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Travel blog I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental and I eat French toast (Beastie Boys) | | | Photos available at www.istockphoto.com/georgeclerk

New Zealand Part 1

NEW ZEALAND | Saturday, 8 March 2008 | Views [8089] | Comments [3]

Hello!... It's been quite a while since my last blog entry, I've been in NZ since arriving from Singapore a couple of days before Christmas.

Christmas with Steve, Jules (my big sister) and Emily was great - delicious steaks on the bbq while wild turkeys roamed free around the garden. New Year's Eve was unconventional too, in bed by about 10pm, but that's late when getting up at farm time/Emily time of about-5.40am!

Julia was due with baby number two on 7th January, but things didn't quite work to schedule, so I had a few funpacked weeks with Emily, including much trampoline bouncing, making (and eating) fairy cupcakes, feeding the chucks, playing hide and seek, and going swimming every day in the hot sunshine (the summer was declared an official drought in the Waikato area)....

It was a very pleasant change from staying in hostels where many people are so concerned about their security that they keep their valuables physically attached to them 24 hours a day, to staying with Jules and Steve, where not only are the doors not locked when everyone leaves the house, but they're actually left wide open!

It's been a very busy summer at the farm, which is being converted from beef to dairy. This new cowshed is one of several new buildings, plus miles of 'races' (hardcore roads for the cows to walk along to be milked) to have been built. Just the cowshed alone needed 24 huge trucks full of concrete to come up the long road to the farm.

Anyway, Julia was soon trying hot curries, bumpy motorbike rides (which she's used to anyway), energetic walks, reflexology and even acupunture, but the baby still didn't want to budge. Then at last, well over two weeks late, a sweet boy called William John Broughton (Billy Broughton for short!) was born, much to everone's delight...

..first bath...

..Meeting the big sister

Mum and Dad arrived when William should have been about three weeks old, but he was in fact about three days old, and they got stuck into Grandparenting. A few days later I headed up to the Northlands of New Zealand, via a few days in Auckland.

Up in the Bay of Islands, swimming with dolphins was unfortunately not possible, since there were baby dolphins about, but we did see plenty of dolphin fun and frolicks from the boat.

I was staying in Paihia, but also spent some time across the water in
Russel, an affluent village that Americans would call 'quaint'. But it was once a whaling station called 'the hellhole of the Pacific' because of its lawless and dangerous nature.

From there I went right up to the blustery Northern tip of NZ, Cape Reinga, where the Tasmin Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. On the way were acres and acres of avacados which had apparently been planted not for eating, but to produce avocado oil, which we were assured is going to be the next big foodie thing, far better (and far more expensive of course) than olive oil.

After that I stayed over on the west coast, by Hokianga Harbour, a very peaceful and easy going area, with New Zealand's oldest school, established almost 150 whole years ago not far away.

But the area has two other claims to fame. Opo the dolphin put the tiny town of Opononi on the map in the 1950s.

She was incredibly friendly, coming right into the beach to play all day with swimmers and dribbling beach balls with her nose. She became so popular in New Zealand that they made films and pop songs about her, and signs were put up all around the town saying "Don't Shoot our Gay Dolphin". But just a year on, she was found on a local beach, washed up dead. At the time it was a mystery, but it's now reckoned that fishermen probably killed her by mistake, using dynamite to stun fish (which was done a lot at the time).

The other thing is the nearby Kauri forests. Less than 5% of the original forests remain, since the amazingly tall, straight and strong trees were felled for The Empire to use as ships masts etc. But some incredible giant trees are still left, including Tane Matua Ngahere (The father of the forest), which also starred as one of the walking giants in Lord of the Rings. It's reckoned to be around 4,000 years old, and to contain more volume of timber than any other living tree in the world.

Right, enough trivia about the Hokianga! I then went back to Jules and Steve's via another night in Auckland.

A few days later, we then went for a lovely week's family holiday at Pukawa, on the side of Lake Taupo, an ancient massive crater lake, which is bigger than the whole of Singapore.

Dad and I went for a couple of days fishing for brown trout in a small river, which was more like stalking than normal fishing. You carefully walk upstream, watching the clear water for any sly trout, which are normally incredibly well camoflauged and easily frightened.

On spotting one you have to cast upstream to it, usually change the fly several times, trying to find one it fancies, and be ready to strike if the fish goes for the it. We got a few both days, but none of the crafty monster trout that we occasionally spotted cruising about in the deeper water.

We also learned from our guide what Kiwis mean when they call someone a 'Jafa'... Just Anothother Fxxxing Aucklander! People from Auckland don't seem to be universally popular in the rest of NZ!

This is Mount Ngauruhoe near lake Taupo, which played 'Mount Doom' in Lord of the Rings

After Pukawa, and a few more days back on the farm, Mum and Dad sadly had to head back to chilly Scotland, then I continued my hop on - hop off tour of NZ with Magic. The first night I stayed in Rotorua via the amazing gloworm caves at Waitomo, lit up spectacurly by these bright worms that attract and eat insects. They eventually hatch into flies that live for a few hours to lay their eggs, then normally dumbly fly into the light and become victims of other gloworms in their own colony - either way they spend their entire lives within the same cave.

Then on to Taupo for a couple of nights and then the capital, Wellington.

When I came to Wellington for a couple of days a few years ago, it made it into my (hastily invented) list of the top five cities in the world that I'd like to live in. After my second visit it's definitely still there, despite the trendy coffee and bagels arty alternativeness which this time made it seem to me like the set for a nineties film like 'Reality Bites' or 'Singles'. I shaved off my goatee beard (which looked ridiculous anyway!) in protest.

New Zealand's parliament building in Wellington, aka 'The Beehive'. I think it should be aka 'The Oil Filter'!

I flew over the Cook Straight to the South Island in a tiny Cessna, for only $7 (£3) more than going on the ferry, then stayed in Nelson before heading to Abel Tasman National Park. Supposedly the area gets more sunshine than anywhere else in New Zealand, and the national park is famous for the crystal clear waters and golden sand bays.

But it started to rain heavily the morning after I arrived, and didn't stop until after dark. Luckily we squeezed in a 7 hour 'tramp' on the afternoon we arrived!

New Zealand green lipped mussels... very tasty!

Tags: new zealand, on the road, sweet as



Your photography standard - already very high - just went up to eleven! Awesome pictures, we're all so envious!

  Will Mar 13, 2008 7:33 AM


Hi there

Just visited your blog for the first time. YOu have written loads on it. Must have taken ages. You have done so much. SOunds like you are having a fab time. Great to see the pictures of Emily. You take great pics.
Enjoy the rest of your travels.

C x

  Catherine Mar 17, 2008 10:09 PM


Loving your photos George, and your stories. Wish I was there too! Love Heather x

  Heather Apr 16, 2008 5:45 PM



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