A Travellerspoint blog

Blame it on the rain, yeah, yeah

rain 14 °C

We're not sure if it was Milli or Vanilli who first (or ever) uttered those words, but there's plenty to blame on the rain for us here in New Zealand. While you may think this is all negative, that's not the case at all. With the rain comes some perks, which we'll describe in a 'mo.

The past week was not kind to Jenn as the rhinovirus infecting her body left her feeling miserable-as. Fortuantely for her students, she didn't miss a day of work and they received the full benefit of her skills as an educator. The side benefit is that there will likely be fewer students in her classes this week as the outbreak takes hold.

Tuesday had Tim taking advantage of a brief break in the rain to rush out to Kaiate Falls to study the hydrodynamic effects of excessive moisture and gravity. You may remember Kaiate Falls from a previous post - it's only 15 minutes from the house, and you can see it overhead here. There was considerably more water flowing through the area than last time the crue visited. The only way it would have been more peaceful is if the damn water wasn't making such a loud noise. They should do something about that. Here's a photo and a video:

Kaiate falls Creek

Kaiate falls Creek

On Wednesday Tim continued with the swirling water theme and cleaned the toilet. And the floors. It was gripping.

Jack took hold of Thursday like he wanted them to rename the day after him. It was cross-country race day at Maungatapu Primary and Jack ran the course against all of the other year 5 boys. Tim rang the cowbell each time he passed, and cheered like an idiot. While a lot of the other boys left it all out on the course much earlier, Jack saved a burst for the end, propelling his body across the line to seize 29th place, wrestling it from the slackening grip of one of his mates as you can see in this photo-finish:



We wrapped up that exciting day by dining on home-made Minestrone soup, and catching the finale of American Idol. Friday was a strange day in New Zealand. It was "Hug a Ginger" Day here (as well as in many other countries apparently). We had never heard of this event and had a nice dinnertime debate about the value of singling out those with red hair with likely-unwanted physical contact. In the end we decided that we would continue to abstain from participation in similar events in the future, although we may well give 3/4 of the Bettgers individual hugs when we next see them - just because they're so great!

Saturday arrived with Jenn feeling much better having shed virus throughout the week. Following unmentionable soccer results, we launched into a Skype-fest and ended it feeling less than half-a-planet away. While Jenn went into work for a couple of hours, Tim helped Bronte with her science fair project. After putting out the fire, we waited for Jenn to arrive home so that she could take Bronte shopping for clothes that she won't grow out of at an alarming rate (Bronte that is). That night we went out to the Flying Burrito Brothers for dinner. It was as tasty as Mexican food can achieve.

Sunday was hiking day, and keeping with the theme of revisiting old treks, we returned to Waiere Falls. This one still ranks at the top of at least a couple of our "Best Hike" lists, and we wanted to see what majesty befell the falls with so much rain over the past while. We weren't disappointed! The trail was greasy in spots, and 3/4 of the family went for a header at various points along the trail - the most serious injury sustained by Jenn who neatly removed several layers of skin on her leg after doing her best impersonation of a Canadian figure skater, letting gravity take her down. Despite the wipe-outs, it was a fantastic outing as usual. Here's some proof:



Waiere falls panorama with water!

Waiere falls panorama with water!

Compare that with the previous photos of the place here.

Sunday night had us relaxing at home in front of the space heater, reading Harry Potter and the Half Baked Kiwi - thankful for a brief respite from the rain. We're having a fantastic time still, and we are really, really looking forward to next weekend (which is a long one owing to the Queen's real birthday). We've got some terribly exciting things planned that will see us reach new highs and new lows, and may cause the next blog post to be slightly delayed. Until then, keep your stick on the ice (or your rugby ball on the field).

Posted by tcrons 23:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Interesting things about New Zealand #3

rain 16 °C

As we blend into the New Zealand culture to the point where we are virtually indistinguishable from those who are born here (that is, until we open our mouths to speak), we have been making even more observations about things that make this country different from Canada. This has lead us to installment #3 in the "Interesting things" series. Here we go:

Transportation - Since vehicles and driving have taken such a prominent spot in the past two Interesting things posts, why don't we start there again? The right of way rules in New Zealand have been more difficult to get used to than any other aspect of driving. There is a rule here (that is under review by the way as several people we've spoken with think it should be chucked), that has left turning traffic giving way to opposing right turning traffic. In Canada, if you are about to make a left hand turn and someone approaching from the opposite direction wants to make the same turn, they must wait for the oncoming traffic to clear. You can see a better explanation and official illustrations of this rule here. Tim still can be heard muttering to himself about whether he should turn or not in some circumstances.

