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Archive for March, 2013

So what IS art?

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Well Mum and Dad have been here for the best part of six weeks and a little over a week ago we all said our goodbyes at the airport and they headed back to their garden and cosy home in Norfolk.

But I’ve still got plenty of photos to share of the visit, so I’m going to pick up from just after the Northland trip when we returned from seeing the dolphins and the treaty grounds.

After the excitement of a boat trip and some nation forming history, my three day week work pattern meant I still had a Monday to do something with Mum and Dad whilst the girls all got back to their relative day time activities.

We settled on the art gallery as a good thing to pass the time and headed down to Devonport to get the ferry over and take a stroll up to the gallery.

We had barely stepped into the gallery before we engaged in one of the classic Fitzhugh debates of ‘Well what is art anyway?’  I think I may have been the instigator, but I can’t really remember.  I do know that I shared my opinion about the fact that I can look at a piece and form an opinion on it, that invariably has nothing in common with the little printed placard next to the piece.  That may have been the start.

Well I’m glad to say that they loved the metal band sculpture that moves constantly and occasionally goes ‘bonggggg’ as it occasionally hits the suspended wooden sphere above it.  We all mused over some pieces, walked past others and generally looked for things to impress us.  Probably the most interesting was a white box lined with mirrors, causing the classic infinite reflections of this sort.  An interesting side-effect of the rule preventing shoes from entering was that the box stunk of feet.

We followed the gallery with a trip to Raw Power, a great veggie cafe in Vulcan Lane.  We all had something with deep-fried tofu in it and it all fantastic   A couple of book shops later and we were ready for the ferry home.

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Waitangi Treaty Grounds

stevie 006

After dolphins came some history.  The past of this fantastic country is both fascinating and in some aspects controversial.  There is a place that is key to this history called Waitangi.  Today it hosts a visitors centre that explains the treaty that was signed by the crown and the chiefs of the gathered tribes in the 1840s.

We had a lovely stroll around grounds and collected answers to quiz sheets so we could win the girls a little prize.  In the ‘Treaty House’ (an old residence related to the history of the treaty) they have a room  full of period clothing for dressing up in!  You know the Fitzhughs can’t resist a dress-up… check out the pictures below.

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Another in the selection of Dad pulling daft faces from this visit

Another in the selection of Dad pulling daft faces from this visit

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Check out the bee that photo-bombed this one!

Check out the bee that photo-bombed this one!

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Thar be Dolphins!

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The best laid plans and all that… we decided that after doing some careful planning around a trip to the Coromandel that we would go somewhere else instead.  Nothing against the Coromandel, we absolutely love it.  However, when we mentioned the prospect of a boat trip in the Bay of Islands and that there was a chance to see dolphins, Mum’s reaction sealed the deal.

It was all a little less last minute (although still a bit last minute) and before long it was Friday and we were heading up to Paihia in the Bay of Islands.  The accommodation we found was such high quality.  If you need accommodation in Paihia I highly recommend it. Moana Seaview Cottages

Saturday was an early start for me – not sure why, just woke up early and decided to head out with the camera to try and catch some photos of the sunrise.  It was very pretty and nice to walk around before the crowds had emerged.  We booked an afternoon boat trip, so just wandered around the town in the morning, looking at nick-nacks and ornaments.

Eventually the boat trip came and we very excitedly bundled down to the wharf.  Our bright yellow and black vessel was shining in the hot sun and we were soon heading out to sea.

Despite looking quite flat it actually became a bit lumpy, especially when we were heading out of the protection of the harbour.  It was quite nice to see the route I swam back in November again and to be able to share it with the girls and Mum and Dad.

Soon we were at the Hole in the Rock and heading home.  Unfortunately the swell had got the better of Mum’s motion sickness and she was feeling a bit green.

Just as we were starting to think that we might not get the chance to see Dolphins on this trip we were delighted to get a call through on the radio that one of the other boats was with some dolphins and we made our way to them.

They are majestic creatures and we got a good chunk of time hanging around with about 4 or 5 of them.  The thing I fund amazing is that they mate 15 times a day!  for FUN!   Talk about having your life sorted.  They do tricks, surf all day, eat and root.  Someone explained their theory that Dolphins used to be humans but they evolved into a higher life form.

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The Hole in the Rock

The Hole in the Rock

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Flying fish!

Flying fish!

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Emily clearly hated the whole experince

Emily clearly hated the whole experince

The wind was so strong it was blowing the skin on dads face like in a wind tunnel

The wind was so strong it was blowing the skin on dads face like in a wind tunnel

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Captains Lucy and Emily

Captains Lucy and Emily

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stevie0712Day 2 of our Rotorua trip saw us diverging for the morning, with Generations X and Z taking to the water in a swim/kayak combo and Mum and Dad sticking to dry land to go for a stroll along the edge of Lake Okareka.

