If you’ve never been to New Zealand, I would like you wish you luck pronouncing the name of this Forest which sits around 20 minutes south of Tauranga on the North Island. If you will permit me, I will try to give you what I see as a phonetic summary – Oh-Tar-Nay-Why-Noo-Koo.
It is a Department of Conservation site which is home to a kiwi conservation programme and there are native birds enjoying the predator-controlled forest too. I wanted to tell you about this because of the magnificent views you are treated to if you are willing to do the Summit Track at around 90 minutes return (moderate difficulty – including a beetle hitchhiker). You are treated to a magnificent (and enormous) view stretching as far as White Island (the marine volcano which is 50km offshore to the North) and Whakatane to the East. It is stunning. My photos don’t quite do it justice but it proves that to be treated to the wonders of nature, you often have to put in a bit of an effort yourself first.
There is also a lovely B&B just down the road in Oropi called Rolling Hills Country Stay, just in case you are tempted.
Just outside Rotorua on NZ’s North Island, to the top of Lake Rotorua lies perhaps the clearest water I have ever seen – even clearer than what comes out of the tap in the house!
Here is Hamurana Springs which contains the largest natural spring on the North Island with around 4 million litres of water coming up per hour. It takes 70 years for the water to get to this point which must yet again prove that it is worth taking your time over a job well done!
It is truly beautiful to visit and you can clearly see that the ducks love it too. Trout are happily (and clearly) swimming around and someone even told me they had seen a rat swimming across the river earlier that day.
Part of the 45 minute walk to the spring and back is the Dancing Sands (you can watch a lovely video of this on YouTube here – click this link), a peaceful location where you watch the water bubbling up through sand. There are also huge redwood trees to be dwarfed by and native birds flying around. So idyllic.
If you get chance, this is a must-see, and totally free too!
A few months back I was able to head over to the east of the North Island and visit Gisborne and its surrounds for the first time. Great to get out and explore a bit again! This area has a very low population density and it is a delight to get away from everyone else and relax. Gisborne was a really pleasant surprise, I expected a remote, run down backwater to be honest but it is a compact city with a beach in the city centre and accessible rivers and is in a stunning area of beauty.
In 1769, this was the place where Captain Cook first set foot on Aotearoa (or New Zealand as it became). Unfortunately, as they came into conflict with local Maori, they left the area without any supplies and labelled the landing site as Poverty Bay as it did not give them anything they wanted. Sad but true…according to my Rough Guide anyway!
It would of course be wrong to say that Cook discovered NZ because that remarkable feat was achieved by Polynesian navigators a long time before, but we Brits still liked to claim everything as our own in that era (these days we enjoy past glories in the main!).
Anyway, here are some photos of the East Cape area, from Wairoa and the Mahia Peninsula to the South, Gisborne in the middle (which has three rivers converging in its centre, including NZ’s shortest), and Tolaga Bay and Tokomaru Bay to the North. Tolaga Bay possesses the longest concrete jetty in the Southern Hemisphere at 660m long – an interesting relic of a bygone era now perhaps but still lovely to walk along.
I was wondering recently when the last time was that I bought a physical CD for myself. I think it was well over a year ago. I don’t generally download music either but I do use free music streaming which I think is a fabulous idea.
I then went on to think that I cannot recall buying a paperback book for a number of years now. I do rent them from the library occasionally. The Kindle is a great device at what it does.
I do occasionally buy films on Blu-Ray or DVD and do rent them from a video store (yes, they still have those in NZ). I have yet to use something like Netflix.
In some ways I think it is great that less non-renewable raw materials are used in manufacturing of such things because they now exist as files on a computer but in other ways it perhaps cheapens the experience of “owning” something or in the way we interact with various forms of art as you become detached from it in many ways due to the ease of which you can delete a file as if it never really existed…would you ever throw out a physical book? I suspect not…unless you are giving it to charity of course which would be recycling.
Anyone got any interesting perspectives here?
I was thinking recently about the new perspective you get on life when you live elsewhere in the world.
It occurred to me that I could think of only around half a dozen friends who instigate contact with me (either by post, text or email) on a relatively regular basis – and two of these friends do not live in the UK either. I am not sure this was any different before I moved to NZ but in the UK I had regular meetings with people and was more immersed in shared experiences and life in general. The relationships were more organic. It might not seem much but when someone says “Hi, how are you?” once in a while, it can mean a lot. Everyone is busy just living their lives I guess and a one-size-fits-all approach with social media seems to be how people conduct ‘friendships’ these days which is pretty strange when you think about it.
It will be interesting to see how well I settle back in to these relationships when I return to the UK for a holiday this year. My life has changed quite a bit since I last saw these friends and perhaps theirs has not. I wonder whether a lack of interaction over time starts to render us strangers or if that just melts away naturally as some friendships are stronger than time and distance. I obviously hope that the latter is true. A lack of familiarity should make these new interactions more fulfilling and interesting though.
In some ways I think this stranger-element could also be true of family relationships but to a much lesser extent. It is interesting since being in NZ how little family seem to instigate FaceTime or similar regular interactions. I am not sure if the 11-13 hour time difference is just too tough to work out or if they think we are likely to be too busy off doing something – which is no different to living in a different place in the UK really – but you would think this would be a natural two-way street. Such is life I guess.
Does anyone have any similar experiences from extended time overseas and how have you found returning “home”?
While on holiday recently I did not have telephone or internet access for a week. Not because it wasn’t offered by the hotel but because I chose not to want it for this time.
It actually felt quite liberating not to be a slave to answering emails, text messages, responding to Facebook posts or even to writing blog posts (but it is nice to do so now). I instead used any downtime to get back to reading and engaging with the world around me! It has made me think about the way I live my life.
It led me to think about whether the Internet (and I will include modern smart phones in the heading even though they are different), one of the most impressive inventions in recent history is a blessing or a curse…what do you think?
- You have knowledge at your fingertips. You are never lost for answers to almost any question you can think of.
- You can always find where you are and what is around you. It is truly remarkable how your location can be pinned down.
- It is incredibly easy (and cheap) to keep in touch with friends and family, do online banking, keep across your interests etc. Time saving.
- It has enabled all of us to record our own lives and thoughts in some way for sharing and future posterity (where is it all stored?)
- It can be hard to escape…think of those who think it is OK to send you emails in the dead of night or phone you in the evening (depending on your job of course).
- We are supposedly now breeding a generation of lower-IQ individuals who are reliant on computers and all it brings. The knowledge contained therein cannot always be trusted.
- You actually waste your time looking at it – it tells you so much that you really don’t need to know but people still become addicted to it. Surely we could all be doing something else?
- Is anything really private any more?