A Travellerspoint blog

How Do You Say "Birthday" in Mandarin?

sunny 13 °C

There goes another week wooshing by us like a blokart under full sail. It was a rather mellow week by current standards, but we still generated some great memories, though not a lot of photos! Until Thursday it was really just a lot of Tim booking flights, ferry passage, and baches. Thursday was a day of celebration though, including a birthday, cultural performances, and a lot of speeches that were difficult to understand.

The normal Thursday non-routine was broken when Tim met Bronte in front of the library at Tauranga Intermediate School. From there, he expertly guided the Capella to Rotorua whilst hauling the precious cargo of Bronte, two schoolmates, and their Mandarin teacher. The final destination was Rotorua Boys High School where Bronte and seven other students from her school were participating in a Mandarin speech competition. The students in Bronte's house (Totara) take Mandarin lessons, and they had the opportunity to participate in this competition. Although the speeches were short, the diction was melodic and by the end Tim and the other non-speakers could piece together some idea of the various topics. In the end, Bronte's school mates took first and second place in the Junior category. Bronte spoke to the crowd about her brother and it was fantastic! Here's an inexpertly-shot video of the speech, as well as a photo taken moments before the big show:



The next item on the Thursday agenda was phase one of the celebration of the birth of Jenn some decades previous. We had a hurried dinner at home and then got right to the gift-giving. Jack sketched two very attractive pieces (his style is becoming more in the spirit of Degas - an evolution of sorts from his earlier Jackson Pollock phase) depicting Jenn and the family engaged in visiting exotic destinations. From Bronte Jenn received a gorge plaque with a poem Bronte had written (in perfect iambic pentameter). Here goes the poem:

Peace child, peace child
The house is safe
The danger gone.
Sleep child, sleep child
Dream happy dreams.
For tomorrow the world
Is your playground.
Remember to stay in the present
What's done is done.
Remember I love you
I love you forever more.

Not bad eh? eecummings eaTyour Hear tout

As the tradition to sing that ageless tune could not be overlooked, our niece and nephew (Laura and Blake), sent the attached gift as demonstration of their angelic origins:


We then rushed out of the house and over to Tauranga Intermediate to take in the cultural performance being staged at the school. The school hall was adorned with displays each of the classes had created as part of a country study they had been undertaking. Bronte's class was in charge of educating about Japan, and as part of the display they folded 1000 paper cranes! When the show got underway we were greeted by displays of musical prowess from several of the school rock bands, followed by a Korean Fan dance, Bollywood dances, and a fashion show featuring design creations by the school's group of young designers. It was a really great show and we left impressed!

We couldn't fit anything else into Thursday, so we moved on to Friday. It had been "Reading Week" at Jack's school all week, and on Friday the kids got a chance to dress up as a character from a story. As is our tradition, we didn't think of this until the very last minute, but pulled off a rather nice Indiana Jones. Here's Jack:



After reenacting the perils of Indiana on the way to school, Tim returned to the house and crafted a chocolate turtle cheesecake in honour of phase two of Jenn's birthday celebration. No photos of that one because we ate it too quickly. It was delish. After the school day finished, Tim Bronte and Jack set off to collect Jenn from work. As it turned out, Jenn had a pretty exciting day too. Here's a clip from the newspaper interview:

It started as a fine Friday ... At Principal's Assembly this week, we acknowledged the student who recently became the National Judo Champion in his age group. Last week it was recognizing our student who recently won the World Sailing Championships (Under 19) over in Turkey. Every week I'm amazed by the number of students who are competing at the National and International Level and placing at or near the top. And their success does transfer into the classroom - often the athletes are the stronger students since they have learned that it takes hard work and determination to succeed. They are used to practice and are driven - they like the sense of achievement and are competitive with themselves and others.

