A Travellerspoint blog

The Blue Lake, Choral Mania, and Tectonic Shifts

rain 14 °C
View Rotorua September 4 on tcrons's travel map.

The theme for this past week was illness as each of us was hit with a cold. But that didn't stop us from getting out and infecting others, and we ended up with a fairly exciting week filled with a return to nice scenery, a taste from home, proud parent moments, and another visitor. Here we go:

Jack blazed the illness trail on Sunday last, and by Monday he was not fit to go to school. Tim re-arranged his hectic schedule and put his nursing skills to work to allow Jack the best opportunity to recover. The two of them spent the day reading and playing chess and going through an entire box of tissues. By Monday evening Jenn began to feel her cold starting, followed closely by Tim on Tuesday. By Tuesday night Bronte was fully infected as well.

Wednesday had Tim once again juggling his commitments to stay home with Bronte, and it worked, for she felt much better by Thursday morning. Thursday's rain wasn't forecast to start until noon, so Tim dove at the chance to escape the house and motored the Capella to Rotorua to hike Rainbow Mountain, which you can see overhead here. Almost one hour from locking up the Capella, Tim arrived at the summit - a towering 748 metres above. On the way up it became abundantly clear why the rise was named as it was. Even the mud on the trail was an interesting mix of reds, orange, brown, and yellow. There will be more to say about Rainbow Mountain in a future post as it is a place to where the whole family will return. Here's a couple of views from the summit:

Rotorua Rainbow Mountain Summit

Rotorua Rainbow Mountain Summit


Following his descent, Tim drove down the road to check out another spot the family will return to - a hot water stream. We'll hold off telling you any more or showing photos of that, as it will be a major focus of an upcoming post. The rain conveniently began to fall as Tim climbed back into the car and made his way back to Tauranga. Thursday got a lot better that evening, as it was the night for Jack's choral performance with the school choir. The primary schools in Tauranga have a wonderful gig going when it comes to choir - they put on a common performance at the local theatre. Throughout the year each choir has been working on songs fitting the theme of the performance, and this year it was The Beatles. Each school choir (from about seven different schools) all assemble on stage together. Some of the songs are sung together, but each school choir has a turn coming down to the front of the stage to strut their individual stuff. They all did really well, and we had a wonderful time watching Jack and the others entertain. Here's a couple of photos and a video:


On Friday it was Jenn's turn to stay home sick from school. She had been battling all week to stay upright, but a day of rest at home was what she needed. She rested, but as she is a teacher she was compelled to work for a good chunk of the day as well.

On Saturday we experienced something rather unusual. There was an odd, bright orb shining in the sky. As we hadn't seen anything like it during a weekend in quite some time, we made some enquiries and discovered that it was the sun!! We got rather charged up about that, so after soccer we flung ourselves into the loving seats of the Capella, and headed to Rotorua. We have mentioned Rotorua often in this blog, as there is simply so much to see and do there. As our time is steadily ticking by in New Zealand we decided that some of the things on our Rotorua list needed to be experienced before we run out of time. Our first stop was the Buried Village, which you can see overhead here. The land protrusion into the lake on the right edge is Mt Tarawera, and factors importantly into the history of the Buried Village. You may recall on a posting long in the past that we wrote of Mt Tarawera after we saw it as part of our tour of the Waiwangu Thermal Area. Mt. Tarawera is a "dormant" volcano which, in 1886, blew up. They thought it was dormant back then too. With the eruption, the pink and white terraces (one of the natural wonders of the world) were destroyed, and the village of Te Wairoa was buried in ash, rock, and lava. Parts of the village have been unearthed and this is what we toured through. It was interesting seeing the half-buried remains of Whare (Maori houses), a flour mill, a hotel, and other landmarks. Here's a photo:

