Archive for the 'A – Z Challenge' Category
Zealandia is a wildlife sanctuary in Wellington—an inland island where endangered native species are kept safe from predators in the hope of increasing dwindling populations. The 225 hectare site includes two dams that used to supply the city of Wellington with water. It was decided that the dams might crack or burst during an earthquake and a decision was made to lower the dams and use the area as an inland island. The first step was to fence the area with pest free fences.
These fences stop possums, stoats, weasels, ferrets, rats and mice from entering the sanctuary. Once the fences were installed a pest-control plan was put in place. A year later all 13 major pests in the area were fully eradicated. Thousands of native trees were planted (the area was previously all in pine) and this planting continues. The long-term vision for the project is to return the area to its original undisturbed state and this will take around 500 years.
Native species such as brown teal ducks, the little spotted kiwi, giant wetas, tuatara, stitchbird, North Island saddleback, weka, North Island robin and bellbirds are some of the inhabitants.
On entry to the sanctuary, staff check bags for mice, cats, rats and other pests. Thankfully, my bag was found pest-free. I know I would have been more shocked than anyone if a mouse had jumped out. We explored some of the many paths, pausing to peer through the treetops for the elusive birds.
This is the old reservoir.
Native New Zealand duck – the scaup. It’s the smallest of our native ducks. The scaup is a diving duck and disappears for long moments under the water.
This is a takahe, one of our flightless birds. It was thought to be extinct after 1898 but was rediscovered in 1948. There are two takahe at Zealandia – a pair – although they are infertile so are not adding to the low population. They eat tussocks, grass, shoots and insects.
This is the kakariki parakeet, one of NZ’s natives. They have become endangered due to loss of their natural habitat.
The day of our visit was warm and sunny – the perfect weather to tempt the tuataras out of their burrows. Tuatara are rare reptiles that are found only in New Zealand. I’d never seen one before since they mostly live on off shore islands and at a few sanctuaries.
We saw their burrows and finally, much to our excitement we spotted a tuatara!
I still get excited whenever I think about seeing them. We watched them for ages, not that they do much except sit there and soak in the heat from the sun. It was a real privilege to see such a rare creature.
Thanks so much for visiting my posts during the A-Z challenge. It’s been a blast meeting other bloggers and reading all the wonderful posts.
Today I have a guest post at Collette Cameron’s blog – Blue Rose Romance where I’m discussing mazes and labyrinths. I’m also doing a giveaway. I hope to see you there!
New Zealanders love their boats, and particularly those who live in Auckland, which is also known as the City of Sails. There are several marinas around the city, and we have some excellent boat builders who are based here. They make huge super yachts for wealthy people who like to sail around the world.
We have many champion sailors who have won medals at the Olympic Games and also world championships. At one time we held the Americas Cup. We contested for it last year, but unfortunately didn’t win.
Below are a few photos taken last year when hubby and I did a day trip from Auckland Harbor up the river to Riverhead.
This is one of the marinas. In the distance you can see the Auckland Harbor bridge.
And this is me with the main city center in the background, including the Sky Tower.
Yachts were even moored in the middle of the river when we cruised up to Riverhead.
I have to admit that although I enjoy day trips on boats and I love cruising, I have no ambition to own a boat or yacht.
What about you?
Xmas falls during summer for those of us down this end of the world. In late November through December, our native pohutukawa trees bloom. When early missionaries visited New Zealand and saw the trees with their scarlet flowers, they dubbed them New Zealand’s Christmas trees.
Pohutukawa trees often grow along the coast, which makes for a pretty picture during the summer. We have pohutukawas in our garden.
For me, it’s not summer until the New Zealand Xmas trees bloom.
Waiheke is one of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf and is a 35 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. Waiheke is a great place to visit during a weekend or for a day trip. You can visit vineyards, check out the different arts and crafts available, go swimming or exploring, eat the local produce or dine at one of the many outstanding restaurants.
