A Travellerspoint blog

Sunset over the city, Windy Wellington and Movie Magic!

Out and about in New Zealand

sunny 23 °C

Time for a catch up…

With the school summer holidays coming to an end, I have spent the last couple of weeks catching up with friends old and new. On Monday I spent the day on the beach at St Heliers Bay with Kirsten as we have had days of cloudless, blue skies recently. It is so much nicer down there than in the garden as there is a lovely sea breeze all the time. All the gorgeous weather has brought on some pretty spectacular sunsets over the past couple of weeks so I couldn't resist taking a couple of snaps.
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We had a weekend trip to Wellington for Gerald’s sister’s (Jenni) birthday and housewarming. The flight there was pretty scary as we approached the airport. Neither of us has ever experienced turbulence like it! The last 15 minutes felt like we were on a rollercoaster as our stomachs kept rising up to our mouths. Every passenger seemed to be gripping hold of the chair in front and when the pilot landed us safely back on land everybody erupted into cheers and applause. I guess it has the nickname of Windy Wellington for a reason!
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With the arrival of summer Auckland always puts on lots of free events. This weekend we made the most of a free outdoor cinema event sponsored by Jetstar. It was a screening of Boy – a hilarious kiwi film set in the 80’s. We went along with our next door neighbours (Jordan and Mike) and it was a case of perfect timing. When we arrived, there was already a crowd of people sitting on beanbags so I headed over to a stand to ask where to get them from….it turned out that the first 6 people to approach them at 7.30pm with a flier got VIP treatment. Lucky for us it was bang on 7.30pm so the four of us not only got comfy beanbags to sit on but also a whole heap of freebies – crisps, popcorn, chocolate, cookies, jellybeans, crostini, drinks, blankets, cameras and more….. a short while later two more of our friends (Cheryl, who I work with, and Darren her husband) also joined us so it became a nice social evening.
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We also hit the sales this weekend to buy bits for the new house that we needed. We bagged ourselves some good bargains but the bank balance didn’t like it too much!!! The only problem with buying a bigger house is that we don’t have enough furniture to fill all the rooms but I’m sure it won’t be long before that is rectified. Just 5 weeks til we move in - yippee!

That’s about it for now, we have an exciting weekend coming up so watch this space!

x

Posted by bumblebum 14:37 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

We survived the 19.4km trek!

semi-overcast 22 °C

Friday was HOT!!! As we made the journey south to Ohakune the car was displaying an outside temperature of 27 degrees. Shame that we were stuck inside the car for 5 hours! I couldn't resist a few photo opportunities along the way though....
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We arrived at the Powderhorn Chateau just before 8pm with amazing views of Mt Ruapehu in the background. IMG_1123.jpg
The Powderhorn has gained a bit of fame as it was where the cast and crew stayed when The Lord of the Rings was being filmed in the area. People get very excited to discover they are sleeping in the same bed as Orlando Bloom!
We had an early start the next morning with a 6.30am breakfast before getting on the shuttle to take us to the Tongariro Crossing starting point. When we got off the shuttle it was cold, windy and raining - not ideal conditions to participate in a 19.4km trek in the mountains. Many people decided not to continue and headed back to the hotel but we had bought all the required gear to get us through such conditions and decided to go ahead. Within minutes of setting off the wind dropped, the rain pretty much stopped and as we started walking we soon warmed up and began removing all our layers.
The first part of the walk was an easy lead in with a nice, flat boardwalk alongside streams and with a waterfall in the distance. IMG_1127.jpg P1020198.jpg
Then the terrain suddenly changed, we were at the bottom of the Devil's Staircase. Aptly named as it is a steep climb of 200m from 1400 to 1600m. I could definitely feel my legs working hard to get me up there. When we got to the top there was a big crowd of people all catching their breath before continuing the next 13km. We took the opportunity to have a little rest before continuing whilst searching for a geocache that we knew was in the area, we knew that there were several along the route and decided to find them as we went along. Once at the top of the Devil's Staircase we could see Mt Ngauruhoe aka Mt Doom. The cloud was low but we did get to fully see it for a few minutes. P1020219.jpg
From here we crossed the South Crater P1020238.jpgwhich is flat, desert like terrain however it was only a brief respite before another steep climb leading to the Red Crater, the highest point of the trek at 1886m. Once again I could feel my legs working really hard to get me up to the top and my heart was thumping! At the Red Crater there is a huge vent letting out steam and it smelt pretty strongly of rotten eggs. Steam was coming out of the ground and the ground was very warm under our feet. At this point we should have had stunning views of a huge part of the North Island but there was so much cloud that we couldn't see very much at all.
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Just a little further and we got to see our first glimpse of The Emerald Lakes. At first it was cloudy and you could only just see them but fortunately for us there was a moment where the clouds rolled away and revealed just how beautiful these lakes are.
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As the clouds came back down worse than ever we started our descent. At this stage we should have been able to see The Blue Lake but the cloud was so low we could see nothing and didn't even know the huge lake existed until we were looking on a website afterwards! As we followed the track down the terrain changed a lot, it went from lava flows, rocks and desert to ground covered in shrubs and alpine flowers.
The track continued like this for some time but as we got lower it suddenly changed yet again. The last part of the trek turned into rainforest and raincoats were needed as the skies opened as we completed the final kilometers.
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We completed the walk in around 6 and a half hours with 8 geocaching stops along the way, the last find was very close to the end and was tricky to get to without anyone wondering what we were up to as so many people were finishing the trek at the same time as us!
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It was a brilliant day despite the fact that we didn't get to see all the amazing views. The weather really took a turn for the worse on the journey back to the hotel and when we got back the hotel staff informed us that the trek had been cancelled for at least the next 3 days so we were lucky that we got to do it. I had a nice long, hot bath when we got back to the room but it still didn't stop my legs from aching the next day (and they still ache a little now!!!). We finished the day with a delicious meal and a few drinks in the Powderkeg bar/restaurant and had an early night. It is easy to see why this trek is so highly recommended and I am sure we will do it again one day.

