Sunday, April 28, 2013

Coromandel Peninsula

April 28th
We drove up the coast north of Thames and took the 309 road. There are lots of things to do and see on this road.  We see and do a few.  First we stop at Waiau Falls near the road.

Then we hike to the Kauri trees.  Very few of these ancient trees survive.  This species traces back to the dinosaurs.  They grew in mixed forests of fern trees, rata, toatoa, etc. They are a huge and slow growing tree. Their immense size made them irresistible to early loggers.  Somehow these few trees, about 13, were missed.  They were found and were going to be harvested during World War Two, but a conservation group organized and saved them.  There is another small grove north of Auckland.  The biggest kauri was harvested before it could be saved.  These are youngsters only about 600 years old.

the tree hugger
We head to the beach and hike to some lovely cliff beaches.  I hike as far as Stingray Beach.  William heads on to Cathedral Cove.
Stingray Beach
Cathedral Cove
The cathedral

It is low tide, so we head to Hot Water Beach.  This is an area where hot water bubbles out of the sand and is accessible at low tide.  People rent shovels and dig holes. trying to regulate the heat. Directly over the hot spots, the water is hot enough to cook with.
What a lot of people!
warm water
a bubbling hot spot
This is as far north as we will have time to go in new Zealand.  Tomorrow we will spend in Auckland, probably at the Auckland Museum. Tomorrow night we fly out of Auckland just before midnight.  Eleven hours to Singapore, six and one half hours to Seoul, then eleven hours to San Francisco.  We will arrive Tuesday the 30th just after noon. Remember we cross back over the International Dateline, back over the equator, for a 19 hour time difference. Soon we will be home hugging our family.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Whakarewarewa and Hobbiton

April 26th
Whakarewarewa is a Maori Village.  They live together as they used to in a tribal unit at the hot springs.  Just like at Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, you pay your admission and take a guided tour. First was the performance. William says he is going to learn Haka and teach the grandboys.

The people of the village use the hot springs for bathing, cooking and washing.  The cooking is done in steam boxes that have been built throughout the village.
The guide. His name is hard to remember, so he says we can call him chief.
This cooking box had steamed pudding and chocolate pudding cooking.
really hot boiling pools.
The Pohutu geyser goes off frequently.
Welcoming visitors for over 100 years.

From here we head to the Rotorua  Museum.  A very interesting building. It was built as a bath. But the thermal water is so acidic, it just ate the place up. You can tour the old bathing areas. Tubs with the bottoms eaten out and walls scaled away. As a museum it is more successful. A good history of the Maori and an interesting art section. The movie about the 1886 earthquake is complete with physical effects. I thought I was about to fall out of my seat, it shook and bounced so much.
April 27th
Hobbiton. All you hobbit fans can just eat your hearts out.  This location has a long history. It is an old sheep farm. One of the few large farms in the area still mainly sheep. In 1999 Peter Jackson found the site and negotiated to build Hobbiton here for the Lord of the Rings Movies. The movie set was to have been taken down after filming, but it started to rain hard for months and it was impossible to demolish. In the meantime the neighbors had figured out what was here and were asking to see it. The owners were getting up to 100 people a day asking. So they negotiated with the film makers to let them keep it.  They restored what they had and began selling tours. The place was rebuilt again better by Jackson for the Hobbit movies and the owners built the Green Dragon Inn. They had to bring professional thatchers from England to do the roof. The whole thing is charming. Well worth the price of admission. They now run 2000 people a day through here, but the tours are spaced out enough so it did not seem crowded.

Sam, our guide

Barry finally gets to come on a tour. He has a great time.
looking down on the party field
Bilbo's House

The Mill

Sam's house

I had ginger beer.
The green dragon over the bar of the Inn
The Green Dragon
Our time in New Zealand is almost done. We leave for home in a few days.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lake Taupo Walk

April 25
Today is Anzac Day, a holiday like Memorial Day in Australia and New Zealand. ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.  The grocery store is open part of the day, but most everything else is shut down. I wonder if the Burger King is charging the 15% extra that most restaurants charge for being open on National Holidays. Most restaurants are just closed.
The volcanoes are still shrouded in clouds with rain and gale force winds.
So we go for a walk on the edge of Lake Taupo at Kuratau.
Lake Taupo

Kuratau River
All these ducks swim down the Kuratau River. The way they approached us they were used to being fed.  There were 2 pair of endangered blue ducks, some brown ducks and a pair of white farm ducks.
Blue Duck
Cabbage tree. Apparently the young sprouts are edible.

Lake Taupo looked quite blue here. Lake Taupo is about the same size as Lake Tahoe and is quite clear. There is also a keep Taupo Blue movement.
The beach is covered with pumice. This rock was liquid froth when it came out of the volcano. When it cooled it was still filled with tiny bubbles. So it floats. The lake has broken it up into pebbles.
I couldn't resist writing Ben and Axel. Here the pumice is ground fine and sifted over the black  sand made from finely ground basalt rock.
A big rainbow to end the day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tongariro River Walk

April 24th
Lots of places along the Tongariro River.
Kids trout lake

The river higher up

Too much cloud cover to see the pillars.

Waikato Falls

Unknown Falls. Probably just from all the recent rain.

Love the swinging bridges, not.

high up over the river near town

Closer to the river I finally saw some bell birds feasting on some native fruit. We hear then all the time , but never see them. They don't dance around like fantails and they are green.

Strange native fruit.

fisherman in the river.

I knocked over this"death cap" with my stick to get a better picture.

Silage King of New Zealand was taking his kid out to play in the playground.