A Travellerspoint blog

February 2014

36 hours in Rotorua

I really liked this city. It is very easy to get around on foot and like most (it seems) New Zealand towns it is laid out in a grid. 6DEBEFB92219AC681735785BF7F42D26.jpg There are some lovely gardens with pretty little pavilions 6DEFC8C32219AC6817F5C116FF34E0D2.jpg6DEE53682219AC681726F1FBD8B7FBEE.jpg and some intresting statues 6DF41DAF2219AC68174DDCE4E6E9FCC1.jpg Lake Rotorua is the second largest lake in New Zealand and the city is well known for it's thermal activity and sulphorous smell. In various places around the city there are 'hot pools' with signs warning people not to go near them. 6DF55D8B2219AC6817C87570A89135E8.jpg6DF1710F2219AC68170E5523E77EC2DA.jpg6DF2A4B42219AC6817107713ABD1FFA6.jpg
On my first evening I decided to join a 'Maori cultural experience' involving a greeting ceremony into the Tamahaki village 6DF6F2FC2219AC6817B4B9815F9FCE63.jpg6DF853A82219AC681754C50AB62E8303.jpg some interactive demonstrations of craft and culture, 6DF982622219AC6817C6FD5DCE1976A5.jpg during which some of the male visitors were taught the haka, and some live performance art. We were also given a really good meal after being shown how it had been cooked in the traditonal way in underground ovens 6DFA87C02219AC6817D78D2CB1412637.jpg I am always slightly suspicious about the authenticity of stuff like this but this particular Maori run activity was recommended in my AA trave guide and I am glad that I did it.
On Monday morning I joined a tour to the 'thermal wonderland' of Wai-O-Tapu and it was definitely worth doing.This whole area is actively geo-thermal and there are some amazing sights 6DFB717B2219AC6817B4690A80827D94.jpg6DFC6D2A2219AC681787A0C4A8E670E7.jpg6DFE64122219AC6817B88EE716EBFC70.jpg and in the afternoon I visited the museum. This is the first museum that I have had to pay for but I think it was worth the NZ$20 fee. 6DED2B762219AC681785A687252354FD.jpg The museum was opened as a bath house in 1908 offering geo-thermal therapautic treatments to patients from around the world. It has gone through various identities since then, part of it being a nightclub for twenty five years, and it now displays each of those identities in different parts of the building. There is also a section of the building devoted to an extremely good exhibition of Maori history and life and a cinematic/seat experience that brings a volcanic explosion right into your body. Definitely worth a visit.
I am sure that Rotorua deserves a much longer stay than I had time for. Apart from anything else there are many 'adventure' activities on offer in the area, including black and white water rafting, abseiling into a massive cave and skydiving. I hope I managed to do it some justice in the short time I had there but on Tuesday morning I had to move on to Turangi for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing one of the 'must do' things in everybody's travel guide.

Posted by busyboots 22:15 Comments (1)

Bay of Islands and Waitangi wash out

On Tuesday 4th February I took the Intercity bus from Auckland to Pahia in the Bay of Islands. There are several other bus companies operating around New Zealand including the Naked Bus (I don't think you have to be naked to ride on it) and the Kiwi Experience but I opted for a Flexi-Pass with Intercity because their buses are frequent, their customer service is excellent and it only cost me NZ$313 for a 10 trip pass. This will take me to all the places, both North and South Islands, that I want to visit.
I stayed in a hostel, 'The Pickled Parrot', run by the owner Rose and would certainly recommend it. I arrived mid afternoon and took a walk around the town, which is very small and very touristy, 6831ED752219AC68178AC6218F593DAD.jpg and around the bay to Waitangi. I also took the ferry to Russell (NZ$12 return) which used to be called 'the hell hole of the pacific' due to the pirates and prostitutes that inhabited it. Now it is very pretty with some quite historic building and up market houses. 683578E52219AC68175D8BFA31AF4D1E.jpg683427542219AC681794E4A1CA040990.jpg6836B2562219AC6817A8A7767820718F.jpg6837C1BD2219AC6817DF8CBFA93B25F8.jpg
I paid NZ$95, including morning snack and lunch, for a day sail around the bay with Michael Carera on Gungha II on Wednesday. There were about fifteen people in the group and we all got on pretty well. Michael took us to a small bay where we had an unexpected and absolutely wonderful dolphin encounter. There were four dolphins, three adults (much bigger than I had realised) and a young one and they spent ages swimming under and around the boat and leaping into the air with each other. There was an opportunity for swimming and kayaking whilst lunch was prepared and most of us also walked up the hill behind the beach to get a better view. 6839CB752219AC681749B8B4F2CCAA3B.jpg68A437A32219AC6817DA2A7777A32609.jpg Unfortunately the day was overcast and there was no wind so we were not really able to sail but at least it stayed dry until we arrived back in Paihia. Then it started to pour with rain and did not stop for the next two days! It reminded me of home.
Thursday was Waitangi Day, a public holiay in New Zealand, and it celebrates the signing of The Waitangi Treaty, between the various Maori tribes and the British government on that day in 1840. The Royal New Zealand Navy has a presence, their band play and a gun salute is fired from a RNZN ship offshore. 68A324DC2219AC6817FB430C50578992.jpg68A544A12219AC68178975519663FFBF.jpgThere is also Maori music and dancing and plenty of stalls selling food, gifts and clothing. Unfortunately the bad weather prevented many of the planned outdoor activities from taking place and a protest against oil drilling led to the doors on the wharenui being locked to stop the protesters getting in. That, of course, also stopped anyone already inside from getting out for a while. 68A62D6C2219AC6817A4FAC0A5B10F1B.jpg68A751922219AC681745ACCF92DF407A.jpg We spent the rest of the day in the hostel where I ended up giving English lessons to two young Italians and a Spanish lady. Great fun and much laughter, perhaps I have missed my vocation.?
Friday is a return to Auckland to spend a couple of nights with old friends and then on to Rotorua.

