New Zealand

30 September – 2 October 2019


OK, the dates at the top say 30 September – 2 October.  It didn’t actually take me two days to fly from Los Angeles, California to Auckland, New Zealand.  It just looks that way because I crossed the International Dateline.  I left Los Angeles late at night on September 30 when it was already the evening of October 1 in New Zealand.  While I was en route, New Zealand entered October 2 and I landed that morning.  It was, however a long flight — about 13 hours.

But landing in the morning gave me the better part of the day in Auckland, after making my way through customs, immigration, car rental, etc.  I knew coming here that New Zealand shows its British heritage by being a country where you drive on the left side of the road.  And I worried about acclimating to that.  I’ve done OK, I guess.  I haven’t caused an accident.  Yet.  But it sure feels strange to sit on the right side of the car and drive on the left side of the road.

Turning left means just following the curb around the way we make a right-hand turn.  And turning right means swinging wide and crossing traffic; the way we do for a left-hand turn.  But it isn’t just the driving.  It’s also the placement of controls in the car.  When I want to signal for a turn, my left hand automatically pushes the stalk coming off the steering column up or down depending on the direction I want to go.  On a right-hand drive car, the stalk on the left side is the windshield wiper control.  The turn signal is the stalk on the right side of the steering column.  Do you know how many times I’ve signaled for a turn and instead of the turn signals activating, the windshield wiper starts going?

In addition, on a left-hand drive car you push the turn signal up to turn right and down to turn left.  On a right-hand drive car it’s reversed.  Pushing the stalk up signals for a left turn and pushing it down signals for a right turn.

I’m staying at a B&B and they let me check in early.  I showered, cleaned up after the long flight and headed out to see what I could see.  As it turned out, I couldn’t see a lot since in was raining off and on all day.  It’s also cold.  I’m hoping that doesn’t continue for the rest of the trip, though that’s a distinct possibility.

The B&B is close to one of the sights I want to see in Auckland — Mt. Eden.  Or at least that’s its name in English.  Most places in New Zealand are either known by their Māori name or have 2 names; one in English and another in Māori.  In this case, Maungawhau is the Māori name.  (A note on Māori pronunciation — the letter combination “wh” is a diphthong, pronounced like the “ph” combination in English, as in “pharaoh.”)

New Zealand (or Aotearoa as it was known to the Māori, it’s original Polynesian inhabitants) is volcanic in origin.  Auckland sits on about 50 volcanoes, some of them small volcanic cones.  Mount Eden is one of those cones.


This cone is pretty good-sized — about 165 feet (50 meters) in depth and is known as Te Ipu Kai a Mataaho (the Food Bowl of Mataaho — the god of things hidden in the ground).  Because of its connection to a Māori god it is considered tapo (sacred) and visitors are asked not to enter the bowl.

Climbing the mountain I was very surprised to see some young people with an alpaca on a leash._35A9467It was like being back in Peru.

Less surprising, as I climbed I noticed a series of terraces _35A9490which were indicative of Māori Pā, Māori fortified villages.

From the height of the volcanic cone I had a good overview of the city of Auckland.

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At the summit was a surveyor’s structure placed in 1872 by a British surveyor for the triangulation of Auckland province._35A9485You may have noticed the gray clouds in the sky.  It was overcast and rainy the whole time.  On the mountain there was a strong wind blowing and when it rained the rain was frequently being blown sideways.

Mount Eden was close enough to my B&B that I walked there and noticed something I would never have seen if I’d been driving.  Walking through residential streets I noticed many mailboxes with a sign on the box I’d never seen before._35A9492I’m assuming that there has to be a postal service rule or a law that specifies just which pieces of mail are “junk” and instructs the postal service not to deliver those pieces if the mailbox sports a sign saying no junk mail.  I’ve never seen that anywhere else, but I’m all in favor of it.  As just a rough estimate I’d guess that close to half the mailboxes I passed on my walk had a sign like this.

From here I decided I didn’t want to keep subjecting myself to the rainy weather so I headed for the Auckland museum.  The bottom floor is about all things Māori and what I was primarily interested in, since it’s a topic I know nothing about.

I was most impressed with a Māori war canoe._35A9499Its length made it very difficult to photograph in the cramped quarters of the museum.  It’s 82 feet (25 meters) long and can carry 100 warriors.  It’s intricately carved along the sides and the decorative pieces on the prow (above) and stern (below)._35A9497I’m not sure who the carved figure at the stern represents, probably a god or an honored ancestor, but he’s probably the only one on the boat who’s relaxed._35A9498This entire canoe was adzed from a single tōtara log.

The Māori were expert wood carvers and there are numerous examples in the museum.  This is an ancestor of a Māori tribe who guarded the entrance to a stockade._35A9504And carved figures._35A9495_35A9501And another sail boat.  This is a vaka tapu, a sacred canoe, that was named after an ancestor and had its own spirit guardians.  In seasonal canoe rituals, appeals are made to these spirits to protect fishermen and ensure a successful harvest from the sea._35A9508This is a pātaka, a raised storehouse.  It was intended to serve, not just as a storehouse but also a symbol of the power and status of its owner, a leading chief.  As such it was intricately carved.  Many of the figures represent well-known ancestors._35A9513

As the museum was close to closing I return home, find someplace within walking distance for dinner then get to bed.  Tomorrow will be a lot of driving.

3 October 2019

Auckland to Cape Ringa to PaihiaAfter a wonderful breakfast, I head north.  The primary goal is to get to Cape Reinga.  This is the far north headland of North Island where the waters of the South Pacific Ocean on New Zealand’s eastern side meet the waters of the Tasman Sea on the western side.  It’s the end of the road in northern New Zealand.

It’s also the end of the road in a figurative sense.  In Māori tradition the spirits of the dead trek north up the island to this spot from which they depart this world and enter the afterlife.  As such this is an extremely tapu site and visitors are kept from the actual location the spirits depart._35A9533The tree on the right is an 800 year-old pōhutukawa tree that has survived harsh conditions in an unprotected salt-water environment.  Unlike other pōhutukawa trees, however, this one has never been known to flower.  The spirits of the dead descend to the underworld by climbing down the steps formed by the roots of this tree.

Visitors walk a path on a hillside away from the tapu site.  Under the path there are two springs of water coming out of the hill.  If the dead spirits drink from that water, they continue to the underworld.  If they don’t they remain in the land of the living.

The tourist path goes to a lighthouse, built in 1941, that replaced another lighthouse in another, nearby, site that was built in 1879._35A9525_35A9538In case you want to know where you are in relation to other places in the world there’s a directional sign to help you out._35A9528This is the view up the coast from the lighthouse.  The island off to the right, Motuopao, is said to have a large and varied population of native birds.  The rough water in the channel between the mainland and the island prevents swimming predators (such as rats) from making it across to the island so the birds are protected and thrive there._35A9532

From here I head back south.  Roads up here are narrow and winding as they snake through rolling hills.  There are LOTS of single lane bridges.  There are warning signs as you approach a single lane bridge, telling you which side of the bridge has the right of way.  My perception is that, though the signs say they’re single lane bridges they’re closer to 3/4 of a lane.  It’s mostly range land primarily populated with cattle and sheep.  I’ll spend the tonight and tomorrow night in Paihia on the Bay of Islands.

