Skipper’s Canyon was the site for what I believe was the third major gold rush in New Zealand in the early 1860’s (just after the New Zealand wars).  At its peak, about 3000 people lived and mined in the canyon.  The road in took about 25 years to build (by hand) and is now a single lane dirt track that goes about 22 kilometers into the canyon.

The scenery was beautiful.  But, even more interesting is that the family that lives in the canyon run a small museum that includes items that they have retrieved from the canyon over the years.  Our tour was lead by the 4th generation daughter.  We got to see family photographs, hear the family stories, see the relics of the mining operations, get a lesson in how they mined the riverbed, and even got to have tea.

The sun even came out after three days of grey and rain.

I asked Ms Winky (yep, that is her real name) about living in such isolation.  She said that in this day it was not really a problem.  They do stock up but with helicopters there really was no problem when the road washed out (they have their own helicopter pad).  She talked about how last winter they were only isolated for six weeks when the road washed out.  We did pass several areas that were starting to wash out and two sink holes in the road and it is still early in the winter.

View out the windowGold fields

The road is one of the few in New Zealand where if you take a rental car on to the road, it voids your insurance.  Vehicles are warned that they need to have chains and four-wheel drives to travel the road.  The road is made mostly of finely ground rock from the glaciers so that when it gets wet it becomes really deep and slick mud.

Two stories to demonstrate to point.  One, the blacksmiths used to create special horse shoes with a bard across the bottom of the shoe and bend the tips of horseshoe down to create grips for the horses for the ice.  Two, a farmer in the canyon used to hire out his oxen to help pull the wagons up a steep grade on the road.  One time, some travelers explored the top part of the hill and discovered that the farmer had diverted water to make the road wet and slippery so that he could charge people for the use of his oxen team.  He was tried and found innocent.  He was found several days later, floating down the river.  Frontier justice.

There was a hotel in the canyon.  The hotel owner used to advertise for barmaids in Dunedin.  He would pay their way to the hotel to work.  The average length of employment for the barmaids was about three days before they were married to a miner who had struck it rich and leaving.  So, being industrious, the hotel/bar owner advertised for ugly bar maids.  Hoping to at least keep one.  The only change?  The average length of employment went from three days to six days.

horse snow shoes

Ever since I went partially 

down Skipper’s Canyon in 2006, I wanted to see the rest of it.  So, I finally go to experience it.  Cross that item off.




That NZ$1,000 bottle of wine Location:  Queenstown

One evening in Queenstown, Leigh, Melanie, and I went to Winetastes (; a unique opportunity to taste over 80 wines in one evening.  Okay, we did not get through all 80 wines, but we did get to taste quite a few.


The system works as follows.  You get a card with a magnetic strip on it.  The wine has a dispensing system that protects the wine and provides 15, 150, or 300 ml allocations (taste, half-glass, full-glass).  You are charged for each allocation.  It is a fun way to spend the evening.

And yes, I did try the most expensive wine, a NZ$1,000 bottle of wine Penfields’ Grange Shiraz 2008 (the taste was NZ$35.00).  Boy, was it worth it.

The shop carried over 700 different wines (95% of them from New Zealand).  We could only find one wine from the States, a few from France, and several form Australia.

As the evening progressed, we decided to get a cheese tray and each of us selected a glass of wine to have with the tray.

And for those that do not like wine, they did offer several types of New Zealand beers and several whiskeys (also for tasting).

A fun evening trying wines we would probably never buy and at a reasonable cost

Location:  Rotorua, NZ

I can finally enjoy this trip.  I finally finished uploading my class that starts on June 10th.  I finished working out how the grading system would work and checked all the dates and did one final proof of all the videos and web sites this morning.  So, now I can relax and enjoy myself.  

This year we added a second day at Rotorua to give students a chance to do more things.  Boy, did they take advantage of it.  We had groups that went to:

  • Agrodome ( - animal show (sheep and dogs), organic farm, animal nursery, etc  
  • White Water Rafting ( - The group is certainly full of stories about the 6 meter falls and getting dumped out of the boat. ·
  • Hobbiton ( - Visit the Shire from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  This is the one that I went on.  It was worth the expense.  When they built the original set for "The Lord of the Rings" the sets were only temporary.  When the filming was over, almost everything was removed (rain delayed some of its removal which allowed farmer Anderson to get permission to keep the sets).   
  • Zorbing ( - rolling down a hill in a inflated ball.  Not my cup of tea but those that went seem to have enjoyed it.   

The Green Dragon

It has been raining since we got here.  Today it stopped.  It was cloudy most of the day but toward evening the sun finally came out to give us a beautiful sunset.

Hobbiton was amazing.  We all agreed it was worth the trip.  It was nice to get out into the country in the 45 minute drive from Rotorua to the site.  We passed many fields with sheep and cows. 








