The McKenzie's Official world tour site
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
TO THE END OF NEW ZEALAND AND BACK
‘Kia Ora – Macswayround check in again - from the Land of the Long White Cloud!’
At Whakatane we enjoyed another bush walk in the novelty of a Kiwi protected territory. There were some Pohutukawa Trees in and around this town and these have become known as the New Zealand Christmas tree - as they have a beautiful crimson bloom throughout each Christmas season. These trees also hold special Cultural Significance and tradition to the Maori people.
Off the coast at Whatakane lies the moonscape island named ‘White Island’. This happens to be New Zealand’s most active volcano!
On the way to the Coromandel and Hot Water Beach, we stopped off in a place called Bethlehem – for a fix of cream cakes! The weather was a little wet – and we got stuck for a day as flooding prevented our onward journey! However – we stayed at a brand new site just a stone’s throw from the Hot Water Beach and received a very warm welcome. The beach was a fantastic novelty – come rain or shine! We all enjoyed digging holes for our feet in the sand and making use of the natural bubbling hot spring beneath the sand – to heat our feet up! This beach is included in the top ten beaches in the world, although it is best to stick with digging a hole in the sand rather than swimming, as the beach is also within the 4 most dangerous for rip tides in New Zealand. Nearby the beach at Hahei has beautiful white sand and we also walked along to see Cathedral Cove which is included in the film setting for ‘Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian’ –the C S Lewis classic movie.
We took an early morning dip in the hot pool at Miranda campsite to catch a romantic sunrise – unfortunately lost to the clouds! Ten out of Ten for effort though!
At Birkenhead, in Auckland, we caught up with my cousin Neil, his wife Heather and boys – Max and Toby – some more long lost cousins for Jemma and Ben! At Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter – Underwater World and Aquatic Discovery (in Auckland) – we definitely got our PENGUIN FIX!! We were pleased to see massive stingrays, sharks and lots of other fish - as well as New Zealand’s only Sub-Antarctic Penguins – YES – mission accomplished!! Here, we were able to ride a snow cat through the largest underground colony of Sub-Antarctic penguins - in the world! We loved watching the King and Gentoo penguins as they played in the snow and even went around on the snow cat for a second helping! This centre also has a life-sized replica of Captain Robert Scott’s Antarctic hut and tells the story of the conditions that he and his team lived within during their exhibitions to the world’s coldest continent. Thank -you to Neil, Heather, Toby and Max for accompanying us on a great day out and for the use of their house!
We ventured further north and our journey took us through Waiwera where we enjoyed the movie pool and slides at the Infinity Thermal Spa Resort. At Goat Island, the Marine Reserve was New Zealand’s first of its kind and enormous fish could be seen from the rocks along the coast line, through the clear waters. We found out that this island has never been home to a goat – although it did have pigs – until they decided to swim ashore! We stayed at Pakiri Beach on the way to Russell, in the Bay of Islands. Russell has many fine old buildings, an old fig tree and a lovely waterfront. It is also home to Christchurch – New Zealand’s oldest church (1847), which is still scarred with musket holes today. Charles Darwin made a contribution towards the cost of building this church.
We all had a fantastic three hour boat cruise, leaving from the Russell waterfront. We toured around some of the islands and sailed through the infamous ‘hole in the rock’. The highlight of the day has to be the most amazing sight of a pod of large Bottle nosed dolphins, as they swam around our boat!!
A small ferry trip took us towards Waitangi –the most important historic site in New Zealand. It was here that the Waitangi Treaty was signed by a large number of Maori chiefs and the British Crown in February 1840. The Treaty saw Maori cede sovereignty to the British Queen, affording them the rights of all British subjects in return. The Treaty then toured the country and by September it had been signed by 500 chiefs. This remains a cornerstone of New Zealand’s foundation today. The Treaty grounds is now home to the renovated Treaty house, a museum, a marae, a 35 metre Waka (war canoe), and the UK, NZ and Maori flag pole which marks the spot where the Treaty was signed. We also enjoyed our first cultural experience, where Phil was chosen as Chief to represent our group of visitors and had to be welcomed in the traditional manner and accept a fern leaf from the warriors. Phil was also greeted on behalf of the group with the traditional Hongi and then Ben joined him with the other men to perform a Haka! Jemma and I took to the stage later to join in with a traditional Poi. We stayed at The Park - Top Ten by Ninety Mile Beach. This beach is actually 52 miles long and often serves as a secondary highway for vehicles heading north.
We drove by road to the top of the Aupouri Peninsula – Cape Reinga – which is the most northern point of New Zealand. The Cape Reinga lighthouse is right at the end of the path and has an ‘end of the world’ feel to it. It really is a most beautiful place and has the added force as it is here that the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean.......at the Columbia Bank Maelstrom.
