A Travellerspoint blog

Bone-crunching aggression and a peaceful waterfall

semi-overcast 10 °C

As autumn marches onward here in New Zealand, we're being introduced to much cooler temperatures at night and the need to employ the combustion of natural resources to stay comfie. The fireplace in the lounge is treating us well! Additionally, we have a new best friend who sits beside us as we assemble this exciting prose - we like to call him the DeLonghi Sicura System. You can see a photo of him here.

What did we do this past week? On Tuesday it rained. But it was dry in the studio where Tim attended his first painting class. For at least six weeks, Tim will be attempting to learn acrylics from Paula Knight, along with a group of retired women. More likely, he will cause the instructor to give up teaching out of frustration. Tuesday's session involved the drawing of a glass pitcher with oil pastels - it was a bit of a train wreck by the end. This week might see some paint hit a canvas. Tim celebrated his foray into the visual art world by returning home in the afternoon and making pizza dough.

Bronte's training sessions for the literary competition in Hamilton are heating up like a DeLonghi HCA324FS. The team is practicing several times a week, and Bronte is loving it. The rest of the family even gets a question or two right that she relays when she gets home (like where does Tin Tin call home? Or, what was the name of the main male character in Wuthering Heights?) Bronte says that a lot of the questions are considerably tougher though - especially the ones dealing with Maori myths and legends.

Jack is still really enjoying school and all that it has to offer as well. He continues to attend Kapa Haka, learning Maori songs and dances (which he has taken to singing during our hikes), and he has joined the school choir. He has also really taken to cricket. I know, it's a confusing game to the unschooled like the rest of us. As near as we can figure from what Jack tells us, the most exciting part is batting to protect the wickets from the ball which is hurled with force by the bowler. I'd love to go watch a game, but we only have nine months left in New Zealand and I think Test Matches may run longer than that! At the next BBQ we attend we'll ask about centuries, overs, and what's up with the shin pads.

On Wednesday, Tim needed some mountain air, so he headed over the Kaimai range back to Waiere Falls (you might remember this from an earlier post). After snagging a geocache at the first lookout, he headed up to the summit, which had not been visited by the family on our earlier trip here. What a workout! Have a look at this photo taken from the lookout to see where Tim ended up (at the very crest of the falls - feet almost getting wet as the water plunged over the precipice):

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On Friday, Tim and Jenn met for lunch at Bravo. It was an odd day at Jenn's school - the so-called "work day". The deal with this is that instead of classes, each student goes out and works some job for the day and gets paid $25 which they then give to the school. The school makes a good $30k from this event! Friday night we thought we'd try Kwang Chow for some Chinese food. It was unremarkable.

Saturday Jack's soccer team played the Otumoetai Galaxy and won the game 2-1. You can follow the league results here, although there is no off-track betting from Canada. Sorry. Bronte's team didn't play this week. It was raining off and on throughout Saturday, but that didn't deter us from taking in another bit of kiwi culture - the rugby match. The elite team at Jenn's school was playing the team from Opotiki, and they destroyed them 36-0. Our understanding of this game is a bit more advanced than cricket, but still only marginal. Rugby is not a game for the timid. It combines raw aggression with running skill and significant strength. Kind of like ice dancing. The object of the game, for those of you who have no idea, is to score a "try", which is like a touchdown in football (or "Grid-iron" as it is known here). The ball has to be carried across the end line and placed on the ground with intention (ie not spiked or dropped). That'll win you four points. Then you get to kick a convert between the uprights a set distance out, but at an angle matching the point where the goal line was crossed. Here's a photo:

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We rounded out Saturday by going on a short hike at the Puketoki Scenic Reserve, which you can see overhead here. We almost left Jack at home for this one, until Bronte asked where he was as Tim backed the Capella out of the driveway. Chances of Tim and Jenn snagging that parenting award just flew out the window. The hike was OK - here's a photo as proof:

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Sunday after Jack returned from goal-keeper training, we headed back to Otanewainuku (remember this kiwi bird area from last post). This time we did the other part of the trail to the Whataroa waterfall. We hadn't seen a new waterfall in several days, so we thought this would be a good one to do. The first part of this hike took us past huge Rimu trees, which the photos and video below don't do justice. After an hour of hiking, marked by a mildly concerning animal sound some ways along the trail (we think it was either a boar or a cow with bronchitis), we reached the waterfall which you can see overhead here.

Here are some photos and the now-typical video:

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Steaks for dinner finished our week. And now as we and the DeLonghi HCA324FS move on to our next adventure, be assured that we're thinking about each and every one of you on a daily basis. Honestly.

