Tuesday, 28 June 2005

The Shaky Isles

New Zealand has the nickname 'The Shaky Isles' because it is so volcanically active, and on our limited travels so far it hasn't been difficult to see why. Here are notes on just two of the places we've visited which bear testament to New Zealand's violent past.

Lake Taupo rock carvings (image from Wikipedia)

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo is enormous. When you look at the map of North Island, it's the huge 'hole' in the middle. It was created about twenty-six and a half thousand years ago, by volcanic eruption, and has been further enlarged by another 27 eruptions since then, the most recent of which occured in 181 AD. This eruption was one of the largest in recorded history, and contemporary accounts kept in Rome and China reported the sky turning red. Apparently, the volcano isn't extinct, it's just 'dormant'. Which means it could wake up at any minute and take another large chunk of North Island with it. Nice.

Whatipu Beach, West Auckland

Like almost all the photos we've taken so far, this one really doesn't do its subject justice.
Whatipu is a surf beach on Auckland's west coast. Even in the winter you'll find surfers, or more accurately, people in wet-suits, lying belly-down on surfboards, battling the current . When we visited there were also lots of anglers, most knee-deep in the swell, but some perched precariously on lichen-covered rocks surrounded by the pounding surf. The black volcanic sand is a clue to the history of this part of North Island. The whole Auckland region is just one massive volcano. It's just a matter of time before one of the many Auckland volcanoes erupts. Eeek!

Well, today's post started as a brief experiment to see whether I could get the hang of posting photos and links, and it's grown into a bit of a monster. I think I'd better stop skiving off and get back to work!

Sunday, 26 June 2005

Crazy weather

The weather over here is nuts! We watched the first Lions test yesterday, it was freezing in Christchurch with howling winds and sleet. Here in Auckland we had 2 tornados run through the East of the city and flash flooding trapped people in their cars. Today...... crystal clear blue skies, and gorgeous sunshine!! Pretty typical really. Watching the weather guy on TV is amazing - virtually every town in NZ has a completely different forecast.

We made the best of it and headed out to Thames on the Coromandel Peninsular, which is where all the Aucklanders go for their hols (it's about 1 1/2 hours drive from the city). It's a stunning place, lots of mountains and a road which runs along the coast past some stunning and deserted beaches. In a previous trip I took the car over a mountain road which crossed the peninsular - went around 20km across a dirt track high over the mountains and didn't see another soul for the entire journey.

We've not exactly timed things very well as we've managed to get in two winters this year - however so far we've been surprised how mild it is. Lots of sun and temps rarely dropping below 16c or so. Plenty of rain though, and boy does it rain! It tends to come in heavy bursts and then you get spells of bright sunshine in between, so not too bad at all.

When we were in Thames we had a look at some showhomes from a couple of building companies. We're looking into the possibility of building our own home when the time comes. Goodness knows when that will be, though, as exchange rates are the lowest they've been in about five years, and still falling.

One of the companies whose show homes we visited today were Lockwood. We've visited another showhome village of theirs in Auckland, and we were really impressed with the build quality and just the general 'feel' of their homes as the interiors are made entirely of wood. They're not cheap though (big surprise there) so if we DO decide to go for one we'll need to start saving up! Our favourite design at the moment is the Tarras, but we like the Milan too.

The Coromandel in Winter!

Saturday, 25 June 2005

Proof that we really are here!

Auckland Viaduct harbour

Me enjoying the empty spaces near Titirangi

Tongariro National Park & a lot of clouds!

Friday, 24 June 2005

Getting up to date

OK, time to try and get this thing up to date, here goes...

We arrived in Auckland on 26th April, checked into the Brown Kiwi hostel and prepared to get started on the next chapter of our life. Our original plan was to spend a month touring about, find somewhere we liked and then start job hunting. It didn't quite work out like that!

Helen came with a fair few contractual deadlines to meet from various UK publishers so really needed to get cracking, and the agency I signed up with were a bit too efficient and got me a job interview in Auckland the week after we arrived. We had a quick trip up to Northland and then marched off to the estate agent to get a rental, so Helen could start writing. We've got an apartment smack in the middle of the city (If you look at the Auckland cityscape, the central feature is the Sky Tower - the apartment is about 3 minutes walk away!), I trooped off to the interview and got myself a job, and that was that. We are still going to do a mini-tour in a couple of weeks, when my end of term hols kick in.

The apartment is pretty reasonable - nice building, spacious, quiet. Not an awful lot of natural light however, and the balcony overlooks the entrance to Highway 1. Not exactly Lord of the Rings scenery! It is dead handy though. We drive out of the garage, and within 30 seconds we're on the motorway! Queen Street (AKLs answer to Oxford Street) is a 3 minute walk, as is the main cinema complex, all the theatres and Sky City casino. A 10 minute stroll puts us in all the trendy harbourside cafes (like Canary Wharf, but with the Pacific Ocean instead of the Thames!) So for the time being we're making the most of it and enjoying city life.

Titirangi (more photos)

We've started to look at locations to live, we'll probably buy somewhere next year, but it's early days yet and we don't want to rush into anything. The two faves so far are Wanganui (on the West Coast, 4 or 5 hours south of AKL) and Titirangi- another West Coast location, but this time in Auckland. Wanganui is a lovely, sleepy little town - very laid back but lots of amenities and quite a busy little community. Titirangi is surrounded by bush and awesome black beaches. Gorgeous spot and close to the city too. That's where the AKL hippy/arty set live by all accounts! Still plenty of places to investigate though, and every new place we go to seems more spectacular than the last.

Once you're out of Auckland, the rest of NZ feels very different. It's hard to describe, but people have said it's like UK was in the 50's. I can see why. It's a very open and friendly place, with no airs or graces. Straightforward and down to earth. Bloody fantastic in other words! Even Auckland is reasonably laid back considering the size of the place. Of course, everywhere else in NZ, Aucklanders are reviled as go-get-um yuppie types who are rude and brash. They are known as JAFAs (Just Another F*cking Aucklander!) but coming from the UK, it's about as fast paced as Stoke!!! Elsewhere in NZ, life is led at a gentler pace.

Speaking of Stoke - we're desperate to see Stoke NZ. It's on the South Island, near Nelson. Surrounded by Alpine mountains, national parks and fabulous beaches and bays. Bit like Westport Lake and Mow Cop then! We've been to Leamington - a district of Cambridge, near Hamilton. Seriously nice place - another one on the shortlist. It actually looks a bit like Leamington too - all wide, tree-lined boulevards and Georgian villas (wooden here though).

That's it for now, I'll try and get some photos up tomorrow and a bit more guff!