A Travellerspoint blog

Girls Guide to Rugby?

Coming to NZ for the rugby world cup 2011?

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So, what are my qualifications for writing this blog?

* I can spell Rugby, and I'm a girl
* I once, briefly, coached a rugby team of 7 or 8 year-old boys
* My husband coached a team ( Shirley Club)
* Buck Shelford is my cousie-bro (for the curious; his grandfather and my mother-in-law were twins)
* I am a one-eyed Cantabrian and an All Blacks supporter
* My younger son played for Shirley, and Canterbury in the lowest grade (before a motor-bike accident)
* I opposed the Springboks playing in NZ and was even arrested in 1981 for protesting
* I'm opinionated and love fun - and these are my best qualifications to write this blog
* AND ... on week one of the virtual rugby group I'm in, I am #19762 out of over 100,000 people competing; week two dropped my position, but now at week 3 I've climbed up to 8,225 out of over 106,000. NOT bad for a girl huh!.

How to pick the best team to follow If you don't have a particular local team to follow during the world cup colours are a great way to choose one.

Find the team whose colours suit YOU best and become their fan. If black makes YOU look cute, follow the All Blacks. If green and gold are your fav' colours well it's the Australian team for you as that's their sporting strip.

When the forwards get into a huddle to fight for the ball the technical term is a scrum. Sometimes the “other team” behave badly when in this pack, (cluster or huddle) and have to be sent to the sin bin.

Learn history: NZ Rugby started in Nelson – it originated in the mid-1800s, in the UK, when some cheeky bloke called William Web-Ellis picked up the ‘foot’ ball and ran with it: or so I believe!

For your information: touch judges never touch anyone, and hookers are not REAL hookers – they are very import in the scrum as it’s their job to ‘hook the ball’ away for the ‘other’ team. When they do that they become happy-hookers, although this is not an official rugby term.

Read more here

Posted by nomad kiwi 18:12 Archived in New Zealand Tagged events Comments (0)

eco travel and a recyled newspaper column

the kiwi travel writer NEEDS to travel

Eco travel and a recycled column: first published a couple of years ago
(see more of my travel writing - and sign up for a travel writing class)
Not everyone can travel. Living in New Zealand means we have a better chance than many. We have a far higher rate of passports-holders some 80% compared with the fewer than 20% of Americans.( the most recent figure I can find) I’m a travelophile; like Asians need rice, Italians need pasta, British their curry and we Kiwi crave our fish and chips - I need to travel.

When I travel I feel great, and as a traveller and freelance writer means I visit where I want to go to – looking for both stories and fun - I don’t want to go to the flavour-of-the-month, or be ticking off some list of must-go-to-places. However with global warming and our position here at the bottom of the world, means we use more carbon to get to our holiday destinations (and this is a burgeoning problem for our tourist industry with Europeans now being told to holiday at or near home – specifically saying Australia and NZ are too far to travel. So what can I do about the carbon footprint I leave whenever I travel?

Well to start I reduce my use of carbon at home. I haven’t owned a car since 1995 and use our big red buses, a bike, and my feet. Living in the city means I can walk to a supermarket and catch the eco-friendly free, yellow shuttle bus home with my backpack and the more eco-friendly reusable shopping bags. I also recycle all I can.

However this doesn’t clear our carbon emissions but we can help by using eco bulbs, energy efficient frigs and washing machines and when we travel take as little luggage as possible. The more we carry the more fuel the plane needs and of course the more emissions it produces … so leave that extra pair of shoes behind and take a paperback not a hardcover book.

Theoretically, we can also offset our personal carbon footprint by buying carbon credits – this has been in practice for a few years but you need to check them carefully to know it’s not just a dodgy company that wants to build a fortune. Air NZ is considering ways to collect carbon credits from their customers and I have no doubt that their scheme will be a good way of salving our conscience for the pollution we produce.

We can also support genuine eco-tourism companies and practise the principles of ecotourism. But what is ecotourism? Briefly, it’s an activity that has minimum impact while providing maximum benefits to the community it’s in. Independent travellers are more likely being eco travellers. They leave much of their travel money in the country – while those who travel on tours often have paid for their whole trip before they leave home- giving very little to the country they are travelling in but adding huge infrastructure costs – in water, sewerage, rubbish, roads.