4 October 2019

After breakfast I take a passenger ferry across the bay to the town of Russell where I’ll board a sailboat for a sail around the Bay of Islands.  There are about 150 undeveloped islands around the Bay of Islands so we’ll have time to sail by only a small number.

The boat owner points out some islands of historical significance including this island (below), Moturua.  In 1769 Capt. Cook anchored his ship, the Endeavour just off shore and began the very first trading relationship with the local Māori._35A9554We anchor in Stingray Bay and are taken ashore to explore the island.  I climb the hill and wander over the island, taking pictures of the views.

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I struck up a conversation with another man on the sail who was from the US — Massachusetts.  As we were talking the subject of acclimating to a right-hand drive car came up and he commented on how often he activated the windshield wipers when he was trying to signal for a turn.  I’m not the only one.  (Not that I ever really thought I was….). We sailed back to Russell and I caught the passenger ferry back to Paihia.  Found dinner and called it a night.

5 October 2019

Paihia to HaheiThis morning I head out for the town of Hahei on the Coromandal Peninsula.  Traffic through Auckland is typical big city.  Lots of traffic and large multi-lane highways.  Once out of the city it’s mostly two-lane twisty roads.

I arrive in Hahei late in the afternoon and decide to hike to the primary attraction in the area — Cathedral Cove.  In order to see (and photograph) the cove when it isn’t being overrun by hordes of tourists, you have to hike to the cove in the early morning or late evening.  It’s about a 1 hour hike from my B&B so I head out.

It isn’t a long trail, but it goes up and down, from beach level to the tops of the cliffs behind the beach, back down to the beach and back up to another cliff.  The views from the trail are wonderful._35A9598_35A9599I even spot a small group of  California quail in the forest by the trail._35A9603I finally drop down into Cathedral Cove and the rock formations are indeed dramatic._35A9617_35A9620_35A9639The primary attraction, however, is a very large, cathedral-like, hole in a cliff that allows people to walk from one beach to another.  You can get a sense of the size by comparing the hole in the rock to the size of the people in front of it._35A9635I wait patiently as tourists pose in front of the opening in various attempts at dramatic or silly poses for selfies.  Eventually there’s a break and I can take some pictures framed by the opening without somebody sanding on the rock at the center of the opening striking some kind of a pose._35A9641I was amazed this tree, which appears to have been around for a long time, has been able to cling to life on a sandy beach exposed to salt water as much as it has been._35A9636And then there was this tree on the trail._35A9642Not only are its roots wrapped around a large rock well above ground level, but the ground around it has been covered in asphalt for a walkway.  Somehow it continues to survive.  And a small herd of wild goats enjoying the leaves off a tree._35A9647I enjoyed the views again along the trail as I hiked back._35A9648_35A9649After my hike I went out to dinner and had a great time talking to a German couple I met at the restaurant where I ate.  I heard them speaking German with each other and asked about where in Germany they were from.  They came from a town very close to my father’s hometown and we had a great conversation.

6 October 2019

Today I hike to Te Pare, a Māori Pā, or fortified village site.  You can see the terracing that indicates the high ground was a fortified village._35A9652The top of the site was just flat grassy ground but the views were nice, both out to sea_35A9655and back to the town of Hahei._35A9656

Since the weather isn’t being very cooperative I spend some time working on this blog.  When the sun finally comes out I hike back to the beach.  On the way I stop to take a picture of a common sight around here.  It’s a bucolic scene._35A9663The little white dots you can barely see in the upper pasture are sheep.  They were more obvious in real life.  I go back to the trail that parallels the beach.  The bay looks beautiful this afternoon._35A9664I take the trail to Gemstone Bay not really knowing what to expect.  It turns out to be long on the stones but short on the gems.  It’s rocky beach and is apparently primarily used for skin and SCUBA diving.

On the way back home I notice a sign that speaks to one of the potential problems of living in this beautiful place._35A9669I go to dinner in a restaurant that’s in a building that obviously used to be a church._35A9662They call it The Church Bistro.  I talked to the owner before it opened to see if reservations were necessary.  He’s Brazilian.  When I return, after my hike to Gemstone Bay, and eat dinner there I decide the location is appropriate because the meal was heavenly.

7 October 2019hahei to rotorua

I’m up fairly early this morning to pack up and head out.  I have a reservation for a tour of a movie site that’s been preserved — Hobbiton, from the Lord of the Rings.  It’s a couple of hours away and I need to stop for breakfast so I’m packed and on the road at about 7:30.

Hobbiton is on a working ranch — the Alexander farm — a 1,200 acre property where the Alexander family raised about 13,000 sheep and 300 Angus cattle.  During an aerial search for a site for Hobbiton and The Shire, the Alexander’s ranch was picked as the perfect site.  After some negotiating, an agreement was reached and work began to turn part of the ranch into Hobbiton.  It was, as you might imagine, a major undertaking which actually began with the New Zealand army building a 1.5 Km road to the area.

Thirty-nine “hobbit holes” were created, a 29 ton oak in the town of Matamata nearby was cut down and transported to the site where fake leaves were attached to the tree, since (obviously) cutting it down killed it, but it was supposed to appear to be living in the movie.  A water mill, double arch bridge and other buildings, gardens, hedges, etc. were built and details added to make it look like a town where people lived their daily lives.  They did an amazing job and touring it was magical.

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On the way back to civilization I stop periodically to take some pictures of the Alexander ranch, which is quite picturesque.

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I go to my motel in Rotorua, check in and drop off my luggage then head back out to visit Wai-O-Tapu (which translates to “sacred waters”) Thermal Wonderland, an area with geothermal attractions.  They are difficult to photograph.  Being geothermal, they’re hot and emitting clouds of steam which make it hard to see the structure under the steam.  The camera tends to capture the steam more than the underlying structure.

This is Māhanga Rua, a collapsed crater.  The acidity of the gases escaping through a crater caused its collapse._35A9825You can see some yellowing of the walls of the crater caused by the volcanic gasses.

