Tuesday, June 30, 2009


What a view of our electrical storm!
There were more than 1000 bolts of lightning in the space of an hour and it seemed as if it was right above us!
Sophia slept right through it - none of the rest of us did...
I didn't realise that lightning kills more people than hurricanes or tornadoes.

At any moment, right now, there are 2,000 lightning storms around the world.
There are some 16 million lightning storms in the world every year occur on average 44 ± 5 times a second, for a total of nearly 1.4 billion flashes per year!!

The flash lightning storm that has caused me to realise all these things, has brought down trees, powerlines and lifted roofs across the Auckland. But it was the electrical display that was so amazing and terrifying.

Much of the damage caused here missed us and was a result of a thunderburst which produced all the forked lightning.

You do know, don't you, that your chances today of being struck by lightning is approx 1 in 600,000 (better odds than winning the lottery).

And then there's..the place where lightning occurs most often- the small village of Kifuka in the Congo,(I'm so not going there!)On average it receives 158 lightning strikes per square kilometre a year.

Singapore has one of the highest rates of lightning activity in the world.. and I have been there!


A 61-year-old man and his horse were killed instantly yesterday when they were struck by the lightning during their annual hare hunt, near Dargaville.
Some schools were evacuated, boats were pulled from the their moorings, trees fell on homes and cars and surface flooding blocked Highways in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. I told you - it was "awesome".

This week's downpour of rain, following the lightning bolts,is expected to be about half the size of Cyclone Bola which hit eastern parts of the North Island in March 1988 ! Told you we were having weird weather!

Friday, June 26, 2009


View of Rangitoto

Out into the sunshine for a day at Omanu Park. It has an intriguing name which is a shorthand version of O-Manawatere ("the dwelling place of Manawatere") a Ngai Tai pa site in the park. And the views are gorgeous!

Sophia and Trixie

One of those bright blue winter days - we did the perimeter walk and met Pixie,Dixie and Trixie ( the pet goats) and fed them bread.

View of Auckland & Sky Tower

Omana used to be a mission farm, in 1837, which explains the goats! It was one of the region's first farms. Around it, the forest was felled for timber, dug for kauri gum and even prospected for gold and silver.
Then in 1970 it became a regional park.

The walk took us through forest filled with native birds such as fantails (piwakawaka), grey warblers (riro riro), tui and native pigeon (kereru). Pukeko, spur winged plover and paradise shelducks (putangitangi) were roaming around the farmed area of the park. There was even a boardwalk through the mangroves.

The whole place is edged with white sand beaches, Kelly's Beach ( we wondered who she was) and seabirds flying over.We also spotted barbeques to come back for in the summer and hundreds of sheep. A gorgeous walk in the sunshine..

Then down to the beach at Maraetai for one of those awesome ice-creams - and it's winter!!

Monday, June 22, 2009


Okay - you didn't like the weta blog?
Don't go to Australia, that's all I can say!
They have the 10 most dangerous and toxic creatures in the world (and the swine flu!)

Anyway - our creatures are cute and interesting by comparison...
Take the tuatara for example!

It's an endemic (only found in New Zealand) lizard..and it's been around for over 200 million years..basically "living fossils". Cool!
The name "tuatara" derives from the Māori language, and means "peaks on the back". They have a cute row of spines along their back.

They have a third eye on the top of their head, which grows over as they mature. The only animal in the world to have three eyes!
They have no external ears, but they can hear..how do they do that? And they are nocturnal.

Here's one for the boys.. male tuatara don't have a penis...hmmmm

They can hold their breath for up to an hour.
There are only two types of tuatara left in the world, because they are endangered: The Brother's Island tuatara has olive brown skin with yellowish patches, while the colour of the other species, and the Cook Strait tuatara which ranges from olive green through grey to dark pink with white spots.

The tuatara only lays eggs once every 4 years, which is why there are so few left. But they do live to about 100.
Isn't that nicer than those Ozzie menaces?

Friday, June 19, 2009


Here in New Zealand, although there are no poisonous insects, snakes or other venemous creatures, we do have some rare and special insects. One of these is the weta - kind of like a giant cricket!
The weta is an amazing insect, and is found only on Little Barrier Island in its largest forms.

The giant weta is able to grow lengths of up to 90mm and weighs up to 70grams. This means weta are the heaviest recorded insects in the world! On the Mainland wetas have been wiped out by small rodents. They have been around pre-dinosaurs and haven't changed much (see Walking With Dinosaurs). They are nocturnal and hunted by our morepork owl.

Weta is strictly a New Zealand name that derives from the Maori name of wetapunga that was given to the giant weta.
Wetapunga translates roughly to "God of ugly things".
Besides the giant weta there are cave wetas - which have no ears and make no sound..we've seen lots of them in abandoned goldmines, I'm always worried they'll drop on my head!

Then there's the tree wetas - our valley is filled with them and in summer they make a lot of noise! Next are tusked weta, which live in tree holes and there's a ground weta.The mountain stone weta can survive being frozen for months and has learned to 'play dead' to defend itself..
They range in size, but with their big bodies, spiny legs, and curved tusks, and are definitely one of New Zealand's most recognisable creepy-crawlies.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


The date of the Ball has finally arrived - the dress is here, the jewels, the shoes are teeteringly glittery. Jess spent the day at the hairdressers and the nail salon, trying on the dress and getting all fluttery about the Big Event.

We were all invited to the Pre-Ball (there's an After Ball as well!) and met the parents and her date, and his parents and spent two hours chatting, nibbling and admiring girls who I hardly recognised - they looked so grown up!

It'll be strange to see them back in school uniform on Monday!
The Ball itself was at Sky City, in Auckland and it had an Oriental theme - acrobats, jugglers, waiters & waitresses dressed accordingly, even the cuisine was themed. Jess got a red rose from her fella, who was "the perfect date" and seemed lovely.

And.. yeah... as they say here - that's all until next year! Just imagine, I have four years of this to come!!