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Flax on the Foreshore

This bush that New Zealanders typically call "flax" (or "Harakeke" in Māori) is not related to the european flax at all, but can serve a similar purpose as it is an exceptionally fibrous plant, and so can be found woven into all sorts of containers and makes excellent rope and paper.

While I was growing up our house was occasionally filled with the smell of dried flax from hundreds of new "piu piu" (a māori kilt, or skirt) that my father would sell to shops throughout New Zealand. Much more recently, when Heather was doing her art degree, she experimented with different fibres for papermaking, and the flax made some beautiful papers - very coarse, since they were handmade without a mechanical beater, but exceptionally strong.

Interestingly I see a lot of these in Ireland, as well, where it is called Phormium (from it's latin name) and few seem to be aware of it's origins on the other side of the planet.

This example is living on the foreshore of Wellington Harbour at Petone, and despite the glorious autumn weather on this particular day, the location gets a lot of weather pounding into it from the south, but flax can be found the length and breadth of New Zealand in even more challenging locations, weather-wise, and really anywhere that there is a good supply of water.
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Whangaparoa Head

Looking back from Tiritirimatangi Island towards Whangaparoa. It looks like some plantation forest there has been logged recently too, but I guess it'll come back - unless it gets covered in the ever-increasing northern suburbia of Auckland!
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Petone Cottage

The garage door really gives it away: sometimes the southerly really comes across the harbour and drives the salt spray down beach street.

I think I'd like to walk the beach on those days too - great punctuation to the blue skies and sun that we saw this week.

Tomorrow we begin the marathon return from our too-short visit to the old country, boarding the world's longest flight (17h40) in the afternoon.
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Bucket Fountain

Visiting Wellington today, of course I had to wander past the iconic bucket fountain. I don't know anyone who doesn't adore this piece of Wellington history, while also secretly being just a little bit embarrassed and unsure about quite why they do.

Possibly it's because when they were toddlers they loved to play games with it's splashy, chaotic-and-yet-almost-predictable dumping of water. I remember times when the kids were younger and we couldn't drag them away until the big bucket had tipped. Or perhaps I misremember, and they couldn't drag me away!

Lot's of fun though, and here it is at it's best, on a perfect autumn day.
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Tiri Lighthouse

The lighthouse on Tiritiri Matangi Island is a kitset model, with the parts built in England and shipped to New Zealand to be assembled on site. It's stood up pretty well though! I was interested in the solar panel you can see in front of this picture, which looks very degraded, and I believe is probably from the 1980's, though apparently still capable of charging the batteries enough to keep the light going most of the time.

Unexpectedly, I was even able to help out the +Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi with a small computer problem while I was there! They do a fantastic job of providing guided tours from the ferry to the lighthouse, replanting native bush, upkeep on the paths, and so many more things that keep the island a wonderful open sanctuary for NZ's native wildlife.

Shooting birds with a 24-120 zoom is exceedingly difficult, but I did get a couple of nice photos of the North Island Robin that I might post tomorrow...
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Walking in Warkworth

The walk alongside the river in Warkworth is beautiful, even at low tide. So surprising to see a town which is so much on one side of the river, but so nice to look across to the native bush on the other shore.
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Devonport Whimsy

Just along the road from my mother's apartment is this adorably whimsical old house - I can just see the cupola peeking over the trees from my bedroom window.

So much New Zealand in this picture, from the clothesline in the back, to the grass growing through the driveway, the weatherboards, the stained glass decorative windows and the curved corrugated iron verandah roof.

The interior brick chimneys date the house very firmly to pre-napier earthquake - nobody in their right mind would have a chimney inside their house after that one!
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Kauri

This young kauri - probably about a hundred years old - demonstrates why there would have been such demand for them as ship's masts in the 19th century. Fortunately New Zealand is so far from the rest of the world the whole landscape didn't manage to end up stripped of them, though they are still somewhat endangered, and preservation and reforestation efforts continue.

This grove is in the +Brick Bay Wines & Sculpture Trail, a delightful trail through native bush, farmland and landscaped gardens dotted with wonderful sculpture.

This was taken a couple of days ago, before the huge dump of rain from a couple of tropical cyclones bearing down on the country in tandem. The weather got a little rough there for a while, but it mostly missed Auckland, and though there are trees and powerlines down all over the country it sounds like this one hasn't been as bad as the media painted it might get.
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Rangitoto Island

An obvious volcano, which is almost everpresent around Auckland - the top peeping over a wall, or visible in the distance down past the end of a street. This view shows it in spectacular breadth - container ship included for scale - from the top of Mt Victoria.

It's curious that the best viewing points for Auckland and Wellington are both called Mount Victoria. I particularly like this view of Rangitoto because of the foreground of typical New Zealand suburbia.
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Pohutukawa at Wenderholm

There's a lovely regional park at Wenderholm: a beach between two bluffs, in the classic style of North Auckland bays facing the Hauraki Gulf. A river flows around the regional park on the enclosed peninsula, dotted with gnarly pohutukawa, framing some delightful vistas, such as this inland view up the estuary.
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