You just missed Frodo


Location:  Wellington NZ

In Rotorua, I remember biting down on a a piece of potato and heard a crunch.  I now know what it was.  My tooth.  I was in-between root canal treatments - not worries there anymore.  The tooth cracked right down the middle.  So, had to have it extracted.  Turns out it was also infected.  So, now I have one less tooth (and less pain and no further root canal treatments). 

I was told by several people that this now means I am a local.  Visiting five times and having a dental appointment apparently is all it takes.  Of course that just means that the student's label of papa kiwi fits even more.  

I was amazed at the medical treatment.  We so much time talking about how advanced US medicine is and yet that was not necessarily my experience.  In the States there is a local numbing cream, then the local.  You still feel the needles.  Here he just did the needle and it was nothing more than a pinch.  It may be that it was different locations for different procedures but it was much less painful. 

Extraction went well.  

The cost?  That is the most amazing part.  An extraction in the States is about US$375 will the extraction in New Zealand was NZ$265.  More than US$120 savings.  The antibiotics were NZ$26.75.  That is less than the co-pay I normally pay.  Who says that universal health care doesn't work.  No waiting.  I had a dental appointment 50 minutes after I called.  Was in the office at 10:50 am and out by 11:30 am. 

I will give everyone an update when the local wears off.  

Location: Rotorua, NZ

Today was the trip from Auckland to Rotorua via Waitomo Caves. ·Waitomo caves is famous for glow worms. ·They look like little points fo light on the ceiling of the cave. ·Everyone that I know that has experienced the cave finds it really "cool". ·The stop is a nice pause in the 5.5-hour trip between the two locations. ·

Other than the caves, the two things that stand out are the countryside we drive through and the driver. ·The driver provided a four plus hour running commentary on the geography, history of New Zealand, the landmarks we passed, industry in New Zealand, provided language lessons, and even drove the bus. ·I am always amazed at the bus drivers in this country. ·They really "make" the experience value added. ·

The countryside is also amazing. ·It does not matter what the weather is in this country it is always beautiful. ·Sunny days give you great vistas of mountains and valleys, rainy days five you fog shrouded hillsides. ·Those days in-between give you endless rainbows. ·

As I was told today, the most recent counts:

  • 4.5 million people (1.377 million in Auckland alone)
  • 30 million sheep
  • 1.7 million deer
  • 8 million cows·

The name for Rotorua that won the T-shirt contest is Rotogas. ·I actually prefer the runner up "Pull my finger." ·As you can guess Rotorua smells. I love to watch the faces of students as the experience the hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg) smell ·for the first time. ·They really dislike it. ·After a few hours they don't even notice it. ·I suppose talking about the health benefits of H2S would be too much to ask (reduces inflammation and decreases Asthma symptoms). ·

Mitai is the name of a local Maori family or Iwi.  The family have put together a village environment and created a dinner and cultural performance to entertain visitors and provide an introduction to traditional Maori culture.  

Some Maori words

  • Kia ora – hello 
  • Ka pai – very good, well done
  • Wahi tapu – a sacred place
  • Aroha – love, caring for others
  • Kai – food, to eat
  • Hangi – food cooked in an earth oven
  • Tikanga Maori – the Maori way of doing things
  • Haere ra – farewell 

As they describe their experience:

Cultural Performance

Our cultural performance is real, raw and earthy. It is a fascinating performance full of emotion and power.

In the tranquil natural bush setting, our performers take you back in time when the ancient Maori customs and traditions were part of everyday life. Through songs and dances plus tales and legends told, you will learn a great deal about our fascinating past.

You will hear tales about the way we interacted with the European settlers many generations ago, our music, carving, the usefulness of plants and ta moko (tattooing). Tattoos are just one of the ways that demonstrate the strong ties that Maori people have with their cultural heritage and we will explain why.

The displays of weaponry and combat that are shown during the performance will fascinate you. Coupled with the grace and beauty of the poi dance and the spine tingling haka finale, this is an interactive, and unforgettable experience for absolutely everyone to enjoy.

An evening with the Mitai


Mitai are proud to offer you an authentic hangi meal that is cooked in the earth oven known as 'the hangi pit'.

Your menu includes a hot selection of succulent New Zealand Lamb & Chicken, Potatoes (Rewai), Sweet Potato (Kumara) and stuffing (a combination of Bread, Mixed Herbs, Corn, Carrots & Peas).  Side dishes include scalloped potatoes baked with a cheese topping and 

freshly baked Garlic Bread.  A range of salads is on offer including Corn salad, Cauliflower with Sesame Seeds, Rice, Ranchslaw and Freshly Tossed Garden Salad.  Your hangi meal is complemented with rich brown gravy and thick mint sauce. Desserts include tropical Fruit Salad, chocolate Log, and Trifle with Cream. Full bar facilities are available and Chilled Spring Water straight from Fairy Spring is served to your table

War Canoe/Waka

Hand carved by the Mitai family, the waka (ancient war canoe) paddles by, leaving you spellbound. See warriors by night in traditional dress traveling down the Wai-O-Whiro Stream as was done many years ago

I just know that I like it