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Underground and Overground Adventures in the Sun

Our two final days before packing up ready to head home. We drove three hours south to Waitomo Caves to explore the Stalagmites, Stalactites, Columns, Weta and Glowworms before heading over to Matamata for the night ready for Hobbiton today.

On the way to Waitomo we took a slightly longer, more emotional, route to go through the city I was supposed to be working in (Hamilton), and the small down South of there that we had planned to live in (Te Awamutu). I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t have a look at them, I couldn’t quite manage to stop and explore properly though :/

At Waitomo there were three caves we toured, we did them in reverse order as we arrived at lunchtime. The first was a dry cave with Cave Weta, the second and third caves had flowing water and glow worms inside – no photographs were permitted in the third cave, the main one of the three. All three had stalagmites, stalactites and limestone, together with very knowledgeable guides who gave us lots of information.

After a quick overnight stay we headed over to the Hobbiton Film Set for a guided tour there. It was incredibly busy here, lots of tours going on alongside each other. I must confess I am not a LOTR or Hobbit fan in the slightest, I’ve only seen bits of some of the films by way of osmosis when the boys have been watching them. However, it was a beautiful setting and thoroughly enjoyable experience in its own right. There were only two downsides: 1 – time, because it was busy there was no opportunity to spend longer in the Green Dragon Inn and have lunch, we had to stay with our group and get the same bus back to meeting point. 2 – there were stoneware drinking cups in the Inn that they were serving the complimentary drinks in, I wanted to buy some, the gift shop did not sell them!

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To the North!

Our journey continues up onto the North Island of New Zealand. In Wellington we took a tour to Zealandia, an amazing urban wildlife reserve where they have worked tirelessly to fence in the native species and remove as many introduced species as possible. Birds with flight are free to come and go, flightless birds are protected from the predators that were introduced by both the Maori and European settlers all those years ago. The result has been species close to extinction becoming reestablished, and a species thought to be extinct brought back after a few were found in the mountains.

The tour also took a drive around Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, with a very knowledgeable coach driver giving us detailed information on various buildings of interest and the damage caused by a very recent earthquake. He also took us to the Old St Paul’s Cathedral for a look around, a wooden structure built by shipmakers, something giving the building real character when looking at the roof structure from inside which closely resembles an upturned boat.

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Between Christchurch and Wellington, it really is quite humbling to see the damage caused by earthquakes. Lots of empty spaces in Christchurch, fewer spaces in Wellington, but being more recent there are still cracks evident across the roads. Since our visit, we have heard news of devastating wild fires in Christchurch, truly saddening especially for a beautiful city that was still recovering from the 2011 earthquake.

After Wellington came the small harbour of Tauranga. We took an excursion to Rotarua from here to see the truly amazing hot springs and mud pools at the thermal reserve. Wow is the only way to describe it. If you’re lucky enough to get to NZ you must try and get to Waiotapu in Rotarua – this has got to be the best of the excursions by far. We learnt that the reason for the hot springs is the active volcanoes around the area causing hot magma to lie below the surface and heat the water. The extreme heat also draws mineral out of the rocks to dissolve in the water, causing the bright colours. There are hot springs, bubbling mud pools and geysers aplenty in this area. The Maori tribe that settled here used, and still use, the heat provided by nature to cook their food.

Our final day on board was in the Bay of Islands, just north of Auckland. We had booked a tall ship experience here, a day spent on an authentic schooner, sailing in the sunshine around the bays, finding a secluded beach for some swimming in the sea and relaxing with a BBQ lunch on board. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side, for the first time, so the trip was cancelled – I had a spa treatment on board the cruise ship, with a sauna and full body massage with hot stones, instead ūüėČ

The final leg of our adventure is already underway in Auckland, I will post a summary of that in a few days.

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100 Ways to Home Educate: With The World!

Today I am taking part in a Home Education Blog Hop initiative, here is a little about what Home Education looks like for us.

Home Education for us: 

If I had to describe our style it would be Semi Structured dabblers in Worldschooling. This basically means when we’re ‘at home’ we follow a loose and flexible timetable with subjects and activities guided by E’s interests and future plans, but we also try to take lots of breaks around the world and country, of varying lengths of time, to discover and learn about different areas and cultures.

