I've finally finished yesterday's photos so while I'm still waiting for Therese as she takes a natural Polynesian heated spa, I may as well start today's story and save myself some time tonight.
The day started out as lightly clouded and sunshine and we used the opportunity to have a good look around. First up, a visit to the Government Gardens to see the magnificent museum building and a thermal pool that reaches 100 degrees Celsius. I suspect all the others do as well. Then to Ohinemutu, a Maori village on Lake Rotorua. This village is within Auckland and is situated right on a very active geo-thermal site with hot water vents and ponds all around. How would you like a continuously flowing hot water pond in the back yard of your house where, instead of a BBQ, you have a big natural pot to cook in.
The village has a beautiful church filled with carved pews and carvings and traditional hangings on the walls. A impressive etched glass window depicts Christ in a Maori cloak and from the inside of the church, He appears to be walking on the water of the lake behind.
Spent some time in the village gift shop where it was really good to see that a high percentage of the traditional type items for sale are in fact hand made by local artists.
From there we headed out to check out the redwoods of Whakarewarewa Forest then the Blue Lake and the Green lake. Then it was on to Lake Tarawera which was formed back in 1886 when Mt Tarawera erupted in the middle of the night killing about 100 people and forming a lake where previously there were two separate lakes separated by a mountain. The village of Te Wairoa, which was destroyed in the eruption, has been excavated by archaeologists and is a memorial and tourist attraction although we didn't go through it.
Then it was on to the Agrodome to check out a Farm Show involving sheep of 19 different breeds, sheep dogs, a cow, a dog herding ducks and sheep and a shearing demonstration. Not a bad show but, with the exception of the locally made woollen clothing, most souvenirs were imported. At least over here they have some good ideas in relation to possums which have thrived since being introduced from Australia. We protect them, here, because they kill the kiwi they are declared pests. It was a big surprise when we saw clothing made from a blend of possum fur and wool. Almost bought something to bring home to show my pesky possum what should happen to him.
Interesting experience this afternoon was a walk around Kuirau Park. The park is on a very active geo-thermal site also and wherever you walk/look there are vent holes and pools of boiling water and/or boiling mud. Fascinating to see the various forms these can take depending on the strength of the release and the type of ground it comes through to get to the surface. Clear as crystal water, pools of boiling thin watery mud and pools of thick slowly bubbling mud and everything between.
I hope you enjoyed the Hobbiton photos in yesterday's update. We had so many more but thought that those would be enough.
Tomorrow we are off to Taupo then on to Wellington.
I hope you enjoyed the Rotorua photos from yesterday as there are more of them today. We thought we may as well do a couple of the attractions to see if we would see something different and would you believe, every time I said "you see 10 you've seen 'em all" we would see something completely different and that is what you will see today. Wait until you see the Devil's Bath. Anyway, today started out like any other, pouring rain of course as we headed south toward Taupo, destination Wellington, with the intention of visiting a couple of places on the way. First up it was Wai-O-Tapu primarily to see a geyser named Lady Knox. With time to spare we took a 45 min walk around the thermal sights and they proved to generally be different from those already seen. Many craters, some with water or mud and a lot of large pools with a big colour range. The colour and formations are the result of the sulphur and the silica in the water.
On to the geyser of which there are only about 15 still active where there were over 100 a 100 years ago, most have been lost due to poor management apparently. This geyser is active by itself and has a timing of between 24 and 72 hours. To get it to perform on schedule for the tourists an environmentally safe product, detergent I believe, is dropped down the hole. This breaks the surface tension between the hot and super-heated waters below and the resulting mixing is what causes the eruption. The mixing will occur naturally, interference just speeds up the process. Of course, it poured rain the whole time we waited and watched the geyser. After this it was to the mud pools, apparently the biggest in the southern hemisphere.
Then on to Taupo, mostly in bright sunshine. First to Huka Falls, where the Waikato River slams into a narrow chasm and drops 10meters into a surging blue pool. Then to a site called "Craters of the Moon". Will this be something different or more of the same? Different. This site is all about steam, very little water about but lots of steam vent holes around the place. This site is actually only a stone's throw from a geo-thermal electricity generation plant. Once again, plenty of photos but many include a lot of steam.
Through Taupo and down the edge of Lake Taupo. A very large lake, I think the drive was about 45 klms and the lake today, due to windy conditions, looked like the ocean with the expanse and the waves generated by the wind. Lovely sight with our first snow topped mountains in the distance.
Continuing south on Highway 1, the Desert Road section, I later realised, must be due to the high country it travels through has no trees, just low bush of a type that can tolerate the cold and snow. Did someone say snow, In no time at all we were into rain which continued for some time then it started to look different. Great, the rain has stopped and now it is snowing. I believe we were lucky and it was only light and did not last all that long but further up the road the snow ploughs were out and had cleared the road as I believe it was heavier there and had been closed earlier. Therese needed to play in the snow so that meant stopping in strong winds and a temperature of 2 degrees. Freezing.
