A Travellerspoint blog

Glow worms and stuff

Nearly two weeks into our New Zealand stay, so here are a few stand out impressions, in no particular order, as they say on talent shows. The Waitomo caves in central North Island – a series of limestone caves (well actually the surrounds are limestone, the caves themselves consist of air). We visited a couple of them. One is called the glow worm cave, and part of the trip is on a boat guided only by the light of hundreds of glow worms (well, also a rope attached to the cave roof). Our guide described the life cycle of the glow worm, which ends with a brief period as a fly, lasting just 3-4 days for the male. Brief but glorious you might say, as during this brief life he must fertilise as many females as possible. Food is so short for the glow worms (they catch other insects in a web like funnel), that they’ll eat anything, including their own parents. Now that’s what I call the Selfish Gene. Or maybe the nutty gene. Incidentally, our guide was a New Zealander who traced his ancestry to a Scottish carpenter on the Beagle

Stalactites at Waitomo

Stalactites at Waitomo

Leaving the beautiful but cannibalistic worms, we headed for Hamilton - a very genteel sounding place, and a sizeable town by NZ standards. And genteel it is – the high spot proving to be the Gardens, of which the town is justifiably proud. Lying along the river, there are many gardens laid out in different styles – Japanese, Chinese, Italian renaissance, English Arts and crafts, Modernist, etc. The oriental gardens were particularly peaceful – great for getting garden design ideas. There was an added bonus though. All through our tour we keep missing events (“you should be/have been here next/last week/month when we had/have our annual Arts Festival/Carnival/Wine Gala/ …”) you fill in the blank. Well, in Hamilton we actually hit the annual arts festival – too bad we only stayed for two hours. Anyway, in that short time we saw a group of drummers (must take it up – great exercise and make a noise too), and various characters from Alice in Wonderland wandering around.

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Just an aside, stalactites (which hang from the ceiling remember) grow about one cm per year (or was that per 100 years?) – anyway – it just beats the speed of traffic on the M25 at rush hour. New Zealand is also moving away from Australia at a few cm per year – can you blame it? (oops sorry Aussie friends). New Zealanders, as well as being annoyingly good at rugby and other sports, are also good at inventing white knuckle experiences like bungy jumping. In the caves they do “black water rafting” which involves floating down an underground river with a large inner tube round your waist. A somewhat unnecessary encumbrance for those of us already with a spare tyre.

We’re back in Auckland now after our whistle stop tour of the North Island. Last night we saw an open air concert at the Villa Maria Winery, featuring Madeleine Peyroux and Diana Krall – bloody marvellous is my critical judgement. I would have gone a long way to see that – though maybe not to the antipodes. Just luck that we caught them and not Ronan Keating (last week) or Tom Jones (today). Though fair play to Tom, he’s a great singer. The only negative comment is that the ambulance (tr: ambience) was a bit bloodless (tr anaemic, insipid), seeing as the front seating areas were occupied by corporate hostility types who were only there for the beer (or champagne).

Sailing lessons begin tomorrow – now where can I buy a cutlass?

Posted by colandmand 00:28 Comments (0)

Highway 43 and the land that time forgot

Weve covered a lot of ground since our last blog. We drove to Opunaki on 'the surf highway' (dude) and stayed in a fab hotel with enormous jacuzzi and great views of Mt Taranaki and the coast. Up early to go walking on the mountain before it got too hot. We needn't have worried, the mountain below the tree line is covered in the most fabulously dense tropical forest called cloud forest. The mountain is so high it's pretty much always surrounded by cloud and v wet. We were so lucky, the cloud cleared and we had a steep hike through the forest and came accross an 80m waterfall (check out the pics). We decided to drive the next stretch via this road that takes you through 'the land that time forgot'. I thought this was just a polite way to describe some rather quaint, old-fashioned farming communities - the landscape is so green and hilly - like every child's fantasy of a farm. But suddenly the road surface disappeared and we drove for miles along a dirt track that follows a river through a deep deep gorge so that the sides tower hundreds of feet above you and you're surrounded by treeferns and liana with exotic flowers and birds in profusion. Colin and I just fell silent - breathtaking! Then, just as suddenly we were back on mailed road and winding through farmland - though the hills were so uniformly triangular we called them Toblerone hills x

