Friday, November 10, 2017

Green Intentions

It has become quite a tradition in our household to go to the Green Expo each year at the TSB Arena in Wellington.

I find it rather inspiring that so many businesses are interested in becoming more eco-friendly and that equally so many people wish to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I realise that all of the business are ultimately interested in making money, but if they do it in a way that encourages us to think about how much we consume and the way we use things, then its got to be a good thing, right?

The expo was packed as usual and full of interesting and very earnest sellers. We picked up our traditional stock of organic peanut butter, reusable food wrap and information and leaflets on electric cars and sustainable roofs. The kids ate as many free samples of ethically produced chocolate and organic coconut yogurt as possible, so much fun was had by all!

After strolling around the expo we headed next door to Munchin to have some pretzels and burgers. It was also a good location to observe the preparations for the football match that was going on later in the day. The All Whites vs Peru. 

I believe the guys in this picture are members of the All Whites. This is judging by the reaction of people who burst into applause as they passed! I have no idea about football!

We spotted loads of soccer fans as we wondered around Wellington including this chap who was dressed up as a Mummy for the match.

It was another beautiful day in a city that Ed Sheerhan has recently claimed is his favourite :)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Last Guy

Autumn was always my favourite time of year when we lived in the UK. This was solely because it meant it was time for Bonfire Night. My Grandparents lived in a small Surrey village called Brockham. If you picture an idyllic English village in your mind then Brockham would probably have met most of your expectations. Its set around a village green with a church and is reached along winding narrow country roads.

As soon as the first leaves begin to fall people start to collect piles of wood and other combustable materials in the centre of the village green. By the beginning of November they have created an enormous bonfire in front of the village church.

On November the 5th we would travel a couple of hours in the car up to stay at Nan and Grandads for the night. We would wrap up in hat, scarfs and gloves, and join in the torch lit procession to light the bonfire. Yes they really did hand small children lit torches made from oil socked rags tied to branches. It was awesome. Only a few people were unfortunate enough to loose the odd strand of hair.

We would then have cups of soup, watch the pig being roasted on a spit and end the evening with fireworks.

I have to say I miss this. In New Zealand it is just not the same. Understandably as its not Autumn there are no bonfires and the fireworks, although good, start late at night as it's spring. It also lacks the whole pagan atmosphere that the British bonfire nights tend to have. After all it is all about burning someone alive. It is a good bit of gruesome fun which unfortunately this former British colony finds difficult to replicate. And perhaps that's the point, maybe it should not be trying to replicate something that originates on the other side of the world. Maybe it should be creating its own traditions.

However due to the large expat community Guy Fawkes is still big here and Wellington Council puts on an annual firework display in the harbour. It is pretty spectacular watching the fireworks light up the harbour from one side to the other. The atmosphere in the city is great. The waterfront was full of families like us this year, wrapped up against the wind and eating food from the many stalls dotted along the water.

This was the last Guy Fawkes fireworks display the the council is going to put on. They have decided to celebrate Matariki instead. This is the Maori name for a cluster of stars that rise in mid-winter and signifies the start of the new year. I think this is a far better idea and more appropriate than celebrating a thwarted attempt to blow up the parliament of a country on the other side of the world!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Rabbit Island - Mapua

I am not a big bike rider. I used to be as a child. I would ride my rattly old blue bike everywhere. However as an adult my rear end is less forgiving and I will only ride bikes with extra comfort seats. Both the girls are bike mad and so whilst on the South Island we went to Mapua and caught the ferry across to Rabbit Island to have a go at the cycle trails.

The ferry is fully equipped to carry bikes across, which clearly make up the bulk of the load. Once across the other side there are various different trails you can follow which take you past the estuary, through woodland and alongside the picturesque tidal beach.

It was one of the most enjoyable bike rides we have been along as a family. It was interesting and challenging enough to keep the thirteen year old amused and flat and easy going enough to keep us happy.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Kahurangi National Park

Kahurangi lies on the north western corner of the South Island not far from our bach in Ngatimoti. So we decided it was definitely somewhere we wanted to visit whilst we were in the area. It is the second largest National Park in New Zealand and contains the most diverse flora and fauna of any of the National Parks. It is also one of the ones which is slightly less visited and we discovered why when trying to reach the car park.

Since we were not far from Motueka we entered the Park through the entrance near the Motueka river. Following the signs leads you to an unmade road and signs that warn you of steep slopes and dangerous driving conditions after rain. They also have these rather terrifying notices showing steep slopes and cars almost falling off the road. Very stern signs also warn of not attempting the road unless you have a 4x4.

As you climb through the mountain range the road does indeed get steeper and narrower and I began to worry about what exactly we would do if we met a car coming in the opposite direction! The idea of having to reverse down these precarious roads which were extremely narrow with steep drops on one side, did not appeal. Fifteen kilometres later, we emerged, very relieved, into a DOC carpark which was populated with several 4x4s and two very battered looking sedan cars. I have not idea how they made it up the road, since my own big 4x4 struggled on several of the slopes!

The rather traumatic drive is worth it to reach an untouched tropical rainforest in the clouds. I am sure the views would have been fantastic on a clearer day, but unfortunately we were walking through the clouds when we visited. This did however, provide an awesomely eerie atmosphere which really rather added to the whole experience.

We also met another very friendly Weka who was clearly used to being fed by many generous trampers.