Here are a few photos of the island:
Onetangi Beach is the main beach.
There are lots of vineyards and olive trees.
Vineyards with a view…
Some of the gorgeous scenery.
Waiheke is very popular during the summer when the population explodes with holiday makers.
What is your favorite place to visit for a daytrip or for a weekend?
A volcano is a mountain or hill with a crater or vent, which spews out lava, gas and rock fragments from the earth’s crust. Volcanoes can be extinct (will never erupt again), dormant (might erupt again) or active (busy erupting).
New Zealand has many volcanoes. In fact, Auckland, our biggest city is built on a field of volcanoes. The old volcano cones are classified as dormant, meaning they could erupt again, but history has shown that the field is moving steadily north. The last eruption in the Auckland field occurred just over six hundred years ago when the island Rangitoto, a short ferry ride from the central city, erupted and formed into an island.
This is the cone of Rangitoto Island, which is visible from many parts of Auckland.
This is the crater of Mt Eden, which is not far from the central city of Auckland.
This is Lake Taupo, (area 238 square miles) which is in the center of the North Island. The lake is an old volcano crater, which erupted around 27,000 years ago to form the caldera. Around 1800 years ago, the eruption, known as the Taupo eruption, occurred. This was the most violent eruption to occur in 5000 years and was recorded at the time by the Romans and the Chinese. The present chamber of magma is around 6 kilometers below the lake. The trio of mountains in the background are all volcanoes.
This is Mt Ngauruhoe, which is one of the three volcanoes visible across Lake Taupo.
This is Mount Ruapehu, another one of the trio of volcanoes. Both Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe, plus the third one Tongariro are periodically active. Mount Tongariro erupted unexpectedly last year after 100 years of lying dormant.
And finally, our most active volcano – an island off the coast of the Bay of Plenty in the North Island.
I find volcanoes fascinating, although I suspect we won’t have much fun if a new volcano pops up in the Auckland field. It’s certainly not impossible.
Do you have any volcanoes near you?
Utu is a Maori word. If asked, I would have defined utu as revenge for wrong doings. I’m sort of right, but when I double-checked the definition, I discovered it means much more.
According the the NZ History site, utu is maintaining the balance and harmony within society. Each wrong needs to be put right, but the method of correcting the balance to obtain harmony again varies. And this is where revenge steps right up to the plate!
An example – If the balance within a tribe or between tribes was upset, one form of utu was muru. Muru is where personal property is seized in lieu or compensation for the offence. The matter was then considered resolved.
However, if this didn’t work, then a tribe might carry out a taua, which was a hostile expedition or a straight out war. There were different levels of taua.
Taua muru – a bloodless plundering
Taua ngaki mate/taua roto – violent action
So there you have it – the ins and outs of utu.
In the fictional sense, I think revenge makes for an exciting plot full of twists and turns. One of my favorite types of plot to write.
Do you like revenge plots?
I was brought up hearing tales from Maori mythology. Everyone in New Zealand knows of Maui who fished our country from the sea. One particular beast from the legends has always fascinated me, and that’s the taniwha.
The taniwha (pronounced tan-e-fa) is a Maori monster, a ferocious beast that ate naughty children and devoured warriors and other hapless people who found themselves in the wrong place. They live in lakes, rivers and the sea and some live in caves. Some taniwha are friendly—if the local villagers gave them regular food offerings—while others are plain nasty and kill anyone who crosses their path.
In 2002 construction on a highway in the Waikato region of New Zealand was halted because local Maori said the road works were disturbing a taniwha. The portion of road that was being improved was a bad accident site and it was said the taniwha was responsible for the high death toll.
In a Herald story, Dr Ranginui Walker said “like most cultures, Maori use mysticism to explain the inexplicable or grossly unlucky, like a branch falling from a tree and killing a man walking under it at that moment. Europeans might call it the hand of God, Maori might blame tipua, an evil spirit living in the tree. All beliefs require a leap of faith that defy rational explanation.”