Cape Reinga is a place of intense cultural and spiritual significance to Maori. According to Maori legend the Pohutukawa tree at this point (approximately 800 years old), marks the place where the spirits of the dead begin their journey back to the home of their ancestors. It is believed that the soles of the departed climb down the roots of this tree and swim north to Hawaiki and back to their eternal home. For us – it meant that we had made it from Bluff at the south of the south island to the very north of the north island!
On the way to Matakohe we drove alongside the Waipoua forest on the west coast and saw the biggest Kauri tree in the world – at around 2000 years old the Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest) certainly lives up to the name.
We were pleased to accept an invitation to call into a farm near Putaruru and catch up with some friends that we first met in Invercargill! Steve and Eileen made us all very welcome and we enjoyed a guided tour of the extremely modern farm. The milking parlour can hold 50 cows on a massive turntable and these cows can all be milked within 7 minutes! They can hold 650 cows in the round yard, at any one time. We thank them for their hospitality and would like to return the favour back in the UK – one day!
Rotorua was next and we all had great fun at the Skyline rides, gondoliers and the Luge – in the rain! Rotorua has an aroma all of its own which can take some getting used to! The Sulphur city gives an insight into what is happening beneath the earth’s crust. We visited Te Puia which is the largest and best-known thermal reserve and was excellent as it also doubled up as a major cultural area. We enjoyed spurting geysers, steaming hot springs and exploding mud pools! There are two main geysers, named the Prince of Wales’ Feathers and Pohutu (big splash or explosion). These geysers erupted several times during our visit and produced the most extraordinary spectacle. The Pohutu geyser can spurt water to an impressive height of 30 metres into the air! We had a great guide who took us on a very informed tour of the whole site and we thoroughly enjoyed another cultural performance in the meeting house.
As we headed south from Rotorua, the Huka Falls were very scenic with beautiful turquoise water. Through Lake Taupo and along the Tongariro National Park we drove the desert road and were mesmerised by the active volcanoes on either side of the road. We stayed at Ohakune which is also the gateway to the majestic mountains of the central volcanic plateau! As steam rose through these thermal landscapes from every direction – we had another extraordinary feeling -as if these islands are on a living time bomb.There are many earthquakes throughout New Zealand, on a very regular basis, and we had 4 of them in our local area, all within one night!
Our last stop off before Wellington, was at Papaparaumu- where we did our final bit of packing. The camper will be delivered back to Wellington Top Ten and then we leave New Zealand to fly back to Los Angeles, USA (via Sydney airport) on 1st July 2009! So as we say farewell to this volcanic country of natural wonder - we are off to find the sunshine and are all greatly looking forward to being re-united with our own camper – NESSIE!!
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 9:24:57 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand
TO THE END OF NEW ZEALAND AND BACK
• The Maori people are descended from an ancient line of Polynesian people who made their epic journeys in waka hourua (voyaging canoes) from an ancestral homeland known as Hawaiki. Kupe is believed to be the first Maori to reach the New Zealand shore over 1,000 years ago. Northland is regarded as the birthplace of the nation.
• Today – approximately 14% of the New Zealand population are Maori.
• The Pohutukawa Tree is now a threatened species as it is no longer able to regenerate itself due to the competition from weeds and grasses. These factors, together with the added threat from disease and pests such as possums, are causing great concern for a tree that has become symbolic to New Zealand.
• The Hot Water Beach is created by a reservoir of hot water and heated rocks which lies more than 2 kilometres beneath the sand. The heat is a remnant of volcanic activity which occurred in the Coromandel region 5-9 million years ago. There are two springs and they can reach maximum temperatures of 60 degrees C and 64 degrees C, respectively. They have a flow rate of 10-15 litres per minute.
• As a nation, New Zealand embraces the Maori element of its culture and in recent times there has been resurgence in the use of the Maori language and culture.
• The MARAE, or meeting place, is a central part of Maori culture. The traditional arts of weaving and carving are incorporated in intricate panels which reflect the story of their significant people.
• The HONGI is a traditional Maori greeting. Noses are pressed together and the Ha, or breath of life, is exchanged and intermingled. The Hongi is an integral part of the Powhiri (welcoming ceremony).
• MOKO – is the traditional Maori tattooing on the face or body.
• HAKA – these are dances with rhythmic movements and shouted words.
• HE TOHO – is a cultural performance.
• POI – is a woman’s formation dance that involves singing and manipulating a ball of woven flax.
• New Zealand is located on a ring of fire – an arc that stretches along the edge of Asia to Alaska and along the coast of America. This ring is the border of the pacific plate and other plates that form the Earth’s crust. More than 75% of the world’s volcanoes are situated along this ring. It is where the plates meet, that energy is created and is released as geothermal activity. Geothermal fields such as Rotorua occur in areas where water is able to pass down through cracks in the rocks. As the water gets closer to the geothermal activity, it heats and rises back up through the surface – and geysers and hot springs are formed.
• Auckland has 49 discrete volcanoes and this is referred to as the ‘Auckland Volcanic Field’.
