Saturday, February 22, 2020

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Hilghlights of NZ

Posted by Hippobean at 11:05 PM 0 comments
What a trip! Loved loved NZ! Love to go back!

1. Aoraki/Mtn Cook (2-20)
from Oamaru, all along the Waitaki river with its many hydro-electric dams, the turquoise water on this warm clear sunny day was positively the most beautiful drive the Hippo's ever taken, in all her travels around the world.
The following morning, from Omarama, the drive along lake pukaki, the gorgeous views like the day before continued to be spectacular. never seen water this clear and blue. Like the blue sky fell into the lake. the unobstructed views of Mtn Cook edged closer and closer and with a day fine as this, even with just an occasional white cloud, Mtn Cook showed all its glories. We've hiked up the Tasman Glacier viewpoint and caught Mtn Cook first summit peeking out from the clouds. The Tasman and Hooker valleys looked refreshing and glorious in the early morning sunlight. A horizontal band of white clouds like a string of cotton floated between the tops of the mountains and the valleys below.
Finally in Mtn Cook village, we stood in front of the Hermitage hotel and the 3,724 metres Mtn Cook's south facing peak was in full view. The adjacent peaks had hanging glaciers in permanent stained orange/brown from the australian bushfire smoke on top and clear blue on the bottom. All in clear view. many had said, normally Mtn Cook National park is covered in fog and drizzle. We were so very lucky.


2. doubtful sound overnight (2-16/17)
Halong bay overnight was on top of boating trips. doubtful sound superseded it by far. but getting there was an effort. First we drove from Wanaka to fjordland and boarded a boat at Lake manapouri to traverse to West Arm. Then we boarded a bus to Deep cove where the Fiordland Navigator was waiting for us. 5 decks, ample viewing spaces. The twin rooms were just like the ones on cruise ships albeit a bit smaller. the quad rooms had double bunkers, no doors to the rooms, just a curtain and stairs to a porthole. of course we had the luxury twin rooms. We got caught in the warm storm but the rain and wind only made the journey more spectacular and the views hauntingly gorgeous. Didnt I say I'd have preferred halong bay to be in a rainy foggy day? Well I got it at doubtful sound! we stood on the bow deck
braving the howling winds but the wind felt warm. the views of the triangular glacious mountains in the rain were so beautiful, and at night, pitch black with only 2 other boats anchored just far enough. The only lights were from these boats. Fantastic buffet dinner, variety of salads, pesto chicken, lamb and beef, sweet and regular potatoes. Stuffy looking out the window from our twin cabin the whole time. heaven!


3. beautiful drives, probably the best in all my trips - the drive leaving queenstown along lake wakatipu, so gorgeous. drive along wanaka and hawea lakes, water so blue. drive along lakes Waitaki and pukaki from oamaru to mtn cook - breathtaking! Stuffy stuck to the bus window with eyes and mouth wide open. Never so elated!


4. cook strait crossing (2-10)
We've missed the morning ferry but the 4pm one proved to be a much better choice as the pre-dusk sunrays gave the first view of the south island a surreal sight. Crossing the strait was spectacular as Wellington was finally sunny and the coastline finally free of fog and totally clear. the capital city skyline finally appeared visible. Approaching the south island, the first hills of the arapawa island were lush green, the tops a golden color and the shadows ghostly. the ferry boat entered the Marlborough sound slowly and the late afternoon sun gave both shores an other world look. We were sitting at the bow with unobstructive floor to ceiling window views as the ferry approached Picton, our destination on the south island. I've been to many ferry rides in many countries. This one was the most enjoyable and sentimental one as it was done during my favorite time of the day. it even beats my all time favorite star ferry from hongkong to kowloon. Picton harbour was illuminated by the late sunrays, magical as the eye could see. had we taken the morning ferry, we'd have not encountered Picton so magical.


5. Catamaran sailing on Tasman Bay (2-11)
The Hippo had actually never been on a catamaran with sails. The day was warm and blue skied and the bay water calm and quiet. Not much wind but enough to set the sails for a smooth float on the bay. I sat on the forward crossbeam and could hear the water lapping underneath the tramp that was strung between the bows. Wind and sun on my face. a few fur seals sunbathing and swimming near the rocks. then coffee and cookies came. never so relaxed.


