Hi, I'm Benjamin Welby. I'm a displaced northerner currently living in Croydon, I church with a group of Christians who meet in a Soho nightclub on Wednesdays and I support Bradford City. I've an academic background in History, Politics and International Development. I work for the Government Digital Service but I left my heart in local government.
This blog is infrequently updated and may feature any, all or none of these things...
View all posts by Benjamin Welby →
We had originally planned to be in Taupo by now, and had thought today would have been a good day for the Tongariro Crossing but last week we discovered that we could get tickets for one of the marquee fixtures in the Super XV competition: Hamilton Chiefs versus Canterbury Crusaders.
After a lovely lazy morning we visited the Hamilton Gardens for lunch. The public gardens are owned and managed by the council and attract 600,000 people a year (not surprising given that it’s also free). The gardens were first developed on the city’s waste disposal site in the 1960s and since then they’ve got bigger and better. Continue reading Hamilton Chiefs vs Canterbury Crusaders→
We started the day with breakfast at 3rd Place, which had come highly recommended by the Lonely Planet. Christine had a light breakfast, which was delicious but left her wanting more; I didn’t make such a novice mistake and enjoyed my larger breakfast.
In the morning we drove up and around Lake Tarawera – it was a lovely sunny morning to watch the clouds roll over Mount Tarawera (the volcano that erupted in 1886).
On the way we had stopped at Lake Tikitapu, also known as the Blue Lake.
It is the sister lake to Lake Rotokakahi, or the Green lake. One has a very sandy bottom, so should look very blue and the other doesn’t so looks greener. However, when we stopped at the viewpoint where you can compare them side by side we weren’t really able to see the difference…
Back in Rotorua we had lunch at the amazing Fat Dog Cafe, where Jim made a new friend and spent the rest of our final day in Rotorua doing very little else.
In the morning we visited the community at Whakarewarewa, a Maori village that demonstrates how geothermal energy can be used in daily life. We took a guided tour of the village and saw how steam from the ground is used to cook food in oven-like wooden boxes (hangi), create hot pools used for cooking as well as more temperate pools for washing and relaxation.
We started the day being picked up by the Rotorua Canopy Tour minibus. The canopy tour was a relatively new addition to the line up of things to do in Rotorua but it wasn’t hard to see why it had been so well received. After we arrived at the head office we got briefed, kitted out and introduced to each other.
The canopy tour involves exploring a section of forest near Rotorua by six zipwires and three swing bridges. Whilst that might sound fairly sedate we needed all those ropes and harnesses because the zip wires range in length from 40 metres to 220 metres at heights of up to 22 metres off the ground! Think Go Ape, but better!
Tonight we were going to spend our first night with relatives in Hamilton, Waikato but before descending on Christine’s cousin John and his family we added a significant detour to our journey. We hadn’t set aside any time to visit the Coromandel Peninsula and so our only option was to do a driving tour round it in one day.
After an absolutely superb breakfast at the Palm House we set off and managed to get to Thames (at the base of the Peninsula) in about 3 hours. After stopping for some supplies we set off on State Highway 25, a wonderful road that hugs the coast all the way round. A gorgeous sunny morning made for perfect driving weather.
We set off from Opononi to drive down to our next destination – Pahi. As we wound our way along the coast south of Opononi we spotted an inviting sign saying ‘Scenic Lookout’. With time on our side, and plenty of curiosity we followed it and came across the Arai te Uru Reserve with beautiful views out to sea.
Today was another early start as we needed to travel from Mangonui to Kaitaia (30 minutes away) by 0830 to join Harrison’s Cape Runner for a day out to Cape Reinga/Te Rerenga Wairuathe not-quite-northern-most point of New Zealand (that distinction belongs to Surville Cliffs 30 miles east of the Cape).
We had originally planned to drive ourselves up to the Cape and whilst doing all of this in the day under our own steam was definitely doable it would have meant missing out 90 mile beach, a stretch of New Zealand coastline that is not in fact 90 miles long but is a state highway in its own right (our car hire insurance was explicit about not driving on sand). So instead we plumped for this very reasonably priced ($50 pp) trip. Continue reading On top of New Zealand at Cape Reinga | Te Rerenga Wairua→
We checked out of our motel in Paihia and drove a little way down the road to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. It was on this site that the Treaty of Waitangi (Tiriti o Waitangi) was signed between the Maori iwi (tribes) of the North Island and Queen Victoria’s representatives. Although the treaty is seen to be the founding document for New Zealand and 6th February 1840 to be the nation’s birthday it is not a straightforward chapter of history.
This was the first time we encountered some of the specifics of how New Zealand came to be part of the British Empire. Whilst I had studied some aspects of the Empire’s rise and decline what happened in these two islands on the other side of the world had never featured. It’s impossible to do justice to the complexity and the tensions without making this blog post far too long but it came out of a desire in both Britain, and New Zealand from both Maori and pakeha to establish some more formalised structure in relation to land ownership and security. Continue reading The Waitangi Treaty Grounds→
We packed up our things but before we could say goodbye to Auckland we needed to pick up the car we were trusting to get us around for the next two months. We’d got a fantastic deal from Ace Rental Cars that worked out at less than £500 (and a great deal on car hire excess insurance) so we were a little dubious about the quality of car we’d have.
We needn’t have worried – the car was pretty new and certainly had enough room for our baggage even if it was a petrol based automatic. I’d never heard of a Nissan Tiida though.