Friday, 29 July 2005


Well, we're off to our new spot in the country tomorrow - the phone company is due to connect us up on Monday, but I suspect we may disappear offline for a week or so while the broadband gets sorted out.

We're looking forward to it - ironically it's the first time we've paid movers to do the whole thing for us, and we've got less furniture and stuff now than we've ever had! It's pretty cheap to get removal dudes here as well - costing us about $170 ( 70ish quid) for 2 blokes and a van. Mind you, they may charge us extra when they realise they have to cart our bigger-than-the-door-frame-god-knows-how-we-got-it-in sofa down 5 flights of stairs :)

I've got parent's evenings next week - same old cobblers the world over no doubt, so I'm suitably fed up with work, although in reality it seems a) easier than teaching in the UK and b) better organised and resourced. Kids seem to lead a more "Enid Blyton" style of existence here - lashings of ginger beer and adventures. There seems to be less stress about them being abducted, having accidents, getting a degree by the time they're 10 etc, than in the UK - they are just allowed to be kids. I teach in the "rough" bit of AKL, where they have their fair share of gang & drug problems, but even here, the kids have a certain innocence and openess about them at age 12/13 which was lacking in some of the 9/10 year olds back in Burton. Anyway, got to pack.... actually I'm sneaking out to watch the Machinist with Gingacaz + hubby... packing can wait until 10 minutes before the removal van arrives. BTW Mark and Luke, if you're reading this, I could do with a hand shifting the telly downstairs ;)

Saturday, 23 July 2005

A Room with a View

We went back to sign all the paperwork on the new place and grabbed a photo while we were there. It was a murky grey day and the tide was in, so you can't see the beach... but heh, you get the idea. A photo of our existing view in the city apartment is included for comparison. :)

view from the bedroom, new flat

view from the bedroom, old flat

We move next week, so hopefully we'll be able to get some better shots soon. Only fly in the ointment is that I'm back to work on Monday, after a fortnight off. Bummer.

Thursday, 21 July 2005

New pad!

The lease to our apartment in the city runs out on 3rd August. It's a great location, but a bit light starved - especially as Helen works from home. So we went and had a look around at some new places today, on the off chance we might find a better spot. Boy, did we find a better spot!!!! We fancied living in a district of Auckland called Titirangi - it's on the West Coast surrounded by hills and dense bush. So that's where we started looking - the first place we saw was ok, but totally surrounded by forest, so was no lighter than our current pad. The second place we went to was a dream. Only a small, 1 bedroom apartment (Just built, never been lived in) and again surrounded by bush, but this time much lighter. The outlook is a true, 24 carat, million dollar view. Honestly, it's simply stunning. The place borders a nature reserve, which has paths down to the beach. Awesome. We slapped down a deposit there and then, move in on 30th. We're going back on Saturday to finalise all the legal stuff. and hopefully will blag a few piccies to put up.

Helen says finding this place is the best birthday present she's ever had.

Sunday, 17 July 2005


I just had to post this new version of the photo of Opotiki beach which Iain created this afternoon.
I love it.
Just shows what you can do with some computer magic and an eye for composition and colour. As the kiwis say, 'Good on ya, mate!'

Here's the original so you can compare the two versions.


View of Wellington from the Botanical Gardens

Day 3 saw us heading South towards Wellington. Quite a journey from Napier, we travelled through Manawatu - wide open, flat, farming country. Very pretty if you like that sort of thing, reminded me of Norfolk, but not enough hills for my liking! Palmerston North was the first city we went through - big, open and non-descript like the countryside around it, then on to the town of Feilding, voted NZs best kept town or somesuch. Very well ordered and pleasant but again rather too flat for me. After all this exposure to the central plains of NZ it was time for a few hills, so we continued South on highway 2 through the Wairarapa and into Wellington. Wow. What a place. The scenery completely transforms from the flat open stuff into stunning mountain gorges and dense forest. The road travels across a high mountain pass and is somewhat precipitous - I concentrated very hard on the road and tried not to look down!

