A Travellerspoint blog

Farm Animals, Pancakes, and Glaciers

rain 20 °C
View South Island on tcrons's travel map.

The next leg of our South Island trip required a critical first step – getting to the South Island itself! To do this, we rose early on Saturday morning and after checking out of the hotel, escorted the Capella to the Interislander terminal. The Interislander is one of two ferry companies that will cart your car and your person across the Cook Strait. We were to board the “Kaitai”, and although it didn’t have the marketing appeal of the Chichimon, it served our purpose well. The crossing of the Cook Strait was without any Titanic-esque issues. The ship seemed to take a long time to get out of Wellington (about an hour, actually) owing to the geographical setup of the city (it’s nestled around a large bay that is fairly sheltered from the sea). It got a bit windy through the open stretch of the journey, but when we entered the Marlborough Sounds on the top of the South Island, the water was calm and the scenery was awesome. Clouds hung low over the tops of the hills through which the Sounds were carved, making for a very peaceful entrance into the area. Three hours after we shoved off from the wharf, we were pulling into the small town of Picton, which you can see overhead here.

Hungry as we were, we decided to lunch right there in Picton before starting our drive. We rooted out the “Village Bakkerij” on a side street, and had a really tasty lunch sitting at a picnic table surrounded by the green hills of the town. The drive from here to the bach we were renting outside of Motueka was nice, except for the bit where an iPod foolishly left on the roof of the car in front of us flew off at one point with it’s poor headphone’s rubber arms flailing wildly as they fruitlessly attempted to wrestle with the superior forces of speed and gravity. Along the way we stopped in the town of Nelson – a vibrant town bustling with activity at the beach as dozens of kite surfers cut through the water. After picking up some groceries, we set off again, and soon came to the town of Motueka. We called into the iSite to fulfill all our tourist information needs, and were mildly distraught with the local weather forecast – heavy rain over the next 3 days, with the biggest deluge set to hit on Tuesday, the day we needed to drive to our next destination.

Our spirits picked up when we arrived at the bach shortly afterwards. It is in a gorgeous setting, nestled within a kiwifruit orchard, which you can see overhead here . They’ve got it all here – wandering chooks, a couple of peacocks who call to each other with a cry sounding just like Kevin from the movie “UP”, a large pig, horses, and of course the two wandering emus. Here’s a couple of images:

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After chatting with the owners, who live in the farmhouse just up the lane, we unpacked our necessities and set out to explore a little bit before dinner. We made our way down the road to a short hike leading to the Riwaka Resurgence. The Riwaka is a river that flows through the property the bach sits on. It is a shallow but extremely cold river that emerges from a cave in the mountain nearby. The walk was not unlike many others we’ve been on – moss covered trees, green hues, gurgling stream. The point of the resurgence is a pretty peaceful spot, as you can see here:

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That night the rain that had been forecast came down upon the batch with extreme prejudice. By morning it had let up some, and was a mere gentle shower. So we boarded Air Capella and headed back into Motueka to the iSite to do some more scouting. As the forecast looked a titch better for Monday, we decided to not go into the heart of Abel Tasman National Park, and instead drove to a short hike on the edge. The road leading to the trail was only the second most twisty we’ve driven in New Zealand 
(the road to Kerikeri Beach still gets that prize). The rain got heavier but we pressed on and were careful not to slide our way down the trail. By the time we emerged onto the beach we were in a full-fledged deluge. We lasted a little less than two minutes looking at the rock, but here’s what it looked like anyway:

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We trudged back up the trail to the car, all of us completely soaked to the bone. We headed back to the bach and spent the next few hours inside drying off and watching the rain and mist shroud Takaka Hill which served as the backdrop to our bach view. Around 3:30 the sun came out so we swam over to the car and did a short coastal walk in Motueka. That was pretty much it for that day!

