Tauranga (Nov 22-23, 2018)

We continued our clockwise journey around New Zealand during the night and woke up …Happy Thanksgiving!… 211 nautical miles later to sunny skies in Tauranga, largest city in the Bay of Plenty with a population of 135,000. It boasts the largest export port in the country. The earliest known settlers, the Maori, trace their origin to canoes that arrived here from Polynesia during the 1300s. Captain Cook arrived in the 1800s and gave the bay its current name.

We resisted the urge to visit the Hobbit movie set location and decided instead to visit a kiwi farm which we found totally fascinating. We learned that kiwi is native to China, who knew, and arrived in New Zealand in 1904. It did not become a commercial product until the 1960s, when it was renamed kiwi, and is now a NZ$2.5 billion dollar business. Although China and Italy outproduce New Zealand, the quality of the exported fruit here is considered the best in the world. A new variety has taken off big time: gold kiwi.

The farm we visited is owned and operated by Graeme, a celebrity in his own right as a former captain of the All Blacks, and his wife. Graeme gave us a wonderful tour of their vines, tall enough to walk under by the way, and explained all about the production. He pointed out the really tall windscreens or shelter belts grown around the fields of kiwi vines. They prevent the wind from making the fruit bump into one another causing bruises and spoilage. These 30 to 40 foot tall, thin hedges have to be trimmed each year. In order to pollinate the fruit, bee hives are rented … a whole lot of hives. The going price for one hive is NZ$200. Kiwi is handpicked, so each year 25,000 pickers are needed in this area of the country. Who are these pickers you might ask? Answer: short term work visas are granted to enough foreigners to fill in the gap created by too few locals, retirees, unemployed, and backpackers.

After visiting the vines we went to the nearby community hall where Graeme’s wife served us scones and tea as well as samples of all sorts of things made from kiwi: liquor, jam, candy, juice, dried fruit. We got to sample gold kiwi and found it delicious. It was a surprise to see kiwi soap, lotion, lip balm, and candles. We enjoyed chatting with Graeme’s wife and hearing about the life of a famous rugby player’s family. She was charming.

Another fun visit was to the Te Papa Mission Station, also known as The Elms, which was organized much like the first mission station we visited. Beautiful gardens surround the house. A fun thing on the grounds was a bacon curing shed. Think chicken-wire cage that resembles a small aviary large enough for a few small birds. Add a metal roof, put it on stilts, and boom, you have an outdoor curing shed.

This area of New Zealand is known for its thermal activity. We visited the Whakarewarewa Valley for our first look at a gray burbling mud pool. Not a first for us but fun to see were a geyser, hissing steam vents, and aqua blue pools of scalding water. These therapeutic waters gave rise to baths. The one that hosted us for tea and scones had fabulous gardens in front as well as the first bowling green and lawn bowling club I’ve ever seen. Bowling green as in a 34 to 40 meter immaculately groomed grassy square, rimmed by a small ditch, built a few inches lower than the area around it. All I know is players take turns rolling small bowls toward a jack at the far end of the green. The baths, gardens, and the green indicate it might be a fun place to pass a sunny afternoon. Sadly earthquake damage prevented us from going inside the most famous bath at the end of the garden. It looked spectacular from the outside.

I really enjoyed the Maori (pronounced mow as in cow -ree) cultural park we visited. Our guide was a young Maori woman who showed us an iconic red and white meeting house, storeroom, long canoe, and elaborate carvings of the eight gods. Much of it was similar to what I had seen in the museum in Auckland. She explained some of the history and traditions of her people and then walked us through a wonderful new school dedicated to teaching traditional arts and crafts. We saw students carving green stone and whale bone; women making baskets, skirts, and blankets out of flax; and men in the wood carving shop. The most impressive carvings we saw were massive, maybe 30 feet tall and 8 feet wide, tributes to the New Zealand soldiers who died in WWI. These beautiful carvings will find a home in Belgium early next year.

Longest word I’ve run across: whakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao.
Translation: war dance of the war parties of Wahiao.

Tonight’s conversation cards: What would you love to find at a garage sale? What are your favorite apps? Which American landmark would you most like to see? What was your most memorable meal ever? Would you be likely to survive alone in the wilderness?


In the 1860s a warrior named Heni-te Keri-Karamu was known to have
fought with her baby on her back.

Bats are the only native land mammal in the country. The rest
were introduced by Maori and Europeans.

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest,
was born in New Zealand.

Denmark and New Zealand are considered the least corrupt nations in the world.

 New Zealand has the 9th longest coastline in the world, with a length of 15,134 km. (Multiply by 0.6 to convert to miles.)




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