There are also craters with crude oil, called Ipu.  In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the sludge on top was skimmed off and burned in kerosene lanterns._35A9834This pool, called Artist’s Palette, collects the overflow from another pool.  As the water evaporates it exposes different minerals, brought to the surface from the earth’s interior, that create the different colors.  They say this pool never looks the same two days in a row.  The colors vary depending on sunlight, water level and wind direction._35A9841This is Te Waiāriki o Mahuika, a hot sulphorous spring.  They say that geothermal energy contributes 15% of the electricity used in New Zealand’s electrical grid._35A9846The flat, white shelf surrounding the crater is called a sinter terrace and is comprised primarily of silica.  These terraces are caused by the overflow of water from a pool that leaves the silica behind as the water evaporates.  This has been going on here for over 700 years and these terraces are the largest in New Zealand._35A9848Lots of places throughout the area are covered with this orange color.  Many of the plants covered with it appear dead.  I’m not sure what it is and nothing I read explains it but it looks like a lichen.  Whatever it is it seems to thrive around the geothermal steam._35A9860_35A9889One edge of Champagne Pool._35A9865The Champagne Pool is so-called because of all the carbon dioxide bubbles that come up through it, like a glass of champagne._35A9872This next crater, Rua Pūmahu, has an interesting history.  The bottom of the crater is a pool of boiling hot mud.  The crater itself is shaped kind of like a megaphone that amplifies the noise of the boiling mud.  These sounds were recorded and featured in The Lord of the Rings in scenes of Modor._35A9874Starlings, swallows and mynas nest in holes in the walls of the collapsed crater Rua ōwhanga.  The heat rising up from the bottom helps incubate their eggs and keeps the birds warm._35A9876Roto Kāretikia is a unique color.  This pool is formed from runoff from the Champagne Pool and suspended minerals in the pool refracting the sunlight cause the color.  They say the color is variable — brighter on sunny days and duller on overcast days.  Today was very overcast so, believe it or not, this must be considered a dull color for this pool._35A9884The water in this pool is very acidic (with a pH of 2) and a comparatively cool temperature of 57F (14C).

This is all I have time for today so I head back to my room, get some dinner and call it a day.

8 October 2019

First stop this morning is the Māori village Whakarewarewa.  When I get there I discover that the name Whakarewarewa is actually the shortened version of the village name.  The full name is actually Tewhakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao.  Wrap your tongue around that a few times.

They call it a thermal village because it’s built around geothermal activity throughout the village.  And that geothermal activity is incorporated into daily village life as it has been for generations.

The entry to the village is a tribute to the men of the village who gave their lives in World Wars I and II.  The last syllable, “Tu” acknowledges Tumatauenga, the Māori god of war._35A9892Just behind the memorial is a bridge that goes over a stream flowing by the village.  The dilapidated house is empty and not in use._35A9893The first bridge into the village was built in 1885.  Before that the only way visitors could access the village was to be carried across the river by village men, often in return for a penny.  For generations, the village children would jump from the bridge into the stream for pennies.  They still do.  Kind of.  With inflation they will now dive for bigger coins from the tourists.

_35A9899_35A9900They no longer dive from the bridge.  One child is in the water to dive for the coins and the other serves as a spotter to direct the child in the water to where a coin went in.

Originally homes were built directly over geothermally active areas to take advantage of the heat._35A9901This, our guide told us, is a Māori microwave.  This box was built over a steam vent.  Food could be cooked quickly and efficiently inside the box.  The minerals from the volcanic steam added flavor and no added oils or other cooking aids were required.  Meat stayed moist and cooked in its own juices._35A9902This pool, known as Parekohuru (murderous ripples) is the largest hot spring in the village.  Every 45 to 60 minutes the pool pulsates and the water begins to rise.  After each pulsation, when the water level drops, bubbles rise to the surface.  The pool is used for cooking leaf and root vegetables and seafood._35A9907Water is channeled from this pool_35A9909.jpgto these man-made communal bathing pools._35A9911Channeling the water cools it off enough that it’s the right temperature for bathing and also serves as a subfloor heater for the concrete.

This pool, Korotiotio, (Grumpy Old Man) was the most volatile spring in the village.  Super-heated water, with a consistent temperature of 104°+ C (219°F).  The water temperature can reach 120°C (248°F)._35A9914This is the Whare Tūpuna, the ancestral meeting house, named after a great ancestor, Wāhiao.  In carving the history and genealogy of the people is told.  Stories, legends and tribal connections are all contained in the carvings._35A9978Funerals, meetings, seminars and village entertainment all take place inside.  The front door, with carved lintel and side posts_35A9918has this metal plaque embedded in it commemorating a visit by a US Navy admiral in 1925._35A9919This is the village Roman Catholic church, built in 1905.  Many of the Catholic villagers are buried in tombs around the church._35A9921Bodies are placed in tombs above the ground because of the ongoing geothermal activity underground.

The villagers present a performance of traditional singing and dancing.

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This is the Anglican Church.  Another, nearby village, was primarily Anglican.  After the 1886 eruption of the Tarawera volcano, the survivors from that village were invited to live with family living in Whakarewarewa and they brought their Anglican faith with them._35A9977There are three geysers near the village and I was there for an eruption.  They are somewhat difficult to see in the picture because the spray from the geysers blends in with the clouds in the sky._35A9998The geyser on the far left is Pōhutu which translates as “big splash”.  It can get up to 30 meters (98 feet) in height.  The one in the middle is Te Tohu, the Prince of Wales Feather.  It was renamed in honor of the Prince of Wales because of a royal visit he made in 1901.  This geyser can get up to 7 meters (23 feet) in height.  And the third, on the far right, actually starts out lower than the other two.  It’s Kererū and will get up to 15 meters (49 feet).

I also followed a nature trail that wound around some of the land next to the village.

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There was a little museum in the village and one of the things I found interesting was the Māori legend of their beginning:

A tohunga (high priest) named Ngātoroirangi guided the Te Arawa canoe to Aotearoa from Hawaiki. the ancestral lands of the Māori.  In exploring the land he followed the Tarawera River until reaching Ruawahia, the central peak of Mount Tarawera.  There he met a spirit in the form of a person named Tama-o-Hoi who objected to Ngātoroirangi trespassing on his land.

He used sorcery to try to destroy Ngātoroirangi but was not powerful enough.  Using a superior spell, Ngātoroirangi caused Tama-o-Hoi to sink into the ground.  Ngātoroirangi then continued his journey.  The great eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886 was said to have been caused by Tama-o-Hoi who was enraged at having been confined underground so long and gave vent to his feelings, causing the eruption.

Ngātoroirangi eventually reached the three mountains that now comprise Tongariro National Park and climbed the highest, Mount Tongariro, where he got so cold, he feared he would die.  He prayed to his sisters, Te Pūpū and Te Hōata for help.  They traveled from their spiritual homeland beneath sea and land in the form of fire.  Wherever they paused to rise to the surface they left part of their fire, creating the geothermal landscape we see today.

Ngātoroirangi was saved and the chain of geothermal activity that remains today has been of benefit to the people of Aotearoa ever since.

From Whakarewarewa I went to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley.  They bill this valley as the heart of the world’s youngest geothermal valley.  Mount Tarawera is here, having most recently erupted on 10 June 1886.  That was its fifth eruption in 18,000 years.  Before the 1886 eruption there was no surface hydrothermal activity in the area.  The night of the eruption a line of craters from the northern end of Tarawera to the Waimangu Valley was formed, destroying all plant and animal life in the area.  This is a view of the valley now._35A0002This is the southernmost crater formed by the 1886 eruption.  It’s about 50 meters (165 ft.) deep and has not been active since the initial eruption._35A0008This is a cold water pool that supports large mats of algae and sphagnum moss.  The water at the bottom of the crater appears to be primarily rainwater and is about 2 meters (6 ft.) deep.