Posted by busyboots 20:04 Comments (0)

And so to New Zealand ...

...two days in Auckland

I flew from Sydney to Auckland on Saturday 1st February and took the Airport Express to the centre of the city arriving at the YHA Central around 12am. The only misadventure en route was as we were about to disembark the plane. You know how they always give out those announcements about being careful when you open the overhead lockers because things might have moved during the flight? And you always think, yeah, yeah. Well, as one of the lockers was opened two bottles of duty free alcohol fell out and smashed onto the head of one of the passengers. He was groaning, blood was pouring down the side of his face and we all had to sit back down so that a first aider could get to him. Fortunately it was his own duty free, ergo his own mis-packing of the locker, but it was a salutary lesson for everybody aboard.
Despite the lateness of my arrival the bus was fine and it cost NZ$16 for a 40 minute trip into the city. The YHA Central is not as well located as most I have stayed at and it was in a noisy location but apart from that it was clean and comfortable and the other guests were very friendly.
On Sunday I did a 30 minute walk to Mount Eden and although it was hot and, obviously, uphill it was well worth it for the views. 36EB58262219AC6817149BC0E7B72D05.jpg36EC2DC42219AC6817E216FF748FE500.jpg36ECE9452219AC681743678B27B97463.jpg36EE043F2219AC6817974E37734FF43D.jpg I took a different route back down to the city and it took me through 'The Domain' (the main public park for the city) where several groups were enjoying Sunday morning cricket games and where I came across a bandstand where jazz was being played and lots of families were out with their picnics. 37720D532219AC681751E169B7AD6C3B.jpg3774E7992219AC6817BA5796DD563DCA.jpg There is a really lovely Wintergarden in The Domain 3774257C2219AC6817776F940CFDE181.jpg377337832219AC6817977F770F4CD43A.jpg and the Auckland museum is also located there. I did not visit the museum but headed on into the city past the Old Government house with it's beautiful clocktower and which is now part of the University campus. 3775C2412219AC68176BFD2E61F23DF3.jpg377796D62219AC6817D27F867DB09E79.jpg
I ended up at Auckland waterfront and took the ferry to Devonport, home to the Royal New Zealand Navy, and an historic part of the city. The ferry costs NZ$12 for a round trip and is an excellent way to see the city from the water. 3778EE6B2219AC68177906C537FBACE5.jpg377D1E552219AC681768FC7F9B6CF7D7.jpg The view as you approach Devonport is lovely and when you arrive there is a horse and carriage taxi waiting for anyone wanting to see the town in a leisurely way. 377FBC622219AC681712D89AC5537D27.jpg Devonport is lovely with a short high street featuring lots of food outlets and gift shops, some beautiful (and clearly expensive) homes and a long promenade with the Navy Museum at the end of it. 3780EF792219AC68177427DB4D45FF3C.jpg39AD3EB32219AC6817D278DFF5F0FED6.jpg
On Monday I walked to Parnell, another historic, and very pretty, part of the city that is well worth a visit. 3817F88A2219AC681767B83F5B64D16B.jpg3817297F2219AC6817E9BD9DDDDB003A.jpg38164BE02219AC6817112EF5D69BCF32.jpg38152DF32219AC6817DD971A14370AEF.jpg I saw a charming little house to rent 3818F1332219AC6817F481BD476663DF.jpg and another that would be good 'dooer upper' 381A3D562219AC6817D371D684C7C6DB.jpg but I'm sure the prices on both would be quite hefty. The Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral in Parnell is amazing 381B09072219AC68171E073DACFBA10C.jpg381C39B82219AC6817EB4739BE48366A.jpg and the tiny St Mary's, located right next door to it, was built in 1886 and is regarded as 'one of the finest wooden gothic buildings in the world'. 381D546B2219AC681729D69513974986.jpg381E57352219AC6817B1C28DB6D6065E.jpg
Heading back into the main part of the city takes you past the Parnell Rose Gardens, where unfortunately the roses were already dying, and through a small park to the lovely Judges Bay 381F5E472219AC681790872328EEAF23.jpgFrom there it is a half hour walk back to the harbour where there is the Downtown shopping mall and many bars, restaurants and high end shops. 3820576B2219AC68172B62413631F4B4.jpg The Sky Tower, which dominates the skyline wherever you are in the city, is 'the tallest building in the southern hemisphere' and there is a viewing platform and revolving restaurant at the top. You can walk around the top, 192 metres up and harnessed only to a rail above you for the price of NZ$145 and you can throw yourself off, on a base jump by wire for NZ$225. NZ$290 will buy you both activities. Since I plan to do a tandem skydive in Queenstown I gave this one a miss.
I discovered a great little 'English' pub, The Albion, 3821429E2219AC6817914CAA0A8E485A.jpg just aross the road from the Skytower and had a quick drink and a long chat to the two very English ladies working behind the bar then set off for the art gallery. This is more impressive outside than it inside. Although there are a couple of nice galleries in architectural terms, nothing in the choice of artworks had the 'wow' factor for me and I have met a few other people, both old and young, who feel the same way. I'm not really sure who the curator is trying to appeal to with his/her choices here. 38221FA22219AC68172638FBC95EA428.jpg3822FA272219AC68173F821109F98662.jpg
Auckland has been interesting but I will be glad to get out of a city. Next stop is the Bay of Islands, sailing and Waitangi Day. Can't wait ?!

Posted by busyboots 23:05 Comments (1)

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