 16:50 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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