Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom

Friday, March 24, 2017

MY LAST NEW ZEALAND ADVENTURES AND FINAL HOUSESIT

Still coughing but no longer running a fever, it was time to leave Auckland and head to Rotorua.

I had been told by everyone that this was one area that I should really take time to visit.  I was told to be sure to take in the evening show and dinner at the Maori Village, see the geysers and be sure and take the plunge into one of the hot baths. If nothing else, I thought it might cure the lingering effects of my cold!

Once again hopping on a Naked Bus, I arrived early afternoon and checked into my SINGLE room at the YHA Rotorua.  When you get out of the big cities, the hostel prices become a lot more reasonable - which meant I could afford not to share my room with 3-8 others - just had to share the bathroom!

Lunch was in order and I had a great one at the Pig & Whistle.  I wandered around town for a bit before deciding I wasn't completely 'up to snuff' and a nap wouldn't be a bad idea before heading to Maori Village for their tour, HAKA dance, and dinner.


 It was enjoyable if pricey and quite 'touristy.'  The best show I have ever seen in all my travels was the multi-island presentation on Oahu, Hawaii at the Polynesian Cultural Center.  This was a very small version of that one.

The next day I had signed up for a full-day tour with Real Rotorua Tours.  Wow!  I cannot tell you just how great this day was!  First, I was the only tour member - for the entire day.  And instead of canceling the tour,  I had the owner/tour guide all day all to myself.

Rotorua in located in a volcanic caldera 16-miles wide.  In the morning we tramped through massive redwood tree and fern forests;  saw streams that were colored the colors of the rainbow at Hamurana Springs; visited Okere Falls and watched the white water rafters tumbling over the Falls; stood between the Blue & Green Lakes which are side-by-side and one is blue - the other green; I was even served homemade hot chocolate and biscuits during our lakeside break.





After lunch it was time to soak our feet in Kerosene (very hot) Creek; watch the mud bubbling at the Waiolapu mud pool, and see where a thermal pool began as it fed down to out last stop - the thermal hot springs.  A bathing suit was a requirement of the trip!





It was a fabulous day - so educational and different and fun.  If you are even in Rotorua, then you MUST sign up for a Real Rotorua Tour!

I ended the evening with a return visit to the Pig & Whistle for dinner and then very early to bed as I had to catch my bus to Tauranga at 5:10A.M!

I had signed up to housesit for Boston, an adorable labradoodle, while moms Helen and Bron went off camping, hiking and biking around the Coromandel.
I had a great view of the local landmark - The Mount - from the deck.  Boston and I bonded and took leisurely walks around the neighborhood and when the Moms returned, we had a great brunch on the shore and watched a surf/lifesaving competition before it was time for my final bus ride that would return me to Auckland for my last 2 days in New Zealand!

 


I'm always asked what it is about traveling that keeps me on the road.  Other than my natural sense of wanderlust (not being able to sit still in one place for a long length of time!) it's learning the history of the countries I visit, the cultural differences - and similarities - we ALL share, and most importantly, it's the people I meet along my journey.

One afternoon, while I was just wandering through the upper floor of the TePapa Museum in Wellington, I met two sisters with their 90-year-old mother discussing a display of bobbin lace.  Since I had become a great fan of this extremely difficult craft while living in Brussels, I eased dropped on their conversation with the docent and eventually joined in. It turned out they were from Auckland and when I said I had yet to really see Auckland (ah-choo!) they said one of the things I must do was take a Red Boat River Cruise and have lunch at the historic Riverhead Tavern - which just by chance, the youngest sister and her husband owned!

I thought this sounded like a great way to spend a day.  The sisters and I had even emailed and found a date to meet at the Tavern for lunch.  And then I caught 'the cold!'  But here I was, back in Auckland with 2 free days and the first thing I did was call the sisters and rebook my river cruise.

The weather was perfect - the sun shone, there was a light breeze and the waters were tranquil and it was so relaxing to cruise for an hour and a half (right past Tom Cruise's massive ocean-going yacht with a helicopter on top! - he was in town filming) to the Tavern, enjoy a delicious lunch of fish 'n chips and a good glass of New Zealand white wine while visiting with the sisters.

