All change!

July 5, 2015

Thursday was the end of another chapter.  I start a new job in two weeks time.  Not as a teacher of children but as a facilitator for a company called Core Education. I will be part of a team advising and supporting schools as they integrate technology into their learning programmes. This sort of work has been a large part of what I have been doing over the last 7 years anyway but it is a big step to take and I feel just a bit weird!
Anyway, more of that in a later post. For now I am in Spain; long complicated back story but basically I was lucky enough to win a scholarship provided by the University of Auckland and the Spanish Embassy to come to Salamanca University to study Spanish for two weeks.  I am going to make the most of it because for the first time in my life I will not have 11 weeks holiday a year to play with! So the next few posts will be ramblings from Spain.
Viernes el 3 de julio
I promised myself a trip to the mountains out of Madrid and a visit to Manzanares. So up reasonably early to catch train at Atocha at 9.00am. Just as well I gave myself plenty of time because the station was heaving and I had to queue for half an hour for ticket. Then found that train was at 9.30 ! Next: breakfast. l had an Oferta de Manana- coffee, orange juice and croissant for 3€ standing up at bar “a la Espanol” Confusion abounded then as I searched for my way into the platforms- 3 different sets of platforms at Atocha: Local, regional, national! More confusion once I found the right one as hordes of people are milling around at the top of the stairs going down to the platforms.  It seems we are in some sort of holding area waiting for the lady who spends more time on her phone or greeting long lost friends than doing her job.  “Espera,  espera!” she repeats to everyone who tries to ask for help.  
Finally, I am on the train; the uninspiring industrial and commercial buildings typical of the outskirts of any big city have given way to dry, undulating, yellow fields of olive trees to my left, green fields to my right with low hills in the middle distance. Every now and then clusters of red roofed, pale terracotta houses seem to be evidence of the creeping urban sprawl of Madrid linked by the main road that runs alongside us. The embankment wall is scrawled with grafitti mainly of the bored youth variety but occasionally a political slogan or two.
First stop Aranjuez, I have no idea how many stops before Manzanares but it will take 2 hours so I have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. This is a “go with the flow ‘ day. Apart from reading a few sentences that said Manzanares was an interesting place to visit and the fact that you can walk in the forest and hills around, l know nothing! I have 8 hours to explore! Hoping it’s not going to be too hot! But I have my hat and my “abanico ” , a bottIe or two of water and my adventuring head on! Here goes!
Stop 2: Villasequilla
Sun parched fields, olive groves, dry baked earth – yellow but tinged red, unclouded blue sky and the heat shimmering on the horizon. Looking out from an air-conditioned train, it looks pleasant but I know what heat is going to hit me once I step out!
White windmills with red roofs and big sails, the old-fashioned type, sit on the hills just above a village. T o my left, along the whole length of the ridge, the tall, elegant modern day sort stand resplendent, their three sails turning, turning, turning.

Stop 3: Villacanas.
A small, industrial town- I say industrial became it looks like there is a factory, a chimney, warehouses and water towers, but it is surrounded by fields – a splash of a different colour in the centre of the flat lands of yellow.  It seems amazing that the newly planted olive trees (l presume that’s what they are but will confirm later ) could survive the harsh sun.
Stop 4: Quero.
Storks perched precariously on abandoned buildings. More grafitti daubed walls.  A nothing place!
Stop 5: Alcazar de san Juan
Alcazar means castle or fort but this looks industrial.  I wonder what the town and its people are really like?  Here i am making judgements from the glimpses I have as the train enters and leaves the station. A corridor view, blinkered by the constraints of what I can see from my seat.  Grafitti decorates the walls, bright, artistic, expressions of youths’ boredom, frustration or just a need to make your mark.  After all people have been doing it for centuries! It is more than a blip on the landscape. An old steam train is parked to the right, not haphazardly and I wonder what it’s used for.  Large white tanks and the tell-tale factory zig-zag roof profile help to strengthen my thoughts about this being an industrial hub.
I think my stop is next!! But still 20 mins to go. Little white buildings with red tiled roofs at the corner of each planted field . Not sure what the little trees / bushes) seedlings are – olives? It’s still very flat – where are the hills? Starting  to see vague outlines in the distances, smokey brown shapes through the heat haze.

