A Wander through Waikato Museum

I’ve been meaning to visit our local museum for ages. I’ve walked past it so many times, on Hamilton’s main street, overlooking the Waikato River. It’s free to enter, except for a couple of children’s exhibitions, and doesn’t take that long to go round. It’s also in quite a nice building, at least from the back, the side facing the river. Well today I finally checked it out.

Waikato Museum

Part of the back of the museum

By far the best exhibition was entitled ‘For us They Fell’, all about the people of Waikato’s involvement in the First World War, but I also enjoyed ‘Passing People’, and exhibition showcasing the art of John Badcock.

Each of his paintings seemed ultra-realistic – not photorealistic, but more than that. It was like you could see the lives of the people; imagine their stories. Each person was unique and amazing. I almost expected them to start talking, which is not a feeling I’ve ever had before when looking at a painting.

Waikato Museum

More of the back of the museum

There were other art exhibitions in the museum, but they didn’t really capture me. The place actually seemed more of an art gallery than a museum, but there was a small exhibition about the Freemasons, and another exhibition displaying a giant penguin fossil found in Kawhia in 2006.

The most beautiful exhibition was about the Maori King movement, an integral part of the history of Waikato – and I wished they’d gone into more detail! The centrepiece was a (restored) 200-year-old canoe, or waka, called Te Winika. You weren’t allowed to take photographs in the exhibition, but here’s a picture of Te Whare Waka o Te Winika from the outside:

Waikato Museum Te Whare Waka o Te Winika

And this is something I almost missed entirely, a piece of art you have to look out of one of the museum’s windows to see, suspended between the trees, over the river:

WaikatoMuseum4

Cool, eh?

I’m a history geek, so I like visiting museums. Here’s a link to a thing I made about some of the best museums in New Zealand:

10 Quite Cool Museums to Visit in New Zealand

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A Walk around Hamilton Lake

So I finally got around to going to Lake Rotoroa, or Hamilton Lake. It’s inexcusable. I’ve lived in Hamilton since January! (Well, okay, I did visit the lake once, but that was before I lived here and before the awesome playground was built. Anyway.)

Hamilton Lake

The Hamilton Lake Domain is a five or ten-minute walk from the Hamilton city centre. The lake isn’t massive, but it still takes nearly an hour to walk around. It’s not staggeringly pretty or anything, but it’s great to have such a nice walk in the middle of a city. The paths are well-maintained and there are plenty of places to sit down as you go.

New Zealand Pukeko

There’s a lot of birdlife around the lake. I’ve never seen so many pukekos at once! They were really friendly too. People obviously feed them, because one came practically running up to me as soon as I arrived. There were quite a few coots as well, along with the expected pigeons and ducks.

Hamilton Lake TrainI didn’t go to the lakeside café, but it looked decent. It was in an interesting building, at least. Tucked away behind it, rather surprisingly, was an old train. I didn’t spot any signs explaining its presence, but then again I wasn’t particularly looking.

The best thing about the Hamilton Lake Domain is it’s got a very impressive playground. I would have loved it as a kid. It was only built this year and it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s huge, overlooking the lake, and it’s got a few fascinating water-sculpture-type-things. I recognised one as an Archimedes screw.

Hamilton Lake Playground

There’s also a rose garden, which, unfortunately, looks a bit lame at the moment. Wrong time of year, I suppose. I quite liked the sculpture next to it, though.

Koru Sculpture Hamilton Lake

I don’t know how anyone can say Hamilton is an awful place to live when it’s got places like this. Even the nearby water tower is the prettiest water tower I’ve ever encountered, adorned with columns to give it the suggestion of classical architecture. (Well, okay, it’s not pretty, but at least it’s ugly in an interesting way. Anyway.)

Water Tower Hamilton Lake

For more about life in the New Zealand city of Hamilton, see:

Exploring Hamilton’s Parks

The Best Place to Go in Hamilton

Hamilton Lake

New Zealand: A Land Fit for Fantasy

You know when you were a kid, when you were lonely or sad or scared and you just… imagined you were somewhere else? Where did you imagine? What fantastic landscapes did you get lost in?

Emerald valleys beribboned with sapphire rivers? Mysterious lakes mirroring snow-capped mountains? Ancient forests with hidden waterfalls? Waves crashing upon black rocks beneath stormy skies? How about bubbling, blue-grey pools surrounded by steam vents, lava flows and powdery, yellow rocks?

Fantasy Image from Pixabay.com

You know.

Growing up in England, I thought New Zealand was some sort of fantasyland. But that didn’t mean I wanted to leave my home and my friends and everything behind to go there. When my parents told me we were moving to New Zealand, I’d never been more lonely or sad or scared!

I did feel slightly better, however, when my dad informed me they were filming The Lord of the Rings there. If I was going to be forced to live somewhere, it was good that it was somewhere magical.

BridalVeilFalls03

Bridal Veil Falls, Waikato, New Zealand

I was disappointed to find, upon arrival, that New Zealand was just like everywhere else. I mean there were a few things I found strange, but on the whole it was just like England. Of course, I’d only seen the airport, the motorway and our new town at that point. The more I saw of New Zealand’s countryside, the more magical it seemed.

Ngauruhoe

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

No wonder so many fantasy epics get filmed here! Apart from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, there was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Legend of the Seeker, Xena, Hercules, 10,000 BC, The Water Horse, Bridge to Terabithia and others I’ve forgotten. They’re doing Terry Brooks’ Shannara as we speak. (Or as I write. Whatever.)

A ridiculous amount of filming is done at Bethells Beach, for example. My boyfriend, Tim, grew up there, with a view over the valley, the silver-black sand dunes and the sea, so I’ve been a fair bit. It is beautiful, but not only that. It’s got a sort of… mystical quality. It’s not just a beach. If I believed in such things, I’d say it was a weak point in reality… a gateway to the Otherworld… You have to go when the light’s just right, I suppose.