From there it was a run straight through to Wellington with just a coffee stop at a place called Bulls. Why? Well, apparently a bloke called Bull built a business there and as time went by he built more and more businesses and eventually owned almost everything in the area. Apparently everybody started saying they were "going over to Bulls" and eventually voted to change the town name!
Wellington tonight, blowing a gale and about 5 degrees. We are hoping for a better day tomorrow and more so for Wednesday as we take the ferry to the South Island. With the weather like it is, the ferry didn't run today. This could cause some changes to plan if the weather doesn't improve.
Not a lot today so just a short tale and a few pictures.
After a night of strong winds and rain, the trains were suspended for a couple of hours, today dawned with the clearest blue skies we have seen since arriving. Despite some cloud returning in the morning, the afternoon was clear and sunny. Temperature was low but enjoyable.
Basically a "rest" day today, limited to about 8 klms of walking about Wellington having a look around. Walk through the museum, plenty of history of NZ for the original settlement 700 years ago to the latest earthquakes. Then a walk around the dockside, up past the Parliamentary Precinct and around the business district finishing with a nice dinner at an Irish Bar with an Irish chef, authentic Irish food and a couple of cold Guinness.
Confirmed our booking on the ferry tomorrow morning, good nights sleep, early start, weather looks the same as today so all's good.
Early start this morning, fine with a bit of early cloud. The Inter islander ferry took a while to load but we sailed at around 8:40am. The run out of the harbour was smooth and only a few reasonable swells for the first hour or so then pretty smooth sailing until we entered the Marlborough Sounds among the islands then smooth sailing into Picton at 11:30am. There were some patches of thick fog in parts of the Cook Strait but was 19 degrees by the time we came ashore. As we sailed into Picton, the water was thick with jelly fish. The photo isn't very clear but you should get an idea of what I mean.
Off the boat by 11:45am and we were on our way to Nelson. As usual, there are always at least two ways to go anywhere, we took the long and winding road. (That could be the title of a song).
From Picton to Nelson is mostly slow going as the road follows every fold of the coastal range. Lovely drive but a little disappointing as tree growth on the seaward side restricted a lot of the ocean and island views.
From Picton down to St Arnaud and Lake Rotaiti we skirted around the southern end of the Richmond Range then we headed back east to Blenheim via a great highway with a combination of tight and sweeping corners passing the majestic and snow capped Mount Richmond. Didn't want the Goldwing the other day coming from Rotorua to Wellington but would have loved it today.
By the time we arrived in the Blenheim area, it was too late in the afternoon to visit any of the wineries in this area. Disappointed but made up when the motel gave us a free upgrade to a larger studio room so we have stretch out room and we don't even need the upstairs area.
Finished the day off with a meal at an Ale House with ale brewed at Dunedin. A visit to the brewery may be something for the itinerery seeing we missed the wineries. Might find some tomorrow as we head for Christchurch.
Finally, an easy day today. Time to get a bit of a sleep in before hitting the road. Today is mainly a transport day to Christchurch. Another day like yesterday where the sky was blue, the weather was a pleasant 18 - 21 degrees and the wishes were that the Goldwing was the mode of transport. Those wishes may change over the next few days though with showers and rain forecast.
Travelling south from Blenheim, of the first 150 klms of the highway, around 60 klms runs right along the ocean. Often seems like travelling the Great Ocean Road but with more time close to the shoreline. With the road along the shoreline, the backdrop to the road is the Seaward Kiakoura Range and behind that is the Kiakoura range giving a double row of mountains, the second snowcapped.
The rail line travels the same route as the road, often between the road and the beach. I think it would be a great train journey. About 40 minutes into the drive we stopped for a coffee at a little place in the middle of nowhere right on the beach, "The Store". A very old place and currently being renovated. Hopefully they won't take away the charm of the place.
We weren't able to spot any whales or dolphins which are apparently fairly prolific along this coast but we did find a seal colony where the young seals were resting and playing on the rocks while the adults were out feeding.
Once away from the beach travelling through farming land, life was almost boring until we reached Waipara on Pegasus Bay where we hit wine country. Right time today so visits to a couple of wineries were in order. New Zealand wine producers concentrate more on the white wines and light reds but we did find a couple of nice ones that suited our palettes.
Into Christchurch earlier than expected we took a walk into the centre of town. I'm sure you will recall that Christchurch was hit by a massive earthquake about 3 years ago. I found it quite sad to walk around the city centre as this is where the majority of the damage occurred and the city centre is now fragmented. With many buildings destroyed, condemned, awaiting reconstruction or demolition, there are gaps of vacant allotments that are just a patch of gravel or still have the damaged building on them. Rebuilding is taking far longer that was expected. A couple of photos are included but it makes you feel like a ghoul to be taking photos of the destruction.