We arrived in Wellington at night and after a spot of confused driving around, checked into the Hotel De Wheels in the centre of town. Check out the link, because this place has a very interesting past!

Wellington Harbour

The next day we got to explore Wellington properly and I have to say, we were both blown away by what a beautiful and buzzing city it is. The centre is full of public spaces, parks and art works, and has a thriving cafe culture. It seems more lively than Auckland, and a much more attractive place to be. I think we've found where we'll be heading after December!

Wellington Centre

We checked out the museum of New Zealand - Te Papa, which was seriously impressive, although I find I get "museumed out" after a couple of hours. It's the sort of place you could keep going back to and there would always be something new to look at. Next we decided a bit of fresh air and exercise was called for and so trooped off to the Botanical Gardens. There are some great walks (mostly over 12k long!) based around there so we had a bit of a wander before staggering back to the hotel in an exhausted state!

Saturday, 16 July 2005

Crotchety and forgetful

It's official - we're both old farts.

Not only did we both forget to post day 2 of our North Island tour yesterday, but when we discussed it this morning, neither of us could remember what we actually did on day 2.

We had a brief contretemps about who should write today's entry. I reasoned it should be Iain because I wrote the previous entry, but he said he could only write about Wellington, (which was day 4), because he couldn't remember anything else. Maybe that was a calculated ploy to get out of doing any writing today by appalling my orderly mind, and if so, it worked (grrrr). I couldn't bear the thought of posting the account of our trip out of order, which means it's me who's posting yet again. Iain, your account of our visit to Wellington had better be good.

Day 2
Gisborne to Napier

Sunday morning in Gisborne dawned chilly but bright, with the promise of a warm and sunny day ahead. We set off for a brief drive around town and a stroll along the beach before starting on the next part of our journey. Iain wasn't too impressed with Gisborne. He said he thought it was a dull and lifeless place. He seemed to be overlooking the fact that it was early on a Sunday morning in mid winter. I'd be amazed if any town is buzzing with life then. I thought Gisborne looked pleasant, if a bit characterless, but from a practical viewpoint it seemed well equipped with anything you might want on a day to day basis, and the town centre was well-kept. I really liked the palm trees that line the high street. Anything remotely exotic-looking like this still impresses the socks off me. I suppose I like to be reminded I'm somewhere 'foreign'.

Gisborne High Street

Gisborne beach is gorgeous. Iain took some photos of it, but he's gone all 'prima donna' and is refusing to post them. He says they're not good enough. Nothing wrong with them if you ask me.

Gisborne beach is a gently curving bay of biscuit-coloured sand strewn with driftwood, with a rocky headland on one side. The other side of the bay isn't quite so picturesque, being dominated by some sort of factory with dozens of huge cylindrical containers. It reminded me a bit of a brewery, but it definitely wasn't (and having lived for ten years in Burton on Trent I know a brewery when I see one!) My guess is it was a desalination plant. Maybe someone who's been there can clear the mystery up.

The drive from Gisborne to Napier was spectacular, especially the first half. Almost immediately after leaving Gisborne the road begins to climb steeply into bush-clad hills. We stopped the car at a scenic viewpoint and saw the whole of the bay and acres of bush spread out below us. The unfamiliar birdsong in the trees all around, the warmth of the sun on our faces, the glitter of sunlight on the sea below and the stench of a decomposing possum at the side of the road all combined to make a truly memorable moment. We took some photos, but they're no good. We knew they wouldn't come out very well, as the sun was in exactly the wrong place. We should have waited eight hours or so. Then we would have got some brilliant photos.

I can't remember much about the second part of the drive from Gisborne to Napier, apart from the fact that the landscape opens out quite a lot, and Napier itself is on a broad plain which looks as if it was once part of the sea bed. Napier is much more 'sea-sidey' than Gisborne with a lot more accommodation to choose from, and it is geared very much towards the tourist trade. The town itself has more character than Gisborne. This is mainly due to the art deco style of many of its buildings. The town had to be rebuilt from scratch after being completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1931. Oddly, neither of us took any photos of Napier. I have no idea why not. To make up for our forgetfulness, here's a link with some photos of Napier.