Worldwide many places say they are providing an ecotourism experience but is that really so? It seems that as long as it has a nature component many claim it to be eco-friendly. That has not always been my experience. Life on a marine reserve sounds wonderful – a great eco experience. Yes the natural sights and walks are fantastic; money spent on food and accommodation does remain with the locals providing it. Unfortunately, the big money is creamed the off the islands in diving lessons given by Europeans who come in for the tourist season then leave – taking the money with them. Because of the lack of a robust infrastructure, the rubbish - that travellers complain about - is bought to the island by them: water bottles are not refilled, plastic bags and straws abound.

We think of New Zealand - and market our country – as a clean green destination but pollution is not just rubbish on the ground. And are we really conservation minded or is it just the low population that produces less rubbish? What about visual pollution? Have we have sold the visitor a too narrow view of places to visit; given them a list of sights they must see, activities they should participate in? This produces problems such as Milford Sound has with Buses arriving in droves, disgorging visitors and fumes so they can see wonderful pristine sights. It this an oxymoron? It’s not only a New Zealand problem. At Lake Louise in Canada, I too was a body disgorged from a bus to see great views. I have proof that I was there - a photo of me sitting with the lake and mountains as the backdrop - it looks idyllic. However I know that beside me, waiting for their turn to have the moment recorded, is another busload of chattering travellers.

More recently I was shocked at the air pollution at the fabulous Taj Mahal. The problems of being poured into the tourist funnel will continue if we rely on some unimaginative travel agents and the forceful marketing of those who have invested in specific areas. While it is more economical for planes and hotels to have us arrive together and stay in the same places it also creates problems for them – not the least is the strong chance of killing the goose that lays the golden egg. What can I do about global warning and travel? Both at home and abroad I shop at locally-owned places; support companies that practice high standards; (e.g. in New Zealand support Kiwi Host, Green Globe, YHA,) and don’t change my towels daily in motels or hotels.

Combining the universal codes of ' pack it in pack it out' and 'take only photos, leave only footprints' along with getting off the well worn tourist trails means I’ll be able to enjoy my travels with a clearer conscience.

Posted by nomad kiwi 14:01 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

A marine Serengeti in New Zealand

stay in a tree house


I’m staying in a tree house. Above the kanuka branches I’m assured of a great sleep surrounded by deer, an olive grove, and nestled between the Kaikoura Seaward Mountains and the famed Mangamaunu Bay, Hapuku Lodge has it all.

Kaikoura, number one of New Zealand’s eco-marine activities has many attractions – best of all, it’s on my doorstep. Only two hours north of Christchurch, I’ve stayed here numerous times in tents, motels, hostels, hotels and caravans: but never before in a 5-star Qualmark tree house.


The award-wining café at this contemporary country inn is a winner with me too. I’m told “Our kitchen’s focus is on fresh, flavourful food, sourced whenever possible from local people and organic growers. We specialise in seafood straight from the Pacific, venison, and vegetarian dishes and make great coffee. We also offer the widest selection of South Island-brewed beers in the world.”

New Zealand Geographic called Kaikoura “A maritime Serengeti” and is world famous not only for whale watching, but giant albatross encounters and swimming with Dusky dolphins. kaikoura__WEB.jpgOther options include winery tours, horseback riding, kayaking, and surfing. We decide on a flight to spot whales and the Maori culture tour and after breakfast we head south into Kaikoura – our plane is waiting.

I’ve been whale watching by boat but never by air so I’m looking forward to Wings over Whales despite the frisson of fear I have with small planes. ‘We have a 100% safety record,’ a staff member tells me so decide to relax as we climb onboard the 7-seater plane. Each seat has a window so I’m hoping for great photos.
“We have a passing parade of different whales here,’ Monique our pilot says in my earphones, ‘and today we are most likely to see sperm whales.”

The very blue sea looks as if it has a frill of white lace where it meets the land and when we’re told a whale has broken the surface a little further north we press our faces against the windows, trying to be the first to see our prey. ‘There it is’ someone calls as the pilot turns the plane – she too has seen it. I’m frustrated as I can hear cameras clicking as we circle the giant mammal but shortly we circle in the opposite direction so I too can start photographing. I’m feeling a little nauseous but am too excited to be sick. The peninsula is fabulous from up here and I understand why there are plans for a luxury hotel on the top of it.
Before long, and after seeing three of the whales that ensure visitors flock to this area, we fly over the town, then the braided river as we come in to land – the 30-minutes have gone too quickly and I vow to do this flight again.
A Maori Tours van is waiting at the visitors centre and Maurice Manawatu introduces himself and his niece: our guides for this boutique tour.