Phones ringing,”Dime, dime!” conversations going on with invisible people ! Even stranger when folks don’t have a phone but just ear pieces as they seem to be talking to themselves!

Final stop: Manzanares
So….. wrong Manzanares! l sort of knew that the place I wanted was called Manzanares el Real, But when I asked at the railway station for a ticket to Manzanares I didn’t know there was another town called “Manzanares “and they didn’t ask which Manzanares I wanted !! So, no walking in the mountains! But l am exploring this little town, not entirely sure how to fill the time until 7 pm when my train leaves as there are only so many churches & museums to shelter from the sun in. The gems in this place this morning though have been the Museo Manuel Pino And the Museo de Queso Manchego. 5€ well spent.  Manuel Pino was Spain’s leading fashion designer in the 80’s and 90’s. He designed clothes for Almodovar’s characters and was highly influential in the fashion world. He took his inspiration from the women of the region, the colours of the land and the climate. The museum is small, Pino died at the age of 53 fm AIDS, but it is delightful. Housed in the cellar of a old house, the mannequins stand in the vaulted brick arches, artistically lit and not so many that you are overwhelmed.  I love the quote from him that translates as “A man’s shadow is sometimes more human and more real than the man himself”.
Next up the cheese museum. This gave me a greater understanding of the land I travelled through on the train. It is a great little museum –  I thought the child friendly synopses of the extended written explanations were brilliant idea. They certainly helped me! The cheese tasting at the end ( with wine) topped the visit off.
Less impressive is the Castillo; it has been recently renovated and looks a bit like a mock castle now -walls too straight, the bricks/ stones too regular. l didn’t go in , not even sure you can. I am currently sitting in la Plaza de la Constitucion opposite a beautiful XVI century church which goes by the rather long name of la Iglesia Parroquial de la Asuncion de Nuestra Senora, drinking beer and eating enough for two! A huge plate of jamon iberico and an ensalada mixta – wondering if l can get a doggy bag. On the other hand I have all day so might as well order another beer!
Interestingly though, talking about regular bricks. it does seem that the natural building material here is clay bricks. They are a beautiful, warm pinkish red colour. Many of the older buildings have them whereas more modern constructs are concrete with a painted plaster covering.
It is getting hotter and I am struggling. I think the travel days have caught up with me. I decide to head to the station to see if o can get an earlier train.  Manzanares is a ghost town.  I have arrived on day 2 of the annual fiesta. Shops that normally close at 2 pm and reopen at 4pm will not open un til 6 pm. The population is holed up preparing to party tonight.
One more place to visit though,  since I am here.  The Parque de Poligono de Manzanares.  A bit tacky but I am too hot really to appreciate anything right now. Normally I would delight in the peacocks strutting around – well to be honest they’re not strutting, I think they’re too hot as well!  The feature of this park are the planets all laid out in order from the Sun to Pluto.  On a scale of 1/166.500 the sun has a diameter of 8.4m and the Earth 7.7cm.  It is quite fascinating but not in 38 degrees after travelling halfway round the world.
Off to the station, surely I’ll be able to change my ticket? Long story short, I couldn’t.  The guard must be having a really bad day – I’m trying to be charitable here… the train is practically empty, it is due to stop in only three places on the way,  he won’t let me on. I have to wait another two hours.  As he closes the doors on me, I plead with him.  Frustration wins and I hurl English abuse at an unhearing man and a disappearing train.  As the concerned couple in the station say when I explain what has happened, I should have just got on rather than being honest and asking.
Self pity is bearing down,  and I almost let it engulf me. I indulge in a few tears and then remember the bus station.  Maybe there is a bus!? Loathe to spend more money.  Maybe I can find a bar to sit in the cool until the train?  A walk back down the street answers that question – Manzanares is still shut!
Bus station,  bus in 10 minutes, yayy! I buy a ticket and head to the bar – yes the bus station has a bar – and get a beer. Standing at the counter I almost knock it back in a oner! So thirsty despite drinking loads of water. 
Fell asleep in the bus about 10 minutes out of town,  wake up as bus pulls into Madrid!  Day done!  It was an adventure.