The weather had improved by the next morning, so we drove to Kaiteriteri and caught a water taxi to Bark Bay, deep within the Abel Tasman National Park, and which you can see overhead here. The taxi made a short photo stop to Split Apple Rock of all places! As it turns out, we didn’t really need to get soaked the previous day to see this landmark! Here it is from the water and without all the rain:

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After pausing for a few minutes, we set off again. The seas were a bit rough on the trip to our starting point, and Jack almost revisted his breakfast near the end. But we made it, and were happy to begin our trek! Walking this part of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track was great. The scenery was wonderful, but admittedly not quite as stunning as we were expecting. It was very similar to the geography around the Muskoka lakes back in Ontario. We had a pleasant hike for the next couple of hours, and eventually came upon Torrent Bay, the site of our water-taxi pick-up. You can see a bit of the hike for yourself in these photos, and this short video:

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We had lunch on the beach and explored the area for an hour while we waited for our ride. Eventually the boat came and we headed back to Kaiteriteri. There was a pretty cool playground across the road from the beach, and we all had a go at the Flying Fox – even Jenn as you can see in this short video:

The next day it pounded rain as we left the bach, and didn’t let up until we were halfway to our next destination – Franz Josef. The road from Motueka took us through the Motueka Valley – where New Zealand’s entire supply of hops are grown. We continued on through the Buller Gorge where all the rain put on a fantastic roadside show as sometimes large, muddy waterfalls were created by the runoff down the high hills bordering the road. We had hoped to stop at the longest swing bridge in the country as we travelled through the gorge, but it was driving rain as we approached the carpark, so we bailed on that idea. Get it? Bailed – rain. The comedy just never stops.

In the early afternoon we arrived at our lunch spot – Punakaiki – home of the Pancake Rocks which you can see overhead here. The rocks are actually seaside cliffs that are quite layered, and have been eroded by the pounding surf into very interesting formations. There is a huge blowhole here as well, but unfortunately we were two hours past high tide so there was no blowing. It was still pretty spectacular though, as you can see in these photos:

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Onwards to the tiny community of Franz Josef we went, and arrived at the Top Ten Holiday Park around 5:30. We settled in to our cabin, cooked dinner, did a load of laundry, and relaxed with the low clouds and mist shrouding the surrounding soaring hills. There was a partial lunar eclipse that evening, but of course we couldn’t see it. We woke the next morning to rain and general greyness. We affixed our sunny outlook though, and after a relaxed start to the morning, we ventured out to the closer of the two glaciers in the area – Franz Josef. As you are already well aware, the Franz Josef glacier was named in 1865 after the emperor of Austria, by explorer Julius Von Haast. Of the two glaciers here, this one is steeper and is moving faster. But not so fast that we couldn’t catch up with it. We arrived at the carpark and the rain had stopped. We made our way down the trail to the observation point and we’re in awe of the blue river of ice in the distance. The glacial river formed from the meltwater was a raging torrent as the rains of the last couple of days poured down the mountain and mixed. It was pretty cool to see the chunks of ice scattered along the river. The water was grey in colour owing to the abrasion of the ice against the granite underneath and grinding it to dust. In fact, there had been so much rain that there was flooding where the trail normally would lead up closer to the terminal face of the glacier. This combined with the instability of the glacier forced us to remain a kilometre and a half away. No matter – it was still awesome. Here are some photos, and a video:

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The Fox glacier is a bit further south and is larger and longer than Franz. We decided to hit that one after lunch. Alas, the rain returned and we had to be content with a trip to Lake Matheson, not far from Fox. We ate delicious cake at a café there, and we had a nice stroll around the edge of the lake. Normally, the spot on the far side of this lake is the place to take one of the most picturesque photos in New Zealand. This spot shows the reflection of Fox Glacier and the two highest peaks in the country – Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman. Unfortunately it was raining and we couldn’t see anything of these three. We left there and thought we’d go look at the glacier from the carpark, but the access road was closed because of flooding, so we had to be satisfied with just one glacier.

Tomorrow we move again, to the town of Kingston, which is just south of Queenstown – the adventure capitol of New Zealand. Even better than that, we will be joining our Canadian friends the Allores for Christmas in a bach we have rented for five days. The next blog post will be jam-packed with adrenalin-fuelled mania, so watch for it in a bit less than a week. In the meantime, we hope that everyone has the merriest of Christmases. We miss everyone very much, especially our family, and especially this week. But we’ll have a great Christmas all the same, just vastly different than what we’re used to!

There are of course a few more photos if you'd care to look here.

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

School's Out for Summer

rain 20 °C
View South Island on tcrons's travel map.

