Hello all! Just popping in to acknowledge that I haven’t been keeping up with my blog posts about our holiday. There wasn’t adequate wifi available to us on the West Coast for blogging, so I am quite behind. However I will definitely be writing them gradually. I want to keep that record! We’re having a terrific time and are seeing and doing so many fun things. In Queenstown today with a jet boat ride on the agenda. I have had just enough wifi for posting on Instagram, so if you follow me there that will keep you a bit more up to date. Otherwise, hold tight – the blog posts will come!
Looking back over these blog posts I quickly realise that we DO cram a lot in to our travels! It’s hard to get the balance right – to mix a bit of sleeping in and early nights with making the most of being in another country. We have all managed to read some books (three for me so far – I’ve now got a book instagram account called _lara_reads if anyone is interested) and the kids have stayed on top of watching ‘their’ youtube shows. Maybe we’re in the sweet spot! Similarly, I am aware that this really is a road trip holiday. It’s not even vaguely possible to do and see ‘all the things’. So we choose a couple of highlights, taking note of places we’d like to return to one day, and continue on. Part of the fun of our travels so far have been family singalongs in the car as we drive along the roads (I know! Who’d have thought!) and playing I-spy. Watching Stella talk to random strangers. Watching Clare go from being with the kids to being with the adults. Having concentrated time together, yet the ability to retreat into a book and regroup when needed.
We needed to be at the ferry terminal to check in at 12.30pm. That gave us a few hours beforehand to visit Zealandia. Wellington is very compact – although Zealandia is a 225 hectare sanctuary, it’s essentially in the city and is only a ten minute drive from the harbour.
I had booked a two hour tour of the sanctuary. Although it obviously costs more to take a tour I nearly always find that the information that you gain from the guide is invaluable. They know their subject inside and out, and there are always more interesting things to discover. We began with a beautifully produced film (on an extremely large screen) that showed how the area had changed over the years from before human settlement through the arrival of the Maori then the arrival of Europeans. As the vegetation and animal life quickly changed it really struck home to me how seemingly irreversible the rapid changes that humans make to their environment really are. The sanctuary is being returned to as close to it’s original state as possible – but they think that it will take 500 years to get there, with continual concentrated effort to do so.
The bird in the photo above is the moa, thought to have become extinct around 500 years ago. Below is a model of the weta, a flightless insect. They have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, but are now threatened. There are a number of species still in New Zealand, in a variety of sizes.
I’m going to pinch some information directly from the Zealandia website to accompany many of these photos.
ZEALANDIA is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. The 225 hectare ecosanctuary is a groundbreaking conservation project that has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, 6 of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years.
ZEALANDIA has a vision to restore this valley to the way it was before the arrival of humans. With its 8.6km fence keeping out introduced mammallian predators, birds such as the tūī, kākā and kererū, once extremely rare in the region, are all now common sights around central Wellington. Other vulnerable native species such as tīeke, hihi, little spotted kiwi, and tuatara remain thriving safely in the sanctuary.
The takiwā (region) of Kaiwharawhara, in which ZEALANDIA is located, has always been a special taonga for Taranaki Whānui. The source of the Kaiwharawhara stream which flows out to Te Whanganui-ā-Tara (Wellington) can be found inside the sanctuary.
In earlier times the stream was a significant source of fish and crustacean (i.e. kōura) for the nearby kāinga. Ngakinga (cleared cultivated areas) were abundant in the district providing such crops as aruhe (fern-root) and kūmara (sweet potato). The ngahere (forest), with its abundant bird life and plant material served as mahinga kai (food gathering areas) and rongoā tapu (areas for collecting traditional medicine).
Kaharore, the original Māori name for Karori, literally means ‘the ridge for snaring birds’. Traditionally, Māori used a rore (snare) to catch kākā, kererū and other forest birds. There is no history of the valley being permanently occupied, but the area was well known as a hunting ground.
The plant in the above photo with the hole in the leaves is the kawakawa plant. It is related to the kava plant, and was used for medicinal purposes because of the numbing toxin found in the leaves.
That little hole under the overhang in the above photo indicates a kiwi nest. Once again, I suspect this is as close as we’re going to get to seeing a live kiwi.
The sanctuary is in an area that over the years has gone from being farming land to being used for gold and quartz mining then eventually dammed and used as a reservoir for the city. Construction began in 1872 on an earth dam, the first of its kind in Wellington, and possibly in New Zealand. Works were completed the following year with the building of the Gothic style water outlet control tower. This has an ‘A’ classification with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. The other historic building by the lower dam is the boat shed used by the then governor-general who had fishing rights on the lower dam.
