NZ - A Slice of Heaven

Team awesome is on the road again. Sandra, Ian and Tracy are setting off on another adventure this time for the North Island of NZ. Between us we have five good feet, five passable legs and three almost working throats. And so we set forth to enjoy this interesting place for the next ten days.

After arriving at Wellington airport and collecting our mode of transport for the rest of our visit we found our accommodation - just up the road from this installation - maybe we can be in the movies too!

At the front gate of home number one for this week.

Wind, rain, cable cars and a sanctuary
A good holiday is a connected holiday. So before we get too far along with plans for the day we need to get onto the grid.

Once plugged into the grid we headed off to explore the city a little more and started towards the museum - then the rain came down - so we changed direction.

A random gent and his dog we meet along the way.
At this point the rain meant a change of plan. So to the cable car we go.The cable car has been popping up and down the hill in Wellington since around the 1890s. It reminded me of the Katoomba scenic railway - and any hill this steep that offered a lift up and down is fine with me. At the top we walked around the botanic gardens and observatory, checked out the cable car museum and checked out some birds.

The national flower of New Zealand - Kowhai.

By we are rugged up, wired up and lit up (with red glowing torches) and walking into the sanctuary. The bird song was almost cacophonous and it wasn't long before we saw some of those making the music. There were kiwi, takahe, tuatara (a reptile as old as the dinosaur) and with no other of it's like left on the earth - it is a species unto itself. We watched the bush light up with glow worms, we saw the shags at their nests - with the change over of sitters from mum to dad. We heard kiwi songs a'plenty and then watched three individual male birds forage amongst the floor of the forest. The takahe, aging gracefully in their retirement home here at Zealandia, still holding their own as a pair of delightful birds. There were female wetas in the 'weta hotels' in hollowed out logs with Perspex to protect them from interfering hands.
So much work and commitment has allowed this wonderful place to be. We would be the poorer if those with such passion and foresight had not brought this place into being and continue to have a 500 year vision for the sanctuary. No pictures from me but lots of fun and learning was had.

Gannets and Art Deco
The day began with our outing to the Gannet colony. Jumping onto the 4 wheel drive bus with a few other committed souls - the weather although dry was a tad windy and chilly - we were driven onto private land where a 10km predator proof fence has been erected to allow this corner of the property to be a haven for the birds of New Zealand - at least those left after human habitation came to these islands.

At least this healthy but very introduced creature was on the outside of the fenced area.

A windy point with Gannets in the background.

Watching those wonderful birds. Golden heads with luminescent white coats and blue eyes and black eyeliner that always looks glorious. I know Sandra and I scrub up well enough but the Gannets have the look sorted.

Green hills - lovely but a mark of the loss of habitat for the native birds and others no doubt.

Back to Napier for a scrumptious lunch in one of the Art Deco style cafés. A wander through the town that has become the Art Deco City because post the 1931 earthquake the rebuilding meant that that was the style and so it has been since.

A moment in town to shop - and one always brings one's pooch.


Just some of the buildings and windows - love the glass work - around town.

Winding roads and not a volcano - yet

A day on the New Zealand roads presented many a turn and twist, even some bits of road missing but the three drivers met the challenge and arrived in Whakatane. On the way we called into Wairoa where the river flowed fast and the tea and toast was a welcome morning tea.

On to Gisbourne for lunch - here there was a ship on a stick - not sure what that was all about but it looked interesting. Didn't see any lost looking character called Noah looking for a boat.

Finally winding our way along the edge, and I mean edge, of the fast flowing Waioeka River, where even the road had slipped away at some points, we arrivied at Whakatane a very pretty harbour village. Our planned trip to an active marine volcano on White Island tomorrow called off due to rough seas but we hope to get out there on Friday. We await the call of the skipper.

Ian at the foot of the waterfall in town that historically had the flax and flour mill based there. Now a pretty park for one and all.

Whakatane stories

Welcome to Whakatane. A place with significant Maori history. The name has come from the legend of the landing of one of the Seven canoes that carried the first people to New Zealand.

A replica of the canoe thought to have brought those first people to Whakatane.

The harbour today and maybe as it may have been when those first people arrived.

A statue representing the daughter of the chief who, when they arrived at the harbour saved the canoe with all their possessions from floating to sea by declaring that she could do as the men did and swam to the canoe and paddled the canoe, a men only job, back to safety.
The landscape of this area, like much of New Zealand is often shifting but it seems that inspite of this there is a persistence in building and trying to hold back the moving earth - not sure that it is overly successful.

Maybe a sign and orange fence will help - I'm not convinced though.

Looking back on the harbour and village. A pleasant afternoon it was, without any landslides.

Volcano adventure locked in

A call at 8am confirmed that the seas were on our side to allow the PeeJay V to get we three adventurers, and a few others, out to White Island volcano. This is an active marine volcano whose most recent activity of significance was in 2000. Although it is always on the go as such.

