Sunday, 19 April 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015 - We got up cleaned and saw what a beautiful day so we headed southwest for an adventure.

We drove to the Waitakere Regional Parkland.  There are a lot of hikes, waterfalls and beaches in this area.  Our first stop was at Nihotupu Dam.  It was a nice 40 minute walk to the Dam.  The trail was almost like a road and you walked by the Nihotupu Stream and saw some waterfalls on the trail. 

 The Nihotupu Stream that we walked along all the way to the reservoir.  Very calm and peaceful. 

Below Nada on the main trail.  It was a very warm day but with all the trees we walked in the shade most of the time.  There were only a few other people hiking so we enjoyed it at our own leisure.

There are so many different, interesting trees here in New Zealand.  Reed always has something to photograph.

Reed climbed down to take a picture at one of the waterfalls, and all of a sudden he disappeared.  He slipped on a grassy rock and fell out of sight.  Luckily he ended up on the side of the waterfall and not in it. His glasses flew off but luckily he found them. He got a little muddy and sported a pretty huge, purple bruise a day later but nothing broken.  He said, "Sometimes you have to sacrifice to get a good picture!"

 The grassy, fern like stuff on the right side of the waterfall is where Reed slid and fell.

We finally found a safe place from the stream back up to the trail for him to climb out.  It scared Nada for a few minutes because she could not see him and he was not answering.  Finally we communicated and all ended up okay!

 You can see the waterfall in the distance and you can see the mud on Reed's shorts from when he fell.  Also there are some water spots on the lens of the camera.
 The sun reflecting off the water made the reservoir look so blue.  It was quite clear water.  You can tell it is at the end of the season.  This reservoir provides water for the Auckland area.  You can see the dam in the distance.
These birds had blue on their wings and were quite loud.  Not sure what type it is.
 Nada standing on top of the dam.  It was built in 1923.
 We love all the fern trees.  They are just so beautiful.  They are everywhere and always look nice.

These are tram tracks.  People use to take the tram to come here for picnics.  We also assume they used these tracks to bring in supplies to build the dam.  We just walked on them to get to the base of the dam.  The pipe is a water pipe.  They had pressure gauges every so many feet and you could hear the pressure when you got close to the gauges.
 Reed at the bottom of the dam.  They were not letting very much water out.
 We had to walk on a trail and the tram tracks down but you are allowed to take the steps back up to the top of the dam.  They were very steep steps and narrow.  We could see why they did not want people climbing down them.  They had moss on them and could be slippery.
 You can see how steep it was to climb out but not bad.
Nada on the last set of stairs up.  It was a great adventure.  We will probably come back here next spring when the run off is happening and see the stream running a little faster and see the reservoir fuller.

We finished hiking out and headed to Piha Beach.  This is where a lot of surfing takes place.  The people say there are good waves here all the time.

 The sand was nice and the water was not too cold.  It was getting a little later in the day so we only got our legs wet.
 Nada hiking on some lava rocks.  The tide started coming in so we decided to not try to get to the other bay.  Maybe another time.

Below you can see the waves.  They were coming in and crashing like that the entire time we were there, which was about an hour.

 These kids had picked up a piece of seaweed and were using it as a jump rope.  It looked like fun.  Our kids and grandkids would have wanted to jump with them, I know I did.
 Nada walking in a stream around Lion Rock.  The water runs from a stream into the ocean and it was very warm.
 This is what they call Lion Rock.  This beach just kept on going.  We definitely will be coming back here.  It is amazing how many great beaches, hikes and things there are to see within an hour to an hour and a half from our flat.
 There were quite a few people enjoying the water and some were surfing.  It really was a beautiful day and beautiful scenery!
 We had a great time just walking along the beach, enjoying the sounds of the waves and getting our feet wet.  Kind of magical.
 From the lookout point on the road you can see why they call this Lion Rock on Piha Beach.  The other nice thing about all these beaches and places are they are free.  You just have to get to them.  The local people really use their beaches and parks and they are well kept and have nice bathrooms at all these areas.  What a wonderful day.
Monday evening, April 13, 2015, after Family Home Evening we were walking home and it started to rain and the wind started blowing hard.  This is what happened to our umbrella!  Luckily we were almost home by the time it was ruined.