By the late 1870s Wellington’s population was increasing rapidly and the existing dam was proving insufficient to meet the city’s water needs. Construction on a second dam began in 1906. Completed in 1908, it is one of only two or three gravity arch dams in the country, and an early example of the use of concrete in New Zealand. In 1978 an engineer’s report found the dam to be an earthquake risk, positioned precariously over the Wellington Fault. The lake behind the dam was lowered and in 1991 the upper dam was decommissioned. With the completion of a new enclosed water supply reservoir at Johnsonville the lower dam was withdrawn from the city’s water supply system in 1998. It is still retained as an emergency water supply.
The dams are extremely deep – after all, they used to be a valley – and the water is dark with algae and is full of perch. It is proving very difficult for the Zealandia staff to clean up the lake to remove the perch and algae.
The pateke is also known as the brown teal. It is one of three closely related species of teal in New Zealand, the other two being the flightless sub-Antarctic Auckland teal and Campbell Island teal. Once common throughout New Zealand, including Stewart Island and Chatham Island, habitat destruction, especially swamp drainage, and predation by introduced predators as well as hunting have resulted in pāteke becoming one of New Zealand’s most nationally endangered species of waterfowl.
Eighteen captive-bred pāteke were released between 2000 and 2001, with breeding confirmed in 2002 and every year since then. The pāteke have been highly productive, even those pairs found in the forest away from the wetlands, with broods of up to 8 ducklings seen. We don’t know how many pairs are currently present in the sanctuary (at least 10 in 2006) because they are scattered throughout the valley. The population is assumed to be self-sustaining but may need a top-up transfer in future to improve genetic diversity and ensure its long-term survival.
The berries in the photo above are hanging from the tutu tree. Every part of the tree except for the juice of the petals contains the poison tutin. Maori used the tree for medicinal purposes and mashed the shoots into poultices for bruises, cuts and boils.Tree tutu (Coriaria arborea) is a many-stemmed shrub or small tree, found on open sites, river banks and forest margins. It produces pairs of leaves on its soft branches. Spikes of flowers hang from the branches in spring and summer and shiny purple-black fruits ripen through late summer and autumn. Fortunately there have been few cases of humans being poisoned by eating the berries.
One of the special birds to be found at Zealandia is the takahe. Takahē are found only in New Zealand. They belong to the Rallidae (rail) family of birds, as do their lookalike but lighter-built cousins, the pukeko (Porphyrio porphyrio). New Zealand used to have two species of takahē. The other was the even larger moho, or North Island takahē (P. mantelli) but this species went extinct in the late 19th century. By the late 1890’s the South Island takahē were also considered to be extinct until they were rediscovered in 1948 in a remote Fiordland valley. Their natural range is now confined to the Murchison Mountains in Fiordland National Park. Thanks to an intensive programme of captive breeding, translocations, stoat control and deer culling, spearheaded by the Department of Conservation, the takahē population has seen a gradual increase. As of 2017 the total population was close to 350 birds.
Unlike the pukeko, takahē are completely flightless. Their colour ranges from an iridescent dark blue on the head, neck and breast, and peacock blue shoulders, to an olive-green and blue back and wings. They have a large, heavy-looking, bright red bill and face shield and heavy red legs with large, splayed out toes ending in claws. Chicks are a fluffy black. The birds are quite chatty and “talk” to each other with a series of slow, deep coo-eet sounds. If startled they let out a deep, vibrating oomf. That heavy, sharp bill is a perfect vegetation cutter and stripper. In their natural habitat they eat the bases of tussocks and the rhizomes of ferns, but they have taken to introduced grasses and are often seen clipping the grass around their wetland area. Their sausage-like, fibrous, green droppings are often seen along the paths by the wetland.
The South Island takahē has been introduced to ZEALANDIA as an analogue species for the extinct moho – our first analogue species. The takahē help ZEALANDIA Rangers educate visitors about the role of conservation in protecting our rarest species. Seeing takahē at ZEALANDIA is a unique opportunity, as most of these carefully protected birds live on off-shore islands or in remote mountain reserves.
Our guide Helen had a superb knowledge of the vegetation. This rangiora has leaves with soft furry white undersides, sometimes used as a substitute for paper (including toilet paper at a pinch). Maori used these leaves to wrap small items of food and to dress wounds.
The whau tree produces these marvellous spiky seed pods. It’s easy to see in this one where the seeds were housed before it burst open and distributed them.
