So I was about to begin the task of recording all of our vacation in New-Zealand in some diary entries. The idea was to “quickly” do that in the weekend, before I would have to go back to work on Monday. Well, OK… I realized that this was not a realistic estimate, but people who have followed along know by now, that it took me until December 2009 in Dutch and until November 2010 in English to finish the report!
I didn’t know about all that yet on February 14th 2009, so after a good rest to sleep off my jet lag, I courageously started to work on it. I wanted this to become a beautiful report. It would have to include lots of photos on Flickr and movie clips on YouTube of course. I had almost two SD-cards (2 Gigabyte each) filled with visual material. So let’s first download that into the PC…
“Aaaarrrrhg!!” During the download the camera battery had become depleted! The result was, the memory card was no longer readable. I have to admit I panicked. More than half of my photos was gone. Surely this cannot be true?? 99% of the data should still be on the card! But… How could I reach it?
Fortunately I found CardRecovery on the Internet. It is a program for reading defective removable media (SD-cards, USB-sticks etcetera). There was a free trial version available for download. And indeed that was able to find most of my pictures. Just… To be able to save them as well, you needed to buy the software. Well, I was stuck; what else could I do? Getting my pictures back was certainly worth 35 Euros. So I bought it, and it turned out to work very well. That is great, because otherwise this great travel-story would never have been written!
When we traveled to New Zealand, we had been going against the direction of the rotation of the Earth. This made us lose one day of our calendar in a mysterious way. This time however, we were going in the same direction as the Earth’s rotation and we gained an extra day! Thursday, January 15th 2009 is forever lost for us, we will never live to see that day. But to compensate for that, we have enjoyed Wednesday, February 11th twice!
The days are not as long as they usually are though, when you are flying from west to east at nearly 600 miles per hour. How fast they actually pass also depends on your degree of latitude of course, but let’s not make this too complicated. Let’s say the days last for about 16 hours.
But the days did not really seem short at all! It felt like this flight would never end. The only event that broke the monotony was the stopover at Los Angeles again, and that was even worse than the first time. After going through the useless registration by the immigration office again, we had to climb a long, long flight of stairs to get back to the airplane. An elevator? None available! An escalator? Has not been invented yet in the USA!
In spite of being able to read my new book, I was very bored during the flight. After all, you cannot read all the time, that is way too tiring. And I am never able to sleep in an airplane… One funny experience was to see the February 11th sunset again. That is something you don’t get every year.
We were so glad when we finally reached Heathrow again!
But at Heathrow we had to wait for a long time again, with nothing to do. And there was no smoking area to be found anywhere. I had to fight a strong urge to light up a cigarette illegally.
And yet, some interesting events were taking place at Heathrow simultaneously. We just didn’t know about them. We only heard about them when we came home: A well-known Dutch politician, who’s name I happen to forget just now, was at Heathrow too today. He came to visit a British member of parliament to discuss a movie he has made.
But he was not allowed into the country! This is very odd. Whether you agree with somebody’s political views is not important here, nobody can deny we are talking about a European citizen here. And we have “unlimited exchange of goods, people and services”, don’t we? This means the UK cannot block his entrance into the country!
It may be a learning experience for him, to know what it feels like when you are not welcome somewhere. But knowing him, he is most likely to use this event as an extra opportunity to get more publicity…
The final part our our flight was done in an Airbus A319. This takes a bit of getting used to, after flying in real airplanes all the time. It is not just called an Airbus, it really does look like a bus on the inside. And the mood amongst the personnel was hardly serious. This thing lacked everything you will usually find in an airplane. There were no food or beverages available on board… unless you bought them!
Then, finally, we had to take the train again. I was terribly tired by now, and I was half asleep. Julia took this opportunity to get hold of the camera and take some pictures.
Eventually, we came home again. Amazing to find everything in place, just like when we left. It had a sort of unreal feeling to it. We were very glad to watch our very own Erwin Krol again, with the weather forecast.
Well, sometimes you have to face the truth:
Even the longest vacation does have to end one day. Today was the day we had to go back to the airport, to catch our plane to the Netherlands. We ended the same way we started: On the bed together. But this time we did not have an alcoholic beverage in our hands; it was breakfast time. The route from Hamilton to Auckland goes along a spot I did want to see before we left. I wanted to have a quick look at the “Glenbrook Vintage Railway”. An ancient steam-powered railroad, that is being kept in operation by a group of volunteers. Unfortunately I had been so stupid not to discuss this with Julia ahead of time, and even today I didn’t clearly state, that this was my plan. The result was Julia was expecting, I was planning a great surprise for her. And this was not the case. When it finally became clear, Julia was very disappointed, and I felt very bad about my own behavior: How could I have been so stupid to cause this situation!
Because this was just a normal weekday, there was very little to see at the station. There were only a few carriages standing still on the tracks. While I was running around with my camera, Julia sat down on a bench on the platform, where she learned more about this vintage railroad than I did, in spite of all the energy I was putting into it.
