We kept mainly off the well used tourist route in New Zealand and stayed in self catering accommodation. In each place our hosts also lived on site and we want to say another thank you to Rose and Richard, Lyndon and Bill and to Di and Kit for their warm kiwi hospitality and super accommodation. They each gave us home grown food as well – lettuce, rocket, kale, strawberries, lemons and oranges fresh out of the gardens.
Right from the first stop with Rose in Auckland I noticed that New Zealand gardens behave very differently to those in the UK. I had gone on holiday armed only with the notion that NZ is a maritime climate and I thought that meant it would be much more similar than it is. For a start NZ is much warmer in the north than anywhere here, hence the citrus trees in the gardens. As I looked round Rose’s lovely garden I could see so many flowers out all at once that come in stages over the spring and summer here.
Of course there were the plants I cannot grow such as limes and oranges and many I cannot name, both succulents and shrubs. However I do grow foxgloves, aquilegia, roses and pentsemons but they would not be all out together in Wales, along with honeysuckle, cornflowers and sweet williams. This was a garden in full flow. For comparison November down under is late spring, not even summer but to me it felt much more like mid summer.
It made me start thinking more about the individuality of every garden, every patch of ground. Each little place is unique and needs to be known and understood by someone who belongs to it. I thought this garden was a delightful welcome to our holiday and is clearly loved and cherished.
We only stayed a short while in Auckland to get a bit acclimatised to the different time zone and then headed off to Acacia Bay on the shores of Lake Taupo. As you can see we had the most amazing, sparkling, sunny weather – everywhere we went local people told us this was a heatwave!
I was mesmerised by two things in particular in NZ – the volcanic activity and the trees. I had not appreciated that it was such a volcanic landscape. Indeed there was Mangere Mountain just a short walk from Rose’s home and at Lake Taupo we discovered the lake had been created about 26,500 years with the Oruanui eruption – the world’s most recent super eruption. Today’s lake of 238 square miles and 186 metres deep was created by this incredible event.
Nor had I reckoned on the landscape being currently as volcanically active as it is. There was a geothermal power generating station near Lake Taupo and a number of local sites to visit with thermal pools and geysers and so forth. There are some particularly well known places such as Rotorua, but we had opted for a quieter life and were absolutely delighted to find steaming ground and bubbling mud pools at ‘Craters of the Moon’ close to Acacia Bay.
Further south along the lake shore close to where Mount Tongariro rises above the plain is the very small settlement of Tokaanu. There we were able to get very close to the hot pools and they were awe inspiring.
I was amazed that any plants could grow so close to the boiling water and bubbling mud – I have no idea what they are, but they are surely tough!
The minerals dissolved in the water precipitate out into solid mats of colour floating in or just under the water. I guess the yellow is something sulphurous, but don’t know about the white.
You could almost think you were on another planet!
I have more to write about the wonderful trees and the wild plants we saw, but that will be in the next post after Christmas! Until then I wish you all a peaceful and enjoyable time.