A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

Visions of Hell in Wai-O-Tapu

semi-overcast 27 °C

Picture an Old Testament image of hell where the landscape is dotted with giant cauldrons of boiling mud awaiting the souls of the unrepentant …
Where a single mortal sin will condemn unbelievers to eternity in a lake of sulphuric acid …
Where a sinner faces eternal perdition floating in a pool of scalding water laced with arsenic…
And where simple blasphemers can be cleansed of their transgressions in a lake of boiling water bubbling with noxious gasses…
But this is New Zealand - Aotearoa to the Maoris – and there are no sinners here. The Kiwis are fine upstanding God-fearing people who are very good at sailing, cricket and rugby (amongst other things), and they have no use for the instruments of the Lord’s wrath. Fortunately, Rotorua in the centre of North Island is not hell, but it has been a tourism hotspot (no pun intended) since the Duke of Edinburgh visited in 1870. (Not Phil the current D of E – even he’s not that old). The colours of the numerous pools are simply mesmerising…
This surreal place is the active geothermal caldera of a giant volcano that violently erupted some 26,000 years ago. It was the most violent eruption on earth in the past 70,000 years

While the main volcano may have blown itself to smithereens it has left a crater where the earth’s crust is only a few kilometres thick. Intense heat from the earth’s core boils the water in the underground aquifers and, with a little persuasion from a park guard, the Lady Constance Knox geyser blows off steam at precisely 10.15 am every day…
Tourists flock from all over the world to see the phenomena as superheated water is shot sixty feet or more into the air.
The Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland offers a truly unnatural natural palette – it is a paintbox for surrealist artists. Even the silver fern – New Zealand’s iconic plant – grows here…

Posted by Hawkson 01:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (5)

Life in the Land of the Long White Cloud

sunny 30 °C

In the past week we have driven well over a thousand kilometres and have arrived in the centre of the North Island - known as the Land of the Long White Cloud by the Maoris. We are staying by New Zealand’s largest lake – the pristine Lake Taupo – where we took a cruise on this replica steamboat…
Driving in New Zealand is easy. Most motorists are courteous if not downright cautious – although these may be foreigners unused to driving on the left or scared of the many roundabouts, (which James loves). However the roads are generally quite narrow.
If the Canadians, Romans and Sicilians had built New Zealand’s roads they would be wide, straight and peppered with tunnels and bridges – but they didn’t and they aren’t. New Zealand must hold the record for the world’s twistiest switchback highways – no hill is too small to weave around and no mountain too high to climb. The roads are well marked, but there are unusual signs like: “Report falls, slips and spillage.” Another sign saying “Watch For Kiwis” could refer to either locals, birds or fruit, however we are sure that “New seal” means that it has recently been re-surfaced and has nothing to do with a cuddly young seal pup.
This is the famous Huka Falls at Taupo…
The Lake Taupo shoreline is a favourite holiday area for locals and foreigners alike and is very similar to the lakeside resorts in central British Columbia. In fact, West Coast Canadians will find little here that is unusual. The houses are largely timber framed with wood siding, (albeit predominantly single story), and while prices fluctuate due to age, condition and location, it seems to us that they are less expensive here. However, lakeshore properties with sunset views like this aren’t cheap…
Logging is a major industry along with fishing; power is produced by hydro dams, (together with geothermal generators); pretty much all the goods in the stores are instantly recognisable, even if some of the brands are different. However, we’ve never seen a Canadian store giving free fruit to keep the kids quiet while mum shops…
Prices here are quite similar to Canada in general, although books are probably twice the price as is gas (petrol). At nearly 2 dollars a litre it is closer to European price.
Some tourist attractions seem to be expensive. On the other hand, prices include taxes, car parking, toilets and, sometimes, even drinks and cookies. The Mountains of the Moon park at Taupo cost only $8 each and gave us our first close up look at the active fumaroles that spew superheated sulphurous steam. ..
Next stop: Rotorua to wallow in the natural hot baths.

Posted by Hawkson 23:42 Archived in New Zealand Comments (8)

It’s a Green, Green, Green, Green World

semi-overcast 27 °C

We recently visited the onetime home of English captain James Cook in Whitby, Yorkshire, and have now tracked his voyage to the ends of the earth – to Gisborne, New Zealand, where he first landed in 1769. His statue on the promenade commemorates that event…
Cook and his men understandably mistook the fearsome Maori greeting, (the Haka), as aggression and killed one of the welcoming party. Cook’s sailors then fled fearing an attack and named the place Poverty Bay because they were unable to replenish their stores. Somewhat strangely, Canada celebrated this inauspicious event on the 200th anniversary by erecting this ‘Indian’ (sic) totem pole near the landing place...
The James Cook observatory which overlooks Gisborne harbour is one of the first places to greet the rising sun each day and Queen Elizabeth II has twice visited the observatory during her reign…
However, they wouldn’t let us mere mortals in because the building fails to comply with the latest earthquake codes. (We bet they’d let Liz in if she came back).

The warm sunshine, moist South Pacific winds and volcanic soil makes this land one of the most fertile places in the world and we have never seen such a varied agriculture anywhere. In addition to the ubiquitous kiwi fruit, there are orchards of oranges, lemons, tangerines, peaches, plums, apples and pears. There are vineyards galore producing world class wines, and there are fields of corn, tomatoes, cauliflowers, potatoes and all manner of vegetables.
Trees and plants from all over the globe flourish here and many can be seen at the national arboretum in Ngatapa…
Huge flocks of sheep and herds of cattle graze the lush pastures (and frequently wander
onto the roads) and it is a treat to have fabulous local lamb and delicious cheese at a fraction of the price we pay at home. There is also an abundance of fresh seafood and green-lipped mussels are a speciality. They are sold in Canada but never like this…
We could only manage four monstrous mussels apiece – but that was enough reason to visit New Zealand on its own.

