All the Colours of the Waikato Show

waikato show

One of the most important events of the Hamiltonian year is the Waikato Show. It’s been held every year since 1908, which means this year’s show was the 111th in a row! I’d never been before, but one of my jobs involves wandering around events in outrageous costumes, so…

waikato show

Yup, that’s me. I was asked if I was feeling blue by no less than nine people.

Now, I’d expected the Waikato Show to be boring, which is why I’d never been before. I thought it would be all tractors and livestock and lame fairground rides. I was wrong. I’d have been happy wandering around the place even I wasn’t being paid to.

waikato show

There was so much to see. Yes, there was the expected sheep shearing and competitive wood chopping, but there were also local products to sample like cheese and honey, jewellery stalls, animal rescue shelters and a guide dog organisation that’d brought friendly dogs along for people to pat, a good variety of food stalls, electric cars and, amongst many other things, the Imperial Fifth Waikato Dragoons Regiment led by Major Blunder.

waikato show

The Waikato Show began as a way to connect the townsfolk of Hamilton to the agricultural workers of the surrounding region. It still is, but now it’s less livestock and more lifestyle expo. There were rather a lot of alpacas, though. They didn’t like my costume.

Being on duty, I couldn’t give into my urge to collect a free sample from every single stall that offered one, but I did get some locally made goat cheese. I will never not get goat cheese. At some point, someone gave me a blue lollipop because it matched my costume. It was fun telling children not to eat too many blue lollipops, because look what happens!

waikato show

I wasn’t the only performer from the Free Lunch Street Theatre Company wandering around the show. I was the Blue Lady; we also had the Silver Lady, the Golden Girl, the Red Queen and a pair of Red Footmen. Against the backdrop of the sun-brightened fairground rides, we all looked wonderfully garish! So many people asked for photos. Humans like us even if alpacas don’t.

waikato show

So, that was the Waikato Show. In other news, guess who’ll be representing Hamilton at the National Harry Potter Quiz Championship in Wellington – this nerd!

Abigail Simpson

My team, the DA, came second in the Hamilton Harry Potter Quiz, and I got the prize for third-best costume: the Golden Snitch. (A very short and very fabulous dress covered entirely in gold sequins, plus a pair of angel wings!) It seems, then, that a campervan trip to Wellington is in order…

waikato show

Frankton Thunder

I went to a cool, little festival the other day. There were classic cars, steampunk market stalls, old motorbikes, bands, vintage pin-up girls, army vehicles, awesome costumes and even an electric car that had been opened up to reveal its inner workings. It was an annual festival called Frankton Thunder. It took place in Frankton Village, a part of Hamilton I’d never been to before. I’ll definitely go again, though – it looked like there were a few interesting shops around.

The sun was bright and the cars were gleaming. I was wearing a hastily-thrown-together steampunk costume, (because, as you know, I grab any excuse to wear a costume, even though most of mine are still packed from moving house,) which – much to my surprise – won a spot prize from the Hamilton Steampunk Society! It was their first market and it was a good one. My mum got us a couple of fabulous hats.

At one point whilst we were browsing the stalls, some Glen Miller music started playing. Now that’s my kind of festival! There were a few food trucks off to the side, but we ended up going into a nice café with our steampunk purchases. I didn’t end up buying a chainmail (well, scale mail) bikini, but I was very tempted. Aw hell, I was tempted by everything – it was that kind of market – from corsets to blasters to a gorgeous edition of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

As well as the steampunk stalls, there were a few wonderful-looking steampunk vehicles on display. The creativity of some of them astounded me. They were made out of quite ordinary vehicles, a bit of bike here; a bit of tractor there. They weren’t truly Victorian, but they were cool. I also enjoyed looking at the army vehicles and classic cars more than I thought I would. Overall, the festival was a bit of an eclectic mix, but it worked. I look forward to next years’ Frankton Thunder.

There seems to be a festival on every weekend in Hamilton at the moment. I really do enjoy living here. During the six months my fiancé and I were away in Europe, even more improvements have been made, including a beautiful area in the centre of town, down by the river. I need to get some pictures of it! In fact, I have a whole lineup of new places I need to visit and blog about. (If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to drop a comment below.) It’s going to be a busy year.

