February 28, 2009
It was a rainy day – exactly as the weather forecast predicted. So it was good to spend it in the city. We drove there in the morning and as it was Saturday, thanks God we started looking for a room from the very start. And we found, on a slope – with the view towards “The Hong Kong” of New Zealand. Then we rushed to Kuba street,
lots of shops restaurants and then dived among several skyscrapers and found ourselves by the harbors. The decors and sculptures over there are impressive even in the rain. I like their sense of modernism, it makes me happy. After a good curry at an Indian restaurant we found ourselves heading towards Te Papa museum.
That museum is …marvelous, nobody doubts about that. Architecture alone is worth spending time and looking at it. Then the contemporary paintings are pretty good, the Maori artifacts and stories about their life, etc. showed in movies are pleasant. the other exhibits, as a giant squid caught in Feb. of 2007, the Earthquake exhibit, the fashion-color show – everything was impressive. But to me – nothing beats the exterior and the interior.
This is a Chinese device to measure the direction of a coming earthquake. Each dragon has a ball in his mouth. If the pendulum inside hits it – the ball falls into the open mouth of a frog sitting under and in front of it. Those Chinese, they made everything beautifully…
Museums make us tired. So after that we found something to eat and called it a day. Here in the Lodge we met three young Latvians, traveling for 2.5 months! Not bad, hm… If a person from an Eastern European country can work for a year there and save enough money for such a long trip – lets move back to Lithuania… I think I have made a mistake, being form the US I can travel here no longer than for a month .
We are heading towards the South Island tomorrow! taking a ferry.
February 27, 2009
That was the plan. No, we haven’t reached Wellington. We are half an hour north of it – just ran out of steam. The day was cloudy, but not rainy. It was comfortable for traveling. In the morning we walked just a little on the walkway in Plymouth which has got awards from UN as the most ecological, etc.
It was nice, all the walks for me here are nice – on walkways or just on wild beaches…New Plymouth looks light, modern, has charm. Ir has nice parks, but we missed them. On the whole – people here in the south of North Island are more into flowers and more cheerful themselves, or that is what I feel. But my impressions about people are very scarce, for I have no time to talk to them so what do I know…
Then we tried to take pics of Mt. Taranaki or Mt. Egmont, because there is no clear agreement between both sides (Maori and government) which name to use.The first is Maori name, the second is given by Captain Cook. Vote which one do you like! Me- I don’t care. I like its looks. Reminds Mt. Fuji which I have seen in pictures only.
We tried to see a beach there – they are not by main road – but it wasn’t somehow impressive. Lots of places for surfers. Therefore this whole peninsula is called Surfers’ peninsula. But there are steep rock , too. waves are plunging into those rocks and splashing up! beautiful. of course. Even without sun. We came upon a beach in Patea and there was a mall -waves were splashing over it and on both sides of the black sand beach there were steep cliffs, as if in Ireland or England (White Cliffs in Dover – or so I read). The surf barrier looked as in the movie French Lieutenant’s Woman. Pleasant.
Then we drove for 11 km from the main road to see the Kai Iwi or Mowhanau beach – on the way there was a surprise – Bason Botanic Reserve, a very beautifully taken care of park. With a begonia exhibit. they we exploding! The beach didn’t seem attractive at first – but then we noticed a walk by the cliffs and two big rocks standing separately in the sea, like in a movie “the Piano”.
And also – there was a Flying Fox thing in the kids playing ground…So I remembered my childhood and oh my God what fun it was!
We didn’t see Wanganui, just passed by, but upon entering it noticed an Aviary – a closed big place for birds and birds there were. All colors one can imagine, mostly parrots, but also pigeons, a colorful goose with tiny cute ducklings, Love birds and parakeets, their colors were strange – like artificial, as if they don’t belong to nature – my friend used to call those colors FC cold blueish greens. Combined with yellows. The parrots were ringnecks and African Greys and others I don’t know. Green, yellow, colorful. Fighting, playing, hatching. And we could stand in the middle of it.
Also – we managed to stop at a berry farm – the second one we noticed after making totally 1500 km… in this climate. Maybe they have no market for berries, because otherwise – why not to grow them? Oh yes, they have no Mexicans and Eastern Europeans to work in farms…The climate is perfect and in my long life – I have never eaten such tasty strawberries! So aromatic! so sweet! it is a pity we had no time to pick ourselves, it would have been a double pleasure.
And that was it, the road was so crowded, so busy, we had to find a place to stay, which we did on a dirty beach – here I will copy the name from the book: Paraparaumu. Who in the world can remember such names…
February 26, 2009
From Orewa to new Plymouth – it seemed to be 260 km, but we made 400km. Maybe we drove a longer and more spectacular road.