100km and still walking – just! Oxfam Trailwalk 2015

April 4, 2015
Four female walkers at the start of the Oxfam Trailwalk event.  It is dark as it is early in the morning.

Counting down to the start – a hurried photo!

I did it!  WE did it! The much blogged about Oxfamtrailwalk NZ 2015 is done and dusted bar the sore feet and blisters. It was not uneventful – nervousness, excitement, pain, tears, frustration, disappointment, disaster, elation, adrenalin, determination – just to name but a few of the emotions we felt as we journeyed from Whangamata Road Landing strip to Taupo Domain.

Our first tears and frustration came when we got lost on the way to the event!  Then the adrenalin rush as the countdown was on and we were still in the loo; 7 we ran out, 6 still re-arranging our knickers, 5 held hands and 4, 3, 2 wove through the throng  and 1, we were officially off.  We picked our way in the half light of a chilly March morning over the uneven ground, passing teams on our way, “Skirts coming through!” “Mad women, on their way!” shrieking and laughing in near hysteria that we had actually made it!  As we reached the mountain bike track and the path narrowed, going was a little slower but the passing protocol was cheerfully adhered to.  “Passing on your right!”  “You go girls”, “Good luck”, “Have a great day” “Love your skirts, so cute!” (from the chicks) “Nice skirts, girls” (from the guys – with a look and a tone that went with it!) “What’s your team name?” “Cool, nice one. Catch you later!”

As the field thinned out we found ourselves amongst teams going a similar speed to us and started playing team tag.  We were feeling great.  My quads were screaming as we pretty much ran the first leg but it trended downhill and we knew that we wanted to get a good start and make the most of the Grade 2 legs early on to have some time in the bag for the harder legs to come.

The sun had come up and it was going to be a beautiful day;  the promised rain didn’t come until the next day and boy, were we thankful for that!  Then, CRASH!  Jo went down like the proverbial! She was behind me as we ran and picked our way over the roots on the baked sandy path and tripped and fell headlong.  It didn’t look good; she was twisted on her back holding her neck.  But, no, all good, she turned over, dusted herself down gave herself a shake and took off. Adrenalin was clearly pumping as we could hardly keep up!

We met our support team at Kinloch, 22km in.  A quick massage, some blister care for Debbie, take on some food – peanut butter and honey sarnies for me – some electrolytes and we were on our way again.  The 16km on the mountain bike track over to Whakaipo Bay winds its way over the headland and down again in the bush.  We ran and walked in equal measure staying cool in the trees despite the sun getting ever hotter.  Glimpses of a glassy Lake Taupo’s deep blue waters at high points reminded us that there was a world outside our challenge!  Our support crew were a welcome sight in Whakaipo Bay but just a quick refuel and then we were off again.

4 female walkers at the highest point of the Oxfam Trailwalk. Clouds in a sunny sky.

At the trig point Leg 4

Over the hills and far away.  Less running now, uneven ground, across fields, uphill to the trig point, downhill on the Scoria Road, through the quarry and into Taupo.  It was more of a battle but we had passed some milestones; a quarter of the way, a third of the way and now the halfway point had been reached.  Jo was really starting to struggle though.  She hadn’t mentioned it at the time but admitted during Leg 4 that she had been very woozy during Leg 3 following her fall.  Her knees were sore and she took to her walking poles for Leg 5 (so did I as my quads were complaining!).  Leg 5 took us along the river to Huka Falls and a checkpoint with no support crew.  Jo was finding it hard going, her knee was hardly bending and every downhill stretch was painful for her. We were worried. Camaraderie from other teams kept us going.  The support out there was fantastic.

