Kaiate Falls

Kaiate Falls

Hello, everyone – I’m back! Firstly, thank you to all the readers who messaged me over the Christmas break. It means a lot – not only that some people enjoy my writing, but that they actually find it helpful! Yay!

I suppose I should have expected the sudden rush of views, what with people googling where to visit over Christmas. I certainly found myself googling new places to visit, which is how I found the beautiful Kaiate Falls.

My partner and I were staying with my parents in Tauranga, in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty. Tauranga is a fantastic place for a holiday. My 10 Free Things to Do around Tauranga happens to be one of the articles contributing to the sudden rush of views, and now I think I should make Kaiate Falls number eleven. Just look at the pictures I got!

Kaiate Falls

Kaiate Falls

Kaiate Falls

The walk around Kaiate Falls isn’t terribly long, but it does get quite steep. Despite the heat of the day, I was glad not to be visiting the falls in winter. I had the feeling that the paths would become uncomfortably muddy and slippery in wet weather. There were many people swimming in the falls, despite the sign at the top advising against it. I suppose as long as you don’t have any open wounds, and don’t swallow any of the water… It really is a pity about New Zealand’s waterways.

Kaiate Falls

But they’re lovely to look at. Check out The North Island’s 10 Best Waterfalls – although I’d probably replace Hunua Falls with Kaiate Falls now!

Kaiate Falls

After going to the falls, we went to the nearby Papamoa Beach. There’s nothing particularly special about Papamoa Beach, but the Bluebiyou Restaurant, which overlooks it, has wonderful food. Every mouthful of my mushroom risotto tasted divine, but I wanted to order everything on the menu! I’m looking forward to going back next time I’m in Tauranga.

Although I don’t think Papamoa Beach is particularly special, it’s still a very popular beach. And, I suppose, if it was the first New Zealand beach you’d ever seen, you’d be impressed. It’s not as crowded as Mount Maunganui’s main beach, being further along the coast from the Mount, and you can still bodyboard there.

Kaiate Falls

So… Kaiate Falls: if your visit to the Bay of Plenty is fleeting, don’t bother with the falls, as there are lots of other things you should see first, BUT if you’re going to be there a while, the falls are a great place to go. And here’s a bonus: if you have a self-contained campervan rental, you can stay at Kaiate Falls for up to three nights for FREE, and you don’t even have to book. For more New Zealand campervan hire holiday advice, check out my tips for travelling New Zealand in a motorhome.

Hope you’re all still having a wonderful summer. (Or winter!) See you next week.

New Zealand: A Land Fit for Fantasy

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POMS AWAY!

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…

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Well That Was Scary

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I’d never felt an earthquake before. We were just about to go to sleep when the bed started juddering. At first I thought Tim was wriggling about, but it didn’t stop. Then the door started swinging back and forth, back and forth, shrieking like a poltergeist. We looked at each other.

It dawned on us.

By now the bed was swaying, but I was almost too freaked out to leave it. We stumbled into the lounge. The floor was dancing about; I was scared the walls would fall in. Tim said he felt like he was nauseous and I agreed. That or very drunk.

We wondered what to do. It wasn’t stopping. Should we get under the table, or into the cupboard, or just leave the flat entirely? By the time we’d decided it would probably be best to get outside and make for the big, open park across the road, the shaking stopped.

Had it stopped? We had trouble telling.

Yes, it had stopped.

new_zealand_topographic_mapWe immediately turned on Tim’s laptop and went to geonet.org: there had been a severe earthquake near Christchurch.

So severe we’d felt it all the way up in Hamilton.

Memories of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake churned in our stomachs. One hundred and eighty-five people had died in that one.

Our next port of call was Facebook. Everyone had felt it. People up in Auckland had felt it. Our friends in Christchurch were okay. Our friends in Wellington were okay, but there was damage. I found myself breathing a little easier, but we knew there’d be aftershocks.

We decided to get dressed and sleep in our clothes, just in case. I made sure my mobile phone and precious notebook were right next to me. We told each other, “I love you,” with even more fervency than usual. In the end, we felt no aftershocks. Still, getting to sleep was hard.

In the morning, the first thing we did was check the news. Two people had died. Quakes had continued up and down the country. High school exams disrupted; houses destroyed; roads blocked. People have been told to stay clear of the Wellington CBD.

Wow. Small-scale earthquakes happen all the time in New Zealand. My mum’s felt a few. Until last night, I was jealous I’d never felt any. Fifteen years living in New Zealand and I’d never felt the slightest tremor. I’d been in a few earthquake simulators at museums – enjoyed going in them in fact… but now…

I hope it’s not a sign of worse to come.

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Christchurch is still recovering from the last one.

Cute Animals and Hay Fever

Ducklings

“That’s how we know it’s spring,” Tim said as I tried not to sneeze on a duckling. “Cute animals and hay fever.”

I backed away, drawing out one of my carefully rationed tissues. Pollen filled the air like fairy dust, glistening as it swirled around the trees at the Taitua Arboretum. To be fair it wasn’t just hay fever – I was (and still am) fighting off a bad cold.

