Sunday, December 28, 2008


So, what have we been doing these holidays?!
After the Boxing Day extravaganza, we went camping for a week at Papamoa, near Mount Manganui. On the way we stopped off at Katikati (the mural town) and Paeroa (the L&P town) - see previous blogs on these two places! The antique shops were all open and we had a browze; the festive decorations were skeletons on Pennyfarthings - slightly bizarre, but that's New Zealand.

Paeroa festive decorations!

On the way, after our picnic, we spied this waterfall through the bush, no signpost, so, of course, off we went through the undergrowth to explore!

Waterfall in the distance

Made it to the waterfall!

It was quite beautiful and peaceful when we got there, we have decided it would make the perfect swimming place next time and we shall have our swimsuits handy - swimming under a waterfall is appealing. It was hidden away and no-one else was there, we had the place all to ourselves.

Papamoa Campsite!

We arrived at the campsite and it was full! Good job we had booked months ago.. it seems everyone comes here or Mount Manganui in the Christmas holidays. The place was bursting at the seams, and we had peeks into everyone's tents and campers.

Just setting up camp

Ours doesn't have a tv or double beds, like some of them, but we do have a trailer now and a fridge, so we're building up to 'glamping' at some point.
Everyone sits out in the evening, around lanterns and play games and drink beer - it's sort of a communal gathering at which everyone is welcome.
Our first day, we were up with the tuis and off to walk around the base of Mount Manganui, which is an extinct volcano.

The base walk view - our local beach seen through the trees

About half-way round the base there is a popular fishing spot with a statue in the channel. we saw swimmers and kayaks, some cruise ships and some huge cargo ships, loaded up with trees and containers.

Statue in the channel

Statue at the base of the Mount

All along the beach at the base of Mount Manganui is a boardalk and throughout the Christmas holidays they have free ice-cream and drinks, and other goodies that girls in very small shorts hand out.
We were invited to the free barbeque, with burgers, sausages, fruit and free suncream too. Yet, with all these 'freebies' no-one was greedy or pushy, it was all just lovely. The girls were particularly impressed with the free ice-creams!!

Kayak launching point, the other side of the volcano

On another day Greg and Jess kayaked around the mountain and launched from the other side. Sophia and I had some serious birthday shopping to do, so we picked them up from the other side later!

Mount Manganui from the Boardwalk

Santa at the shops

Our third day there it was time to climb to the summit - and believe me it's steep, the sheep look like they're going to fall off. Takes about an hour to do the ascent!

View half-way up the volcano

Girls at the top of Manganui!

Every night we would cook dinner and then head to the beach (a one minute stroll) and play ball games, or go shelling. We found that it wasn't the best beach for swimming - lots of jellyfish at this time of year - but the girls could body board at other beaches. Some spectacular sunsets too! Pink cotton candy effect.

View of Mount Manganui from the beach

Exploring beyond Manganui we discovered McClaren Falls. These are huge and you can't hear yourself speak when you go down. We'd had lots of rain the week before, so they were quite full!

McClaren Falls

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Aerial view of the volcano

We're heading for Mount Maunganui, which is a small town in the Bay of Plenty, next to Tauranga.
It is also the name of the extinct volcanic cone which rises above the town (which is now officially known by its Māori name Mauao),which means'caught by the dawn' and which we intend to climb. It is owned by a Maori tribe but open to the public.

Harbour and Mount Manganui

According to Maori legend, this hill was a pononga [slave] to a mountain called Otanewainuku.
It is colloquially known in New Zealand simply as The Mount. And the local hotel next to it is called 'Twin Towers'!!

The town itself is located on top of a sand bar that connects the volcano to the mainland,( for those of you who are Geographers out there, this is a geographical formation known as a tombolo. ) More practically, it means that it has created a safe harbour for the girls to swim and some good surfing waves for Greg to practise his kayak surfing.

Mr G and his kayak

It's other claim to fame is that New Zealand's first artificial reef has been installed at the Mount.
It cost $1.5M and recently the media reported that local surfers were disappointed with the waves produced by the reef. It's made from hollow tile blocks placed underwater at intervals, and built for the purpose of promoting marine life in an area of featureless sea-bottom, but it also produces good surfing waves, usually.

Well, the waves looked big to me!