I often find that the tiny plants are the ones that are most interesting, like this liverwort. The little dots on the leaves are the reproductive parts.
It is pretty obvious that Zealandia is absolutely beautiful. I imagine that if you lived in Wellington you would visit often and just soak in the atmosphere. The music of the bird calls, the tinkle of water in the streams, and the rustling of leaves as the wind blows through the vegetation.
New Zealand has over 160 species of native orchids. Around 80% of New Zealand’s native plants and trees are found nowhere else in the world! Very few native trees drop their leaves in autumn so our forest is always green and lush. While our native plants are not generally ‘flashy’, the variety of foliage colour, texture, and shape is extraordinary. Come and see New Zealand’s famous silver fern; the world’s southern-most palm tree, and the biggest fuchsias on earth!
This fern was fascinating – you can see the spores on the underside of the leaf, and the new fernlet plants growing on the top! These tiny plants will either drop off and grow into their own fern or stay on the main leaf and grow when it falls to the ground.
This beautiful little parakeet is the kakariki. These have become endangered as a result of habitat destruction following human settlement and nest predation by introduced mammals. Scarce on the mainland, kākāriki have survived well on outlying islands. They are easy to breed, and are doing well here at Zealandia.
These larger parrots are the kaka. This forest-dwelling parrot is a cousin of the mischievous alpine parrot, the kea, and is one of our most visible and engaging birds. The kākā is a large, olive-brown forest parrot with flashes of crimson and orange plumage under their wings. They have a strong curved beak that they use for climbing and for stripping bark from trees to feed on grubs and sap. Kākā also have a brush-tipped tongue that they use to drink nectar from flowers. They can be seen feeding on kōwhai, rātā and flax when they are in bloom.
Like most parrots, the kākā is social and intelligent. You can often hear them and see them socialising in large flocks. The word kākā can mean ‘screech’ in Māori, named after their loud ‘skrark’ call. Kākā can also produce some beautiful songs and whistles that can vary significantly as regional dialects. These parrots are diurnal (active during the day) but can sometimes be heard screeching and chatting throughout the night.
Kākā had effectively been extinct in Wellington since the early 20th century until they were transferred back into the wild at Zealandia in 2002. A total of fourteen captive-bred kākā were transferred to ZEALANDIA from zoos between 2002 and 2007, and since then, they have become one of our biggest success stories. Kākā breeding at ZEALANDIA has been closely monitored with the use of nest boxes and specially designed nest containers throughout the sanctuary, where we can track the eggs and monitor chicks until they are big enough to be given coloured leg bands to uniquely identify each bird.
By the end of the 2015/16 breeding season, ZEALANDIA had banded over 750 kākā. More and more un-banded kākā are showing up at feeding sites, indicating that kākā are now also breeding in natural nest sites both inside and outside of ZEALANDIA. Breeding at ZEALANDIA has been so prolific that in 2016 we ended our intensive nest box monitoring programme and ZEALANDIA’s kākā population is now a source for translocations to other sanctuaries. In March 2016, ZEALANDIA translocated 10 juvenile kākā to Cape Sanctuary in Hawke’s Bay.
There were many other birds that we spotted at Zealandia – shags, bellbirds, and tui. It’s amazing the diversity that can develop when predatory mammals are taken out of the occasion.
Before we knew it we were sprinting out of Zealandia in order to get to the ferry in time for check in. The ferry trip from Wellington to Picton takes around three and a half hours.
Once we settled in on board we enjoyed watching the ever changing scenes through the windows (or from the back decks). The cloud cover was quite low as we departed from Wellington, and it didn’t take long for the wind to pick up. Stella had fun leaning into the wind and getting it to hold her up!
Cook Strait is considered to be one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world! Ferry crossings had been cancelled a week or so again during the dramatic storms that New Zealand was experiencing. About half the crossing is in the Strait and the other half is in the Sounds.
Apart from the obvious aspect of having land either side of the ferry once we got to the Sounds, the weather changed again and cleared up, with plenty of blue sky and warmth and much less wind.
We disembarked at Picton at around 5.30pm and headed straight to Nelson. Once again the scenery along the way was varied and attractive, especially in the wine growing Marlborough region. We settled in to our Air BnB in Nelson the headed into town to Stefan’s for pizza for dinner. Delicious!
Oh what a beautiful morning! Wellington really turned it on for us – especially for Clare’s fifteenth birthday!
As it was Clare’s day, we did things that she wanted to do! First on the agenda – sleeping in! It was almost midday before we made it to Te Papa.