• As it was opened in 1959, the Auckland Harbour Bridge has just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
• Wellington has developed its name in the film industry – ‘Wellywood’. The director of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘King Kong’ – Peter Jackson, still calls Wellington his home.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 9:22:07 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand
TO THE END OF NEW ZEALAND AND BACK
• Yellow Hammers
• Gold Finches
• Eastern Rosellas
• Common Myna Bird
• Nosey Myna Birds
• Silver Eyes
• Mute Swans
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 9:15:05 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
New Zealand - Christchurch and onwards.....
KIA ORA from AOTEAROA- ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’.
Christchurch Top Ten was very busy and we figured that this was partly due to the nearby airport facility and the fact that it was a weekend...... We went along to the International Antarctic Centre – advertising itself as the “World’s Best Antarctic Attraction....”
We had anticipated that this day was going to be a very special for Jemma’s imminent birthday. We took the Antarctic Storm experience where the wind chill sank to -15 degrees C, and a ride in the Hagglund - a genuine Antarctic all-terrain amphibious vehicle.
We would describe the centre as a very virtual Antarctica with plenty of information to read ...although it was not really as we had imagined it would be.....
The main penguin attraction centred around the ‘Little Blue Penguins’- who – albeit adorable and cute- are not connected to Antarctica at all! When the children went to ask if there were any animals that were actually from the Antarctic –they were told ‘No’ and this was disappointing (apart from a stuffed leopard seal!). Even more so- as all the advertising for this centre promotes the Emperor/King Penguins –and we were looking forward to being able to see these amazing creatures....we guess we’ll have to wait until Auckland to get our ‘big’ penguin fix?
Out of the mouths of babes – time 9am - quote – “Has the sun actually come up yet?” We were not having the best of luck with the weather conditions!!
Our spirits rose when we arrived into Kaikora, as, even though it was still raining, we were very happy to be able to visit the New Zealand Fur Seal Colony on the Peninsula. The colony was very big and the seals were either sleeping on the rocks and by the side of the road or playing in the waves, just off the shore line! It was great to see nature in action. We had parked the camper very close to the shore line wall and as we watched the wildlife show, the waves began to come over the rocks, as the wind and rain increased......
As we were just deciding that we should move the camper soon (as it would be difficult to explain how it had been swept away!) we found ourselves in another awkward situation. A seal pup had come out of the waves and slithered underneath our camper for some shelter! Not being content with this, the babe had then climbed up the rear axle for a bit of warmth! We were unable to move and as the rain lashed down and the waves swept across, there was soon a flood all around us. It is not easy to convince a seal who is all snug and warm –to PLEASE move!
We must have looked a sight- trying to plead with and beckon to the seal babe! Eventually, it agreed with our plan and we were safe to move. We quickly found the Kaikora Top Ten Campground and we even gave ourselves the treat of a cabin for a couple of days. It was a novelty to be able to spread out and helped to dry us all out too! We enjoyed a birthday weekend for Jemma here.....
Before heading to Blenheim, we called back into the seals once more and were able to enjoy them in the sunshine this time! We spent some time at Richmond and Nelson before trekking back to Picton. The scenic route between Nelson and Picton was stunning through the windy roads and coastal lakes. We were thrilled to see a couple of albatross as we made the Interislander journey, leaving the South Island behind and returning to the North Island.
In Wellington, The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa offered a world-leading, innovative and interactive experience. There were many activity- packed levels to investigate and our experiences included an earthquake simulation, and an enormous colossal squid! There was a marae and plenty of examples and information about the indigenous people, their beliefs, history and culture. The museum has become a National Symbol and is now affectionately known as ‘Our Place’, as it celebrates the very essence of New Zealand and its people. The children enjoyed the many ‘hands- on’ discovery centres and learnt how to weave a bridge, at one of the weekend arts and craft sessions which was held at the museum.
Onwards and upwards – we will hope to catch some more of the sights of Wellington when we return towards the end of June. We travelled through the Ashhurst Domain and managed to find the place with the LONGEST name – in the world! Are you ready? – it goes a bit like this – “TAUMATAWHAKATANGIHANGAKOAUAUOTAMATEATURIPUKAAKAPIKIMAUNGAHORONUKUPOKAIWHENUAKITANATAHU” We will give you a helping hand and say that in our estimation that longest name has 85 letters! It is difficult to believe-but this is actually the abbreviated form of ‘ The brow of a hill where Tamatea, the Man with the big knees, who slid, climbed, and swallowed mountains, known as Land Eater, played his flute to his Brother’.
We enjoyed our time at Hastings and the first class attention from James and his gang at the Hastings Top Ten Camp Site. We had an interesting visit to the Arataki Honey Visitor Centre at Hawkes Bay, where we took a look into the fascinating world of the honey bee and had a yummy honey tasting session! Afterwards we enjoyed a stroll around the Haumoana Farmyard Zoo and saw a wide variety of animals.
Napier was a very interesting place as the area was devastated by an earthquake in 1931. This was a catastrophic quake and measured 7.9 on the Richter Scale. The number of fatalities rose to 258 and the Hawkes Bay Museum provided us with lots more information about this natural disaster.