Solscape: A Relaxing Campsite in Raglan

solscape raglan

You know when your tent starts glowing with the light of dawn? And the sounds of nature gradually permeate your dreams? Cockerels cock-a-doodle-dooing. Cicadas building to their perpetual crescendo. Distant waves rushing into the bay. Other couples thinking they’re bonking quietly. You know that moment, when you feel totally in another world? Work doesn’t exist here. You’re free to do nothing but stare at the view.

solscape ragland

And what a view Solscape has. It’s not a place I’d have chosen to come myself. It’s a friend’s birthday and he chose the place. It’s one of those eco campsites that oozes kombucha-flavoured self-righteousness. It advertises itself as a ‘harmonious diversion from conventional forms and patterns’ and uses phrases such as ‘holistic wellness’ and ‘to nurture our connection with each other and the natural world’. The café is called the Conscious Kitchen. You get the idea.

railway carriage caboose solscape raglan

And though we’ve all made a few too many chakras jokes since arriving, even I have to admit that I like it here. The Conscious Kitchen overlooks a gorgeous bay. The composting toilets and solar showers are actually quite nice. The cabooses made from old railway carriages look awesome, as do the earth domes and the tipi forest. The permaculture gardens and glorious sunflowers add to the relaxed atmosphere, and even though I can’t eat much of the food here due to an intolerance to veganism – note that I’m not trying to be a dick; I am genuinely intolerant to most fruits, many vegetables, some nuts and all beans (including, of course, soy) – I would definitely come here again.

solscape raglan mud huts

If you’re on a New Zealand campervan trip, I’d recommend booking one of the powered van sites here. It’s a little on the expensive side, but it’s a place worth seeing. As we’re in Raglan, one of the most famous surfing spots in the world, Solscape offers surfing lessons as well as the expected yoga. There’s a beach within easy walking distance, and the town of Raglan is a short drive away. I’ve written about the town before, in Raglan on a Winter’s Day – you should definitely check it out.

solscape raglan mud huts

Raglan’s a bit of a hippy (as well as a surfers’) paradise. It’s full of quirky craft shops and cafés, often down intriguing, little alleyways. If you’re a fan of household art, vintage clothing and macramé necklaces, it’s got your name crocheted all over it. There’s even a tiny secondhand bookshop. You can walk straight from the town centre to the sea and – not far away – you can find one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand, Bridal Veil Falls.

sunflowers solcape raglan

It’s time for us to leave now; to return to our respective unconscious kitchens. I’m really going to miss this view.

solscape raglan

The Katherine Mansfield Garden

katherine mansfield garden hamilton new zealand

One of the first things we did upon returning to New Zealand was visit the Hamilton Gardens. During the six months we were overseas, a new garden had opened as part of the Fantasy Collection. I was quite excited to see it, as it had been themed around a certain famous New Zealand writer, Katherine Mansfield.

katherine mansfieldIf you haven’t heard of Katherine Mansfield, she lived an interesting life, scandalising the polite society of the early twentieth century. She was friends with Virginia Woolf and shared my love of Oscar Wilde. She died in the 1920s, young, of tuberculosis, leaving behind a wonderful bouquet of short stories.

When I was a teenager, a kind stranger read some of my writing and sent me a postcard with her picture on it. Having moved to New Zealand from England only a few years previously, this was the first I’d heard of Katherine Mansfield. I’ve held an affection for her ever since.

katherine mansfield garden hamilton new zealand

The Katherine Mansfield Garden in Hamilton features the facade of a posh colonial villa, old-fashioned flowerbeds surrounding a fountain, a mock tennis court with a marquee, under which lies a long table laden with (presumably fake) cakes and jellies, and – in pride of place – a Model T Ford. No doubt it will be a fantastic place for events.

katherine mansfield garden hamilton new zealand model t ford

As my regular readers are aware, the Hamilton Gardens are a magical place to visit. I’m very likely saying my “I dos” there next year! Here’s a list of other articles I’ve written about them:

The Best Place to Go in Hamilton

Hamilton’s Italian Paradise

Getting Lost in Fantasy Gardens

Springtime for Hamilton Gardens

What Connects a Train Station in Germany to a Toilet in New Zealand?

