Finding Wonderland: Te Puna Quarry Park

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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.

signcropped 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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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.

609 Lake Wanaka 008 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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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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10 Reasons Living in New Zealand is AWESOME

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I moved to New Zealand with my family twelve years ago. At first, I hated my parents for wrenching me away from Mother England, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. New Zealand is a great country to live in and here’s why:

1)      Nice weather

Somewhere Over the RainbowIt is common for New Zealanders to complain about the weather. The phrase ‘four seasons in one day’ is used annoyingly often, yet while it can be gloriously sunny in the morning, fooling you into leaving your jacket at home, and then bucket it down in the afternoon, it is rarely bad for long. Coming from Britain, I can confidently say that New Zealand’s weather is better. It is warmer, drier, sunnier and generally more cheerful. There’s a reason New Zealand’s famous for barbecues and Britain’s not.

2)      Beautiful beaches

Beach 1Nearly three-quarters of all New Zealanders live within five kilometres of a…

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Back to Blighty, or Poms Away Up Top

I’m so excited. I’m about to go to Europe for three months and my first stop is England. My home. I haven’t seen it in six years.

I moved to New Zealand when I was ten. I’m twenty-three now and, in thirteen years, I’ve only been back to England once. I was seventeen then and I loved it. I hadn’t, as my parents said, idealised it in my mind. The good bits were just as good as I remembered. This time, however, will be different.

This time, I will have my boyfriend with me.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound, a place in New Zealand so beautiful that Rudyard Kipling called it the eighth wonder of the world

My boyfriend is a New Zealander. He’s grown up taking it for granted that he lives in the most beautiful country on earth. He, like most New Zealanders, thinks England is a dreary, grotty, rainy place with little or no unspoiled countryside. And to a certain extent he’s right.

I’m determined to show him that England does actually have places of natural beauty. I’m going to take him to the most beautiful place I can think of, a place where I seemed to spend a lot of my childhood: the Lake District.

But I’ve been looking at some old photos of the Lake District and it suddenly struck me as barren. In New Zealand, most places you can go walking are covered in luscious rainforest – the great New Zealand bush. The Lake District is all bare hills and fields (and lakes, of course.) I’m worried Tim will survey it and say, “The Waitakeres are better.”

I don’t know about the Waitakeres, but the southwest of the South Island…

Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest

I just want him to like England – to be impressed by it – to appreciate where I come from. I suppose it’s like introducing him to an important relative who I know has flaws.

I know he’s going to be disappointed when I take him to Sherwood Forest. He spent his childhood pretending to be Robin Hood – as did I, actually – but his Sherwood was populated with tree ferns and kauri. My Sherwood, the real Sherwood, is a bit… sparse.

Well, let’s put it this way, you probably wouldn’t want to shoot a Robin Hood film there. Yet I still hold a torch to it.

I love England – that green and pleasant land – and I don’t want my standards to be questioned. At least I’m safe in my certainty that England has better historical buildings that New Zealand.

After three weeks in England, we’re flying to Germany to meet Tim’s extended family. I’ve never been to mainland Europe, so I know I’ll enjoy it. Even if I’ll have to try incredibly hard not to make a Great Escape reference every time we get on a bus.

We’ll be going by train mostly, though, through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, and maybe Spain if we can squeeze it in. It’s going to be the biggest adventure of our lives, one that most young New Zealanders aspire to, the Big O. E.

O. E. stands for Overseas Experience and it’s a great Kiwi tradition. As beautiful as New Zealand is, it is very small and isolated, and young people can get a bit claustrophobic. Having lived here since I was ten, I completely get why. I’m itching to get away, but definitely not for good. New Zealand is the place I want to grow old in.

Because New Zealand is awesome.

There’s a reason I’m worried my boyfriend won’t be impressed by England. You’d have to have seen New Zealand – especially the southwest of the South Island – to understand why.

The Wizard's Vale

Glenorchy, New Zealand