Back to Friday's historic event ... My third period class, Gr. 9, came rolling in, almost all 33 of them. The room was hot and stuffy, having had the blinds down for the 2 previous classes - no air movement - which contributes to the problem! We are working on speeches and today I was covering how to use hand gestures effectively and not to stand in the same spot. So, I used every teacher's best tool - YouTube. Had searched for motivational speakers the night before and found Aron Rolston talking about his rock climbing accident 6 years ago, during which he had to cut off his own arm. Really, he's a good speaker. However, the first clip stops at the point where he runs out of ideas, and I knew the boys would all want to hear the gory details. Apparently not all the boys. I forewarned them, really I did. Stopped it a couple of times to be sure they really wanted to hear the end. There are no images, so it's not what they see (really they see far worse on CSI!!!!), but he describes it all in a very calm detailed manner (you can view the Learning Channel clip here if you are brave enough to look). With about 3 minutes until the end of class, one student falls to the floor out of his chair as he faints. I go running, try to get the class to leave as I tend to him, and send a student to get help from the English Office, not even 5 metres away. I wonder where the help is and why the students are paused at the door. What I eventually find out is that another student fainted just outside the doorway, and the teachers thought that was who they were to be tending to. So, yes, I managed to fell two students - first time I've ever had a student faint around me in all of my teaching career, let alone two at once. Of course, I feel horrible, though my department colleagues think it's priceless and I'm sure I won't hear the end of it until I leave New Zealand. Parents have been understanding thankfully.

What a legacy!

After that episode, we whisked Jenn off to Mt. Maunganui to Dui's Restaurant of Fine Thai Cuisine, which you can see overhead here, for a proper birthday dinner. It was a truly fantastic meal. We wound up the day by returning home for cheesecake and a viewing of the show "Ninja Warrior".

Saturday brought the third and final phase of the birthday celebrations. After a couple of great Skype sessions and a phone call all from Canada, in the afternoon we piled into the Capella and manouvered our way between the raindrops to deposit Jenn and Bronte at Bay Cinema so that they could take in the movie "Boy". You likely will not have heard of this movie, but it's a huge hit here in New Zealand (you can watch the trailer here). Tim and Jack then picked up Jack's friend Ryan, and went to Baywave (this is the wave pool waterslide facility where Jack's birthday was held some months ago). After a suitable splash around, we collected Jenn and Bronte from the cinema, picked up the pizza, and returned home where The Lightning Thief was screened for Ryan, Jack, and Bronte.

Finally Sunday. We all slept in. After rising, Tim and Jenn contemplated what hike we would challenge the kids with when the phone rang with an invitation from the Dixons to hike to Waiere Falls. You might remember this hike from a couple of earlier posts. Since it's one of our favourites, we agreed and set to work packing a lunch. We struck rain as we headed over the Kaimais, and as we rounded the bend in the road at the summit, we entered a really low-lying cloud. It would have been cooler if someone else was driving and we didn't need to worry about negotiating the many curves in the road while descending down the other side of the range. After a few long minutes, we emerged into sunshine. The road down the other side and along to the trail head commands great scenery at the best of times, but particularly on this day. The clouds were raking across the top of the hills, leaving tendrils of mist that were truly breathtaking to behold. It wasn't long before we rounded a bend and the falls came into view in the distance. With the heavy rains that we've experienced over the past week the falls were in their full glory! We had a nice chat on our way up to the viewing platform where the following photo was captured:


After returning to the house in Tauranga, we all dove into school work (except Tim who sat around looking at maps of the South Island). We ended the day happy that Wipeout! has returned to TV3. So there you have another week in the life. Things are good!

Posted by tcrons 18:02 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Walking on the Moon - Te Hīkoi te Marama

rain 14 °C
View Taupo on tcrons's travel map.

The past week was Maori language week in New Zealand! As we are not yet fluent, we've limited the translation of this post to just the title, with appologies to all of our Maori-speaking readers.