We were at the arboretum because my parents were visiting. We’d been before, but until now we’d never seen it bathed in sunlight. It was a little bit magical.

arboretum

Fluffy, yellow chicks flurried about in the undergrowth. (We couldn’t believe how many chickens there were, actually!) Fantails flitted coquettishly along the branches. Tui serenaded us from above, ducklings begged us for food, and geese drifted towards us. (Tim has a history with geese; perhaps they sensed this as they drifted away again quite quickly.)

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I felt like a mucus-laden Disney princess. We even found fairy doors on a couple of tree trunks.

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The most magical sight, however, was this.

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The photograph doesn’t really capture it, of course: the golden beams of sunlight filtering through the branches; the branches bowing to kiss the surface of the pond; floating leaves forming an illuminated path to the far bank, upon which sits a bench in a sheltered clearing… All rather inviting.

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The Taitua Arboretum is a lovely, peaceful place to go for a walk that I imagine would be great for kids. I look forward to visiting it next season. Hopefully I’ll be able to breathe properly then!

New Zealand and Volcanoes

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This was my very first blog post, written over three years ago! Funny how my writing style has changed…

POMS AWAY!

When I was nine years old, my world fell apart.

There I was, living quite happily in a small town in the North of England, when my parents dropped a bombshell: we were moving to New Zealand.

New Zealand – wasn’t that the little triangle at the bottom of Australia? Wasn’t it millions of miles away, filled with bubbling lakes of lava and cannibals and sheep?

Well, I was right about the sheep.

It turned out that New Zealand was quite similar to England, but the differences were truly amazing. This blog is about what makes New Zealand different.

A bit of White Island See how different New Zealand is? This was taken on White Island.

You might be especially interested if you were thinking about moving to New Zealand, or coming here for a holiday. In my experience, the best way to see the country is by campervan. My family and I have driven…

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The Alien World of White Island

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POMS AWAY!

Have you ever visited somewhere so unique that you rave about it years later? It’s been six years since my family went to New Zealand’s White Island, and I still find myself thinking about it and talking about how amazing it is. I can’t believe how few of my friends have been!

White Island is an active volcano out in the Bay of Plenty. It’s a small island, but it looms large in my memory. I remember the huge clouds of dense, white steam billowing from it as we approached in the ferry. It was so exciting, like coming upon a lost world. We’d already been treated to the sight of dolphins that day – they’d surrounded our ferry as we left Whakatane and played with us for so long we almost forgot where we were going – so, as you can imagine, things were pretty magical.

The island looked…

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Taitua Arboretum (with an international forestry expert!)

Chinese Archway, Taitua Arboretum, Hamilton, New Zealand

It’s a beautiful day in Hamilton. The sun’s shining with all the warmth of summer. What a wonderful day to stroll around Taitua Arboretum!

Pity we went yesterday when the weather wasn’t so good.

“Not a sky in the clouds,” a friend of mine said.

Ah well. We still enjoyed it.

FlowersTaitua Arboretum is a few minute’s drive out of Hamilton, towards Raglan. It’s free to enter and contains many hundreds of species of trees, both indigenous and exotic.

Now it just so happens that my partner’s uncle, who’s in New Zealand for a visit and was with us yesterday, is an international forestry expert. So what did Dr Alexander Hinrichs think of Taitua Arboretum?

“It’s pretty nice,” he said as we set out along the main track, umbrellas in hand.

The first place of note we came to was a ring of redwood trees, towering over us as one would expect redwoods to do. Inside the ring would be a nice place for a picnic on a more clement day.

Colourful TreeOn we went, the path carpeted with chestnuts. We were accompanied on our walk by a number of chickens. It was rather amusing to see them sheltering under a fir tree when the rain became too heavy. Even the ducks on the various ponds we passed were seeking shelter.

“It’s a diverse collection,” our international forestry expert commented. “Obviously not planted with any scientific thought, but it’s interesting. I like it.”

According to the leaflet we collected at the entrance, Taitua Arboretum was developed by a husband and wife who sourced many of the trees during their world travels.

It’s a good walk. Not as beautiful as the Hamilton Gardens, but different. Fewer people. More like a bush walk. There are 2.3 kilometres of walking tracks and bridges, according to the leaflet, and it seems a popular place for people to take their dogs.

SculptureThe bamboo tunnel was cool. There was a Chinese archway, a tranquil pond and an intriguing sculpture…

I became rather excited when I saw a stone circle highlighted on the map, but, unfortunately, my excitement was somewhat misguided. (Does anyone know of any properly nice stone circles in New Zealand? Being a British history nerd I rather miss them. Obviously, there won’t be any ancient ones, as New Zealand wasn’t even inhabited by humans in the Neolithic, but maybe a modern enthusiast has built a “fake” one somewhere?)

There was also a classical ruin in the arboretum – fake, of course, but fun. I’m all for building follies – mock ruins of ancient buildings, such as Greek temples or medieval castles. I want to have one in my own garden one day, (though it will probably have to be a small one.) The Taitua ruin isn’t amazing or anything, but it’s a nice idea and I wouldn’t mind having a picnic there one day.

Classical Temple Folly, Taitua Arboretum, Hamilton, New Zealand

We’re all quite keen to go back to Taitua Arboretum on a sunny day. I don’t know if it’s worth travelling to Hamilton solely to visit it, but if you’re in Hamilton anyway then definitely go. You could combine it with a trip to Hamilton Zoo or the breathtaking Bridal Veil Falls.