We arrived at the airport many hours early of course, so there was plenty of time left for a little visit to Auckland city. Once again we were able to enjoy the pleasant atmosphere of this great city. For a moment it brought back memories and feelings from the very first days of this vacation. Back to Queen Street, the most fashionable shopping street in Auckland, with its expensive shops. I took a picture of Britomart Transport Centre, without knowing the first thing about its interesting history. The current building was first opened is 1912 as a post office, but it was in fact situated at the greatest confluence of public transport systems in Auckland: The old railway station, the ferry building and the tram terminus brought thousands of people past and through this area every day Train station?? Yes indeed! In 2003 “BTC” was re-opened an it is now the hub of all public transportation in Auckland, featuring a state of the art railway station and much more. But we walked past it, without being aware of all that. Maybe this is just for the better: After all I had way overplayed my hand already on the subject of “trains” today…
We also went back to the “Provedor” bar. A place where we did not feel like buying any drink on our first visit, because we thought they were too expensive. Today we met a nice guy from Canada there. Why is he browsing the menu? Maybe he is thinking about ordering us a “Purple Panty Remover”??
We had dinner at a Japanese take away, where some benches were out on the street and there we met a guy from Holland. Yes, he too was visiting New Zealand for a month. He had just arrived. But he had come from Australia right now, where he had spent the first month of his vacation. We also went to Starbucks for a stiff cup of coffee. By now we were used to ordering our coffees as “long black coffees”, but a at Starbucks they call this an “Americano”.
After drinking my coffee, i went to the terrace to make a little video clip of the traffic light on the street crossing outside. We love everything about these Auckland traffic lights: The sound it makes, the walking figure when the light is green, the countdown before it goes red again and the fact that pedestrians from all directions get green light simultaneously. This makes a diagonal crossing possible. The result is a great boon for the progress of all kinds of traffic.
I was a bit apprehensive about our check-in at the airport: We had arrived with one suitcase, but we were leaving with two. And we hadn’t had any opportunity to weigh them in advance… And both of them turned out to be too heavy! One of them weighed in at 21 kilograms and the other at 22. And 20 kilograms is the maximum weight allowed. Fortunately the girl at the check-in made no problem of it at all…
Fortunately Auckland airport has great provisions for smokers: We were already familiar with the little “smoking allowed” area on the sidewalk outside the terminal, but also in the transit area beyond the passport control there were facilities for us: There was a very neat-looking terrace on the roof reserved for smokers Kudos!
A very important sight to see in Hamilton are the Hamilton Gardens.
These are not one garden, but a great collection of gardens together. The story of gardens is explored through five collections of gardens.:
Paradise Garden Collection Gardens representing some of the most significant garden design traditions, tracing the history of ornamental garden design.
Productive Garden Collection Gardens representing different aspects of the relationship between people and plants.
Fantasy Garden Collection Gardens representing the different forms of garden fantasy.
Cultivar Garden Collection Gardens featuring plants selected and bred for the garden.
Landscape Garden Collection Gardens representing different historic interpretations of an idealized landscape.
It was immediately clear that we would not be able to see everything. We had to make a choice. So we decided to look only at the "Paradise Garden Collection". And even that consisted of six gardens, which we visited one by one. When you think about gardens, you immediately think about "plants". But it turned out that architecture is also a very important element. This started as soon as we entered this part of the gardens: The collection of paradise gardens is built around a central court..
Here was also an element hinting to even older traditions in garden architecture in Egypt and Mesopotamia in the form of these statues.
Italian Renaissance Garden
The Italian Renaissance Garden is an interpretation of the 15th – 16th Century Renaissance Gardens that sought to rationalize and improve upon nature.
In the 15th and 16th century the city-states of Italy experienced an unprecedented flowering of arts and sciences, which included the art of garden design and the science of horticulture. Powerful families built magnificent gardens around their grand country villas as symbols of their prestige. The garden was a place for entertaining and for impressing guests with its grandeur.
Renaissance artists saw that the universe had an underlying order but they also recognized the benefits of improving upon Nature’s designs. Thus their gardens were representations of the cosmic order as well as laboratories for horticultural science. They were laid out according to mathematical principles and had a strong central axis, which was often shared with the villa.
Sculpture in Renaissance gardens usually referred to classical myths and the gardens were designed around regular, almost ‘rhythmic’ progressions of elements. An example used here is the progression of water as it travels from a bubbly grotto to a waterfall, to a fountain until it finally settles in reflecting ponds.
Julia did not feel like running up and down staircases, like I did with my camera. She stayed at the terrace overlooking the garden.
Japanese Garden of Contemplation
The Japanese Garden of Contemplation is an example of the 14th – 16th Century Muromachi Period gardens. These were designed for quiet contemplation and study.