Rotorua Buried Village

Rotorua Buried Village

Rotorua Jenn at Buried Village

Rotorua Jenn at Buried Village

The last bit of the tour took us down a trail past Wairere Falls (not Waiere Falls that we have visited numerous times previously). This is a 30 metre tumble for the Wairoa Stream over the Waitoharuru cliffs. Although this part of the tour was a short one, it felt really great to get back to hiking, which had been all but eliminated from our routine over the past months and months and months and months of rain. Here are some photos:


We dug ourselves out of that attraction, and headed down the road to have a gander at Lake Tarawera. We paused at a lookout and grabbed this photo:

Rotorua Bronte Jack at Tarawera Lookout

Rotorua Bronte Jack at Tarawera Lookout

Back into the Capella we climbed, and then drove back down the road in the direction we'd come to arrive at the other hike for the day. We parked on the shores of the Blue Lake, which you can see overhead here. We walked the trail around the lake, pausing at the halfway mark for this photo:

Rotorua Bronte Jack by the Blue Lake

Rotorua Bronte Jack by the Blue Lake

Back in Tauranga, Bronte made a very tasty mushroom pasta for dinner. The other significant event on Saturday was of course the sizable earthquake. The quake registered 7.1 and was centred in Darfield which is about 40 km west of Christchurch on the South Island, and which you can see overhead here. We live in Tauranga which you can see at the top of the map in that link, some 730 km north of Darfield. We didn't feel the quake at all, but our thoughts are with our fellow kiwigians who are dealing with the damage.

On Sunday we headed out to Greerton (a suburb of Tauranga) to splash around in the community pool. We took along a mask and snorkel so that we could all practice our technique in preparation for our upcoming trip to Australia (only three weeks away!). We can't wait to experience the Great Barrier Reef, and want to spend less time fiddling with equipment and more time chasing after the white-tipped reef sharks with the bloody chum that we'll carry with us to attract them. Leaving the pool, we booted over to SpecSavers to pick up Bronte's glasses, now outfitted with her prescription. Ready for the unveiling? Here is Bronte's new look:


Sunday lunch saw 3/4 of the family dining on Kraft Dinner. We were fortunate to have acquired three boxes of the stuff from some Kiwis recently returned from the Great White North, and every mouthful was savoured from box #1. Tim had a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Following lunch, Tim and Jack made cookies. The stage was then set for the next in our line of visitors, and later in the afternoon we picked her up from Bronte's school. This coming week will see the 2010 AIMS Games being held in Tauranga, and we signed up to billet a student from another school. Our student visitor is here from Christchurch where she lives. We weren't sure that she'd be coming because of the earthquake, but she reported that her house wasn't too badly damaged (a few cracked windows and a couple of doors that will no longer close). After bringing Fuotai to the house and settling her in, we had a quick spagetti dinner and then headed back out to participate in the opening ceremonies for the AIMS Games (btw, AIMS stands for Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools). What a spectacle! There are just under 4000 students taking part in competition within 14 different sporting events from Squash to Waterpolo. Our billet is on the basketball team for her school. The opening ceremonies was an eclectic mix of entertainment and messages. The gig opened with a set by the musical group RPM, the lead singer of which was also a soloist in Jack's choral performance mentioned above (although this kid goes to a different school than Jack). The band is made up of a 14 year old basist, and three boys aged 12 - it was amazing to hear how many songs they played! This was followed by the Otumoetai College Kapa Haka group which demonstrated a traditional Maori dance and haka. We also heard an inspirational talk from Danyon Loader, a kiwi swimmer who hauled in the medals at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. There was a performance by beatboxer Andre Harris, who you can see in a video clip doing his thing here. Although it may not be your thing, it's truly amazing to know that this guy is making all of these sounds himself simultaneously. Finally, there was a performance by 2009 World Hip Hop Champions (yes, apparently there's a title for that) - Sweet and Sour. What a great event!

As we're sure you'll agree, it was a fantastic week. We're hoping that the coming week will bring us more sun, although that's unlikely. Despite that, we'll tell it like it is same time next week.