4 female walkers walking along a gravel road. cloudy sky

Half way point on Scoria Road

As we ventured into the pine forest that would lead us to the Wairake Resort and Checkpoint 6 there was an eerie silence.  The ground of dead pine needles was soft underfoot and our feet made no sound as we marched across it.  The trees towered tall and sombre above and around us as the sky between grew dark.  No birds sang and we could neither see nor hear any other teams.  The path took us up and down, looping through and back on ourselves and seemed to go on for ever.  We grew weary of the silence, of the darkness and we were increasingly worried about Jo. Eventually she stopped.  Nauseous, sleepy, in pain but still determined to keep going.  Frustrated, disappointed.  We had to make a call.

We waited as night fell in forest.  Jo wrapped in warm clothes and survival blankets, drifting in an out of half consciousness as I kept her talking, Debbie and the other Jo directing teams around our friend as they caught us up and went past.  We were getting cold too and still rescue didn’t come.  Conflicting emotions; on the one hand real worry about our friend and the time it was taking to get help to her, on the other frustration at the time we were losing.  It isn’t easy to face up to those selfish thoughts but we had worked so hard and we had done so well so far and were easily on time for our sub 18 hour target.

An hour later, after several phone calls with Oxfam Support, Civil Defence and our support crew and still no sign of rescue, Jo’s husband arrived.  We left them in sombre mood, cold, damp and hungry, picked ourselves up and jogged in the darkness to Checkpoint 6.  Hot food, more fluids and a bit of a pep talk to get our heads back into a good space.  Up until now we had sung our way into every checkpoint.  Our skirts and our song were becoming a feature!  Not this time, we were just too flat.  Fleeting thoughts of packing it all in came and went.  Jo would have been mad as hell if we didn’t continue.  So we forgot the 69km we had already done.  This was a 30km walk.  We’d done plenty of those in training.  Get up and get out there!

The 18km of Leg 7 was interminable.  Darkness and not actually knowing where the hell we were made the kilometres pass by very slowly.  We prayed that we had missed a km marker or two and that the next one would say we were a couple of kms further on.  But no.  We felt like we were making a good pace and we were passing the teams that had passed us in the forest but those kms didn’t seem to be going down and we seemed to be going round in circles.  And don’t mention the swede fields!

We sang our way into Checkpoint 7, loud and heartily.

“We are the Pat and Posties Team.

We are strong and we are mean.

Walking the trail in our little skirts.

‘Cos we know the hundy hurts!”

(US Army marching style, me leading the others repeating!)

Nearly there.  I, for one, was tearful.  We had had to dig deep for that leg.  Last refuelling – my boys had made me a hot cup of coffee – never has a coffee tasted so good!

Final leg. 12.3km.  Grade: Easy.  There is nothing easy about a final leg of a 100km walk!  Once again we were directed across fields, stumbling in the dark on uneven, wet grass searching for the glowsticks that were like candles in tin cans that marked the way.  It was heartening to have other teams to walk with at times and we provided mutual support in the darkness of the night. The lake front was a welcome sight – 4km to go – and there was Jo in the car with Doug!  So happy that she was ok.  What an adrenaline rush – come on, we can do it girls!  Our support crew had organised a staged re-entry for us! Paul and Aonghas along the lake front (and the runaway campervan!) spurred us on to go up a gear,  Lachlan met us as we rounded the corner for the last set of steps (cruel, cruel trick!) and the rest of the team were reassembled as we came into the finishing chute.  “We are the Pat and Posties team…..”  Once more as loud as we could!

A bitter sweet ending.  So glad that we finished.  So sad that we didn’t all make it all together.

Thank you “Pat and the Posties”; Postmaster General; Debbie, Courrier Post; Jo M, Fast Post; Jo P, Digi Post; Anne

And a huge shout out to the support crew of Lachlan, Aonghas, Rob, Doug and Paul.  We couldn’t have done it without you!