Now that the week is done for us and we look back on it, it was another one filled with more accolades, steaming fumeroles, rushing water, and muscles screaming out in agony as they were pushed to the brink. All in all a pretty typical week for the Cronsberrys in New Zealand! Here we go:

The week started off on a high note, as Tim talked to his cousin in Taiwan who will be coming to visit us in Tauranga later in August. We're very excited to have another visitor (by the way, when are you coming?). The fun continued into Tuesday when Tim picked up Bronte early from school to allow the teachers to get ready for parent-teacher interviews. Tim and Bronte headed to the grocery store to pick up a ham for dinner, only to find that small hams such as we buy back home are not readily available here. After peering at the meat cooler in the New World store and realising we were out of luck, we spied a new food offering in the pork section. It was a half pig head - eye, snout, whiskers, the whole shebang. You won't believe this, but it was only $3.30!! Tim wanted to get it, but Bronte's green colour warned him to move on. We ended up having lamb roast that night. Bo-ring!

The next significant event occurred on Thursday, when Tim did laundry. Wait, that wasn't it - it was Bronte winning not one, but two special awards at school! The first was an award for Excellence in Materials Technology, which is awarded to one student in each class whom the teachers feel put forth the most admirable effort in the technology unit. The second was an award for Achievement in Te Reo, which is essentially Maori studies. Bronte's teacher explained that he was thoroughly impressed with how much Bronte embraced her new school and has become involved in learning about Maori culture, including her participation in the school kapa haka group. We're so proud of both Bronte and Jack for grabbing opportunities to learn more about New Zealand culture!

Friday arrived - a good day to make our way to Lake Taupo. After school we piloted the Capella to Kinloch and into the driveway of the bach we rented for the weekend (which, by the way, you can see overhead here). It was another cosy spot and after we got the woodstove pumping out the heat, we didn't mind the cooler temperatures that Lake Taupo offers this time of year. Taupo, you may recall from an earlier post, is a place we've driven through before on the way to Napier. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in the entire Oceanic region (it's about 83% the size of Lake Simcoe in Ontario). It was formed about 26,000 years ago and lies in the caldera formed after a fairly massive volcanic eruption. Across the lake to the south stand three volcanoes, two of which are active (Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Ngaruhoe). The non-active one is called Mt. Tongariro, and will be the centre of a future post when we visit the Tongariro National Park later in the year. In what appears to fast becoming a trend when we are in the presence of large, snow-topped mountains, we couldn't see any of them through the fog and cloud. No matter, we'll be back and we had plenty of other things to keep us busy.

On Saturday morning we drove to this spot here to have a walk around Karapiti, better known as Craters of the Moon. This thermal area which is part of Wairakei, the largest geothermal field in New Zealand, has under it a reservoir of water which is heated by the magma which lies beneath it. The place was covered with fumeroles, one of which sounded particularly furious as we walked by. There was also a mudpool which we could hear bubbling away, but our vision was obscured by the hydrogen sulphide gas corroding our skin as we stood attempting to peer through it at the edge of a larger crater. Here are some photos and a video of our stroll:




Following this adventure, we drove a short distance away to have a gander at Huka Falls. It is at this spot that the Waikato River (the longest in New Zealand), squeezes into a narrow channel and then thunders out the other end over a relatively short drop. It certainly wasn't the height of the falls that was the attraction, but rather the sheer volume of water flowing past (as well as the colour of the water itself). We stood impressed, and then had the pleasure of watching a jet boat roar up to the base of the falls before spinning around and taking off again. A kayak ride down the narrows and over the falls would likely be the pinnacle of adrenaline, but we didn't see anyone attempt it. After taking a stroll down the trail which lead upriver, we returned to the Capella and set off for our next stop. Here's some photos:





That next stop was the Aratiatia Rapids, but along the way we pulled into The Honey Hive to watch a video about bees and to sample a few of the many strange varieties of honey.


Just before 2 pm, and just in time, we arrived at the Aratiatia Rapids. The rapids lie at the base of a dam across the Waikato River. Three times per day the doors of the dam are opened and the tiny trickling creek goes from something you'd let the kids play around in to a raging torrent. It was really interesting to watch, and fulfilled a childhood fantasy that many of us have of watching a dam burst! After 30 minutes, the gates of the dam are closed again, and the river gradually drains down to a calm trickle again. Here's a couple of photos and a vid (which through the magic of digital manipulation has been accelerated appropriately):


Finally, we headed into Taupo-proper and went to the museum where we learned about the history of the area. Jack has really been working out quite a bit lately, and the museum gave him a chance to really test himself as you can see from this photo of him struggling against the mass of this pumice boulder:



We grabbed a nice dinner at an Italian place called Milano, and then it was back to Kinloch to stoke the fire and settle down for the night. Tim, more than anyone on this particular day, needed a good night's rest.

