Monday, 21 April 2008

Jane and Pete's visit - Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of Jane and Pete's Visit. This time I'm going to let the photos do the talking, and keep the words to a minimum. Partly, this is because I don't want to bore anyone with my rambling narrative, but mainly it's because the things I'm writing about happened about six weeks ago, and they're beginning to fade from memory. While I have an amazing recall of useless facts and figures, I've always had a very poor memory for events, and the older I get, the woollier it becomes.

After returning home from our trip up the Whanganui River we hopped aboard Jane and Pete's mobile home, and set off for a bit of a tour. First we went to Waitomo Glowworm Caves, near Hamilton. Flash photography isn't permitted, because it disturbs the glowworms, so the only shot I got was of the river as we emerged into daylight at the end of our trip.

The Waitomo River, outside Waitomo Glowworm Caves

There's an interesting short video about Waitomo Glowworm Caves here.

After Waitomo we made our way to Rotorua, which many kiwis call Rotovegas, because it's the tourism capital of the North Island. The two main attractions we checked out while we were in Rotorua were Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, and Tamaki Māori Village.

Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

The Devil's Bathtub - he must use Radox

Bubbling mud pools

Thermal Park Panorama - The Artist's Palette and The Champagne Pool

The Lady Knox Geyser

Jane and Pete in the foreground, some geyser in the background!

Iain and I

For more information about Wai-o-Tapu Termal Wonderland, visit their website.

Tamaki Māori Village, Rotorua

The cultural evening at Tamaki Māori village was excellent. We didn't manage to get any decent photographs, though, because we were at the back of the group, and most of the events were held outside, in the dark. As a result, I have several dozen beautifully illuminated photos of someone's bald head, and not much else. To see some good photos, and to find out more about Tamaki village, visit the Tamaki Māori Village website.

On our way back to Wanganui from Rotorua we stopped off at Huka Falls near Taupo. Huka Falls is the largest waterfall on the Waikato River, and although the water level was much lower than normal, after several months of drought conditions, they were still spectacular. I fancied a ride on the jetboat, but had to make do with watching it from above. That's an experience to write on my 'to do' list.

Huka Falls, near Taupo

The Huka Falls Jet Boat - looks like fun!


Friday, 11 April 2008

Jane and Pete's visit - Part 1

For the last three and a half months I've been spending 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week sitting at the computer, writing. Not surprisingly, I've not felt like spending any of my spare time sitting at the computer, writing, so I've not made any blog posts. Now the mammoth project is finished, I have no more excuses.

At the end of February Iain and I took a week off work to spend with Iain's sister Jane and her partner Pete, who were visiting from the U.K. It was great to see them again after three years, and it was exciting for us to be able to show them around our adopted country. Before they arrived in Wanganui they spent a couple of weeks touring round the northern half of the North Island in a camper van.

Iain and I on the jetboat up the Whanganui River

The Flying Fox: view from the deck of Annette and John's house

When Jane and Pete arrived in Wanganui we took them up the Whanganui River by jetboat and stayed at The Flying Fox, which is owned by Annette, a friend of mine from book club. It's difficult to describe The Flying Fox, because there's nothing else to compare it to; it really is unique. It's situated miles from anywhere on the banks of the river, surrounded by native bush. Annette and her partner John have built two guest cottages and a little wagon they call The Glory Cart, or you can camp out in the clearing, under the stars. You can self cater, or do as we did and take advantage of Annette's fantastic cooking. Almost everything is grown on site, in their organic gardens. There's no road access, so the only way to get there is by boat, or via the flying fox across the river, from which the place takes its name. As soon as you step off the boat the place starts to work its magic on you. You can feel your breathing slow and deepen and your blood pressure drop.

The cottage where we stayed

We stayed in one of the cottages, named after the local poet, James K. Baxter, and had our first encounter with a composting toilet. We're thinking of installing one when we build our house, so it was good to be able to try one out. It was a bit whiffy, but Annette explained that this was because the fan had been off for most of the day, because there had been a power cut. When the fan's working there's hardly any smell, apparently.

We spent a very pleasant evening eating, talking, laughing, listening to the cottage's eclectic record collection and (with the exception of yours truly) drinking wine. Iain and I had the upstairs bedroom, and we left the curtains open all night so we could look out at the forest and the stars. The mosquito net above the bed wasn't just for decoration -- we were very glad we had it. At dawn I sneaked outside and practised yoga in the clearing outside the cottage, to the sounds of the river and the awakening birds. It was, as the kiwis are so fond of saying, awesome.

Morning light

After a delicious breakfast courtesy of Annette and some basic canoe instruction from John, we canoed back down the river. Iain and I have been in a canoe together before, and it was not a happy experience*, so it was great to be able to swap partners this time. I sailed with Pete, and once I'd got the hang of steering, everything went smoothly and we had a relaxing paddle, with just a couple of hairy moments, when we hit a log side-on and when we found ourselves going backwards down a rapid. Iain and Jane had a more torrid trip, but miraculously managed to avoid running aground or capsizing.

We made it! At journey's end

Well, that about does it for part 1. I'll post up part 2 in a week's time.


*the biggest understatement of the millennium

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

It's been a while

H was supposed to be taking over blogging duties for a bit, but seems to have run out of things to say. (That's a first!) In her defense, she's been rather snowed under with work. That's all done now, so hopefully she'll put a couple of posts up concerning our recent activities. Watch this space!