Above is a picture in the main conference room in the Area Office where we hold our usually Monday morning devotionals.  Today, Tuesday April 14, 2015 we held it because the Area Presidency were talking to us about their experiences at General Conference and their meetings the week before.  It is always great to get information first hand. 
On the wall are pictures of the senior missionaries and employees at the Area Office who have completed their 15 generations.  Most have their Temple work done but as long as they had identified them or spent a lot of time trying to find them they were included.  The Area Presidency wanted 80% by the 15th of April and it is over 90%.  Great Work Everyone!

 This is part of our office.  They are the Self-Reliance Area Team.  Starting closest is Ariel, Rene, Dean and Dallas.  We work very closely with all of them.
 This is the other side of our office.  This is Welfare Services.  Closest is Luisa, then Elder and Sister Winters.
This is Reed in our ITEP Coordinators Office.  They wanted to make sure we came up here and worked off and on so no one would try to take over the office before the new coordinators can be called and take over. Reed likes coming up here to work because it is much quieter.
Nada in our Education Specialist Coordinators Office.  They moved a wall and put up little cubicle walls so we felt like we weren't right out in the open.  It works and is plenty good enough.  We really enjoy the people we work with in both of our missions right now.  We stay busy but it is not too much right now.  We feel blessed that we were able to step in and help the ITEP program and continue to do our Education Specialist Mission at the same time.  The Lord is watching over us and helping us to stay well and keep up with all that needs to be done.

On a sad note.  On April 17, 2015 Nada lost her oldest brother Paul.  It is so hard to be so far away from our family during hard times like this.  I feel so blessed that I was able to talk to him and let him know how much I love him before he didn't wake up any more.  What a blessing for him to only have pain for a few hours and then pass quietly and peacefully with all of his children, grandchildren and siblings there with him.  We will miss him but are so grateful for all the good memories and experiences we have shared over the years with him.  I will miss him when I go home and walk every morning past his house but know that he is with our parents and grandparents and all those who have gone before him.  Thank you to all of you who have expressed your love and support to me and the family.  We are grateful for the knowledge that families are forever. 

Thank you for sharing all these great experiences with us.  Some are harder than others but we learn and grow from all experiences,  We love the gospel and will do our best to serve The Lord. 
Until next time.
Ofa, Alofa, Love, Elder and Sister Spencer (Reed and Nada)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Easter Holiday

Here at the Pacific Area Office we had a four day weekend so we decided it was time for a little holiday.  We drove and took Elder and Sister Wilkins with us down south.  We left the office at noon on Thursday, April 2, 2015, packed a lunch and headed to Pokeno.  We stopped there and had lunch and then ice cream.  This is the cheapest place we have found to buy ice cream cones.  Most people stop here on the way home from the Temple because it is half way between Hamilton and Auckland.

Nada, Reed and Elder Wilkins having two scoops of yummy Tip Top ice cream.

We stopped in a little town to check out some Green Stone and shells.  They had these sculptures and building signs made out of corrugated steel.  Below is a picture of a sheep and a sheep dog.  The sheep was originally designed for a gentleman who had a wool shop there and then the city fathers had the sheep dog built.  Now the sheep is an information center.

We then drove all the way to Lake Taupo for the evening.  We stayed at the Ascot Motel and walked down to the lake after dinner.  It was pretty dark so we couldn't see a lot but it was calm and peaceful.

On Friday morning we had a quick snack in the room, checked out and headed towards Crater's of the Moon Geothermal Park. First we stopped to take some pictures of Huka Falls but there was so much early morning mist you could not see the river or the falls.  

You can see the beautiful foliage.  These fern trees are so beautiful here.  The sun was just burning off the mist but not in the river basin yet.
The leaves are changing because it is Fall here and the nights are definitely getting cooler.

Elder and Sister Wilkins and Nada with the mist covering the river below.
Diane took pictures of Reed taking pictures.  He is usually behind the camera and this time he is the subject.
You can see the sun is shining through the trees.

We arrived around 8:30 a.m. at the Crater's of the Moon walk and headed off for an hour adventure of walking at our own pace and looking around.  It was very peaceful and interesting.  When you got close to some of the craters you could hear the water bubbling under ground but there was no visible sign of any bubbling.  Some of them you could hear and there was not even any steam coming out.   There was still a lot of dew on the ground cover and shrubs and with  the thermal pots shooting up steam was a great sight.