Posted by bumblebum 14:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Christmas Down Under

rain 20 °C

It's been 3 weeks so I guess it's time for an update....

On our way to see the Foo Fighters at Western Springs we got the call to say our tender had been accepted on the house! Now we just had the little matter of getting my money from the UK so we could pay the deposit. This proved to be a lot more difficult than we anticipated. Knowing that my letter had been received by the Halifax I decided to chase it up with a phonecall only to be told that I had been misinformed and that requesting money by letter is no longer the proceedure and that the only way I can I can access that much in one go is in person! After speaking to various managers and supervisors over several phonecalls I was still getting nowhere and promptly sat on the floor crying at 2am! I was then told to call my bank manager and after explaining the whole situation between sobs she eventually agreed to release my money! When I woke in the morning it was sitting in my bank account. So the moral of the story is, if you are moving abroad sort all your finances out before you leave the country. It all worked out in the end and our settlement day is February 28th, yippee!

We joined our neighbours for a journey along Franklin Road in the city last weekend. All the houses and businesses are covered in a multitude of lights ranging from the classy tasteful kind to brash and tacky! By the time we arrived there the road was bumper to bumper with cars and the pavements were heaving with people admiring the displays and taking photos! Next we headed to the viaduct to make a wish at the telecom wishing tree. The tree of lights is HUGE and at the bottom there are phoneboxes for you to tell Santa what you wish for, as you tell him the lights on the tree change colour as they travel up to the top. It's very pretty!
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On Christmas day we headed to Hamilton for Christmas lunch with a lot of Gerald's family (27 of us I think!). I have never seen so many presents under a tree before! The youngest ones in the family handed out all of the gifts and before long the living room carpet was littered in wrapping paper. Hours later we headed off to the second destination of the day, Whitianga. We had a couple of lazy days exploring the area with a bit of geocaching, eating fish and chips, shopping and hanging out in the sunshine.
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We got a quite a few vouchers for Christmas so Wednesday was spent at the sales getting lots of bargains for the new house. It was nice coming home with a car stuffed full of goodies without having to touch our bank account!

Next weekend we are doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing which is a trek of about 19km over steep terrain. The weather can be very unpredictable so we have bought all the gear we may need to aid us in our venture. Yesterday Gerald decided that I should break my hiking boots in before we do the trek, suggesting we go to the Waitakere Ranges for a little trek and try to find some geocaches along the way. So we jumped in the car and headed west for about 50 minutes thinking we were about to embark on a pleasant walk of about 3 or 4 hours. How wrong we were!!! 7 hours later we arrived back at the car after crossing the twin peaks of the ranges climbing up to over 1400ft! We had to cross rivers, navigate our way through tracks of deep, oozing mud, climb under/over fallen down trees and traipse through tracks that were so overgrown you could barely see them. It was most definitely the hardest thing I have ever done. For about the last hour of our trek it rained making the decent back down even more difficult and causing me to fall more than once. We were both extremely pleased to get back to the car and get out of our very muddy boots. Boots which are most definitely broken in!!! We did find six geocaches along the way and we were the first people to find three of them as they had only been hidden in the last few days. By the time we were on the road again the rain was torrential and looking back at the Waitakere Ranges I couldn't even see the tops as the cloud was so low. We were very lucky that we finished when we did as it would have been an impossible journey down with that amount of rain.
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All that remains to say is HAPPY NEW YEAR! We hope 2012 brings good health, wealth and happiness to all xxx