6. hobbiton (2-4)
Does the beer come in pints? I had always wanted to visit all the LOTR sites. hobbiton was exactly like in the movies. of course, it was the actual movie set. Our guide was a very funny Canadian girl who quizzed us on LOTR along the way. At the end of the guided tour, we're offered the included drinks, beer or ginger beer at the Green Dragon Inn. Rosie Cotton had the day off, so our guide served as bartender. unbelievable that I was actually there!

fox glacier

7. whakatane (2-4/5)
small town next to the river, 1 street town center, vibrant. Very comfortable spacious motor lodge with individual eco friendly cabins. Stuffy delighted. The serene walk along the river with the view of the enormous hill of the Moutohora whale island. Really liked the town a lot.

fox glacier

8. wanaka (2-15)
the views of the hills on the wanaka lake were so gorgeous I sat by the lake for a whole hour admiring it. the small town spilling out from the lake valley onto the hills. hotel room with view of the lake. so many restaurants offering different ethnic food and bars and shops. Sat with stuffy on the room balcony every evening with icy coke admiring the views of the mountains and lake. very pleasant enjoyable place.


9. franz joseph glacier and fox glacier (2-13/14)
The walk on the moraine to see the now much receded franz joseph glacier. the fox village was so tiny but the surrounding hills so gorgeous. in the clear morning, the hills looked so close and imposing, i just couldnt take my eyes off them. Air was crisp and cool.

Franz Joseph Glacier:
franz glacier

Fox Glacier:
fox glacier

10. hokitika (2-12)
another small town but this one with NZ jade shops. hotel room facing the beach. at night absolute quiet and the beach pitch black. Wonderful hotel room with very nice bathroom. Gorgeous sunset. Stuffy euphorious looking out to the beach from the hotel room. It rained the following morning and everywhere looked romantic.


What a trip! Loved loved NZ! Love to go back!

Friday, February 21, 2020

Friday, February 21, 2020

South Island II

Posted by Hippobean at 11:59 PM 0 comments
Doubtful Sound 2-16/17

in the morning I found a band of golden light at the top of the hills in front of my hotel room. Immensely stunning! slowly it fainted as the sun moved higher in the sky. What glorious site. today we head towards fjorland. First we stopped at Queenstown to see the overcrowded touristy town. hotels/motels spilled out up the hill and downtown full of shops of every kind, restaurants and cafes. However the lake shore did not look anywhere as spectacular as the beach in wanaka. the drive leaving Queenstown along lake wakaitipu was absolutely spectacular, the hills and the clear turquoise water. I was stuck to the window without blinking.


At lake manapouri, we boarded a ferry that took us to the West Arm. The boat ride was short and I ate my left over wrap onboard. Outside was rainy and cold. At West Arm we boarded a bus that went over the Wilmot Pass. We've stopped at a vista point to see the Sound but the day was totally foggy and we saw nothing. At Deep Cove, the Fjordland Navigator was waiting for us.

once onboard the Navigator, we were served hot soup and rolls. Our twin shared cabin was small but clean and with a tiny bathroom, smaller than the ones on cruise ships but adequate. We set out on the sound while the freak storm blew on us with rain and 50mph wind. We stood on the bow deck and I had to hang on to the rail to keep standing up right. but the wind was warm. it was freakish fun! We came to an arm and the wind was so fierce, we saw it literally whipped up the sea, so the capt turned the boat around. I've explored all the decks. The quad shared rooms had double bunk beds, no door, with just a curtain and steps up to a porthole. The front lounge had monitors showing the location of the boat and the depth of the sound. We had afternoon tea with savory scones. We docked at a sheltered cove and the staff lowered the tenders and some went swimming in the frigid water and some went kayaking. I chose the tour around the cove which turned out to be a bad idea because the tender stopped close to the vegetation and thus we were bitten alive by sandflies even though I wore long sleeves and a heavy jacket and long pants and covered my hands with the local oil that I was told was the best sandfly repellent. For the remainder of the day, i've walked around the decks admiring the gorgeous romantic scenery, the triangular glacious mountains in rain and wind. We saw some seals and dolphins on the water.

Dinner was most delicious. Variety of salads, chicken with pesto, kumara, the maori sweet potato and carved lamb and beef. quite a few choices of dessert. I was full to the max. I didnt want to go to sleep yet, so we sat with cups of tea and coffee and traded pain stories, migraines. Around 11, i stepped out on the open deck to commune with the quiet black sky. only 2 other boats were anchored with us a bit distanced from each other. those were the only lights in the cove. the cabin was stuffy and hot and unlike at halong bay, i did not sleep well.

the breakfast the following morning proved another feast. the usual bacon, pork n beans, scramble eggs, tomatoes, mushroom, sliced bread and fresh fruits. then we stopped at a quiet cove for a quiet moment to listen to the sounds of the Sound. Back at Deep Cove, we boarded the bus again, and did the trip in reversed. We again stopped at the vista point, and today the view was clear and the Sound looked absolutely stunning. We picked up our bus and drove to te anau for lunch. There eating my venison and mushroom pie, I saw Peter who's just finished doing the Milford track.

