Saturday, November 29, 2008


At last! The girls can relax, eat chocolate cake and wait for their results! One set arrives in a week, but NCEA will take until January for the results to reach us!

Friday, November 28, 2008


The ground is menacing. Lava, in waves frozen in mid-air only moments ago, claws at the soles of your shoes and threatens to shred your knees if you place a foot wrong. The surface is so uneven that progress is extraordinarily difficult, and I managed to twist my ankle last year.
There are channels like petrified streams which provide a pathway among the huge plates of broken lava and bouldery rubble.
Out of the shade of bush, it’s as hot as a furnace because the black rock absorbs and radiates enough heat to melt Antarctica.
It’s as hostile a spot as you could find anywhere in New Zealand.

Sophia and Greg braved ascending Rangitoto today, on a College trip. The weather was glorious and off they went on a coach filled with excited pupils...
Rangitoto is the largest and youngest volcano of the 48 volcanoes in the Auckland Volcanic Field and I did the same trip, last year with my tutor group.
If you stand on the top of Rangitoto Island, you get spectacular views of Kawau Island on the north and Great Barrier and Little Barrier on the north-east. The view is the main reason tourists venture there.
So, the Fullers Ferry loaded up with 170 Year 9s and their teachers, and arrived loudly at the bottom. Their target was the crater at the summit where they were having lunch.

It's not much of a path to the top, as you can see. It's volcanic boulders to clamber over and relentlessly uphill, but the students scamper up and leave the staff behind!! Lots of scoria and big rocks, for the boys.

About halfway up they all stop and have a snack, water and visit the lava caves. There are seven of these on this island. Sophia went off armed with a torch. She tells me it was dark and got narrower as you went in, like a hollow tube. She managed to bang her head on a stalagtite of course. Injured student!!

Rangitoto Island still contains remnants of WW II sites which sheltered the U.S. troops or mines. The old observation post is on the top where they all stop to have lunch.
The students get the lectures as they go along about how, with little warning, Rangitoto was formed through violent eruptions about 600 years ago.
At the time Maori were living nearby on Motutapu Island and the early stages of the eruption would have been excessively violent, due to steam explosions where the molten rock came into contact with the shallow seawater.

Rangitoto produced a volume of lava equalling that of all the previous Auckland eruptions must have been frighteningly spectacular!!
When the eruptions finally ceased, lava in the base of the cone cooled and shrank. As a result, the entire top of the mountain subsided by 10 to 20 metres leaving a moat-like ring around the summit. These are the small mounds either side of the central cone that gives Rangitoto its nearly symmetrical profile. It's a common postcard profile and almost everywhere you go in Auckland you can see it.

Rangitoto has no soil and yet there are 200 species of native trees and flowering plants, more than 40 kinds of fern, and several species of orchids which grow on the island. You'll remember from the last blog, that it has the largest collection of pohutukawa trees too.

The view from the top is great, and you can sit and catch your breath. remember there are no cafes or toilets here - bring everything you need!

Here is Sophia at the top..still smiling!
The volcano is not expected to become active again...

Monday, November 24, 2008


They are part of 'kiwiana' and belong to the myrtle family and they are uniquely adapted to colonising bare lava. They have masses of aerial roots which can take hold on the unstable rock and flower early, so as to seed sooner than other plants. The massed flowers are on the branch ends and hold copious amounts of nectar.

The largest collection of pohutukawas is on Rangitoto Island, Auckland's youngest volcano. The forests there are also home to large flocks of kereru.
The largest pohutukawa is 20 metres high and 39 metres across - that's some tree!!
There are two types of pohutukawa - the mainland, red flowering one and the yellow or white pohutukawa which is endemic to Raol Island.

What's special about this tree?
The roots store water and can be aerial across metres of rock. They grow horizontally from clifftops with their root support systems.
The bark is thick to protect the tree from drought and even the leaves are hairy underneath, to prevent water loss and on the upper part, coated with a shiny layer of wax.
The leaves can be replaced quickly in times of loss because of storms, they regrow at an unprecedented rate.

However, they are threatened by possums here, sensitive to fire and their roots are easily destroyed by walking over them. Herds of cows and sheep decimate them.
It was discovered that only 9.5% of pohutukawa seeds are fertile and we don't know why. So there's still a battle on to ensure this beautiful tree doesn't disappear.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


In Auckland there is a pohutukawa sculpture on one of the roundabouts and in the winter it lights up at night! It was designed by Rod Slater and if you're looking for it it's on the Nelson Street motorway on-ramp, Auckland City.

It was commissioned as part of an aesthetics upgrade of Auckland’s motorway system, and the sculpture consists of ceramic-covered pods and five-metre high fibreglass poles, representing pohutukawa stamen.
Each ‘stamen’ has a yellow elliptical top, fitted with an LED light. Thanks to these lights, and up-lights at the base of the poles, the sculpture positively glows when the sun goes down!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


The pohutakawa is the Tree of Aotearoa, more affectionately known as the 'Christmas Tree' It goes hand in hand with long summer days, Christmas on the beach, and provides much needed shade, while its festive red flowers replace the British holly here.