English Flower garden
The English Flower garden is an example of the English 19th Century Arts and Crafts gardens. These were designed as a setting for plant collections and planned seasonal color compositions.
The English Flower Garden is Inspired by gardens associated with the Arts & Crafts Design Movement of 1880 – 1910, which grew out of a concern about the effects of Industrialization on traditional crafts. This garden is based on the designs of Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens.
Unlike earlier Victorian gardens in which the plants were displayed in a very artificial manner, Arts & Crafts designers paid more attention to creating a natural-looking planting scheme. They took the emphasis off individual plants and instead placed it on the whole garden as an artistic composition. The planting scheme was often designed according to laws of color association and set within a formal framework of hard landscaping that unified the garden.
These gardens were high maintenance so they were owned only by individuals who could afford a large gardening staff. The advent of the First World War and subsequent changes in the social order led to the demise of these ‘Gardens of a Golden Afternoon’.
Chinese Scholar’s Garden
The Chinese Scholar’s Garden is an interpretation of the 10th -12th Century Sung Dynasty gardens. These gardens were designed as natural worlds of imagination and surprise. You are invited to step into the 3-dimensional Chinese painting in front of you, and enjoy the Garden of Retreat-in-Flowing-Happiness. Yichang-Yuan the tradition of these gardens goes back to the 7th. century Tang-dynasty. For them, gardens were havens for relaxation, meditation and the cultivation of the spirit. There they composed their poems. They played their lutes and chanted their verses. The Chinese garden portrays a miniature of the cosmos. In it there are "mountains" and "hills", "rivers" and "lakes", "cliffs" and "chasms", following the Taoist tradition.
Zigzag bridges, winding paths, abrupt turnings, and lattice windows provoke a sense of mystery and suspense, drawing you and your curiosity ever forward. Watch out for contrasts: light and shade, shadows and reflections, sounds and scents, heights and depths, mountains and waters, yin and yang.
The Chinese garden is not a place for the display of flowers, but is rather a tapestry of convoluted trees, rugged rocks, grottoes, waters, bridges, courtyards, gateways, windows, walls and pavilions.
Fortunately the designers of the Chinese garden provided a nice place for her to sit.
We walked out of the Chinese garden through a bamboo forest and there we found a bronze statue of the Celestial Turtle of Taihu Lake: "To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the sister-city relationship between Wuxi and Hamilton, the Wuxi Municipal People’s Government presents this Celestial Turtle of Taihu Lake to the Hamilton City Council. According to the legend in the areas south of the Yangze River the Celestial Turtle of Taihu Lake was an immortal creature, which used to rescue people from natural disasters in remote antiquity."
American Modernist Garden
The American Modernist Garden is a late 20th Century garden for outdoor living in the American West Coast tradition.
Towards the middle of the 20th century, landscape designers began to create gardens that were intended to complement the new modernist architecture of the time. These new gardens were often characterized by asymmetric forms, curving lines, functional spaces and modern materials. They often incorporated design ideas and images from modern art. In this garden the pool sculpture is inspired by surrealism, the paving is cubist and the Marilyn Monroe mural is from pop art.
The plants used in Modernist gardens were often native to the local area. In this example the plants are from the south-west of the USA because this garden is based upon the designs by the famous Californian designer Thomas Church (1902-1978).
For many modernist landscape architects the garden is designed as a space for outdoor recreational activity. Often they are designed to have good indoor-outdoor flow. Some of the best modernist designs are beautiful simply because they are perfectly suited to their purpose and site. They are gardens for sunbathing, swimming, barbecues and al fresco dining.
Indian Char Bagh Garden
The Indian Char Bagh Garden is an interpretation of a 16th – 17th Century symbolic four-quartered garden built for the Mughal aristocracy as an escape from a harsh environment.
The ‘char bagh’ or ‘enclosed four part’ garden has been one of the most significant types of traditional garden. Between the 8th and 18th centuries these gardens spread throughout the Muslim world from Asia and North Africa to Spain. They were the original ‘Paradise Gardens’, also known as the ‘Universal Garden’, because they were found on three continents and because of their use of traditional symbolism for the universe itself derived from very ancient roots in Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism.
In India these gardens became a distinctive art form during the 16th and 17th centuries, firstly under the Mughal rulers, then later the Hindu aristocracy. The Indian Char Bagh Garden at Hamilton gardens is an interpretation of a residential ‘Riverside Garden’ or ‘Kursi-cum-char bagh’. These were once common along city riverbanks, such as those of the Jamna River in Agra.
The Indian char bagh gardens were poetic, secret, pleasure gardens in which you could feel the breezes in the open sided pavilion, hear the sound of sparkling water, and enjoy the perfume of flowers in a living Persian carpet.