Sunday dawned and we headed back into Taupo just after 8 am to the Taupo Domain, which you can see overhead here. This was the site of the start and finish of the Taupo Half Marathon. Tim has been training for this event over the past dozen weeks, and he reported feeling good that morning. With around 3,000 people entered, his chances of achieving victory were slightly less agreeable than the one-in-ten he had been hoping for. The race went well though, and he kicked ass & took names in the 65-70 age group. He fared somewhat less well in the 40-44 age group though, clocking an official time of 1:54:51 over the 21.0975 km the run covered - good enough for 567th place overall (69th in his age category)! The sweet spot is that he was quite possibly the fastest Canadian in the event, or at the very least second-fastest :). Although he proved that he is no Zersenay Tadese, he was happy to have climbed this personal mountain, and equally at peace with his decision to never do it again! You can see the official results here. Here's some metreage:



Following the event the family headed back to Kinloch where Tim ordered the rest to take turns rubbing balm on his feet. Following three refusals, we packed up and headed back to Tauranga. It was yet another fantastic week for us. While we're not sure what'll be in store for this week, be assured it'll be awesome.

Remember to check the photo gallery for more!

Posted by tcrons 02:21 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

The Disappearing River

sunny 13 °C

We have an entire week of normalcy under our belts following a fantastic two week break. Bronte and Jack enjoyed being back in school and Jenn got through the first week of Term three. Meanwhile, Tim returned to his busy schedule of relaxing in bed until noon, although there was one moment of panic mid-week when he couldn't find the TV remote. The past week bestowed upon us milestones, awards, new challenges, and just for kicks, a new waterfall! Read on and then book your flight to come and join us.

To ease the students of Tauranga Intermediate slowly back into school life, there was a teacher-only day on Monday, so Bronte got to hang out with Tim all day. The two of them made a trip to the library, to Mitre 10 MEGA to buy some stuff, and most importantly to the Urban Cafe on Cameron where they had a rather tasty lunch. Back at the house, Bronte made a stunning pavlova which she had been craving:



Tuesday Tim had a WOF done on the Capella after his painting class. WOF stands for "Warrant of Fitness" and every car on the road in New Zealand needs to have one done every six months. The tire tread is checked, seatbelts, and a bunch of other things. To absolutely no one's surprise the Capella did so well, they passed the car in line behind us too! You'd think that after this gripping adventure, there wouldn't be any room for further excitement - oh how wrong you'd be. The fabric of the rest of the week was woven from high tensile excitement. Read on and you'll see why.

Thursday Tim was kept busy finalising as well as altering travel plans for various outings. He did find time to Skype ever-so-briefly with the Masse family who callously decided to proceed with the annual Muskoka vacation without us. It was tough to see the Landscapes in the background, but great to see that the crew was having fun and not simply sitting there dejected that we were some 14,000 km away. In other news, Bronte learned that she will be part of a speech competition in Rotorua in the near future. The speech she'll be giving will be short, but it'll be in Mandarin! We're all excited for her, and hopefully Tim will be able to attend and report back to y'all with video. Speaking of reporting back, and while we're on the subject of Bronte, recall that we mentioned her science fair project previously? Well here's the project in technicolour:



A milestone arrived on Friday, as it marked six months since we left Canada. This is of course bittersweet as we really miss everyone back home and can't wait to see y'all again, but it's also sad to think that our experience is half finished. Another exciting thing to happen on Friday was a visitor to the house - an insulation consultant! He poked around for a bit and advised Tim that there was indeed practically no insulation (an important clue to determining why it reached a low of 7.7 degrees in the kitchen this morning!). With some luck, we'll be swimming in UFFI within a few weeks and basking in the associated warmth! That being said, we are much tougher now than when we arrived in New Zealand, and 13 degrees in the house almost feels warm!