Echo Crater was formed in the 1886 eruption and has been reshaped by explosions in 1900-1904, 1915, 1917, 1924 and 1973.  The water at the bottom of the crater is known as Frying Pan Lake._35A0009This rock wall is geothermally warmed and grows crystals of different colors, depending on what crystal grows._35A0021This rock was originally named Gibraltar, because it so resembled the Gibraltar at the entrance to the Mediterranean.  After the eruption in 1917 it changed shape so much that they renamed it Cathedral Rocks._35A0024This lake is the site of the Waimangu geyser that was active between 1900 and 1904.  It was the world’s largest known geyser, sometimes erupting to 400 meters (1300 ft.).  Waimangu means black water and it was called that because of all the black sand, mud and rocks it hurled into the air._35A0025It erupted on a 36-hour cycle and it’s eruptions were 5 to 6 hours in duration.  It first became erratic, then stopped erupting in 1904, for reasons that are not understood.

Frying pan lake overflows through this notch.  Its waters are 50°C (122°F) with a flow rate of about 110 liters (29 gal.) per second._35A0030These waters contain antimony, molybdenum, arsenic and tungsten which create the different colors._35A0032This silica terrace formed when a new spring came to life in 1975.  Scientists at first thought it might be the start of something big since it’s on the site of the old Waymangu Geyser but it didn’t grow._35A0036This is an overflow channel from Inferno Crater.  When Inferno overflows near-boiling water is added to the hot stream from Frying Pan Lake, killing the blue-green algae that otherwise grows on the scinter floor of the channel._35A0038And this is the Inferno Crater Lake._35A0040The lake sits at the bottom of Inferno Crater and has an interesting rhythm.  The crater in which it sits was blown in the side of Mt. Haszard during the 1886 eruption.  The lake recedes every few days a little and recedes a lot at longer intervals.  So it will overflow for 2 or 3 days, then drop about 8 meters (26 feet) over the course of 15 days then partly refill over the next 2 to 4 weeks.  It will then oscillate for a while then begin to overflow again.  It’s being filled by a geyser that sits at the bottom of the lake so it’s never seen.

This is part of Bird’s Nest Terrace.  The different colors of algae are caused by the different temperatures of water outflow._35A0044This is Clamshell Spring, with silica-rich water and home to thermophilic bacteria._35A0047These silica stalactites are similar to the limestone stalactites we see in caves, formed from the mineral rich water percolating out of Mt. Haszard since the Waimangu Geyser stopped erupting._35A0049The white here is kaolin clay, used in the production of porcelain.  The heat and gases in the steam gradually alter the rock on the hill to create the kaolin._35A0052This is known as the Warbrick Terrace, named after two brothers, one of whom was a local guide for 45 years.  They both were members of the first Māori rugby team to tour England.  The terrace is made of silica.  The algae colors change with the temperature and season and the water changes with the angle and intensity of sunlight and changes in the stream flow._35A0064A small flock of black swans were swimming in the river._35A0078The trail ended at Lake Rotomahana with a view of the Tarawera volcano rising behind it.  Tarawera is the source of the mammoth 1886 eruption._35A0085This is my last trip for today.  In the parking lot I run into the same German couple I met in Hahei and we talk about the coincidence of meeting again.  I return to Rotorua for dinner.  Tomorrow I head for Taupo.

9 October 2019

rotorua to tupo

I pack up and leave Rotorua, hoping to make it to Taupo in time for an early morning sail on Lake Taupo to see some Māori rock carvings.  I make it and we set out for Mine Bay on the lake, though the wind is too light for sailing so we motor over.  These carvings can only be seen by boat._35A0103They were carved by master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell in the late 1970’s on his grandmother’s land after he’d completed a 10 year apprenticeship with Māori elders.  The large face is Ngātoroirangi, the Māori priest and navigator who figured in the foundation legend I wrote about earlier._35A0105The face is 10 meters (33 feet) in height and took four summers to complete.  Matahi had four assistants and took no payment except for small change donations from pub patrons to pay for scaffolding.  There are many other, smaller carvings, most of which I know nothing about except that they depict ancestors and guardians.  One depicts the south wind and Ngātoroirangi stopping the south wind from freezing him.

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After viewing the rock carvings I take some pictures of the snow covered volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu._35A0139I should be up there tomorrow.  I have scheduled the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, an 8 hour, 19.4 kilometer (12 mile) hike for tomorrow.

As we return to Taupo, the sailor who took us to the rock carvings tells us that the mountains behind Taupo are known as “the pregnant woman”.  Seen from the water they look like a pregnant woman lying on her back, with her head to the right._35A0146From Lake Taupo I drive to the Huka Falls.  The Waikato River drains Lake Taupo.  Normally about 100 meters (328 feet) wide the river is forced into a 20 meter (66 foot) wide chasm.  This view is looking upriver from a bridge that crosses the river in the middle of the chasm,_35A0148and this is looking downriver._35A0149Approximately 220,000 liters (58,118 gallons) of water cascade per second over a ledge at the end of the chasm._35A0175The word “Huka” is a Māori word, meaning “foam”.  And that’s what Huka Falls produces.

I follow the Waikato River upstream.  There are some pretty nice homes on the river._35A0150I love the tree ferns.  There are whole forests of them._35A0151And there were interesting birds in the trees.  Different from what I’m used to seeing.  This is a Tūi.  It has a small white round tuft on its neck that you can see in the pictures if you’re looking for it.  That tuft looks like a ball, but it’s created by just two feathers; special feathers that curl completely around giving the appearance of a ball.

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They were after the nectar in the yellow flowers on this tree.

From Huka Falls it was a short drive to Orakei Korako, located on Lake Ohakuri.  You buy your entrance ticket on one side of the lake then go down to a dock to board a boat that takes you across the lake to the thermal park._35A0193

Looking across the lake you see a large silica terrace coming down off the mountain and up to the edge of the lake.  They say this is the largest “of its kind” in New Zealand.  I’m not sure what to make of the “biggest” claim since at Wai-O-Tapu they also claimed to have the biggest terrace.  Maybe they’re different types.  I don’t know.  But this one at Orakei Korako is definitely big.  They say it varies in thickness from 20mm (3/4 inch) to 20 meters (66 feet) and continues for 35 meters (115 feet) under the lake._35A0253This is more of that same terrace farther up the mountain._35A0187_35A0189_35A0192Water seems to just trickle across the surface of the terrace but they say that “trickle” amounts to 20,000,000 liters (5,283,441 gallons) of water per day flowing off the terrace into the lake.

They say this is a “fault scarp” (one of three) formed by a massive earthquake in 131AD._35A0197_35A0208This area is known as Artist’s Palette, and was formed by hydrothermal eruptions between 8,000 and 14,000 BC._35A0222Geothermal activity in the area remains highly variable and unpredictable resulting in a constantly varying amount of water and algae so the colors to be seen are always changing.

The Hiwa Nga Ana, Hill of Caves is of uncertain origin.  Some theories suggest a hydrothermal eruption and others suggest a cave-in but this is one of only two “geothermally situated” caves known in the world.  The other is in Italy.