In the picture on the right you can see the morning dew with the steam vents on the side.  It looked like it had been raining but it was all dew.

They had these Danger Hot signs all over.  The boardwalks were very nice and really help to keep people from walking where they shouldn't.
The big hole behind Nada and Diane was a very big hole and you could hear the water bubbling hard.  A few years ago it shot up boiling mud and created a bigger hole but now the mud is dry and you can only hear it underground and see the steam coming out of different vents all around it.

It kind of reminded us of Yellowstone but on a smaller scale.  The smell of sulphur was very mild here.

We then drove to Aratiatia Dam to watch them release the water.  They do this three times a day to let people see what the Waikato River and rapids looked like before the dam was built.

This Aratiatia Dam.  They opened the gates to let out the water at 10:00 a.m.
We hurried over to the other side of the bridge.  The pool of water is very shallow and clear.
 By 10:05 you can see the white water starting to come into the shallow pool of water.
By 10:08 the basin is getting fuller and the water is flowing out down the river.
By 10:10 the basin where the shallow pool was is now full and a roaring river with rapids.
Now you cannot tell there even was just a small basin.  It just looks like a huge river.

By 10:15 most of the rocks are covered and you have white water rapids.  This is when they shut the dam gates and the river slowly dies back down.  By noon they start all over again.

At 10:30 we got on a calm enjoyable boat ride that went up the Waikato River to Huka Falls.  There are a bunch of streams and rivers that run into the Taupo Lake but only the Waikato runs out.

This is the boat we took up the river to the waterfall.  The driver was also the tour guide and he gave us a lot of information about the river, the lake, the first thermal electric power plant built in the world is right on this river.
We all went inside for brief instructions then Nada, Diane & Mike sat outside the rest of the time and Reed kept moving around taking pictures.
There were some beautiful black swans floating on the river.
You can see the leaves changing colors on the different trees along the river bank.
The tour guide moved over to a shallow spot and stopped the engine.  You can see all these Rainbow Trout swimming. The water was very clear and some of them were over 24 inches long.  A fisherman would have loved fishing there.
This black swan has built her next in the river.  She keeps moving the grass to keep it dry so the eggs wont get wet.
We went right under the bridge in the distance. You drive on this bridge to get into Taupo.
Huka Waterfall.  This is where we turn around.  He actually took the boat right into the falls a little ways and kept turning it around so you could take pictures from the front or the back of the boat.
Nada and Diane enjoying the scenery and the beautiful weather!
There is a bridge where you can walk over the falls and enjoy watching them.
Reed and Nada with Huka Falls behind them.
This is when the boat driver pushed right into the Falls.
We did not take the power boat.  They really gave the people a thrill ride but they also got wet.
We watched the dam release the water again at noon.  We went farther down the river to a lookout.  You can see how the river is not very full and the dam with the bridge is in the distance.
In the picture below you can see by 12:15 that it is a white rapid river. and you cannot see some of the huge boulders any more.  It was very fun to watch.

Nada with the Waikato River running farther down the canyon.  The color of the water was so beautiful
We stopped and took a picture of this Prawn Park.  People are out their with their fishing poles and buckets catching prawns and then they cook them up for you  We decided to eat a meat pie and head to Napier.  This was a very full day of seeing new things.

We arrived in Napier around 4:30 p.m.  Checked into our motel, went to the Art Deco Museum to get information, walked back along the beach, had dinner and went to bed tired.

These are some posters in the Napier Art Deco Museum!
A couple of pictures showing the different art deco on the buildings.

Mike, Diane and Nada on the beach just a couple of blocks from downtown Napier.

Reed taking pictures of us.  He makes sure he gets wet in every bay, ocean, or body of water we go to.  He doesn't care if it is cold or not.

It was a beautiful beach.  The sand was black and not sandy but very pebbly.  Never been on one quite like it before.  Not fun to walk on without shoes.
The waves were crashing a little ways off shore and making a wonderful sound. While Nada and Diane walked home along the beach Reed and Mike drove up to the Bluffs.  It is a lookout above Napier and you can see the city and all of Hawks Bay.  It is right above the Harbour.
Saturday April 4, 2015 we got up and ate in our room.  Diane and Nada walked to the Hawks Bay Farmers' Market.  It was very small but had some nice pastries and fruit.  We walked around town and then decided to drive over to Hastings to their Fresh Market.  When we got there it was not on Saturday but Sunday.  We saw a sign for Cape Kidnappers so we decided to go for a drive.

