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Articles Blog

Filtering by Tag: New Zealand

Tauranga, New Zealand

Karyn Planett

Beauty and Bounty

Rudyard Kipling, were he alive today, could be heard exclaiming that New Zealand is “the eighth wonder of the world.” He visited this country in 1891 during a lengthy sea voyage, the advice of his very wise doctor. Kipling was not wrong about New Zealand. An author, a respected poet, and an avid world traveler with a keen sense of wanderlust, Kipling knew a good thing when he saw one and he viewed New Zealand as absolutely magical.

Well, the challenge for your visit to Tauranga can all be summed up in the ringing out of the name of a North Island enclave near Tauranga called “Whatawhata.” That’s what you’ll be asking yourself when presented with a list of activities for your short stay.  Whatawhatamigonna do? You’ll need to decide exactly which of the many options will receive your full attention today – a dramatic beach, a blast of vulcan fury, a sip of a fine regional wine, a journey back to a time of conflict, or an introduction to New Zealand’s Maori culture?

The North Island

As easily as one wanders from Disneyland’s Fantasyland to Frontierland, feeling as though he’s literally traveled through time, one can journey between New Zealand’s North Island and South Island. Though both islands are dazzling to the eye, the North Island offers up a panorama of explosive geysers and primeval pools of bubbling mud. All around are fissures in the earth shooting steam clouds into the sky.

It is said that the North Island’s creation is rooted in Maori mythology. Long ago, a powerful son of the gods caught a large fish in the sea. Maui, as this lad was known, ordered his brothers to leave the fish alone. But his brothers defied Maui’s order not to eat the fish he had caught. The fish wriggled and writhed and ultimately escaped to create the jagged landscape that is now New Zealand’s North Island. In the Maori language, the North Island is known as “the fish of Maui” or “Te Ika A Maui.”

A Place Called Tauranga

The town of Tauranga lies perched on the North Island’s eastern coast where the waters of the Bay of Plenty wash ashore. Captain Cook was so impressed with the congenial islanders in this area that it was he who named this spot the Bay Of Plenty. And, with good reason. The mild climate here supports a bountiful agricultural backdrop including large forests used for timber. Though Tauranga is today a busy center for tourism and commerce, it also has a very rich history.

Some 150 years ago, Tauranga was a bustling community that relied on flax trading for much of its income. As with so many fledgling towns, along with merchants and traders came the missionaries to spread the word of God. But no faith could stem the tide of conflict. In 1864, Tauranga experienced some terrible battles during the New Zealand Wars. In fact, a compassionate tale is often told about an incident that occurred during the fierce Battle of Gate Pa. It is said that a British soldier, wounded during a skirmish, cried out for water as he lay on the damp earth wracked with pain. A brave Maori woman named Heni te Kirikamu heard the soldier’s weakening cries. Unable to listen any longer, she silently crept behind enemy lines to fetch water to take to this fallen soldier and four others who lay wounded nearby.

While in Tauranga, you can visit Gate Pa, site of one of the final battles between the British and Maori people or the Missionary House that dates back to 1847.

Further Afield

Rotorua is the highlight for many visitors who experience its bubbling mud pools and steaming thermals. At the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, geysers fill the air with a mist that mystified early members of the Tuhourangi-Ngati Wahio tribe. Also mystifying is why some people bungee jump, zip along the Kaituna River in jetboats, or raft on the Rangitaiki but they do because this is unmistakably the land of adventure.

Chinese Gooseberries

Nearly 100 years ago, Chinese gooseberries found their way to the Bay of Plenty. Three decades passed before a farmer named Jim MacLoughlin set aside an acre of land for the cultivation of this fruit. But it wasn’t until some 25 years later that that this unique, fuzzy brown fruit became a marketable, exportable commodity. It became known, quite simply, as kiwifruit. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, while here in sunny Tauranga, you can wander past the historic sights, take in the local color, or sit under a shade tree along The Strand scooping out the flesh of a perfectly-ripened kiwi while reading a Kipling tale. It’s all rather pleasant, one might say.