2014 A review.

December 31, 2014

We haven’t been very active on this site this year. Could give lots of excuses but really we’ve been a bit lazy and also a lot busy!  We also saw a lot of people gave to face when we came over to the UK in May which was great.  Rather a whirlwind trip but fantastic to catch up with you all.

I wrote about “crossing the bridge” earlier in the year when Aonghas went for 5 weeks to Great Barrier Island.  As the boys have reached the age where they are quite independent we are at a sort of hiatus in our lives.  Lachlan moved out in January and has been living with four friends from school. He is currently reviewing his living arrangements but it is unlikely he will come back home for long now he has had a taste of freedom and independent living. He has been working in an outdoor shop and now a bike shop over ther last year after returning from Canada so is financially independent too.  The harsh realities of working five long days a week (often at weekends when his friends are free) and earning not a lot have hit hard.  He now understands that the world is an unfair place; whilst he is working full time his friends, who are students or unemployed, are footloose and fancy free and playing footie! He has worked every day over the Christmas period with only the odd day off so has not had a summer holiday. In fact, he hasn´t had a holiday since this time last year!  However, he has bought himself a car and is now thinking about studying next year.  He has grown into a fine young man and towers over me at over 6ft tall!  Very proud Mum!

Aonghas is growing up fast too.  No longer my baby, he has not quite reached me in terms of height but measures himself against me every week – nearly there!  He loves his sport and computer games and hates studying!  There will be ongoing battles this year as he studies for his NCEA Level 1 Exams.  He represented Waikato at hockey again this year and plays both football and hockey at school.

Nigel continues his work at the University of Waikato as leader of the Waikato Centre for ELearning and I am still at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls now teaching Spanish rather than French and organising Outdoor Camps.  We are busier than we would like as we both added study of some sort to our jobs this year as well.  Nigel has been taking some Uni papers and I was awarded an eFellowship with Core Education this year.  I think our New Year’s Resolution will have to be to give ourselves more time together in 2015 to go away at weekends.

This Christmas we are all apart as I am currently in Costa Rica on a World Challenge expedition with eleven girls from school.  Nigel and Gus, after spending Christmas Day with Lachlan, are in South Island exploring the west coast.  We will all be together again on the 10th January.  Looking forward to it although I am having a fantastic time here in CR.

Once I am back I will try to put together a few photos of our year and post them.  Bye for now!  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


A Tale of Great Barrier Island by Gus

July 27, 2014

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For five weeks in June and July 2014 I went with 29 other boys and two teachers from school to Great Barrier Island  in the Hauraki Gulf.  We were there to learn some new skills, have fun, learn about the community who live there and be challenged.

I flew on to Great Barrier Island (GBI) on a tiny little plane, it looked and felt dodgy.  It was a noisy plane so we got given ear muffs.  Mr Hall,  Aaron and I landed at GBI “international” airport, and drove about 1h to Orama.  We arrived at night and put our bags in cabins and went to tea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went on two long uphill walks on Saturday and Sunday with just the teachers because the OPC staff were having a break from the girls trip.  Coopers Castle was a long, very steep walk with great views at the top.  We had to keep away from the edge because there was a big cliff with a huge drop but there was a great view over Okiwi.  It was hard to walk up because it was so steep and we had to scramble parts of it.  On Monday we had the power and water tour and it showed us that Orama gets their water from a stream and power from a generator because they don’t have mains electricity.

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Next Monday we went on our first expedition.  My group walked one and a half hours to a bay.  We found a big dead  mako shark on the beach. and mussel barrels that we kept throwing into the sea and they would float back into shore. We descoverd some good climbing rocks that we scrambled on. We also found some kina it looked like a hard spiky ball but you open it with 2 spoons and there is a mussle like fish inside which Teina ate. Mitchell also caught a rat with his bare hands and strangled it to death.

When we got back to Orama it started raining that night. It got really windy and rainy on Wednesday.  We practised how to belay then went white water rafting (aka brown water floating) down the so-called stream that became a river.  It wasn’t very fun and we got  cold,  wet and numb and then we had to carry the kayaks back to the trailer .