Alice Cooper always says it best, don't you think? Regardless of your agreement with that, the school experience came to an end for Bronte and Jack this week. Although it was a sad moment for them both, it was also followed by joy as we set off on our final New Zealand road trip, bound for the South Island. Let's get to it:

On Monday, it was all about awards as both Tim and his new sidekick Jenn attended Tauranga Intermediate's prize-giving assembly. As proud parents it was our job to hoot and whistle and cause as much embarrassment for our daughter as possible. Alas, they don't have much humour for that kind of frivolity at TIS, so the parents behaved, and instead wiggled excitedly on the rock-hard bleachers as Bronte's name was called and she made her way up to the front. Each class' teacher nominates a small number of students to receive class awards, and Bronte snagged one within the Room 18 group. Her award was for "Academic Achievement, Most Improved Student, Diligence, Citizenship, and Cultural Participation". She's awesome. Other portions of the assembly included the angelic singing of all the year sevens, Even kiwi accents disappear within song! Here's the photos:

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Afterwards, Bronte celebrated by accompanying Tim and Jenn as they ran various errands. Lunch at the Summer Sands Cafe down at the beach was nice too! On Tuesday, it was once again a day to spend with Bronte and her friends, for it was picnic day. As a reward for a great year, Rm 18 and several supervising parents (Tim included) walked down to Tauranga Ten Pin and tossed around the ole' heavy spheres. It was a great game, with the eventual winner bowling a solid 94. While Bronte nailed a strike, all Tim could manage was chopping the six as he threw for a multi-pin spare. None of them were throwing boomers, and in the end the rocks were blamed for the numerous Brooklyn Hits. Here's the scene:

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After bowling, the whole crew walked down to Memorial Park for a few quick games with a parachute, and then on to Burger King to munch on whatever it is they put in their sandwiches, and to watch Michael Jackson videos. Here's what it looked like:

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While Tim sat with the parents and Bronte's teacher, Jenn arrived to take the afternoon supervision shift. This involved escorting the class a couple of doors down to the cinema, where they watched "Chronicles of Narnia - Voyage of the Dawn Treader". Should you happen to be viewing this movie, when you see the bit taking place on "Burnt Island", be pleased with the thought that the Cronsberry family tread on that same ground. That scene was recorded at White Island, that marine volcano that we visited a few weeks ago. After an enjoyable film, they all walked back to Bronte's school.

Wednesday marked the last day of school for both Bronte and Jack. There was sadness mixed with jubilation for both of them as they made their way out the door that morning. As it was only a half day, Bronte took the bus home at noon. Tim walked the short trek up the street one last time to pick Jack up at noon. Jack was all smiles when he emerged from his classroom. His mate Liam gave him his new favourite shirt as they walked along, and it was great to see how well Jack was handling the end-of-school event. Here’s what it looked like:

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Shortly thereafter, Tim took Jack to the house of his classmate friend Ryan, where there was a small party for some of the lads who would not be returning to Maungatapu Primary next school year (including a few of the year six boys moving on to Tauranga Intermediate). At the end of the afternoon, Jack was still smiling as he had a great time playing on Ryan’s rope swing over the small river running through the back of their property. Meanwhile back at the house, Jenn continued getting the whole family organised for both our impending South Island trip as well as for our expulsion from the country. If it weren’t for Jenn’s capacity for this sort of thing, the family would be stuffing clothes into shopping bags a few hours before we had to leave for the airport. She’s great.

Thursday arrived and you know what that meant – the start of our trip south. We eased the Capella out of the driveway just before 8:30 am, and off to Wellington we drove. After an uneventful drive, we arrived in Wellington in the late afternoon and checked into our hotel. Wellington is the second-largest city in New Zealand, and is in fact the capitol. If you like, you can see it overhead here. The hotel room gave us a couple of interesting views. One such view is out the window and shows “The Beehive” – the nickname for the New Zealand parliament building. Tim swore he could see John Key eating a kiwifruit and waving to us from his office. The other interesting view was of the opposing wall, which is a sheet of frosted glass looking into the bathroom. Very sheik, but a bit unnerving before we realised there is a blind that can be lowered! Here’s proof of those views:

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After a mediocre dinner at La Casa Pasta, we returned to the room and watched “Home Alone – Lost in New York” to help get us in the Christmas spirit. The next day we rose and eventually made our way to the National Museum of New Zealand – better known as Te Papa. This is an incredible museum and we were really looking forward to our time there. We spent the better part of the day there, exploring exhibits on earthquakes (including a house you can go in to experience the shaking), Maori cultural items, and a museum ride where the seats moved along with a movie of canyon swinging and grass tobogganing. After lunch we took in the exhibit of European Master paintings on loan from the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt. Some of them were fantastic – Degas, Van Gough, Lieberman, Beckman, Cezanne. It’s interesting to see exhibits such as this when some in the art world deem the pieces “Masterpieces” – some of the paintings really seemed pretty mundane and simple. We’d show you photos, but as Tim extracted the camera whilst in front of “Orchestra Musicians” by Degas (1871, oil on canvas), he was tackled from behind by a large security brute who smashed the camera repeatedly on the floor.