The cave_35A0225and the pool at the bottom._35A0227A leaf of a Silver Tree Fern is a symbol of New Zealand.  You see this leaf everywhere here, symbolizing the country.  And here’s a silver tree fern that was alongside the trail I was walking._35A0241When you’re away from the geothermal activity the landscape is very different._35A0243This hot pool, known as Waiariki or Soda Fountain, was dormant for 17 years.  Then it suddenly filled and since then has been erratic, filling or emptying unpredictably._35A0246

This was the end of my exploring for today.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with my day tomorrow.  My plan was to go on an all-day hike.  This morning I took a picture from Lake Taupo of the snow covered volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu and said that tomorrow I’d be up there.  The Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike is said to be one of the most beautiful in New Zealand and I’d arranged to do that hike tomorrow, reserving with a company that provides a guide and transportation to the trailhead and, since it’s a one-way hike, pick up where the hike ends.  When I called today to check in and confirm they told me that there was a weather front moving in and the hike had to be canceled because of the weather conditions on the mountain.

So tomorrow is up in the air.

10 October 2019

As predicted, it’s raining today.  And it’s raining hard.  I go to breakfast then drive to Mount Tongariro National Park.  I’d talked to the owner of the place I’m staying and he said the weather at Tongariro can be very different from the weather in Taupo.  So I drive out there and it’s raining hard there, too.  I found the national park visitor center and went through that, drove around the area and went to one of the trailheads for the Alpine Crossing hike.

No pictures today.  It’s raining too hard.  I drove around the area then returned to my room and worked on this blog.  Tomorrow I drive to Napier.

11 October 2019

Taupo to Napier

So far as I know Napier is not on the beaten path for New Zealand tourists, though I don’t think there’s any place in New Zealand without tourists.  A friend of mine, Mac, has dual citizenship — he’s Canadian and New Zealander.  I didn’t know that until we were talking when I was on a motorcycle trip to Canada.  He gave me the names and contact information for some of his family in New Zealand.  A brother lives in Napier so I’m going to visit.

Before I leave Taupo there’s one more geothermal preserve I want to see — Craters of the Moon.  It’s smaller than the others I’ve visited and it’s also the newest geothermal park.  There was no geothermal activity here until the 1990’s when an electricity generating station tapping into underground geothermal pools to generate electricity began operation.  Reducing the supply of underground super-heated water caused all the above ground geothermal activity that is now Craters of the Moon.

This guy (a pheasant, I think)  met me as I was entering the park._35A0298Inside the park, lots of craters in the earth emitting steam.  It feels otherworldly.

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From here I drove to Napier.  It’s another overcast day with intermittent rain.  I called Rob when I got into Napier.  He had some more work to do so I spent some time wandering around downtown Napier.

In a park I chanced on a statue to a local Māori legend.  According to the legend, Pania, a Māori girl was lured by the siren song of the sea people.  She swam out to meet them but when she tried to return to her lover on land, the sea people made her into the reef that’s offshore just outside the Napier bay._35A0324This looked like a colonial era building to me._35A0321

I had a first-time driving experience today.  I parallel parked a right-hand drive vehicle.  It was easier than I feared it would be.  Maybe I’ve adapted.  I wonder what it will be like when I get back home and everything reverses again.

When Rob got off work we met and he led me to his home, high on a hill overlooking the Napier Bay._35A0325We spend the evening getting acquainted.

12 October 2019

Today Rob introduces me to the national religion of New Zealand — Rugby.  I know almost nothing about rugby but it really does achieve the status here of a national religion.  Right now the rugby world cup is going on and the New Zealand national team (the All Blacks) is one of the teams with a serious chance of winning the World Cup.

Rob takes me to a local game.  His town (Napier) is playing the team from the town of Tasman, so I’ll see the Tasman Makos take on the Napier Magpies in the Napier stadium.  Rob isn’t sure they’ll allow my camera in the stadium so I have no pictures.  Tasman is leading the league and favored to win, but Napier has been playing well recently and stands a realistic chance of winning.

Napier scores first, but Tasman catches up and ends up winning the game.  And I got my introduction to rugby.

After the game Rob drives me around the area.

This would be as good a time as any to share some miscellaneous observations about driving here.  New Zealanders are a gracious people.  It’s common to wave a ‘thank you” to another driver.  At road construction sites, the flagman commonly waves to each driver going by.  The sign announcing there’s a flagman ahead and you may have to stop says, “Please stop upon request”.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sign in the US announcing there’s  flagman ahead that says “please” or characterizes that sign as a “request”.  New Zealander’s are very aware of the difficulty visitors from other areas of the world have driving on the left.  It’s common to see an arrow painted in traffic lanes showing the direction traffic is supposed to be going in that lane.

Turnouts or pullouts along the road are “bays” so you’ll see a sign for a “slow vehicle bay” meaning a slow vehicle should pull over there to let faster traffic by.

A sign that puzzles me is a common one announcing “stock effluent disposal 300m”.  OK.  So with as much cattle and sheep ranching as there is here I understand the need to do something with all the “effluent”.  But, really, if it’s your job to do something with it, wouldn’t you know where to dispose of it?  I can’t imagine you’d load up your tanker then go searching for someplace to dispose of the contents.  “Ah.  There’s a sign.  I’ll empty this load there.”  Why does every driver on the road need to know there’s a stock effluent disposal site 300 meters ahead?

13 October 2019Napier to Wellington

Today I drive to Wellington.  The capital of New Zealand.  I won’t be here long.  Tomorrow morning I take the ferry to South Island.  It’s a three-and-a-half hour trip across the Cook Straight between the islands, from Wellington to Picton.  It isn’t because there’s nothing to see or do here that I’m not spending time here.  It’s because I only have a month which isn’t enough time to see everything.

It’s a beautiful drive down.  But, really, I don’t think there’s anywhere in this country that isn’t a beautiful drive.  On the way to my B&B I stop at Zealandia.  This is a canyon in Wellington with a river running through it and a lake.  A dam had been built in the canyon during the 1800’s creating the lake.   This is the original valve tower dating back to about 1880._35A0462Beginning in the 1990’s a group of Wellington citizens began working to eliminate all human introduced predators that killed New Zealand’s native wildlife or the plants those wildlife require.  Introduced predators include rats, mice, possums, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs, pigs, deer, cattle, hare, goats and cats.

Experiments were conducted to see what type of fencing was needed to keep these predators out so they couldn’t squeeze through, dig under, climb or jump over the fence.  They encircled the area (all 556 acres of it) with predator-proof fencing then trapped or poisoned the human-introduced predator mammals.  They say that 3 tons of possums were killed in 8 weeks.  Possums are the biggest human-introduced predator in New Zealand with a population in the millions.

The fence was completed in 1999 and in 2000 Zealandia became the first pest-free zone in an urban environment.  Monitoring for predators is on-going and occasionally some get through and are trapped.