Friday, December 26, 2008


The girls were adamant that they wanted the series of "vampire" books written by Stephanie Meyer, for Christmas. When I went to buy them, they were sold out!! PANIC!!
I eventually tracked them down, but it took several hours to gather all four together..
Then, as the perfect Boxing Day present, they went to see the film, which came out that day!! We got them seats in the Circle Cinema, complete with leather arm chairs, food, drinks and popcorn served during the film, little tables with lamps on and a very grownup waiting bar area..

For those of you without teenage girls, 'Twilight' is a young-adult vampire-romance novel written by author Stephenie Meyer.
It is the first book of the Twilight series, and introduces seventeen-year-old Isabella "Bella" Swan who finds her life in danger when she falls in love with a vampire. I know, I know... what's a mum to do? You have to move with the times.. They are still having a re-readfest of all four books.

I have been instructed to read them in order (I read the last one first) and so I start tomorrow - good job I have a month's holiday left!! Then I shall have to find a tolerant friend to go and see the film with. Highly popular amongst all my students, so it can't be all bad!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Merry Christmas!

This blog is for my technologically stunted brothers (self-admitted!) Here are some pictures of our Christmas Day...
Thank you SO much for your pressies - all fabulous, we feel thoroughly spoiled!!
Hope the gathering in the ol' cold, foggy, flu-infested Homeland is fun.
Hope you have a fabulous day!
We're looking forward to photos of huge nephews, gorgeous niece, and new house!
Love to you all

Girls with their pink champagne

Sophia inside her Christmas bag!

Jess in her Christmas bag!

Girls on Christmas morning

Sophia likes her presents!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Well, here we are, our 3rd Christmas in NZ and it finally feels right.. we found all the decorations this year, the lights all worked, we even have icicle lights on the patio... we found a turkey and a glazed ham, have alcoholized some homemade mincemeat for pies, received gorgeous chocolates from England, got the coffee espresso machine bubbling away and poured the champagne. The sun is shining, my hammock beckons!

Three festive girls

The house was filled with teenagers yesterday, feasting on gingerbread and generally giggling and singing. What they find to talk about for six hours confounds me! Anyway, late to bed last night(midnight) and tinsel and party poppers to clear up this morning! Santa arrived at the last minute to grant their bizzare Christmas wishes and distribute goodies!!

The Christmas tree

Gingerbread cookies

The girls have been baking and preparing all morning for Christmas eve lunch and now I intend to collapse in front of the TV for a film, before we start cooking tonight's menu.
For lunch we had herb & pork sausage rolls, cheese and rosemary twists, filoettes filled with cream cheese and smoked salmon, roasted asparagus rolls, egg & olive open sandwiches, fresh home grown salad, Christmas shaped pretzels, and to finish rasperry and strawberry Eton Mess! YUM!!

Jessica baking cheese twists

Sophia decorating the fruit cake

Xmas Eve luncheon

Greg brought home flowers and more champagne, so we're all set to go! Thinking of all of you at Home and wishing you a Merry Christmas, even though you're a day behind us..

Gingerbread cookies for the neighbours

Here's 'The Night Before Christmas' Kiwi Style

It was the night before Christmas, and all round the bach
Not a possum was stirring; not one we could catch.
We left on the table a meat pie and beer,
In hopes that Santa Claus soon would be here.

We children were snuggled up in our bunk beds,
While dreams of pavlova danced in our heads;
And mum in her nightie, and dad in his shorts,
Had just settled down to watch TV sports.

When outside the bach such a ho-ha arose,
I woke up at once from my wonderful doze.
I ran straight to the sliding door, looking about,
Jumped out on the deck, and let out a shout.

The fairy lights dad had strung up around the door
Let me see everything down to the shore.
And what did I see, when I took a peep?
But a miniature tractor and eight tiny sheep.

With a little old driver, his dog on his knee.
I knew at once who this joker might be.
He patted his dog, and in a voice not unkind,
Cried "Good on ya, boy! Now, get in behind!

"Now, Flossy! now Fluffy! now Shaun and Shane!
On, Bossy! on, Buffy on, Jason and Wayne!
Up that red tree, to the top of the bach!
But mind you don't trample the vegetable patch."

So up on the roof those sheep quickly flew,
With the tractor of toys, Santa and his dog too.
As my sister awoke and I turn around,
In through the window he came with a bound.

He wore a black singlet and little white shorts,
And stuck on his feet were gumboots of course;
A sack full of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a postie just opening his pack.

