The Fords in New Zealand

We are Chris, Vanessa, Shannon and Alex Ford. We decided some time ago that we wanted to live in a country where the main emphasis was on family and free time rather than the 'live to work' ethos of the UK. We chose New Zealand for this, and many other many reasons. After months of research we decided to settle in the Christchurch area. Our journey begins!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Last Post

At this point I should play the bugle!

It was a very long and boring journey back and unbelievably cold at Heathrow!! It had been raining for 3 days before we left so we should have felt right at home in the drizzle here but NZ rain was a hell of a lot warmer. It was sad to say goodbye to the friends we made in New Zealand but lovely to be seen off at the airport.

Chris was back to work almost before drawing breath and has been so happy to be back and to be busy. The children had a week of half term before returning to school (by my reckoning that brought their total attendance at school since July 2005 to about 9 weeks!!). They settled back in like they had never been away! I have found it harder to re-acclimatise than the others and still yearn a little for the NZ dream. I have decided to set up my own photography business, something I have wanted to do for a while, and my website is here: - see what you think.

We have been back in the UK now for 6 weeks and yesterday, the majority of our household goods arrived. It feels very odd (again) to see the stuff that was packed up such a long time ago. All we need to do now is sell the house and car out there and buy a house here - it sounds so easy!

On to the next chapter, whatever that may bring.

Poynters Track


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Another Fab Kiwi Recipe

Afghan Biscuits

200g (7 oz)
butter75g (3 oz)
sugar175g (6 oz)
flour25g (1 oz)
cocoa powder50g
cornflakes (or crushed weetbix)

Soften butterAdd sugar and beat to a cream. Add flour and cocoa. Add cornflakes last so as not to break them up too much. Put spoonfuls on a greased oven tray and bake about 15 minutes at 180 oC (350 oF). When cold, ice with chocolate icing and put walnuts on top.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Quail Island

Quail Island, within Lyttelton Harbour (Te Whakaraup), has an interesting cultural heritage in a unique natural environment. Named after the now extinct native Quail, the island was used for the collection of food - mostly seabirds eggs and fish - by the local Maori children. The Maori name for the island is O Tamahua, which means 'place to gather seabirds eggs'.

Today the island is home to native birds including the fantail, kingfisher, silvereye and many sea birds. To reach the island, you catch a boat from the not very attractive port of Lyttelton (where our container arrived all that time ago!) for a 15 minute trip over to the island. Here is a picture of one of the container ships about to leave.

The yellow arrow indicates the location of Sally and Seans' entire household which still hasn't left for the UK yet - Sally, just thought you might like to see it again!!!
As usual, Alex thoroughlyy enjoyed the boat ride and was very happy that from his position on the top deck, he could see the driver!
The walk round the island takes about 2 1/2 hours and takes in the remains of the leper colony which was set up in 1907 and was the only such colony in New Zealand. At its peak, up to nine sufferers were housed on the island. The remainss of a radio mast still stands, this was their onlycommunicationn with the mainland. One poor soul died on the island and was buried near to the colony.

The island was used for quarantine of humans and animals from 1847 when a quarantine station was built. Any person or animal coming in from England was held there until the chance of them passing on any sickness/disease was considered to have passed.

In 1901 and 1910, Robert Falcon Scott used the island as a base to train the dogs, ponies and mules for his Antartic expeditions. Ernest Shackleton used it for the same purpose in 1907.

The scenery is fabulous as the naturall harbour in which the island sits is surrounded by the port hills.
A brief rest at Walkers Beach before we catch the fast ferry back to themainlandd. Chris, Shannon and Alex got soaked on the way back as they insisted on standing in the area where all the boats spray came on board - mad or what?!?

Muscle Car Show

more l8r

Orana Wildlife Park

For months and months before leaving England, Alex and I watched the series The Zoo on the TV. The one thing he wanted to do when we arrived was to visit it so, on Friday we decided we'd give it a go. Obviously, the series was based at Auckland Zoo, slightly far away for a day visit, but Alex was none the wiser when we headed off in the direction of Christchurch Zoo!

First of all we checked out Shannon's favourite, the spider monkeys.

They had loads of lions and Tigers which Alex and his friend Max really liked. They are in the process of building a massive new lion enclosure and a matching one for the tigers.