Really enjoyed this overnight boat ride. didnt I say I'd prefer halong bay to be in the rain? Well, I got it at doubtful sound.


Dunedin 2-17/18

arrived in light rain. cloudy, dark and sad looking. The kingsgate hotel was on a hill, very old and outdated. My room on the 3rd floor had a narrow balcony overlooking the town. everything in the hotel looked tired and worn. dinner at the Reef, sirloin with potato wedges and beet salad, again, not tasty.

The following day I went shopping and finally purchased merino/possum sweaters. Dunedin, where Peter used to live, had historic gaelic heritage churches, the presbyterian First Church of the Otago region, roman cathedrals, and a picturesque train station. I've photographed them all. Got a mushroom risotto from a bar and ate it in the hotel room. Didnt do the Taieri train, didnt go to see the albatross. Just stayed in the room reading, resting and watching a bit of TV. The next day Herbie drove us around the upscale area where the houses looked very scotish, and to the Otago Uni that resembled the East Bay university, with parts of old and parts of new architecture with glass front halls. Quite enjoyed Dunedin, small town with an intimate feel to it.


Oamaru 2-19

To Mackenzie county, stopping at the Moeraki Beach to see the boulders on the beach. Interesting. There, not feeling too hungry I had a tomato soup for lunch. next, we've spent some time in Oamaru, a small victorian heritage town with penguin crossing signs and statues, antique shops, galleries, traditional crafts, renowned Victorian streetscapes and 19th century architecture. a very nice pier where I sat for a while. Leaving Oamaru towards Omarama on the waitaki valley, along the waitaki river and lakes waitaki and Aviemore, there were 7 hydropower stations. The water was so blue, bluer than the sky that all of us declared this stretch to be the most scenic. Really felt heads over heels for this drive. Another lousy motel at Omarama, the lousiest of all with the bathroom full of insects and again tour buses parked in front of our rooms. Dinner was tasteless buffet at the restaurant across the street. But very small town and therefore quite dark at night and we ventured out to look for the southern cross. We thought we found it but it could just be our over enthusiastic and optimistic imagination.

Moeraki Boulders:


Christchurch 2-20

Final day proved possibly the best. sunny morning drive on Mtn Cook road along lake pukaki, stopping to photograph Aoraki/Mtn Cook. Much like yesterday, Pukaki lake was immensely blue, most attractive. The view of Mtn Cook edged bigger and bigger as we approached it. Along the Tasman river, the mountains were basked in the morning light looking majestic and glorious. We hiked up to the Tasman Glacier viewpoint. The lake was now reduced to a tiny lake running into the glacier moraine and the glacier face was far up. We could glimpse Mtn Cook 3 summits from there once the clouds parted. Along the lake, the mountain ranges were clear and towered over the lake and the Tasman valley. Clouds sat horizontally between the top and the lower parts of the mountains. Clear morning and the valley looked picture perfect. Along the Tasman valley road into the Mtn Cook village, the mountains were covered with brownish orange snow, the smoke from the australian bushfires. At the Hermitage hotel, we got a full clear view of Aoraki. Normally Mtn Cook national park was shrouded in fog and mist. We were very very lucky to experience it in a clear sunny day. The Hippo loves mountains the best, so today was a very special treat.

Aoraki/Mtn Cook:

For lunch we stopped at Lake Tekapo and I had a steak and mushroom pie (again!), sitting in front of and admiring the blue blue lake. Aftewards we briefly checked out the Church of the Good Shepherd, the oldest church in NZ, but it was the Tekapo footbridge over the Scott Pound on the Tekapo lake that attracted me. After a long drive through heavy traffic, we made it Christchurch, the city devastated by earthquake. We drove through town a bit, along the city's park. Our hotel is Tudor style, each wing had a picture of Henry VIII six wives. Mine was Jane Seymore, my second favorite of his majesty's wives. The room was big and going to the bathroom necessitated crossing a small windowless room with only a closet in it. Everything looked Tudor and very tired and old. Last supper was at the hotel restaurant. I've ordered the duck and once more, it was tasteless.

Woke up early the following morning to do a brief tour of the city with Allan before our departure. We took the bus to town, visited the cardboard church (very pretty and interesting), walked around Cathedral square to see the ruined church, paid visit to The University of Cantebury (some parts being repaired), sat down for coffee in the Uni cafe, and walked a bit in the city's park. Bus back to the hotel on time to catch our taxi to the airport.


At the christchurch airport, I've realized i didnt pack any books in my carry-on. So i went to a bookstore to try to find something to read. found a book called 'the binding' and what a winner it was. Couldnt put it down. Back at auckland airport, I've killed the 3 hrs layover checking out all the shops and reading my book. The flight back home was uneventful. Again empty seat next to me, played a bit of onboard games, slept a little, ate a lot, read my book, ordered more snacks and drinks.