Saturday was semi-low key for us. The usual soccer in the morning, but with a twist. Jack played goalie and did extraordinarily well - he was named Player of the Game for the second time this season. There was much cheering! To celebrate, Tim and Jack got haircuts and Jenn and Bronte went shopping. That afternoon Jack made Banoffee Pie with some assistance from Tim, and Bronte made a pasta dinner with some assistance from Jenn. We wrapped up the day by watching Star Wars - The Phantom Menace.

Sunday arrived and it was time for a hike to toast six months on NZ soil. We set off for Kawerau to tackle Mt. Edgecumbe which is a small dormant volcano. Here's a photo of our approach:



This hike was to prove tricky though. Contrary to the process to which we've grown so accustomed, for Mt. Edgecumbe one needs to get a specific permit to climb, as it is private land. We thought that permits could be obtained from the information centre in Kawerau, but when we arrived there we were told that for Mt. Edgecumbe we needed to get the permit from the Maori Investment House, which is closed on weekends! Not deterred, we instead bought a permit for the other hike in the area that was on our radar - Tarawera Falls. This too is on private land, but we figured the $5 was worth it. It ended up as perhaps the best fin we've ever spent!

The trail started at a carpark about 25 minutes away from the info centre off a logging road not appearing on any conventional map. After setting out on the trail we didn't have to wait long to arrive at Tarawera Falls, which you can see overhead here. These falls are really interesting, as they are unlike any other that we've seen. The area's topography has much owing to the eruption of Mt Tarawera around 11,000 years ago. The cliffs were formed from rapid cooling of the advancing lava flow, and because the lava here is so fractured, the Tarawera River doesn't always flow over the surface of the land. About 30 metres back from the cliff, the river "disappears" into the ground and bursts out of the cliff face with extreme prejudice about halfway up. Here's a photo:


In fact, the Tarawera River doesn't conjure this disappearing act just once. After having a good look at the falls from the viewing area, we kept hiking the trail along the river. There were numerous spots where the rushing water simply disappeared into the ground, such as at the spot this photo was taken:


At one point along the trail we could hear the rushing water down in a gully deep under the rocks, but couldn't see a drop! The river itself made for a very picturesque hike. In some places when it was above ground it boiled loudly, and in other spots it widened and gurgled happily. Downstream of the falls it would make an excellent trip on an inner tube on a hot summer day. Upstream of the falls we encountered another, smaller fall. The light streaming through the trees was incredible. Here's what we saw:




At this point on the trail we turned around and slowly made our way back to the Capella, which was waiting patiently back where we left her. What's that? You want video? Sure thing!

On the way back we all agreed that it is one of the nicest hikes we've done. As for the dormant volcano we were going to climb, we hope it'll stay dormant a little while longer so we can tackle it in a few weeks. We arrived back in Tauranga happy but tired. After dinner we relaxed in the lounge with a nice warm fire (we have a fireplace, don't worry). Thus completed another week. Next weekend promises to bring more volcanoes, another waterfall, and extreme fatigue if all goes according to plan...

Posted by tcrons 01:53 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Out of the Cathedral and Into Hot Water

sunny 15 °C
View Whangamata on tcrons's travel map.

When you last read about the intrepid Cronsberry family, we had just left the beautiful town of Russell bound for Whangamata at the base of the Coromandel Penninsula. The bach at Whangamata was rustic and comfie, and we settled in quickly to plan the outings for the week. They were to include beaches, gorges, waterfalls, and peaks - and we managed to fit it all in.