Jack at Te Papa with Collosal Squid

Jack at Te Papa with Collosal Squid

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Our last exhibit at the museum was “Brian Brake – Lens on the World”. This was a photo exhibition by New Zealand’s best known photographer Brian Brake. It was wonderful viewing his work, but our feet were pretty much toast at that point, so we didn’t last long. We hobbled our way back to the hotel room and rested a bit before dinner. We had much more difficulty than we had hoped finding a “family-friendly” eatery. Downtown Wellington certainly has its share of after-work bars, but very little catering to families. Eventually we came to Felix, and were happy with the offering. We walked back in the rain and set to work getting re-packed for the ferry ride the next day.

So that’s it for now. Tomorrow we’re driving across the Cook Strait via the Interislander Ferry – a three hour journey that will land us in Picton on New Zealand’s South Island. From there we’ll make our way to Motueka, and spend the next few days exploring Abel Tasman National Park. We’re stoked, and we wish you were all right here with us. Our next blog post will likely come to you from Franz Josef on the West Coast, and until then pray for snow so that we’ll have a white Christmas!!

Posted by tcrons 23:32 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

Pooles, Oceans, Clarinets, and Hakas

sunny 26 °C

Our week just finished had us hosting more visitors from Canada, returning to lazing on the beach, and starting our goodbyes. The temperatures are soaring into the upper twenties here in New Zealand, and it feels so good to feel the warmth on our skin as we read about how heavy the snow is back home. We'll be back shoveling in no time, but for now, let's tell you about our week shall we?

Monday started off great as our last visitors from Canada arrived in the evening. Carol Poole and her husband Graham brought their three awesome boys to stay with us for a few days after they arrived in Auckland last Friday. Tim and Carol were housemates when they both attended Queen's, and now the Pooles are traveling throughout New Zealand for the next 3 months. We were very happy to help them get their feet on the ground. Meanwhile, it was the start of "Camp Week" at Tauranga Boys College, and Jenn was participating in earnest. The deal with this is that there are a multitude of camps for the Year 10 boys that run Mon-Thurs during the final week of the secondary school year, ranging from "Living off the Land" camp to "Adrenaline Junkies" camp to "Mountain biking" camp. The boys sign up for the camp they are interested in, pay whatever fee is associated, and off they go with adequate teacher supervision. Jenn was one of the teachers helping with the "Outdoor Pursuits" camp. On Monday, the group went to the beach at Mount Maunganui and played various beach games. Jenn reported at the end of the day that it was well within acceptable stress levels. Her tan seemed to have improved.

On Tuesday, while the Pooles drove around Tauranga running errands in their rather sizable Toyota Hiace van, Tim attended his last New Zealand painting class. No more completed works to show just yet, so Tim will need to find a group back home to keep up with his newfound hobby. He has thoroughly enjoyed Tuesday mornings with the painting group for the past eight months and will miss them tremendously. At dinner the Pooles reported that they had found the beach and had a fantastic time in the water. They did not see Jenn at the beach that day though, for she took a small break from her camp duties to work on an article to be published later - blossoming from her observations as an exchange teacher.

On Wednesday, the significant event was Jack's Christmas concert at his school. It was a pretty neat set-up, as it was our first Christmas concert held outside! It was a great way to accommodate all of the parents and extended family and to get into the spirit of a Kiwi Christmas. Alas, the weather didn't cooperate, and it started to snow heavily. Just kidding - it rained. The show needed to be stopped, and unfortunately this happened before they got to Jack's number. Regardless, it was very cute to see the smaller kids strut their stuff. Here's a couple of photos, including one of Carol Poole and her boys in the rain:

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Thursday was exciting, in a frightening way. After much preparation, it was the day for Jack's Kapa Haka group to participate in the Ra Whakangahau Festival. This is a Kapa Haka festival where various schools compete by performing Maori songs, dances, and of course, a haka. Being involved with his school group this year has been one of the highlights for Jack, and he was very excited for the festival. The class did an amazing job, as did many of the other teams. Although Jack was not one of the larger boys in the group, as you'll see in the video below, he was equally fierce. Tim was there in the crowd and captured the moments. In the haka portion of the video, when all the boys are doing their fierce intimidation dance, Jack is just visible beside the extremely tall lad. To give you a better sense of Jack's participation, there's an additional video of him doing his haka solo in our backyard. Don't be frightened, it's a performance only:

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To celebrate all of that, the Pooles made dinner that night! On Friday, Carol and the crew had finally had enough of our sloth, and they packed up and left. To avoid hurting our feelings, they waited until morning. Off to Hahei Beach they went, so Tim went over to Bronte's school for some music therapy. Bronte has been taking clarinet lessons all year as you know, and last week she and a couple of the others were asked to perform at the school assembly! Bronte was quite nervous, but she did an amazing job playing the New Zealand National Anthem. Tim was there recording it all for posterity, and here it is:

As if that wasn't enough, later in the assembly Bronte was on stage again receiving her "Citizenship bar". This is a metal bar that hangs off of her honours badge that she received a couple of months ago. She earned this latest kudo by continuing to be involved in stuff at school and doing really well in everything. Fortunately, this latest award does not convey upon her citizenship to the country itself. She is definitely our favourite daughter. Here's a photo:

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Friday was a great day for Jack too, as he brought home his end of year report card. As predicted, he did great - particularly in reading and writing, and he had a stellar showing in Kiwi studies. Over at Jenn's school, it was prize-giving for the year nine and ten classes. Jenn looked on as many of her students mounted the stage all as a direct result of her pedagogical intervention over the preceding eleven months. Here's what it all looked like, including a photo of one of her classes:

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It was also a milestone for Jenn, for not only did she survive Camp Week, but she survived the entire teaching year! Friday was her last day of teaching in New Zealand, and although it was often challenging, she will truly miss her colleagues at Tauranga Boys College. She had a wonderful support system at TBC, and her fellow English teachers made the experience truly special. It was difficult for her to say goodbye, but say it she did. To celebrate the milestones of the week, we went out for dinner and Jack got to pick the restaurant. He chose well, and we returned to Cobb & Co down on The Strand.

Finally Saturday came. But unlike usual Saturdays for us, this one demanded that we clean the house and start packing. Sigh. We set to the task with vigor, and although we've got a long way to go, we got a decent start. It feels very strange to be entering this last phase of our time here. We're getting verklempt just typing this, so let's move on to Sunday.

On Sunday we needed to get out of the house, so we planned an outing at Mt. Maunganui. You'd think Jenn would be a bit tired of that beach by this point in the week, but not so! After Bronte's friend Sarah was deposited at our door, we headed out. We started off by climbing the summit trail to its natural end. It was warm, but it felt great to be up there again, for the last time. Here's a shot:

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After the eventual descent, we hit the beach. The ocean water was a bit nippy, but we plunged in regardless - even catching the odd wave with the boogie board. After Bronte and Sarah buried Jack in the sand, we decided it was time for ice cream so we moseyed over to our favourite ice cream shoppe - Monte Gelato. Walking back to the car we were happy that we'll have one last visit to this beach before we head back to Canada. Just for good measure, we stopped at a used bookstore on the way home and loaded up for our South Island trip. To cap off the week with something even more beautiful, Bronte gave Tim and Jenn their Christmas present early. Bronte had constructed a dinner menu and was to prepare the whole meal start to finish. With some very minor assistance she pulled this off in dramatic fashion! The main consisted of baked salmon with a maple glaze, broccoli with a dijon mustard and lemon sauce, and rice. To finish, Bronte prepared a fruit plate with caramel sauce for dipping. It was amazing. Here's the view:

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And with that, our week came to a close. The "Canada" piles are growing in size in our house here, and suitcases have come out again. We oscillate between being quite concerned about size and weight restrictions (of the luggage), and being content that everything will be fine. It is a very strange feeling starting to pack for home. And with this post, our regularity ends (for the blog). On Thursday morning we will jump into the Capella and head off on one of our last adventures here - the South Island. We hear that internet access is spotty down there, so we'll do blog posts whenever we can with scenery even more stunning than you've come to expect from this space!

See you on the other side.

