10 Strange Things I Found When I Moved To New Zealand

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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…

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Why Living in Tauranga Ruins You for Life

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I live in Tauranga, New Zealand. But not for much longer. The time has come to fly the nest.

To Hamilton.

Laugh all you want. Hamilton’s a nice place. (I’ve written about it here – fingers crossed I won’t have to eat my words!) But it’s not as nice as Tauranga.

Living in Tauranga has ruined me for anywhere else.

Just yesterday, we visited our local beach and took a few pictures.

Mount Beach 2Tauranga Rocks 4Pilot Bay

Yes, that’s our local beach. That’s Mount Maunganui, known locally as the Mount. Well, actually, as the Mount is situated at the end of a very narrow peninsula that has a beach on either side, that’s two of our many local beaches. And if you walk around the base of the Mount, you’ll find many more miniature beaches and so be able to claim your own private beach. God, I love living in Tauranga.

Mount Bench 2

Tauranga is the perfect…

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Winter Sunshine on Bethells Beach

Sea Foam

The world had been grey for so long that the blue sky above Bethells Beach was a beacon. We were drawn to it, as were many others. The air was frigid, but the sand was sparkling, silver and black. Each footprint pressed into it seemed an act of liberation.

Bethells Beach

Excited dogs splashed through the stream; babbling tourists took kooky selfies. The stream had changed its course, forcing people to forge a new path to the sea – the result, perhaps, of those epic storms a while back. (Bethells residents had ended up without power for a worryingly long time.)

Bethells Beach

Aside from that, the beach was the same as it always had been: the bushy cliffs; the grassy dunes; the rocks jutting into the waves. We made our way to the cave at the southern end of the beach, always a deceptively long walk.

Bethells Beach

No one was surfing – not even Westies* being that insane. As we walked back up the beach, I appreciated, as always, a particular chunk of bushy cliff that resembled a giant, sunbathing woman. Its curves undulated against the sky… face, neck, breasts, belly and thighs…

Bethells Beach

Mother Nature enjoying (or guarding) one of her better creations.

Sea

*West Aucklandlanders

Now here’s what I think are The Best Beaches in New Zealand

10 Totally Awesome New Zealand Holiday Tips

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New Zealand has so many great places to visit. I’ve written about a lot of them, here and on other websites. Lately, though, people have been asking me for some more general New Zealand holiday tips. So here they are.

1) Wear sunscreen.

Seriously, even if you think you won’t get sunburnt, you will. Hole in the ozone layer and all that. People have come to New Zealand from Sub-Saharan Africa and got sunburnt.

2) Swim between the flags.

The sea around New Zealand is dangerous, with strong currents that drag you under even when the waves are small. Don’t ignore the Surf Life Saving warnings, and don’t try to swim when the flags aren’t out.

yelloweyedpenguin3) Respect the nature.

New Zealand is an island nation with a delicate ecosystem. So many of its native plant and animal species are endangered. Think carefully about what you bring into New…

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Twilight Over McLaren Falls

McLaren Falls by Abigail Simpson

I’m always surprised by how quickly darkness falls in winter. We were driving home from my parents’ the other day – not that late in the afternoon – when I realised the world was draped in an indigo veil. A thought struck me.

“Can we stop at McLaren Falls?” I asked Tim.

We were about to drive past McLaren Falls anyway. They’re not hard to get to; you can park right next to the lookout. Dusk is a good time for taking long-exposure shots of waterfalls, you see.

McLaren Falls by Abigail Simpson

There were more cars than I’d expected, but a spot soon opened up. I prepped my camera and crossed to the lookout.

I hadn’t been to the falls in a long time. I was fairly certain I hadn’t seen a footbridge over them before. It was one of those slightly shaky suspension bridges, which unfortunately meant I couldn’t get any decent long-exposure shots from it. (These ones I’m showing you are the least blurry ones I got.)

The falls weren’t at their best anyway. That only happens on certain dates when the water is released from the McLaren Falls Dam. Still, they were quite lovely in the winter twilight. The water seemed almost luminous.

mclaren falls

When they release the water from the dam, you can go whitewater kayaking for free!

mclaren falls

I’ve already written an article about how awesome McLaren Falls Park is. Here’s a photo I took a few years ago whilst kayaking on Lake McLaren:

Lake McLaren by Abigail Simpson

Crossing the Ditch

koala at dreamworld

Much as New Zealanders claim to hate Australia, they seem to love going on holiday there. Of course, this is partly to do with Australia’s relative proximity to New Zealand. The rest of the world is so bloody far away, that visiting Australia is often referred to as “crossing the ditch” – aka the Tasman Sea.

I crossed the ditch when I was fifteen. I went to the Gold Coast for a couple of weeks with a friend and her family. It was the middle of winter, but the pavements were quite literally hot enough to fry an egg on. I sat on a grass verge and my armpit got bitten by an ant half the size of my finger. Yup, we were definitely in Australia.

sleeping koala

The main attractions of Australia’s Gold Coast are the theme parks, (Dreamworld, Movie World and Water World,) Australia Zoo and Surfer’s Paradise. Back then, I absolutely adored theme parks and, living in New Zealand, I missed them. (New Zealand’s only theme park, Rainbow’s End, seems really lame when you’ve been to the likes of Alton Towers and Disney World.)

Dreamworld was great. As well as the rides, there were tigers to marvel at and koalas to hold. You can’t go to Australia without holding a koala!

I forgot what an awkward smile those braces gave me…

Australia Zoo was great too. It’s certainly the most… umm… epic zoo I’ve ever been to. I even got to see Steve Irwin doing his whole “look at this croc – isn’t she a beauty?” thing. (He was still alive then.)

Surfer’s Paradise was exactly as you’d expect, all manicured palm trees and sunshine gleaming off of tanned abs. I much preferred the more peaceful beaches of New Zealand.

baby koala

See the baby koala face?

In fact, much as I enjoyed the holiday, I came away thinking that I most definitely preferred New Zealand to Australia. I could never live in Australia with its oppressive heat and homicidal wildlife. I prefer the singing of tui to the laughing of kookaburras. I’ve never felt any desire to go back to Australia. Instead, I can’t wait to see more of New Zealand.

The Stars Are Upside Down

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When I was a child my dad took me into the backyard one clear night to show me some constellations. He’s a science teacher, my dad, and he really likes astronomy. He pointed out the Big Dipper, Canis Major, Gemini and others that I can’t remember, but my favourite was the Hunter, Orion.

The Orion Nebula The Orion Nebula

To this day, Orion is the only constellation I can identify with complete confidence. I particularly like the little stars that make up his dagger, hanging from that distinctive belt.

We lived in England when my dad first showed me the stars. (He showed me Halley’s Comet as well, and the rings of Saturn through a telescope.) When we moved to New Zealand, one of the first things the ten-year-old me noticed, gazing up at the night sky, was that Orion was upside down.

Orion The Orion Constellation (as seen from New Zealand)

This scared me a…

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