What a trip. Loved loved NZ! Love to go back!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Saturday, February 15, 2020

South Island I

Posted by Hippobean at 11:59 PM 0 comments
South Island 2-10/15

Cook Strait 2-10

We missed our 9AM interisland ferry because the shuttle company never got our reservations. When we finally made it to the harbour, the ferry was still there but they didnt let us board. The 1PM departure was full so we changed our reservations to 4PM, the last one of the day, which meant we wouldnt get to Nelson till after dark. Disappointed as I was looking forward to spending some time exploring Picton and arriving at the hotel early for a walk on the beach. Since it wasnt our fault, Explore paid for a ferry to visit to the Somes Island. I didnt care for it but since I didnt want to wander in Wellington again and the idea of a ferry in the wellington harbour sounded good, I went for it. The ferry ride was short but quite refreshing since the day was warm and sunny. Once on the island, we had to go through bio security again to make sure we didnt introduce any animals or insects to the island, and had to clean our shoes. We walked up the hill, and admired the island fauna and flora along the way. Not too exciting for me but I just came for the ferry ride. Back at Wellington, no food truck today, and had to settle for a pappardelle with mushroom at the Italian place around the corner from the West Plaza hotel. Saved half for dinner on the interisland ferry.

We had good views during the interisland voyage as I've found some seats at the bow with floor to ceiling window and I've waved everyone over. Passing through the cook strait was an exhilirating experience. a bit rocky. then it's open calm sea. i love ferries and this one was quite big with multiple decks, different compartments with comfy sofas, a cafeteria with acceptable menu, a gift shop and open decks in front and on the sides. Asked why we didnt just take our bus in the ferry. Was told because it costs too much. It's cheaper if we leave the bus on the north island and pick up another on the south island. an online search resulted in a price of less than 300nzd for our bus size. 300nzd didnt sound too extravagant to me to avoid the hassle of getting us shuttles/taxis to the harbour and then getting a new bus on the south island. The ferry ride was pretty comfortable and I went out to the open deck in front from time to time for the view and fresh air. Ate my left over pappardelle on the boat. 4PM ferry actually turned out pretty nice because as we approached the south island, the hills on the Queen Charlotte Sound were spectacular in the late afternoon sun. as we entered the Marlborough Sound, dusk made all the hills surreal and the picton habour so romantic. The interisland journey was just a little over 3 hours.

Cook Strait:

Too bad we didnt have time to really see picton. We drove around a bit to see the town and then straight to nelson, along the Grove Arm of the Queen Charlotte Sound, making several stops to photograph the crepuscular sunlights on shakespeare bay. gorgeous! the beachcomber was a lousy motel away from the center of Nelson and not even on the beach. I was looking forward to the harbourside hotel and was again sourly disappointed.


Tasman Bay 2-11

Gliding effortlessly through the pristine waters of the tasman bay in the Abel Tasman national park aboard a catamaran, surrounded by secluded coves, golden beaches, islands and lush native forest was our first morning on the south island. I've never been sailing on a catamaran before. Sat on the right bow with water lapping under the tramp, wind and sun on my face. glorious! Since the tide was high, the captain took us into a small cove where normally it would be covered in sand and one could walk from shore to shore. a few people were sunbathing on the shores. nice treat! we've set sailed from the kaiteriteri beach and arrived mid day at the anchorage bay and had our packed lunch of sandwiches, apple, muffins and chocolate. afterwards we took the coastal trail and hiked to Marahau. The 4 hours 17.5km walk initially was up hill and then through dense forest with peeks of the bay below. I've enjoyed the long walk, a total contrast to the morning lazying around on the catamaran. a cold ginger beer at the end of the hike in the Park cafe was refreshing and we sat around chatting waiting for Herbie to bring our bus. Dinner that night was at the Anchor in the Nelson harbour with good views of the yachts and boats, and I had the fisherman platter with steamed mussels, prawns, fried calamary, scallops and white fish with french fries. it wasnt super delicious but it was good.

Tasman Bay:

hokitika 2-12

Looking forward to a nice hotel by the beach at Hokitika. couldnt wait to get out of the lousy motel in nelson. The drive down the Great Coast road Hwy 6 was along the rugged west coast and it resembled the CA coast with dramatic rock formations and great tasman sea views. lunch was at WestPort, a nice town with plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops. I had a chicken and leaks pie. Had wanted a beef and mushroom but someone ahead of me took the last one. then i found an icy cream parlor and we all had our desserts there. First site seeing stop was at Tauranga bay at Cape Fowlwind to see the fur seals. Not many and they were pretty far. Herbie's wife Maria braved a swim in the beach as the waters didnt look too threatening. Usually the waves were ferocious. next we stopped to see the pancake rocks at Punakaiki. the pancake rocks are heavily eroded limestone created by lime-rich layers of marine creatures deposited on the seabed, then overlaid by weaker layers of plant sediments and soft mud and clay, thus creating the stack of pancakes formation. This area also had several blowholes. It was quite amazing. the rocket scientits geologist would have a total field day here.

