Friday, 30 November 2007

The Rob Roy Glacier

Today we went to the Rob Roy Glacier. We had to drive a fantastic dirt road for 44km into the mountains, then walk up a track through beech woods. The views of the glacier were stunning and the sound of the ice falling off when it happened was awesome.


We return to school again

Mount Aspiring College. 11 - 18 comprehensive.

In our quest to visit schools we contacted the Principle of this college to see if we could see round. He agreed and suggested that our friend Kay showed us around as she works there part time.

It is a school of 650 students years 7 - 13 (like England). The big difference is that years 7 and 8 are taught in home rooms by a small number of teachers along the primary model.

In year 11 they sit level 1 exams (GCSE equivalent) and in year 12 they sit level 2 (AS level equivalent) and in year 13 they do more level 2s and some level 3 qualifications (Scholarship level). They do a lot of outdoor education ... in the timetable! There is a national curriculum but it seemed to outline key concepts and areas to be studied and left school to fill in the scheme of work as to how it would be covered. All exams are set nationally by one body.

The school was very relaxed and the staff and students friendly but ... they were only two weeks off their 8 week summer break! The seniors were in the middle of their exams.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Caption contest

Why did this Maori look so shocked? Email your captions to us and the full picture will be forwarded to the best.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The best cinema in town

Forget those hard rows of seats, forget the rule that only soft drinks and popcorn can be taken into the auditorium and come to a most civilized cinema experience at the Cinema Paradiso in Wanaka.

Here they have comfy old sofas, 3 seats in an old Morris Minor, a cafe and bar serving meals before, during or after the movie, homemade icecream and hot cookies for the intermission (do you remember those?) and an expectation that you will go and get a drink (alcoholic of course) during the film! It was a real experience and one that we wish to repeat.

Spot me eating icecream

Wanaka is a beautiful place in the Southern Alps surrounded by big mountains and next to a large blue lake. See some pictures of it here.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Rain and Glaciers

In the rain today we visited the glaciers of Te Moeka o Tuawae and Ka Romiata o Hine Hukatere (which imperialist Europeans saw fit to rename Franz Joseph and Fox after themselves). They are world famous for coming down to almost sea level and also for reacting to the weather quickly - they actually advanced in the early 21st century. The problem with this west coast is it catches the weather and so it rained for part of the day and the cud was down over the Southern Alps ... just like the Lake District!

Below the Franz Joseph Glacier

At the resurgence of the river below Fox Glacier

Pancake rocks

Having left the far North of South Island we drove down to the West Coast to a place called Pancake Rocks. The scenery was a great example of geology in action and the blow holes were spectacular.

Sharon at the blowhole with the pancake rocks.

The 'chimneypot' in full spout

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Seals Penguins and Sandflies

Sharon cooking breakfast on the second day

We have just returned from a three day kayaking and walking trip along the Abel Tasman coast with our Israeli friends Sara and Yuval. We canoed among seals as they swam and showed interest in us, saw a penguin fishing, camped on beuatifel white sand beaches and ... got eaten badly by sandflies (a cross between a midge and a mosquito, whose bite itches vadly for ages afterwards!). After the second day our kayaks were picked up by water taxi and on the last day we walked the remaining distance (that involved an estuary crossing, which was tide dependant) to a beach where we were picked up by water taxi and taken back to the start. The weather was cloudy and cold on day 1 but the other days were blue skys and sun. Beautiful.

The seals were as interested in us as we were them

Monday, 12 November 2007

Mount Doom

The day after finishing the river trip we did the Tongariro Crossing. 18km across an active volcanic region. Fantastic views, good weather.
Sharon with Mount Doom (or where they filmed that part of Lord of the Rings) in the background. It is still an active volcano.

Beautiful weather in NZ at last.

Canoeing the mighty Wanganui

88 km, three days, two huts. We joined two other couples and a single guy to canoe the Wanganui River, a fast flowing river that flows through a deep gorge buried in the New Zealand bush.

Heavy rain over the past week had risen the depth from its usual 1.5m to 3m but this had the effct of speeding up the flow and smoothing out the raids. The effact was like canoeing on moving mud. The weather was fantastic, getting sunnier as the three days passed. 38km day1, 29km day 2 and 21km day 3, great company, great adventure.

Sharon high above the river after we had struggled up through the bush to get to the viwepoint

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Kia ora Keith

We picked up our campervan yesterday and drove him to Hot Water Beach where we sat in a hole dug in the sand bathed in water that varied from scalding to pleasantly warm, drinking beer as darkness fell. The campervan is called Keith and stars in a TV show on C4 (NZ Channel 4 that is) Wednesday nights at 9pm. We will have to watch it to see our home on TV.

Hot Water beach where hot springs come out into the sand
Keith the Escape campervan (star of the TV show mentioned above)

Rained last night and the mozzies were bad but today went kayaking around Cathedral Bay in a double kayak. the sun came out and the sea was blue.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Time zones and lost days

We said goodbye to the Harley and California yesterday (or was it the day before?) and flew from Los Angeles at 8.30pm on the 30th October. The 12 hour flight landed on time at 5am in Auckland on the 1st November. Where did the 31st go? Something to do with the rotation of the Earth and crossing international datelines.

Security in NZ was interesting as they are very hot on bio-security not wanting alien species to come to their country (understandably). Because we had been in the desert an forests we had to unpack our bags and have our boots and camping gear checked. They took the tent away for twenty minutes and thoroughly checked it for insects and pollen. We passed! People who had been on farms or were fishing had their gear taken away and sprayed!

We are now in a coffee shop in Auckland, staying at Base Backpackers. Campervan tomorrow.