On Wednesday night at 11:59 pm we were awoken from our sleep and were evacuated to the Orama lounge because there was a big storm.  We had to get dressed quickly – luckily I had my waterproof trousers so I pulled them on over my fat pants, grabbed my sleeping bag and rain jacket and followed the adult with the torch – we had no idea where we were going because it was dark and wild.  It was tipping it down with rain, my cabin was shaking in the wind. it was kind of scary but not really, it was more exciting than scary.  In the morning  there was mud everywhere, tractors,  trees and a generator were washed out to sea.  We sat in Orama lounge all day because it was too dangerous to go outside because of all the debris around.teenage boys holding mops as if they were soldiers

The next day we helped Orama clean up. My group had the hardest task of cleaning the classroom and gym, which had knee deep mud and took 3 days to get out of the classroom. Then we ripped up the carpet and cleaned the walls. The tables and the couches had been washed from the classroom through the gym and into the foyer on the other side of the gym. I found my student book outside with mud all through it and soaking wet.

great barrier clean up

My group spent 4 days shoveling mud while group 3 went to Glenfern and got on TV, but luckily TV3  came to Orama for a little bit and we were on TV too. Glenfern is an island wildlife sanctuary that Scott and Emma look after, they are trying to regenerate the native populations of NZ  birds and skinks.  I found a Chevron Skink buried in the mud at Glenfern; they are very rare and so it was quite exciting finding one. 10502489_242198045974132_7513004355070039754_n

Shoveling mud was boring but seeing what we accomplished felt great. Orama lounge became our new hang out space which was way cooler than the old classroom. Unfortunately, there wasn’t another gym that we could use.

Sea kayaking was the most challenging activity and I didn’t really like it because we got wet and cold.  The day we did it, it was really windy, there were salty big waves and a big swell.  We had to turn back because it was too rough – the waves were 3m high they had big white caps and the wind was 50 knots gusting to 65 knots.

I loved coasteering, it was so much fun and I want to do it again.  It was epic getting pulled in and pushed out in the swell.  I jumped in off some rocks that were 9m high.  I did a swan dive off a 4m high rock – I was a bit sore after the swan dive but it was great fun.

10336627_236232233237380_5175793285606235730_nMy favourite was surf kayaking and I really want to do it again.  It was brilliant  catching the waves and getting tipped!  I got quite good at it and I came 3rd in competition but I got the highest score  of 7.5.  We had to different heats and do tricks but it was timed and I lost in the semi-final.

Sailing was fun but scary because we were in the middle of the ocean with big waves and it felt like we were going to flip.  I didn’t want to be the first to capsize but once we did, we realised that it was quite good fun and we did it lots!  The thing is once you flip you aren’t supposed to stay in the boat or the boat ends up completely upside down.  But my partner stayed in the boat and it completely tipped it so then we had to stand on top of the upside down boat to try to get it back the right way up!  It was hard but we did it.


Crossing the Bridge

June 22, 2014

Celia Lashlie, in her book “He’ll be Okay: growing gorgeous boys into good men” talks about “crossing the bridge of adolescence” and the need for boys to have the opportunity to have positive male role models and take steps away from the protective arms of their mothers.  To have a place that allows them to take some risks, to challenge themselves, learn what they can do, find out about the impact of their actions on others and learn to make good choices.

At the moment Gus is away on Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf.  He is halfway through a five week stay there as part of his Year 10 Curriculum at Hillcrest High School.  They have no technology except on Sundays, they are sharing accommodation with other boys, cooking their own meals, doing their own washing and learning to fend for themselves under the watchful eyes of two teachers and the OPC staff.

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As well as all that they have their lessons in classrooms but, more importantly, outside the classroom.  Learning as they play and work.  Learning as they kayak, tramp, coasteer, skipper boats, fish, swim.  Learning as they help in the community, visit local residents, talk to them and observe their way of life.

We are kept in touch with what they do through the FaceBook page where the teachers add photos and comments about what the boys are up to and we get a weekly, very crackly, phone call home.