Posted by tcrons 16:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Don't step on the Kiwi, mate!

overcast 20 °C

It was back to the grind this week for the Cronsberry family here in New Zealand. Jenn's Mom successfully caught her flight home on Friday morning without getting stuck in an Icelandic pyroclastic cloud. It was great having Judy here for 10 days, and we can't wait for our next visitors (the Allores in July, unless someone else is coming before that?).

After putting the clothes washer through a suitable workout on Friday and Saturday to catch up on our domestic neccessities, we jumped in the Capella and drove out to our next hike location - Kaiate Falls which you can see overhead here. It was a short hike to the series of smaller waterfalls. The last one (and the largest drop) which you can see over Tim's shoulder below serves as a swimming hole for the local kids who apparently jump off the crest into the pool below. Tim cited the desire to avoid back surgery as his reason to not give it a go. Here are some photos:

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With the start of a new school term looming, Jenn spent the rest of Saturday working at home while Tim took Bronte and Jack to Baywave (waterslide and wave pool, and site of Jack's b-day party back in March). It was wet.

On Monday, school started afresh. With the new term came new uniform requirements for Bronte. Here she is about to leave for the bus:

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The only thing new for Jack's uniform is that he doesn't have to wear his hat for the next two terms, and when it gets cold he can wear long pants! On Wednesday, Bronte was chosen for the reserve spot on the school's Literary Team. She's been going to Literary Club for quite a while now where the librarian quizzes the group about books. The schools compete against each other using a similar format. We were really proud of Bronte as there were about 40 kids vying for a total of 9 spots, and many of the questions relate to New Zealand literature which she falls a bit short on. The team will be competing in Hamilton (New Zealand) in a few weeks. We've been telling our kids that reading is a waste of time, but it looks like we might have been wrong!

Tim did the tax returns on Thursday. You can see how he made out here.

On Friday Tim felt that the family was not moving fast enough to summit Obesity Peak, so he made Cinnamon buns. Combining this with his stagnant photographic skills, he came up with the next photo in the self portrait series:

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Saturday arrived and it was time to put the kid's soccer skills to the test. Jack and his team the Waipuna Chelsea played first and did really well against the number 1 team in the league three years running. Although they lost the game 1-nil on a soft goal, we were all really happy with their performance. Bronte plays for the Waipuna Magic, and they fought hard in their first game to tie the Bethlehem College team 1-1. Here are some photos of the action:

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It was a marathon session at the soccer pitch for us, and we were ready for adventure afterwards. We headed out to the Whakatane area for a BBQ at the house of the parents of our exchange partners. The Halls live on a kiwifruit orchard, and gave us a tour and an education about growing kiwifruit. It's fascinating, especially the part about bringing in bee hives for the pollenation phase (they bring a bunch of hives and leave them on-site for about a week, then take them away)! The kiwifruit that you see in the photo below are almost ready for picking:

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We had a great time with the Halls, eating BBQ lamb and meeting their family - we're thankful to have such a supportive bunch around us!

Sunday morning was a skype-fest which brought us up to speed with Jenn's family as well as those Walshes. Because it was Anzac Day here in NZ (equivalent to our Remembrance Day in Canada), we thought we should celebrate freedom and go on another hike. This time it was off to a forest inhabited by the elusive kiwi bird. You can see the area, called Otanewainuku, overhead here.

No waterfalls on the loop of the track we took, but HUGE trees to be sure. Here's a short video of the trek:

We rounded out the week with a couple of games of Uno after dinner. Then with the children nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of kiwis dance in their heads, Tim deleted a critical file on the computer and spent Monday morning fixing it in order for us to bring you the high quality programming you've just experienced. Until next week, mind the pukekos and don't chunder after your Marmite.

Posted by tcrons 19:42 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Jenn's Work Post!

sunny 20 °C

Finally, I have taken some photos of my students and school. WARNING: Yes, it's a lot of teacher and school talk but I know some colleagues may be interested.

First, my school of 1800 boys is multi-building. Students line up for each class either outside the building, or outside the door of the classroom if there is a big enough interior hallway. My classes line up outside and I go get them. These 2 pics are of my favourite class (they will never see this so I can say play favourites here!) lining up. They are a "Year 10" class, which is essentially same as Grade 10, though many are a year younger. You'll see the Science building in the background.

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One of my other favourite classes is my Writing Option course, which includes Year 11s (by the windows), Year 12s (centre row) and Year 13s (in the Year 13 uniform - white shirts, which they have to earn the right to wear through academics or at least effort). First time I have had to teach 3 grades in one class, all working on different things, but they are a nice group of young men who actually work fairly well and listen to me.

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And, my little bit of heaven ... the mounted data projector with attached speakers!

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Me by the Office block.