The Maori call it rakaurangatira or 'chiefly tree'.
Legend has it that Chief Tauninihi saw the red flowers from his canoe and threw his red headress into the sea, convinced that he could replace it with something finer. When he landed he was disappointed to discover it was only fragile red flowers! Nevertheless these majestic trees were planted to mark the burial places of chiefs and their sons.

There is also the expression here that 'someone has slid down the pohutukawa root' meaning someone has died. No stranger than our 'kick the bucket' or 'pushing up daisies' I suppose.
Interestingly, the bark of this tree reduces inflammation and is a remedy for diarrhoea, dysentry, gangrene and chewing it helps toothache. The nectar is a wonderful remedy for sore throats.

Even its wood is naturally resistant to seaworms, which was soon discovered by shipbuilders when they arrived here.
There is a project here called 'Crimson Trust' which is responsible for replanting and preserving these trees in New Zealand.

Friday, November 21, 2008


If someone gave you a truckload of vegetables and told you to create an imaginative display - I wonder what you would come up with?
At the Flower Show we particularly enjoyed one of these - which had an Egyptian theme.

Cleopatra has a dress made of cabbages, hair of asparagus, her face was thousands of seeds. The chair is designed out of rhubarb and cherries with a spring onion cushion!

The boy fanning her (the feathers were cheating) was red kidney beans and silverbeet leaves - I liked his cabbage hair..he stood in a field of parsley and the fan had a new potato handle. Attention to detail was amazing.

The path consisted of red and golden potatoes and red cabbages. The table holding grapes was made from red cabbages and the fountain of celeriac.

The dais was made of red apples and lined with golden kumara. Her cape was broad beans with bracelets of corn and different beans.

The two ladies who had designed it told me they would be more broccoli orientated next year.. the mind boggles!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


The Auckland Flower Show is an annual event.. it used to be called the Ellerslie Flower Show, but that has disappeared to Christchurch, and this was its replacement - at Alexandra Park.

Each person or company has a space and they create a garden.. prizes are gold, bronze and silver, best in show etc.. and some of them were spectacular - wish I could transplant them at home! One came complete with waterfalls..

Others made the most of an outdoor spa or bath idea, with fluffy towels and bottles of champagne. I liked this one and will be suggesting one on the patio!

We discovered this cocoon chair for in the patio section and gave it a trial!

We took a keen interest in the vegetable garden ideas and plants, since we began one of our own. Thank goodness we have chicken-proofed it now; we came home one day and all the spinach was gone!! The show had some good ideas..

Then there was the vegetable design section, and someone came up with a new way to use potatoes, lettuce and tomatoes - imaginative!! This was in a category all of its own.

Inside there were Halls filled with flowers and floral displays - the scent was overpowering, you could almost drink it!

Each section had a theme and this one was Summer Time - complete with parasols, roses twining everywhere and tall flowers of lilies and baby's breath.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


AJ Hackett is a New Zealand legend. His name is synonymous with one of the most heart-stopping sports here.
He was born on the North Shore, Auckland, left school at 16 and became an apprentice carpenter. He is a typical kiwi; loving snowboarding and skiing and anything involving risk-taking.
He was inspired in the 1980s, by the Oxford Club of Dangerous Sports, in England, who, in April 1979 made the first bungee jump from the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol.

The club members at that time consisted of David Kirke, Chris Baker, Simon Keeling, Tim Hunt and Alan Weston.
So...what is bungee jumping?
Bungee jumping, to explain it simply, is a ridiculous, activity that involves jumping from a tall structure, while connected to a large elastic cord.

The tall structure is usually a fixed object, such as a building, bridge or crane; but it is also possible to jump from a movable object, such as a hot-air-balloon or helicopter, that has the ability to hover over one spot on the ground.

The thrill (that apparently occurs) comes as much from the free-falling as from the rebounds.
When you jump, the cord stretches and you fly upwards again as the cord snaps back and continue to oscillate up and down. You then hang head downwards until 'rescued' by someone at the bottom of the structure you have jumped from (sounds like such fun!)

Of course, kiwis believe they invented what they call 'bungy jumping' - change the spelling and claim it for your own!
AJ Hackett can claim fame to making the first commercial venture from this sport and for bungy jumping from the Eiffel Tower.

Bungy jumping is now passe - it's been done, all over the world, so the AJ Hackett team yesterday launched its latest thrill activity - claimed to be the world's highest swing. It's called the Nevis Arc, the swing that allows riders to reach speeds of up to 125kmh, while swinging across a 120m span high above Doolan's Creek Gorge.

Hackett is widely known for his many bungy stunts that have earned him Guinness records just a few include:

1988: Jumping off the Auckland Tower, claiming the title of being the world's first Bungy off a building (isn't the Eiffel Tower a building?)
1990: Jumping 380 meters out of a helicopter for the first time.
2000: Jumping off the Royal Gorge Bridge, the highest suspension bridge in the world
2006: Opening and jumping out of the Macau Tower in China (measuring 233 meters above ground) holding the title as the highest sky jump and highest commercial Bungy
2007: Doubling the previous record of 700 meters out of a helicopter with 1,499.6 meters in Malaysia.