After the shabby meal we had yesterday, it was of course time again for some haute cuisine, especially since this would be our last dinner in New Zealand. So i found us a top-of-the-notch restaurant. Palate (170 Victoria Street). Our travel guide — New Zealand (Country Guide) — made it very clear this was the ideal place for our "last supper". "Given this restaurant’s deserved status as the best in the central North Island, it’s surprisingly reasonably priced. Chef/owner Matt McLean delivers an innovative mod-NZ menu and free tasters between courses."
well, it was completely right, as usual. We had a wonderful dinner, a worthy end to our holiday!
Hamilton has a lake too!
It is called Lake Rotoroa and its area is “only” 54 hectares (I mean: 100 soccer fields ), which is a lot smaller than Lake Taupo (approx. 2000 hectares) of course, but one advantage of that is you can walk all the way around it. (Of course you guys have already figured out, that must a a two-mile walk at least…)
this shallow lake was formed some 15,000 years ago by Waikato River. The water in the lake is rain water from the surrounding area. It is home to an exotic flora and fauna, but unfortunately some species have become a real plague, most notably the large-flowered waterweed (Egeria densa). People have also introduced foreign species of fish, just for the pleasure of catching them. There have been many problems with the water quality, because there were too much nutrients (phosphates and nitrates), but fortunately the situation is slowly improving now. The surroundings of the lake have been a recreational area since 1879 and there are plenty opportunities to take a walk, do sports or visit a restaurant.
The path around the lake has been laid out with great care and it is being maintained very well. In some spots it was paved with asphalt, in other spots it was tiled and sometimes, when there was no room for a path on the bank, it continued in the form of a boarded pathway.
There is really only one disturbing element to this lake: The “Hamilton Yacht Club” building. It is painted in an ugly shade of blue and it ruins the view of the lake. The only way to make a nice panoramic picture is to stand right in front of the club building, facing the lake.
Click the picture for a larger view. (Warning: it is huge!) The blue shed on the left in the picture is just an annex to the club house. The club house itself is a lot more ugly, but it does have the same color…
We saw beautiful trees and water lilies during our walk. Some trees were very tall and most likely very old as well. And we saw many birds, for instance this coot with three chicks.
One of the trees was so thick, I wanted to see if I could embrace it. Well, not nearly! It might be possible to do it with four people, but not by one alone.
That evening we had dinner at the hotel. We were quite tired from our long walk and we did not feel like another walk of many miles to visit the city center. We had a hamburger and some French fries. “Simple, but satisfying!”
We were very happy in Tauranga, so I asked the hotel manager whether we could stay for a few more nights, but unfortunately the hotel completely booked for the coming nights; our only option was to leave. But where would we go? We had seen all the highlights of the North Island that were on my wish list by now. And it was time for us to start taking into account the date of our return trip was getting nearer and nearer. So we’d better move in the direction of Auckland, because that was were we would have to end our tour. Oh well, let’s go to Hamilton then…
The route from Tauranga to Hamilton is via the roads S29 and S1. And along the S29 I has seen an interesting sign a few times already: “Hobbiton”! Everywhere in New Zealand we had been confronted with advertisements offering expersive outings to Hobbiton by bus. But since it was very near the road we were travelling on, an expensive bus trip did not seem necessary!
I am referring to “Lord of the Rings” of course, the famous book by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. A movie was made from this book in New Zealand and this sign pointed to the location where the outside-shots taking place “Hobbiton” in “The Shire” have been made. so why not take a right turn here to go and have a look?
And indeed: After driving a few miles along Buckland Road we saw a big sign: “Welcome to Hobbiton” Unfortunately this sign was telling a lie: we were not welcome there at all! The film set was somewhere beyond the hills, on the other side of a closed gate with a sign showing very intimidating threats to anyone who wanted to pass it. The sign looked like a lot of people had already attacked it driven by their frustration about the unfriendliness of the land owner. The only places to go here were a restaurant, a sheep farm and a souvenir shop.
The film set was probably not very interesting to see anyway: People who did visit it, can tell you that the Hobbit-homes with their typical round windows and doors are in fact no more than hardboard façades with nothing behind them. All the inside-shots have been taken in studios in Wellington. Well, there was a very similar façade inside the souvenir shop. But still… I was very disappointed.
If you forget about the fence and the electricity wires in this picture, the scenery here indeed looks a lot like one would imagine what “The Shire” looks like: The most peaceful area in “Middle Earth”, the land of the Hobbits. The Hobbits, a friendly ancient folk, who enjoy eating and sleeping and love to smoke a good pipe. They prefer to stay away from the matters of big people like wars, technology and politics. You can almost see them here…
Hamilton is not the first city that comes to mind when you think about a holiday in New Zealand. It is not in the seaside. The same can be said about Taupo of course, but Taupo has at least got a lake. And Rotorua has hot mud pools. But what can you do in Hamilton?? Our travel guide put our minds at ease: Hamilton has some of the finest restaurants in all New Zealand.
through the i-Site we booked a room in a hotel (Aaron Court Motor Inn) with a great bathroom: Jacuzzi and massage shower, yeah! And, very important: A little balcony where we would be allowed to smoke. So we brought our suitcases there and set out to explore the city.