From Wikipedia: Te Papa Tongarewa is the national museum and art gallery of New Zealand, located in Wellington. It is branded and commonly known as Te Papa and Our Place; “Te Papa Tongarewa” is broadly translatable as “the place of treasures of this land”. The museum’s principles incorporate the concepts of unified collections; the narratives of culture and place; the idea of forum; the bicultural partnership between indigenous people (Tangata Whenua) and non-indigenous people (Tangata Tiriti); and an emphasis on diversity and multidisciplinary collaboration. In January 2013 Te Papa management announced the museum would be split into two parts – one operating much as it has in the past, and the other focusing on the future.
If you look really closely at the left hand side of the above photo, you can see some of the base isolators that the museum is built on. Before you even enter the (free) museum, there is a display explaining how the building is as earthquake-proofed as possible. Base isolators are large rubber blocks laminated with steel, and with pure lead columns inside. They were invented by New Zealand scientist Dr William Robinson. This ingenious invention isolates the building from earthquakes and damps much of the shaking. Reducing the severity of shaking helps to protect the people and contents inside Te Papa. Base isolators are now used in buildings around the world in areas subject to seismic activity.
Wellington lies within the earthquake-generating collision zone between two of the Earth’s great tectonic plates, and sits on top of one of the zone’s most active geological faults – the Wellington Fault. The Wellington Fault forms distinctive landscape features running right through the central city. Intensive research has been done to understand the nature of the fault and the best ways to reduce possible earthquake damage and loss. As it happens there had even been a small tremor that morning – the kids were still in bed and didn’t feel it, but those of us who were up certainly did! It’s definitely not something that we Melbourne dwellers are used to.
The waterfront was busy and bustling, and Wellington was definitely living up to its hashtag #youcantbeatwellingtononagoodday. There were plenty of things to see and do – even it was just to sit and people watch! But we headed into Te Papa instead.
This was a particularly impressive museum – and it’s free! There were sections on geology, particularly from the New Zealand perspective. New Zealand is right on the the boundary of the Australian and Pacific plates – which explains the earthquakes and volcanic activity! The active volcanoes are in the northern part of the country. The most destructive event experienced by people in New Zealand was the eruption of Mount Tarawera (near Rotorua) in June 1886, when a seventeen kilometre rift opened up and the contents of the lakes that had been above it were blasted out.
There was also a display instructing how to secure household items to minimise damage in the event of an earthquake. I suddenly realised that the ‘childproof’ locks that I’d had to figure out how to operate in our accommodation were actually not childproof locks at all but were to stop cupboard doors flying open and crockery crashing out in the event of earthquake.
I was also very impressed by the gallery about the vegetation and wildlife of New Zealand. There are three main types of forest – beech forests, kauri forests (now only remnants survive) and rata and rimu forests. The three forests look quite different and support different plan and animal communities. The beech forests have little undergrowth and are easier to move through. They are also easily destroyed by high winds, heavy snowfalls, or landslides.
Te Papa houses the world’s largest specimen of colossal squid. This was quite a coup for the museum, but it was also an extensive logistical exercise as scientists figured out how to best defrost the squid then preserve and display it. My favourite fact about the colossal squid was that the squid can only ingest small mouthfuls, as its narrow throat passes through the middle of its brain, so a bite too big could lead to brain damage!
The contemporary Te Marae is really rather spectacular. From the museum website: The space comprises a marae ātea (place of encounter) and wharenui (meeting house) that cater for all the purposes such places customarily serve. It is also a living exhibition that interprets for visitors the meaning of the marae experience, and acts as a showcase for contemporary Māori art and design. Like other marae, this one is about identity – here, it is our nation’s bicultural identity that is addressed. Te Marae embodies the spirit of bicultural partnership that lies at the heart of the Museum, and is based on the idea that Te Papa is a forum for the nation. All people have a right to stand on this marae through a shared whakapapa (genealogy) and the power of the treasures held in Te Papa’s collections.
There is also a more traditional marae as part of another exhibition.
Up on the sixth floor of Te Papa were excellent views across the harbour. I love the houses tucked in among the greenery of the mountainsides: the white-painted timber almost shines in the sunlight, and matches the shine off the water.
Another exhibition on display was the Gallipoli exhibition. As an Australian, the story of Gallipoli is a familiar one for me. However, it was interesting to follow it from the New Zealand perspective, especially as it was told through the eyes of eight New Zealanders who were part of the battle. It contained huge models made by Weta Workshop that were startling in their realism.