Cape Fowlwind:

Punakaiki (pancake rocks):


We arrived at our beach front hotel in hokitika in late afternoon. The 'Sunset Point' looked dumpy and dirty so I didnt stop there. our hotel rooms face the beach and once you open the sliding door, you need only to cross the road and jump on the beach. Although the sunset was magnificent, the beach was littered with rocks and stones. but it did have some good beach arts like teepees. Since there was time before dinner, I did laundry using the self-served laundry facility at the hotel. 2 gold coins (2nzd) for each load of washing and drier. it didnt take too long. loved the nz hotels. all have self served laundry facilities. dinner was at the hotel restaurant with grand views of the beach and the sunset. I had the lamb shank but again it was just so so. a bit on the dry side. so far the food wasnt too spectacularly tasty in NZ. In most of my meals in my trips, i usually had a few that were absolutely delicious. Not on this one. The evening was marvelous. pitch black and absolutely quiet. The room bathroom had a fantastic shower, the best bathroom on this trip. littleSnowie sat in front of the sliding door to look out to the beach. Euphorius! really enjoyed this hotel. bad it was for only 1 night.


Fox Glacier 2-13

to glacier land today. Drive was along native bush of Rimu (red pine) and kahikatea (white pines). Lunched steak and mushroom pie at Franz Josef Glacier town, another 1 road village with restaurants and shops. but the surrounding hills, the southern Alps, gave the town an alpine feel. Then a glacier valley walk to the Franz Josef Glacier terminal face over the moraine, once where the glacier floated down, now receded so much that one could only view the glacier from a distance. Sad due to global warming, but nonetheless a short and invigorating walk. A couple of small waterfalls, lots of broken glacial rocks that ended at a viewing point. the actual glacier still looked a far. After that, we drove to Fox Glacier, another 1 street town filled with motels and adventure shops where one could book helitours to see the glaciers. The Heartland Hotel had a grand victorian façade but it's really just another motel. The rooms were in 2 rows of 1 story buildings behind the main hotel. But clean, simple and adequate. dinner was at the ReflectionZ with good views of the Matheson lake. surrounding hills were illuminated by bans of the sunset rays. gorgeous! I had the catch of the day which again was eatable but not great.

Franz Joseph Glacier:

Fox Glacier:

Wanaka Friday- 2-13-14

Woke up and went outside and was stunned by the elegant beauty of the glacial southern alps. The morning sunrays formed golden bands on the top of the hills and the air was crisp, fresh and cool. It was so refreshingly stunning, I couldnt take enough photos. Yesterday the sky was gloomy. This morning the sky was clear and blue. We saw picture perfect views of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. The sky, Aoraki/Mtn Cook, Mtn Tasman and the lake shore were perfectly reflected on the calm waters of Lake Matheson, exactly like a mirror. We got so lucky the weather had completely turned around so we could admire this. We've stopped at the South Westland salmon farm and I got a salmon croissant for lunch. Fox Glacier had receded so much that there's now a 2 hour walk to see it and again only from afar. So we didnt do it. meandering through the Aspiring National park, we've made many stops to photograph the majestic hills and crystal blue lakes. I was riding shotgun this time and glad I chose today to do it as the drive was one of the most spectacular in the trip. The lakes show pristine clear blue water and the mountains covered with snow crystal clear. Passing along the Makaroa river and the twin lakes, the hawae and the wanaka, was mesmerizing. made it to wanaka in late afternoon and the town was ready for the triathlon which started on the following day. The Wanaka hotel is lake facing. My 2nd story room has a balcony facing the lake. however, there's no ac and the west facing room was stuffy and hot even with the fan blowing. SmallSnowie sat on the balcony the whole time we were in Wanaka. For dinner, I've walked across the main road and got a pad seewu with shrimps. at night when the weather finally cooled down, I sat on the balcony with my stuffy enjoying the evening view of the town and the lake and a glass of icy coke.

The following morning, while the group went jetboating, I've walked around lake wanaka. I've missed the swimming competition, and now the participants are doing the bike riding and running portions. Was told to get off the road to avoid being hit by the competitors or disrupting their rhythm. The view of the mountains on wanaka beach were breathtaking. The town was vibrant with restaurants, cafes and bars, offering every type of food and refreshments. Shops lined the streets. Really enjoyed this town. For dinner, i got a lamb wrap, ate half and saved half for tomorrow. Another evening walk on the beach with littleSnowie, then we sat on the hotel room balcony for another evening of mountains and lake gazing. With a glass of icy coke of course. Stuffy was very happy.