We arrived at a steaming, sulphur crater riding in on a rubber dingy to a rough and ready landing spot before setting off with a guide to check out the crater rim and the sulphur industry remnants. We had been kitted out with hard hats and breathing masks - most becoming but also very useful.

The audacity of this species never ceases to surprise and there is history of industry here - the sulphur had a commercial value and therefore it was worth extracting. What eventuates was two goes a setting up 'shop' but the volcano eventually had other ideas so that by 1913 the south wall of the crater came down the hill and collected all and sundry - buildings and people and buried and pushed them and their infrastructure into the sea. Still they persisted with the industry lasting around another ten years.

Sulphur deposits - very rich odours!

Bubble, bubble, smelly, acidic pool.

Some of the industry left overs.

The main cater - occasionally clearish when the wind blows the vapours away.
A great day adventuring.

Rotorua - geysers, boiling springs and a Maori story or two
Having planned our afternoon / evening activity already we set off to explore the town of Rotorua in the morning. Many have said that this town has a smell. I would call it an aroma but sulphur definitely lingers in the air and it isn't hard to see why. Even as we drove into town the steam was evident in all sorts of places - even coming from the road side vent in the gutter!
Below is the building that houses the i-site - which proved an interesting starting place for our morning. Here we saw many a traveller as it was also the beginning of the NZ school holidays. We decided to check out the Rotorua museum. The museum is housed in an historic bath house building and it was hoped to become the centre for health and healing those with the wherewithal (money). Those hot springs did indeed call many to the place.

Entrance to the museum once the bath house. Quite grand and in some ways just the setting for a 'who done it' Agatha Christie style!
A short film gave us the introduction to the Maori story of the place. This has been a significant place for both cultures, Maori and European, because of the hot water - great for cooking and warmth as well as having curative possibilities - but it has also been the point of volcanic eruptions and Rotorua is today sitting inside a crater left from at least one such deep explosion.

One of the many bathrooms on display where all sorts of treatments took place.

Mud bathing was also a common practice!

The grand hall entrance with various bathroom doors (with dressing room) off to the side.
Having had a very rejuvenating morning we headed off to our next action packed event. We were to visit Te Puia. This was to be a 'feast of cultural story telling, entertainment and Māori kai (indigenous food)' and it definitely delivered!
We were treated to a guided tour during the afternoon before watching the earth's molten centre bubble and push itself to the surface in the form of geysers and mud pools. From there we were entertained and fed before watching the geysers under the stars being lit up and all while we had hot chocolate an sat on very warm rocks!

The meeting hall where we were welcomed and entertained. And maybe you might see me later.

A steaming geyser from a distance - we get a lot closer!

On the edge of the mud pool - it is about 95°C.

So much water and steam!
Before having our Māori kai I became part of the entertainment!
So all round a very entertaining day! I love holidays!

On the road with surprising views around corners

First there was the big bike.

Then in the town of Taupo - with large coffee cups as well!

And even a ski chair.

And then to make use of those skies there be snow covered mountains.

Around a very large lake which can be seen behind Ian in this picture.

And finally we arrived in Feilding - yes it is spelt like that - and this is the view from where I sit and type this.

But at my feet is another large cup - so the day is very rounded.

Birds, birds and a special duck.

Our last day in NZ. We were collected at 8.30 by our birding guide 'Sav' - today we are going to try and see as many native birds as we can with the help of our guide and by traveling to locations where there is some native habitat left. These two land masses - North and South islands of NZ - have been one continuos strip of native vegetation - but hunting, clearing and farming - well people really - have put an end to that.

Wandering a path of the native bush. Heard lots of bird songs saw a native pigeon or two and a fantail or two did a little jig - most endearing.

On the road with Sav checking the hillside. There was a little landslide just along the way too.

Definitely bird country - yellow hammers here - yes they are yellow - but not hammer shaped - just bright and cheerful birds.

Onwards to more birds. Next stop a windy lake for a lunch break and more bird finding - plenty of swan, geese and gull here. Ian keeping his eagle eyes - with 'bins' attached - on the action.

Here is this unlikely spot - a pond in a suburban development - we saw Scaups, Shags, and some ducks. But wait there is more - while setting the 'scope' ( a serious bird looking instrument on legs) in position Sav gets the jitters - is it? maybe? get the book out? ask us to look and describe the bird - yes, yes, yes it is - a White eyed Duck - not seen in NZ before - common in Australian but not here. So it turns out the we three and one duck are something special from Oz - duck because it is the first time here and we three because we are number 2, 3 and 4 to see and identify this bird in the country!! Yahoo, yippee - fun indeed!
So with that settled we continue to the best bird spotting place around - the estuary and here we spot lots of great feathered friends.

A spoonbill - doing the spoonbill thing.

Keeping an eye - or two really - on the possible wrybills arriving - they like to hide and feed around the water's edge and around the other stuff on the sand.

No wrybills this time but so many others - godwits, kingfishers, a dotterel, shags, a caspian tern, a black beaked gull, and so it goes - a fantastic day it was - a fantastic holiday all round we three have had!