my life in the land down under

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Autumn Glory

Recently, over a family dinner, we were talking about photography and what to do with the photos we’d taken. Digital photography (for me) over the last 10 years+ has led to many unsorted photos being stored on my computer and rarely shared with anyone, which defeats the purpose of photographing. I want to share what I see with other people!

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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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Cycle Hike Pt 2

Here begins part two of our cycle ride in Napier at the end of February (you can see part one here).


View from near our lunch stop – cruise ships in the distance, agapanthus seed heads in the foreground

After leaving the cafe we headed out of town again, and gradually worked our way back down that orange-marked trail on the map. The route soon took us through farmland.




Cyclists coming through!

We felt sorry for these sheep who seemed to have very little feed, water or shelter. By now it was early afternoon, and the day was heating up. The landscape everywhere was so dry and barren in appearance. Not long afterwards the entire North Island was declared a drought area, and we heard stories of farmers in the Waikato having to destroy their animals due to lack of feed. As I write this I’m pleased to say the drought is breaking, and several of the drought areas have had good amounts of rain in the last few days. (Update: The drought has well and truly broken in our area, with very heavy rain and flooding over the past few days!)




Hawkes Bay summer landscape – loved those ‘bunny tails’


Gravel trail


Another gate


Through the gum trees


More evidence of drought – a dried-up stream


The last leg – or should that be, ‘on her last legs’?!

The small camera John carried was much easier to access & operate while cycling; in the afternoon I was finding it increasingly difficult to stop, dismount the bike and wrestle my SLR out of the camera bag to use it each time. Getting back on the bike took more effort each time too, so there was some moaning & groaning involved! As a result I missed a few good shots toward the end of the ride – including one of the old bridge over the Ahuriri estuary (above), which is a local landmark. I did prove to myself that I could carry a camera while riding though!

35km later, we finally made it back to John’s sister’s place, but not before she’d texted us to make sure we were okay. We got back later than she expected – before dark and in time for tea though. 🙂

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Cycle Hike

When we visited John’s sister in Napier at the end of February, we took the bikes with us and rode a cycle trail we had been talking about doing for a while. John has been keen for me to blog about it ever since. We’ve had a busy few weeks, but I finally got around to it…!


Cycle trail map

We followed (some of) the orange trail on the map above; the pen tip shows our starting point. I took my Nikon SLR along for the ride and John took a Nikon point-and-shoot. It was cool and cloudy to start with so good weather for riding, but not so good for photos as the light was very flat.

At the beginning of the trail we rode along the top of a stopbank, with a river hidden by trees down to one side of us, and vineyards and orchards on the other.


Riding along the stop bank




Apple orchards – we saw pickers at work

We reached the coast at Awatoto, then rode north through an industrial area and along Marine Parade to the port, where we saw two cruise ships.


Stony beaches


Colourful comfort stop


Approaching the port


Cruise ship complete with security guard


Parked at the marina

As we were mostly following designated off-road cycle trails, we weren’t having to contend with traffic and stayed safe on the bikes. I did have one ‘close call’ near the marina, when I wasn’t paying sufficient attention to where I was going, almost colliding with a railing alongside the path as I went around a corner. I made a very sudden stop and my body collided with the handlebars instead – thankfully I stayed upright and there were no major injuries. 🙂


Beachside garden


Paved cycle track  along the coastline


Coastline view

We got ‘lost’ a couple of times when we entered suburban streets and the trail was poorly marked, otherwise it was mostly flat and easy to follow. As we reached the most northern point of our ride it was time for a lunch break.


Table decorations in the cafe



To be continued…

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Going for Gold

On Thursday night our time, New Zealand won an Olympic gold medal in the rowing (men’s double sculls event).

Then on Friday night another in the men’s pairs, and a third gold in the men’s single sculls.

The two teams had totally different tactics – the first came from behind, the second led from the front for almost the entire race.

When the first team were about halfway through the race and sitting in 5th place of six, I resigned myself to the thought they weren’t going to get anywhere and nearly stopped watching, but John said “don’t give up on them yet!” He knew of the tactics they usually employed in a race. I could hardly believe my eyes when in the last 500m or so they moved up from 5th, to 3rd (bronze position), then 2nd (silver), then they were taking on the leader and passed them to win the gold medal.

There is a lesson in this – don’t give up. It isn’t over until it’s over!

The playing of the NZ national anthem at the medal ceremony on Thursday night was quite an emotional moment for us. I wondered if a single gold medal means as much to those big countries like the USA and China, who win multiple medals of every colour at an Olympic games.

Feeling very proud to be a Kiwi today, and inspired by the athletes’ commitment to do their utmost and not give up, even when it looks as though the odds are stacked against them. It seems it’s all about belief in yourself and your ability to push through the barriers and achieve something very special.

Golden Daffodils – in honour of our athletes