my life in the land down under

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Once Were Houses

In our part of the world we have gone from drought to flood conditions in the last few weeks. Thankfully we live on top of a hill so have not been affected by floodwaters as many locals have, and as I write this the weather has settled again and we’re enjoying a lovely sunny day.

We were recently introduced to geocaching and find it a great way to explore new places. We appreciate all those who have gone to the effort of placing caches for us to find and wanted to reciprocate. Recently we placed two caches of our own, along a route we walk or cycle through regularly; which is very accessible, has great views and an interesting history.

A severe storm in the Bay of Plenty on 18th May 2005 dumped over 300mm of rain on Tauranga in 24 hours – the heaviest rainfall in 95 years.

Besides major flooding, this caused multiple landslides in Otumoetai, at Welcome Bay and on Mount Maunganui (Mauao). The houses worst hit were in the hilly Otumoetai area of Pillans Rd, Karaka St, Hinewa Rd, Balmoral Terrace, Whitaker St, Vale St, and Estuary Way in Welcome Bay. Many of the houses were so badly damaged they had to be demolished. Amazingly, there were no injuries reported.

Stormwater upgrades undertaken by the council following this disaster cost $11 million. The new infrastructure included a stormwater tunnel at Pillans Point (14 metres below Pillans Rd) to stop floodwaters inundating Bureta, rebuilding the harbour outfall, creating a stormwater flowpath along parts of Vale St and improving the Otumoetai Golf Course as a flood basin.

Two urban parks were created in Otumoetai where once stood 28 homes.  One reserve was created in the amphitheatre-shaped bowl where Lemon Grove and the top end of Hinewa Rd perch above slopes that drop down to Landscape Rd. The other traverses the hillside that completely lost its footing and sent thousands of tonnes of earth into homes built along the stream flats at the end of Vale St.

A loop walk through both parks takes approx 30 mins.


Walkway going up


Commemorative plaque


 View from the top


View from the top, second walkway


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Evening Expedition

We embarked on our second geocaching expedition this weekend (see this website for more information).

Last week while browsing the internet for local caches, we discovered that our first ever ‘find’ was being offered up for adoption by its current owner. We decided to take it on, so are now the proud owners of our first geocache! It had been placed a long time ago and was in need of some freshening up, so after a quick shopping trip we headed there first. The weather was quite different this visit; blue sky, sunshine and the tide was in. We put a new log book and some other bits and pieces in the cache and hope that it will be found again soon. We also took a ‘trackable’ that had been there since January, intending to move it on to another cache.


Downward steps


View from the bottom of the track – it looked different with the tide in

Then it was off to see what else we could find. We are choosing the ‘easy’ caches but being novices we are taking time to locate them, so only clocked up another two successes. In both cases we considered giving up and marking DNF (did not find) on the cache’s online log; but persevered and eventually were rewarded for our efforts. We’re still learning how to use the GPS well, and how to spot something subtly different in the environment which indicates where a cache might be hidden – a challenge to our observation skills.

Our first find was in an area with lots of pohutukawa trees and a good view from the top of a small hill. The early evening light was lovely, and we enjoyed exploring another local area we hadn’t been to before (or at least not for a long time). Of course we took a camera with us to record the visit, but also as a ‘cover’ should anyone not familiar with geocaching wonder what we were doing! We dropped off the Travel Bug trackable here, in the hope that it might be found by geocachers from overseas who would help it on its way back to the UK. There were quite a few people around but the cache was in a good hiding place, and we don’t think we were seen retrieving it.


Pohutukawa shadows


View from the hilltop, looking west over the harbour


View from the hilltop, looking east toward the Pacific Ocean


Late sun through the trees


Pohutukawas growing on the hillside

Our second cache this trip was hidden very close to where I work. Saturday evening was a great time to visit this location as there were very few cars or people around. It was getting dark by now and we hadn’t thought to bring a torch, although it may have  drawn more attention to us. The only clues we had were the GPS co-ordinates – which get you pretty close but not to the exact spot – and the hint ‘under’, so we were pleased to finally locate the cache. 🙂




Evening sky complete with moon

Later, when we’d eaten dinner, we logged our finds on the geocaching website – including retrieving and dropping off our first trackable. Here’s to more adventures in the future!

Please note, none of the photos give away the actual location of the cache. 🙂


Treasure Hunting

After acquiring a handheld GPS this week, yesterday we went on our first geocaching expedition.

For all you want to know about geocaching, see here . It’s like treasure hunting for adults – complete with GPS co-ordinates and clues – and people all over the world participate.

I’m still working my way through “Geocaching 101″… and learning how the GPS works!

On looking at the map to see where caches were hidden, I was amazed at how many there were in our area – right under our noses, so to speak – you just need to know where to look. For our first attempt, John chose two that were supposedly good for beginners to find, were located in easy terrain, and had been ‘found’ recently (so we knew they were still there).


View from the top of the track – there’s rain on the way


The track – not such easy terrain after all!


At the bottom of the track – a place to rest


View from the bottom of the track – the tide was out


Our first find – signing the log book


There’s treasure hidden somewhere down here – sorry, we’re not telling where!

Our first cache was easy to find – a great one to start with, and we loved the views from the track. The second one was a different story and we had almost given up when we found it. 🙂 Oh yes – and we were getting eaten by mozzies at the time.


Now, which path did Little Red Riding Hood take?


Success at last! – signing the log book for our second find

It’s a great way to explore an area and get some exercise with an interesting goal, as it can be incorporated with walking or cycling. There’s an element of secrecy as you don’t want to be seen finding the caches, and you never know what treasures they might hold. In some cases we’re advised to watch out for ‘muggles’, i.e. other members of the public who might not be in-the-know.

This seems to bring out the big kid in us – not a bad thing. It might be addictive, as we’re already planning our next outing. 🙂