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Posted by colandmand 00:44 Comments (0)

South of the North Island

We arrived in Wellington yesterday and drove all around the coast road - stunningly beautiful with lush vegetation and gardens surrounding the houses that cling precariously to the steep rockface. Today we visited Te Papa Museum which celebrates NZ's past present and future with geology and history (both European and Maori history, culture, politics and art) in interactive displays - brilliant! We then caught the Cable Car up to the Botanical Gardens and walked back through the Sculpture Trail and Peace Gardens. I've managed to post some photo's at last - enjoy!

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Posted by colandmand 00:37 Comments (1)

Upside-down blog

Well here we are hanging by our toes to the underneath of the world :o)
New Zealand is great - weve been so busy we haven't managed to write the blog for quite a while. I now have a million photos too so it'll be a while but I'll try and post some soon. We started in Auckland and went to the Waitakere ranges where the beach is where they filmed the piano. We're touring the North Island atm and called in at Hobbiton to see if their houses were up to standard. From Rotorua we flew in a sea plane over an active volcano, went to a Maori village for a Hangi (feast) and saw them canoeing and dancing and they performed the Haka for us - fantastic! Weve been holding our breath cos it smells v sulphurous when we visited volcanic Geysers and mud pools and right now we're in Napier - a town that was rebuilt in 1931 after an eruption flattened it. So it's now all Art Deco architecture = looks like a film set

Posted by colandmand 21:35 Comments (0)

Bula! Fiji

IMG_3293.jpgIMG_3305.jpgIMG_3334.jpgIMG_3341.jpgIMG_3392.jpgIMG_3446.jpgIMG_3450.jpgIMG_3459.jpgIMG_3491.jpgIMG_3508.jpgIMG_3534.jpgIMG_3563.jpgSo here we are in paradise – truly beautiful surroundings and a gentle, friendly, hospitable people. Hard to believe they used to eat visitors. Bula is the universal greeting – always with a smile. We are now on Fiji time which means our pace has slowed to an amble and we’re loving it. As I write I’m looking out over the gardens of this small hotel, fringed with coconut palms that sway gently in the breeze and are nightly visited by huge fruit bats that glide around as we sip cocktails or eat our dinner on the restaurant veranda – you get the picture :o) Of course it’s not all been lazing around under the bluest sky ever . . . we had to shop for some cool clothes in Singatoka – v like Port Moresby 25 years ago without the rascals. We also visited Kula Eco Park where they have a conservation, breeding and education programme running to keep Fiji’s endangered species going. Several species of bird and a beautiful crested Iguana as well as a Boa – which Colin managed to hold – face your fears Col! We also took a trip down river to an Island where Colin was chosen as group Chief/Elder and greeted Fiji-style with a ceremonial drink of Kava (made from a root mashed and strained, this tastes like cardboard and makes your tongue and lips go numb). They then demonstrated walking on hot rocks from the earth oven they cooked our feast on. We ate cassava, pumpkin and green veg (Col had pork – v PNG) and then they performed a huge array of dances from the region – war dances, courtship dances and finally fire dances with the group performing the most amazing acrobatics with grace and poise – and absolutely no regard for Health and Safety.
Yesterday we had hoped to attend a village church but ended up Skype-talking to family until too late so we explored the lagoon right in front of the hotel underwater with snorkels. Beautiful blue starfish and tiny reef fishes of all colours plus dozens of sea cucumbers that look disconcertingly like adders :o(. Colin came across Wilson on the beach. Today we just plan to enjoy Fiji time to the max – completely lazy :oD and waited-on hand and foot as befits our great age and dignity. Tomorrow we leave for NZ at dawn :o(

Posted by colandmand 20:21 Comments (1)

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