Sunday, February 09, 2020

Sunday, February 09, 2020

North Island II

Posted by Hippobean at 11:50 PM 0 comments
gisborne 2/6

Drove up to a hill to admire the whakatane town and the river and the whale island across the bay, and strained our eyes to find the white island. The drive to Gisborne was through the remote waioeka gorge in a winding forest road. Stopped to photograph the Tauranga bridge, the last harp suspension bridge in NZ. the bridge was stunning with all the huge cables. The Waioeka river below was just a stream, the north island being unusually dry this year. Arrived at gisborne, a holiday and the restaurants and most shops were closed. Ended up having mickie D french fries for lunch. Stopped to see cook's landing site, Puhi Kai Iti, modern and maori, a granite obelisk, old cast iron cannon, all wrapped in a steel wall with maori designs. the monument once upon a time sat right on the water edge, now a lumber yard and harbor, with lots of log trucks. didnt bother to photograph the memorial. Walked up to the Kaiti Hill for a good look at gisborne and the beach. The day was sunny and warm. the emerald hotel is right at the confluence of waimata and taruheru rivers which combined dumps its water into the Poverty Bay. my 2nd floor room has huge windows facing the river and the wainui rd bridge. LittleSnowie of course spent the whole day at the window looking out to the river and people and cars crossing the bridge. a 3 seater and a single sofa in the room. the bathroom has an old fashion tub that is raised. the hotel is quite old but comfy enough. While the rest went swimming in the hotel pool, i walked the main street, quiet as the shops were still closed. For dinner, we marched across the river to the harbour and dined at the Works. I had the duck. not too yummy. dunno why gisborne. didnt care much for it. would have loved to spend some time in tongariro instead.


napier 2/7

Hawke's bay is famous for its wine. Napier is famous for the art deco which i didnt really care. We had an hour tour of the art deco architecture but aside from the telegraph building which was quite beautiful in its black and white and straight line art deco style, the rest of the buildings had only a few touches of the architecture. The famous tennyson st with all its shops didnt excite me much. I bought a risotto salad at a cafe on dalton st. ate some and reserved some for lunch the following day. the only interesting info about napier was the 1931 7.8 Hawke's Bay earthquake which lifted the coastal areas around Napier up two metres and the lagoons became dry land. We drove through that area which is now the airport, and a small part of it is now a swamp. At the art deco centre, we saw a video showing how life was like before the earthquake. napier was sunny and filled with happy people enjoying the town and the beach. after the earth shoke, buildings leveled and the lagoons disappeared. made me emotional. the whole town had a 1920 feel, with vintage automobiles on display, lots of vintage shops selling 20's art and fashion and even locals dressed like in the 20's. Interesting to look at but not my thing.

Next we had wine tasting at the Crabs and mission estate wineries. I like the Crabs sauvignon blanc and pinot gris. They offered a plater of cheese, fruit and crackers. but we had to sample the wine standing up at the bar. the adjacent art display was quite nice. Didnt really like any of the mission estate wine. No au d'oeuvres at the mission. The mission was the birthplace of new zealand wine established by french marist missionaries in 1851 at hawke's bay. la grand maison, the seminary building is colonial style with a grand elegant restaurant and accommodations. the garden in front of the building offered outdoor dinning and great views of the bay. I took a peek at the restaurant menu and it had great variety of seafood, duck and lamb, even sashimi, excellent desserts, even glutten and dairy free, and great cheeses, including my favorite manchego, all not terribly expensive. We all wanted to dine there but it's all booked. We dined instead at the Art Deco Masonic hotel restaurant. not sure if it has anything to do with the Masons but the restaurant decor is a mismatch of art deco and medievel style. My fish was just OK. nothing to sing about. At night the fountain and the sunken gardens by the beach were illuminated. the following morning I ventured out for a stroll along the beach and quite a few people were out early to walk, jog or bike. Our quality Inn motel was filled with bikers. all the rooms have sliding doors to the outside instead of a proper wooden door. felt terribly unsafe. the bathroom wasnt cleaned properly with hair in the sink. the room was small, stuffy and noisy with motorbikes and cars and tour buses parked in front of the rooms. worse hotel on this trip. thanks heavens it was only for 1 night.