From the Te Papa website: The ground-breaking exhibition tells the story through the eyes and words of eight ordinary New Zealanders who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Each is captured frozen in a moment of time on a monumental scale – 2.4 times human size. The giant sculptures took a staggering 24,000 hours to create, and countless hours were spent researching their rich histories. Cutting-edge technology was also used to create 3-D maps and projections, miniatures, models, dioramas, and a range of interactive experiences that bring New Zealand’s Gallipoli story to life.
In total, 2,779 Kiwis lost their lives on Gallipoli, and many others were scarred for ever. Gallipoli: The scale of our war takes you to the core of this defining event.
The exhibition was incredibly poignant, and of course, incredibly sad. What a waste of human life.
Meanwhile back at the waterfront there were people diving and jumping from platforms into the water!
We had a very late lunch at Mac’s brewbar on the waterfront. Fish and chips definitely hit the spot for the birthday girl!
But the next thing that the birthday girl wanted was a fresh manicure! Google provided us with details of a nail salon and off we went. Clare and I both had SNS nails done, and Stella had a regular manicure. Dan headed off for a haircut. Grooming for the whole family!
And to finish off we soon found ourselves at the cinema. Family movie time! All four of us thoroughly enjoyed Pitch Perfect 3 (fortunately the ‘M’ rated concepts all went straight over the head of the 10 year old, although the 15 year old definitely understood them). We were all tucked up in bed some time after ten pm. What a satisfying day.
Nirvana Farm Stay was such a pleasant little break – not ‘touristy’ as the previous few week had been, and definitely relaxing. Good grief, I finished reading a book while we were there! This year I want to read more – once upon a time I was a voracious reader. Then, for a number of reasons, I started to read books less (and probably to read shorter articles online more). I miss books – it’s time to build them back into my life.
We were packed and ready to leave fairly early. It’s a decent drive to Wellington, and we wanted to go via Napier to check out the Art Deco architecture. We stopped to admire the hydrangeas along the way. There have been many large hydrangea bushes around the North Island. They’re one of my favourite flowers. We gave the kids the spiel about them being nature’s indicator, with blue flowers in acidic soil and pink flowers where the soil is more alkaline. They like rich, moist soil and plenty of water – I figure that the climate here is ideal for them. I wonder if there’s any chance of me growing some in our Melbourne backyard?
So far travelling by road around New Zealand is surprisingly different to travelling by road around Australia. Rather than long stretches without a town or village to be seen, punctuated by large petrol/fast food complexes, we often come across tiny communities with a cafe, or come across a roadside fruit and vegetable shop selling local produce. The berries in particular are delicious – blueberries are large, flavoursome and only $2 per punnet! Maybe I should try to grow some of them too. Icecream with fruit blended into it is sold at lots of these shops too. Keeps the kids happy! We are having to think ahead and ensure that we have plenty of petrol and that we have stocked up at a supermarket in the larger towns before heading off on each stage of our drive.
And unfortunately for us, when we arrived at Napier many of the streets were blocked off and the rest of the streets were incredibly busy! There was a cycle road race happening in town that morning, and getting access to the main areas of art deco architecture was going to be really difficult. We decided to cut our losses and admire the buildings that could be seen from the car window as we drove out again. Napier goes back on the list for another day. From Wikipedia: Napier is the nexus of the largest wool centre in the Southern Hemisphere, and it has the primary export seaport for northeastern New Zealand – which is the largest producer of apples, pears, and stone fruit in New Zealand. Napier has also become an important grape and wine production area, with the grapes grown around Hastings and Napier being sent through the Port of Napier for export. Large amounts of sheep’s wool, frozen meat, wood pulp, and timber also pass through Napier annually for export. Smaller amounts of these materials are shipped via road and railway to the large metropolitan areas of New Zealand itself, such as Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton.
Napier is a popular tourist city, with a unique concentration of 1930s Art Deco architecture, built after much of the city was razed in the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake. It also has one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the country, a statue on Marine Parade called Pania of the Reef. Thousands of people flock to Napier every February for the Tremains Art Deco Weekend event, a celebration of its Art Deco heritage and history. Other notable tourist events attracting many outsiders to the region annually include F.A.W.C! Food and Wine Classic events, and the Mission Estate Concert at Mission Estate and Winery in the suburb of Taradale.
