Monday, March 30, 2009


We visited Kawau Island in the sunshine, which was purchased by Sir George Grey (the then governor) in 1862. It's a sub-tropical island of about 5000 hectares, and very beautiful; heavily wooded on the side we dropped anchor, with the shipwreck and copper mine visible.

The copper mine ruins

Sir Grey was an enthusiastic collector of plants and animals from around the world & between 1862 and 1888 he spent a fortune developing Kawau as his island home, planting hundreds of different plants and introducing many exotic animals like wallabies, kookaburras, weka, peacocks, zebras and monkeys. He was friends with Charles Darwin!

Dog in the kayak, by the shipwreck

The shipwreck

His home is known today as Mansion House, & is now in public ownership. The house is the closest to National Trust that I've come across, it has a valuable collection of antique furnishings and is open to the public.

Mansion House from the gardens

It is called "a historic place"!!
We also stopped at the old copper mine and what was left of the smelting factory - my bit of NZ history for the week..

Mansion House from the jetty

Aerial view

Saturday, March 28, 2009


The ship in full sail

Well, the opportunity came up this weekend, to go sailing on 'The Spirit of New Zealand'. This is usually reserved for the young and active, but a women's only weekend, although it promised hard work, seemed like an opportunity not to be missed!
And you know what I'm like with opportunities!

We started off at the wharf, laden with sleeping bags, pillows and warm clothes.
The Spirit of New Zealand, is a 33m black three-masted barquentine, which I found out is a sailing vessel with three or more masts; a square rigged foremast and fore-and-aft rigged main,and mizzen.
Climbing the rigging was on the list of 'must-dos' for the voyage!

Spirit of New Zealand has become one of the country's best-known cultural icons and is often also claimed as one of the world's busiest youth ships. so what was I doing on board!!

Happy Hour!

There were 40 of us, all told, and once allocated a bunk we were given the safety drills, taken on a tour of the ship and then set to work! Of course, on roll call the Captain couldn't say my name and it was all jolly from then on, really!

The Gang!

We heaved and hauled, spliced the main and hoisted the jib and yo hoed our way through the harbour and out to sea! by this time I was becoming somewhat of a star and was given the ship to sail for half an hour...what can a girl say!

The beach landing party - shipwreck hunting

We stopped off at an island and dinghyied to shore to explore a shipwreck.. these are 'The Beach Girls' and then we went swimming off shore, brrrr, with fish jumping out of the water all around us!

Sunset was stunning!

Hours later, we all collapsed on deck to watch the sunset and imbibe freely for 'Happy Hour' - which turned out to be several 'happy hours' and rounds of cards!

After staying up late - the stars were so clear and shootings stars everywhere ( or were they bits of space rubbish burning?) and getting some sleep in the bunks - it was an early start, a 7am swim and off to explore Kawau island and Mansion House, complete with peacocks, wallabies and a cafe with real coffee!! GASP!

Kawau island and Mansion House

We were so lucky with the weather, and the gardens reminded me of home, when we got back everyone was taking turns at jumping off the ship's swing and into the water..

Jumping off the ship, for fun!!

The harbour on Kawau Island

Mansion House

It was a beautiful ship, and all the other boats waved at us as they passed, especially the Russian sailors (they got quite excited!) it's quite a sight with its sails full out and women swarming up the rigging and swabbing the deck!

Our ship, anchored off Kawau Island

All in all, a fabulous weekend - made some new friends, including Mrs new Zealand - but that's another story!! It all goes to show, you should never pass up an opportunity!

Spot me climbing the rigging!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Having a GAP year to travel round the world ( which usually ends up being Europe) is really common in New Zealand - this T shirt is especially designed to ensure the survival of a typical kiwi, abroad.. good idea!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


An earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale happened today and was felt across the North Island.
The quake struck at 9.28am and was centred 30km north west of Whakatane at a depth of 160km.

Of course, this follows close on the heels of the underwater volcano not far from Tonga last week.

A spectacular underwater volcanic eruption spewing smoke and gas thousands of feet into the sky created a new island in the Pacific Ocean.
The volcano began erupting on Monday and ejected so much lava that by Wednesday it had formed the island about seven miles off the coast of Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga.

I wonder what's next!

Thursday, March 19, 2009


With fond memories of UK Airshows we descended on the NZ Airforce Base this weekend..

We were able to go inside aircraft, sit in a bomber and helicopter and watch Antarctic survival displays.

You could get right up to the airstrip and after each fly by the pilots would land, open their cockpits and drive by the crowds!

Over 50,000 people went to the Air Show - and boy, was it impressive!

A record 50,000 people gathered at the airbase for the popular biennial show, which featured ground and acrobatic air displays by the RNZAF and the Australian Air Force.

The ground displays featured demonstrations from firefighters, air security, medics avionics and technical support that enable air operations here. We enjoyed the military dog display too!

Air New Zealand also featured with a bio-fuel jet engine - an insight into the future of aviation technology.

My favourite was the hugest plane which could land and stop on a 500m airstrip! Amazing! From the U S of A of course!

Sophia's favourite were the little group of planes that did formation flying - the New Zealand version of the Red Arrows! We may have a pilot on our hands!

Greg's favourite was when the helicopter lifted a family saloon car, and then dropped it!

Didn't Sophia take some awesome pictures at Whenuapai Air Show ?!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Cook Island dancer

The Pasifika Festival happens once a year.. and every year it's bigger.
The weather held on for it, as we move into autumn it was warm and bright but the morning was cool.
We began at the Cook Island stage (we still have to visit the islands themselves)

Cook Islands cultural dance

Niue was next, as each isalnd has a stage set around the lake at the park. there are only 1400 Niueans here and their enthusiasm was infectious. We thought Greg might be picked to join in at one point!

Niue stage entrance

Niue crafts

Nuie stage

We had lunch at the Fiji stage, pork dumplings (With a difference! Whole garlic cloves were the surprise!) and a curry with bananas - but they didn't taste like any bananas I've ever had?
It brought back memories and we've just booked our next Fiji holiday, so we had to stop and say 'Bula!'


Never been to Kiribati is made up of 32 little coral islands and "kiribati" is the local pronunciation of "gilberts" (go figure!)


Kiribati costume

and so we bought a carved and painted lizard from the island crafts on sale.. he still needs a name!

Our lizard that we brought home!