A Travellerspoint blog

We Almost Broke New Zealand

by: Ryan

Most of the posts to this blog focus on the fun and exciting adventures we have experienced while on our trip. But, for this post, I thought it might be nice to describe the path of destruction we seem to have inadvertently brought to New Zealand.

As you have read in previous posts, we started our trip by visiting the wonderful little town of Mount Manganui. After we left that town we traveled to the Coromandel Peninsula and spent two nights there. Luckily I have gotten into the habit of turning on the news every morning, because on the morning of September 30th we found a tsunami warning had been issued. On the news they said a tsunami had struck Samoa and was heading our way. Our plan was to drive further up the coast, but armed with this new information we decided to change our plans and head inland to Rotorua.

We spent three adventure filled days in Rotorua and then headed to Napier. The route we took, went through Taupo and then on to Napier. The weather along the way was very rainy, even mixed with snow at times. We arrived in Napier in the early afternoon. That night we were watching television and saw that the same road we had just traveled was now closed due to heavy snow. The news commentator said that a freak snowstorm had hit the area and had dumped over a meter of snow on the road. Apparently over 700 drivers were stranded by this storm and the road remained closed for two days. Other than our Gannet Safari we spent most of our time in Napier doing inside activities. This was because it was so cold and rainy. The local people were telling us that this weather was very unusual for this time of year and added that we most certainly did not see Napier at her best.

After leaving Napier we drove to New Zealand's capital city of Wellington. We had a great time in Wellington. We visited the zoo, went to the Te Papa Museum, walked around the city, ate great food, evacuated our building due to a fire alarm, and experienced an earthquake. Yes, you did just read the words fire and earthquake. Let me explain. On our third morning in Wellington we were getting ready to start the day. I was cleaning up after breakfast, the kids were getting dressed, and Tami was in the shower. All of the sudden the fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate the building. So we walked down the stairs with dozens of other people and went outside. There were fire engines everywhere, but other than that the scene was pretty calm. After standing around for about 15 minutes it started to rain again, and as it was bitterly cold and windy as well we decided to go and get some coffee and wait it out inside where it was warm and dry. We never did find out what had happened. That afternoon after returning from the museum (where coincidentally we learned all about earthquakes) we were all relaxing when I heard Maya say, “What was that?” I was just about to ask her what she meant when I felt the whole building shake. We all knew right away that we had just experienced an earthquake.

Tsunamis, freak snow storms, unseasonably cold and rainy weather, and earthquakes. What else could happen? Well, I for one was hoping nothing because the next morning we were taking the ferry from the North to the South Island. Scenes from Titanic haunted my sleep that night, but we got up the next morning and got on the ferry anyway. I am very relieved to say that the crossing was uneventful and the South Island has been just beautiful, so far anyway.

Added Note (Oct 14, 09) : We were awoken last night at 11:30 pm by the fire alarm - again!

Posted by RTMM 23:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Maya's Kiwi Report

by: Maya

A few days ago we were in Rotorua. There were so many exciting things to do. My favorite thing was when we went to a place that rehabilitates kiwi. You can get a closer look at kiwis with a tour of
kiwi Encounters. (Our guide, Dione, was really funny.) If you want to learn more about kiwi, read on.

A kiwi is a type of bird, not a fruit! There is a fruit called kiwi but I am taking about the bird! Kiwis have loose, hair-like feathers. They also have more mammalian features than any other bird. Did you know that kiwis have nostrils located at the end of their bills? Well, yes, they do. Their heads have large ear openings. There are six different types of kiwi.

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Kiwi eat insects, worms, and fruit. A kiwis main diet contains of worms, slugs, snails,
spiders, insects and their larva. They are also know to eat fungi, small frogs, freshwater crayfish, and even eels. They catch there pray there long beaks. Kiwis have a great sense of smell. It helps them hunt at night. With their great sense of smell it helps them find their pray easier. That is very important for a nocturnal bird.

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Kiwi have many predators. The main predators of a kiwi are ferrets, stoats and weasels. Dogs and cats can also be a problem, even if they are nice and never killed anything in their lives. The Kiwi's scent will trigger a reaction so please don't bring your dog or cat in to a kiwi zone.

It was a joy to learn about Kiwi. I hope you liked it too. Remember I am talking about Kiwi being a bird not a fruit!

Posted by RTMM 15:01 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Gannets at Cape Kidnappers

by: Madeline

A few days ago when we were in Napier we went to Cape Kidnappers. We went to see the plateau gannet colony who stay at Cape Kidnappers while breeding. There were supposed to be 1,500 gannet pairs there but we only saw around 100 gannets. This is a big concern because the other gannets have been gone for days and that is not normal. Even though there was this problem we still enjoyed our time on the plateau. For those of you who don't know much or any thing about gannets then continue reading to find out more.

Australasian Gannets
by Madeline

A gannet is a large bird. There are three sub species of gannets, the Australasian Gannet, the Cape Gannet and the Northern Gannet. These gannets live in many different parts of the world. The Cape Gannet in southern Africa, the Northern Gannet in northern Europe and North America and the Australasian Gannet in Victoria (Australia), Tasmania and New Zealand. Gannets are members of the Booby family. They are related to shags and pelicans.
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Adult Australasian gannets are mostly white, with black on their wings and tail, with a light gold on their head. They also have blue rings around their eyes, and pale blue beaks with dark lines. Their feet are black with florescent yellow green lines. Juveniles are gray and speckled:;they will remain this way for 5 years. Australasian gannets have a wingspan of 2 meters, which is about 6 feet.
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Gannets are solely marine birds. They eat fish and squid. To catch their prey gannets plunge into the water in pursuit of their them. Gannets have adapted so they can do such. They have air sacs in their heads and chests to reduce the impact of the breaking the surfaceof the water. Gannet's eyes are far forward on their heads unlike other birds so that they have binocular vision that helps them judge distances correctly. The last adaption that gannets have is that they don't have external nostrils.