             
I took the train into the city center and had to catch a cab to the wharf where I got the Red Boat.  I had to share the shot of Auckland's main train station.  So bright & clean.






Tom's helicopter

Cruising under the Harbor bridge with the city skyline in the background



            The Riverhead Traven










I cannot believe 9 months have passed since I arrived in New Zealand.  The Kiwi's are some the nicest, most warm and welcoming people I've ever had the privilege to meet.  I leave with the great honor of having made life-long friendships - and have even been invited to come back real soon!

My airport shuttle arrived in the pouring rain at 4:00 A.M., the start of what would be a massive storm that created havoc, flooding and lots of damage to roads all over the North Island.  I was lucky and my flight to Brisbane and then onto Bali departed on time - but it was with a sad heart that I was leaving what had been a wonderful 'home' for so many months.

The Auckland Sky Tower

Farewell New Zealand......until next time

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

RETURN TO THE NORTH ISLAND - Part 1

Peaceful-Design

Pretend it's now February 6th.  My time in New Zealand is drawing to a close - just one month a 2 days before my Visa expires and I my leave my home of the past 9 months.

The first thing I did after landing in Auckland was to catch a bus to Thames  - the town in the Coromandel where I had started my New Zealand adventure.  My 'girlfriends' had invited me back for a return visit.

The lovely Jeannette had put a Sold Out sign on her every-busy AirBnB room and I was thrilled to be her guest for 5 days.  We had so much fun 'playing' in her quilt/sewing studio.  I had a delicious dinner at Jean and Frank's in TePuru, went to my morning exercise class at the Elam Church and Jenny, Elizabeth, Pat and I attended the Scottish Highland Games in Paeora.  Had my fill of bagpipes for another year!
 
←Jenny  ↑ Elizabeth & Pat
 I'm amazed at Pat's courage as her sight continues to fail and she 'just keeps going!'  



From Thames it was back on the bus to Auckland where I had one night downtown at the Attic Backpackers Hostel and time for a great Free Walking Tour of Auckland.

 

 

The next day I was joined by my good friend Kelly from Wellington.
Before I had departed her fair city, we had arranged to meet-up and bus to the northernest portion of the North Island - The Bay of Islands.

We left in sunshine but arrived in Paihia in rain - lots of rain!  Our hostel, Capt'n Bob's Beach House, was not quite as close to the bus station as we were lead to believe. We had to drag our suitcases up and over and around a hill - about a 2km walk - through the rain.  We arrived wet and hungry but were happy with our large rooms, great lounge, and big kitchen.

We dried off, shook off the raincoats and umbrellas and headed out once again. This time it was another 2km wet walk to tour the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.  This is the most historical Maori-English site in New Zealand, where the treaty was signed making New Zealand an English colony.  We had a guided tour of the grounds, a performance of Maori music and dance and a very nice movie detailing the treaty.

 
Flagpole designates the spot of the signing. 
A hand-carved waka, traditional Maori boat.

The next day, still damp with light showers and cloudy, we scratched plans to spend the day on the water and took the ferry across the bay to Russell.  Russell during its heyday was where the whalers and prostitutes made their home, while the god-fearing Englishmen lived in Paihia.  To this day, Russell is a much more fun place to visit.

We took a fabulous Russell Mini Tour with a great guide named Bob!  This hour-long tour took us around and through and up to the highest point with a grand view of the entire Bay of Islands.  (Which I am sure is much better when it isn't cloudy and wet!).  Back down into town and time for a hot, delicious bowl of seafood chowder at Sally's before wandering around the town.

 


Love how Sally's signs her name (in heavy cream) in the bowl of chowder!



Halleluiah!  The sun has returned.

We awoke to a bright, blue sky and decided to split up for the day.  Since I had done so many tours on lakes and sounds, I chose to see something truly unusual (thank you, Susan Hayden, for the suggestion) while Kelly chose to spend the day boating around the islands.

I hired a taxi to take me to Kawakawa,
the home of the Hundertwasser Toilets. Yep, I went out-of-my-way and had to hire a cab to be able to see a public toilet! But oh my, what a toilet.