Thursday, 14 July 2005

Our mini tour of North Island

Our route

Well, we're back from our mini tour of North Island a little earlier than planned, although to say we had a plan when we set off is stretching the facts a bit far. We wanted to see all the major population centres on North Island which we hadn't yet seen, as well as a significant stretch of countryside (well, the bits bordering the highways at least), with the purpose of beginning to choose where we want to settle down and buy or build a house when Iain's job finishes in December.

Five days and nineteen hundred kilometres later (don't ask me to convert this into miles because I haven't got a clue!) and we're back. We have no more idea about where we'd like to live than before, but this isn't because we didn't find anywhere we liked. On the contrary, almost everywhere we visited we would be happy to make our home and can imagine living there! There are a few exceptions, but more of those later.

Day 1
Auckland to Gisborne

We'd already done the first part of the journey, from Auckland to Tauranga, on a previous trip. Once you reach the Bombay Hills (sort of the Watford Gap of Auckland) the landscape opens up and it's a very pleasant drive through rolling green farmland. We had planned on driving into Whakatane, the main town on the eastern Bay of Plenty, but we really needed to press on, and so didn't make the diversion. This was because we'd set out late morning, on a whim, when we'd originally intended to start our trip the next day.

We stopped briefly for a leg stretch and a photo stop at Opotiki at the very easternmost edge of the Bay of Plenty and took some photos on the beach. Here's one of the best ones.

Opotiki Beach

From Opotiki the road heads inland and cuts across a range of hills to Gisborne. The road twists and turns through a landscape which is particularly wild and rugged, with lots of native forest (called 'bush' here), and spectacular river gorges. We only saw a few other cars, even though it was a Saturday in the school holidays and we were travelling along State Highway 2, which is the equivalent of the M6! Unfortunately the sun set soon after we left Opotiki so we didn't get to see much of this wonderful place before it was dark. However, there's always an upside to everything, and the good thing about it getting dark at this point was that we got to experience the most spectacular night sky I have ever seen. The road really does go right through the middle of nowhere, and with no glare of light pollution, the stars stood out brilliantly against a totally black sky. The Moon was the most arresting sight. It was a thin crescent, but its light was so dazzling that the rest of the Moon's surface was also visible, and appeared to glow with a diffuse silver-grey light.

We arrived in Gisborne at about 7 pm, and rapidly began to wish we'd set off sooner, as it's not so easy assessing accommodation in the dark. We booked a motel room just out of town, which turned out to be rather cold and shabby, but on the positive side, it was immaculately clean (thank goodness!) and very cheap. We decided to spend the money we'd saved on accommodation on a nice meal, and so went for a drive around town looking for eating places. We found a really cool place with an odd name, The Works Cafe. It's a classy bistro-style restaurant owned by a local winery. It has a really cosy and relaxed atmosphere, friendly, efficient service and excellent food. We even got a seat next to the fire! A perfect end to a great day.

One of us will make another post tomorrow describing day 2 of our tour.

Saturday, 9 July 2005


Iain's broken up for the end of term holidays, so we're setting off today on our trip around North Island. This morning dawned sunny and bright after 72 hours of more or less incessant rain, so it feels like a good time to be off.

You may be wondering how we got the photos of the flat seeing as our camera is broken. Well, we didn't sit looking at the piggy bank for long before going out and buying a new camera (a digital SLR). We were both into photography as teenagers and we really fancy taking it up again as a hobby together, hence the more 'serious' camera. We were feeling frustrated by the fact that the 'happy snaps' we took with our old camera weren't capturing how gorgeous New Zealand is.

So now our journey has an extra dimension. As well as being a holdiay and a chance to scout out possible places to live, it's also a photography field trip. Iain's off buying milk for breakfast, and I'm supposed to be getting ready, so I'd better go now! Catch you later.

Wednesday, 6 July 2005

Our (very) humble abode

It's nice and cosy, so we'll be quite happy here until we get around to buying our own place!