Orana Wildlife Park is New Zealand's largest wildlife and conservation centre and only open range zoo. The Park has been developed as an open range sanctuary for endangered animals, providing them with enclosures as close to their natural habitat as possible. Streams, moats and banks are used as barriers to allow visitors the opportunity to see the animals in a natural manner. Over 400 animals from 70 different species are displayed. The name Orana is the Maori word for welcome or place of refuge. The zoo is mostly staffed by volunteers who, it is plain to see, really love the animals there.

This bird is a Tui - a native New Zealand bird. The zoo are trying to increase the numbers as is endangers, as are many NZ native birds.

We saw our first live Kiwi bird - they are HUGE! We expected them to be quail size but they are more like the size of a turkey. They are creatures od the night so you have to go into the specially built, very dark Kiwi House and wait until your eyesight adjusts to the dark - no photography was allowed unfortunately.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Beach Combing

One of our favourite activities on our frequent trips to the beach is beach combing. For those of you not familiar with this activity, it involves picking up interesting shells, sea-worn wood and other natural items relinquished by the tide.

Chris has taken the whole concept of beach combing to a whole new level. After having his (very expensive) prescription sunglasses swept off his head by a large wave, we decided to have a beach combing expedition to try and recover them - these were after all the 2nd pair of prescription glasses he'd lost in the same number of weeks! We duly worked our way down the beach resulting in:

a fantastic pair of classy jandels and a brush suitable for scrubbing the most esteemed of floors. Did we find the glasses?

a frayed knot!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


The mighty Fox Glacier is the largest and longest of the magnificent West Coast glaciers.
It is remarkable in that it ends in temperate rainforest, 250 metres above sea level and a mere twelve kilometres from the sea. The high peaks, snowfields and glaciers of Te Waipounamu (the South Island) are of great significance to Maori who named the glacier Te Moeka o Tuawe. This name derived from a tupuna (ancestor) Tu Awe who fell to his death while exploring the area. The bed of Te Moeka o Tuawe became his moeka (final resting place). It is said that when his lover Hine Hukatere wept, the bed of the valley filled with her everlasting tears of ice. But inevitably it was renamed after a New Zealand Prime Minister, William Fox.

The car park leading to the galcier is featured in the Glenorchy thread. Past this point the track is gentle amble up a steep sided glacial vally, getting colder by the minute. We started in shorts and t shirts, but by the time we got there the fleece and windproof had been added. The terminus of the glacier is a dirty grey from the moraine or stones left as it retreats.

But the blue underneath is amazing, if you had to draw cold it wouldn't be white but this colour.

We stopped the night at the Rainforest Retreat. It was a beautiful setting set amid the lush bush of the west coast. It receives 7m of rain a year so qualifies as a rain forest I guess. The calling of the birds we don't know the names of was both magical and hypnotic. Its a shame therefore that the site itself was a real disapointment. The infrastructure and pitch sites were literally created by felling and blading the forest, then dozing many hundreds of cubic metres of river gravels to form roads. Cheap and effective for campers, a nightmare for putting tent pegs into! And the mozzies, don't talk to me about the mozzies!

A few k's up the road, and another day another glacier. Franz Josef Glacier was named after the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by explorer Julius von Haast. There are many glaciers in the Southern Alps, but Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier are the only two that almost reach the coast. The terminal face of the glacier is currently only 19 kilometres from the sea.

It is a 40 minute walk from the car park to the terminal face of the Franz Josef glacier. The track follows a rocky path over riverbed.

I overhead the guide of an adjacent group describe the geology as schist. I thought it was alright. Sentinel Rock (not pictured but a bigger version of below) emerged from beneath the glacier in 1865 and is an example of how the great bed of ice ground the hard schist bedrock into distinctive rounded rocks. Since 1909 the glacier has retreated over 3km and plants have progressively colonised where a veneer of rubble has been dumped over bedrock.

West Coast

Chris commented on an earlier post that driving up the West Coast was like driving through Kew Gardens (only with the sea on your left hand side!) - this is the view at just one of the very scenic rest stops.


Macetown was an off road route that I'd particularly wanted to do. After winning tickets for the gondola at Queenstown we were further south than we'd planned to be, so I suggested camping at Macetown. Located 15km from Arrowtow, itself a living memory of a substantial gold town of the early 1860s goldrush days, Macetown is now a ghost town, which was always remote and its climate harsh, but it only closed down when the mines eventually failed. We dined at an attractive restaurant overlooking the Arrow River. Meal over, we started the arduous route through to Macetown along the route of the Arrow River. After half a dozen river crossings and the track inclining up a steep ravine the girls cried stop. So we turned around and made our way back to Arrowtown and the campsite there. Alex and I left the girls to set up camp and we went off to play.