We took state highway 50 out of Napier, driving inland through the Hawke’s Bay wine region. This is the oldest and second largest wine producing area in New Zealand, specialising in red wines and chardonnays. We bought sauvignon blanc. There are many, many, many wineries in New Zealand! This was the first one we’d actually stopped at to visit (mostly because we needed a loo stop and it was in the right place at the right time). It was beautifully set up and we enjoyed our tastings. There was enough for the kids to look at to keep them interested too. We had noticed what looked like large windmills on many of the vineyards. It turned out that they were frost fans, used to protect the vines when the weather cools down and the temperature drops below zero. Frost fans have become the central element in most frost protection strategies. They use the warmer air in the inversion layer to protect a crop from frost damage. The frost fan is angled slightly downwards to pull this inversion layer down to ground level, to protect the crop from frost damage.
We continued on driving until we met state highway 2 and turned toward Wellington. We pulled off the highway at Norsewood. It’s a small town that was founded by Scandinavian settlers in the late 1800s as a logging town. It’s now home to the New Zealand Natural Clothing sock factory and factory outlet. What’s less known is that the factory grounds house a wonderful little wetland park containing a whole lot of eels!
Then across the road we discovered another park/playground. As the kids said, the ‘fun police’ definitely hadn’t got to that park – they had a ball expending some energy on the play equipment!
Holidays really do need to be tailored to the people travelling and their needs at the time. I’ve been thinking about this as we’ve been driving along. A driving holiday for a family of four with kids aged 10 and 15 is very different to the hiking/tramping holiday of a group in their fifties or a week in a bach (holiday house) in an activity filled, wineries area for a couple in their thirties. It’s all about age and stage! So far this holiday seems to be working well for us. We know where we want to start and finish each day, and which major activity we want to do. The rest we pretty much make up as we go along. We’d enjoyed stopping as the mood took us, but now it was time for more concentrated driving to take us to Wellington.
We are definitely enjoying the scenery along the way. New Zealand is undulating, lush and green, and there’s always something else to look at. We spotted this wind farm up on the Tararua range. It provides electricity to the national grid. This led to a discussion of electricity sources used in New Zealand. Wikipedia says that the electricity sector in New Zealand uses mainly renewable energy sources such as hydropower, geothermal power and increasingly wind energy. 80%of energy for electricity generation is from renewable sources, making New Zealand one of the lowest carbon dioxide emitting countries in terms of electricity generation.
Towns were getting closer together, then suddenly we were driving up and up along very windy roads through the Rimutaka Ranges toward Upper Hutt. Then before we knew it we were on the Hutt Expressway, heading straight into Wellington. The changes in scenery are definitely spectacular. Our first looks at Wellington were of the harbour in the sunshine, with light bouncing off the timber houses lining the hillsides.
Yes, definitely a beautiful place! We found our Air BnB, a lovely late 1930s apartment in Wadestown perched high on the hill, then headed straight into the city centre. It was time for dinner with some of the Wellington sewing bloggers!
We had such a pleasant evening! Thanks Wendy, Nikki, Gillian and Leimomi – it was wonderful to meet you in real life. As I’ve said before – I love the international sewing community! I loved my dinner too.
Fortunately the day dawned relatively clear! No rain! We had no plans to go anywhere other than the farm, so I didn’t even put my watch on.
There was a sign up in the shed that referred to the bovine TB possum control program that had recently been carried out in the area. Unfortunately the possum population has exploded in New Zealand since they were introduced from Australia in 1837 to create a fur trade. They have no natural predators here, and have become New Zealand’s most damaging animal pest (they are a protected species in Australia). From this website: When possums eat a plant’s flowers, the nectar and fruit are reduced. The few berries that grow are also eaten. In one study, an entire crop of kaikōmako berries was eaten in a few nights. Another study revealed that possums ate some 60% of hīnau berries. They rob native birds, bats, lizards and insects of food. By feeding selectively, possums have radically altered the makeup of forests. In the 1960s, possums opened up large tracts of forest in the Ruahine Range to invading scrub. They have eaten nearly all of the rātā trees from the Aorangi Range, and have almost wiped out mistletoes in the North Island. Large stretches of Westland forest are dotted with possum-killed rātā and kāmahi. When possums are eradicated, as they have been on Kapiti Island, the bush regenerates. Possums also eat insects, bats, birds and their eggs and nestlings. They drive native animals out of their dens and nesting sites.
Possums also act as a vector carrying bovine tuberculosis to farmed cattle and deer herds. Control operations aerially apply baits containing sodium fluoroacetate to defined areas. This keeps possum numbers down low enough to keep livestock free from disease and maintain the reputation of New Zealand’s dairy, beef and deer products.
