Thoughts on a postcard – volcanic land

This is about my New Zealand bus trip from Tauranga to Hastings, at the end of June last year.

The map told me I’d be travelling through the heart of volcano land. I imagined towering peaks, and dark valleys, with the bus winding along a lonely road, cold in the shadows. Well, I was wrong.

Our bus trip, especially the Rotorua to Taupō section was volcanic – but it wasn’t the lofty, Vesuvius kind of volcanic. It was understated and unexpected, for me at least. I was nodding off, head against the window, when I realised the bush on the edge of the road was smoking. And it wasn’t a bonfire. Steam seeped through the earth, sometimes in plumes, other times shifting in veils.

Then came Taupō, the town on the edge of the massive lake by the same name. We never saw much of the lake from the bus, but during the stop I found this view at the end of the street, with the type of peaks I’d been expecting. The lake looks tranquil, yet the land over which it is lying is not. Beneath the water is the restless caldera of a supervolcano, one that has erupted with enough force to earn it the top score (8) on the VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index). Vesuvius only managed a 5. Thankfully there has been no massive eruption since 232CE, although there have been some shaky bouts.

I took my photograph of the beautiful lake, bought a coffee, then climbed back on to the bus, and we headed on to Hastings, winding down through endless slopes of pine plantations, some freshly planted, some reaching maturity, others just stumps.

By the time we reached Hastings it was dark.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Postcard from Te Puke, New Zealand

We had such a good time, staying on a kiwifruit farm in Te Puke. (In case you’re wondering the word is not ‘puke’, it’s more like pookie. And these are young kiwifruit vines.)

It was great to be on a farm again. We stayed in a lovely farmhouse, surrounded by trees, some full of citrus, and others full of flowers – magnolias and camellias I think. And there were lots of tiny birds – fantails. They came so close, whirring up to us as we walked around the vines.

Never realised until I got there, how famous the area is for its kiwifruit. They were growing everywhere. You could spot the lands, because of the high hedges running along them to stop the wind. The pickers had just harvested the fruit on the farm where we were staying. Wish I’d seen that. It’s all done by hand, with the old vines trellised just high enough for the pickers to stand beneath, and the rows just wide enough for a little tractor to fit between. Everything so precise. I think China and Japan get most of the fruit, especially the golden kiwi, which are delicious. The golden ones grow up wires suspended like tipis.

Hard to believe it’s almost seven months since I was there.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Postcard from Tauranga, New Zealand

This is a bit of a time travelling postcard. I was here about seven months ago, and can remember it vividly. Just the names Tauranga, and Mount Maunganui were exciting. They were names I’d known ever since my cousins moved there, many years earlier.

Turns out Tauranga is all about the ocean. It has miles and miles of white sand beach on one side, and a big harbour on the other. On a map it looks a bit like a bottle opener – the beach running all down the long arm, with Mount Maunganui like a nose on the end, above the claw of the opener bit, which is surrounded by bays.

I never climbed Mount Maunganui but I walked all around it, about two metres above the ocean with the wind sending waves crashing towards us. We started on the harbour side, and walked around to the beach side. It was beautiful. Two big seals on the rocks, and a little blue penguin, busy swimming somewhere.

It was only when I was on the bus leaving Tauranga, which is a big place by the way – largest city in the Bay of Plenty, that I noticed the piles and piles of pine logs stacked along the quays waiting for delivery. Someone told me they were destined for China. Not sure if they’ve got there yet.

Hope this reaches you.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023