Once the area was free of human introduced predators, native birds and wildlife were reintroduced to the area.  They thrived.  Visitors enter the sanctuary through a double gate — part of the effort to keep predators out.  There’s nothing over the top, so birds can come and go as they please, but they seem to like it here.

Native New Zealand flora and fauna are found nowhere else in the world.  They’re unique to New Zealand.  So the loss of one of these species would mean that species would be extinct worldwide.  Hence much effort is being made to save plants and animals that haven’t already gone extinct.  Many of the ones that survive are located on uninhabited islands off the coast of New Zealand but can no longer be found on the populated islands.

Because there’s a river and a lake at the sanctuary they attract water birds, like the shag._35A0350They said that elsewhere the shag is known as a cormorant.  This one is just ducking into the water to snag a fish._35A0354And this one is holding his wings out to dry after getting out of the water._35A0377This is a kererū, a New Zealand pigeon._35A0372The sanctuary isn’t solely about birds.  They’re also trying to rescue the tuatara._35A0392He’s a pretty interesting guy.  He’s a reptile (as you would probably guess) but not related to lizards.  They call him a living fossil because he’s the only surviving member of his biological order, which flourished 200 million years ago.  Their teeth are unique because they aren’t separate structures, but part of the jaw.  And, as if that weren’t enough, they have a third eye.  You can’t see it because it’s covered with skin, but it is photoreceptive.  They can hear, but have no external ear.

They were extinct on both North and South Islands, surviving only on some off-shore islands.  It isn’t known exactly how long they live but it’s over 100 years.

This is, obviously, a parrot.  Known as the kākā.  I couldn’t capture it flying but under the wings it’s very colorful.  Nationally, it’s considered vulnerable to extinction, though it’s thriving at the sanctuary._35A0455This kākā was eating something it was holding in its claw and a Eurasian blackbird was hovering close by hoping to find the opportunity to steal a bite.  Brave little guy, considering how much bigger the kākā is._35A0443The Eurasian blackbirds are everywhere and do well in urban environments.  They’re very habituated to people and let people get very close before they fly away._35A0450This is known as a Rifleman or a Tītipounamu._35A0417And this colorful little bird is the Stitchbird, or the hihi.  It’s also considered vulnerable to extinction, nationally._35A0423This is the bellbird or korimako._35A0435In case you’re wondering I’m no bird expert and wouldn’t know the names of these birds; but the sanctuary gives you a sheet of paper when you enter with a map of the trails through the sanctuary and photos of the birds of interest with their names and information about them.

You may also have noticed that the birds all have colored bands on their legs.  Staff closely monitor the birds here, counting and tracking them.  Every time a bird builds a nest and raises a brood, staff band the baby birds so they can track them and keep statistics on them.

As it got close to closing time I left, though there was a lot of the sanctuary I hadn’t been to.  I checked into my B&B, found dinner and called it a night.  Tomorrow morning I board the ferry for the three-and-a-half hour trip across the Cook Straight to South Island.

14 October 2019Wellington to Kaikoura

I’m up early this morning.  My reservation for the ferry is for the 9:00 sailing.  My deadline to check in is 8:00 and never having been there I have to allow time to navigate downtown Wellington to get there.  I talk to my host at the B&B and he tells me that I have to be sure I’m in the right lane as I approach the ferry terminal.  Lanes branch off in different directions and if you’re not in the right one you discover you’re heading south on the freeway away from the terminal.

It’s well-signed and I make it on the first try, though I can clearly see how easy it would be to miss.  The ferry is huge and there’s lots of traffic between the islands.  I’m sailing on the Kaitaki which has a capacity of 1,350 passengers.  It’s a massive operation.  I get onboard, park the car, and settle in for the three-and-a-half hour trip.

After arriving at Picton on the northern point of South Island I begin my journey to my destination for today — Kaikoura.  In 2016 Kaikoura suffered a massive 7.8 earthquake that did a phenomenal amount of damage and there is still lots of roadwork going on to repair that damage, three years later.  (For some reason, the US uses the singular — roadwork — but New Zealand uses the plural — roadworks, even if it’s only one project.  So I guess it would be more accurate to say there are lots of roadworks going on.)

In many places the road is one lane of gravel road which northbound and southbound traffic alternate using.  Kaikoura is on a whale migration route and I’d hoped to go out on a whale-watching boat, but when I arrive in Kaikoura and call I’m told the last boat has already gone.  The roadworks delayed me too much to go whale-watching.

So instead I go for a hike along a trail that goes around the Kaikoura peninsula.  And here there are more word differences.  In New Zealand it isn’t a “hike” it’s a “trek”.  And it isn’t a “trail” it’s a “track”.  So instead of a hike along a trail, I went on a trek around a track.  You can also say that you went “tramping”.  It’s a 12 kilometer (7.5 mile) track so it takes several hours to trek. The weather is overcast and there are occasional showers so it isn’t ideal trekking weather, but the views are wonderful and there are lots of informational signs along the track to explain the history of the area, the animals, both aquatic and land, that inhabit the peninsula, and the common plants.

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I’m staying at an historic hotel, built in 1885, and still retains its character from that era.  I return in time for dinner then call it a day.

15 October 2019Kaikoura to Arthur's Pass

Today I’m traveling into the Southern Alps — the incredible mountains of South Island that are permanently snow-capped.  It’s a fairly long drive on twisty mountain roads.  The weather is (again, or rather still) overcast and rainy.  After checking into my motel, I go to the DOC (Department of Conservation) Visitor Center.  My original plan was to hike the Bealy Spur Trail.  Pardon me.  My original plan was to go tramping on the Bealy Spur track.  They say that this track has wonderful views in good weather.  It’s also a 4-5 hour round trip trek.

The weather is not fine and 4 to 5 hours would bring me really close to darkness.  I don’t want to be on a track I’m not familiar with after dark.  The DOC employee goes outside, looks at the cloud cover, comes back in and recommends the Temple Basin Track.  He could see some blue sky in that direction so he thought that would be the best bet.

He gives me directions and I head off the the Temple Basin trailhead.  On the way up the mountain there’s a waterfall.  I assume it’s being fed by snowmelt and the recent rain._35A0504The trail, pardon me, the track has been clearly laid out and is covered with rock.  When I get to the top there’s a hut._35A0515There’s snow on the ground and it’s cold.  During the winter months Temple Basin is used for skiing and the hut is a ski lodge.  This is the basin itself._35A0516The surrounding mountains are impressive and beautiful, and I enjoy the view from the top of Temple Basin.

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I hike back down the mountain, find dinner in town and return to the motel.  Tomorrow morning I leave for the little mountain town of Franz Josef.

16 October 2019Arthur's Pass to Franz Josef

Part way between Arthur’s Pass (where I was last night) and Franz Josef (where I’ll be tonight) is the little town of Ross.  A friend who’d been here years ago told me about a man she met here who works in New Zealand jade, something he’s been doing for a number of years.  I stopped by his home and we had an interesting conversation.  He said that there are lots of creations made out of resin that are sold as New Zealand jade (also known as greenstone or pounamu).

