Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Russell, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Tim and I are well, and we hope that all of you and yours are too.  New Zealand is currently beginning the 2nd week of a 4 week lockdown. If you are curious on how they are doing things here this is their website - New Zealand Government Website Unite Against Covid19.

We are very fortunate to be here.  The Government has extended visas for visiting yachts crew who have 6 month visas valid until the end of April.  If your visa was due to expire as mine was before that time, you must apply for a visa extension, which allows you to stay in the country for a additional three months.  We arrived quite early last year and unlike Tim, I have not left the country, which reboots your visa, so I filled out the online form, paid the money and was advised within a week that my visa extension had been granted.  With that in hand, we are both allowed to remain in the country till the end of September.  We expect there will be further extensions depending how the worldwide fight against the virus goes.

Being in lockdown as a cruiser isn’t really much of a change, though it happened so quickly there was a little scrabbling around to finish provisioning.  The Alert Levels were introduced only 4 or 5 days before we found ourselves at Level 4 a week ago.

We relocated from the Whangarei area to the Bay of Islands, which has much easier access to supermarkets and chemists/drugstores/pharmacies.  We can also find bays which have clearer water for water-making not too far away.

Now it is just quiet.  There is very little going on, which is as it should be. We are encouraged to go out for exercise once a day and we do take advantage of that particularly as the weather is so nice.

Do your best to keep safe and well and we will too.


Nancy and Tim

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Whakarewarewa - The Living Maori Village and The Waitangi Treaty Grounds

We visited a number of Maori cultural attractions and the first was a guided tour around the Whakarewarewa - The Living Maori Village in Rotorua.


Whakarewarewa is the short version of the name you see written below.  Te Whakareware O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao means 'The gathering place for the war parties of Wahiao.'  It is often abbreviated by to 'Whaka' by the locals.  Our guide had no trouble with the pronunciation of any form of the name as he belongs to one of the iwi (tribes) who share the village and its resources.

The local tribes have grown tolarge to be housed in the village, and some now live in nearby towns.  All are welcome to make use of the hot springs.

Cooking with thermal steam; The thermal waters are dammed and re-directed to cooking pits or the communal bathes; A row of baths which are closed for cleaning; Trough bringing hot water to the bath; The end of the tough at the bath.


Where to buy your seamed sweetcorn - behind the sulphurous rocks; Steaming pools with a shoreline crusted with minerals;   A groove in the rock directing the flow of water; And people really do live here. The thermal springs often flow out of sight underground, their paths can change and create new openings to the surface, causing areas to be closed.


As well as the springs, this area also has geyers. Three in particular are regularly active;  You can just see possibly Te Tohu erupting.


Down hill from the village were walkways around bubbling pools of mud and unexpectedly clear(ish) lakes of turquoise water.

The highlight of the visit was the cultural experience at the Ancestral Meeting House.


We were greeted with a welcome dance, Poi spinning, a Haka and authentic Maori expressions.  It was a wonderful theatrical performance and really very special.

My sister, Laura, and I more recently visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds near Paihia only a couple hours drive from Whangarei. The performance was very similar to the Whakarewarewa performance, but there was one addition that we particularly enjoyed.  

First a male volunteer was chosen to be the chief of the visitors - Waitangi Maori Experience Part 1 (video).  Next a young warrior approached our 'chief' with a with a spear and a small leafy branch.  He was really fierce, thrusting at our chief with his spear and demanding to know whether he was coming in war or peace, all in Maori of course.  Then he dropped the branch on to the ground and backed away, keeping low with the spear poised.  With a little encouragement our chief walk forward, picked up the token of peace. It was very impressive so of course the video failed.  But I do have our welcome into the Meeting House -  Waitangi Maori Experience Part 3.  Its a little wobbly at first as I have not mastered videoing and walking at the same time but it rallies at the end.

The Meeting House or Marae, (great wikipedia article explaining the importance in New Zealand particularly).

We often saw road signs for local Marae as we drove along the highways. We have never stopped to look as there because I don't fully understand what it means to the Maori.

At one museum there was a small stone bowl filled with water to dip your fingers in to wash the holiness off as you left.

