New Zealand’s Pompeii

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Originally posted on POMS AWAY!:

That breathtaking view is of Lake Tarawera. As I took that photograph, I couldn’t believe how peaceful it was, how much like paradise it looked. In 1886, it was the site of the most terrifying volcanic eruption in New Zealand’s human history.

Government Gardens

Modern tourists admiring a steaming hot pool in Rotorua’s Government Gardens

Back then, Rotorua was just as much a tourist trap as it is today. People came from all over the world to see its geothermal marvels – the mud pools, the geysers, the “healing” waters – all while breathing in the magnificent smell of rotten eggs. Most spectacular of all were the Pink and White Terraces, revered as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

The Pink and White Terraces were naturally formed bathing pools. They were tiered, flowing with warm, silica-rich water. From the paintings, photographs and written descriptions of delighted tourists that remain, we know they were…

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Last Night of the Poms: The Story of Our Move to New Zealand

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Originally posted on POMS AWAY!:

The streets of Edinburgh were strange. Alien. I felt disconnected from the world as we walked, hardly aware of my mum holding my hand. Something was wrong. They hadn’t said anything, my mum and dad, but my stomach was attacking itself in warning. That, and I was hungry.

Dad was on edge. Every time we crossed a road he glared left and right as though it was the city’s fault that he wasn’t where he needed to be. A conference, they’d said. ‘Daddy has to go to a conference.’ Apparently, he didn’t know how to get there. He’d started using car-words. (Words that only Daddy was allowed to say and only in the car.)

My little sister was oblivious to this developing turmoil. She kept running ahead and shouting, “PACHY!” – much to my mum’s embarrassment. (She didn’t realise she was being racist. Her imaginary friend was a pachycephalosaurus.)…

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Following in the Hobbit’s Hairy Footsteps

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Originally posted on POMS AWAY!:

I can’t wait to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at the cinema. I’ve already got my ticket!

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A dwarven statue at Auckland International Airport

Although it’s admittedly not as good as The Lord of the Rings, I still love The Hobbit, and to those that say it’s just more Lord of the Rings, I say GOOD. More Lord of the Rings is exactly what I want. The extended editions did little to slake my thirst.

I want more rich fantasy. I want more epic music. And most of all I want those sweeping shots of Middle-earth, each as beautiful as a painting.

I have to keep reminding myself that all of that fantastic scenery is real. It’s real and it’s on my doorstep. In fact I’ve been to a lot of it.

I remember when we were still living in England, when I was nine…

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Top 10 Most Brilliantly Insane New Zealanders

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Originally posted on POMS AWAY!:

Chances are you’ve heard the words ‘crazy’ and ‘Kiwi’ in the same sentence. This is because New Zealanders are insane.

No concern for personal safety, they throw themselves headlong into their obsessions, combining inherent ingenuity with mad optimism. Kiwis can conquer the world with a piece of number 8 wire, or so they enjoy telling themselves.

Reading this list of crazy kiwis, however, you might well believe it. The following 10 New Zealanders all displayed varying degrees of insanity – the brilliant kind of insanity – and have consequently left their mark upon on history:

1) Charles Upham

The life of Captain Charles Upham reads like an episode of Michael Palin’s Ripping Yarns. Born in Christchurch in 1908, Upham received not one, but two Victoria Crosses for his actions during World War II – the only person on the planet to achieve this. Before the war, he worked as…

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Finding Wonderland: Te Puna Quarry Park

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Originally posted on POMS AWAY!:

Just outside Tauranga, off State Highway 2, lies somewhere I wish I’d been a long time ago.

I wasn’t expecting much when I went with my family last week, but Te Puna Quarry Park surprised me in the best way possible. It’s a place of both tranquillity and intrigue; of beauty and of fun. It would have been wonderful to have gone there as a kid, but, aside from the fact that I lived in England when I was a kid, the place didn’t exist back then.

Well, it existed, but it was a disused quarry. Then, in the mid-nineties, the Te Puna Quarry Park Society began work on transforming the scarred hillside into a slice of Eden. It opened to the public in 2000 and has been growing lovelier ever since.

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At the entrance to the car park

The first thing you see when you drive into the…

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Our Campervan Tour of New Zealand’s South Island

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Originally posted on POMS AWAY!:

When I was twelve years old, my parents decided to take the family on a special holiday: a campervan tour of New Zealand’s South Island. We had been living in New Zealand for over two years, having emigrated from Britain, but in the North Island. The South Island, as we were about to discover, is completely different. It is, in a word, magical.

I must admit, though, that I was not looking forward to sleeping in a campervan for two weeks. I was at that age when one especially prefers the privacy of their own bedroom, and I was bitterly disappointed that we could not afford to stay in a hotel every night, but that disappointment melted when we first climbed into our campervan at the depot in Christchurch. The whole thing suddenly became rather exciting.

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Lake Wanaka

The campervan we had was laid out similar to this one

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What Hobbiton’s Like

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Originally posted on POMS AWAY!:

Last weekend I had a dream come true: I visited Hobbiton. And it was better than I dreamed. I absolutely loved it.

My family had some reservations about going. We’re big Lord of the Rings fans, but the Hobbiton Movie Set, located on a farm in Matamata, has a reputation as a tourist trap. It’s quite expensive and, being the height of summer, we feared it would be heaving with visitors. We didn’t know how much of the set would be left, or if the experience would be worth it. As it turned out, we were blown away.

First Hobbit HoleThe set looks exactly as it does in Peter Jackson’s films.

Still, as we drove towards the site, we couldn’t help but giggle at a sign that read Tourist Farm. Then, when we got there, we were greeted by a curious sheep.

The set is a short bus ride away…

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