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A couple interesting tidbits about school routines here ... We have a 10-15 minute staff meeting before classes start every Mon, Wed., Fri., with a longer PD session every Tuesday morning, and an English Dept. admin. meeting every other Thursday morning (on the off week there is a longer English Dept. meeting after school on Mondays). At first the almost daily meetings felt SO odd to me (and added to my morning franticness), but now that I'm used to it, it's just a part of my morning routine and really not a big deal at all.

There is a morning "interval" each day after the second class. This is 'tea time' - prevalent in much of Kiwi society. And here, there is a lovely woman who actually pours us tea in the staff room, with biscuits (cookies) put out daily. NICE!!! At first I thought this was a little frivolous, but after having taught a couple of weeks, I now know that having a quick good strong cup of tea two classes into the day is a must to survive the day. It's great!

Lunch is similar length to ours, but the boys aren't allowed in the buildings, nor off school grounds, at lunch, so there is a LOT more activity among the students than I see at DCVI where students usually just hang out.

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Though the pics above are of boys just hanging out, on other parts of the school grounds there is lots of sport both formal and informal - and the odd fight that always draws a crowd. Usually fights end fairly quickly when a couple of teachers arrive, and teachers usually get there fast, drawn by the mob of students running and yelling "fight!". Don't get the wrong impression - it's not fights all the time (often leads to expulsion), but more than at little DCVI - maybe due to the size of school and all-boys? Who knows.

Monday and Tuesdays I teach 5 classes instead of my usual 3 back in Canada. Granted they are a little shorter classes, but still, working with 150 boys each day took a bit to get used to. On Wed - Fri. I only have 4 classes, so those days are great and not such a blur. Timetable 'rolls' and I still couldn't tell you the order on each day - neither could most students, but we all manage to be where we need to be. There is a principal's assembly every Friday morning during which he addresses the whole school for about half an hour on various issues/accomplishments. It AMAZES me how quietly these 1800 boys sit in a gym maybe twice the size of DCVI's, but with 4 times as many boys in it.

And the most often asked question - how are the students? From my LIMITED perspective, the students in most of my classes are very polite and more formal than in Canada. Many say a "goodbye Miss" or "thank you Miss" on the way out the door. It's kind of neat that they all call me "miss" in their lovely Kiwi accents, which I have got far more used to. At first I had to get them to repeat themselves a lot. The Maori students have a really nice intonation/lilt that is easily distinguishable from the Pakeha (European) Kiwis. I love listening to the Kiwi accent. Bronte and Jack haven't picked it up yet, but they definitely have picked up the lingo ('lollies' for candy, biscuits, and other expressions like 'dodgy as' and 'sweet as', ... any adjective + 'as').

Overall, lots of fondness for my students, and really, they make me smile/laugh/ shake my head, much as in St. Marys. But as Michael, my exchange partner, so aptly warned me, teaching all boys is "draining" - they are LIVELY (yes, that's good, but sometimes too lively for a classroom) and listening to their female teachers is not something they do all that well in the junior grades it seems. They are either scared of their male teachers, or look up to them as male role models. Me, I don't scare any of them unfortunately (I'm shorter than most of them), and obviously I'm no male role model. So most days with my Year 9s at least, it's a constant struggle with classroom management, though one of my two Year 9 classes is slowly getting better. Overall, definitely will be the most challenging teaching year I've ever had, but it's great professional growth for me, assuming I survive :)

Sorry for all the teacher talk. Tim will be back in a couple of days with his usual entertaining posts about the more leisurely part of our adventure!

Posted by tcrons 01:18 Archived in New Zealand Tagged educational Comments (2)

The bach, the peak, and the gorge

sunny 18 °C

Jenn's Mom's visit from Canada along with the ongoing two week school holiday gave us reason to venture further from home than ever. We made the four hour journey southwest to Napier - one of New Zealand's fruit-growing regions, and packed mucho activities into the short time we were there. Along the way we made a couple of stops - the first was a completely unplanned stop at a random lookout off the highway which revealed a gorgeous waterfall down in the valley. It looked like this:

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Next we stopped in Taupo for a picnic lunch at the shore of Lake Taupo. We won't get into too much detail about Taupo because we'll be going back for a long weekend - suffice to say that the snow-capped mountain across the lake made for a nice scene to scarf down our victuals.

When we arrived late in the afternoon at the quaint, rustic cottage outside of Napier, which you can see overhead here, we were immediately struck by the beauty of the area - particularly the sound of the surf with the ocean less than 50 metres from the door! Here's a few photos to help you visualize:

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There was no swimming in the ocean here though. Although the beach was nifty (fine, black pebbles), the sea floor drops off quickly and the surf dumps pretty hard right at the point of the drop. We had plenty else to do though! The following day we set off for Napier, driving past vineyards and fruit orchards. Napier is a pretty interesting place. The city was almost completely destroyed in a 7.8 magnitude earthquake back in 1931, and rebuilt in the style of the day - Art Deco. We made our way to the museum and checked out the earthquake exhibit, the Maori artifacts, and a strange lamp exhibit.