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We try to adventure, rather than holiday, doing things a little differently to a standard package holiday where we can. At the moment we are exploring the Southern Hemisphere (have a look at my recent blog posts for more information) but have also traveled by train to Italy, driven around France for a month (sleeping in the car as well as camping) and stayed with friends in Spain. In addition we try to get out and about in the UK including camping in Cardiff, a few days a year in London, Chester Zoo (which is an awfully long drive from Cornwall!) and more.

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What have we covered so far on our current adventure? So much it’s hard to know where to start, but I will try to¬†summarise some of the points! We have learnt about time zones, body clocks and jet lag. We have experienced these first hand, as well as the opposite seasons in the other hemisphere. Currency conversion and cost estimation while out and about, as well as supply and demand affecting pricing – just why did our laundry cost so much to have done on the ship?! We’ve looked at native species, deadly species, cautions for them, and sun safety. We’ve seen a dam, learnt how and why it was built, and the strong relationships formed plus other benefits of those from different cultures¬†coming together with different skills. We talked about evolution and natural selection, multiple times, and the risks of introducing species to an area. We’ve seen differing coastlines and mountains, a rain forest and icy cold waterfalls, learnt about sounds and fjords. There have been discussions about relationships between settlers and natives, what we think went well, what didn’t and why that might have been. We’ve all learnt lots about earthquakes, volcanoes and glaciers, which led onto a discussion over dinner about natural disasters and any ways we know to protect ourselves from them (duck and cover, seek higher ground, enter a basement etc). We’ve seen and talked about Maori traditions that still live on, learnt about the Haka and what it really is and means, beyond rugby!

I’m sure I’ve missed plenty, and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come. To put it into perspective a little, we’ve been away for precisely three weeks. I feel we’ve covered far more in that time, in far more depth and breadth, than we could have at home, and we still have another week to go…

Some background to what we do, and why:

E came out of school at the end of year three, after a change of schools crushed his optimism and love of learning. He plans to do his GCSEs as an external candidate, studying the material from home. Maths and Science are his favourite subjects, and I have insisted he also sits the exams for English and studies the material for French (as he has been learning French for several years now). He also covers computing (including coding/programming) within his timetable. Then there’s the local Home Ed trips out and meetings to juggle.

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O is not Home Educated at the moment, although he has been in the past, currently he is studying at college for his A levels and he went to a small independent school to sit his GCSEs as he has Asperger’s Syndrome so¬†mainstream school ¬†was not able to meet his needs and he did not wish to sit exams as an external candidate. His school set up has meant we’ve had greater flexible for adventure than many families with one or more children in school.

Blog Hop:

Previous blogger:

The Start:
http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup/2017/02/06/100-ways-to-home-educate-launching-a-blog-hop/

 

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Damn that’s quite a dam! Plus our next leg begins.

The last thing we did in Sydney before moving on was go and see the city’s largest dam. It was hot day, but well worth the visit. The area that had been flooded is huge, and it was all planned in advance even down to building a settlement for the workers to come out of the city to live in with their families. When the levels are low there are old roads visible from the viewing platform.

The dam has a visitors’ centre which is free to enter and has loads of information on the history of the dam area including a video about the settlement and building process. The settlement is still there today, and still inhabited, although obviously the building work was finished many years ago. The area around the lake is a nature reserve, so the wildlife around the dam is left to its own devices which is evident in the size of some of the fish in the lake.

The next part of our epic adventure was boarding our cruise ship for the middle portion, and main event… A cruise round New Zealand! We boarded our ship at Sydney Harbour and sailed around the coastline to Melbourne before heading onwards to New Zealand.

In Melbourne we wandered the city and checked out the Old Melbourne Gaol which is a preserved building showing the history of hanging, imprisonment and the stories of some more infamous convicts that have been held there. We also took a walk along the beach on the way back to the ship, avoiding the water and burning hot sand. There is a lido there that used to have a defence wall to prevent carnivorous sea creatures entering – we couldn’t quite understand why it’s not there any longer ūüėČ