Sunday, 3 July 2005

A Grand Day Out

First an apology. No photos :( Sadly our camera decided to pack up this weekend. Much soul searching and staring at the piggy bank now, to see if we can buy a new one. Apart from that little mishap, the day was a blinder! We woke up to glorious sunshine - crystal clear blue skies and not a cloud in sight.

We drove down to the Bay of Plenty and the town of Tauranga. Very much a seaside town, geared to tourists. Looks like it would be a lively place in the summer evenings - a great prom lined with cafes and wine bars, it has a Mediterranean feel. A beautiful place, but not really us - a bit too big, developed and manicured. I think we prefer the wilder bits of NZ.

From there we headed inland to Rotorua, awesome countryside en route, lots of hilly bits, deep gorges and dense forests. Rotorua is a bit of an unusual place - quite a busy centre with a fair bit of light industry, mixed with a stunning lake and lots of wild Kiwi loony activities. The whole place is riddled with thermal vents - steam even bubbles out of the kerbside drains! The central town park has loads of bubbling mud pools and steam vents. Not exactly a place I'd choose to live - the park blew up in 2001 and created a whole load of new thermal pools! By all accounts a lot of the locals have tapped into the thermal vents to power their central heating!

After that we headed home (via Matamata, home of Hobbiton. They don't miss an opportunity to remind you either!) to catch the Lions game in the local. Oops. What on earth made Sir Clive think he could take on the ABs? The Lions at least tried this time round, but then the ABs got into their stride and completely crushed them. In that form I doubt any team in the world could live with the All Blacks. The tour comes to Auckland this week, so the place will be crawling with the Barmy Army no doubt.

One more week of school, then a fortnights hols and hopefully a week long tour of North Island. Wahay!

Friday, 1 July 2005

What am I missing?

We've been in New Zealand for two months now, and I thought I'd take the time to have a bit of a muse about the things you miss when you move halfway across the world.

Fortunately, I haven't felt homesick, (apart from anything else I've just been too damned busy) but I am missing a couple of things.

1. Poppy and Oscar.
I'm cat-barmy. Ever since the age of eight, when Mum and I went to stay with my aunt who owned a B&B in Cornwall, and I got to meet her tribe of moggies, I've been a dedicated cat-aholic. I pestered my poor Mum and Dad for ages about getting a cat until eventually they relented and we got our first kitten, a ginger and white tom, whom we named Tigger.

As soon as Iain and I bought a place of our own I was desperate to get a cat, and we got Oscar in March 1995, just two months after we moved into our house in Tutbury. He was a rescue cat and was a bit thin and nervy, until he settled down into his new role as street thug, beating up all the other cats who'd been there years.

Two years later we got Poppy, who wasn't a rescue cat, but whose parentage was nevertheless in doubt. Her mother's owner suspected that Poppy's father might have been her uncle.

Poppy is bold, brash and cheeky, and when she was a kitten she had evil, toxic farts. Poppy used to like 'helping' me with my yoga practice. Whenever she heard the DVD starting up she'd come and sit on the mat, in whichever spot was the most inconvenient for any given posture, while occasionally biting my extremities.

Gratuitous cat picture: Oscar (in laptop bag) and Poppy

2. Our friends
Neither of us are particularly outgoing types, and it takes us a while to get to know people. We've really missed all our friends in the U.K. particularly all the Burton crowd. We decided we were going to socialise a lot once we arrived in NZ by joining plenty of clubs, but as we're planning on moving out of Auckland at the earliest opportunity (December, hopefully) we can't quite see the point of starting to get to know a load of people just to leave again within a few months. I'm getting to know some people at the yoga studio, Iain's getting to know his colleagues at work and we've both been on a couple of 'get togethers' with a group of people on one of the emigration forums, so we're not being too hermit-like!

We've got a few things planned for this weekend. We have an 'immigrants' meal' on Sunday and as the weather forecast is good, we're going off on a day trip on Saturday. At the moment we're thinking of visiting Tauranga on the sunny Bay of Plenty, but our plans may well change at the last minute. Sound familiar? ;-) I'll post again on Sunday night with piccies of our weekend.