Posted by tcrons 17:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Earthquake News

sunny 14 °C

Some of you may have heard that there was a rather large earthquake this morning in New Zealand. It was on the South Island in the city of Christchurch. Though they said the quake was large enough to have been felt here, we didn't feel a thing. So, no impact on us, though we are supposed to be having a student from Christchurch arrive tomorrow to billet with us for the week while Bronte's school hosts the national intermediate schools' sport competitions. Haven't heard if their plans will change.

So no worries! We're all good here and heading to Rotorua to enjoy a sunny Saturday - nice change from the rain.

Posted by tcrons 16:05 Comments (1)

Boiling Mud, Works of Art, and Medieval Weaponry

all seasons in one day 14 °C

Having a visitor staying with us over the better part of the past week was a joy, and it gave us cause to show off some of the highlights of our experiences. As you may remember from the last post, Tim's cousin Dorothy was visiting from Taiwan. Tim acted as tour guide and drove Dorothy from hell's half-acre to the soccer pitch. She was likely glad to head back home for a rest!

As mentioned above, we started on Monday at hells half-acre (or half-hectare since New Zealand has fully embraced the metric system). Tim took Dorothy to Wai-o-tapu in Rotorua. You may remember this volcanic zone from a much earlier post (shortly after we arrived in NZ). Dorothy was suitably impressed with Tim's expert knowledge of the minerals present in the toxic soup scattered throughout the area. At the end of the tour, they stopped at the boiling mud pool which was a new spot for Tim. It was amazing to watch the fury of New Zealand's formerly-largest mud volcano, which has now been reduced to a large pond burping like Uncle Festus after Christmas dinner. Here's some pics:





Following the mud-fest, Tim and Dorothy went into Rotorua-proper and had lunch at the Solace Cafe. As Dorothy was in the mood for lamb (they had seen many of the cute fuzzy little morsels prancing around in the paddocks during the morning drive), she ordered the "Lamb's Fry" special. It was an education for both of them when she discovered at the first taste that it was a generous helping of organ meat - liver to be precise. After some hurried discussion with the cafe staff, Dorothy got her lunch sorted and left happy in the end.

Tuesday was a day for soccer. This time it was Jack's school team playing in the "Sevens" event. Sevens is a sport program encompassing seven different sports (soccer, rugby, netball, field hockey, and three others that escape memory). The goal is to encourage participation of each and every child at the elementary school level in one of these sports. Teams play in mini-tournaments against other schools; the winners moving on to a regional competition. Jack's team won their first game but then lost the next two. It was a fun day though, and one that saw Jenn able to duck out of school early to catch the final match and to snap a few photos, one of which magically appears below:



On Wednesday Tim took Dorothy to Katikati, a small town about 30 minutes drive from Tauranga, and which you can see overhead here. They strolled along and called into many of the little craft shops before lunching at Cafe @ The Balcony. Following this little excursion, they made their way back to Tauranga and over to Kaiate Falls. You may remember this spot from an earlier blog post as well. Dorothy's camera was moving with blinding speed as they picked their way down the damp trail. Here's a couple of photos taken before they began the ascent:

Dorothy at Kaiate

Dorothy at Kaiate

Tim on Kaiate bridge

Tim on Kaiate bridge

There were other significant happenings on Wednesday as well. It's speech time at Jack's school, so on Wednesday he spoke to his class about the greatest sport in the world - hockey. It went well and we're sure it will result in the building of an arena here and the formation of a league. As Wednesday was also Tim's birthday, the whole crew showered him with what he deserved, and then went out for dinner to the Chinatown Restaurant, which you can see overhead here. Having been living in Taiwan for the past number of years, Dorothy was particularly deft with the chopsticks - so after presenting each of the family members with their very own set (complete with attractive carrying cases), we tucked into the meal. Contrary to our previous Chinese Food experience at Kwang Chow (which was really not very good at all), Chinatown received an enthusiastic cheer from the whole family. We wrapped up the day back at the house with Dorothy demonstrating the Taiwanese Tea Ceremony. After a series of tastings we called it a day. Here's some photos:

Cronsberry family at Chinatown restaurant

Cronsberry family at Chinatown restaurant


Thursday was the day for Dorothy to return to Auckland in preparation for her flight back to Taiwan. Following the goodbyes and sincere thanks from all of us, Tim drove Dorothy to Auckland, stopping briefly in Waihi for a gander at the gold mine we showed you in an earlier post. Once again it was great to have a visitor as we love playing the role of local experts. We think that Dorothy had fun too! Thursday evening the whole family strolled down the street to Jack's school for the "Skool Stars" unveiling. This involved the viewing of a DVD featuring all of the classes singing and dancing to karaoke versions of pop songs both new and old. To our dismay there were no renditions of any songs by Whitesnake, so instead our favourites included "Splish Splash" by the youngest students, and of course "Black or White" by Jack's class. We had no trouble buying a copy of the DVD, and will arrange special viewings for each of you upon our return home.

The weekend brought with it a mix of weather, and as a result we had no idea what to do with ourselves. After the usual soccer in the morning, we headed over to Bethlehem College to stroll through their annual Art Exhibition. We were so glad that we did! This event is a fundraiser for the school, and brings in works from New Zealand artists which raises around $25k through sales of the art. As we were in the market for a special souvenir, we spied numerous pieces that fit the bill. In the end, Colleen Tetley's "North of Colville" won our hearts, so we laid down the plastic. As we are now the official owners, we have the right to reproduce the image below:



Now we just need to figure out how to get it home safely! As we really weren't sure if it was going to rain, storm, or shine, we drove to Mt. Maunganui and walked along the beach. It was so nice having our shoes off walking in the sand once again. Even though the water is still rather frigid, spring is definitely just around the corner.

Sunday was another day of bizarre weather which forced us to not go too far. Jenn took Bronte to the local mall to shop for some clothes for our upcoming trip to Australia, but more importantly to get Bronte's eyes checked. There has been growing evidence that some ocular intervention is required for Bronte, and Sunday was the day. The verdict is that indeed Bronte requires glasses for reading. The frames will be ready in two weeks and we'll post a picture of Bronte modelling her new look then, but for now here's a photo of her, all doe-eyed from the eye drops:



The tragedy according to Bronte was that because of the eyedrops she couldn't read for the rest of the day. Exiting the mall to return home we encountered another first for us here in New Zealand. A thunderstorm! The thunder boomed and the lightening flashed and a deluge pounded us briefly during the drive home. Jenn was as calm as you would have expected her to be during all this. Arriving home, Tim and Jack set to work on a project Jack was interested in - building a catapult. Although a full scale backyard model capable of launching cattle would have been great, we have very little in the way of tools here, so a tabletop version had to suffice. You can refer to the same instructions here if you want to build your own, and you can see the finished product in this photo:


Following this victory, Tim made pizza dough. Then it was time to pick up our painting, as the Bethlehem Art Exhibition was to close at 4 pm. Bronte and Tim headed over and as luck would have it, they got to meet the artist! Tim recognised her from all of the international media attention as she walked past, and after convincing her entourage that we were not unstable, chatted with her for a few moments. Turns out she prefers painting with oils rather than the acrylics used in the painting we bought.

Anywho, that was pretty much Sunday. After dinner we watched "Wipeout" and gave Jack our sympathies as his health was rapidly deteriorating owing to the coronavirus invading his body. We're hoping for reasonable weather next weekend so that we might finally be able to return to our hiking regimen and bring you the high quality video documentation that you demand. Until then, mind your sprogs.

And as always, there are even more photos in the photo gallery, which you can connect to here.

Posted by tcrons 17:32 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Social Dancing and a Visitor from Taiwan

rain 15 °C

Although nothing too dazzling happened over the past week, there were some high points that served to keep our week interesting.

