Welcome back, everyone!
Today I continue showing you discoveries of New Zealand, through my words and pictures. Most of the photos I have selected are from my own collection. I also ‘borrowed’ a few from my fellow fine photographers John and Linden. Not too keen on selfies, I usually rely on others to put me in the picture ;-).
Now let me continue my list of Top Ten personal picks from NZ’s North Island:
6) Lakes and Huka Falls: Not only does New Zealand have some of the best coastline surrounded by the South Pacific Ocean on the one side and Tasman Sea on the other, but also it has a number of fresh water lakes in the middle of North Island, most notably Lake Taupo (largest NZ lake), and the “Lake District” near Rotorua. During our short stay overlooking Lake Taupo, we took a leisurely walk around the lake and spotted a group of black swans, seagulls and ducks swan near the shore. There were many water activities and it would have been a great place for canoeing, rafting and sailing. However, it was a windy day so we opted for a boat trip by Ernest Kemp, after many other local cruises had sold out. Despite the fear of sea sickness, we ventured on board and were able to see one of the treasures of Lake Taupo: A striking modern Maori rock carvings which can be only seen from the water at Mine Bay. The modern carvings dated from late 1970s while other smaller ones have been there much longer. The largest is a stylised image in likeness of Ngatoroirangi, a navigator who guided two Maori tribes to the Taupo area over a thousand years ago.
Huka Falls are a set of spectacular cascades on the Waikato River that drains Lake Taupo. You can take a jet boat to get to the base of the Falls, getting both thrills and soaked, or like us, taking in the views from above. The most striking thing, to me, was not the speed and volume of the falls, but the pure blue of the rushing water and the roaring sound that brought Nature closer to my heart. I had to make a few small recordings to take them home with me, and I listen to them as I write this.
I mentioned in the previous blog that we explored a Living Maori Village in Rotorua, and this is one place which you can’t miss if you go to New Zealand. Apart from wonderful thermal pools, geysers and boiling mud pools, it is surrounded by an amazing array of lakes, the Blue and Green lakes, Lake Tarawera and it goes on. We had a quick lake-hop in our hired car but I wish I had more time than simply stopping for a few snaps before leaving this heavenly place.
7) National & Regional Parks: New Zealand is a super green country full of national and regional parks. My friend Lulu said to me that her favourite place on North Island was Tongariro National Park, and also top of recommendations of any NZ guidebooks. It was a real pity that when we drove up there, the sun which had consistently greeted us had decided to hide behind the clouds that day. There was some snow on top of the highest peak Ruapehu, and we could see it from 20 miles away. Had we had more time to take one of the many trails/hikes and had it been a better day, we could see some of the most scenic offerings. As it was, our short stop only allowed us a glimpse of the dramatic volcanic landscape, giving the feeling of being transported to a very different place. I could see Lord of the Rings in my mind’s eye.
Our plan to visit Hobbiton was derailed because it was fully booked, but we were not disappointed. There was so much else to see and every day our eyes feasted on the natural beauty and wildlife, from Oystercatchers on the beach, flittering Piwakawaka at Shakespeare Regional Park and thousands of gannets on the rocks at Muriwai Gannet Colony.
8) Pohutukawa, also known as New Zealand Christmas Tress: New Zealand is full of trees, ancient, massive and weird looking specimens. We came across many wonderful trees, and most common of all were those that produce a brilliant red, occasionally other colours. They especially like to hang out on cliffs and by the many beaches we visited. Guess there is a bonus in visiting New Zealand during Christmas time, Pohutukawas were in abundance and with beautiful blooms, and they rewarded me with contrasting colours in fabulous photos. You can see from the slide show below the kind of trees we have seen, and from time to time, a swing which could be found in many places.
9) Waitomo Caves: One word to describe this place: MAGICAL! ‘Wai’ is the Māori word for ‘water’, and ‘tomo’ a hole in the ground. Visiting Waitomo Caves was an unforgettable experience. No photos were allowed inside the cave but we had a Maori guide whose great grandfather discovered the cave about 120 years ago. We walked through majestic caverns, limestone shafts, marvelling at the stalactites and stalagmites – one is called bungee jumping kiwi (bird) and another looks like an elephant. The tour ended with a boat ride through a grotto lit by thousands of tiny native New Zealand glowworms. I pinched one photo showing inside the cave from the Internet, but you really have to go and be awed by what you see!
10) Wedding: Here comes the main reason why we took the long haul trip to the far end of the Earth. We wanted to celebrate the special day with my Brother-in-Law Mike and his beautiful new bride who calls New Zealand home. I would like to take this opportunity to wish the newly weds every happiness and lasting love for each other. I also want to thank them, for making one of my dreams come true. New Zealand has been on my bucket list for a very long time, and their wedding in December had persuaded John, far more effectively than I ever could. Being the best man was the duty he took seriously, and definitely the icing on the cake!
The wedding venue was truly enchanting, on a headland in the stunning Mahurangi Regional Park overlooking the South Pacific Ocean, and by a massive Pohutukawa tree. It was a little cloudy on the day but still a perfect occasion for the family and friends. I know that my sister-in-law is a very private person, but I am sure that she will not mind me sharing some of the fabulous photos on the day. It was really a perfect year end to a not so perfect year, for which I will forever be grateful.
New Zealand, a most fascinating and magical land. Two short blogs are hardly enough to include all the memorable moments we have had in the delightful three weeks we spent there. It’s without a doubt a trip of a lifetime, and next time we will be going to South Island too and we won’t be rushing back.
Let the fun, love and happiness extend to 2018 and beyond.