A major rebuilding plan was instigated and the town was re-built. It is now one of the most uniformed Art-Deco style Cities in the world, which helps to create a unique location. From the Bluff Hill lookout, we saw the views over Napier, Hawke Bay and the inner harbour, which has been raised from the seabed by the earthquake.
At Morere we had our first experience of relaxing in a natural geothermal hot spring. These were unique hot water springs in the scenic Morere rainforest reserve. In the bush setting, there were several baths, of varying temperatures to choose from. This natural spring water has many minerals that are said to be very good for the skin and general well-being. We stayed at Mahia Beach and then went back to Morere to conquer the rainforest bush walk.....
At Gisborne we fitted in a game of crazy golf around our trek to find all the Captain Cook statues and monuments in the city (and also Young Nick, Cook’s cabin boy too!)
Check the next update for our news of Whakatane.........in the Bay of Plenty......
Monday, June 22, 2009 10:03:09 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand
New Zealand - Christchurch and onwards.....
• Christchurch is known as ‘The Garden City’ and is a place where Old English elegance and contemporary New Zealand living are entwined.
• Christchurch is home to a huge complex built for the administration of the New Zealand, US and Italian Antarctic programmes
• In January 1957, the first building of the Scott Base was built. This was the first base built by New Zealand in Antarctica and the New Zealand flag was raised there.
• Antarctic Fish which live under the ice (in places such as McMurdo Sound), have very few blood cells so that the blood is very thick and flows better in the cold. The ‘Ice Fish’ is the only known vertebrate to have NO red blood cells.
• An Antarctic fish’s body temperature is the same as the water temperature minus 1.9 degrees C. Normally blood freezes at minus 1.1 degrees C, but Antarctic fish have an antifreeze chemical called glycoprotein in their blood. Their kidneys have also been adapted to conserve the antifreeze.
• The United Kingdom was one of the twelve nations that initialled the Antarctic Treaty in December 1959. Today, the UK is a Consultative Party to the Treaty with 3 year –round research stations in Antarctica.
• The Colossal squid at Te Papa is 4.2 metres long and weighs nearly half a tonne!
• For Maori, the marae is a focal point for all groups and their kinship. Here, they can meet to discuss and debate, to celebrate, to welcome the living, and to farewell those who have passed on. There are more than one thousand such places throughout New Zealand.
• The Boar War was 1899-1902. It was to be New Zealand’s first war under the British Empire.
• 103,000 Kiwis went to the 1st world war. 18,500 died and 50,000 people were injured.....
• New Zealand has approximately 70 million Opossums (none of which we have witnessed alive) and it is said that they eat through a staggering 21,000 tonnes of foliage each night. This is creating an ecological nightmare for New Zealand and there are many control operations in progress throughout the country.
• Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun rise each day. The Maori name for the district is Tairawhiti –which means “The coast upon which the sun shines across the water”.
• Gisborne is the first European landing place in New Zealand -Captain Cook sailed into what is now known as Poverty Bay in 1769.
• Gisborne also has an infamous lookout at Cook’s Plaza , with a ‘Captain Cook’ statue –only the man in question does not have a British Uniform –nor does he resemble Cook in any way........As the plaque embassasingly reads today “Who is he? – We have no idea! .........”
• The Large Region East and North East of Wellington is known as the Wairarapa, named after Lake Wairarapa (shimmering waters), a shallow but vast 8000 hectare lake. This region is a sheep-raising district and it boasts 3 million sheep within a 16 kilometre radius of Masterton (the region’s main town).
Monday, June 22, 2009 10:01:38 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand
New Zealand - Christchurch and onwards.....
• Red-Billed Gulls
• Sky Larks
• Song Thrush
• Canadian Geese
• Black-Fronted Terns
Monday, June 22, 2009 10:00:29 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Saturday, June 06, 2009
NEW ZEALAND -PART 2.........
We were surprised to see and hear the very strong Scottish influence in Invercargill (and around the whole of New Zealand, as we have since discovered), and it was great to see a variety of ‘wee’ kilts being used in school uniforms. The people around this most southerly city in the world appeared to be very friendly and helpful. We had arrived during a wet period (we seem to be making a habit of this!), but we were impressed that we were still able to take a look around the town as the pavements are mainly undercover and there are many small alley’s and shops inside arcades, to help keep dry!
It was inside such an arcade (The Cambridge Place Arcade) that Phil found ‘The Tattoo Shop’! Many thanks to Dean (and for Wayne’s help too) for creating the Macswayround Logo as a work of art on Phil’s arm. We are all very pleased with the result as it is a permanent reminder of our travelling, although we are sure that we won’t need too much reminding about our adventures! Jemma and Ben spent some energy at the Chipmunk Play Zone while the master piece was being created. It must be said that Phil had already planned that he would be getting a tattoo on this trip -way back when we were still at home – and what better place than the most southerly city in the world, in a country where tattooing is a part of the traditional culture?!