There were nice shops to look at. It was now one of the final opportunities to buy some stuff at friendly New zealand prices. Lord of the Rings for instance: All volumes in one book at Whitcoulls’ for NZ$ 39.99 (Euro 16.40). Can Amazon match that as well? Yes they can: The version I bought is no longer for sale. But they do have: “The Lord of the Rings: 50th Anniversary, One Vol. Edition” for only US$13.00 (Euro 9.75) But at least I had something to read now. Very good for during the trip on the plane too…
Our travel guide pointed to some “gay friendly” places to go out. Usually these are also places where acceptance of transgendered people is above average. (We had had some very good experiences with that in Prague.) And for the many T-girls (& T-guys) who read my blog, it seemed useful to tell something about the venues listed. Unfortunately this was not very succesful. Both the places that were listed in the book looked like they had been abondoned months ago. nothing going on there.
No, let’s just go have dinner as usual! I had planned to go to “Sahara Tent”, it looked nice in the formation folder we found in the hotel room. But when we got there it did not look attractive at all. We were very tired from walking from our hotel all the way down Victoria Street, so we picked the closes restaurant we could see: “Iguana” (203 Victoria Street) This turned out to be a great choice! We had a truly delicious meal there.
Today we decided to take a walk around the foot of Mount Maunganui.
Mount Maunganui is also the name of Tauranga’s sea-side place. If Tauranga is not fashionable enough to your taste, Mount Manganui is the place to go. Look for instance at the vehicles you see there, like this 1957 Chevrolet…
but we had come to see the mountain. The Maori refer to this 773 feet tall volcanic cone as Mauao. It is a sacred place and it is the subject of many legends. One of these legends tells us how this mountain got its name:
Long, long ago there was a nameless hill. He stood in a boring area and was a pononga (slave) to the great mountain called Otanewainuku. He was in love with the beautiful hill called Puwhenua. Her beauty was created by Tane Mahuta, the God of the Forest in his many varied colours. Unfortunately, her heart had already been won by Otanewainuku, so he did not stand a chance to win her love.
So in despair he decided to commit suicide. He called upon his friends the Patupaiarehe fairy people to drag him to Te Moananui-a-Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean). The Patupaiarehe people dwelt in the dark of the forest, so they preferred to work during the night. One night they wraped the nameless one with ropes and began to pull him towards the ocean. They carved a valley as they went, which is now the location of Waimapu River The tears of the nameless one filled this valley and became the water that flows in the river.
they had almost reached the ocean, when the Sun started to rise. scared by the sunlight the Patupaiarehe fled back to the shadows of the forest and left the nameless one at the place where he now stands. Hence the name Mauao: “Caught by the dawn”.
It was a beautiful walk. We had the mountain on our left hand side and the sea to the right. the sun was shining brightly, but the trees offered enough shadow. In the past the whole mountain must have been covered with forest, just like Puwhenua, but unfortunately there are often forest-fires. People are now planting new trees on the mountain, but it is a battle that is almost impossible to win: A forest fire can destroy in one day, what has grown in a century.
The mountain is located at the entrance to the bay, so it is pretty sure there will be dangerous currents in the surrounding waters. Besides that the waves violently hit the rocks, increasing the risks. but of course we did see people swimming around there. We were wise enough to refrain from doing that, until we found a friendly looking little beach at the protected west side of the mountain. It was not easy to reach it for Julia, because we had to cross a rocky area to get there, but she made it. Time for a short relaxing break.
after our break at the beach, it was only a short walk back to our starting point. meanwhile I had gained a great appetite, so we decided to first go for a bite to eat on a terrace. Julia had a scone, but I preferred something hearty.
Julia went for her afternoon nap en I went to the garden again with a newspaper and my camera.
In the evening we headed for “The Strand” again to have dinner. And to watch people again. Normally it is “not done” to take pictures of the passers-by of course, but these girls insisted they wanted to be pictured.
I would have loved to go to the disco again that night, but Julia did not feel like it. So i decided to play with my camera instead. I made another picture of the moon. You may say the moon always looks the same, but have a closer look…
Do you see it? It is upside-down! Or, more accurately: I was upside-down. Being in New Zealand takes a long time to get used to: Everything is the other way around than at home.
(Left the picture from Tauranga, right a picture taken at home.)
After watching today’s pictures on TV in our room Julia went to bed and I was a little bored. The camera was still connected to the TV set… I wonder what would happen if I point the camera at the screen now?
We said goodbye to our landlady and loaded all our stuff into the car again. I had found an ATM the day before already, so I could pay for our stay in cash. We were on the road again!