We launched the kayak into a safe swimming area and I slipped into my favourite rubber outfit to swim alongside all three girls as they paddled along the shore.

It’s always a lovely change to swim in freshwater because it tastes so much better than the sea!  We made our way slowly along sticking close to the shore as there were water ski boats in the middle of the lake.  All up I did just under 1.5km out and back in glorious sunshine and beautiful surroundings – there’s not much better.

After retrieving the kayak, Em and I mucked around on the platform a bit, then we headed back to the house.  Emily couldn’t get that little jetty out of her head and we didn’t know if we’d get another chance , so we diverted that way before going back for lunch.  See the sequences of pictures below of Emily lobbing herself off the jetty with great delight.

The afternoon was a trip around The Buried Village – a fascinating if slightly uncoordinated place.  The story is fascinating and very sobering for ones such as ourselves who live on a volcanic field – the splitting open of an 8km long mountain and subsequent devastation of the surrounding area.  The exhibits are a mixture, but special mention need to go to the excavated huts, showing how deep the ash fell and a row of trees that grew from fence posts set in the ground!  Sadly they got too large so now it’s a row of tree stumps but the effect is still there.  There is also a rather nice little waterfall.

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Welcome to Sunday morning at Lake Okareka!

Welcome to Sunday morning at Lake Okareka!

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Despite driving fast he couldn't shake his tail

Despite driving fast he couldn’t shake his tail

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Thermal Wonderland

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We woke on Saturday morning to stunning weather and headed out to catch the geyser at Wai-o-tapu and then walk around the thermal park looking at all the steaming holes and bubbling pools.

We got there in plenty of time to take our seats in front of the geyser.  This was the third time that I’ve seen this thing go off.  There is a bit of a spoiler here if you haven’t seen it before….

Last time we watched this go off it was the same routine.  Leading up to it a guy chats a bit and tells you about the history of the geyser and then sets it off by tipping a small bag of surfactant (basically soap) into it.

Now apparently because we’ve had absolutely sod all rain recently – I mean really none, all the grass is brown everywhere – the water levels in the geyser are really low.  So rather than blowing into the air 20 meters and running for about 15 minutes, it  gave a rather modest little cough, spurted about 10 meters and ran out about two minutes later…

Apparently the americans behind us thought this was all the evidence that they needed to prove that ‘Yellowstone is much better’.

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Third shot like this taken at this spot

Third shot like this taken at this spot

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The mud duck!

The mud duck!

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Rotorua!

stevie0712

Well how did that happen… suddenly we are four weeks into the visit and I’ve only managed one blog post.  Maybe it’s because I know Mum has been blogging much more frequently.  Or maybe it’s because I’m so anal about editing my photos and getting them ready for display on here.  Whatever the reason this post is here now and it’s all about that amazing place Rotorua!

This had always been on the cards since day one because we knew that Mum and Dad would be fascinated by the amazing steaminess and general bubbliness of the mud.

After getting quotes for hire cars and finding them to be enourmously expensive since the last time we were involved in hiring anything (2 years ago) we put a few feelers out and some amazing friends were willing to let us borrow their second car for a few weeks.  They know who they are and they are amazing.  We love them to bits.  It had just been put back on the road so we were just waiting for the road tax to arrive so we could head off down country.

As our departure date approached the tax hadn’t arrived so I started ringing round hire companies… no vehicles at all!  So I rang our usual accomodation in Rotorua… no room at the camp ground.  It looked like the gods were not smiling on us.

Undeterred I woke early on the Friday we were planning to depart and started ringing around.  After several dead ends I found a car!  Straight away I got on to Bachcare and booked a bach we’d seen the night before and within 30 minutes everything was confirmed and we were on!

Once we’d picked up the car it was apparent that the reason no-one else had hired it was that it was a complete heap of shit.  Still, it was cheap at least.

We headed off and after a couple of hours, having reached Tirau (see pictures of giant corrugated iron dog and sheep below) it was clear that I’d broken Dad.  He looked droopy like a sad piece of lettuce, so I grabbed the keys fed him ice cream and we cracked on.

The Bach we were staying at was next to Lake Okareka

which is 10 minutes out of Rotorua on the road to the Blue and Green lakes.

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The views from the deck were stunning and the lake was beautiful.

 

We left Mum and Dad to settle in to watch the sunset, relax and get ready for our day at Wai-o-tapu Thermal park the next day, whilst we went to explore the lake front.

We found a lovely little jetty in a safe swimming area and a family jumping into the water.  Emily wanted to get in but we’d not got togs, so we promised her we would return.

Woof

Woof

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Giant Dog licks mum

Giant Dog licks mum

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Great use for a public electricity pole... beans!

Great use for a public electricity pole… beans!

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Little jetty that Emily wants to lob herself off of

Little jetty that Emily wants to lob herself off of

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Throwing rocks like a ballet dancer

Throwing rocks like a ballet dancer

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