Posted by bumblebum 12:57 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Summer days in New Zealand - yippee!!!

sunny 25 °C

Well, as of December 1st, summer officially arrived here in New Zealand and this week has been beautiful with blue skies and temperatures of up to 25 each day.

I now have just 4 teaching days left of this school year. The principal has decided to have a HUGE shuffle up with staff and classrooms, almost every teacher is changing the year group they are teaching and the buildings around school are all being reassigned so I spent yesterday shifting from my little temporary, makeshift classroom into my new one. It has been like an upgrade from economy to first class! Christmas has definitely come early....I now have a considerably larger room that is light, bright and spacious with a huge teacher only area and a seperate little area which will be perfect for small group work and role play etc. Obviously this means my school have decided to keep me on which is great as I don't have to go looking around for a new job and I get to stay with the New Entrants which is what I prefer. It is also good from the point of view of getting a mortgage....

Gerald and I have been doing quite a lot of househunting over the past few weekends and have seen some nice places. One was a 1920's weatherboard villa with all the original features. It was really beautiful but when we went back for a second look we realised it was a little too cosy and when family and friends with their children come to stay we would be on top of one another. A few other houses were also great but we were pretty sure they were potential leaky homes as they were too good to be true price wise. For those of you outside of New Zealand, lots of homes that were built around 10 years ago have developed leaks due to the materials and the way they were constructed, it has cost hundreds of thousands to repair in some cases and has been a big government issue. Even if a house hasn't got leaks as yet they still have the potential to do so in the future and so we are staying well clear! After visiting lots of homes and finding things in each that we just didn't like we have been drawn back to the new suburb, Stonefields. We have been visiting their showhomes and houses ready for purchase regularly ever since we arrived in Auckland and this week we found out the showhome that we have loved from the minute we saw it is now up for tender. We have spent this week trying to get everything organised in order to put an offer in. We now have a solicitor and a pre-approved mortgage deal so it was just a case of transferring the money from my UK account for the deposit. This is where everything went completely pear shaped!!! I spoke to my money exchange agent and got a good exchange rate in place and just had to transfer the money to their account but my bank, Halifax, would not let me exchange that amount of money in one go. It is limited to £25,000 a day and with a cost of £25.00 for each transfer. The tender closes on Monday so this option was not going to work......apparently I have to apply in writing to get access to my own money if the amount is above £25,000. So I have sent off a letter and we have been advised to put in an offer on the house anyway with a covering letter explaining our situation. The very nice people at HiFX money exchange said they will extend my contract date until my money is released so even if the exchange rate drops they will honour the rate they offered me. The exchange rate has been so up and down recently this is great to know. For now we have done all we can, we will put our tender in and keep our fingers crossed that they like our offer and can see we are serious about it. They take 5 working days to make up their minds so we should know before Christmas whether we will be moving into a lovely house on February 28th or not!!!! Here are a few photos if any of you are interested....p4c733391e1957.jpgp486b0aa28148e.jpg
Anyway apart from continuing our fitness stint and another morning volunteering at the cats home that just about sums up our latest events.
Send positive thoughts our way and hopefully next time we blog it will as future home owners.
xxx

Posted by bumblebum 21:55 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Whitianga, Matakana, Dairy Flats....