The morning was again bright as usually mornings here are, at least for us they were. We started early, but all those e-mails and connections took some good hour from our morning. We drove a lot – more than 400 km, the most of our drivings here yet. Drove straight south. Through Hamilton, where we stopped to walk in Hamilton gardens – very beautifully built gardens, in a way I never expected. there were several exotic gardens enclosed with walls or hedges. (Thanks Margot and Wayne for planting such interesting gardens .
I have seen many Japanese gardens and Chinese, too. But never an Indian garden with a piece of their architecture:
A Renaisance garden, and English garden -they all had architectural designs and details:
And a Maori garden:
During our luch a bunch of maori kids were brought from gardens and as a reward for listening boring stories about plants – were permitted to play in their playground. That was like all the fire sirens screaming together! I think I have never heard such a noise, a noise of happiness. Running barefoot, using all those fast merry-go-rounds, falling, pushing each other, and yet later gathered by teachers into a tidy waiting line, and shouting, screaming, yelling…
When we reached Otorohanga – I read that there is a Kiwi House Bird Park. So we went – we felt an obligation to see a live kiwi while here in New Zealand. And we saw – in a dark house resembling a moonlight. There were two kiwis – one was Evan the other had two names, one which as if was Ricky. They were seriously digging the soil with their long beaks. the rest of the garden was not so impressive, very few birds in my opinion, some eels in a dirty pond…(that is how they live, I guess, in nature). The tickets were $16NZ each.
Kaka Parrot resting:
After that we already rushed towards New Plymouth, the road was winding through mountains and a green canyon, reaching the Tasman sea where we couldn’t help but stop and plunge into teh warm waves! the beach was very different than we saw before, (it was in Mokau) in the sense that the sand was black and glittering in the sun. It also had that blue shade sometimes black hens have. But it was soft to walk on that sand and the sea was very far away.
Low tide…the sand was wet, most likely that was a very flat beach, Strange to leave your clothes on such a wet sand – they get wet. But getting into the waves was lovely! and taht is it, we gathered some shells and good views for pic and headed towards Plymouth, which is a nice city. Lots of churches, old and modern. Also – those areas here have more flowers than Northland or around Auckland. I noticed that people don’t like planting fruit trees or gardens by their houses even if they have enough land. Not a big fashion to have flower gardens in front of houses unless they grow by themselves, which they do – they are blooming here! I could notice even flowers by the road, on slopes, some even in gardens. Such a climate, give me one, I would show what a garden should look like!
Also – here is the prince of the house we stayed at, he is going to celebrate Americana weekend!:
We had a beautiful morning in Paihia and left towards the West coast. To tell the truth I am falling in love with Backpackers Lodges…Unlike faceless motels – they have characters. They have either a nice garden or some courtyard for eating in the morning, or dinners or lunches, whatever anyone wants.
Also – they are filled with young people who talk about their adventures, or studies, or plans in life and also old people who are very quiet which is also very good for neighbors as us . And the owners are usually very patient people. They don’t tell you much about where to go or what to do, but they emanate that welcome spirit and concern about your comfort.
So yesterday we crossed the peninsula and noticed a sign on the way: Ngawha Springs – of course, we drove there and there we met the first Maori women – mother and daughter selling the tickets. They were full of fun, laughing, so we had a good chat. I said – of all the New Zealanders I met here yet -you are the most cheerful! The Springs were very simple, wooden boxes built into the soil and hot water bubbles in them. There are different boxes and different temperatures. To make it interesting – they have names. The hottest one is called Doctors and the other – Favorite…They have a sense of humor. Because it is so simple, it costs only $4 NZ. and very few soakers. As far as I notice already -there are a lot of Canadians and Brits who are retired and travel here looking for deals and enjoying the warm climate. So I talked with a Canadian couple, who stay in their motor home and soak every day for a week already. There was a sad Kiwi, too. And basically no more at that time. The waters are a little gray, some dark green, but seemed clean, a very slight sulfur smell. That was a really good time!
Then we drove to Opononi and Omapere -and I was pleasantly surprised to see the big sandy dunes in front on the other side of the bay -it looked like Nida – my place in Lithuania! So alike, that I couldn’t take my eyes off!
Then the road went South, which is down, through Kauri forest. Very thick jungle with Kauri giants sticking here and there. the biggest had a path to it and viewing places. It is maybe even more than 2000 years old…and has fragile roots, who would expect that?
They have used most of te Kauri trees for building houses and making furniture – good wood! Also they are mentioning about Kauri gum – as if it looks like amber, but far from it…Very blank, lacks color and expression. And extremely expensive to my eyes. I should have brought amber to them…
When we reached Orewa, 30 km north of Auckland, we felt like staying there – by the sea, by a very wide and long beach, so magic…warm waters, so we swam. And tides here are low in the evenings – so it takes long to get to the waters.
