Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Kiwi Summer at last.

I have decide that I am extremely British in that I have an obsession with the weather. Living in New Zealand suits me as the weather here changes from hour to hour and is highly unpredictable. At this time yesterday we were paddling in the sea watching the crabs crawl over our toes. Today is grey and cold with driving rain and we are sat huddled inside watching commando guinea pigs on DVD.

This week has given us our first real taste of a Kiwi summer and its been great. We have been swimming and building numerous sandcastles on the beach, horse riding and cycling. If you love the outdoor life this is the country for you.

The only problem with this hot sunny weather is the fact that I have to continually smear sun cream on the girls every few hours. The sun is so strong over here that if you fail to do this they will go bright red in less than an hour. This has been proved unfortunately by the odd red patches I have on my arm from where I failed to spread the sun cream evenly enough. I also seem to always forget to spread cream on our feet - so we all look a bit freaky at the moment with our incredibly bronzed feet.

Due to my obsession with the risk of sunburn I insist that the girls both wear their wetsuits on the beach no matter how hot it is. I am clearly a very cruel mother!

A doing a bit of body boarding.

I have really begun to notice the influx of tourists to this area this week. We spent the day in the city this Friday and travelling in on the highway towards the city we noticed the large cruise liner docked in the harbour. Once in the city you could immediately see the impact of this. There were tourists everywhere. They were easy to spot - all looking a bit lost and wondering slowly around looking in the shops or queueing for the tram ride up to the Botanic Gardens. This was in sharp contrast to the other bunch of people who had come to watch the ACDC concert at the Westpac stadium the previous night. They were all nursing coffees in the cafes and trying to recover from the night before.

Wellington is a great city to roam around in and people watch. We were amazed by the number of people jumping off the waterfront into the harbour.

People climbing up having jumped in the harbour. The bronze crouching figure in the centre is a statue - not a rather depressed Wellingtonian!

The Inter Island ferry in the back ground and the helicopter giving trips over the city.

I love New Zealand in the summer. The countryside and outside activities are so easy to access. The beaches are clean and safe. Everybody heads out in the countryside and the beach with their boats, canoes and kayaks in tow. Every evening this summer the Pautuahanui inlet near us has had several cars parked on the beach whilst their owners mess about on the water with their jet skis. It really is the ideal way of life. I love it!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Summer Road Trip

It has been a long time since I have had time to sit down and write this blog. However I am determined to get back into blogging regularly, now that my extremely kind and giving husband has brought me a new laptop.

We have been experiencing our first summer in New Zealand and it has been fantastic. Although the weather has not been amazing (the worst summer for many years according to the media here) we have been exploring the country and generally enjoying the outdoor life we moved all this distance for.

In New Zealand kids are off school from a few days before Christmas until the 3rd of February. So J has had a nice long summer holiday which has included Christmas. She was upset at first when she realised she wouldn't be at school for so long but has since been so busy swimming, cycling and exploring the countryside she hasn't had time to miss her mates. Both the girls, despite being smothered in sun cream, have now got healthy tans.

We booked a "Bach" (a small holiday home or beach house so called because they used to be used by bachelors for the types of thing bachelors apparently do!) near Lake Taupo and spent a few days exploring the area. I had never been any further than Otaki along State Highway 1, so it was with great excitement that we finally left the Wellington region.

I had heard tales from friends and seen pictures on the news of, what is known as, the "Desert Road". It is notorious over here as a road with absolutely nothing on it and can be dangerous particularly in winter when people can get stranded in the snow. Its at a high altitude, 3520 ft above sea level, and is very exposed which can lead to quite bad driving conditions. So I made sure we were prepared and knew when to fill up with petrol so we wouldn't get stranded. I might have gone a bit overboard with the first aid kit, emergency food rations and sleeping bags!

In the end I discovered that the Desert Road is actually only 52km long but it is still spectacular. If, like me, you are used to concrete underpasses and fields of cows as your main scenery when travelling on motorways, this road is completely different. Within a few hundred metres of entering the desert road Mount Ruapehu suddenly rises up on your left and you are confronted by a scene straight out of Lord of the Rings. Alongside the huge volcano is Mount Ngauruhoe, a slightly smaller, but more cone shaped volcano which doubled as Mount Doom. At any moment you expect huge eagles to fly over on their way to rescue Frodo and Sam. This area is like nothing I have ever seen before, quite an Alien landscape when you are used to the rolling hills of Sussex and Wiltshire.
The road goes on to twist and wind through the volcanic landscape which I imagine is similar to Nevada. There is nothing for miles and miles apart from straight stretches of road with heat mist causing mirages in places and then it twists into small tight valleys with rather scary 90 degree turns. I can easily imagine why the road becomes so dangerous in winter.

The road trip was made more exciting by the fact that unlike the UK there are no purpose built service stations or Little Chefs dotted every few miles along the route. If you need to stop for refreshments you have to stop in one of the small towns you pass. These settlements occur every 20-30km along the road and tend to be heralded by the boards on the side of the road advertising the cafes and facilities offered. The two cafes that we tried out where great and one in particular called the "Soul Food Cafe" has the best Hot Chocolate I have ever tasted. I found it made the trip even more interesting to stop and explore these towns and villages along the route with there cowboy style shop fronts and sun shades.

Some of these towns have really interesting names and clearly try to distinguish themselves from the next town by building something big that you cant miss. Like the town with the giant Wellington Boot (gum boot) built for no obvious reason I could see in the middle of the high street. Or there is the really interesting town called "Bulls" that we drove through with, I suppose understandably, many large pictures and a statues of Bulls littered throughout the high street. Unfortunately, try as I might I didn't manage to catch a picture of these many interesting and unique sites - So I'm afraid you will have to make the trip yourself. I would highly recommend it.

Our final destination. A beautiful little Bach surrounded by countryside.