The following day we started at the National Aquarium of New Zealand. It's similar to the aquarium in Auckland that we wrote about in the last post, but the Napier one is better! We all particularly enjoyed feeding time which showed us a diver in the tank putting on quite a show. Following the aquarium, we drove a short way to the next town - Hastings. This town was also largely destroyed in the 1931 earthquake, and was rebuilt like Napier, albeit with a bit less of the Art Deco influence. After fueling up with lunch at Cafe at Westermans, we drove out to Te Mata Peak. Wow. The view was adjective-defying. Here you go:

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Yes, that's a very narrow, windy road that goes right to the top - Jenn's getting better at steep, narrow, windy roads along cliffsides. We were so awestruck by the experience that we needed ice cream quickly. So back to Hastings we went to call in at Rush Munroe's. It was very creamy. Due to some bad information, we arrived at the Church Rd. Winery at the end of the tour rather than at the beginning. Judy and Tim drowned their disappointment with a few tastings and then we moved on to Hohepa Cheese. It was pretty anticlimactic.

The next day we made our way back to Tauranga, stopping briefly after passing through the mountain range for a quick photo:

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Thursday came and we had to take Jenn's Mom back to Auckland as she was flying home the following morning. On the way we stopped in the Karangahake Gorge which you can see overhead here. What a hike! This is a former gold mining area and its past was evident everywhere we walked - from the old train rails to the tunnels through the side of the gorge. Here's a few photos and a video:

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So there you have it! Want more? There's a few more photos posted in the photo gallery link. Now we're doing laundry and getting ready to start back with the school week routine. We're wondering who'll be the next person to visit - could it be you?

Posted by tcrons 03:24 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Black sand, Maori culture, and Waiheke sculptures

semi-overcast 19 °C

Our home census increased by one this week as Jenn's Mom showed how much she cares by flying here for a visit. Auckland-J..arrival.jpgFor all the rest of you, perhaps more stories and photos will convince you to get over here. You know we'd visit you if the roles were reversed!

Monday morning we loaded up the Capella and set off for Auckland, but took a stunning detour. First we checked out Piha - our first encounter with the wild west coast of New Zealand. Piha is an interesting beach with its black sand (due to high iron content) and its high walls and waves that attract surfers that really need to know what they're doing (lest they end up with their vertebrae bent to the point of fracture). There is a reality TV show here that films the Piha surf life-saving crew doing their regular rescues of surfers caught in the rips and fishermen swept off the rocks. That's how crazy the ocean is at that beach - and we had to see it in person. The road to Piha winds up and down with breathtaking views of the ocean. None of it scared Jack though. You want proof?

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Since we were in the 'hood, we decided to put the Capella's brakes to the test so we drove back over the ridge and down the other side to Karekare Beach. The road down to the beach was even more crazy than the long and winding road to Whangamata (described in an earlier post). You can see Karekare overhead here. You might recognize this beach from the film The Piano - the opening scenes were filmed there. Like Piha, it has black sand. It is walled on three sides by soaring cliffs, and is quite vast. Here's some photos, though it's hard to capture the awesome size of the beach and cliffs - note the dots in the background, which are people, to give you a sense of the size:

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We could have spent a lot longer walkng around the area, but as dusk was approaching we decided to head back into Auckland and find the hotel. The next day we picked up Jenn's Mom without incident at the airport, and after celebrating her arrival (and the delivery of Montreal Steak Spice and Kraft Dinner), we headed out to be tourists. Our first activity was to visit the Aquarium. We rode there in style as you can see here:

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Following the visit, our appetites were primed for seafood, so we dined at Neptune at the Auckland Harbour. With the food, Judy got her second wind so we caught the Link bus out to the Auckland Museum. It is quite impressive! One of the highlights was the Maori exhibit with so many artifacts from Maori history that it was overwhelming. Jack and Bronte were attracted to different appealing aspects of the culture:

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We wrapped the day up with dinner at La Porchetta which was quite delish! The next day after a good sleep we headed down to the harbour to catch the ferry to Waiheke Island. Feeling the wind in our hair on the ride over was great, and the scenery wasn't bad either:

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We rode the bus around the island and following lunch at the Lazy Lounge, we strolled around the shops looking at both souvenirs as well as fantastic sculptures. Here's Bronte outside The Lazy Lounge:

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Thursday morning we said "haere ra" to Auckland and headed back to Tauranga, stopping at the Kaimai summit along the way for a quick photo of Judy, Bronte, and Jack:

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After a brief rest at home, we'll tackle our next adventure, which will include vinyards, a bach, and a place with a very long name. Catch you in a few days!

Posted by tcrons 03:07 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

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