Posted by tcrons 11:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

BBQs and Sea Creatures

sunny 25 °C

The time certainly is racing by these days, and the past week was no exception for the intrepid Cronsberrys. The temperatures are extremely comfie and despite having a metric tonne of stuff to do to get ready for our impending tour of the South Island and then our departure for home, it's pretty tough to stay indoors. Here's what the past week looked like for us:

Monday was a typical mix of blog writing, returning DVDs, and skyping with family. Tim's brother and sister are fine by the way, thanks for axing. The white-knuckled action started on Tuesday, as the whole family headed back to Jenn's school, Tauranga Boys College, at dinner time for a staff BBQ. It's great being back on the BBQ circuit! The evening was a delight, and it was nice talking with Jenn's colleagues and gnawing on the meat grilled by the TBC prefects. Bronte and Jack had a blast playing with the other teachers' kids in the gym. We wrapped up that event by watching a bit of the Zumba class on our way to the car. "Ditch the workout, join the party" they were shouting at us as we hauled our full bellies towards the Capella. We resisted.

Wednesday had Tim taking the Capella into the mechanic for some tender loving attention to get it in tip-top shape for our rather long driving holiday. After delightedly finding there were no issues with the car, Tim headed over to TBC and picked up Jenn for lunch. They dined at the Urban Cafe on Cameron Street. It was pretty tasty - especially the chook with camembert and cranberry. That night the food was flying as Jenn prepared victuals for her Department lunch to be served the next day. When the next day came, Tim carried on with the trend and prepared a Bacon and Egg Pie, some sizzlers, and a veggie plate to go with the other stuff. Then over to TBC he went. The lunch for Jenn's colleagues went well, but sadly it was one more harbinger of the end of our time in New Zealand. Tim went home after lunch and researched Milford Sound tours.

Friday arrived, and after cleaning the toilet Tim strolled down the street to catch the last part of Jack's assembly at school. This was followed by a volunteer appreciation tea the school hosted for parents who had volunteered throughout the school year. Following this, the sun beckoned, so Tim packed a lunch and headed down to the beach. After walking the base trail of Mt. Maunganui, he lunched on the beach and watched the multitude of surfers. The surf was particularly strong that day, so Tim continued his stroll over to Moturiki Island (using the isthmus of course) and wandered to the other end to see the blowhole in action. Although we'll be viewing a more spectacular blow hole in Punakaki in a couple of weeks, the heavy surf on Friday meant that the small one on Moturiki was active and it called out to be viewed. The sound is impressive as the sea rushes through the narrowed opening in the rocks and then explodes upwards with a roar. Here's a photo:

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Meanwhile, back at Tauranga Boys College, Jenn was teaching her last class of the year! It is proving to be a very gradual exit for Jenn from her teaching stint at TBC. The seniors have been gone from school for four weeks now (writing state exams), and on Friday the last Junior class gave Jenn their undivided attention, wresting any last scrap of knowledge they could glean from the Canadian. Jenn's school responsibilities are not yet done though, for next week is "Camp Week". We won't go into any detail on that topic though as it would spoil the fun for next week's blog post. Suffice to say that this time next week, Jenn will be completely finished her time at TBC.

Saturday came and we prepared for a trip to Whakatane. Bronte's friend Sarah joined us, and we arrived in Whakatane safely by late morning. We set off on our hike to Otarawairere Bay, which you can see overhead here. It was a pleasant enough hike, and it lead to another amazing beach. We explored the beach of this bay from one end to the other. As the tide was receding, it was incredibly interesting to see the sea life in the shallow pools. We've never seen so many hermit crabs of all sizes! The starfish were plentiful, and we even saw several kina (Evechinus chloroticus) and a couple of anemones. Here's some photos:

Whakatane Jack with Kina

Whakatane Jack with Kina

Whakatane Jack with starfish

Whakatane Jack with starfish

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We had initially thought that we would venture along the Kohi Point Walkway - a trail which takes one along the top of the cliff at the north end of the beach and ends in the Whakatane downtown, however the cool factor of exploring the beach changed our plans. We did climb the stairs at the end of the beach and marveled at the view from the top, before turning around and heading back to the beach. Here's the view:

Whakatane Cronsberry Family at Kohi Point

Whakatane Cronsberry Family at Kohi Point

After eating lunch on the rocks, Bronte, Sarah, and Jack hit the water, with Tim standing thigh-deep to ensure they weren't swept away. The ocean certainly is warming up, and we're confident we'll have another swim session before we head home to the snow. As the afternoon wore on, we packed up our stuff and headed back up the trail to the waiting Capella. Another beautiful outing at our backs. Here are some more photos, and a video:

Whakatane Bronte & Sarah

Whakatane Bronte & Sarah

Whakatane Tim & Jack at Otararwairere

Whakatane Tim & Jack at Otararwairere

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There may even be some more photos here.

