A Travellerspoint blog

Hell Hole of the Pacific

sunny 15 °C

We had heaps of reasons to celebrate this past week!

For some as yet unknown reason, Canada Day is not widely celebrated in New Zealand. We thought we’d change all that by sending Bronte and Jack to school with cakes decorated in a respectful depiction of that most revered Canadian icon. However, because Tim’s skills with the piping bag have much to be desired, the plans to ice the cakes in the likeness of Don Cherry had to be abandoned, and a Canadian flag was emblazoned on the sweet surfaces instead. Below you can see the next in Tim’s series of self-portraits:

Self-portrait-with-Canada-cakes

Self-portrait-with-Canada-cakes

As it turned out, both Bronte and Jack had “shared lunches” (potlucks) within their respective classrooms this week, so the cakes were part of the student’s larger party to celebrate the end of term.

Wednesday was Science Fair day at Bronte’s school – move over Earnest Rutherford! It was really, really impressive what the students came up with. The school hall was crammed with rows and rows of displays – too many to get through! Some of the winning projects included the invention of an avocado picker, a study of the relative saltiness of the sea water at various points around Tauranga, and the benefits of sea lettuce as a fertiliser. Bronte’s project was the construction of a jigsaw puzzle table, complete with a drawer underneath. We were awed by the quality!

Alas, Jack was not feeling well on Thursday when his shared lunch was held, so after sticking it out for the first half of the day, Tim picked him up from school early. Rather than take him straight home, instead they picked up Bronte from school and went over to Jenn’s school, Tauranga Boys College, where they were holding their 2nd annual haka competition. As with many other schools in New Zealand, TBC is divided into “houses” which compete on a number of fronts, including the haka. Apparently this was extremely popular last year, and the boys were out to win. As you’ll see from the video below, a lot of them really get into it! In the end it was Ngata House which took the honour. The video shows three different efforts – the first is from the male teachers of TBC, the second from Freyberg House, and the third from Ngata (the eventual winners). There are several more houses at TBC, but the video would be waaay too long.

The fun train kept rolling through the station on Thursday. Tim headed out to attend a dinner with his painting class, a marble cheesecake under his arm. Apparently the class has these themed dinners periodically, and last week it was a pirate and gypsy theme. Tim plundered his way through the meal, and growled a lot with a Canadian flag as a bandana around his head. No photos of that one.

Friday was a glorious day for all. It marked the end of term, and the halfway mark for school for ¾ of the Cronsberry family. With the end of term comes a two-week break, so we started ours right away. We headed to Auckland Friday night and had a lovely dinner at Wisconsin Burger (try the CCC – chicken, camembert, and cranberry). Saturday morning we rose at a respectable hour and slipped over to the airport to meet our friends the Allores who were in-bound from Canada. Just like when Jenn’s Mom arrived for a visit back in March, it was so great to see familiar faces walk through the Arrivals door. We were thankful that the Allores didn’t get busted by Customs while playing the role of spice mules for the Cronsberrys.

Allore-arrival

Allore-arrival

After a short reunion, the convoy started! Several hours and a barge ride later, we arrived at our gorgeous bach in Russell, which you can see overhead here. This place we’ll be staying in over the next week is extraordinarily comfortable, and made us not mind too much that the rain was pelting down for the entire day on Sunday. Feeling the urge for a piece of fresh fruit, we merely strolled down the steps to the front yard and picked a few mandarins off the tree! Here’s a couple of photos to illustrate:

Mandarin tree at Russell bach

Mandarin tree at Russell bach

Russell-Tim-at-bach

Russell-Tim-at-bach

Although we’ve only been in Russell for a little more than a day, we’ve seen enough to report that it’s the bomb! An extremely quaint seaside town, Russell has been described in many different ways over the past couple of hundred years. Did you know that it was the first capital of New Zealand? Well, it was. But only for a single year back in 1840 before the capital designation moved to Auckland (New Zealand’s capital is now Wellington by the way). Back in the day of its early development, it became known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific owing to the wild times involving much debauchery brought by sailors and travellers. On the more flattering side, Zane Grey described the area as the Angler’s Eldorado because of its game fishing (he caught a world record striped Marlin here – over 400 lbs). Whatever anyone else calls it, we’re calling it gorgeous.