Bethells Beach

Bethells Beach, Auckland, New Zealand

A lot of filming is also done around Queenstown. That’s where the mysterious lakes mirroring snow-capped mountains are at. My family went there on our New Zealand campervan rental tour and it’s almost overwhelming being in the midst of so much natural beauty.

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki, Canterbury, New Zealand

Other places in the world are beautiful. What makes New Zealand special is simply that it has so MANY beautiful landscapes, and such a RANGE of beautiful landscapes, all within one small country. Scottish actor Graham McTavish put it well when he spoke at the 2015 Hamilton Armageddon: New Zealand is like Neverland, he said – a child’s drawing of a fantasy island with everything you could possibly want on it, in terms of natural scenery and adventure.

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel, New Zealand

In terms of culture, well that’s improving all the time. Auckland’s getting a full-scale replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre this summer! Pity it’s only going to be a temporary ‘pop-up’ building, but still – pretty cool, eh?

Lake McLaren

Lake McLaren, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

More:

Locations from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

What Hobbiton’s Like

The Magic of Waitomo Caves

The Magical Creatures of New Zealand

Campervan Sales NZ

10 Strange Things I Found When I Moved To New Zealand

I moved to New Zealand when I was ten years old. Before that I lived in a small town in England, so while moving to New Zealand wasn’t a total shock to the system, there were still some things I found strange. Here’s a list of ten:

1) Houses without stairs

family-home-153089_640As someone who grew up surrounded by tall, narrow houses with pitiful gardens, the fact that New Zealand’s houses are mostly single-storied and set apart from one another threw me at first. The ten-year-old me actually started missing stairs. I was delighted to find that one of my new Kiwi friends lived in a multi-storied house! Of course, this was in a small town in New Zealand. The new houses going up around Auckland all have stairs, being built tall and narrow to save space.

2) People going around barefoot

pedicure-297792_640No one goes around barefoot in England, except at the beach. In New Zealand – or, at least, in small towns in New Zealand – people go to school barefoot, and down the high street, and round the supermarket… Kiwis found the ten-year-old me strange because I hadn’t got toughened, hobbit-like soles. People laughed at my inability to go barefoot, but I haven’t really gotten any better at it in the last fourteen years.

3) Ferns the size of trees

fern-159715_640Well, actually, they are trees. The tree fern is the most iconic plant in New Zealand. They’re everywhere. In England, ferns are low-growing plants you don’t take much notice of. In New Zealand, they tower over you. The ten-year-old me used to expect dinosaurs to come crashing out of them! Today, whenever I return from overseas and see tree ferns at the side of the road, I know I’m home.

4) Primary schools without uniforms

boy-310099_640There are probably a lot of New Zealand primary schools that have uniforms, but no uniform seems to be more common. The ten-year-old me was delighted to find I no longer had to wear a uniform. In England, our primary school uniform had ties and everything – even for girls! And, if you were a girl, you were only just allowed to wear trousers in winter. Being forced to wear a skirt in an English winter is just cruel.

5) Warm winters

girl-162122_640In England, hot weather is rare. When it does get hot, however, it gets hotter than New Zealand. That’s too hot. New Zealand gets almost too hot in summer, but is nice the rest of the year. What I found strange when I first moved here was how warm the winters are. Often, New Zealand in winter is warmer than England summer. (And, don’t forget, it’s happening at the same time. Relatives on the phone get so jealous!)

6) Houses without radiators

stove-575997_640New Zealand houses aren’t built with radiators. Instead, they have wood-burning stoves. When me, my mum and my seven-year-old sister first arrived in New Zealand, my dad picked us up from the airport and took us to the one-storied house he’d rented. As soon as my little sister set foot in our new lounge, she flopped down in front of the wood-burner and let out a disappointed wail: “That’s a really small television!” I should point out that, immediately to the left, was a big television.

7) People talking funny

sheep-303453_640When we first moved to New Zealand, the ten-year-old me sometimes found it quite difficult to understand what people were saying. The Kiwi accent is like a less stressed version of Australian. For example, to me, the word ‘ten’ sounded like ‘tin’, and the word ‘deck’ sounded like… a story I’ve told again and again for the last fourteen years. Being told by a fellow ten-year-old to go and sit on the dick… anyway.

8) Mosquitoes

insect-158565_640I got bit so much my first year in New Zealand! I started to dread summer, because it meant the arrival of the mosquitoes. I would bath myself in repellent yet, somehow, still end up with itchy splotches that drove me insane. The last few years, though, it hasn’t been so bad. Maybe you get used to them? People often have citronella lamps in their gardens here, so you can sit outside during the long summer evenings and not be bothered by them so much.

9) Streets with grass verges

grass-309733_640Where I lived in England, there were no grass verges. The narrow, terrace-lined streets were grey from edge to edge. Half the pavement was taken up with cars parked nose-to-tail down both sides. It was effectively a one-lane road, as you had to drive carefully down the centreline to get to your house. When I moved to New Zealand, I was struck by how wide and pretty the streets were. And everyone has garages, so you don’t have the street parking problem.

10) Beaches with black sand

The ten-year-old me had never even heard of black sand! The first time I felt it I just luxuriated in it. It was like velvet. It gets really hot, of course, but my first New Zealand beach visit was in winter. I remember my dad explaining how the sand was volcanic, which just made it seem more exotic and wonderful! When I lived in England, beach visits were a rare treat, and the beaches were always crowded and tacky. In New Zealand, the beaches are just beautiful.

Bethells Beach

Bethells Beach, Auckland