Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happy Easter!

One of the benefits of the kiwi school year is the recurring 2 week break between terms (quarters). It means our summer vacation is only 6 weeks, but it sure is delightful right now to have the time off!  Below are pictures from our Easter travels... we headed to North for some warm weather, all the way to the northern most cape, Cape Reinga.  

As we reflected on God's gift of salvation over the holidays, we were also awestruck once again with his creativity via creation!  Hopefully these pictures give you a glimpse of the beauty of Aeoretea (Maori for Island of the long white cloud)!

One of many pristine, secluded beaches up north!

Most of the North Island of New Zealand has been cleared for farmland; rare pockets of protected land yield unbelievably lush subtropical forests! 

Many of the communities of the far North are on islands or peninsulas best accessed by boats via water.   We've just hopped off the ferry here, ready to explore the community of Russell.  Historically, this community has seen a lot of tension between Maori and colonizing Europeans.  The flagpole (symbol of British dominance) was cut down 5 times!  Not to mention hundreds on both sides slaughtered.  Why is it that this history seems to repeat itself no matter where we find ourselves overseas?

Here Carrie pauses to look around on a forest canopy walk outside Whangerai.  
(The Wh sound is pronounced like an "f" in Maori.)

Another glimpse of an island community.  (Reminds us a lot of coastal Alaska--including the rain!)

Thomas preparing our nightly lodging.  
Campgrounds abound in New Zealand and are much cheaper than hotels, motels, or renting camper vans!  Plus most of them have full kitchen and shower facilities. :)

One of the biggest threats to native species of birds and other wildlife is this possum imported from Australia.  The Department of Conservation is quite committed to erradicating this invasive species.  Possum traps are everywhere.  In Taupo, they even drop poisoned carrots from the sky to kill them!  The non-poisoned possums are used as food and for their fur. Popular tourist items include possum socks and underwear! :)

               A glass-bottomed boat near Goat Island--a great place to snorkel and see huge snapper!

Waterfall near Whangarei 
(the largest city north of Auckland.)  

Getting ready to snorkel  (brrr...)

Waitangi Flag Pole--commemorating the signing of the treaty between the Queen of England and Maori tribes.

A war-time waka (canoe) created from one of the giant kauri trees. Maori have several different forms of canoes & kayaks for various purposes. This particular one was built to celebrate the Maori contribution to the Treaty of Waitangi.

This is the stump from the kauri tree that the Waitangi Memorial canoe was built.

Thomas exploring a sea cave!

Off for another stroll through farmland!

These dunes almost reminded Carrie of the Gobi Desert.  They were quite impressive and even provided snow surfing rentals!

Not bad for autumn--eh matey?
 (yes, our friends do talk like that here!)

Okay, okay, so Carrie couldn't resist "posing" on the car at the beach. This is on a stretch of far north relatively solidly-packed coastline called 90 mile beach. 4 wheel drive vehicles can trek the whole way (tide-dependent). We didn't quite dare with our car... just did the first couple of kms.

Thomas doing a bit of 90 mile by foot.


The turn-around point of our journey:  Cape Reinga (northernmost tip of New Zealand.)  We did some day-hiking and swimming the area before turning around to head back toward home.  As we traveled homeward, we stopped often by fruit and veggie stands to load up on fall produce, primarily avocados, apples & tomatoes.  Our grapevine has so many grapes we've invested in canning jars and even made our own grape juice!

                                    Home sweet home!   
                          Thanks to flickr for the photo, it totally captures fall in Taupo!

Links to our facebook albums with more of our kiwi photos to be posted mid-January.  (We're having trouble getting stuff to load on the free wi-fi here in Australia... sorry!)