One of the vehicle mysteries described in the last Interesting things post has been solved - the strange mirrors - one sticking out of the back of some vehicles but directed back towards the rear window, and another on the front passenger fender. Apparently they are called parking assist mirrors. The one on the back that looks like it simply points back inside the vehicle actually enables the driver to see the back bumper to tell when the vehicle is getting really close to a stationary object or a cliff.

Drive-thrus at fast food restaurants go in the opposite direction.

The final transportation-related interesting thing relates to pedestrians. New Zealand drivers stop faithfully at crosswalks whenever anyone appears to want to cross at one. But walkers beware anywhere else, as pedestrians do not appear to have the right of way anywhere else. Jack and Tim have almost been mowed over numerous times on the way home from school while falsely assuming that drivers will stop to let children walk across the street at an intersection.

Grocery stores - as we've written before, they are largely the same as back in Canada, except of course for some of the items for sale. For instance, one can buy bags of coal in the grocery store in New Zealand. At 25kg bag of the finest hydrocarbon-rich fossil fuel will only set you back $12.99. We haven't been belching large amounts of carbon dioxide into the New Zealand atmosphere using this particular method though, as the fireplace in the house does not have the appropriate modifications required. Corn syrup is not available in New Zealand, and Tim's butter tarts have suffered immensly. At the other end of the grocery store you can find eggs, but not in the refrigerated section. Eggs are stored on the shelf in the baking isle. Girl Guide cookies are sold here too, but they are different than in Canada. In New Zealand they are more like plain biscuits, sans filling. We've never been able to walk past a Girl Guide stand without buying, and although we miss the icing, the cookies are still tasty! There's another food staple in New Zealand that we simply had to try, no matter what our better judgement told us. Here's a short film that re-enacts the trial:

Money - There are many great things about the banking system here in New Zealand. While the country may not rival the Caymans in the tax shelter area, they really do have things together. There is the ubiquitous EFTPOS, which stands for Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale. Similar to Interac back home, you can pay for just about anything anywhere using your bank card. No big deal, I know. But what really is great is the ability to transfer funds to anyone else with a bank account, even if their account is at a different bank - with no extra fee. Back when we rented the bach in Napier we just transfered the money to the people that owned the place after they provided their details. All from the comfort of our home. It makes things so easy.

Culture - As we've mentioned before, Jack and Bronte have been involved in the Kapa Haka group at their respective schools. Jack in particular has been practicing at home, and we're now ready to show you his version of the Haka:

And for the final interesting thing, we give you "Sweet as". This is an oft-used term by Kiwis to describe something that is pleasant. Despite our initial shock over the dangling similie, it's quite endearing and always makes us smile when we hear it. The dangling similies don't end there. Common Kiwi-speak uses terms like easy-as, tasty-as, loud-as, dumb-as (Tim hears that one often as he walks past groups of youths).

That's it for this extra bonus post to the Cronsberry Travel Blog. We'll be back soon-as with another update.

Posted by tcrons 01:04 Archived in New Zealand Comments (4)

Perilous Descents and an Arboreal Adventure

rain 17 °C

As an entire year's worth of rainfall has been pounding Tauranga over the past few days, we reflect on a week that had Tim grabbing at vegetation to keep himself from plunging down into a yawning abyss, and a wet but enjoyable stroll through some giants. Let's elaborate.

The week began serenely with a skyped conversation with 3/4 of the Moores. Catching up on St. Marys happenings was great. The good times continued as Tim researched with excitement the options for the upcoming long weekend (the Queen has a different birthday here in New Zealand, so we have to wait a couple more weeks for our holiday). Tuesday was particularly thrilling as Tim cleaned the entire bathroom - walls and all. No photos available of that event.

The dangerous part of the week showed up on Thursday. Tim altered his plans to summit Te Aroha because the weather didn't look great. Instead, he headed back over to Omanawa Falls after unconfirmed reports of the existence of a mystery trail leading to the base of the gorge. You might remember Omanawa Falls from a previous post. Tim met a kiwi named Richy at the carpark who offered to show him the way. Despite not really being dressed properly for the excursion, he agreed and followed Richy and his dog along a harrowing path that involved steep inclines, followed by descents that were so steep as to require the use of a fixed ladder that was in place. It was more tense than a campsite. Along the way Richy explained that Omanawa Falls has very little water flowing over the crest these days because the powerplant has been recommissioned - thus resulting in the diversion of most of the water through a tunnel cut through the rock and down past the turbine, then out into the pond at the bottom. Despite the hum of the turbine, it was still beautiful. By the time he made it back to the car, Tim was through with Omanawa for a while. Here's a photo and a video:

Omanawa Falls from water level

Omanawa Falls from water level

Saturday saw the routine soccer outings with unfortunate losses for both Bronte and Jack. Jack played goal keep this time, and was chosen Player of the Game despite the 1-nil loss to the Omokoroa Monsters (not kidding - that's the team name). Bronte played with grit despite being in the middle of her 20 hour famine for World Vision. There were no episodes of hypoglycemic shock, so we headed out to the Bowentown Domain in the late afternoon for a bit of a walk. You can see the area overhead here. While the walk lacked some of the verve we have experienced in other places, it was still nice to get out before the next bout of rain came. Here's a shot of Jack with Cave Bay behind him.