wellington, the capital 2-8/9

2 hrs to wander around Napier before departure to the capital city. why. nothing to buy. Stopped at a small village for lunch and it started to rain. Ate my left over risotto at a table in front of a cafe. I've quite enjoyed the rain and the 1 street village. Drove through gorgeous mountains and arrived in the capital city in cold and rain. Stopped at the beehive and the parliament buildings for some photos before reaching our hotel. The room at the West Plaza hotel was tiny, window overlooking a garage. for 2 nights. sigh. But around the corner, i've discovered the food trucks. So dinner was a heaven of food choices. chinese dumplings, thai noodles, vietname rice plates, burgers, meat pies. Settled on the mie goreng which were delicious but the sauce a bit on the salty side. Geoffrey and I went out to walk the harbour which was just a block from the hotel, to get a feel of the harbour at night. it was very cold and raining but it was an invigorating walk. the harbour though, not impressive at night. dead probably due to the rain. The first order of things the following day was the Te Papa National museum which was just a few blocks from the hotel. wonderful display of maori marae and statues but since it's privately owned, no photos allowed. But colorful replicas in modern style were created in a hall with Maui stories. The rest of the exhibits were just so so. After the museum, took the cablecar up the hill but no great views of the city so I descended to Lambton Quay through the Botanic Gardens. Nice areas for picnic only if i knew. Starving, dropped into the first vietname restaurant to have some fresh spring rolls with shrimp and a pho. then it's a leisure stroll along the harbour as the day was sunny and warm. no dinner tonight. just bought 2 pastries from the chinese bakery. LittleSnowie asked why he's looking at a garage from the window. sigh.


Thursday, February 06, 2020

Thursday, February 06, 2020

North Island I

Posted by Hippobean at 11:59 PM 0 comments
North Island I 2-3/10

auckland - 2-3

I was stood up, so I ventured out to the city center. Surprised to see so many ethnic food and people, diversed storefronts on the main Queen st. Saw the skytower but did not go in. Not much in terms of architecture. Auckland was hilly and I carried my bottle of water and beef udon up the hill back to the hotel Amora. My room was at the end of the hall, a corner room, spacious with a balcony and kitchenette with stovetop, microwave, utensils, cups and plates, a dish rag and even a washing machine. The hotel amenities will remain thus throughout the rest of the hotels on this trip. there's a view of the top of the sky tower from the room balcony. Little Snowie enjoyed looking out the window. After the meal I read my book, the 7 1/2 deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. A bit confusing but very catching. decided to email Peter for the no show. At 7, he did showed up and drove me across the harbour bridge to the takapuna beach on the north shore in his brand new red mazda. There were still a few people on the beach at the late afternoon hour and one could see the rangitoto island, NZ newest volcano, from the beach. we dined at the Mexico Takapuna on mexican tapas. five spice duck leg soft shell tacos, beef skirt carne asada, Crispy cauliflower florets, pomegranate lamb piccadillo, patatas bravas. our plates were small round metals with handles. very cute. Good meal and good company. In NZ, the bill doesnt come to you on the table. One must pay at the cashier. Back on auckland proper, peter led me through the harbour to get the feel of the night lights and life. It was a quiet refreshing stroll after a 29C hot day with people hassling and bustling. I quite enjoyed auckland.

Flying over from Air New Zealand wasnt too bad. Sitting on an aisle seat, got hit in the head by a glass bottle. Some stupid girl shuffled the overhead bags and caused a bottle to fall on my head. it hit the corner of my left eye. it hurt and i rubbed it throughout the flight. It took about 5 days for the pain to complelety disappear. the meal service onboard was one of the lousiest. No drink before the main meal except for a flight attendant coming around offering water from a water bottle. menu was either beef with rice or chicken with beans. small lousy green salad, suspicious looking pudding, cold bread roll and that was it. soft drinks, juices, wine and tea and coffee came on the same cart, so one needed to ask for a drink for the meal and tea or coffee at the same time. Breakfast was either cold cereal or scrambled eggs with chicken sausage. however, one can order drinks and snacks using the onboard monitor in between the meals. Middle seat was empty, so pretty comfy flight. Saw the latest terminator movie. very bad. did a bit of reading and slept a bit and whosh, the 13 hrs went by. Arrived at auckland at 5:30AM. overcast and a bit cold. The drive to the hotel was up and down very quiet streets, few people out and the city looked gloomy and dead. but after a short wait at the reception, my room was ready. altogether, not a terribly bad start in NZ.