His eyes right as paua shell - oh, how they twinkled!
Like an old tuatara, his skin was all wrinkled!
He had a wide face and a round, fat tummy,
That looked like he'd eaten lots that was yummy.

He spoke not a word, but got down on one knee,
And placed a cricket set under the tree,
A present for sis, one for dad, one for mum,
Then he turned and he winked and held up his thumb.

He jumped on his tractor, to his dog gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, as fast as a missile.
I called out "thanks," as he flew past the gate.
He called back: "Kia ora to all, and good on ya, mate."

Mr Claus and the girls

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Bauble outside the Museum

How is Christmas different for us over here, with the New Zealanders?
Well, because we're on the other side of the world the weather is in reverse. It's warm and sunny (23F today) blue skies and the ocean warm enough to swim in..
Also, instead of the days getting shorter and darker, as they do in England, they get longer and lighter (dark at 9pm today)

Santa icon, outside the bookshop Whitcoulls

It means the foods we eat are more barbeques and salads, ice-creams and pavlovas, chilled Chardonnay and beer. at home you need those winter warmers, flaming Christmas puddings and hot mince pies. Brrrrr....we don't!

Santa at the Garden Centre

We also get our suntans at this time of year, out come the sunnies and the straw hats, bikinis are flaunted everywhere and more tattoos are revealed than at any other time of year. It's a good time to visit!
Another difference is that we have nine weeks Christmas holiday, whereas in the UK you have two weeks to celebrate the Christmas hols. It means the end of year exams are in November and the students can recover and get ready for the start of the new school year in February.

Santa at the Department store

Not many people put lights outside their houses - with it being light until 9pm, there's not much point! The traditional Christmas tree is in evidence, but often homes are decorated without it, lots of flowers and baubles, but no tree. It is a Victorian tradition after all.

Santa in Matakana

We also noticed that kiwis don't tend to send each other Christmas cards - they consider them a bit pointless and make a point of visiting everyone, with a beer,or holding a get-together, taking 'a plate' of goodies to one another's houses, to tell them 'Merry Christmas' in person, instead!

Kiwi Christmas!

There's no holly, no robins, no Harrods lights, no Westminster choirs, no plum puddings, no Birds Eye custard, no drunken brawls, no traffic jams, no struggling to park outside John Lewis, no pantomimes, we are even struggling to get some turkey!! Best to give up and join the kiwi celebrations - they're fun, they're laid back, and Christmas promises to be stress free (with plenty of parking and free wrapping of any gifts you buy!)

Kiwi humour !

Monday, December 22, 2008


Girls on the balcony

Our ice-creams start melting the moment they are out of the packet! And it's December!! Just so all you shivering Brits know, you don't need to send us scarves or wooly jumpers!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


This entry is for Emma-Kate - we found GIANT chocolate fish!!

They are more yummy than the ordinary ones, because there's more of them! the centre is pink, strawberry flavoured marshmallow, smothered in chocolate!

Yum! Yum!

Chocolate fish are a kiwi icon, spreading swiftly across the world, much like the pineapple lump!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Jess by the Kauri tree

Kauri are among the world's mightiest trees, growing to more than 50 metres tall, with trunk girths of up to 16 metres. They covered much of the top half of the North Island when the first people arrived around 1000 years ago.

It's a BIG tree!

We decided to visit the Warkworth Museum, and then, on arrival, discovered that its claim to fame was that it had "the largest collection of old clothes in New Zealand" (it meant Victorian costume - it's the way you say it though, isn't it!)
So, instead we went on the Kauri Walk..

McKinney Kauri

The one pictured here, the McKinney tree cost 3000 GBP, along with the land. Probably would have been chopped down if it hadn't been.

The trunk has no branches off it until it reaches a certain height, and the bark is a silver grey, then it branches out above everything in the forest. It produces dammar gum - if you burn incense then that's got this tree's gum in it..

Girls at Totara Lookout

I know this tree is impressive, but we've visited the largest living kauri, farther up North, called Tāne Mahuta, and it's GIANT! The tree's Māori name means "Lord of the Forest", and is the name of a god in Māori legend. It was only found in 1920, by a logging team.

Tane Mahuta, the largest Kauri Tree

Tāne Mahuta is 51 metres (169 feet) in height, and has a circumference of 13.8 metres (45 feet).
There is no proof of the tree's age, but it is estimated to be between 1250 and 2500 years old. Compare that to this little youngster!

Both girls under the tree - can you see them?

In the old days totara was heavily logged