Craig farms cattle. He has a couple of pigs, there’s a horse nearby, a few chooks, and there are also wild turkeys. His property is quite a decent size and the topography is just marvellous. When he appeared with the tractor and trailer we jumped aboard and headed off to explore the farm.
These cattle were feeding a few calves each. Stella was given a quick milking demonstration, much to her disgust! It’s funny seeing how kids react to different things. As a general rule she adores animals (I’m fairly certain that she’ll become a vegetarian before too long) and wants to find out more about them – but there are some things they do that she just doesn’t like! She also doesn’t like animal skulls or skins being around, which can be problematic!
There is a delightful little one-roomed cabin on the property that overlooks the river. It has solar power and will eventually have it’s own water supply, all off the grid. Just perfect for a romantic getaway or for someone who enjoys solitude and possibly trout fishing.
There was great variety in vegetation. Loads of different types of grasses and flowers mixed together, in addition to a plethora of bush and tree types. There was also mint growing along the track that released a glorious scent as we drove over and past it.
For the kids the most fun was getting the opportunity to ‘drive’ the tractor! They did quite a bit of steering – I was rather impressed. They were very proud of themselves.
Down at the river we collected pieces of pumice. Pumice is a light-coloured, extremely porous igneous rock that forms during explosive volcanic eruptions. It is used as aggregate in lightweight concrete, as landscaping aggregate, and as an abrasive in a variety of industrial and consumer products. And as you can see, it’s also very light – actually it is often so full of air bubbles that it can float!
As you can see from the photos the day cleared up beautifully. So much so that I actually got a bit sunburnt! Everywhere I looked there was another delightful vista.
Once we returned it was back to the shed! The kids amused themselves pretending to be sheep and running up and down from the top level of the shearing shed to the bottom. There was also the chance to do more calf patting. Clare also had the opportunity to demonstrate the knot tying skills she’d learned at Girl Guides – you never know when they will come in handy!
Underneath the shearing shed was a rifle range. I am generally pretty anti-gun and am a strong advocate of Australia’s strict gun control measures, but can appreciate that some people enjoy using them in controlled sporting environments and that others – generally farmers – have a need for them in their work. So in the end the whole family had a go at shooting the target.
Well, who’d have thought – it appears that I am a natural! Maybe it’s all that focus on keeping my hands steady gained from years of sewing.
I’m really not a natural at pool. I do generally manage to make the white ball hit another ball – and sometimes I even manage to hit them into the pocket – but I’ll never been known for my skills in this area. The kids ran around outside playing games that weren’t too difficult to translate from Australian terms and rules into those found in New Zealand and vice versa. It was fun watching Clare play enthusiastically with the younger kids too. She often prefers to spend her time in adult company, but was pretty happy out there with the others as the sun began to set! It was a magical day.
We were SO glad that we’d spent the night in a cabin rather than in a tent. When we packing our car in the morning there were many sad, wet and cold people packing up their tents, many surrounded by water. There had been masses of rain and wind overnight – and it continued. Actually, it pretty much continued for the entire day. At least the air temperature wasn’t cold!
As soon as we drove out of Cosy Cottages we encountered a tree across the road and needed to divert around it. There were plenty of trees down beside the roads as we left Rotorua and headed to Nirvana Farm Stay at Te Haroto (in Hawke’s Bay, around an hour from Napier). Because of the rain there wasn’t really much to see from the car windows – other than plenty of cows and sheep in paddocks, with the cows all lined up together, bottoms into the wind. It took us a couple of hours to get there, with the raining easing a little as we headed east.
Despite the rain, we could tell that we’d chosen a really beautiful place to stay. It’s definitely well off the main road – the closest shops are around an hour away in each direction, so it was a good thing that we had food with us – and was full of hills, valleys, streams, vegetation, birds and animals. We quickly settled in to our room (converted shearer’s quarters – basic but comfortable with everything we needed) then headed over to the shearing shed.
Craig has done an excellent job converting the shearing shed into a fun and sociable space. It included a pool table, darts boards, DVD player (no WiFi out here), bar area, some books and magazines, a BBQ, and plenty of comfy chairs and couches. It was the perfect place to be on a rainy afternoon. There was another family staying as well, so we whiled away the hours chatting to them and to Craig, with the kids either reading, playing darts or watching a movie.
My childhood – and adulthood, actually – contained many visits to my aunt and uncle’s sheep farm, so in many ways this was a familiar environment for me. We used to take our kids there each Easter as well, until my aunt and uncle retired and sold their farm around five years ago. Unfortunately Stella in particular doesn’t remember much about it. We’re really looking forward to some farm experiences with our city kids.