Going from Te Kuiti to Tauranga we visited Cambridge. New Zealand (Country Guide): “The name says it all. Despite the rambunctious Waitako River looking nothing like the Cam, the good burghers of Cambridge have done all they can to assume an air of English gentility”
At the corner of Duke Street and Victoria Street we found a nice example of Edwardian architecture: GPO Bar & Brasserie, in a building that used to be a post office (GPO = General Post Office). We had a coffee at Masonic hotel at the corner of Duke Street and Commerce Street (a typical example of Victorian architecture).
When we left Cambridge it was Julia’s turn to take the wheel. It was not easy to get out of the town; there were traffic jams and road construction works all over the place. But we made it!
When we reached Tauranga we immediately headed for the i-Site to book a motel room of course. Because this was a national holiday, parking was free in the city and there were lots of places to park, because all the shops were closed. Julia parked the car with an elegant swing… Only a few millimeters away from a bunch of crates someone had carelessly left around there!
“Well done Julia!”
“Owww, I had not even noticed those crates…”
No problem; all is well that ends well. Let’s go to the i-Site!
We decided to take a nice studio at Roselands Motel for NZ$ 135 a night. We were also able to see the amount in Euros, since it was displayed on the payment terminal as well. Today’s exchange rate for the New Zealand Dollar was 0.4101 Euros, so it cost 55 Euros a night.
We went for a walk and stumbled upon a waka which was on display in a protective cage. This is Te Awanui Waka, a replica of the war-canoes used by the Maori people. (This canoe was crafted in 1973 by wood carver Tuti Tukaokao and is used for ceremonial events.)
Gathered around the small building was a group of Maori men. Some of them were sleeping, others were drinking. It looked a bit like a meeting point for the local alcoholics. I have to admit I did not feel at ease there at all. However there was no real reason to feel threatened, on the contrary: One of the guys started to elaborately explain us about the waka. We did not stay there for long…
And so we arrived at the boulevard, which featured dozens of restaurants looking out to the sea. There was a railroad track between the boulevard and the sea, but since trains are a rare sight in New Zealand, that was not a real problem.
After the walk we went back to the hotel, where Julia went for her afternoon nap. Meanwhile I tool my camera out into the garden, to have another attempt to picture a cicada. And I took the complimentary newspaper (“Bay of Plenty Times”) — we found it on our doorstep when we came home — along with me. On this special day, the newspaper was of course full of news about the celebration of Waitangi Day.
In the picture you can see the ceremony that had taken place at sunrise on the top of mount Mauao. The Maori had come there with Te Awanui Waka (indeed, the same canoe we just saw) to take part in the ceremony. So probably the men we saw earlier were the guys who had rowed the waka! Considering the fact they must have rowed there before sunrise, climbed to the top and went all the way back after the ceremony, they had every right to drink and sleep in the early afternoon. They already had a full working day behind them!
Of course many prominent Tauranga citizens had been present at the ceremonies as well. Amongst them the mayor and several religious leaders. And there had been speeches. Speeches with positive news because the co-existence of Maori and “Pakeha” (westerners/white people) in New Zealand, including Tauranga, is going better and better the mayor said proudly.
The national celebration in Waitangi had also taken place without further incidents. John Key had appeared at the ceremonies again, in spite of the minor problem yesterday and he too speeched about the improvement in the relationships between Maori and Pakeha.
On page 6 the newspaper went on with lots of background stories about Waitangi Day and its significance to the New Zealanders. Many people don’t have a clue what it is all about. To them it is just a day off from work. Maori people are much more aware of the backgrounds than the Pakeha.
Columnist Tommy Wilson compared Waitangi Day to Australia Day. The Maori in New Zealand are looked upon a lot better than the Aboriginals in Australia, who are often seen as a lesser kind of people.
But in Australia have officially attested to the truth of their terrible deeds to the Aboriginals in a big demonstration in Sydney in which hundreds of thousands of people took part. The Pakeha in New Zealand have never even said “sorry“. That is probably what the magic mirror in the cartoon on page 11 is referring to, when he says he is getting sick of all the lip-service…
We had dinner at “Hot on the Rocks” at the boulevard. Our choice was the catch of the day again. And we drank a nice bottle of Maven Chardonnai with it. Everything was more expensive than usual today, because on this national holiday a surcharge of 15% was applied to the bill. It was no use to try our luck somewhere else to avoid the surcharge for this is a policy all the restaurants abided by. It was also clearly announced in advance, so there were no nasty surprises.
There were large gas heaters spread out over the terraces, keeping the temperature nice and warm. That was very useful, because as it got the dark, the temperature went down too.
Of course watching people is one of the nicest things to do on such a terrace and there was a lot to see. We noticed a guy dressed as a girl with a lot of friends around him. That was probably a bachelor’s party. we met them several times that evening and they got more and more noisy over time…
Tauranga is really a place where the New Zealanders go for their holidays (if they can afford it). So the city is full of fashionable places.After dinner we went to have a look at some of the dance clubs. We first went to “The Grumpy Mole Saloon”, but it was still very empty; noting going on there.