Known as an international work of art and a huge tourist attraction to this small town, the toilets were designed by the expatriate Austrian artist, Fridensreich Hundertwasser using recycled materials from the local community.

Seen from across the street
 

                   
                             
                                                             
Women
Men
This was a total delight to the eyes! And what was sad to learn was at the time the 'city fathers' really didn't appreciate Mr. Hundertwasser's work, so when he volunteered to do more installations in other locations throughout the Bay of Islands, they turned him down.  What a shame, as they now see large numbers of tourists visiting their fair town specifically to see 'the toilets!' Now, of course, the town has now embraced the mosaic art form and other pieces of artwork fill the streets and line the walls!

 
            
When my taxi driver returned me to Paihia, I chose to ferry back to Russel and have a leisurely lunch overlooking the water.  After lunch, I did a little shopping, toured the original church and it's graveyard while falling in love with their congregation-needle-pointed seat cushions,  then just sat in the shade and read a good book!

 
My 'smiley' ferry boat. (click to see a bigger photo and read the sign)  And as you can see, I was not the only who chose to lunch on the waterfront.



 


Kelly's cruise boat dropped her in Russel at the end of the day and we had a lovely glass of wine and nibbles at The Gables (overlooking the water) before we found a really wonderful wood-fired ' pizza garden' hidden in an alleyway where we enjoyed dinner before taking the ferry back to our hostel for our last night in the Bay of Islands.  Early morning return bus ride to Auckland in the morning.

 

I  planned to finally spend the next 4 days before my tour to Rotorua and final housesit began exploring New Zealand's largest and busiest city. That didn't happen.

Thanks to tromping through 2 days of rain, for only the 2nd time in 9 months I came down with a terrible cold - and fever - to the point where a trip to the emergency room became a necessity.

 I was staying in one of the loveliest AirBnB's in the beautiful Auckland suburb of Remuera with a wonderful hostess named Judie.  She was kind enough to move me to a room (away from everyone else!) and made sure I had plenty of tea and good care.  When it was time for me to head to Rotorua, the antibiotics had kicked in and I was finally on the way to getting well.

This has gotten much longer than I thought it would be - and my friends at Starbucks are looking at me like it's time to move on....So I will add a Part 2 within the next day or two.  It will be my farewell to New Zealand!

Until next time.....



Saturday, March 18, 2017

THE SOUTH ISLAND 3 - Queenstown, TeAnau, Milford & Doubtful Sounds


From Dunedin, I hoped a Naked Bus (just the name of the bus company, not how the driver & passengers dress), and headed to Queenstown - the Adventure Capital of the South Island.   I had booked into the new Haka Lodge - 4-bed mixed dorm room - for a week.  (I always request a lower berth!)



I must say, this really was the only mistake I think I made in my itinerary during entire stay in New Zealand.  Queenstown is for the young, the daring, the brave! If you are into para sailing, bungee jumping, hang-gliding, hiking steep mountains, then this is the place for you  For a senior citizen with gimpy knees- not so much.

Plus it was Chinese New Year and the Chinese love visiting New Zealand at this time of year.  The sidewalks were almost impassable, the restaurants swamped, and even though the Chinese government is supposedly giving their citizens traveling outside their homeland lessons on 'manners and courtesy when dealing with foreigners,'  they haven't done a very good job!  I have almost been blinded several times by 'selfie-sticks.'  I can't comprehend why the Chinese cannot take a photo of a view or place or thing without putting themselves in the photo. And don't get me started on their tour leaders and their umbrellas!

See all the little orange dots - para sails floating off the mountaintop! While I was there one of the  new 'instructors-in-training' fell and was seriously hurt.  



I did enjoy a long cruise on Lake Wakatipu to see the glaciers and a visit to the quaint, gold mining town of Arrowtown.  I had some nice meals and drank some good wine, but really didn't feel inclined to take advantage of the very physical activities that Queenstown is noted for.

 
 A view of Queenstown from the lake and a life-size Moa bird statue in the park. Unfortunately, the Maori found them good eating and they are now extinct.

 

Queenstown is surrounded by the Southern Alps.  My lovely lunch in Arrowtown.

With my week in Queenstown concluded, I was really looking forward to my next adventure - a visit to Milford and Doubtful Sounds (think fjords) with a stop in TeAnau to see the glow worms - and I wasn't disappointed!