It was New Year’s Eve and we were on our way to Berlin. As we’d purchased the cheapest train tickets possible, we weren’t speeding between cities, but meandering from small station to small station. Standing, freezing, on dilapidated platforms, we gazed across the tracks towards a succession of depressed and depressing buildings. One such station boasted a vainly optimistic advertisement inviting the traveller to actually stop there for a change, instead of merely passing through. ‘Passing-through towns’ seems an apt name for these places.

There was, however, one town we passed through whose station was surprisingly intriguing. Even beautiful. I was so tired – all the shabby stations we’d passed through already had so blurred before my eyes – that at first I didn’t notice this one was any different. Then strange shapes started to loom out of the mass: wavy lines, bulging columns clad in garish mosaics, and golden spheres that could have been from an old, tacky sci-fi. It reminded me of the various bits of Gaudí architecture we’d recently seen in Barcelona, but it also reminded me of a public toilet.

hundertwasser uelzen bahnhof

Not just any public toilet, you understand: a specific public toilet in New Zealand, designed by an Austrian immigrant called Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser. The Hundertwasser Toilets are a major tourist attraction in Kawakawa, a small town in the Northland Region of New Zealand. If you’re ever on a road trip between Auckland and the Bay of Islands, you’ll probably pass through/water in it. The toilets are worth seeing, with an architectural style that can, at worst, be described as quirky. Built in 1999, just before Hundertwasser’s death, they’ve transformed Kawakawa from merely a ‘passing-through town’ to a destination in its own right.

hundertwasser toilets kawakawa

The longer I scrutinised that German train station, the more convinced I became that it had been designed by the same person. We googled it. Sure enough, we found the Uelzen station was indeed a Hundertwasser and, like the toilets in Kawakawa, it had transformed its hometown into a tourist destination. I wish we’d had time to explore it properly, but we were already on our next train, sauntering towards the next small station.

hundertwasser kuchlbauer tower

Another Hundertwasser, the Kuchlbauer Tower in Abensberg

Throughout our European adventure, I’ve found myself revelling in the discovery of even the slightest New Zealand connection. Despite a certain stand-up comedian in London telling me (and an amused audience) no-one gives a f**k about New Zealand, people we meet won’t stop proclaiming their love for it. On a train in Barcelona, I saw a woman with a New Zealand-themed tote bag and said, in my half-remembered high school Spanish, “Vivo en Nueva Zelanda.” Her face lit up and we talked, in a broken mix of Spanish and English, about all the places she’d visited. In London’s Natural History Museum, I pointed out a stuffed kiwi with perhaps a little too much excitement.

I think it’s fair to say that, after five-and-a-half months of globetrotting, I’m ready to return to my adopted home. First, though, we have a couple of weeks in Malaysia!

Cold?

I’ve been in Europe four months. Two left. People back in New Zealand keep asking how I’m coping with the cold. They’re experiencing a warm, humid spring whilst I’m experiencing a cold, rainy autumn. My answer surprises them. I’m not finding the cold difficult to cope with at all – it’s the warmth.

The cold – easy. I bought myself a pair of fleece-lined boots and some fleece-lined leggings and they work perfectly. I can walk around all the German Christmas markets I like in comfort.

But then you go inside, into a shop or café, and no matter how many layers you shed, it’s too bloody warm. Like almost-passing-out warm. I’m always having to go and stand outside!

In New Zealand, the temperature change when you enter or exit a building is never so drastic. This is partly to do with the fact that New Zealand rarely gets that cold, (at least the North Island doesn’t,) but also New Zealand’s buildings are, in general, poorly insulated.

It’s not the cold, but the constant and extreme changing of temperature that’s getting to me.

Also, the darkness.

In New Zealand, when the sun rises and sets doesn’t vary all that much between winter and summer – not compared to where I am now, in any case. Here, I feel like the day’s barely gotten started before it’s getting dark. It makes me feel unproductive and sleepy!