We thought that the rain wasn't going to start until the afternoon on Sunday, so we ventured out to Rotorua to walk The Redwoods. You can see this area overhead here. It was a charming walk with fairly big trees. Despite their size, apparently the oldest are only a mere 100 years old or so. They are mostly California Redwoods as they apparently grow fairly fast in this climate, making it a good forest for harvesting. This particular area also touts itself as having some of the best mountain biking in the world. That's a pretty tall claim in our minds, so Tim will likely go back in the future to rent a bike and see what damage he can do to his body.

Cronsberry Family in Redwood forest Rotorua

Cronsberry Family in Redwood forest Rotorua


As the rain started about halfway through the Redwoods walk, we marvelled at how the inaccuracies of weather forecasting know no international boundary. Despite being damp, we dropped some coin in the visitor centre picking up a swamp Kauri bowl and some Rotorua mud soap. We brushed the bark off the Capella and returned to Tauranga where The Empire Strikes Back was screened while Jenn began to really feel the effects of the cold virus coursing through her body.

The rain continues to fall, but we continue to have a fantastic time!

Posted by tcrons 02:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

Getting a literary edumacation

sunny 18 °C

Not much happened at the New Zealand branch office of Cronsberry Inc. this week, so if you're pressed for time you can stop reading now.

OK, now that we've just got you dedicated lot left, here's what really happened this week. Soccer practice really heated up for Jack when we arrived to see a bush fire in the valley by the soccer field. Tim did not run into the flames to rescue any possums, but simply watched as the fire brigade (as they are called here) drove around trying to locate a realistic place to access the area. The fire seemed to go out spontaneously, and there was no loss of any children or pets.

Wednesday saw the arrival of much needed rain. It came down heavily for most of the day, and really picked up shortly after we set off for Hamilton for Bronte's literature club competition. Unfortunately, none of the first string team members contracted any ailment that would prevent them from competing, so Bronte was left to cool her heels in the crowd with Tim and Jenn, and an always attentive Jack. Here's Bronte being patient:


The competition was really interesting. There were 55 teams competing. There were ten rounds of questions, with an intermission after five. Each round was based around a theme and consisted of ten questions. For instance, one of the themes was monsters, and the moderator asked questions such as "which of the Bronte sisters is the oldest?" (answer is Charlotte) and "What do the faeries call the humans in Artemis Fowl" (answer is mudmen) and " Which boy found his uncle's car in a car dump riddled with bullet holes?" (answer is Alex Rider). At the end of each round the scores for all teams were tallied and results displayed on screens as the moderator gave the answers to the questions. In between rounds, the moderator had bonus questions that he would ask - the first was for the adults in the audience. Whomever was the first with the answer got to go to the front and pick out a book from the prize table. The next open question was for the kids and the first to answer correctly was given $5. The winning team for each round got a set of 4 books for their team. Bronte's two school teams did really well, and were in second place for quite a while. In the end one team finished in 5th while the other finished 8th. Not bad! Neither Jenn nor Tim got any of the adult questions fast enough. Here's another shot of the competition during one of the rounds - the moderator is the one in the top hat:


The whole thing wrapped up by 9:30, and then we were off through the driving rain towards home. The storm peaked at the Kaimai summit. Tim was sure he saw a kayaker pass the Capella on the way down the other side.

Wednesday saw Tim try in vain to find a fix to the Windows Movie Maker problem, but in frustration he gave up in the afternoon and instead made a Banoffee pie, which apparently is a big thing here in New Zealand (must be the British influence). Here's a photo of the result:



Friday was an exciting day for Jenn at work since she took one of her Grade 9 classes to the Aronui (Maori meeting place) on their school site. She had arranged for one of the Maori teachers to tell some Maori myths/legends to her class since there were starting a myth unit. Jenn found the Maori legends behind the carvings inside very interesting; Jenn's students found how short she really is once she took off her shoes to enter, as is Maori custom, very interesting.