If you are ever in Christchurch and like Indian food, you have to eat at the Himalayas Restaurant. Beauuuutiful.
Christchurch is a primary centre for Antarctic exploration and has a major display showing all the countries currently undertaking study down there. The historical connection here is the town of Lyttelton which was the base for the Scott and Shackelton expeditions. Lyttleton was the first stop on out exploration and is accessed from the east via a road tunnel through the mountain. Lyttelton is built on the side of the mountain that tumbles right down into the harbour therefore the entire town hangs off the side of the mountain. A bit of exploration around the town trying to get a vantage point for a view, highlighted that you would need to be part mountain goat the enjoy it here, (if it wasn't for the quality of the location). On the way to our next destination we followed the shore line of the harbour with the rise and fall of the road providing wonderful views. A new housing development had blocks starting at $525,000 each so there is obviously a good demand for the view.
From Lyttelton at the northern end of the Banks Peninsula we headed over the mountains to the southern side and east to the destination of Akaroa on Akaroa Harbour. Akaroa was initially settled by some French immigrants and the town still retains its French heritage through the buildings and the street and business names.
Like Lyttelton, Akaroa is also at the foot of the mountains however it has a small amount of space between the mountain and the harbour allowing some flatter areas. This is a beautiful and tranquil area and the locals are very friendly. Especially the one legged seagull that joined us for our picnic lunch. Even with one leg, he was quite able to hold his own with the other gulls.
Back to Christchurch in the afternoon for a drive around town, checking of some of the outer areas and the Botanic Gardens and nearby parks. There are some drivers here that are a bit of a worry, but that happens everywhere. Luckily I avoided our closest encounter to date where someone decided he would do a lap of the round-a-bout on the outside and ended up in front of us as we were exiting.
Another beautiful day as the forecast showers didn't arrive. Hopefully the forecast for tomorrow will be wrong as well.
While travelling around Oz on our many trips, I often wonder what the country looked like before white settlement. You may have noticed through the past week's photos how often the mountains are bare of trees. When we were in the museum at Wellington the other day I was looking at a series of maps which showed the decline in native forest on the North and South Islands. The initial maps show the islands, particularly the South almost completely covered in forest. So different to today but I can't remember the remaining percentage, but it was small. While I guess that's due to our drier climate there were large tracts in Oz that were light shrub or grasslands, in the main we have done the same damage.
One thing for sure, every town/city we have been in has beautiful fresh tasting water.
Another day spent exploring Christchurch and its surrounds, plus there was washing to be done. First up it was back to the Botanic Gardens and the tourist information office. As this is next door to the museum, a visit there revealed some interesting things, particularly the displays showing the history and future development of Antarctic exploration. Therese took the opportunity to check out a ride slightly different to the Goldwing. Not sure how it would work for a pillion though.
Other interesting things was a bike owned by Ivan Mauger, World Champion speedway rider for those who didn't follow speedway in the 70s. Why interesting? He sent the bike to USA and had it gold plated, including many of the engine internals. How much? About $500,000 apparently. I suppose in 150 BC it may have cost a similar sum to mummify the Egyptian noblewoman Tash pen Khonsu. Both were in pretty good condition.
One of the photos from the other day was of the Anglican Cathedral which was severely damaged in the earthquake. A temporary replacement Cathedral has been constructed using a lot of different materials that you wouldn't normally see as a feature of a building, especially the cardboard cylinders used to cover the steel beams from which the frame of the building is built. And the common name of the building, The Cardboard Cathedral. The building is used as more than a church providing Christchurch with an excellent exhibition and function hall.
Then, off to the south-eastern side to take a ride in the Gondola to the top of Mt Cavendish which is part of one side of the volcanic crater which forms the Lyttelton Harbour. From the top there are 360 degree views of the area, the highlight of which is the ability to clearly see the shape and form of the crater. Too big for photos to do it justice but I've tried to give you some idea.
Driving around a bigger area of Christchurch today really highlights the damage and inconvenience resulting from the 'quake. It is not just the damage remaining, the missing buildings, the rebuilding going on, there is also a bigger problem that results from all the above and that is the traffic chaos. So many streets that have been blocked off, made one way, turns blocked that just getting around is a major problem. Probably not so bad for a local if you are doing it regularly but as a tourist trying to navigate by feel or GPS, it becomes a real difficult situation. I'm really starting to dislike this Ford Focus. I'm slowly getting used to the indicators, the wipers only occasionally get a false run, but if you look at some of the car camera shots you will see that there is nothing in front of the windscreen wipers. That is exactly what I am looking at. There is no way of telling where the front or the front corners of the car are. Makes it hard to park and to line up with the parking space lines.
The forecast rain held off all day with a light shower as we came back to the motel. Probability of more showers tonight but should be fine tomorrow which will be good and we are off to Mt Cook.