On Monday Tim cleaned the oven, and likely shortened his life by several weeks inhaling the corrosive vapours liberated from Mr. Muscle's nozzle. We're all clean now though, and the taste of the cooking is sure to improve dramatically!

On Tuesday Tim (and some other parents) joined Bronte and her fellow Mandarin speech team for a celebratory lunch at her school with the Principal and other members of the staff. It was really great to see that the school values events like this and encourages the students so much to achieve. The lunch itself wasn't too shabby either and included homemade pies. Now, for those unschooled in kiwi-speak, "pies" does not refer to the sweet variety. Kiwis love their "meat" pies and you can find these morsels for sale in every lunch bar and bakery you see (and there are a tonne of those outlets). There are many many varieties - Tim's personal favourite being the steak and mushroom pie. Anyway, with bellies full, Bronte returned to class and Tim returned to no-class (many would argue he never left). At the end of the day briefing, Jenn reported that she had survived Tuesday just fine. Tuesday is her most taxing day of the week where she teaches six straight classes - a couple of them populated with boys who have yet to discover the joys of learning. Satisfied that we had gotten all we could out of the day, we proceeded on to Wednesday.

Nothing really happened on Wednesday other than it marked the re-emergence of swimming into Tim's routine (now that he's hung up his running shoes). So far the training for his cross-Tasman attempt is going well.

Thursday was exciting! After working out in the yard getting rid of the detritus of the winter months, Tim baked chocolate chip cookies for Bronte to take to her social dance event. Social Dance is a compulsory unit at Bronte's school, and it culminates in an event where parents attend and participate in the dances. Bronte learned the Waltz, Jive, and the Gay Gordon. Jenn took this one while Tim stayed home with Jack and read a couple of chapters of The Red Pyramid. The preparations for the evening were full of laughter and smiles, despite Bronte's insistence that it was going to be torture. Here's Bronte's feelings on the whole thing, followed by a photo of her about to head out the door:

Hello to any kids my age reading this. My social dance was ok. It was not fun wearing a dress but seeing my friends dressed up was cool. Dancing was not the greatest, but I survived. And there was great food that kids brought in. Missing friends and warm weather.


Friday arrived and found Tim booking more hotels and other accomodations for upcoming trips. Saturday demanded that preparations for a special visitor be continued in earnest. Tim's third cousin, whom he has never met, was to come for a visit on Sunday. Dorothy currently lives in Taiwan where she teaches English, but has vacationed in New Zealand several times before. Our presence here gave her a great reason to visit again. After making a carrot cake (which turned out this time), and a lasagne in preparation for Sunday, the family then took a break and headed out for dinner with our friends the Dixons. We went to the Tauranga Game Fish Club, which you can see overhead here. A great evening was had by all, and we celebrated that fact by returning home and watching Alice in Wonderland.

Just before lunch on Sunday, Dorothy arrived - escorted by her two friends from Auckland. It was great chatting with Dorothy and getting to know this long lost relative! After lunch, we whisked Dorothy off to the Mount to stroll around the base in the face of fairly gorgeous weather. Here's Jenn and Dorothy relaxing afterwards with a nice mug of tea:


That's pretty much it! The coming week will have Tim showing Dorothy the sites before escorting her back to Auckland on Thursday.

Posted by tcrons 21:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Flying Motorised Wheelbarrows

rain 13 °C

The past week was another low key one for us, and when the weekend arrived, so did the rain. The unfortunate consequence was that we didn't experience the usual white-knuckling adrenaline rush that you've come to expect us to report on every week. Regardless, we hope you don't stop your vicarious enjoyment of our time in New Zealand.