However, this trip the boys have been hit with rather more than they bargained for!  Ten days into their trip high winds and lashing rain wrought havoc across New Zealand but was especially severe in the Hauraki Gulf.  ImageThe stream that had been a trickle became a raging torrent, sweeping mud and debris through the camp, into the classrooms and bringing down walkways and footbridges.  Fortunately they were all safe but were without power, clean water, or sanitation.  We received an email warning us that the boys may need to be sent home but in the end, the situation was assessed and it was decided that it was safe to keep them on the island and put them to work helping out with the cleaning up process.  What a fantastic learning opportunity for them!  Judging by the photographs and the news report, they have rebuilt paths, cleaned up buildings, helped local residents, moved debris and dug out water channels.

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The weather for the clean up appears to have been good and the photos show the boys enjoying sunshine and clear skies.  They have also still managed to go out on expeditions and have some fun.  We parents are all proud of our boys for the work they have been doing and food parcels have been winging their way to GBI at a great rate of knots if the man in the post office is to be believed.

teenage boys holding mops as if they were soldiers

I think our boy will come home having well and truly taken his first steps across that bridge.  He had mixed emotions about going away for five weeks – excitement mingled in probably equal measure with apprehension.  But I guess that is how it should be at the age of fourteen.  We have missed him and will be happy when he is home, but we have enjoyed scanning the photos on Facebook for glimpses of him (he has a habit of hiding!) and reading the updates from the teachers, hearing his voice in the crackly phone calls and knowing that he is having fun, he is learning and he is growing.

See you soon Big Gus!


A flying visit

May 6, 2014

I am fighting the lethargy and fatigue of jetlag.  It is inevitable that I will fall asleep if I stop moving.  However, it is too early to go to bed or I will wake at some unearthly hour and not be able to regain the deliciousness of slumber…  So, I have decided to ramble about our whistle stop tour of the UK that is the cause (partly) of my state of exhaustedness!

Eighteen days is not enough. Never again will I attempt to fit a trip to the homeland in such a short length of time.  I should have learned from last year’s trip to Spain.  But I thought that the fact that I was studying, immersed in a foreign language was the main cause for my exhaustion then.  Wrong!  It is a causal factor, but the main reason is that two weeks is simply not enough time to travel across the time zones, regulate a body clock, visit as many people and places as possible and then fly back across the time zones and actually feel human. Add to that a twelve week term, with two camps and a full term of teaching and organising Teacher Professional Development…

Nevertheless, I am glad I went.  It was wonderful to see my beautiful sisters, my nieces, nephews, great nieces and lots of dear friends.  Some things and people never change – how refreshing!  Isn’t it amazing how we slip so easily back into friendships as if we had never been away?  We lament that we don’t keep in touch often enough, our lives are so busy, we have so much to do, the immediacy of our lives and the issues connected with them impede maintaining contact with those far away.  But once together, it is as if we had never been apart.  Yes, water has flowed beneath the bridge, but we are the same people with the same interests that bound us and bind us still.  We say that we will write more often, speak more often.  But we won’t.  The reality is that we know each other, we know that our friendships run deep and we will maintain contact ephemerally if not tangibly.  We will pick up where we left off the next time we meet.

So where did we get to?  Our whistle stop tour took us to Olonzac in France, Ingleton & Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria, Harrogate in  North Yorkshire, Leeds in West Yorshire, Stanley in Newcastle, the Northumberland coast, and Edinburgh, Scotland.  How many people did we meet up with us? 41.

It was a trip full of nostalgia – visiting old haunts – fleetingly.  And a reminder of how bloody cold it is in Spring in the UK!  We really have acclimatised to NZ weather!

No more writing… here are some images to reflect ouir time away, the people we met and the things we saw.