Sunday we had a lazy morning walking along the beach
(which you can see overhead here) looking for sea slugs, shells, and sand. We found lots of all of that, and sponges too! Here's proof:



Returning to the bach, we tucked into some lunch and then set off for the Karangahake Gorge, which you can see overhead here. You might remember this little gorge from a previous post as we hiked a bit of it a few months ago. It was so gorge that we just had to show our guests, the Allores. We strolled the trail we had previously known, and then explored some bits we hadn't seen before. As with most of our hikes, the trail shadowed a picturesque stream (this time it was both the Ohinemuri and Waitawheta Rivers). The tunnels cut into the walls of the gorge provided some of the excitement, and a new one we hadn't seen before gave our guests their first look at glowworms as some of them could be seen on the ceiling. Here are some photos of the outing:


On Monday we decided to throw caution to the wind and we went for a hike! This time it was to Wentworth Falls. The road to the trail head was fraught with danger and intrigue as we passed a yellow caution sign which read "Ford!". We've never been a Ford family, but we figured the Department of Conservation wouldn't mind us showing up in the Capella. But the true meaning of the sign swamped us like a tsunami when we were faced with the raging waters of a stream coursing angrily right across the road. After Jenn's go-ahead, we struck out across the vast expanse. Here's some quick video of the Allores attempt to cross the same torrent:

The hike itself was a pleasant and surprisingly non-taxing stroll to the lookout platform. We happily had a little snack, a drink, and then turned around and returned to the bach. Jenn then discovered upon reading a "Things to do" Guide that the the track actually continued up to the top of the falls which promised expansive views of the area. We felt a bit sheepish (ha ha - sheepish - here in New Zealand! Get it? Never mind.) Anyway, here's a couple-o-photos:


Anxious to maximise our opportunities to see the splendour of New Zealand rather than to cut further corners, we dove into Tuesday by making our way to what proved to be one of the most beautiful spots we have yet seen here - Cathedral Cove. You can see the magesty overhead here. The 45 minute hike in was as beautiful as any we've been on with the piercing blue sea and dark outlines of distant islands dotting the coast as we walked. The sound of the surf crashing into the rocks was wonderous. Upon arriving at the beach, we were met with breathtaking views. Cathedral Cove is named so because of a natural rock arch joining it to neighbouring Mares Leg Cove. Erosion can be a wonderous thing, and the arch was spectacular. The interestingly shaped rock you'll see just off shore is called Te Hoho Rock. The following photos and video don't even come close to describing how incredible this spot was:


We hung around the beach for as long as we could, having a picnic lunch and watching the kids play at the water's edge. Finally though we needed to head to our next destination which required intervention at low tide, so we set off back to the carpark. We arrived a short time later at Hot Water Beach, which you can see overhead here. This was a pretty interesting spot, to which at least two tour buses and a parking-lot full of people can attest. The deal here is that 2 km below the surface of two specific spots on this beach there is a spring, and underneath that, a "volcanic intrusion". Cool water from the sea seeps down through fissures and is heated to a maximum temperature of 64 degrees celcius. This heated water then rises back to the surface through fissures. Up to two hours on either side of low tide when the two specific areas on the beach are not covered by the ocean, you can dig into the sand and have the space you create fill up with hot water. It's pretty remarkable! The kids dug away happily, creating little spa pools. A little bit closer to the water line it got so hot that it was difficult to stand on the sand, let alone dig your toes into it. Have a look at these photos and video:





On Wednesday we spent a relaxing morning rubbing salve on our blistered feet. After exploring the downtown area of Whangamata and paying particular attention to the Port Road Bakery, we had lunch and then headed out to Tairua to tackle the Paku Summit. The peak we climbed to has a twin on the other side of a short valley and these two peaks once formed a single volcanic cone which blasted itself to smithereens a large number of years ago. The 154 metre peak looks down onto the town of Tairua, and the views were the usual awesome. Here's how we looked:


A few BBQ sausages and a sleep later, we headed off to Waihi to celebrate Thursday. Waihi is the epicentre of gold mining, and we wanted to gaze into the yawning maw gouged out of the earth in search of the bling. After getting an edumacation at the visitor centre, we crossed the road and walked around the lip of the open pit to the observation area where we waited with exceeding difficulty for the scheduled blast. When it did happen, the explosions made the earth boil like a bit pot of hot delicious fudge. Mmmmm, fudge. Here's what the mine looked like before the fireball:



After lunch in the park, we continued on to Waihi Beach, and the site of our next hike. You may remember this hike from an earlier post, as we've been on the trail before. This time though, we wanted to take the Allores all the way to Orokawa Beach, and 45 minutes after setting out, we arrived. Through the magic of the digital age, you can see it overhead here. The beach was secluded, lined with twisty pohutukawa trees, and mostly deserted. It was pretty serene and while the kids climbed the trees, skipped stones, and played in the sand, we strolled around and reflected on how lucky we were to be there.