Saturday evening after we arrived we strolled down to the wharf to watch the sunset. Bronte and Jack really enjoyed exploring with Ayden and Claire, and they found several starfish (live ones by the way) at the water’s edge. After checking out the rather massive tree in town, we headed back to the bach just in time to witness jet lag completely fell the Allores one by one.

large_Russell-su..anorama.jpgRussell-sunset-kids.jpgRussell-sunset-Jenn.jpgRussell-sunset-family.jpgRussell-sunset-1.jpg

We hope that you have an incredible week, and if by some tragedy you don’t, wait for the next post to see and hear about all the stuff this coming week will bring to us here. We’ve got intelligent mammals to see, expanses of sand, huge trees, and stunning walks to do. Life is good.

Posted by tcrons 15:41 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Aongatete, World Cup Fever, and Our Darkest Day Yet

overcast 13 °C

The past week started off as the darkest day we've experienced since arriving in New Zealand. You're probably thinking that the temperature in the house dipped below freezing, or that we mowed over a flock of endangered kiwi birds with the Capella. In fact it was much less sinister. The winter solstice arrived on Monday and left us rejoicing that we'll be experiencing more daylight from now until December 21. Comforted by that knowledge, we sunk our fangs into the rest of the week, and came out of it giddy with anticipation.

While the rain fell gently on and off through the week, Jenn and Jack found time to kick back and relax inside:

Jenn-_-Jack-reading.jpg

On Thursday, while the ground was shaking back home in Canada (where it was Wednesday), Tim transported Bronte and two classmates to Ngamuwahine, a camp owned by Bronte's school, where he helped the girls record video for their class project on invasive species. The location for the shoot was beautiful, despite the rain, and the girls were able to get it wrapped by the fourth take. Here's a photo of the post-shoot party:

Bronte-at-Ngamuwahine

Bronte-at-Ngamuwahine

Friday was a Teacher-only day at Bronte's school, so she spent the day observing Tim's non-routine. After a short run where Bronte followed Tim on the first bike she had ridden in eight months, they set off for the video store and then on to a nutritious lunch at Maccas. While Bronte watched Avatar, Tim assembled lasagne for the following night's dinner. Following dinner out at The Horny Bull, Tim and Jack ventured out to the Mount Action Centre for a little in-line skating. It was much busier than any other time we'd been there, and Jack had fun playing hockey keep-away with the other kids there.

Saturday morning we spied the sun and decided to bolt for the bush. This time, we took in a hike at Aongatete, which you can see overhead here. It had rained copious amounts the previous night, so the trail was a bit spongy in some places and slick in others. The trail eventually took us to the edge of a river where upstream was located a number of swimming holes. Unfortunately, there was too much run-off coursing down the cataract, and we weren't able to cross the stream and pick our way further up. The poor angle even denied us a spot for decent photos, but here's a couple anyway:

Jenn-&-Jack-Aongatete

Jenn-&-Jack-Aongatete

Bronte-Aongatete

Bronte-Aongatete

After talking hockey with a kiwi we met back at the trailhead, we made our way back home to prepare for hosting guests for dinner. Here's a video of the hike:

Saturday evening we hosted the Moffats for dinner and a game of Discover NZ - a trivia-type game. We impressed our guests with our respectable placing in the contest, and at the same time learned of some new places we should look at visiting.

Sunday brought us a soccer tournament in Omokoroa. Jack's team did well, winning their first two games before going down in the third to the Mount Titans. This was good enough to get them into the semis, where they met the Mount Titans once again. It was not to be, and the day ended following that game. With the entire country caught up in World Cup fever, in no small part due to the relative success of New Zealand's "All Whites", we find ourselves getting kind of soccered-out. With that, we leave you with our own tribute to World Cup hysteria, after which we'll leave soccer updates alone for a good while.