The earliest bit of excitement came on Tuesday, and it was a double-header. After his painting class, Tim headed to Mt. Maunganui as the day was awash in brilliant sunshine and warmer temperatures than we had seen in a while. Tim headed up the trail to the summit and was met half an hour later with this scene:


There appeared to be an unusual amount of activity up top, with lots of people in brightly coloured vests guarding an area cordoned off with cones and signs. While attempting to descend, Tim was detained and he thought that the jig was finally up - that his dream of a life devoid of stress was about to be ripped from hands softened by months of sloth. Fortunately, it was just some catastrophic accident that they were cleaning up. It seems that the day previous a crew had been working on a viewing platform on the summit when a "motorised wheelbarrow" went over the edge and plunged 40 metres down the cliff to the section of trail below. Worse still was that that fierce gladiator who goes by the name "gravity" unleased his wrath on the operator as well, who followed the piece of equipment down the cliff, landing on top of it. Fortunately, the operator was OK (hello miracle). On the day Tim was there, a helicopter was being brought in to hoist the piece of equipment off the side of the mount. As he really had nothing better to do, Tim kicked back and watched the extraction, shouting advice to the helicopter pilot and the newspaper photographer in turn.

That evening the excitement continued as Bronte set to creating a confectionary delight for the gastronomic pleasure of the family. She sculpted lovely chocolate cupcakes which we enjoyed well into the densest part of the week. Here's what the unveiling looked like:


By Thursday Tim and Jenn had locked in dates for our trip to the South Island, and Tim started booking accomodation on Friday. Despite that trip being some four months away, we're already giddy with excitement over it, as the things we'll see are tremendous. Tim rose extraordinarily early on Friday morning to take part in a summer picnic with his work colleagues back home, but alas the internet was not cooperating and he had to be content just imagining what the conversation was like. As a consolation, a few hours later he tried to bake butter tarts for the third time since arriving on New Zealand soil, and once again failed so miserably that it will not be attempted again until we're back home.

Saturday brought lots and lots and lots of rain. We slowly awoke trying to ignore the need to rise and take Bronte and Jack to soccer, but finally got them up too and ready to leave. It was like walking the Green Mile here, but just as we were about to slip on our gum boots and unmoor the boat, there was a last-minute text from the Governor, and a stay was granted for both Bronte and Jack. It seems that the coaches don't enjoy soccer in a deluge any more than the parents, and for that we were grateful! We celebrated by heading off to the library. Later that day Jack and Tim ventured back out into the still-pouring rain to take in a pro rugby game. It was the Bay of Plenty Steamers going heads to heads with the Auckland Creampuffs at the stadium which is just minutes from our house, and which you can see overhead here. Although they were prepared to float along with the others in general admission, it turns out the seats were covered! Here's Jack at the event:

Jack watching BOP Steamers vs Auckland Creampuffs

Jack watching BOP Steamers vs Auckland Creampuffs

It was fun watching the players splash about on the field, but Tim & Jack didn't last the whole match, especially since the Steamers were down 11-6 at the half (they ended up losing by that same score). The lure of a warm mug of tea was too great. We wrapped up Saturday by watching "The Hurt Locker" and "Astro Boy", but not in that order.

Sunday it was still raining. After a great skype session with the Cronsberry clan we headed out to watch the Tauranga Boys College field hockey team in their match against the Auckland Puppies. The myth of the hardy Kiwi was further smashed when we arrived to find that the game had been cancelled as the turf was saturated. Disappointed, we returned home and started a fire. In the fireplace. We wiled away the day until late afternoon when it appeared the weather was breaking somewhat. We dove at the opportunity and jumped into the Capella, steering it through the streets of Tauranga to The Cargo Shed, which is a market for artists, carvers, and crafters to hawk their wares. Not finding much of interest, we proceeded on to the Gordon Carmichael Reserve in Bethlehem which you can see overhead here. We had a walk around the estuary and were surprised to catch our first glimpse of black swans as well as a flock of what appeared to be Canada geese. Although the walk wasn't a huge one it was great to get out of the house.

So now you know about our week. How was yours?

Posted by tcrons 02:26 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

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