We walked up through the forest to reach Aurthur's hut. A DOC hut which you can stay in overnight. It looks terrifically cosy and it must be amazing to wake up surrounded by wildlife and native forest. Its gone on our list of things to do next time!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Abel Tasman

The Abel Tasman is New Zealand's smallest National Park but I believe it must be one of the most visited. We have been here before and had already discovered just how breathtaking the beaches are in this area. So it was with no hesitation that we decided to visit again and complete another section of the coastal tracks that weave along from beach to beach.

The best and easiest method of reaching the tracks is by hoping on one of the ferries that go from Kaiteriteri and drop you at the beach of your request and will then pick you up from another beach later in the day. The ferries are frequent and give you an unrivalled view of the coast. The drivers of the ferry are also really informative (with a good sense of humour!) and took a detour during our trip as they spotted a school of dolphins. They also took us to view some seals on one of the outlying islands.

Although the tracks are well used you can still feel quite isolated at times and this allows you to meet the local wildlife. This Weka was clearly used to being fed by trampers.

He took a liking to our oaty bars and cheese sandwiches.

Bark bay was stunning on the day we crossed it and contains rather a nice looking DOC hut which we will remember next time and see if we can book!

It was even warm enough for a paddle.

It was a great location just to explore and mess around in whilst waiting for the ferry to come and pick us up,

I love the Abel Tasman and no doubt we will be back again one day. However, as with a lot of places increasingly in New Zealand, I wish it was a bit less popular. This makes me selfish and childish I suppose, I am just unwilling to share the outstanding natural beauty of this place with others. I worry that the large number of people visiting these areas is actually endangering them.

Apparently this is something that DOC (Department of Conservation) is also concerned about and are currently trying to develop a strategy that will still allow the country to benefit from the massive amount of Tourism that our natural beauty encourages but still manage to preserve these areas of national heritage and beauty for future generations.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Term 3 is always the most difficult term of the year. Running through the end of winter and the start of Spring the weather is unpredictable and often a bit dark and rough. Towards October the weather begins to improve and by the time we reach the school holidays we are all exhausted and in desperate need of the sun.

So this year we decided to head to the South Island (going on the InterIslander is always fun and makes it feel like the start of the holidays)! We booked the beautiful bach shown above in a small hamlet about 25 minutes outside Motueka called Ngatimoti. The bach was right next to the river and I spent most of the week trying in vain to get a good picture of the Kingfishers that spent their time hunting in the river.

On the first day we headed to Motueka and found this wreak on the beach. It was actually purposefully beached when it reached the end of its life and now provided a rather good photography spot.

The wreak also provides a home for rather a lot of wildlife and I was really pleased when I managed to catch the Heron shown below.

Our bach was in a lovely location and once the sun came out it was the perfect spot for a cup of tea and a spot of bird watching.

Kaiteriteri was about half an hours drive away and had some beautiful beaches.

I was successful in catching pictures of the Tui's but unfortunately the Kingfisher remained elusive.

So I gave up and took pictures of the stunning scenery instead.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


I love the Queens Birthday. Every year by this point we always really need a break from the winter slog. This year was no exception, although this time we were lucky enough to get away for the long weekend to Okahune.

On the edge of Tongariro National Park, this lovely little town is clearly a busy mecca for skiers and snowboarders once the snow has fallen. This weekend it was bitterly cold at times but no snow appeared, so the town was full of walkers and families escaping the working week for a bit.

We were also lucky enough arrive on the weekend of the Ohakune Carrot Carnival. The town was full of food and craft stall plus live music and lots of carrots!

We took a walk up the "old coach road" which takes you to Hapuawhenua Viaduct. The old coach road winds up through beautiful countryside until you get to the old viaduct which was built over 100 years ago.

The old cobbles that made up the surface of the road are still visible in many places.

It took us about 1.5 hours to reach the viaduct and we travelled through farmland, forest and into an Alpine wetland.

The track must take a lot of maintenance as the wetland is clearly a fragile environment.

Being winter meant that by the time we headed back down the sun was low in the sky and the moon was out.

The lack of light made the landscape that much more stunning.

We also managed to find a bit of snow up at Turoa ski field. 

Just enough to have a snow ball fight :)

Saturday, May 20, 2017


It's been cold this week. We haven't seen snow in our area of Wellington, but it has covered some of the surrounding hills. I think we are just too near the coast for any of the white stuff to settle near here.

It has been bitterly cold though and I have been a  bit worried about our outdoor Guinea Pigs. Errol is over five years old, which is getting on a bit in Guinea Pig terms. He is well over pensionable age! So I have stuffed their hutches with hay and insulated them with cardboard and newspaper. They seem to be coping alright at the moment. 

I will start giving them hot water bottles when the temperature starts hitting minus numbers at night.

I have said many times before on these pages that New Zealand houses aren't really designed for winter weather. There is something in the Kiwi psychology that makes them unable to admit that it can get a bit chilly during the winter here. So many blokes over here still insist on wearing shorts and t-shirts when the temperature is not even hitting double digits. Maybe its a male thing. But then the houses aren't designed for cold weather either. We have just been to Mitre 10 again to purchase another heater to try and keep the downstairs of our house warm in the evening. Like most houses over here we do not have central heating and the heat from our wood burning stove unfortunately does not travel down stairs.

My eldest bravely played netball in the freezing hail on Saturday morning and understandably lost that game 23-1. However in the afternoon game (once the sun had come out) she won 37-nil. The rest of the weekend has been spent buying winter coats and thermals.

I also had a cold walk along the seafront withe the dog and had a wander around the garden to see if there was anything still alive after the cold nights we have been having!