Green is the predominant colour in New Zealand. With only four and half million people in a country bigger than Great Britain it is not surprising that we can drive for hours without seeing more than a handful of people. The cities are small, the towns are tiny and rural communities are just a few scattered farms – the rest is just a field of green as far as the eye can see. Even the sea is a perfect shade of turquoise in Hawke’s Bay at Napier…
Next time on Blissful Adventures - New Zealand's famous volcanic geysers. Congratulations to Samchow who knew that folks dig into the sand at Hot Water Beach at low tide to reach the hotsprings.

Posted by Hawkson 00:44 Archived in New Zealand Comments (6)


semi-overcast 27 °C

Sandy Cathedral Cove and its verdant islands near the tiny community of Hahei on the Coromandel Peninsula is a spectacular sight when glimpsed above a forest of lofty tree ferns…
These native ferns reach 60 feet high and along with other exotic trees and plants make the cliff side hiking trail to the cove a botanist’s delight…
When we told the guy at our resort in Whangamata that we intended visiting the cove he assured us that we would be snowed under with holidaymakers. After all this is the Waitangi Day long weekend – the last hoorah of summer. But here’s the beach…
Maybe the hordes would be inside the cathedral-sized cave that gives the cove its name…
Nope – not here either. Despite its proximity to Auckland this part of New Zealand has mile after mile of largely deserted golden beaches, but just when we thought it was safe to do a nudie we rounded a headland and found an army of people digging up the beach…
But what were they searching for: clams, mussels, buried treasure – maybe granny’s false teeth?

A two night all expenses stay at the Pacific Resort in Whangamata (airfare not included) to the first person with the correct answer. And here’s another brainteaser – just how do the locals pronounce words beginning with ‘Wh….”
We are continuing with our foreign language lessons and now call fishermen fishos; avocados avos and shopping carts trundlers. However the word Kiwi can be confusing. It could mean a New Zealander, or it might be one of these…
As we make our way around the north island we come across numerous small towns that remind us of home. For instance, the town of Katkati is adorned with dozens of murals depicting the town’s history similar to those in Chemainus on Vancouver Island…
And today we visited the rural community of Te Puke and couldn’t see a thing behind the incredibly high hedges. We wondered what the natives were hiding until we found a gap and discovered that Te Puke is the kiwi capital of the world and the hedges protect the furry little critters from the coastal winds…
Eighty percent of the world’s supply of this fruit is grown in the rich volcanic soils of north eastern New Zealand and here they are squeezed into everything from juice to wine, spirits, liqueurs and even chocolate bars and soap. This year’s kiwis won’t be ripe until April so we just had to try the kiwi wine – oh well; someone has to drink it.

Posted by Hawkson 23:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (6)

This Topsy-Turvy World

semi-overcast 29 °C

Sufferers of jet-lag should probably avoid weeks like ours. In 4 days we have been in 5 countries, 4 time zones, 3 continents, both hemispheres and both sides of the International Date Line. So far we have travelled 17,000 kms and our walkabout has only just begun.

Everything is topsy-turvy in New Zealand and by the time you read this in Canada it is already tomorrow here; we are happily walking upside down and, despite the fact that it’s early February, the thermometer is hovering nicely in the high twenties. However, some of the locals in Auckland are wondering who stole the rest of their holiday season. Apparently December was a bust, but now it’s warm and wet and we are reaping the benefits – talk about green!
…and the flowers!
However, these agaphanthus flowers are actually interlopers - an invasive species brought here from South Africa by troops returning from the second Boer War..

It’s a holiday weekend here - Waitangi Day to be precise. This public holiday originally commemorated the historic treaty between the Maori chiefs and the Brits on February 6 1840, Not everyone was convinced that the event was worthy of celebration so in 1973 it was renamed New Zealand Day. Not everyone was happy with that either, so three years later it was changed back. But don’t come expecting patriotic bunting, fireworks, ”Happy Waitangi Day” cakes and barbecued kiwis on the beach. Most New Zealanders are simply content to have a day off. Any raucous gatherings of flag waving Kiwis this year are more likely to be protests against the Trans-Pacific Partnership than celebrations of Waitangi Day. We, however, have left the city and joined the throngs on the beaches of the Coromandel Peninsula at Whangamata…
O.K. So, despite the 29 degree temperature, the wind and clouds kept folk in the bars.
But James was determined to have a go on a surfboard…
The Coromandel Peninsula is a popular resort area and we were warned to expect crowds.
This is the main street of the town of Thames after midday on Saturday – market day. (And we thought our island home was quiet!)…
The town of Thames has many quaint Victorian buildings that harken back to a bygone era…
We’ve only been in New Zealand 24 hours and we’ve already picked up some of the language, i.e. toasty, (toasted sandwich); postie (post office or postman); nudie (not allowed in public); stubby (short beer bottle); and barbie (BBQ). We will certainly learn more as we travel the country but one thing we have learned is that the natives are friendly and they appear to love foreign visitors – we shall see!

Posted by Hawkson 23:58 Archived in New Zealand Comments (8)

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