On top of the Kaikoura peninsula, at the old pa site of Nga Niho, built in the 1700s, we again have sweeping views of the Pacific coastline, the rich whale-feeding grounds, and the mountains which seem to rise from the sea and through stories, Maurice introduces his ancestors: he is a direct descendant of Maru Kaitatea - the common ancestor of all Ngati Kuri (the local tribe).

Later, driving into the Puhi Puhi Valley we’re shown how to identify trees and shrubs and hear about their medicinal use. As well as cures for toothache or dysentery, I learn that if I start to bald, the juice from the rimu is good for hair growth, while oil from the plum-like fruit of the miro tree was used to counteract fever. I need neither today.
After years in local tourism Maurice and his wife, Heather, started Maori Tours for a lifestyle change and to create a future for their children. ‘We are people people’ Heather told me when our tour finishes at their home and over coffee and picklets we meet the rest of the whanau – from brothers-in-law to children, and of course, the guitar comes out.

That evening as I lie in my spa bath surrounded by candles, I realise I have been given a new look at this old-favourite region. Revisiting places such as the historic Fife House, reminds me I need to think more like a tourist in my own country, so tomorrow I’m going quad-bike riding!
©Heather Hapeta

Posted by nomad kiwi 13:40 Comments (1)

rotorua - new zealand is 'sulpher city' and i love it

is this NZ's jurassic park?

all seasons in one day

As soon as we arrive I know we are somewhere different: Jurassic Park maybe? Steam is billowing from cracks in the ground and the air smells like very old eggs. Surely a dinosaur - a Tyrannosaurus maybe - will emerge from the billowing mists at any moment.

Despite appearances this is not the age of giant beasts in an ancient world but Rotorua, New Zealand: pungent heart of New Zealand's geothermal activity. Tourists have been welcomed to this area for over 160 years and its raw beauty continues to enchant. Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, have been using these geothermal fields for over seven hundred years as a place for healing and revitalisation.

Hells Gate Thermal Reserve is the most violent and active of all the Rotorua thermal parks and I walk through the intricately carved gate to follow in the footsteps of Maori warriors. It is eerily beautiful: it could also be dangerous for those who wander off the well-formed paths. Mud pools simmer, boil, gurgle and explode circular mud patterns that change constantly. A sense of imminent explosion hangs in the air with the sulphurous fumes and the forces of the underworld seem close. It is no surprise that the playwright George Bernard Shaw gave parts of the park expressive names - Devils Throat, Hells Gate, and Devils Cauldron - places of no return.

This is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and in Rotorua the earth's crust seems very thin. A veil of steam hangs over a lake of boiling water while further along the track is Sulphur Bath where the Maori took water for healing wounds. The Kakahi Falls – the largest hot thermal falls in the Southern Hemisphere – were used to wash away the 'tapu' or sacredness of war.

After an hour walking around the source of the health-giving mud and water for the Wai Ora Spa, it's time to experience nature's gift - a mud bath.

The fine mud is suspended in the water and I sink slowly in its warmth. Bliss. Under a blue sky I smooth the silky mud over my face and body; it's simply superb. Twenty minutes later I'm relaxing in a hot sulphurous geothermal pool before having the uniquely New Zealand, Maori massage. The young woman, a descendant of the local tribe, says a karakia (prayer) before beginning: it is one of the best massages I have experienced. A relaxing sulphur spa follows and then refreshed, revitalised and rejuvenated we continue our travels.

Standing on active volcanoes, seeing more boiling mud, massive craters, erupting geysers and cascading water - coupled with unearthly vistas and very smelly smells - makes this a fascinating place. Even the public park in the centre of the city has boiling pools to feed footbaths where locals and visitors can soak their feet after shopping or sightseeing.

Te Whakaweraweratanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao Village (translated as 'the uprising of the warriors of Wahiao') is thankfully called Whaka for ease of speech. The village has been in this harsh environment for over three hundred years. Gushing geysers, steam vents and naturally boiling water continue to provide the locals with cooking and bathing facilities. As I walk through the clouds of billowing steam, corncobs, hanging in a bag, are cooking in one of the clear bubbling pools that surround the homes.

The Centra Hotel, which overlooks Whaka, is an appropriate place to watch Rotoruas newest cultural theatrical show – 'The Legends of Maui'. Against a backdrop of outstanding photography and film, local Maori present fascinating stories of this celebrated demi-god. As we nibble smoked eel and raw fish, Maui moves through his life; fishing up the North Island using the jawbone of his grandmother; gifting fire to humans and transforming himself into a taniwha (sea monster). After the show we enjoy our meal that has been cooked in an oven in the ground and fuelled by natures steam. Delicious.