We didn't have long, it was after 8.30 pm already. We soon retraced our journey across the river many times.....

...and climbed up the sides of the valley...

....down another track as it wound deeper and deeper into the hilly countryside.

You don't get views like these from a rental.

10 km into the route it was after 9 pm and still there remained another 5 km to the town. It was getting dark though, and I didn't want to do anything too risky obviously with Alex with me. We turned around and headed back the way we came. A solitary faded wooden cross next to particularly steep section of track a reminder why the trails should be respected.

It was after 10 pm and fully dark when the boys returned to camp. Bedtime for Alex and a glass of wine for me.


Vanessa was gobsmacked she'd won the draw at Milford Sound. Ironic really as she hates gondolas/cable cars! Alex did the wobble it a bit routine until resoundedly told off. The gondola ride is an incredibly steep ascent above Queenstown.

At the top there is a hotel/visitors centre place. Great view.

There's also a luge track, basically go-carts. Another cable ride to the top of the luge course.

We all (except V) had a go with our own cart, but it was a bit steep and Alex had a few thumps into the side and I was half controlling him by colliding into him. We went tandem from then on. Shannon, the speed demon, then too the fast course, leaving Alex and I to do the standard. We made good progress though and overtook quite a few people over the next 3 goes.

Milford Sound

We arrive in Te Anau hoping to be able to go on a cruise to the glow worm caves but unfortunatley they are all booked up! Needless to say this results in two very bad tempered children. The intention had been to stay here the night and drive out to Milford Sound early tomorrow morning to catch the fiord cruise but, as we are now at a loose end, we decide to drive out there today and camp there instead. So after a quick lunch, the children bid farewell to the huge takehe bird and we're off.

Fiordland is one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand. It is renowned as its sightseeing and walking capital. The drive from Te Anau to milford sound is about 2 hours long but it is through the most stunning scenery that it seems to take no time at all (for the grown-ups that is!!!). Human activity has been limited in Fiordland. European settlement was hampered in this area by the steepness of the terrain, isolation and the wettest climate in New Zealand. Early Māori people hunted birds here and caught fish from the sea and gathered pounamu (New Zealand jade) from the rivers. Later, sealers and whalers took shelter in the fiords and built small settlements in a number of locations.

We arrive at our next camp site and pitch tent on a gravel (yes really!) pitch. and have a qick drive out to see the famous Milford Sound before tea. Camping here is a very social activity - cooking tea takes place in a very well appointed (if small) kitchen along with visitors from Germany, Sweden, America and Ireland. The pitch was surprisingly comfortable but unfortuantely Milford Sound appears to have a very high sandfly population and we are all covered in festering bites by the next morning. We head of back to Milford Sound to start our boat trip.

Milford is by far the best known of all of the fiords and the only one that can be accessed by road. It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the open sea. In Maori legend, the fiords were created not by rivers of ice, but by Tu Te Raki Whanoa, a godly figure who came wielding a magical adze and uttering incantations. When is was originally discovered by English sailors, it was named Milford Haven, after the Captains home town.

Camp Ford

Yes - it really is a dolphin!!!!!!!!!!!

The boat took us right under this waterfall and it was b****Y cold! but a fantastic experience. Good job they provided free tea and coffee though - my hands were blue!

Mitre Peak, shown in this picture, is so named because of it's similarity to the bishops headgear of the same name. Is is, supposedly, the most photographed mountain in New Zealand. I can see why!!!!

The trip lasted 2 hours and for me it has been the most awe inspiring of our New Zealand trips to date - to say the scenery is stunning here does simply not do it justice. Fantastic!!!

Monkey Island

No player of the one of our old favourite PC games would pass a signpost to Monkey island without further investigation. It proved to be an island only at high tide but we didn't let that get us down.

And here is one of the more rare inhabitants..

And to prove that there is a lot of weather here, the above picture was taken to the south of Monkey Island only seconds before the picture below was taken to the north. Guess which way we were heading!

Invercargill and Bluff

Invercargill is New Zealand's southernmost city, it's early prosperity resulted in the construction of many fine buildings (none of which I have photos of!) which make it a pleasure to drive through (that and the distinct lack of traffic!!!). As we drive towards our campsite, we see dozens and dozens of classic cars. The camp site owner informs us that we are lucky to get a pitch as there is a big car show the following day.

We pitch tent and decide to head out to Bluff, the most southery point of the South Island. It's a very mixed drive as there is only one road out to Bluff and one muinute you're driving through beautiful scenery, the next minute through a grubby industrial area.