But I don’t want to complain. This is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to experience a European Christmas – I haven’t experienced one for seventeen years! I wanted the cold and the darkness. They make the Christmas lights seem cosy.

So far, I’ve been to three different Christmas markets, in Luxembourg, Aachen and Bremen. (The one in Bruges was still being set up when I was there.) You can imagine a typical Christmas market: fairy lights twinkling amidst a labyrinth of wooden stalls, surrounded by old, stone buildings… people sipping mulled wine, swaddled in warm clothing… various smells drawing you this way and that, roasting chestnuts and sausages and sweet things… And don’t forget to add a cathedral looming over the scene like an indulgent grandfather.

Yes, I’ve dreamed of this for a long time. When Christmas Day comes, though, I bet I’ll be missing New Zealand.

(All the photos in this post are from my recent trip to Bruges, by the way.)

Here are some things I’ve written about Christmas in New Zealand:

Christmas in New Zealand

The Immigrant’s Christmas

My First Christmas in New Zealand

Emigrating to NZ: Sell or Ship Your Vehicle?

This is a guest post by Kristina Bijelic.

In recent years, many Americans have made the decision to pack up their memories and start a new life in New Zealand. Once that major decision has been made, it opens a can of worms about what to take and what to leave. Most people will, at some point, face the decision of whether they should ship their car to New Zealand, or sell it in America and buy a new car when they arrive in their new homeland.

New Zealand is a friendly country, only in part due to the Goods and Services Tax and compliance exemptions offered to immigrants. However, there are certain rules, and it the process can drag on a bit, especially when you’re not working with a professional importer. Before you even start the process of shipping your vehicle to New Zealand, ask yourself…

Is Your Vehicle Eligible for Use on New Zealand Roads?

To import a vehicle into New Zealand, you will need an entry certifier to certify that your vehicle meets the appropriate standards for use on New Zealand’s roads. If you want to handle the import on your own, you need to chat to an entry certifier at the start of the process to find out if your vehicle is suitable. The last thing you want is for the vehicle to arrive, and to be rejected after you have spent money on the import. This process is obviously only applicable to cars that will be used on the roads.

Sometimes, manufacturers recall vehicles that have design defects ranging from minor issues to major safety or performance issues. It’s important to check whether your vehicle is cleared for import into New Zealand. Some of the requirements include that your vehicle must have an accurately working odometer, and it must meet minimum frontal impact standards. You are responsible for obtaining the necessary proof of certification before you can register your vehicle.

Undergo an Entry Certification Inspection

Whether you’re shipping your car to New Zealand or selling it, a thorough inspection will go a long way to satisfying the New Zealand Transport Agency and providing you or a potential buyer (should you decide to sell) peace of mind. A qualified mechanic can test and certify your vehicle. Alternatively, entry testing can be done by any official testing station in New Zealand.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Vehicle to New Zealand?

Of course, you want to be sure that it costs less to ship your can to New Zealand than to sell it and buy a new one on arrival. Naturally, your car’s value and replacement cost will be the first consideration. In most cases, it’s worth looking into shipping your car if it is worth $5000 or more, or if you have a sentimental attachment to it. If it will cost too much to ensure your car meets New Zealand compliance standards, maybe it’s not worthwhile.

To ship your vehicle to New Zealand will require road freight auto transportation from your collection point to the nearest port, which could range from $200 to around $1,000. The ocean freight shipping will depend on the shipping distance between the U.S. port and the New Zealand port. This cost can vary from $3,400 to $4,300 and the shipping can take from as little as three weeks to approximately three months. Roll-on, roll-off shipments can be cheaper and faster.

The nice thing about shipping your vehicle to New Zealand is the fact that the country does not impose tariff duties on personal vehicles, except for motorhomes that are subject to a 10% customs duty. In fact, shipping your car to New Zealand is cheaper than it is to many other countries, provided you meet all the necessary requirements. However, it is usually a good idea to speak to a trusted, reliable auto transport company that can help facilitate the process on your behalf.


Further reading:

10 Things You Should Know About Driving in New Zealand

Healthcare in New Zealand

New Zealanders Keep Dialling 911 Instead of 111 and Here’s Why