The “Top of the North”: Sand and sea

January 19, 2014

90 Mile Beach has also been on our “to do” list for a while but we started off at Bayly’s Beach just because we ran out of time travelling north.  Bayly’s Beach is on Ripiro Beach which is another driveable beach over 100km long.  We took the “5 minute” walk from the campsite down a steep hill and arrived on the beach just as the sun was going down.  It is a beautiful spot, several photographers were set up with tripods so it is clearly a well known place for a sunset.  The 4WDs making circles on the beach were a little alarming but they quickly raced away into the distance. 

Wide, sandy beach.  Tide going out has left wet sand in which the setting sun is reflected, Clouds in teh sky are also reflected in the wet sand.

 

 

The quick way north is to get the car ferry from Rawene which is an interesting place.  Once a thriving little port with some historic buildings, most notably the courthouse and gaol and a great little cafe on stilts in the harbour “The Boatshed Cafe”.  Nowadays, it seems to survive on the basis that the car ferry transports tourists and locals across the harbour, so avoiding a long drive around windy roads. On the way we stopped at Koutu in Hokianga Harbour to look at the boulders.  We spent a good hour wandering up the beach climbing on the strange spherical boulders that look like giants have abandoned their huge bowling balls right in the middle of a game!  It looked like the best ones were further along but we didn’t have time to linger – if we had realised how extensive they were we would have made more time, but we have made a mental note and will return!

Large spherical boulder ion a sandy beach.  Mountains in the background, clear, blue sky.

Our next beach stop was Rarawa Beach.  What an awesome place!  We could just as easily have gone to Henderson’s Beach but missed the turn off!  The sand was so white… and squeaky!  Silica sand, really fine and the blue sky made it like a tropical beach.  Aonghas and I had great fun in the waves while Nigel watched camera in hand.  There is a lot of work going on to regenerate the sand dunes as there is all over New Zealand.  The plants vital to stabilising the dunes are being re-introduced and visitors are discouraged from walking across the delicate dune environment.  Last year, my Year 12 students helped out with some planting and maintenance of a regeneration project in Raglan.  We were amazed at the photographs of the area just 50 years ago when extensive dunes were in evidence.  Some of the erosion is natural as high tides wash the sand away and deposit it in other areas, but the activities of tourists and building developers contributes significantly too. 

White, sandy beach. Clear blue sky.

 

After our play in the waves we went for a walk along the beach to the rocks where we fossicked in rockpools.  Lots of crabs scuttled away as we approached; we also saw small fish, deep red sea anemones and a small octopus hiding in a crevice.  Just its eyes were visible and the regular sweep of a tentacle as prey swept past in the waves.  The rocks were unforgiving on bare feet as they were covered in barnacles but the pools were just too enticing to ignore!  The tide was coming in  so we had to be careful not to get cut off and we ended up diving into the ocean again to cool off and play in the breakers.  As the waves rolled in we saw shoals of fish seemingly trapped in them.  Where do they go to when the waves break?  We also felt little lumps in the water and soon realised that they were bits of jellyfish!  The people in the water with us said that they had seen them at 90 Mile Beach before but didn’t think they were dangerous.  We certainly suffered no ill effects but made sure that we showered well on return to the campsite. 

Boy jumping in the waves.  Clear blue sky. Beautiful summer day.

 

We visited 90 Mile Beach on a day when the wind was blowing hard off the Tasman Sea.  Apart from the tourist buses and some other families braving the chilly gusts the beach was deserted.  It only served to illustrate just how vast this place is.  Blown up sand on the horizon as far as you can see north and south and the Tasman Sea stretching out to infinity to the west.  We wandered to the water’s edge to dip our toes – as you have to – and when our attention lapsed were swamped by rogue waves that threatened to reach our thighs!  It is a wild and beautiful place and I was sorry that we did not have time to go back again on a different day.  It was also strange to see buses going up and down with the Tasman in the background.  We decided that it would be foolish to attempt to get our car onto the sand despite the fact that it is a public highway; the sand at the entrance to the beach was soft and we watched the buses taking a long run up to get off the beach! 

Tour bus travelling alon 90 Mile Beach with the Tasman Sea in the background

Image

Heading further north next ….


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