There's no telling exactly when the next blog post will materialise, as our friends from home arrive on Saturday. We'll be heading to the northern part of New Zealand for a couple of weeks, but as the Allores have also started a travel blog, perhaps Paul and Tim will find time to upload a post in the general vicinity of the regular schedule we've established. In the meanwhile, hope the chilly bin lasts all the way up the boohai.

Posted by tcrons 18:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Top of the Bald Spur and back down to Fieldays

semi-overcast 15 °C

Often times high pressure situations can be uncomfortable, but the high pressure zone that settled over New Zealand this past week provided some heavenly respite from the weeks of 100% humidity we've been experiencing. Decent weather for pretty much the entire week allowed us to get out of the house without sprinting for cover, and we took full advantage. Even when the clouds dumped their payload at the end of the week we stayed outside to welcome it back!

The first non-routine and interesting event was staged on Wednesday, when Tim caringly escorted Jack to school early and then pushed the Capella to the legal limits of the New Zealand motor vehicle code. He arrived in the village of Te Aroha around 9:15 after stealing glances at his quarry for the previous half hour. The Bald Spur summit looms invitingly a full 954 metres above sea level, and you can see it overhead here. To put this monolith in perspective, it is a full one-quarter the height of New Zealand's highest peak - Mt. Cook, and one-tenth the height of Mt. Everest. And Tim hiked to the summit without the aid of Sherpa or supplemental oxygen! All joking about the relative tameness of the peak aside, it was a great hike to the top of the highest peak of the Kaimai range. Tim marvelled at the view of the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Ruapehu and Tongariro in the distance, and had a quick lunch before descending again. Here's some photos and a short video:

Tim-on-summit-of-the-Bald-Spur

Tim-on-summit-of-the-Bald-Spur

Bald-Spur-summit-panorama

Bald-Spur-summit-panorama

Jenn reached new heights at school this week as well as she worked on report cards for the seniors. She also got a charge out of watching preparations for the school haka competition. Tauranga Boys College, like many schools in New Zealand, is divided up into "houses", and the school has an annual haka competition between houses. The whole family is hoping to attend the event, and if we do be assured we'll have some video for you!

Friday was an exciting day for Bronte. She started the day by running in the school's cross country race. Each student in each house competes in this test, and the pressure for members of the various houses to collectively do well is great, as points are awarded that go towards the awarding of the house cup (isn't this sounding a bit like Hogwarts?). The race went spendidly, and Bronte's Totara House won the day. Bronte fought her way into the top 250 and was all smiles when she completed the course. Here's some video:

But the fun for Bronte didn't end there, no sir! Each Friday afternoon at her school they hold an assembly and the class leaders from each room take turns running the event. Despite last minute, out-of-Bronte's-control, changes to the agenda, she and her fellow class leader Elijah did a great job. Tim was thrilled to be able to attend this event too, and bring you this bit of video. Although the video doesn't depict any "I have a dream" moments, it'll hopefully give you a feel for the event and the size of the room Bronte was addressing. The two songs being sung are the New Zealand National Anthem, and Eye of The Tiger. Bronte's co-leader in her class, Elijah, is the one singing that classic originally recorded by Survivor.

Jack had a good week as well. He's been going out for school rugby-team try-outs and enjoying it. Jack has also been chosen to be one of only four students from his class to take part in an ICT exercise. While we're not entirely sure what ICT stands for (Integrated Computer Technologies???), suffice to say it is an interesting sojourn out of the classroom routine for Jack. He and his compatriots are assembling a story told through the use of computer applications and animations. Their work will be entered into a regional competition, and when the final work is available we'll hook you up with a suitable viewing venue and some virtual popcorn.