The next day we travel thirty kilometres south to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland where the Lady Knox geyser erupts at ten fifteen each morning. To ensure that it performs on time, a guide stands beside it and bravely drops a biodegradable substance down its volcano-shaped throat: it starts bubbling and moments later spouts water from 400 metres under the earth and up into the air. We gasp in unison. This park is the most colourful volcanic area around Rotorua. Giant silica terrace formations surround the seventy-meter wide explosion crater: Champagne Pool with its effervescent bubbles and fantastic colours is unique, so bring your camera to record the stunning sights.

A little closer to "Sulphur City", as Rotorua is sometimes called, is the Waimangu volcanic valley that was born in the violence of the 1886 Tarawera eruption. A hiking-guide leads you down the valley, identifying sights and features along the way. Frying Pan Lake, Echo Crater and Cathedral Rocks are just some of the wonderfully descriptive names. The native bush that cloaks this area has cleverly evolved ways of living in the excessive heat, acidic soils and toxic minerals.

Reaching Lake Rotomahana, a boat cruise takes you around the lake to the site of the old Pink and White Terraces. This 'Eighth Wonder of the World' had been a tourist site from the 1870s until the Tarawera explosion, which not only buried the terraces but also killed many people.

Rotorua Museum is housed in what has been described as the most photographed building in New Zealand. It weaves the threads of history, culture and nature of the region together. Whether you visit it before, during, or after touring the area it really is a 'must do'. It pulls everything together and helps explain this part of the Jurassic era super-continent Gondwanaland that New Zealand separated from over 85 million years ago.

I'm not surprised that Rotorua has been voted New Zealand's 'Most Beautiful City' three times: with its wonderful hospitality and fantastic sights it will long continue to be a magnet for travellers. © Heather Campbell Hapeta .

Posted by nomad kiwi 20:44 Archived in New Zealand Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

traveller or tourist?

backpacking a state of mind?

Am I a tourist or traveller? What are you? As a backpacker, I belong on one side of the great divide in the world of travel snobbery. The saying that prevails around this group is - tourists know where they are going, but don’t know where they have been, while travellers know where they have been but don’t know where they are going.

Of course, my friends who stay in hotels are horrified at the idea of sleeping on a rooftop in Jerusalem with 29 others, or any of the other shared places I’ve slept in.
I, on the other hand, cannot imagine spending any more than the occasional night in a sterile, albeit luxurious, hotel.

Many of my friends hate to leave home without knowing where they will sleep, what tours have been booked, what times their transport will leave and exactly where they are going. They think I am crazy to have no idea where I am going, where I am staying and what I will see. This is, for me, the difference between a traveller and a tourist, characterised by the freedom of time and attitude. As Hostelling International says in one of their adverts, backpacking is about attitude not age.

However if you have two, three or four weeks to enjoy an annual holiday, or this is your one chance to visit Europe, China, or Australia, and it is important you see all that you can join a tour. Being part of a tour is the only way to fit in the top sites. Just make sure you are not in a cultural quarantine - returning home untouched by any contact with locals.

As a wanderer, I often miss many of the ‘must see’ tourist places but leave a country having been to a wedding, had a long coffee and meal with a local school teacher, taught swimming to a group of young Thai boys and on another occasion, spent three weeks on an island cleaning up a marine-reserve after a monsoon. Am I the only person who went to New York and merely stood at the bottom of the Twin Towers?
Conversely, I don’t know any ‘tourist’ who volunteered their time in a soup kitchen in the middle of a New York blizzard.

The snobbery evident on both sides of the fence: ‘I can afford to stay somewhere clean and civilised’ versus ‘I can afford the time to spend a long time travelling’. Different strokes for different folks.

So what do others have to say about the topic? Larry Krotz (Tourism. 1996) says travel, or going somewhere as a tourist, has become something we do in order to share our culture - like going to an annual sports or cultural event. He discusses the shift over 150 years, from travel for education and knowledge to the enjoyment factor of today, ‘something everyone does’.

Mass ability to travel, as things became cheaper and faster, was captured originally by Thomas Cook mid 19th century, making a fascinating topic to read. So, if you want to know about the conveyer belt that tourism has become; how we are a product to be seduced, fed and watered, displayed and then returned home go to the library. If you want to know about the selfishness of people like me who get off the beaten track and then don’t want you to discover it too; if you want to know about the affects of tourists or travellers on the country we travel in, I recommend the whole section on tourism in your local library.

Posted by nomad kiwi 19:14 Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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