We returned to the bach in Whangamata for our final night. Alas, when we arrived we discovered that a pipe had sprung a significant leak and deposited much water onto the ground underneath the structure. A quick call to the owner (our exchange partner's parents!), and a plumber was dispatched. As we had already planned to depart the next morning anyway, we pulled the switch and bugged out that night while the plumber and his faithful sidekick did the dirty work underneath the bach.

Back in Tauranga at home, we spent the next few days touring the Allores around, strolling the Mount base trail, Papamoa Hills, and the three schools connected with our family. Tim succeeded in destroying any respect he previously might have garnered through his cooking abilities by underbaking a carrot cake, and then fudge. Mmmm, fudge. In the post-visit analysis we are convinced that these failures were what finally drove the Allores to leave us. Sunday morning they packed up the car and set off for Auckland. We have had a marvellous two weeks with our friends from Canada - their visit has lifted our spirits even higher than they already were, and we wish them the greatest luck in the next leg of their adventure - Australia. We can't wait to see them in another 12-or-so weeks.

Now it's back to normal for the Cronsberries for at least a couple of weeks, after which we'll hit the road again for our next mini-trip to explore Lake Taupo in a bit more detail. For now, you should have a look at the photo gallery as there are more photos of our past two weeks.

Posted by tcrons 03:22 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Sandboarding, Dolphins, and the Beauty of The Bay of Islands

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View Whangamata on tcrons's travel map.

Reflecting back on our first full week of holidays we all agree that we could get used to this! Russell is a gorgeous little town that deserved to be explored to a much greater extent than we were able to manage. Had the weather stayed rainy, we likely would have been just as content to enjoy the bach we were staying in, and to discover all that this tourist town has tucked away in its picturesque shops. As it turned out, the forecast changed and the week turned out to be beautiful. We maxed out every opportunity we had to get out and enjoy New Zealand’s northland.

On Monday we wanted to get in touch with a bit more of the history of the country, so we piloted the Capella onto the car ferry and made our way over to Paihia, which is just across the water from Russell. We walked down the road to Waitangi, which you can see overhead here . This is the birthplace of the Treaty of Waitangi, which was an agreement between the indigenous Maori and the British Crown. Although the British had been in the country for some time, more and more countries were growing interested in New Zealand back in the late 1830’s, and the Maori feared that they would lose more of their land and independence. After the Maori leaders requested assistance from the Crown, James Busby and a few others drafted the treaty which was signed on February 6, 1840 at this very spot:



As is often the case, not everyone agreed with this course of action, and how they were treated following it. Regardless, every year on February 6 New Zealand celebrates Waitangi Day. We were able to take in a film discussing the events surrounding the treaty signing, and tour the grounds including a rather large waka (Maori canoe) that comfortably sat around 130 people, and the house where the treaty was drafted.
From there we drove to a nearby town called Kerikeri and grabbed a snack at one of the bakeries, and made the obligatory stop at the specialty chocolate shop.

On Tuesday we decided to let someone else do the driving, as Tim had been making everyone far too nervous for far too long behind the wheel. We boarded the Dune Rider bus and headed out on our day-long tour up to the northernmost reaches of the country. The first sight of note was Ninety Mile Beach. This beach is actually not quite 90 miles, but when you add on the additional beach just south of Cape Reinga, it’s close enough. The driver drove the bus right onto the beach and took us down its entire length. Along the way we encountered a medium-sized fur seal and a couple of wild horses. Here’s a photo of the family towards the end of the beach:



After this brief opportunity to get off the bus and stretch our legs, we went a bit further down the sand and arrived at some sizable sand dunes, which you can see overhead here. Our driver had everyone assemble outside the bus at the foot of one of the dunes, and proceeded to coach us on how to navigate our boogie boards down the dune. As none of us had ever sandboarded before, we were pretty pumped! Up the dune we trudged, the wind throwing grains of grit into our teeth, reminiscent of one of Tim’s typical dinners. You can see the result in this video:

After shaking as much sand out of our clothes as we could, back on the bus we went, happy as fur seals. Another short trip later, we arrived at Cape Reinga – the top of New Zealand. Looking back from whence we came, this is the sight of the end of the northernmost part of Ninety Mile Beach:


At Cape Reinga, which you can see overhead here, the Tasman Sea (the ditch between New Zealand and Australia) meets the South Pacific. On high wind days, this particular meeting place can get kind of raucous with some sizable wave collisions. On Tuesday though it was fairly calm, but still visible, as you can see over our shoulders in this photo:



After a few more stops including a Kauri workshop where we ascended a staircase cut into a 40,000 year old Kauri tree, we caught the last ferry from Paihia back to Russell. What a fantastic day!

On Wednesday we hit the trail by making our way to the Waipu Caves Walk, which you can see overhead here. The start of the trail lead to a cave that, although not nearly as ancient looking as the Waitomo Caves, was nonetheless pretty rad. The gnarled rocks were covered in moss and the whole hike was great. In fact, you can judge yourself by looking at these photos and watching this video:


On the way back, we did another short hike in the A.H Reed Memorial Kauri Forest. This hike was interesting for the sizable trees, and the canopy section of the hike that took us along an elevated boardwalk. Here’s a photo of the stream that meadered through:


Eventually we made it back to Russell, where the Allores were kind enough to mind the bach while Tim and Jenn went to the Duke of Marlborough for an anniversary dinner (14 years married – Jenn deserves a medal).
Thursday we hit the trail again and did the mangrove walk from Waitangi to Haruru Falls, which looked a bit like Niagara except approximately 19.4% the size. After exhausting the kids, we took a short detour back to Kerikeri to browse the art shops, then back to Russell. As one of Jenn’s teaching colleagues has a holiday home in Russell as well, we joined Tom and his family for cocktails and a walk up the ridge behind their spot. What a view, as you can see in this photo:



Friday came and the excitement continued. As we made our way down to the Russell wharf to await the tour boat that would take us out on the ocean, Jack spied a rather large starfish in distress. Foreshadowing a future career in animal care, he leapt to the echinoderm's aid and placed it back into the water, thus saving it from an assuredly miserable death drying out on the pebbles as the tide further receded. Here’s a photo:



Happy as an Asterias reubens, Jack joined us on the boat and we set off. We didn’t have to wait long to see dorsal fins slice open the surface of the water. Bottle-nosed dolphins. Terrors of the sea. The same species often seen at large aquariums. Did you know that most dolphins die within six weeks of being put into an aquarium tank? This particular wobble of dolphins seemed much happier being able to hang with their mates and entertain us simply by swimming around. They are much larger in person than you might imagine! Following the dolphin encounter we proceeded up the coast to Piercy’s Island, better known as Hole in the Rock, which you can see overhead here. This is a hole that has been worn through the limestone and is big enough to drive a pirate ship through. We saw another fur seal reclining on the rocky ledge, but this one was much less animated than his cousin on Ninety Mile Beach. We mused that the blubber would likely make any jagged craggy rock seem comfie. You can see what we experienced by watching this short video:

We ended that day pretty happy too, with Tim and Paul relaxing on the deck of the bach with a fine New Zealand lager, as you can see here:



Saturday came and it was time to leave Russell. Tim grabbed one last opportunity to watch the sunrise and walked over to Long Beach on Russell’s other shore. Peaceful and beautiful – especially since all the work was done by the time he got back to the bach! By 10 am we were on the road, and by late afternoon we arrived at our destination for the second week of our holiday – Whangamata. We’re working hard to generate another week’s worth of wonder, which you’ll see next week, after which it’ll be back to the grind for ¾ of the Cronsberry family, and a farewell to the Allores as they set off for Australia for a couple of months.

Posted by tcrons 16:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

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