On Saturday after soccer we headed out to the Hamilton suburb of Mystery Creek for the National Agriculture Fieldays, which you can see overhead here. This event is quite similar to the International Plowing Match in Canada, and is touted as the largest agribusiness exhibition in the southern hemisphere. It was so huge, it has its own iPhone app, which you can download from iTunes (just search for field days)! We wandered about amongst the various vendors, looking for sweet deals on milking equipment. Although we were unable to find anything suitable for our herd, we did pick up some great merchandise such as a very flash hat for Tim, another for Jack, a wool toque ('beanie' in kiwi-speak), and a wool sweater jacket for Jenn (New Zealand wool but assembled in Nepal). Peppered amongst the shopping we took in some of the many attractions such as the dog agility show, Suzuki Extreme Air Show, lawnmower races, lumberjack games, and cutting horse demonstrations. Grab a sasparilla and watch this video of clips:

Sunday the dousing rain returned and just in time for another soccer game! Normally Bronte and Jack don't play
on Sunday, but these two games were make-ups for those cancelled earlier in the season (due to rain - go figure!). Despite a special request from back home for some video footage of Waipuna soccer, all we've got at this point are some photos:

Jack-waterlogged-at-soccer

Jack-waterlogged-at-soccer

Jack-soccer-team

Jack-soccer-team

Bronte-waterlogged-at-soccer

Bronte-waterlogged-at-soccer

Bronte-soccer-team

Bronte-soccer-team

After a week chocked full of activity, we relaxed for the rest of Sunday (except for Jenn who went to work). Exciting things on the horizon for us are getting us giddy for the end of school term, which will arrive in two short weeks. With it will come our friends the Allores, and the joy of seeing familiar faces from home without the grainy interface of a webcam!

Posted by tcrons 03:52 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Isn't every day Father's Day?

rain 12 °C

The challenge is on!
When reviewing a week where not much happened that can be compared to the previous level of excitement, the pressure to keep you interested in reading this blog is intense. Should we write about replacing the burned out bulbs in the headlights of the Capella, or should we focus more on the weather? Is researching hotels in Alice Springs gripping enough to make you want to join us there, or are you already thinking of looking at another website?

The truth should be obvious - we're grasping for content this week. Read on regardless!

Tuesday was a teacher-only day at Jack's school, so he and Tim hung out all day together. After having a game of chess and a small gutterball tournament, we headed out to Maccas for lunch to use Jack's coupon for being Player of the Game in soccer a couple of weeks ago. It was just as you would expect (isn't McDonald's supposed to be the same worldwide anyway?). Following this, we crossed the street to try out the skateboard park (first time ever in such a place). We visited this site a few weeks ago on a sunny Saturday as you may recall from an earlier blog post, but the colourful language was too much at the time. Tuesday it was deserted at first, so Jack got to bust some moves with his Ripstik, proving that centrifugal force can make good things happen. After some initial trepidation, he got the hang of it and in the end starred in his own action video, which you can see below together with a photo:

Jack-skateboard-bowl.jpg

We continue to marvel at the heartiness of Kiwis and force ourselves out of bed each morning in wonderment at how they can stand to not heat their homes. Here's an image Tim captured Wednesday morning in the kitchen. Note the temperature. Yes, this is inside the house!

A bit chilly

A bit chilly

On Thursday Tim had a great chat via skype with Pete in Calgary, and on Friday with Dave in Chatham - Skype truly is a fantastic tool!

Saturday was soccer day as usual with a fantastic performance by Bronte's team, and a total blowout by the team playing against Jack's team. Jack's team is considering a name change to the Waipuna Walruses. Saturday evening got interesting though, as the family headed out to Omokoroa for dinner with the Associate Principal from Jenn's school. We had a great evening with Wynn and Hugh, and left with some new ideas for future desserts!

Sunday arrived and we celebrated Father's Day. Two questions should immediately come to your mind:
1. "Why are they celebrating Father's Day now and not next weekend"
2. "Do they really think that Tim has shown sufficient proficiency at caring for children to be included in Father's Day celebrations, no matter when they are held"?

