Learning about Sheep and Rugby in the North Island


Last Updated on September 12, 2019 by Amy

Wednesday after our Tongariro Crossing hike, we took it easy; a leisurely wake-up, a big breakfast, and then a quiet drive to our next AirBnb in Ashhurst.

Staying on a Farm

Carol’s place is advertised as a mini-farm, one of the reasons I picked to stay there. On two acres, with the main house and a guest room attached to the garage, Carol’s place was beautiful. And then we got to meet the animals! Six sheep, two miniature horses, four ducks, four chickens, and a dog!

Over the two days we stayed there, I got to spend a lot of time with the animals. Having grown up riding horses, I was comfortable helping Carol out. I groomed both horses and every day I helped Carol train Robbie to load into the trailer.

Jazzy, an American miniature horse.
Robbie, a New Zealand miniature horse.

The sheep were surprisingly friendly, especially if you have bread. Some of the sheep aren’t named, as they are earmarked for deliciousness later. But some of the sheep are permanent fixtures. Emma is the friendliest, and even turns down bread in lieu of head scratches. To Carol’s surprise, one of the mix-breed sheep, Jaffa, fed from my hand, which she’d never done with Carol! Emma was really the only one that allows touching. Her coat is so thick, it’s like touching a memory foam mattress. The wool has a residue on it – lanolin – which is good for your skin and commonly used in beauty products.

Jaffa and Licorice.

Rugby Museum in Palmerston North

I tore myself away from the sheep on Thursday so we could drive into Palmerston North and go to the Rugby Museum.

The exhibit was small, but we learned a lot about the history of rugby in New Zealand. Rugby has been played here since 1870, when it was introduced by Charles Monro, and pretty quickly gained popularity. A New Zealand team was formed in 1905 called the Original All Blacks (“Originals”). The team traveled all over the world.

We knew that there was a big rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand and now we know where it came from – when the All Blacks played in South Africa, the native Maori people were not allowed to come to South Africa, so New Zealand had to create an all-white team to go play. Eventually, people protested and the All Blacks refused to play South Africa.

We learned a lot about the haka too. Even the Originals back in 1905 did the Haka. Hakas are a Maori ceremonial war dance involving chanting and intimidation. It is most commonly known because the All Blacks perform it before every game but happens a lot – at weddings or to commemorate special occasions.

We haven’t seen a haka in person yet, but Waitangi Day is coming up, so I am hoping a haka will be part of the festivities.  The museum housed all kinds of memorabilia, from an Originals cap (which were typically buried with the player when they died, so very few remain) to current day adverts.

Me trying to take down Jonah Lomu.
Me up against the current tallest All Blacks player.
David testing the wind – it didn’t help.

We spent our second night at Carol’s place and then moved further south.

Mount Holdsworth, North Island

We camped for a night at Mount Holdsworth, a DOC site.  I did some solo hiking, and we woke up in the morning to find ourselves surrounded – there was a 24K trail run – straight up Mount Holdsworth!  I hiked some of that area and it was really challenging.

Popping into Lower Hutt

From Mount Holdsworth, we continued further south and stopped in Lower Hutt to meet up with some blog followers – Nolan and Jenny.  We had a great lunch talking about cruising and their plans to someday buy a boat.  They even gave us a few gifts, one of which was a case of Bundaberg Ginger Beer!

HSBC Rugby Sevens Series in Wellington

Once in Wellington we checked into our AirBnb, and took off for our next adventure – the HSBC Rugby Sevens Series at WestPac stadium.  We would have loved to catch a rugby 15s All Blacks game, but the season hasn’t started yet.  So instead we settled on watching international teams play each other – including the States!  While we had learned a lot about rugby history at the museum, we didn’t learn much about the rules of play for either rugby or rugby sevens.  Thankfully, youtube was to the rescue.  The first thing we learned, while booking our tickets, is that the games are only 14 minutes of playtime – two seven-minute halves – and the game goes very quickly.  At the game, we met up with Sarah again (who you may remember from Opua).

We arrived in time to watch the US play Samoa and win, and stayed through to watch the final game – US versus New Zealand (we lost, obviously).

We had a great time learning more about New Zealand’s most popular sport and the most popular animal.  Now, on to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand!

Watch the Video:  NZ Road Trip Part 3: That Ball Sure Looks Funny

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  1. I am going to have a fabulous day getting caught up on your blog. This was a great start – Jaffa clearly has good taste!

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