The bus that we took from Queenstown to TeAnau and on to Milford Sound was glass-topped!  Certainly made seeing everything so much better.  Departing at 7 a.m., we traveled out of Queenstown, up, around and through areas with many
lakes and rivers with large, snow-covered mountains looming in the distance.

The weather gods were smiling on us this day.  For this time of year, what is normally gray, wet and cloudy weather turned into bright sunshine with brilliant blue skies.



After a brief stop in TeAnau (time to buy a coffee and a snack) and take a picture of this big blue bird ....

....we headed for Milford Sound....through The Fjordlands National Park.  I cannot begin to tell you how breathtakingly beautiful this place is.  I can only show you a few of the 100's of photos I took to try and give you an idea of this awe-inspiring place....

Leaving TeAnau

The view through the coach windows 
That OMG view!

These little guys, a member of the parrot family were just sitting and posing

You can see why they call it Mirror Lake


I had chosen to take the 'nature cruise' on Milford Sound.  The normally wet and rainy weather had taken a day off and with sun shining it was a fabulous 3-hours cruise filled with mist-covered peaks, massive, thundering waterfalls, more seals and wonderful photo ops.

Of course, everywhere you travel on the South Island, if you have seen any of New Zealand native Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies, you feel like you are on the set of the movie!


 

 

Yes, that's me in my raincoat getting a good dousing with the spray off the waterfall.
 I overnighted in TeAnau just so I could tour the glow-worm caves.  FYI:

In New Zealand and Australia, glow-worms are the larvae (maggots) of a special kind of fly known as a fungus gnat. Fungus gnats look rather like mosquitoes, and most feed on mushrooms and other fungi. However, a small group of fungus gnats are carnivores, and the worm-like larvae of these species use their glowing lights to attract small flying insects into a snare of sticky threads. One species, Arachnocampa luminosa, is found throughout New Zealand.

Hundreds of Arachnocampa larvae may live side by side on a damp sheltered surface, such as the roof of a cave or an overhanging bank in the forest. Their lights resemble a star-filled night sky. Māori call them titiwai, which refers to lights reflected in water. (TEARA - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand)



This photo was shot at the Waitomo Caves by a professional photographer with permission to take the photo.  'Normal visitors' are not allowed to speak, take any photos or 'reach up and touch' while in the caves as the 'worms' will be disturbed. I did ask if they sometimes fell off their fishing-line-like-filaments onto tourist's heads and the answer was - yes!

The next morning I took a 30-minute bus ride to Manapouri and then an hour-long boat trip, and then another 30 minute bus ride that would finally take me to the mouth of Doubtful Sound (If you look at the map at the top, Doubtful Sound is that little squiggle going out to the sea opposite the plane's propeller.)  

Once there, I boarded a ship where I would spend the day and overnight while touring this deep, mist-shrouded, mystical fjord.   On board was a full-time historian and naturalist who kept us constantly updated on the history of the areas we were passing through, the flora and fauna and sea creatures to be found in the Sound.  This time the weather was typical - but those who live and work in this part of the world think it is more beautiful seen through the mists than when the sun shines.





On the boat ride to Doubtful Sound



Doubtful Sound flowing out to the sea as seen through the mist on the bus ride to the ship. 



The main level of the ship - very nice facilities and really good food!

 This is the 4-bunk room I shared with 2 young ladies and an older gentleman (85) from England who thought he had died and gone to heaven!  Above is the view from our porthole.

Can you find me in my kayak?  We had the option of going out in a smaller boat, kayaking or jumping off the back and swimming in the frigid waters!


Waterfalls were plentiful and the seals were there as well.  The scenery was very similar to Mitford Sound, but the eeriness and quiet of Doubtful Sound really set it apart.  Looking back, did I need to tour both?  No.  But hindsight is always so much clearer.  Plus I met and dined with a lovely Dutch couple I actually ran into when I got back to the North Island.  Small world...

Doubtful Sound through the mists

The next day I  returned to Queenstown via bus and spent one more night before I flew to Auckland to spend my last few weeks in New Zealand touring more the The North Island.

Until next time.....