Hobbiton 2/4

After a brief city tour where we only stopped at the harbour to photograph the bridge, we drove to Matamata for lunch. Got some mac n cheese to eat some and save some for dinner. The 2 hours in Hobbiton was like walking in the real Hobbit shire. Eveything was exactly as in the movie (of course, it was the actual movieset) minus the hobbits. of course neither Bilbo nor Frodo was in sight. Our canadian guide was super funny, cracked many LOTR jokes and along the guided tour quizzed us quite a bit about the movies. Saw Bagend (baguette) at the end of bagshot row, and Sam's house. the walk ended at the Green Dragon Inn (where's rosie cotton? oh she got the day off) and I've ordered a ginger beer which by the way, didnt come in pints. Drove south along the east shore by the bay of plenty and arrived in whakatane in late afternoon. Downtown consisted of 1 vibrant lively street with a few interesting stores, all along the river. Our residence for the next 2 nights, the white island rendezvous motor lodge was right on the river. My eco friendly cabin was quite brand new, with a fully equiped kitchenette. rainshower in the bathroom. very comfy bed. private patio with table and chair. Ate my left over mac n cheese there with littleSnowie and we were quite satified and happy. Around 11PM while I was in bed reading my book, the earth shook. 5.8, Welcome to NZ.


Wai-o-Tapu Geothermal and Mud Pools / Whakatane 2/5

The Motel brought breakfast to the rooms/cabins. yesterday we had to choose among the breakfast offered. I chose hot (scrambled eggs, bacon, potato) for this morning and continental (cereal and bread) for tomorrow morning. They messed up Allan's and mine and brought us both the cold breakfast. I didnt bother insisting on hot breakfast since they said I'd get it tomorrow. Hated cold breakfast. It was supposed to be a trip to the White Island today. But since its eruption, it's closed probably permanently. Big major bummer and sour disappointment as I was really soooo looking forward to it. When do we ever get to be on a volcano summit without having to hike up the mountain first? So instead, we did the wai-o-tapu geothermal and mud pools. Most of the pools were spewing smoke. the artist's palette, the champagne pool is a lake with blue blue water and deep orange color rim with white smoke covering it. The bubbles caused by carbon dioxide, created a Champagne-like effect, thus the pool's name. The most far away Ngakoro lake had a minty green color so beautiful. and the very brilliant neon green roto karikitea whose color I just couldnt take my eyes off. this crater is filled with the excess sulphuric water from the Champagne Pool. The vibrant color is a result of a deposit of minerals being suspended in the water and refracting sunlight. and finally the rua pumahu crater lake has a bottom of boiling hot mud and the sounds from this crater were featured in the scenes of Mordor. This area not entirely extremely impressive but I've enjoyed doing all the 3 circuit walks. next the mud pools, literally with muds spewing up like geysers. the entire waiotapu is cashless, so if you didnt bring your atm or credit cards, you'd go hungry as the cafe wont accept cash or you cant buy anything at the gift shop. Bought tshirts and a baseball cap for souvenirs. Got a mince pie for lunch. Thus began my meat pie lunches for this trip. Although they were nothing spectacular (all have the same shape and size and dough, making one believe they're either sold frozen or baked by the same place), i loved them because I simply love meat pies and they are hard to come by at home. next we drove to rotorua, not much to see, just drove by the harbour (why?) and only a brief stop at the government garden which had beautiful flowers and maori status at the main entrance. the blue baths were closed but the building looked very grand in Elizabetean Tudor style.

wai o tapu

Back to whakatane in the afternoon for a traditional Te Po Banquet. First we did the Mataatua (the face of god) Marae, the Maori meeting house That Came Home. This marae travelled the world before being rebuilt and returned home to Whatakane. After crossing the portal, we were formally welcomed by a big maori shout before we could enter the marae (no shoes inside). then we sat opposite the maori family and exchanged songs and touched noses with each member of the family. The video they showed on the carved walls of the marae was quite ingenious and creative. It told the story of how the princess whose name I could never remember, saved the people by swimming to the boat which was a tapu (taboo). The entire inner wall of the marae was decorated with wooden statues of maori ancestors. Afterward, we were offered a weak kava kava tea, maori donuts and chocolate cookies. then to the te po which was at a local maori family house. the chicken and pork were cooked in a metal pot with ashes for about 4 hrs. the meat was dry and unsavory. We were offered steamed mussels which were good but not excellent, corn on the cob, baked kumara, the maori sweet potato, and regular potato. The meal wasnt nearly as good as any of the ones cooked in the earth that I had, like the one in wahiba sands or in mexico, or in a luau in hawaii. The family sang and performed the traditional maori songs and dances for us. Sorry, but i didnt really enjoyed either the meal nor the entertainment. Somehow it all seemed too touristy and lacked the real feeling of a true maori banquet or family style. But I've quite liked whakatane, the tiny town next to the whakatane river running into the bay of plenty. it had good vibes, tranquil waters and one could even see the Moutohora, the whale island from the shores of the river, and one could just made out white island from afar.



HippoBlog Copyright © 2012 Design by Antonia Sundrani- Vinte e poucos