 This is the beach leading to Cape Kidnappers.  You can drive on the beach to get to it but you cannot drive the Church cars on the beach.  Some people were driving four wheelers that they probably rented somewhere.  We walked for an hour and did not make it all the way to the Cape.  Maybe some other time.
 Cyclone Pam that hit Vanuatu in March and did a lot of damage hit this end of New Zealand.  You can see where the tide washed part of the road away.  They have saved enough of it that it is a single car rough road for right now but it only goes into a mobile home park.
 Reed took off his shoes for our walk along the beach. The sand here is smooth like normal sand.
We drove back into Napier to take the Art Deco Walking Tour.  These six houses are called the Six Sisters.  We assume because they were all built at the same time and are very much alike.  They are all businesses now.  Not part of the tour.

 I am just going to put up some pictures of the different Art Deco on the buildings.  There was an earthquake in 1931 that destroyed most of the buildings in Napier.  The buildings that were not destroyed were made of reinforced concrete and did not have big parapets or façade type materials on them.  So when they decided to rebuild Napier they had new building codes.  They could not build any buildings taller than two stories, they had to be made of reinforced concrete and the designs had to be built into the buildings.

Today because of the historic nature of the buildings if you want to paint or fix up a building the colors and designs have to be approved.
 There are a lot of beautiful lead glass windows in some of these buildings.
 Ceiling to one of the big banks in town.  It is unique because of the Maori design.
Nada standing in front of a sun dial.  The ground she is standing on used to be the ocean before the earthquake in 1931.  The wall to her right used to be the ocean wall. Under the grass is where they buried all the rubble from the earthquake and then built the ground up.  Now there is a big staging area for music groups and plays, and this grassy area all along the waterfront that used to be ocean.  They have done a beautiful job with it.  After the earthquake the whole land came up three meters so now they have a lot more usable land.

 Our motel was right on Hawks Bay.  We watched cargo ships come and go from the balcony in our room.

After dinner, Reed and I walked along the boardwalk on the bay and took pictures of the full moon with the lighted Norfolk Pines.  We did this walk all three nights it was so peaceful and beautiful.

Sunday April 5, 2015 Happy Easter!!  This is very early Easter Morning.  This is the view we could see from our bed.  We went to Elder and Sister Wilkins room at 8:00 a.m. and watched the Saturday afternoon session of Conference. 

That was nice.  Then we got in the car and drove up to the Bluffs so Diane and I could see the beautiful lookout.  It was a little cloudy today but still you could see the entire Hawks Bay from Cape Kidnappers to Mahia Point.  We decided since it was Sunday we would just go for a drive and see if we could get to Mahia Point. That drive ended up being six hours round trip.  We stopped and enjoyed a beach and found a couple of seashells there.  Reed of course got a little wet!  We drove as far as we dared.  We ended up on a narrow gravel road and it was getting late so we thought we better turn around.  We did not make it quite to the point but we tried.

 This is a train bridge.  Very picturesque.
 Cyclone Pam caused some big waves and wind here on this beach as well.  It was a very beautiful black sand beach.
 We just walked around for a while and looked for different things like shells, rocks and drift wood.
 Reed getting his feet and pants a little wet.
 A little bit of sun rays coming through the clouds reflecting off the ocean.  It was very beautiful
 As we crossed a small bridge to head back to Napier this was one of the scenes.  This was a river that met up with the bay and a lot of boats were putting in or coming out here.
 We passed this Maori Marae.  This is a traditional Maori gathering place where they put on performances.
This was on the way back to Napier.  Right before sunset with the mountains, ocean, beach and a few spots of sun coming through the clouds.  Perfect end to a perfect day.

We had such a great time.  We got up Monday morning and headed back to Takapuna.  We hit quite a bit of heavy traffic around Hamilton.  We arrived home at 3:30 p.m.  We are so glad we have the opportunity to see some of the beautiful things New Zealand has to offer.  We feel so blessed.  It was a great getaway.  We enjoyed our Easter break, and listening to General Conference and now we are ready to go back to the office and work hard again.  Life is good.  We love you all and hope you had a wonderful Easter Holiday.  We are so grateful for The Atonement and The Resurrection and our Savior Jesus Christ.  We love you all.  Elder and Sister Spencer