Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chocolate to die for

The other night Ruby tantalised our taste buds with molten centred chocolate pudding served with a raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream.

It tasted even better than it sounds – if that's possible!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tutukaka on a gorgeous weekend

I think there is some variation of a rope swing in a Pohutukawa tree on just about every beach in New Zealand.

We went to Tutukaka for the weekend; a tiny dot on the map. Most of these beach pics were taken at nearby Sandy Bay. Yes, I was just showing off with my last post but can you believe I posted it whilst I was standing on the beach – gotta love that technology. I was playing around with the settings on my camera and ended up with a lot of pics...

Sunday morning we took a walk to the [unimpressive] lighthouse. The view definitely made it worthwhile. It was a 40 minute walk either way which got quite steep at the end. Years of dragging the kids along on walks must finally be paying off – they didn't complain once!

We went back to Sandy Bay before heading home. The Poor Knights island group is in the background.

Ava and I at Whangarei Falls on the way home.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fun at Piha

We went for a drive to Piha beach last weekend. The weather was good and so was the surf which is a bit of a rarity; Piha is renowned for its huge, unsurfable surf.

What I love most about New Zealand beaches is the ruggedness; it's quite different from the white sandy beaches in Queensland. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course, it's just nice to have something else to appreciate.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Survivor Samoa! [Part 2]

Before we move on to Part 2, I need to tell you about the paopao; a small dug out canoe the Samoans use for fishing in lagoons. Steve has a keen interest in hand-made, timber boats and whenever given the opportunity, would quiz the locals about the paopao. One of the guys that worked at Taufua showed him (and Ava) his family's canoe. Apparently the ones that exist today were all made generations ago and no-one alive has witnessed one being made. Sadly it is a craft which may soon die.

I hope I didn't inundate you with too many pics in Part 1 – I just wanted to show you how beautiful Samoa is. Part 2 starts at Sa'Moana Resort.

Sa'Moana Resort
I booked this resort as I thought we might need to stay somewhere “nice” to counter-balance "roughing" it at Taufua. In hindsight, it really wasn't necessary but we did make the most of having room to spread out and enjoyed having a separate bedroom, not to mention an actual bed to sleep in and our own bathroom. Talk about decadent – it was quite modest really.

Our brightly decorated Family Fale.

This place is owned by an Aussie and caters to surfers but as surf is controlled by Mother Nature, they can't guarantee good surf. Luckily Steve adopts the "make the most of today because you don't know what tomorrow will hold" attitude (particularly when it comes to surf) and he caught a few waves at Taufua. Although the reef break out the front of Sa'Moana was close making it an easy paddle out, it was also very shallow with the coral below threatening injuries.

The resort grounds are very well maintained; staff rake the entire area each morning. There were plenty of hammocks for snoozing, reading or drinking in. You just had to be wary of the coconuts overhead!

I want to go back in time a bit to the snorkelling at Taufua. The coral was still recovering from the tsunami that devastated the place two years ago; it resembled a coral graveyard. It is gradually coming back to life although it is a slow process. There was also a lot of debris that was washed out in the tsunami such as floor tiles, crockery and sarongs; a very sobering experience. There were many more coral varieties at Sa'Moana which made me realise how spectacular it must have been at Taufua before the tsunami. The large coral clumps at Sa'Moana were quite tricky to navigate around – even at high tide. More coral but less fish species were found here.

Steve took us each (separately) out for a paddle in the kayaks. It was a bit choppy on the day I went out and if I had to rely solely on my own muscle power, I wouldn't have got very far. We paddled up to One Tree Point which we were instructed not to pass as there was a crew filming Survivor Samoa and they didn't want on-lookers.

Breakfast at Sa'Moana was a little less social than Taufua.

Hermit Crab races.

Playing games.

The infinity pool.

A traditional cooking fale where they do an umu which is the Samoan version of a hangi.

Jeff the Chef.

This is what they use to make coconut milk.

Monkey-ing around.

The Apia International Airport. Our Samoan holiday is all but over as we prepare to board our red-eye flight home.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Samoahhh! [Part 1]

Sorry for the delay in posting our holiday pics. I've had "issues" with uploading photos so I'm posting instalments.

Sadly, our holiday to beautiful Samoa has come, and gone. As we unpack our bags we discovered some shells, coconuts [yes] and sand found their way back with us. We were expecting a hermit crab to crawl out of Ruby's bag but it didn't – she would have loved that. Here's a recap, from the beginning...

Eager to start our holiday, we arrived at the airport a little early. We wanted to make the most of the Koru Lounge as it has become an important part of the overall travelling experience for the kids. They certainly had the chance to experience it this time as our flight was delayed seven hours! We had plenty of time to do the whole duty-free pamper thing, eat, drink and play on computers but even after that was all done, there was still time to bunker down and try to get some sleep.

Finally, we boarded the plane and after a [comparatively] short flight, we arrived in Apia, Samoa. Our driver was there waiting for us which was a relief and he took us straight to our hotel.

Tanoa Tuisitala
Moments after arriving, I ran into my friend Amy from Mt Eden; it is a small world after all. As I checked-in I was told there was no record of our booking?! I was beginning to wonder if this was going to be the Holiday from Hell. Luckily, it was sorted out quickly, we were given a room with breakfast thrown in as a sweetner – to our relief this was the last hiccup of our trip. Any frustrations quickly dissipated over a few drinks with our Mt Eden friends. The girls had some playmates for a while so everyone was happy. We made the most of the pool, beds and air-conditioning; there would be no such luxuries at our port of call.

Poolside pics:
In the minivan that took us to Taufua – and yes, some of us did get a bit too much sun:

Taufua Beach Fales
Even though they'd seen pictures on the website, I wasn't sure how the girls would react to our new abode. To my relief, they loved it. As soon as we arrived they thought it was a really cool place; which it was. As far as the facilities at Taufua go, it is exactly as you see it on their website but what you don't get from the web is the warm and friendly reception. With breakfast and dinner included, I was pretty happy. At meal times, everyone sits together at long tables and a variety of dishes are placed down the centre – there is a real sense of being part of a big family. You can't help but meet people a learn a little about their lives.
Inside our fale before we moved in! Yes, this is where we slept for six nights. All of us. Together. On the floor.

The view:

Our fale from the outside. The girls spent a lot of time playing under the fale; mostly with a colony of hermit crabs!

Treasures found:


Cocktail hour on the beach. Rum and coke? G+T?


Much of our time was spent snorkelling.


Gin, chips, book, view – it's enough to put a smile on a girl's face!

One of many hermit crabs.

Ava took a liking to pawpaws.

The girls making leis for the fia fia night.

Traditional Samoan dancers at the fia fia.

Breakfast Taufua style.

To Sua Trench [Tourism Samoa should do something about re-naming this spot].

The looong ladder is not for the faint-hearted. Anyone can do it; just don't look down!

Sipping on a coconut.

Marine life at Taufua.

Watch this space for Part 2.