At night we went to the sea shore to look at stars -and saw the Southern Cross for the first time in our lives! And the constelation of Centaurus, and the brightest star Syrius high up in the sky. No Casiopeia, no Polar Star. Only the Orion looked in its place – my husband said that it was turned over – I didn’t notice for it is very symetrical in the first place. It is still strange, that North is in another direction that you would expect by default.
February 24, 2009
It was a very good motel we found to stay at in Whangarei. Needs to be mentioned: Fountain Lodge Motel. I didn’t see a fountain there, but we got a suite of two rooms, lot of beds, a kitchen and dining area. And best of all – it had a speedy internet! While traveling it is hard to find enough time to use it, but we did, even talked through Skype with my parents. This is the view we had:
Seeing such a kitchen I couldn’t resist to cook a good breakfast. A peculiar thing for us from the US – it is not so common to see a supermarket here, and they open pretty late and close very early. So we have to adjust to that. The other thing I want not to forget to mention – the books wark that NZ has a lot of moskitoes and sand flies. But until now we haven’t seen a screen on a window – the windows are open at all times, letting this wonderful air in and out without any flying subjects. Maybe we will see them in the future.
From Whangarei we stopped at Whangarei Falls:
There is a nice trail down to the bottom of them and then by the river to a Kauri tree grove.
The path is all surrounded by this jungle growth – dominated by big ferns. As is a dinosaur forest as we have seen them in museums:
Because of the clean air the NZ sun bites, even under the hair line…Some trampers look like lobsters their lips swollen and cheeks red. So Andrei uses his umbrella and looks like “A lady in waiting” from a French court…:
Half an hour of a nice walk through some pastures and a forest- and we find ourselves on a bridge called canopy walk. Lots of trees above us, but lots of them under:’
At last – here they are – one Kauri tree and then another, and that is all. They are too good to be in abundance:
As if those trees are the oldest here, or maybe on planet?.. In any case, they have been here before people came and took care of them ,meaning they used them for their good timber. Also, it is believed that some tsunami downed a lot of them at some point in history and now they find the old preserved trees in swamps and do crafts form them. The sap fossilized into something similar to amber. That bridge was so convenient to walk on that I have to show how it looks like:
The Whangarei river:
After that we wanted to buy some fruit in the orchards – they were writing on entrances – Fruit market – but we entered, and there was nothing there, no market, just orchard. While passing I took a picture of kiwis – Mark advised me “to pick a kiwi from a branch” – instead I touched several kiwis, but didn’t pick, didn’t dare…
After tramping in the jungle we needed some beach, which was not hard to find. We did a loop towards Tutukaka, stopped and Ngunguru for lunch and seagull feeding, then at Whangaumu Bay for beach combing:
Andrei even snorkeled there – the waters were calm, the process was easy, but nothing under waters just sand… But he enjoyed.
Lots of islands…Also here and there like weeds by the road you cannot ignore those beautiful flowers:
A little town Kawakawa was our next stop. An interesting story, One couple (Ann & Alan) from Rockville has been there last May and showed their pics to their friends upon return. In one of the pics was an impressive toilet, impressive in its design. But that couple didn’t stop or enter the toilet, just took the pic from ther car window and that is it. The other couple (us) saw their pics and especially me got very intrigued by those toilets – for god’s sake they are created by Hundertwasser and i was lucky to see his toilets in Viena where he was from. To make things a little clearer – he was not only a toilet builder, but a prominent architect. i have seen his exotic houses only in pictures. So a chance to see his work, in this case- “the toilets”, was very enticing. Amazing as it is this othert couple form Rockville managed to see them in detail in less than a year! To me – it is a miracle:
One more view of a Bay:
and we reached Paihia, where we had a two night reservation in a Peppertree lodge, which is a very exclusive hostel – very clean, private and non-private rooms, big kitchen with lots of young and older people cooking non stop -it was a pleasant experience to watch how good they are in cutting veggies, cooking, presenting on plates. And how neat they were, cleaning after themselves. Then long evenings sitting and talking -people from all around the world…No, this time I didn’t participate in talks, I rested after all those impressions and wrote this Blog.
Our day of rest in Paihia was good! We walked on the rocky-sandy beach and then used the hostel’s kayaks:
And swam to an island:
Where again -I picked the shells…
Unluckily – a wonderful calm and sunny day turned into a windy and cloudy, so we didn’t do a long trip as i planned…our botoms got cold in the water and it is not very comfy to sit in that cayak.Wheather here changes a lot during the day. When the sun comes out – it is rather warm, when it hides – you don’t want to be standing with wet clothes on…
Tomorrow a long drive downwards is waiting for us.