We have been getting around!

sunny 21 °C

The last 2 weeks have been busy....
The first weekend of November took us to Whitianga on a surprise visit to Mary & Neil's (Gerald's parents). We pulled up onto the driveway to see Mary look like she was about to give us a good telling off for driving onto their property, until she realised who it was and then it was all smiles! Gerald's sister Jenni was also staying for the weekend, the beginning of a family get-together, I say 'beginning' because within minutes we were on our way to catch the little ferry across to Cooks Beach for a BBQ at Shenagh and Sels - Gerald's aunt and uncle - who happened to have their son Tim over for the weekend with his adorable little one year old, Chloe. Lots of sausages and catching up later, we decided to head back to Whiti via (of course) a couple of geocaches up on Shakespeare Cliff. The weather was beautiful and the caches were hidden in some really beautiful locations with amazing views, well worth the long, steep climb.IMG_0957.jpg
That night we went out for dinner and as we got to dessert Gerald's aunty Bev, who also lives in Whitianga, came to join us as she had just finished work. So that was the entire Coromandel Coast part of the family visited in about 12 hours!!!

Weeknights found Gerald and I on a mission to get a bit fitter and so we joined a local 'exercise group', paying up front for 3 months unlimited lessons - so far so good. I guess paying up front gives us the incentive to make sure we go...

11/11/11 found us attending our first Geocaching event. We headed out after work along with over one hundred other cachers to embark on a night of geocaching like never before! We did a geohunt, which involved some crazy driving by the driver of our team, trying to ensure we got back in the best time, the lesson we learnt is always read ALL the questions in advance as several times we had to do a bit of retracing our steps and when we got to the last question it said 'How many petrol stations did you pass?' Ooops had to guess that one! We also did some night caches which involved hunting fire tacs that glow when your torch hits them so you can follow the trail and much, much more. We met loads of people, some who have been caching for over a decade and have 1000's of finds under their belt which meant that we picked up quite a few tips and future locations to scout out. Having heard about a power trail series called '101 Dalmations' from one couple we decided to check it out on the Sunday. We drove North to the start point in an area called Dairy Flats (God knows why as it was far from flat at times!) and managed to do 23 of them over the next couple of hours, we decided to stop there as we knew we had the long walk back to the car to do as well. Gerald had the misfortune of ripping his shorts whilst looking for number 3 and so spent the rest of the walk with a breeze round his bum!!!! ha ha! The others will be done some other time!P1020050.jpgP1020044.jpg

This weekend we headed up North again, this time further along, to the Matakana Coast. On the way we stopped in the tiny village of Puhoi, mainly because we had seen a sign on the side of the road saying they did cream teas! The scones were HUGE and as much as I love a cream tea there was no way I could finish this one. The village was very cute and had it's own library which was about the size of a garden shed! P1020057.jpgWe had a little look around before heading on to our accommodation. We stayed in a lovely place called The Sandpiper Lodge, my birthday present from Gerald. The lodge is set in about 6 acres of sub-tropical gardens and even has an estuary running through it. As we arrived we were greeted by the free range chickens, the happiest and fattest chickens I have ever had the pleasure to meet! They were so friendly you could even stroke them! They just loved to follow us around running around our feet.P1020130.jpg We dumped our bags and decided to head to the Tawharanui reserve. We had heard it was a really lovely walk along the coastline and through native bush plus we knew there were a few geocaches hidden there so thought we would combine the two. The views most certainly did not disappoint and the beautiful sunshine helped too. We clambered over rocks to get to each new bay admiring the views. P1020090.jpg The only event to mar the day was finding a Little Blue Penguin washed up on the beach, he was in perfect condition so we guess he must have died very recently. Poor thing. When we finished the walk we headed into Matakana village for dinner and drinks and to admire the famous art deco toilets they have there!P1020128.jpg When we arrived back at the lodge there was a little bunny sitting on the lawn eating grass, he soon hopped off when he heard us approaching though. This morning we were given a hearty breakfast before leaving The Sandpiper to head to The Brick Bay Sculpture Trail. We had heard this was another great walk to do and so decided to give it a go. The walk was about 2km and the sculptures are set in some really beautiful grounds so it was definitely worth the $12 entry fee. P1020179.jpg Time was getting on by the time we finished the walk so we decided to head back home stopping to do (yes you guessed it!) a few more geocaches. We found our favourite one so far today - it was disguised as a nut and bolt! the tiny log book was inside the hollow bolt and took me a while to find it, I noticed it looked a bit different from all the others so thought I would just see - and there it was!!! We had been close to giving up. Another cool find today was a fence along SH1 which is covered with hundreds of hub caps that have been salvaged from the side of the road and then fixed to this fence - one of the caches was hidden behind a hub cap! Thank goodness the given co-ordinates were correct otherwise it would have been a long search!P1020192.jpg

So that completes the update for the last 2 weeks....plan to put lots more photos in the gallery so check it out soon....

Posted by bumblebum 20:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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