We were all very impressed by the Queens Park in the city, as it was so carefully planned out and maintained to utilise the huge amount of space and to include some excellent attractions for everyone to enjoy. These included an amazing set of aviaries and an animal area, tropical greenhouses, unique gardens, a cafe facility and play areas.
The Southland Museum was another enjoyable attraction as it had a variety of exhibits and the children enjoyed another up-close look at the Tuatara. We watched some of a documentary about the life and times of Kiwi Burt Munro who gained many land speed records and saw replicas of some of the machines that he used. Over at E. Hayes and Sons Ltd – a sweet shop for the boys! - Phil was in his element to be able to see ‘the real bike’ that the record was broken on and some more information about it.
The Splash Palace resulted in another swimming hit for Jemma and Ben! During this time we stayed at Invercargill Top Ten and would like to thank Diane and Phil for their kindness and hospitality during our extended stay! We had a technical hitch with Kiwi the camper and stayed a wee bit longer until Kiwi was exchanged for ‘Fern’ the camper – affectionately known as ‘Soggy’!
At Bluff it was a strange feeling to be at the Lands -End – the most southerly mainland point in New Zealand - before the Antarctic! It has an interesting and unique sign-post that has a variety of worldwide place names and shows the distances to each of them from that point. Unfortunately, the time restraints which we do have on this trip did not allow us to be in Bluff for the annual and world renowned Bluff Oyster Festival at the end of May, although we have been assured by many that it would have been well worth the wait!
We got along on our travels and at the Balclutha Motor Park, we were pleased to catch up with Steve and Eileen again (who we first met in Invercargill a few days before!) The TV room had a great selection of toys, books and games and Jemma & Ben were pleased to be able to use a huge bucket of ‘ever faithful’ Lego!
Dunedin was our next stop and once again had a strong Scottish heritage link. It was originally named “New Edinburgh”. The Top Ten Camp had a lovely heated and indoor pool that we all took a dunk in! Later in the evening we went along to catch up with my cousin Hazel, who is working very hard at Otago University in the city. It was good to meet all her house mates first, and to then go for a meal with Hazel and her mate, Dave.
As a chocoholic (if only a little reformed!) the Cadbury’s World in Dunedin was a bit of a dream come true! The tour gave plenty of choccy prizes for answering questions as we went along and there were even some New Zealand varieties that we were not familiar with and so we HAD to try those, just to be fair! The tour was very informative and fun-filled, with a delicious aroma along the way and a silo full of liquid chocolate pouring down right in front of us! Who could ask for more?
Baldwin Street was our next port of call and we had to take the challenge of the STEEPEST Street in the world- now didn’t we?! And we received a certificate for doing so! The street looks very deceptive but is actually at a gradient of 35% (19 degrees or 1:2:86!!) That is STEEP...... and its status is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records! The length of the street is little under 350 metres long but is SO steep that for every 2.86 metres travelled horizontally, the elevation rises by 1 metre! This street obviously attracts many tourists and also has annual events taking place there, including the Cadbury World Jaffa Race – when 10,000 spherical chocolate Jaffa’s are let loose to roll down the hill! Each Jaffa is sponsored and the proceeds all go to charity. Also the Baldwin Street Gut Buster takes place and this involves running up the street and then back down again and the event attracts over 1000 competitors!
We met back up with Hazel and Dave in the mid afternoon and went in search of some seals. The Sand-fly Bay had enormous sand dunes covering the coast line and Jemma and Ben loved the descent to the bottom as they raced down the dunes with Hazel! When all of us were at the bottom, Hazel and Jemma went for a quick paddle, just to show they could- but they came out just a tad chilly. We were able to jump across a small trail of water to get a little closer to a lookout hut for the seals and penguins. Unfortunately we didn’t make it that far as within the next few minutes, the weather changed dramatically. A big black cloud descended all around us and the wind picked up pace, blowing sand furiously around us. A bitterly cold chill factor added to the fun and then came the rain! Our leisurely stroll had turned into a life or death situation........as we took shelter behind a sand dune and discussed our options there was no let up in the conditions and it was clear that we needed to get back up to the top before our light started to go. As we battled our way through the wind and sand storm, Jemma and Ben thought the fun was over and we had to cross that tiny river that was now a raging torrent! Hazel and Dave did a good job at getting the children back up to Fern the camper, and getting them warm and dry again. It took longer for Phil and I to get back to Fern, as walking on soft sand is always difficult for Phil, with his damaged leg and a knee and ankle that do not bend. The enormously steep sand - dune and those severe weather conditions made the ascent all the more difficult.........
Back at Fern, with everyone all warm and dry again we thought about how this experience will always be remembered and may even be funny one day?! At least we all made it back, safely, of course (just). As Phil sat and warmed up, he remembered “Ice Cold In Alex” where Sir John Mills was climbing a steep sand dune ascent and dreaming of an ice cold beer-very similar to us -although Phil was happy to settle for a wee small dram instead!