Gannets breed from July to April. During courtship a pair of gannets will preen each others heads, bow to each other, rub their beaks and necks together and call to one another this is also done whenever one of the pair comes back to the nest. Gannets pair off for life but if a gannet's mate dies they will find another one. Gannets are territorial birds. When one feels its nesting site is being threatened they swing their head from side to side, and bow their beak beneath their wings.
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Male gannets collect nesting materials from September to December. They collect sea weed and grass to build their nests. Feathers are sometimes used in the nest. The nests are small lumps on the ground. All of the gannets nest near each other.

Gannets only lay one egg, but occasionally if early on in the incubation an egg is somehow not going to hatch, for example it is stolen by a gull or it breaks, the female gannet will lay another egg. Incubation lasts 44 days. During that time the male and female will switch off every day or two so that one is caring for the egg and the other is eating. Male and female gannets both spend the same amount of time hatching and raising their chick.
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If you look very closly you can see a seagull stealing an egg.

Chicks are raised for about 15 weeks. When they hatch their featherless bodies are black, after a month the chick have white fluffy feathers covering their bodies. After 3 more months they have their juvenile plumage, it takes 5 more years for their adult plumage to come. Juveniles first flight is when they are 15-16 weeks old. In they next 2-3 years 70-80% of the gannets die. The surviving gannets on average live to be 20-24 years old. Gannets are first able to breed when they are 6-7 years old.
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I hope that you have enjoyed learning about gannets. If you ever have the chance, make sure that you go and see gannets with your own eyes. It is really fun.

Posted by RTMM 00:21 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Rotorua

by: Madeline

So, as my dad wrote, we visited the Agrodome site in Rotorua. Aside from watching dad fall and jump off of things high in the air, we also went Shweebing, Extreme Free Falling, Zorbing, and we even saw a Sheep Show.

First we Zorbed. Zorbing is like rolling down a hill in one inflated ball which is inside of another giant hamster ball. We did the wet Zorb, where you are sliding around in water, as opposed to the dry Zorb, where you are strapped into a harness on the side of the Zorb going round and round and round. With the wet Zorb you just slide around on the bottom of the inner ball. Maya, Dad, and I went down the zigzag course and Mom went down the strait. On the zigzag you get tossed around and twice I ended up going head first down the hill.

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Shweebing is like sitting in a capsule which moves along a raised track when you pedal, like a bicycle. There were two Shweeb tracks so two people could race. It was really fun to race around pedaling as fast as possible while trying to beat your sibling around the track. Maya and I raced twice and my mom and dad raced once. Out of all of us dad came in first with 1 minute 11 seconds (1:11), I came in second with 1:20, mom in third with 1:22 and Maya in fourth with 1:31.

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Next was the Extreme Free Fall. What you have do is lay down on a net over a giant fan. Then as the fan blows harder and harder you start to rise into the air. The ride is meant to simulate skydiving. Mom and I went once, Maya went twice and dad didn't go at all. It was awesome to be floating in the air. I even got spun around.

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The last thing we did was the Sheep Show. They showed us how to shear a sheep, herd ducks and sheep with dogs, milk a cow, and they also had a cool part in the show where they showed us a bunch of different sheep breeds. My favorites were the Black Romney and the Dorper.

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I really had a lot of fun in Rotorua and I recommend going there for anyone who loves a good adventure.

Posted by RTMM 18:12 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

The Next Time

by: Ryan

I have always considered myself the type of person who would try just about anything if given the opportunity. And if the activity had a high degree of danger with the accompanying adrenaline rush, all the better. So, I am sure that you can imagine my disappointment when, about two years ago, we were on a week long trip to Canada and I passed on the chance to Bungy Jump. For two years I have regretted my decision not to jump and I swore that next time the opportunity presented itself I was going to do it.

Now, let's fast forward two years to the “Next Time”. We just visited the Agrodome site in Rotura, New Zealand. This place has many fun things to do, but I will just talk about two of them. Before we arrived at this adrenaline-junky wonderland I had decided that I was going to try the Swoop. The Swoop is an activity where they stuff you into a sleeping bag of sorts, hoist you 120 feet in the air, and drop you to your death. Okay, I was just kidding about the - to your death part - but the rest is true. Once the rip cord is pulled, you free fall for a while and then you swoop back and forth just like you were on a giant swing.

Remember now that my plan was to just do the Swoop, but when we pulled into the parking lot this sudden urge to Bungy Jump came rushing into my head. Before I could change my mind I bought the ticket and went as fast as I could to the Bungy Jump preparation area. I was surprised at how calm I was. I chatted with the guy who was strapping the cables to my ankles. And I had another great conversation with the nice guy who was raising the platform, which I was eventually supposed to jump from, to 142 feet in the air. Everything was fine; my heart rate was even close to normal. Normal until that nice young man turned into Satan - opening the door and telling me to step out onto the ledge. At that point my heart rate was nowhere close to normal. I thought I was a gonner. But, like a good little lemming, I shuffled to the edge and when he counted to three I leaned forward and fell. WOW, what a rush! Falling through the air, then you stop and start going back up, only to fall again. It was truly amazing, and everything that I thought it would be. After coming back down to earth, both literally and figuratively, I went on the Swoop and although it was not as exciting as the Bungy Jump it was still great.

MAYA'S SWOOP - Be sure to turn on the volume so you can hear her reaction!

Posted by RTMM 20:48 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

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