Bluff is unique in the fact that it is the oldest European settled town in New Zealand. It is dominted by the port full of fishing boats. It is one of the most famous suppliers of oysters in the southern hemisphere. We drive out to Stirling Point which is to New Zealand what Landsend is to Great Britain. There is a high lookout tower where you can see views out to Stewart Island. It was incredibly windy as we made our way up there. In fact, it was so windy that Alex could barely stand and decided to go and sit in the car. The views from the top were fantastic.

The island with the lighthouse on is Dog Island.

Cannibal Bay

Rumbling tummies demanded an unscheduled stop and as Cannibal Bay was looming, and had a great name, we decided to stop there. What a gorgeous place! Home to protected sealions (although they weren't in residence when we visited) and a multitude of seabirds it was reached down a very windy road - well worth the bumpy drive.
Maybe it's me being fanciful but this rock looked like an old cannibals face to me!

Sad News

Sadly we received a phone call late on Tuesday from our friend Sally to say that her father had died and they were flying back to England on Thursday. We didn't have a chance to see them before they left but they are in our thoughts.


Arrived in Dunedin after a pretty long drive, all a bit grumpy and ready for some tea. The drive through the city did nothing to inspire us - party due to the busyness of traffic. We eventually found the camp site, paid our dues and went to find our pitch only to find that the site was on a hill and our pitch was on a little terrace at the top - as far from the facilities as you can get. Oh well, tent pitched - off to check out the famous Octogon, the plaza at the centre of Dunedin.

Dunedin was settled in 1848 by Scottish immigrants and has become know as the "Edinburgh of the South". It certainly has some lovely buildings (and a HUGE Cadburys factory!! - smells great) but the Octogon pedestrian area was nothing special and all the eating places were pub based and expensive so back in the car in the hunt for a chip shop.

The following morning we wake to the sound of very, very heavy rain. The propsect of travelling to our next destination with wet, cold children is not a happy one so Chris and the children are sent off to the heated swimming pool for a combined swim/wash and I take down the tent and pack the car. By the time we are ready to go, the kids are chirpy as hell and I'm wet through, freezing, have a big gash on my hand from the tent pole and generally in pretty foul mood - the rain continues!!!!!

One of the places we had wanted to see was the Albatross Sanctuary which is based at the far end of the Otago Peninsular so we head off in that direction in the hope of finding breakfast on the way.

We arrive at the peninsular tip and it is so cold that we have to pile on all available clothes in order not to freeze to death (and it's still raining). There is a short walk along the cliff tops where we are able to see some seals and the King Shag colony but in order to wlk around the cliff to see the Albatross colony you have to pay the princly sum of $80 - I think not!!! Instead we spend some time going round the (free) exhibition.

We head off back along the peninsular, stopping to take a photo of Dunedin in the distance (yes, it's still raining!).......

... and arrive at the only castle in New Zealand.

Larnach castle was built 1871 by William Larnach, merchant baron and politician, for his beloved first wife Eliza. 200 workmen spent three years building the castle shell and master European craftsmen spent a furthur 12 years embellishing the interior. It is privately owned and has been restored to its former glory by the current owners. It is a beautiful building but is more like a manor house than a castle.

Back into the car for the next leg of the journey and, hooray, it has finally stopped raining.

Moeraki Boulders

Given that several of the places we wanted to visit this week are on National Park land, we sadly decided that Diesel would have to holiday on his own at the local kennels. Once he was safely ensconsed, we headed south. For once, traffic was pretty heavy on State Hghway 1, and roadworks plentiful so it took us longer than expected to reach our first stop, the Moeraki Boulders (by which time the phrase "when's it lunchtime" had become banned due to overuse).

The Moeraki Boulders are huge spherical stones that are scattered over the sandy beaches, but they are not like ordinary round boulders that have been shaped by rivers and pounding seas. These boulders are classed as septarian concretions, and were formed in ancient sea floor sediments. They were created by a process similar to the formation of oyster pearls, where layers of material cover a central nucleus or core. For the oyster, this core is an irritating grain of sand. For the boulders, it was a fossil shell, bone fragment, or piece of wood. Lime minerals in the sea accumulated on the core over time, and the concretion grew into perfectly spherical shapes up to three metres in diameter.

Chris' commented that it looked like the cliffs were sh*****g the boulders - charming!!! See what you think..

And, for the first time ever, photos of the birth of rock monsters.....

and onewards to Dunedin...