He talked about the process of carving and polishing the jade and showed me many examples of his work, many of which were amazingly intricate carvings (and priced way out of my price range).  I bought a few smaller pieces as gifts and got on my way.

Franz Josef is a small, but growing town.  At the 2013 census the population was 444, which was an increase of 15 from the population in 2006, almost a 4% increase in only 7 years.  Its claim to fame (and the primary reason I’m here) is it’s home to the Franz Josef Glacier, which was named after the emperor of Austria, Franz Josef I, by a German geologist who was exploring New Zealand in 1865.

The hike to a viewing point where the glacier can be seen follows the same path the glacier followed in years past.  Like every other glacier on the planet, the Franz Josef is shrinking.  This is where the glacier ended in 1908._35A0545In hiking up to this point I’m once again, fascinated by how a tree can grow in a seemingly impossible location.  This time on top of a large rock._35A0542

Moraines, the piles of rubble left by the retreating glacier, create small hills we have to climb.  _35A0552The hike isn’t all rubble.  The melting glacier waters plants and creates waterfalls.  _35A0547_35A0550Authorities keep the tourists away from the glacier, only allowing you up to a viewing point, some distance away from the face of the glacier._35A0555_35A0561You can get a perception of the size of the moraines by comparing them to the size of the people in the picture._35A0563A small corner of the glacier is visible in the valley above the moraines.

I hike back to town, get dinner and call it a night.

17 October 2019Franz Josef to Wanaka

Today I travel from Franz Josef to Wanaka.  I leave early because I have a goal of getting to Lake Matheson, just about a half-hour outside Franz Josef.  The lake is noted for offering a near-perfect reflection of Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak at 3,724 meters (12,218 feet) and I’m told it’s best seen close to dawn when the water of the lake is still.

Unfortunately it’s another overcast day.  Looking toward Mount Cook as I’m driving, the entire mountain range is obscured by cloud cover.  I decide to try anyway and turn off the main road to go to the lake.

As I hike around the lake I feel that even if I don’t get a view of Mount Cook, I’m being rewarded with the beauty of the area.

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There’s a boardwalk out to a projection into the lake called Reflection Island and I walk out there to see Mount Cook still obscured by clouds.  I decide to wait to see if they might clear.  I’m not going to get another chance to take this picture.  As I wait other people come and go.  Eventually the clouds do clear partially, and I take some pictures._35A0599Mount Cook is still obscured and with the overcast blocking the sun it isn’t what I’d hoped for, but it gives you an idea.

Instead of hiking back the way I came I continue to hike around the lake.  It’s a beautiful rain forest environment and I very much enjoy being in it._35A0600_35A0601From the very end of the lake there’s another view toward Mount Cook._35A0609This is just a fallen log, covered with moss, but it looked to my eye so much like a seal that I had to take a picture._35A0614I stop at a cafe by the lake for breakfast before resuming my journey to Wanaka.

En route I stop at a point where the Blue River joins the Makarora River.  A short hike from the highway takes me to the Blue Pools.  The intense blue of the pools is due to the light refraction in the clear, cold water.

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They really are that intense blue.  Even in the pictures you can clearly see under the water.

The road I’m on passes between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, first following the Lake Wanaka shoreline then crossing a narrow isthmus to follow Lake Hawea’s shoreline.  This is Lake Hawea, first looking south, then north.  Both lakes are huge._35A0641_35A0642When I got into the town of Wanaka, I checked into my room, oriented myself to the town then went down to Lake Wanaka to see what’s probably New Zealand’s most photographed tree — a willow tree growing out of the lake.

The story behind the tree is that 70 or 80 years ago a sheep rancher cut a limb off a willow tree to use as a fence post, stuck it into the ground and strung fence wire on it.  Apparently the lake wasn’t quite as high as it is now but the ground was wet enough that the fence post put out roots and grew._35A0645So now the tree lives in isolation in the lake.  It’s easily accessible, close to town and attracts hordes of people taking its picture.  Unfortunately it was another overcast day when I was there but I have a few days here so if the clouds clear and I’m in town I’ll try to get a better picture.

18 October 2019

The next day my goal is to hike to the top of Roy’s Peak in Mount Aspiring National Park, a World Heritage Site just outside the town of Wanaka.  When I got to the trailhead, however, I found it fenced off with a sign saying that, because the trail crosses private land the trail is closed during October for Spring lambing.

So I returned to town, went to the National Park visitor center, and talked to staff there about an alternate hike.  Apparently there are lots of trails that are closed now due to Spring lambing.  I settled on the Fern Burn trek, a 7km trail to the Fern Burn Hut.  It’s part of the much longer (34km) Motatapu Track.

I learned that here a “burn” is another word for a stream.  So the Fern Burn trek doesn’t go though an area that had been devastated by fire, but follows a stream — the Fern._35A0648It starts out crossing ranch land before entering the Stack Conservation Area climbing into a beech forest.  I was grateful for the covering of the trees which provided some protection from the rain that had started falling.

Before getting there, however, I noticed the evidence that the area, since the 1860’s, had been mined for gold.  High pressure water had been directed at the river banks and hills sending tons of dirt and gravel into the river.  Sluice boxes would collect all the debris letting the dirt and gravel wash through allowing the heavier gold to sink to the bottom of the sluice.  The hillsides still show the scars._35A0650Once out of the mostly flat ranch land the trail climbed.  It was a well-marked, but very narrow trail along the steep side of the mountain through the forest following the stream, sometimes high above it, sometimes at stream level.

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I was cold, tired and pretty well soaked from the rain by the time I made it back out to the trailhead.  A hot shower was the first order of business when I got back to my room, then dry clothes and dinner.

As I’m leaving the restaurant, paying for my meal, I hear my name being called.  I look and it’s the German couple I met in Hahei and ran into again in Rotorua.  I sit with them at their table and we talk for a while.  It seems amazing that we keep bumping into each other.  This is now the third time.

19 October 2019Wanaka to Te Anau

Today I leave Wanaka for Te Anau.  Before I leave I stop by the Wanaka Tree.  It isn’t raining and the clouds are parting.  I get a picture with some of the snow covered mountain range visible behind the tree._35A0680The southern Alps are just about ubiquitous in the South Island and make almost ever scene dramatic.

After breakfast I leave Wanaka.  My route takes me through the little town of Cardrona.  Cardrona was established in the 1860’s as a gold rush town and the hotel dates from that era.  I stop to take some pictures.

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I’m following the Crown Range Road, which (appropriately enough) takes me over the Crown Range.  At the Crown Range summit pass I stop to take pictures.  The pass is at an elevation of 1076 meters (3,530 feet) and is the highest sealed road in New Zealand.  The first Europeans to cross this pass did so in 1860, searching for sheep pasture.  The first tourists to go over the pass came in horse-drawn coaches in 1877 but the road wasn’t finally sealed until 2000 and now it’s a major tourist route._35A0690_35A0692And yes, that’s snow on the ground in the pass.

I continue south and the road follows the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu.