Not knowing why this was done, I found this I site and am now much the wiser -  Washing Hands.

Inside the Meeting House we were forbidden to take videos but photos without flash were okay. It was dark inside but I think the blurring gives a sense of the movement going on.


The first two photos - singing and dancing. Third photo 'Poi' spinning made to look easy.  I once had homemade poi made from tennis balls and tights.  It is not easy. Fourth photo - the brandishing of the short sticks.  Final photo - group juggling.  It really was amazing to watch.  The sticks are thrown from both hand in opposite/different directions and caught without anyone appearing to be watching where they are throwing or from where they are catching.


The first three photos - a display of spear handling, then the closing dance and song and one example of the many carvings that decorated the walls and ceiling.

And finally, if you are not a Rugby fan you might not have seen the New Zealand team, the All Blacks, perform a Haka - a ceremonial dance or challenge in Māori culture. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. (Wikipedia)

Do watch for the fluttering of the hands in the video.  All dance involves this movement and we have been told that it is to show life and energy.  Enjoy!    

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Hobbiton, otherwise known as the Hobbiton Movie Set

At the beginning of December, my friend Susan flew down from the ice and snow of Ottawa for a Hobbit-centric visit to Middle Earth New Zealand.

First on our list of things to do was a tour of  Hobbiton the Hobbiton Movie Set.

Our tour through started at The Shire's Rest, which is the carpark, meeting point, restaurant, picnic area, gift shop, ticket office and place where you join the bus that takes you to Hobbiton the Hobbiton Movie Set. 

On the bus, we were driven through a working farm while a short video by Peter Jackson welcomed us to Hobbiton the Hobbiton Movie Set.  Our tour guide was a young lady called Lola who hadn't even been born when the last film was released. We felt very old indeed.


I have to say we enjoyed it thoroughly.

Once off the bus, Lola gave us a brief introduction to Hobbiton, which included asking, who had read the books, who had seen the films and who had done neither.  A surprising number of people had done neither! 'Shame!  Shame!' I chanted. That would probably have got a bigger laugh if I'd said it in Japanese. We were more than a little perplexed why anyone but a fan of The Lord of the Rings would be willing to shell out $83 NZ for a two hour tour. 

Lola had lots of information and stories about filming and the set itself.  How the Alexander farm became one of the most visited attractions in New Zealand is covered in this article -
Hobbiton From Family Farm to Film Fame.

It is easy to see why this was the location chosen to become Hobbiton with its gently rolling hills and picturesque valleys.  I be truthful, much of the New Zealand country side looks like the Shire to us.

The attention to detail was impressive.


Our first view of the Hobbiton; Hobbit hole with yellow door.  The Hobbit holes are all facades, so there was no interior with perfectly round hallways or tiny furniture. There were 3 sizes of façade so one could look Man, Dwarf or Hobbit-sized; There were real gardeners tending the vegetable gardens. We were told that plants in the ground were real and any in a container, like the cart in the 3rd pic, were fake.  The flowers were wonderful.  We visited in December and it wasn't too hot; now in February much of New Zealand is suffering from drought. I don't expect that Hobbiton today is as green and lush as it was then; Human sized tiny hole with red door. If you look carefully you can see 'smoke' drifting out of the chimney pots.


A few locations of special interest - to us anyway.


Bag End, No Admittance except on party business;  Sam and Rosie's home where Sam returned to Rosie and daughter Elanor at the end of the Return of the King; the Old Mill and bridge across the Bywater; possibly Bag Shot Row, which was razed to the ground by Saruman in the ROTK, but was not included in the film.


Roses and rug beater; Red door and chimney; looking over the bridge, past the Mill to The Green Dragon Pub.


The Green Dragon fireplace;  Artificial pears on a real tree; Sheep and hills; Chopping block.


Gardening and washing line; Bread for sale; Nasturtiums; Window in a hill; Tiny Hobbit hole; The Green Dragon x 2; The rolling hills around Hobbiton.

It really was fun, but what you don't see is are all the other groups of visitors being led through and moved along when they dawdled of stepped off the path.  It is a very popular place and if I was to do it again, I would book an early tour and go in the cool of the morning.

All in all, we enjoyed it immensely.