A very nice club was the “Temple”. Several men at the door were carefully watching who was to be allowed in and who wasn’t. For men it may not have been easy to get in; for us girls, it was no problem to get in at all…
We had not come to Te Kuiti without a reason. We had planned to visit the glowworm caves today. Julia had visited those twenty years ago and the last time we visited New Zealand together we had skipped them. I was very curious!
There are many companies that organize trips for tourists to visit the caves, but not every cave is as beautiful as the others. Besides that, some caves are so crowded with tourists, that it is more like visiting Madame Tussauds than enjoying the beauty of unspoiled nature. Our hostess again knew the perfect tour operator for us. She made us a reservation at Spellbound‘s.
There was breakfast too. This time no escape was possible for me: I had to eat “cereal”. To be honest it was not bad at all! And in addition to the cereal there toast with home-made fruit jelly. After breakfast we quickly smoked a fag on the wonderful terrace… And off we went to Waitomo.
It turned out we were going into the caves with a group of eight people from different countries around the world. We all got into a little bus and went on our way to the entrance of the first. On the way there our guide was talking all the time and he also asked us lots of questions. Where are we from, what is our profession… “Aha! You are a translator! How many languages do you speak?” Difficult question: How much do you have to know of a language to be say you “speak” it? “6“, I said, hoping I would not immediately be confronted by a complicated reply in Czech, Greek or Portuguese, I would not be able to understand at all…
The Waitomo area is a karst landscape. This means the bedrock consist of limestone. Limestone can dissolve in rain water. And that gives rise to several typical phenomena, such as dolines, caves and underground rivers. De dolines (sinkholes) are depressions or holes in the surface topography. The rain water goes down into the soil here and can form a vertical cavity, also called a chimney to a cave below the ground. On more adventurous excursions than ours, you can sometimes “abseilen” into the hole to visit the cave below. Fortunately we kept our feet safely on the ground.
Our guide was apparently a vegetarian. He told us to have a good look at the cows we were passing and to think of them the next time we were about to order a hamburger at McDonalds.
Meanwhile we had left the normal sealed roads and we were speeding along a sandy path through the wilderness. The guide told us the maximum allowed speed here was 100 kilometers per hour and it looked like he was trying very hard to reach that maximum indeed…
When we arrived at the cave, we had to wear helmets again of course. And… In we went!
The first time I saw a few of these glowworms (Arachnocampa luminosa), I thought the guide was pulling our legs: Surely these were LEDs??? Nope, these are real live animals! In fact, it is one of the most interesting insects of the New Zealand fauna. It occurs throughout the country in limestone caves, unused mining tunnels, along stream banks, in damp bush-clad ravines, in damp shady crevices, and under tree-fern fronds in rain forests. The Glow-worm Grotto in Waitomo Cave has become world famous because of the tens of thousands of glow-worm larvae which live on the walls, ceilings, and stalactites of the grotto.
The insect is not related to the European glowworm which is a beetle. The New Zealand glowworm is a fly belonging to the gnat family. The larvae, pupae, and adults of both sexes are all luminous. In the larval stage the light attracts prey in the form of other organisms, while in the pupal and adult stages the light attracts the opposite sex.
The larva prepares a nest in the form of a tunnel of mucous and silk, and suspends from this an array of fishing lines composed of the same materials. Prey is snared in the long sticky fishing lines. The larva hauls up the fishing line on which the prey is entangled and consumes the trapped insect. Up to 70 lines are let down by one larva and, depending on the size of the larva, the lines vary in length from under 1 cm to 50 cm. Each fishing line consists of a long thread of silk which bears at regular intervals a series of mucous droplets giving the appearance of a string of beads.
I tried to make pictures of the glowworms, but without a tripod and a long shutter time, that is not going to work! So I made a link to another website for the picture above. I did manage to picture the fish lines by using a flashlight.
After visiting the first cave, it was time for coffee and cookies (all brought along by our guide)… After that we proceeded to the next cave, where we got to see the dolines from below. They looked like holes in the ceiling, way above us. If you happen to fall down through one of these holes, you are in deep trouble! Farmers in this area loose some of their cows in this way. And indeed we found the skeletons of several animals that suffered this terrible fate.
We stayed to watch one of the skeletons a little longer. The guide asked us if we were able to tell what kind of animal this was, but nobody knew… Maybe a Dutch tourist?? No, it was a moa!
There was a lot more to see in the environment, including a farm, where rabbits are bred for the Angora wool. It was not nice to see how these animals are being treated. We got to see the shearing of a rabbit. The poor thing was tied down on a table. But also the cages where they spend their lives are not a pleasure to look at.
Because we still had not seen a single live kiwi, we decided to go to Otorohanga Zoologica. Their have lots of birds in aviaries, also kiwis. And indeed I did see a kiwi now, I think. The kiwis were not outside, but inside a building, in a dark room.