On our way back to take Hazel home, Dave was sitting in the front of the camper and so Phil asked him if the road was clear at the junction – ‘Yeah – that’s cool mate!’ – Phil showed his age by being SURE that he had asked if the road was clear and not about the temperature – anyway......!
The seals would have to wait awhile.......we were also out of luck with the albatross too - as Dunedin boasts the world’s only mainland breeding colony of the Northern Royal Albatross which would have been amazing to see, had the weather conditions been on our side!
At Oamaru Phil took his time at a Whisky Barrel house- maybe he was trying to get locked in with the stock of barrels upstairs! There were lovely views across to the Oamaru breakwater from the upstairs rooms and when we saw lots of black and white on the rocks, we thought we were in luck with the penguins. We all raced outside and down to the end of the peer, only to discover that what we had seen were not penguins but some lovely cormorants instead!! Perhaps we’ll book in some eye tests when our trip comes to an end! Whoops!
On the way to Timaru we stopped off at Moeraki and took a walk down to the infamous giant spherical boulders (Te Kaihinaki-ancient boulders). These were formed millions of years ago around lime crystals within the surrounding mudstone. Some of the boulders are up to four metres in circumference and are all strewn across the beach.
The Mackenzie Basin, deep in the heart of the Mackenzie Country made a beautiful setting for our first dry day in a long time! We enjoyed visiting the ‘wee’ country towns to find out more about the adventures of James Mackenzie and to see memorials and statues. The Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo offered an idyllic image, set right at the edge of the lake, with the stunning snow- capped mountains as our backdrop.............
We’ll leave you with that image and look forward to catching up next time -as we head for Christchurch......
Saturday, June 06, 2009 9:08:54 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand
New Zealand - part 2..........
• Invercargill is New Zealand’s Southern most city and came into the spotlight as a location for ‘The world’s Fastest Indian’-the film abut Kiwi motorcycle legend Burt Munro. Invercargill has a strong Scottish Heritage and enjoys a reputation for its hospitality.
• On his first trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1962, Burt Munro achieved a speed of 179 mph ... and in 1967 Burt claimed the World Record Class S-A 1000cc with an average speed of 183.586 mph (one way 190.07 mph) , and this record still stands to this day! Burt’s achievements are the most remarkable that motorcycling has ever seen and he has created a legend......
• The Southland Museum in Invercargill is designed in a very distinctive pyramid shape. Among other interesting displays, it is home to the largest public display of live Tuatara in the world. Henry, at over 100 years old, is the oldest!
• Queens Park is without doubt the grandest of all the Invercargill Parks. It covers 81 hectares (200 acres) and is now the jewel in the crown of the city’s reserves and is widely acclaimed throughout New Zealand. The aviaries were opened in 1998 with generous funding from the Community Trust of Southland. Here members of the public are able to view exotic and native bird species –close up. The park is also home to the rarest waterfowl in the world-the Campbell Island Teal.
• BLUFF – Where the journey begins.....is the oldest European town in New Zealand. The Stirling Point International Signpost is at the beginning of State Highway One – at the Lands End of Bluff.
• Dunedin was the winner of New Zealand’s most beautiful City Award in 2008.
• Dunedin is New Zealand’s largest city- by area and is widely regarded as the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian heritage city in the southern hemisphere.
• Dunedin Railway Station is said to be the most photographed building in New Zealand.
• Almost one fifth of Dunedin’s population of 123,000 are students.
• Internationally acclaimed environmentalist David Bellamy has described the Otago Peninsula (just by Dunedin) as the ‘finest example of eco-tourism in the world’.
• Maori legend says that the Moeraki boulders are food baskets that were washed ashore from the wreck of the ancestors’ canoe that made its epic voyage to New Zealand from Hawaiiki.
• The sky above the Mackenzie High Country of New Zealand is renowned for its clarity and beauty.
• The Church of the Good Shepherd was built in 1935 to the ‘Glory of God’, as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie Country.
• Close to the Church of the Good Shepherd there is a bronze statue of the sheepdog, a tribute to the hardy dogs ‘ without the help of which the grazing of this mountain country would be impossible’.
• Lake Tekapo is still fed today from the remnants of ice age glaciers descending from the South Island’s Southern Alps. It is now the start of a massive hydro scheme which carries the water through an extensive system of upland canals and lakes generating electricity many times over on its journey to the Pacific Ocean hundreds of kilometres away. The region is the hydro powerhouse of New Zealand.
• Named after James Mackenzie, a 19th century sheep rustler –Mackenzie Country lies in the shadow of Aoraki/Mt Cook and the giants of the Southern Alps. The Mackenzie country is staggering in its scale and grandeur. James Mackenzie and his dog are said to have stolen a mob of sheep from a South Canterbury run-holder in 1855 and driven them over the mountains to the Mackenzie Basin. He was the first known white man to enter the basin. When he was finally caught, other settlers realised the potential of the land and followed in his footsteps. His exploits in evading the authorities (and escaping arrest on a number of occasions!) led to his name being forever associated with the district.