The road building finally continued after consultation and negotiations between locals and Transit NZ.
A few years ago, I wrote a taniwha shifter romance called Make That Man Mine. Here’s the blurb:
On her 25th birthday Emma Montrose decides it’s time to show bad boy investigator, Jack Sullivan she’s more than an efficient secretary. She’s a woman with needs, and she wants him.
Jack is a taniwha, a shifter, who requires women to satiate the sexual demands of the serpent within. Nothing more. Then work forces the reluctant Jack and ecstatic Emma undercover as a couple. Thrown together, pretence and reality blur generating hot sex laced with risk…
Sky Tower is an Auckland icon, and the tower can be seen from all over the city. Here are a few facts:
1. The tower is a telecommunications and observation tower.
2. At 1076 feet (328 meters) it’s the tallest free-standing building in the Southern Hemisphere.
3. There are two restaurants and a cafe at the top. One of the restaurants is revolving. There are observation decks, and you can also bungee jump off if you want to get down quickly.
4. It took two years and nine months to build the tower.
5. The tower is built of 15,000 cubic meters of special high performance concrete, 2000 tonnes of reinforcing steel and 600 tonnes of structural steel.
6. The foundations go down more than 15 meters and are specially designed in order to spread the force load.
7. If the day is clear you can see the view for around 51 miles (82 kilometers)
Do you like to visit the high spots in order to get a good view? Do you have a good head for heights?
(Sources: Wikipedia and Sky Tower website)
Rugby season is in full swing in New Zealand, and I couldn’t be happier. Some call it our national sport. I call it inspiration since big, burly rugby players make great romance heroes. Our All Blacks are the current world champions. Women play rugby these days, and our Black Ferns are champions too. We also have a very good Sevens rugby team.
Here are some facts about rugby:
1. Our New Zealand team, the All Blacks, are the current world champions. It bears repeating!
2. No one is really sure when or where rugby truly originated but a popular story is that William Webb Ellis picked up the ball in 1823 and ran with it instead of playing to the rules of the game. It’s said that this act was the start of the modern game.
3. The rugby ball is oval in shape. Originally they were made from pigs’ bladders and a person blew them up. It’s possible to become ill from blowing up diseased bladders, so it’s lucky that this is no longer necessary!
4. The All Blacks always do the haka before the start of an international rugby match. See H for Haka.
5. The same whistle is used to start the opening game at each World Cup Tournament. It’s called the Gil Evans whistle, named after the Welsh referee who was in charge of the match between New Zealand and England in 1905.
6. A rugby match consists of two halves, which are forty minutes long, plus a 10 minute break at half time.
7. There are 15 players per team.
8. Players advance the ball by kicking it or running with it down the field, known as a pitch.
9. The first ever rugby game took place between Scotland and England. Scotland won.
10. The International Rugby Board (IRB), which was formed in 1886, governs the game. There are 97 unions in the IRB.
Have you ever watched a rugby game?
Queenstown is a tourist destination in the South Island of New Zealand. It’s the place where adventure awaits, and from here you can go jet boating on the Shotover River, skiing during the winter, fishing, do helicopter rides, go bungy jumping, ride on the Skyline Gondola, go wine tasting and try any number of scary adventure sports.
The town is built on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by mountain ranges called the Remarkables. The setting is just stunning as you’ll see in the photo below.
The area where the town is now was once a high country farm. When gold was discovered in the nearby Arrow River, Rees, the owner converted his woolshed into a hotel and things went from there.
I’ve posted about the legend of how Lake Wakatipu was formed. You can read it here. I’ve also used the Queenstown area as the setting for two of my Middlemarch books, Assassin and Cat and Mouse.
I like to keep my feet firmly on the ground, which means I enjoy walking and trekking rather than trying any of these adventurous sports like bungy jumping.
Are you the adventurous sort?