Well, we were mistaken thinking that Father's Day is the 2nd Sunday in June when actually it's the 3rd. Further, in New Zealand Father's Day isn't celebrated until September. Tim didn't mind though, as we had pancakes for breakfast and he received some great gifts including a poem from Bronte and a comic strip from Jack. Tim is now actively lobbying to follow the New Zealand calendar from this point forward.

After breakfast and a skype with family, we decided to head back to Papamoa Hills to do that hike again. We were hoping to beat the rain, but alas it began as soon as we got out of the car. We still made it 2/3 of the way up before turning around. The sky cleared somewhat on our way back home, so we continued our journey to Mt. Maunganui and walked along the boardwalk and part way up the base trail where we grabbed these photos:

Jack-at-we..ui-rock.jpgBronte-at-..ui-rock.jpg

That was enough fresh, ocean air for one day, so we jumped back into the Capella and went home where Bronte worked away on her science fair write-up. To wrap up the day, we tried out a new restaurant called Vivo Trattoria Italiano. It's Italian. It was the tastiest yet! The forecast for the upcoming week doesn't look that bad, so the next post will be chocked full of the high quality Cronsberry adventures to which you've grown accustomed. Thanks for reading.

Posted by tcrons 02:19 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

Spelunking and cruising the Forgotten World

rain 9 °C

We grew more excited by the day in anticipation of our special celebration of the Queen's birthday, but we needed to get through the week first - we did so without malice, but still got pulled over by the police regardless. Let us explain.

The rain continued to fall, but to break the monotony it started to do it inside the house. After ruling out a strange atmospheric phenomenon resulting in a microclimate within the washroom, we admitted that it was time to get professional help. After Tim corrected Jenn's misunderstanding that the help was for the leak and not for his personality, a professional arrived and did his thing. Meanwhile, Jack finally got a replacement camera and set about learning all of its functions by photographing everything in sight. We've since installed a lock on the bathroom door.

That's basically it until Friday, aside from the baking of a carrot cake. It was tasty.

Friday arrived and so did our road trip. After picking up Jenn from work, we hit the road and headed for Cambridge (the real one, not the imposters found in England and Massachusetts). We dined at the Prince Albert Pub and were somewhat sorry afterwards, but we forged onwards and arrived some time later at Te Tiro - the cottage we were renting for the night which you can see overhead here. It was the epitome of coziness! We stayed in one of two cabins on a farm. Shortly after arriving, we picked our way down into a valley on the property wearing headlamps. At the bottom, out went the lights and we stood there in awe of the hundreds of tiny lights emitted by the glow worms hanging from the walls of the depressed area. This sight matched the awe of the night sky. Without the interference of the regular urban light pollution, the sky was alive with the southern constellations. It was magic! We'd love to show you a photo of either of these sights, but we didn't have the skill, equipment, or patience to capture the moment (and we preferred to simply live it anyway!) Here is a pic of the family in front of Te Tiro though, and a view from the porch Saturday morning:

Te-Tiro-family-shot.jpgView-from-..o-porch.jpg

After an incredibly restful night, we headed to the first of our caves, which you can see overhead here. We were fortunate that we were the only ones on the tour of the Ruakuri Cave, so we got a personal guide - it was awesome! The Waitomo Caves system is about 2 million years old and has been formed by the constant passage of water through the limestone bed. As the water drains through the soil and rock, it becomes more acidic and gradually dissolves away the rock. Within the cave itself, the dripping forms stalactites and stalagmites, but not exactly at breakneck speed. It takes around 100 years for these things to grow a single centimetre. While within the cave you can hear the constant sound of the river running through. In fact, another tour option (that we didn't access) is "blackwater rafting" which involves floating down this river through the blackness of the cave wearing a caving helmet and light. It was a fascinating experience touring through this cave - here's a photo:

Ruakuri-Ca..retties.jpg

Following this tour, we went right next door to the Aranui Cave. This is a dry cave, and smaller, but every bit as wonderous as Ruakuri. Here's a photo and video of this tour:

Within-the..ui-Cave.jpg

We needed to spend some time above ground, so after the Aranui Cave we decided to hit the trail. Just down from the mouth of the cave we found the start of the Ruakuri bushwalk. This hike was another beaut, winding through lush forest, along a stream, and through a short cave. Here's a photo and a video:

Along-the-Ruakuri-bushwalk

Along-the-Ruakuri-bushwalk

After a quick lunch at "More Pork" within the village of Waitomo, we made our way back to the last of our cave tours - the Waitomo Glowworm Cave. This cave was similar in many respects to the other two, but the big attraction here is the boat ride at the end of the tour. The boat drifts along the underground river in pitch blackness, with the exception of the thousands of glowworms attached to the ceiling of the cave. The gloworms are actually the maggot stage of Arachnocampa luminosa. Most of its lifespan is spent in the larval form. The larvae secrete sticky strands of silk, and then use their bioluminescence to lure various flying insects, which they then consume after the insects get caught in the strands.

After this, we were happy, but all caved out. So we jumped into the Capella and started our journey south to the city of New Plymouth for the second half of our adventure. Along the way we had our first encounter with the New Zealand Police, a representative of which stopped us to advise that the Capella had a headlight burned out. Thankful that immigration had not caught up with us, we proceeded down the road to New Plymouth. The big attraction in New Plymouth is Mount Taranaki. Driving towards the city late Saturday afternoon, we were lucky enough to catch glimpses of the snow-veiled peak sticking up above the clouds. A short distance outside of the city we stopped to have a look at the "Three Sisters". These are distinctive rock formations just north of the White Cliffs. The tides didn't cooperate with us though, and the sea had not receeded enough for us to walk the shore around the point to have a look. If we had arrived at the right time, this is what the Three Sisters would have looked like.

After a short while wondering if we had arrived at the right location of the cottage we had rented, we settled in and the rain began. It bucketed down and didn't really stop until we packed up a day and a half later. We laughed nervously as animals of all descriptions began arriving two by two. Sunday morning we decided to set out anyway towards our first intended destination - Dawson Falls, Wilkies Pools, and the Goblin Forest, which you can see overhead here. All that rain that we just wrote about forced us to turn back before reaching the spot though. Had we been able to see Dawson Falls, it would have looked like this. We salvaged the day by spending it inside at Puke Ariki, the museum/cultural centre in New Plymouth. There were interesting exhibits of Maori artefacts, and historical information about the region. We drove back to the cottage through the deluge, and hunkered down for the rest of the day and night. Monday morning it rained! But as we were leaving the cottage, the sky did start to clear up and the sun started to come out. Perfect timing? Yeah, right. Unfortunately it didn't clear enough to allow us a view of Mount Taranaki. Had we been able to see it, it would have looked like this:

Mt. Taranaki - photo courtesy of www.taranaki.info

Mt. Taranaki - photo courtesy of www.taranaki.info

The drive home was an interesting one. We decided to take the scenic route (as if any route in New Zealand isn't scenic!), and drove along Highway 43 - the Forgotten World Highway. It felt like home as we started this leg of the journey, for we found ourselves in Stratford! The highway started here and ended in a town called Taumarunui, 155 km away. Along the way we stopped numerous times to view the landscape at the various mountain saddles. We had to wind our way around numerous rock falls spilling out onto the road and blocking one of the lanes. In a couple of spots there were trees down across a lane as well! Did we mention that it had rained? In fact the rain visited us on and off as we made our way home. The rain made for some great scenery as it cascaded down the face of the surrounding cliffs in impromptu waterfalls. One of the attractions near the end of the highway was the Moki Road Tunnel, which you can see overhead here, and a photo of here (note the water cascade at the entrance):

Moki-Road-tunnel

Moki-Road-tunnel

We arrived back at the house in Tauranga many hours later. It was the end of a weekend of great experiences. God save the Queen and thanks to her for her birthday which gave us an extra day to explore!

Posted by tcrons 04:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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