• Mount Cook and Mount Tasman are New Zealand’s highest peaks.
Saturday, June 06, 2009 9:07:02 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand
New Zealand - part 2..........
• Variable Oyster Catchers
• Little Pied Shags
• Black Swans
• White Fronted Terns
• New Zealand Fur Seals
• Mud Crab
• Wood Pigeon
Saturday, June 06, 2009 9:05:31 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
NEW ZEALAND ADVENTURES.........
Following a very fast two and a half hour flight with a tail wind all of the way – we landed into Wellington (South of the North Island, New Zealand), arriving from Sydney, Australia. We found out about Windy Wellington with that very landing, which was probably one of our most turbulent ever! We were very grateful to our pilot for his skilled landing but nobody applauded when we landed – is that another thing of the past?
A short taxi ride in the middle of the night got us safely to a local hotel in New Zealand – the home of the Kiwi!
We moved on to Lower Hutt, near Petone and stayed in a pine cabin on site until we could collect our next camper – which we have affectionately named KIWI!
Our next ferry trip was about three and a half hours over the Cook Strait on the Interislander from Wellington to Picton, on the South Island!
We have been in New Zealand for almost four weeks now and unfortunately our opinions of this amazingly scenic country have been seriously scarred by the overall percentage of wet and windy days – we estimate 98%! We have seen lots and lots of happy paradise ducks and many depressed and soggy campers (we do feel sorry for those who have chosen this time for a three week holiday). We have had to act quickly on those couple of dry days, to get some great pictures! The beautiful autumnal colours and turquoise waters, topped with a back drop of snow-peaked mountains is a huge understatement. These views are only given the very best deserved justice when the sun is shining........ those are the times when we caught glimpses of the most amazing picture postcards and our imagination is swept away by the scenery. The fiery orange and reds glow brightly against the crystal white snow........
Our morale’s are struggling and have hit a low on Macswayround- as we know that all this is out there- at arm’s reach and with many unique wildlife opportunities too - but it continues to rain wherever we choose to go ......we do seem to have lost the sunshine for now- but we are sure we will find it again, later on our travels!
Back to the beginning of the South Island – we stayed at Blenheim in the Malborough wine-growing region. We found a brand new camp at Murchison with a handy river to go for a quick fish. There was also a variety of strange looking toadstools down along the riverside. In the evening we got valuable travel advice and happy hour entertainment with Gordon (a very kind Scottish chappy who is now from Western Australia but has also lived in New Zealand) and his lady, Donna. We would like to thank them for their company and hope to meet again some day!
On our way along the West Coast to Greymouth we stopped off at Punakaiki and saw the Pancake Rocks and Blow – holes. Through a layering -weathering process called Stylo-bedding, the limestone has formed into what looks like piles of thick pancakes! And they really do! We are sure that Greymouth is a lovely place but for the time we were there it was – guess what – yes, raining!
Driving through the scenic west coast we saw spectacular snow capped mountain views and stayed at Franz Josef. There was a break in the wet stuff for long enough to go and see the Franz Josef Glacier and it was very odd to realise just how many thousands of years it had been there! This glacier and the one we saw next (Fox’s Glacier) are said to be the most accessible glaciers in the world. Franz Josef has an ancient Maori legend that tells of a girl losing her lover, who fell from the local peaks, and it was her floods of tears which froze into the glacier.
Lake Rotoiti was spectacular and we met Steve who has recently emigrated to New Zealand. We would like to wish Steve and his family well in their new venture. Later on we walked along Pikihi which is one of the only places to see kiwis in their natural environment, had we walked at night, as they are obviously flightless and nocturnal birds. A short walk that night, along a pitch- black local track allowed us to see some intriguing glow worms- doing what they do best!
After stopping off at the Fox’s Glacier we trekked to Haast and stayed at the campground there. Just opposite we chanced by a great walk along the Hapuka Estuary, saw a variety of wildlife and got information about the very popular Whitebait fishing procedures that take place seasonally in this area.
Our 300th day was spent being puzzled at the Stuart Landsborough Puzzling World in Wanaka. This attraction has many world unique scientific experiments and situations, including the slanting room, snooker balls that roll uphill, water that runs uphill and the room of famous faces whose eyes follow you wherever you are in the room! Spooky! There were challenging mazes, mind boggling illusions and many brain teasing puzzles to be entertained with and we ran out of time to explore! The toilets also need to be visited for a treat but we’ll leave that bit a secret! We helped an American guy who deserved all the credit for cycling around New Zealand- but was delayed with a puncture. We piled his bags and his bike into Kiwi and gave him a lift to catch up with his mate, who had not yet realised the absence of his cycling buddy! We had a good chat and it was strange to think that Geoff had only left Albuquerque, New Mexico, just a few days before we were there at the beginning of this year! He actually lived on the Old Route 66 and we must have driven past his door! We stayed at the Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park and then trekked on towards Queenstown.