Back in Tauranga, Bronte went to Sarah's for a sleep-over in the tent, and the Dixons dropped off their son Ryan for a sleep-over with Jack at our place. Tim and Jenn made a carrot cake for the BBQ next day.

On Sunday afternoon our destination was the home of one of Jenn's colleagues for an English Department BBQ. the food and conversation were great as always, but the sport was good too. In the vacant lot next to the house, a cricket pitch had been assembled. Jack loves playing cricket, so he got in on the action right away, and was complimented by seasoned Kiwi cricketers that he has great bowling technique and not a bad bat swing! Tim even gave it a go. Cricket really is a lot more fun than we North Americans think. Sure, the test matches go for five days, but playing it yourself is a hoot! After the receipt of a gift from the Department and a somewhat teary speech, Jenn and the rest of us headed back home to prepare for our next batch of visitors from Canada.

And that was our week! The goodbyes have started, and we are nine days away from what could prove to be the best part of our trip. We are very stoked at what lies ahead, even though our departure from the country looms. See you next week.

Posted by tcrons 18:56 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Back to Cathedral Cove

sunny 22 °C

One more of our precious weeks has slipped by. It's amazing how fast time seems to move when significant events are getting closer. With the end of the week now here, it means that there are less than three weeks until the end of school, and the start of the last phase of our South Pacific adventure. We're excited at the prospect of coming home and seeing each and every one of you very soon, but until then we're making the most of the little time we have left. Let's get to it shall we?

On Monday, following the writing of the very meagre blog offering we tossed out to you last week, Tim hopped into the Capella and headed down the highway to Te Puke. It's the kiwifruit growing capital of the world, you know. Tim strolled through town and decided there wasn't much to hold his interest, so he moved on to a potentially more exciting town - Maketu (which you can see overhead here). Maketu's claim to fame is that it was the supposed site of one of the first Maori waka landings centuries ago (a waka is a very large Maori canoe). The story goes that one of the first of these canoes carrying Maori from their original homeland of Hawaiiki came ashore at Maketu. There was a stone monument, and a few houses, but little else. In fact, there isn't even a photo to show as Tim didn't spy anything worth the pixels. The much more exciting thing that occurred on Monday took place at Jack's after-school gymnastics class. He's been working hard on flips, rolls, and all that Kyle Shewfelt stuff, and on Monday followed in Kyle's early footsteps by being awarded the weekly medal presented to the member of the class that works the hardest. While we would have given him this medal months ago, it was great to see the smile and look of surprise on Jack's face when he learned of his teacher's recognition. As always, we're very proud of him!

The next couple of days saw Jenn working diligently to mark the final exams of the Junior boys of TBC. Her senior classes have been finished for a couple of weeks now, and the junior boys don't seem to want to wring out much more knowledge from Jenn's grey matter. With one more week of classes to go, Jenn is trying to "keep it tight" in the classroom, even though they are done their exams, and leave the boys better prepared than when they first walked in eager to learn with kiwifruit pulp on their faces.

In the midst of the frenzied marking, Jenn kept us updated on the tragic events at the Pike River Coal Mine where 29 miners have lost their lives. It dominated the news for days, with frequent updates throughout each day as the nation waited to hear that a rescue team could go in to get them. By Wednesday hope was already waning, and thus with the news of another more powerful blast, it was unfortunately not surprising to hear that they were certain no one could have survived. New Zealand is a small country, so this tragedy is felt by the whole nation, and our sympathies go out to the families and friends of those lost.

On Thursday Tim headed out to do a solo hike, and this time it was to be along the Kaituna River to view Okere Falls. You can see this area overhead here, you know. The falls were small, but inviting if you happen to be in a kayak. In fact, this river sees it share of whitewater rafting trips, which Tim witnessed whilst there. It was yet another picturesque stroll with the sounds of rushing water, birds, and the return of the summer buzzing. At the terminal end of the trail there was another drop in the river and just downstream from this a swirling pool. The trail rose up a ridge to the crest of the drop and higher, where Tim found a rope swing fastened to a tree over the swirling pool. Although it was likely only about 10 meters from the surface of the water, Tim resisted the urge, and instead shot these photos and video especially for you:

Okere Falls kayaker

Okere Falls kayaker

That night, Jenn and Tim escorted Jack to his school for his last school disco of the year. Jack has had fun at each of the past shin-digs, and this one was no different. He finally had the confidence to bust a few moves on the dance floor and has now put Canadian breakdancing on the New Zealand dancing scene. There's been no offers for a reality TV series yet, but we're sure that'll come before we leave.