Friday night and Saturday saw a great deal of rain - so much so that soccer was cancelled. This translates into another unique accomplishment for Bronte, for it means that she still holds the Player of the Game trophy for her team - two weeks in a row! Saturday afternoon Tim and Bronte trekked on over to Mitre 10 MEGA (ie Home Depot) to get materials for her science fair project due later this term. With the leftover wood, Tim helped Jack to construct a gutterboard. This is a game that is played at Jack's school where a ball is thrown at the gutterboard and rebounds back to be caught by the thrower, who then moves back a square and goes again until they drop it. Here's a photo of Jack in action:


Jenn found it a bit addictive after Jack got her to try.

Sunday we were going a bit stir crazy and had to get out, so we went to Mt. Maunganui and walked the base trail in the sunshine. It was great. We'd show you video, but Tim hasn't mastered Adobe Premiere yet (the replacement for the crippled Microsoft thing). Jenn attended a "tea" with some of her female colleagues on Sunday afternoon, while Tim took Bronte and Jack to check out a skateboard park in Papamoa so they could learn some new swear words from the area youth. Tim even learned a few new words that he'll try out next time on the golf course. We wound down our week Sunday night with some scrumtious salmon-filled filo things and a magic show courtesy of Jack.

Posted by tcrons 23:38 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Move over Beckham

sunny 18 °C

We were on the doorstep of a rather banal week by New Zealand standards when glory was achieved at week's end. Here come all the glorious details.

The week continued where last weekend left us - quite cold inside the house! But a skype episode on Monday with the Payettes left a warm feeling that lasted all the way to Friday. In between, very little of note happened with us.

Friday saw Tim visiting the Tauranga Art Gallery and being quite impressed with the John McLean exhibit entitled "The Farmer". You can get a taste of this here. He then darted across the street and caught a photo exhibit at Creative Tauranga. Then to calm things down a bit, he went home and made a meatloaf. Everyone thought it was pretty tasty. Sorry - no self portrait this time.

Saturday forced the whole family out of the house earlier than we would have liked as both Bronte and Jack had soccer matches at the same time at opposite ends of the city. Tim and Jack dropped off Bronte and Jenn at the Tauranga Girls College field and then booted over to Fergusson Park for Jack's game against the Otumoetai Magic. The outcome for Jack's team was poor, and they went down 1-nil. Making their way back to pick up Bronte and Jenn, they were met with the great news that not only had Bronte's team beaten their opponents (the Tauranga Girls College Reds), but that Bronte had scored her first goal ever! We really wish we had video, but you'll have to just imagine it. Bronte was right where she needed to be in front of the opposing goal when her teammate made a great cross right to her. She responded by nailing it and sending it into the back of the net. The resulting breeze dried the laundry hanging out in several back yards bordering the field. The thousands of fans watching rushed the field and hoisted Bronte up on their shoulders and she crowd-surfed back down to her own end. It was magical. Did it end there? No way. She was named Player of the Game faster than you can say Zinedine Zidane. In her acceptance speech she dedicated the goal to Kelly Walsh.



Bronte spent the afternoon at her friend Hannah's house, so Jenn, Jack, and Tim decided to do a short hike to see, of all things, a waterfall! The hike in to Omanawa Falls, which you can see overhead here, was fairly boring as it was just a gravel road with dense bush surrounding, but the area of the waterfall was breath-taking as usual. Here's a photo and a short video. Because of the impetuous decision by Windows Movie Maker to stop processing audio, you won't get the sense of serenity that usually comes from these hiking videos. Boy, do we ever miss our Mac! Instead there's an appropriate soundtrack - Pacific Theme by Broken Social Scene. Here you go:


The unfortunate part of this location was that we couldn't descend into the gorge. As you saw in the video, the trail ends at a locked steel door which is the entrance to a decommisioned power station. The pond into which the Omanawa Falls deposits its bounty empties into the Omanawa stream which we could see snippets of from up top. We're a bit surprised that this gorgeous site is not more accessible. Guess we'll have to look around for another waterfall to visit. We wrapped up Saturday by dining at the Lone Star. It was ok.

Mother's Day found us celebrating as every family should - at a soccer tournament. Jack's team participated in the Blue Rovers Tournament in Greerton. It was a solid 4 hours at the field before we were sent packin' with a record of 0-0, 0-1, 1-0, 0-0. Not enough to move into the semis. It was Jack's debut in goal though (for game one anyway). He did very well but was not named Player of the Game. Here he is in action:


We rounded out Mother's Day with a great meal at home prepared in part by Bronte who was later named Family Member of the Week. Here she is (you can see the edge of Jamie Oliver's sleeve at the right edge of the photo):


As a final milestone to end our week, we missed sending Uncle Wob a birthday greeting (it's becoming quite a tradition). So that was our week. Haere ra until next week when we should have Bronte "Player of the Game" t-shirts available for order.

Posted by tcrons 02:17 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

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