Kiwis are nocturnal animals. During the day they like to sleep in their lairs. To enable the tourists to see them, the rhythm of day and night has been artificially reversed in this room. This way they are active during the days.
I was very disappointed. It was very dark and the kiwis were in a very large cage. Of course they had chosen to hide away in the furthest corner they could find. And they are brown; the same color as the bottom of the cage. I have a very poor eyesight so for me they were virtually invisible. Julia did see them and she said they were not doing anything very spectacular; just pottering about a little. Taking pictures in there was not allowed…
Fortunately there were lots of other birds to see, like this godwit and this falcon. The godwits come flying all the way from the northern hemisphere to New Zealand to avoid the winter. Very much like we were doing this year. 🙂
When we got home, we watched the news on TV.
The next day it would be Waitangi Day. Waitangi Day is a national holiday in New Zealand. It is celebrated on February 6th. every year. They celebrate the signing of the Waitangi Treaty. This dates back to February 6th. 1840, when a document was signed to end the fight between the Maori and the immigrants and the state of New Zealand came into existence.
The festivities start at sunrise, which is terribly early. If you want to be there, it is best to go to Waitangi a day ahead. And so there are already important speeches etc. too on February 5th.
The New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, had also traveled to Waitangi today. When he arrived, some guys started pulling on his sleeve and were immediately arrested by the police. Apparently my sister-in-law Tallie was right, when she predicted Waitangi Day might not pass without some complications.
So what would be our next stop? The TV answered that question too: The east coast had the best weather (as usual), so we chose to go to Tauranga…
After we had had such a relaxing day yesterday, I got up very early. At 8 AM I queued up at the supermarket, waiting for it to open. I wanted to buy some nice rolls for our last breakfast in Rotorua. We wanted to travel from Rotorua to Te Kuiti, a distance of about 100 miles. But I did not want to take the shortest route: I had planned to see some sights on the way there, so the total distance to travel would be about 130 miles.
For Trudi it was apparently too early to get up: She bailed out, showing an error message. (Which made it clear to see she was running on the Windows CE operating system.)
De planned detour brought us to Lake Taupo for the third time this holiday. Just north of from Taupo the water flows from the lake into the Waikato River (100 meters wide and 4 meters deep). At the Huka Falls all this water is squashed into a passage only 15 meters wide and 10 meters deep. And then it violently rushes down in a waterfall: Huka Falls!
We left the main road and turned onto Huka Falls Road. And soon we found the first look-out point. We had a great view over Waikato River. But there was a lot of noise! (No, not from the water, but from the cicades!) I tried to take a picture of one of them, but while I was doing that, one of them landed on my back! So I had to hand the camera to someone else. I cannot make a picture of my own back.
Finally we reached the river. Well, to be quite honest I have seen some more spectacular waterfalls in my life. I would call this “rapids”… But, very big ones; that’s true!
But the waterfall was not the only sight here. There was also the The Honey Hive, which is certainly worth a visit. It is mainly a shop, where the healing Manuka-honey is sold, but there is also a lot of information on bees and about making honey. It is amazing to hear how accurately the bees can tell each other where to get honey, how much honey is there and in which quality!
Of course we bought a jar of Manuka-honey. Oh man, we will get so healthy now!
And after seeing the Honey Hive, you are still not ready seeing the sights near the Huka Falls. There is also the Wairakei Research Center with the Volcanic Activity Centre. They have lots of information about volcanic activity in and around New Zealand.
Julia had often spoken about the possibility to not stay at a hotel, but at a “Bed&Breakfast” instead. Personally I value my privacy too much, so I am really not in favor to get so close to your hosts. I prefer to be anonymously in a big hotel. But one should try everything at least once, so I picked a place to stay in our great travel guide (New Zealand (Country Guide)): “Simply the Best Bed & Breakfast”…
We went there without first announcing we were coming, but we got a very friendly welcome indeed. And, yes, they did have a room for us. There was a beautiful, large room with a great terrace with a stunning view over the valley… But we wanted to stay for two nights and there was a reservation for that room for the next day. So we settled for a much smaller room at the back of the house. No Problem! And we could use the terrace anyway.
It takes some getting used to to stay at a bed&breakfast. You have to abide by the rules of the house. And the first rule was, our shoes had to stay outside on the doorstep. To enjoy the view, I really urge you to click on the picture below…
And where do we go for dinner? Our hostess had the perfect answer. She grabbed the phone and made a reservation for us at The Riverside Lodge in Te Kuiti. It was just a few miles away and it turned out to be a very good restaurant. It was situated a little off the main road on the river bank.
Getting back from the restaurant to our sleeping address was a bit complicated: We had to find out way back in the dark and drive along the narrow path along the side of the hill to our parking spot in front of the house. But we managed just fine!