On Friday, Tim dealt with damage from the impetuous stone hurled from the tire of a vehicle in front of him as he returned from the Kaituna hike the previous day. After dropping the car off to have the fracture in the windscreen repaired, he made his way back to the house very very very slowly on a city bus. Accustomed to being able to go wherever he wants whenever he wants, suddenly being at the mercy of the city bus was disconcerting for Tim, especially at the 1.5 hour mark after dropping the car off and he found himself still not home. Eventually that drama resolved itself and Tim set to work preparing for the family's weekend adventure. Friday was a good day for Bronte and Jack as well, as they both had much fun continuing their participation in their school's kapa haka group, and for Jack, the school choir as well. There is a school kapa haka competition coming up that Jack will be competing in, and he's very excited. More on that in a future blog post though.

Following an early dinner on Friday, we set out for Whangamata to spend the weekend at the bach owned by our exchange partner's parents. We were really looking forward to a relaxing "beach weekend" and we weren't disappointed! Friday evening right after we arrived, we made our way down to the beach to walk along in the peaceful calm of the waning daylight. It was a wonderful start to our weekend, and here are a couple of photos:

Whangamata..n_Beach.jpg4Whangamata..n_Beach.jpg

On Saturday morning we drove an hour north of Whangamata to the Cathedral Cove car park. Cathedral Cove has been one of our favourite places in the entire country, and we were thankful that we were going to visit again. We hiked along the trail for a half hour including a brief stop at Stingray Bay, and then on to Cathedral Cove, which you can see overhead here. It was considerably busier than the last time we were there in the winter! We chose a nice spot at the end of the beach and spread out our blanket. We spent the next few hours walking the water's edge, climbing trees, poking at jellyfish and an expired penguin, and reading. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and exactly what we had been hoping for. The water at the cove is a brilliant blue, and set against the white cliffs and perfect sand it really is a perfect place to spend time when all you need is some peaceful time to relax in the warm sand. Here are some photos:

large_Cathedral_Cove_beach.jpg1Cathedral_..reading.jpgCathedral_..reading.jpg3Cathedral_..reading.jpg

Mid-afternoon came and we dragged ourselves off the blanket and back into our hiking shoes. We mounted the steps and said goodbye to an incredible place that anyone coming to New Zealand should visit. Back along the trail we went, stopping again at Stingray Bay. By this time the tide wasn't quite as high, and the beach was more accessible. We walked along the beach for as long as we could and took in more of that striking blue water. Here's a couple more photos:

Stingray_B..n___Tim.jpgStingray_B..reading.jpg

As we reached the car park we decided to head over to the town of Whitianga to check out a carving shop we had read about. We had to pause for a few minutes to watch a pod of orcas in the distance off of Hahei Beach. They were pretty far away so we didn't get a photo to show you, but it was still pretty cool seeing their dorsal fins and blows as they surfaced. Exiting the car park we understood just how popular the area is, as by that time the lot was jammed and overflowing - in fact there were vehicles parked along the side of the road all down the hill for almost a kilometer! It pays to get there early!! Around a half hour later we reached Whitianga and found the carving shop to be closed. In fact for a Saturday afternoon in early summer, the town was more than half shut-down. We found it odd, but instead of analysing the local economic indicators at the library, we pulled out and stopped at the grocery store for a box of Memphis Meltdown Big Bikkies since there was no ice cream place open.

Sunday morning we hit the Port Road Bakery and browsed in some of the stores in Whangamata. After dropping our treats off at the bach, we headed down to the beach again for one last stroll. The surfers were out, and the water was warm. Here's what we saw:

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Following lunch we cleaned up the bach and packed up the car. The drive back to Tauranga was peaceful, as our heads were all full of sand and surf and more awesome memories. We even launched into the Christmas music on the iPod during the drive, as we wanted to be in synch with our friends back home who are undoubtedly dusting off the "Cronsberry Christmas" CD box set to get themselves in the spirit. It'll be an unusual Christmas for us without snow and a Christmas tree, but it's all part of the experience isn't it?

The weekend was everything that we had hoped for, so we capped it off by watching Wipeout! on TV. We already have plans for next weekend that will hopefully involve the viewing of the "Kiwi Christmas Tree", so stay tuned for that. And stop your weeping - we miss everyone too but we'll be home soon!

Posted by tcrons 19:57 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

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