Napier, New Zealand

Karyn Planett

It’s 10:46am, February 3rd, 1931. As unsuspecting locals go about their mornings-as-usual morning, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake rips right through the streets of Napier with a deafening, grinding force. It was as if a hoard of angry gods unleashed the full strength of their fury, grabbing the earth and shaking it like a rag doll. This terror and violence lasted a horrifying two and a half minutes. When the rumbling stopped and the dust finally settled the tiny town of Napier was wiped smack off the map.

Then someone smelled smoke. A fire had started in a local pharmacy incinerating the rubble as well as everything in its path including nearby Hastings. As the carnage continued, 258 local people perished. Astoundingly, the entire area was raised up by this cataclysmic thrust a staggering seven feet creating 9,000 new acres of dry land. Imagine. Now, if this weren’t enough for the dazed community, over the next two weeks there were 525 aftershocks. These paled, however, by comparison with the shock community leaders faced with the prospect of literally starting over to rebuild their town. But, rebuild they did for the fine folks of Napier are quite hardy, indeed.

Art Deco

Yes, it was determined almost immediately to rebuild the town, starting with essentially a clean sheet of paper. Within months, the Napier Reconstruction Committee was formed and plans for a new central business district began to take shape. Architects, working as teams and independently, were profoundly influenced by the European Art Deco style of the mid-1920s, with its geometric forms, stucco surfaces, and relief decorations. Remember, this is not the same as the art deco of Miami Beach, which is closer to a parallel movement called Streamline Moderne. Traces of that style are found in the Municipal Theater. The Masonic Hotel, Taylor Building, Daily Telegraph Building and Kidson’s Building are each considered among the classics of the European genre.

There’s also a touch of California’s Spanish Mission style. Napier’s citizens were so impressed by stories of Santa Barbara’s recovery after a 1925 earthquake that they used that California city as inspiration for their own architectural revival. Charlie’s Art Deco Restaurant in the Hawkes Bay Chambers is worthy of a look, as well.

Cape Kidnappers

Curious name... “Cape Kidnappers.” This is the wind-and-sea sculpted, five-mile long peninsula at the southern end of Hawkes Bay. And, as the story goes, when some unruly Maoris tried yet failed to abduct one of Captain James Cook’s crewmen from Endeavor in 1769, that great explorer was able to add to his list of strange and wonderful Pacific place names... “Cape Kidnappers”. It’s also home to one of nature’s stranger species... the gannet.

“Gannet” is the more attractive name for a member of the booby family. In fact, over 20,000 of them nest here creating the world’s largest and most accessible mainland colony of these spectacular flyers, but unsure walkers. Until early May they soar overhead on six-foot wingspans bearing the latest seafood offerings for fuzz-ball chicks waiting hungrily. Due to the parents’ long days in flight searching for food, their land legs are often not as highly developed and landings can be a comical affair, for the observer that is.

The World’s 41st Most Beautiful Golf Course

That factoid comes from Golf Magazine’s respected ranking of the World’s 100 Best. However, as usual, beauty comes at a cost. The Links at Cape Kidnappers presents some of the most intimidating holes a golfer can face. Challenging fairways stretch along fingers of land scalloped into jagged cliffs. Greens at each tip create a permanent penalty for misdirected shots as golfers are warned against fishing for balls lost in the surf hundreds of feet below. And if the predictable wind is blowing, you’ll not be worrying about your handicap on this Tom Doak-designed, par 71 carnival ride. You’ll simply be holding onto your hat and making sure you don’t get blown over the ledge.

Once safe back in the clubhouse, there’s a buzz with first impressions and “never seen anything like it” stories as everyone shows off enough new logo wear to create covetous glances back on the home course.

Hawkes Bay Wines

After all this outdoor activity, something New Zealanders relish, you’ll discover there are some delightful indoor ones as well. One is tasting a variety of excellent New Zealand wines as the Hawkes Bay region has earned world-class credentials for many of its wineries. Craggy Range is currently top-of-the-heap with their Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah offerings. But several others (Brookfields, Church, Mission, Sileni and Ngatarawa) are also wonderful as local winemakers use the 300 plus days of sunshine per year that warm the area’s vineyards.

So there you have it. Culture, nature, sport and the nectar of the gods all in one tidy package.