The weather has changed in New Zealand. Any of you who have been watching the forecasts would know by now that the last couple of days have seen an “extreme weather event”. Wind and rain, more wind and rain. Rotorua has been near the centre of the low pressure area, which means we haven’t been bearing the full brunt of it. Very fortunate! But the weather definitely impacted on our choice of activities for the day.
There was great hilarity in the morning when Stella and I both appeared from our respective bedrooms. One of the hazards of sewing for yourself and for the family! The teen was highly embarrassed – but we stayed dressed this way! We’d chosen to do an activity that would be okay in both dry and wet weather (and which wouldn’t be very demanding of my ankle) – a tour around and on some of the lakes of Rotorua.
Rotorua Duck Tours run the only two WWII army ducks in the country. They have of course been modified a little to take tourists – they’re now right hand drive, have appropriate safety equipment, and have seats, sides and a roof. Back when I was a kid friends of the family had an old army duck, and we were once able to take a short ride on it. I was definitely the only person on the tour who had been on an army duck before!
The tour was packed full of humour and every duck gag you’ve ever come across. Music was used perfectly to highlight moments of drama along the way (such as the theme song of Titanic coming on as we first splashed into a lake). Every member of the family enjoyed it!
Tutanekai lived on Mokoia Island, Lake Rotorua, where of an evening he and his friend Tiki used to play – the one on a “horn”, the other on a “pipe”. The sound of this music could be heard across Lake Rotorua at Owhata and it charmed the beautiful and noble-born Hinemoa who lived there. When Tutanekai visited the mainland with his people, he met Hinemoa and they fell in love. The young man had perforce to return to his village, but the lovers arranged that every night he would play and that Hinemoa would follow the sound of his music to join him.
Tutanekai kept up a nightly serenade but Hinemoa’s people, suspecting something was afoot, had hidden all the canoes. The maiden, however, was not to be deterred and, selecting six large, dry, empty gourds as floats, she decided to swim to the island. Guided by the strains of her loved one’s music, Hinemoa safely reached the other shore and landed near a hot spring, Waikimihia, in which she warmed and refreshed herself – the pool is on Mokoia Island to this day. Just at that moment Tutanekai sent his servant for water. This man disturbed the girl who, pretending to be a man, spoke in a gruff voice and, when she learnt his errand, begged for a drink from the calabash which she smashed as soon as she had had her fill. The servant then went back and reported to Tutanekai what had happened. He was ordered back again and again, each time with the same result, until all the calabashes were broken. The now irate young man himself went down to the pool and to his joy discovered Hinemoa. Like all good stories, the legend has a conventional ending – they lived happily ever after.
That’s Rotorua Museum in the photo above. Unfortunately it is currently closed due to earthquake damage.
There are spa buildings along the lake foreshore. Hot mineral water is piped directly from the spring in the photo above to the spa. From there we headed past redwood forests (they grow three times as fast in New Zealand as in the USA – the weather conditions in combination with the rich volcanic soil is perfect for them) towards Lake Tikitapu, also known as the Blue Lake.
Lake Tikitapu looked pretty green – because the sky was completely clouded over the clear water reflected the vibrant greens of the surrounding vegetation rather than the blue of the sky above. The rain set in while we were on the lake. There was also a story connected to the lake. The Maori name of the lake ‘Tikitapu’ is derived from a story surrounding a scared (tapu) necklace (tiki). It is said that long ago, a daughter of a highborn chief swam in the lake and lost her treasured Tiki (greenstone neck ornament looped through flax cord). Frenzied searching ensued after the loss of this hallowed possession, the sacred tiki of her tribe. To this day, the waters of Tikitapu still hide the tapu – scared tiki – necklace that was lost.
We were fortunate to see the rare dabchicks on Lake Okareka nearby. Rotorua Duck Tours say we are very respectful to our local iwi and the land that they allow us to use. As a result we are very careful when it comes to the preservation of our lakes and waterways. We ensure this via a thorough check of weeds after we leave EVERY lake and ensuring we are not polluting our waterways to the absolute best of our ability. We also educate our guests by education them on the preservation of our waterways.
After our tour we had a quick run through the McDonalds drive through – I rather enjoyed the illustrations on the packaging for my Kiwi Burger.
The rest of our day was spent either lying in hot mineral pools, watching movies/tv, or reading books. And the rain and wind outside our cosy cabin intensified….