On the way there, as we sludged our way through the snow and along the highest paved road in New Zealand – we figured that it was probably our best bet to make friends with the local snow plough and gritting driver! Max had stopped for his break and accepted our offer of a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich! We were then happy to continue our journey as the mist cleared slightly and we were able to follow Max’s valuable work safely!
We got our real Kiwi fix at the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown and found out lots about these unique and flightless birds and other species of wildlife that are native to New Zealand, including the Tuatara. The park had an informative audio tour as we met some of the most endangered species, a conservation show and an Early Maori Hunting Village.
It was also good to meet our mate back home’s sister, Liz, in her Outdoor Sports Shop in the town. We stayed at the Creeksyde Top Ten in Queenstown.......
Next stop – Invercargill – the most southerly city in the world...........We hope the sun will shine......!
“SWEET AS”.....until next time ....
Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:06:28 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand
NEW ZEALAND ADVENTURES.........
• The National Icon of New Zealand is the Kiwi and the Fern is the National Emblem.
• Captain Cook made his first New Zealand landfall in 1769. He stepped onto New Zealand soil at Kaiti Beach on 8th October 1769.
• In New Zealand you may be permitted to drive at the age of 15 (between the hours of 6am and 10pm)
• In New Zealand you must be 18 to buy alcohol from the whole -salers, a pub or a night club, but you must be 25 years old to by alcohol in a Supermarket.
• Wellington is only the third largest city in New Zealand but retains its status as the capital City. (Many people assume Auckland is the capital, as it is much larger).
• Per Capita, the City of Wellington boasts more Cafe’s than New York City!
• South Island has an area of - 151,000 square kilometres, a population of 947,500 people and a temperate climate with snow in the mountain regions.
• Blenheim is the best place to access New Zealand’s biggest wine-growing district.
• Blenheim is one of the sunniest towns in New Zealand, boasting an estimated average of 2438 hours of sunshine a year! (we will let you know about that later!)
• Murchison was founded on man’s hunger for gold and for land, while the forces of nature contributed to dramatic ranges and deep fast flowing rivers.
• The early Maori knew Franz Josef as Ka Roimata OHine Hukatere – Tears of the Avalanche girl.
• The Fox’s Glacier has a depth of up to 350 metres. The glacier terminates at 250 metres above sea level. It has 35-45 metres of snow fall per year.
• New Zealand’s fourth largest lake, Lake Wanaka, sparkles on the edge of the town.
• The beautiful resort on the shores of Lake Wanaka is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park, a World Heritage Area containing magnificent mountains, glaciers and lakes.
• Queenstown has a well deserved reputation as the country’s Adventure Capital – White-Water Rafting, Sledging, Tandem, Parapenting, Flight Seeing, River Surfing, Canyoning, Heli-Skiing, Jet Boating and Bungy Jumping – to name but a few!!
• The “Shot-Over River in the Queenstown District is the second highest Gold –Bearing River in history, second only to the Klondike River in Northwest Canada. Gold was found in 1862 and the river was so lucrative it yielded a record breaking 57.6 kgs of gold in just one day! The river yielded 12 oz of gold per yard of gravel.
• The Remarkables Mountain Range (2343 m), around Queenstown is one of only two mountain ranges in the world that run truly North-South. The other mountain range is the Rockies.
• With the Main divide of the Southern Alps at its backbone, the Whataroa Valley is the spectacular gateway to New Zealand’s most outstanding scenery.
• The Tui is one of New Zealand’s Song Birds.
• The Kereru New Zealand Pigeon is the world’s second largest Pigeon.
• The Black Stilt is the Rarest Wading Bird in the World.
• The Kea is a cheeky parrot that lives high in the mountains of the south island. They have a reputation for eating the rubber from hiking boots!
• The Tuatara is a living dinosaur and has been here for 235 million years. Despite having a lizard-like appearance, the Tuatara has such different skeletal features that it belongs to an order of ancient reptiles all to itself. Today these reptiles are only found in New Zealand. The Tuatara does not like temperatures in excess of 28 degrees Celsius and have the ability to hibernate if the temperature drops below 5 degrees Celsius. On top of a Tuatara skull is a third eye. This is a complex organ which actually has a lens and a retina. It may be visible for the first 6 months of life and then gets covered over with opaque scales. This eye is thought to act as a pineal gland to detect seasonal changes by sensing the length of daylight and darkness.
• The female Kiwi can lay an egg which weighs up to 20% of her own body weight! This is the highest proportion of any bird. To put that into perspective it would be a similar experience to a woman producing a 37 lb baby!! The average Kiwi egg weighs about 450 grams (which is a similar weight to 6 hen’s eggs).
Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:04:51 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand
NEW ZEALAND ADVENTURES.........
• Mallard Ducks
• Bush Hens
• Paradise Ducks
• Tom Tits
• Swamp Hens
• White Herons
• Black Backed Gulls
Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:03:31 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) New Zealand