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We will return to Lake Wakatipu later but, for now, we’re continuing south.  Approaching Te Anau the landscape changes from the normal lush green to what they call “tussock”.  The tussock is a bunchgrass that grows slowly and can be quite old.  Some are believed to be hundreds of years old.  It’s a very different landscape._35A0700_35A0702I really like the mixture of colors where the tussock is mixed in with pasture._35A0709And, of course there’s still the ubiquitous pastureland with flocks of sheep._35A0711I arrive in the town of Te Anau, check into my room, and go for a walk along the shore of Lake Te Anau.  Māori tradition is that Lake Te Anau is one of the lakes created by their ancestor Rākaihautū.

Rākaihautū sailed his canoe from Hawaiki (the original home island of the Māori) to Aotearoa (New Zealand).  En route, the ocean and the heavens met, blocking their path, until Rākaihautū chanted a karakia (a Māori incantation or prayer) and carved an opening for the canoe with his adze.

As he explored the mountains, he used his ko (a digging stick) to create lakes in the region, including Lake Te Anau._35A0713_35A0716I continue along the trail to a bird sanctuary, then return to town for dinner and bed.

20 October 2019

Te Anau to Milford Sound

This morning I travel to Milford Sound then return to Te Anau for the night.

The road from Te Anau to Milford Sound is noted for bad weather in the winter with chains required, and is also subject to being closed.  Tourists traveling that road are advised to check before leaving Te Anau to confirm the status of the road.

Milford Sound is billed as one of the wettest places on earth with an average annual rainfall of 6,700mm (264 inches) and they say that 250mm (almost 10 inches) in a single day are common.  That means that Milford Sound gets about as much rain in a single day as my hometown in Southern California gets in an entire year.

And today it’s overcast and raining.  I check and the road is open, though it’s scheduled to close at 5:00PM.  I should be done with the cruise I’ve scheduled by then so, if everything goes as planned, I’ll be able to return to Te Anau.

I make some stops at scenic areas along the way.  They’d be more scenic if it were sunny but that isn’t something I can control.  One of the first places I stop is at Mirror Lakes, some small lakes that reflect the surrounding mountains.

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Continuing along the road there are encouraging signs._35A0758

Avalanche danger is the reason they close the roads.  They monitor the mountains and when they deem the level of danger to be unacceptably high they order the road closed.  Still, driving by multiple signs like this is definitely an attention getter.

To get to Milford Sound requires passing through the Homer Tunnel.  This tunnel is 1.2km (3/4 of a mile) long and one lane wide through solid rock in the Darren Mountain Range.  There are traffic lights at either end to ensure the direction of traffic in the tunnel alternates, only allowing traffic to travel in one direction at a time.

Work on the tunnel started in 1935 by a group of men wielding pickaxes in extremely cold and windy weather.  They broke through to the other side in 5 years, but it took longer to widen the tunnel enough so vehicles could pass through.  It was finally finished in 1954, having been delayed first by World War II, then by a large avalanche in 1945.  Prior to its completion there was no road access to Milford Sound.

I park (an expensive thing to do — parking is metered and costs $10NZD per hour) and walk to the terminal from which tour boats leave.  Boats are going out into the Sound in spite of the low clouds and constant rain.

On the positive side, the rain does increase the number of waterfalls coming off the near-vertical walls.  On the negative side it reduces visibility significantly.

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One phenomenon I’ve never seen before is what they call a disappearing waterfall._35A0784The large waterfall on the left simply stops toward the bottom of the picture.  Looking closely at what looks like steam, or maybe smoke rising along a horizontal line to the right of that waterfall you can see the vertical lines of numerous small waterfalls, all of which stop in the middle of the mountain.

What’s happening is that the wind is blowing so hard it’s blowing all the water falling down the mountain back into the air so there’s none to continue down the face of the mountain.  What looks like steam rising is the water from the falls that the wind is blowing back up the mountain.

Here’s a closeup._35A0790The waterfall simply looks as if it’s disappearing.

Rudyard Kipling dubbed Milford Sound as the eighth wonder of the world.  Even obscured by clouds and rain, it’s a beautiful place; well-deserving of its World Heritage Site designation.

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My boat returns me to the dock and I return to my car and leave Milford Sound.  Thankfully the road is open all the way back to Te Anau.

21 October 2019Te Anau to Queenstown

I’ve traveled as far south as I’ll get on this trip.  I came south down the west coast of South Island.  Now I’ll start heading north more to the east.  Before starting that journey, however, I have one more thing I’d like to see in Te Anau — a glowworm cave.  They aren’t technically worms, but they do glow.

There are caves in New Zealand where the ceiling of the cave has numerous insect larvae that are phosphorescent.  Although they’re called glowworms they aren’t actually worms, but insect larvae.  You can get a tour that will take you back into one of those caves, turn out all the lights, and you see the ceiling of the cave looking like a starry night sky, covered with these larvae.

I sign up for one of these tours which starts with a boat ride to the other side of Lake Te Anau where the cave is located.  It was a beautiful, sunny day to be out on the lake._35A0872

The Te Anau glowworm cave is about 250 meters (about 820 ft.) long and is just a small part of the much larger 6.7 Km (or about 4 mile) long Aurora Cave system that was carved in limestone by the Tunnel Burn. It begins at Lake Orbell in the Murchison Mountains, ending here at Lake Te Anau. The Aurora cave system is estimated to be 30 – 35 million years old. The Te Anau Glowworm section is estimated to be “only” about 12,000 years old.

The entrance to the cave is through a very narrow path with moss-covered rock on both sides.

You walk back into the cave, following the Tunnel Burn, to the point where you get into boats that take you further back into the cave on the burn (stream). I wanted pictures of the glowworms, but all lights are extinguished so you can see the glowworms and trying to get a picture of a very dim light source in an otherwise dark cave on a rocking boat proved to be impossible.

Even pictures of the burn as we walked to the area where we could board the boats was difficult.

Tunnel Burn

The best I could do was a picture of their “fishing lines”. The glowworms spit out silk and mucus to form “fishing lines”, 20-100mm (3/4 to 4 inches) in length. The mucus that covers these lines is very sticky and will trap any insect that makes contact with the line and, like the spider, the glowworm will sense the vibrations of the trapped insect, move to it, and eat it. The glowworm glows because insects are attracted to its light and the hungrier it is, the brighter it glows.

Glowworm Fish Lines

When we drove from Wanaka to Te Anau we were driving on the Queen’s Range Road through the Devil’s Staircase and the Remarkables mountain range, driving right past Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. Now we return to Queenstown which is right on Lake Wakatipu.

There’s an interesting Māori legend that explains the existence of Lake Wkatipu. The lake is kind of an “Z” shape, or a zigzag. You can see the shape of the lake in the map at the beginning of today’s blog. It’s New Zealand’s longest lake at approximately 75km (about 47 miles) long.

Manata was the beautiful daughter of the local Chief and she loved Matakauri but her father, the Chief, forbade the relationship. A fearsome giant named Matau lived in the mountains and he kidnapped Manata, taking her to his lair in the mountains. The distraught Chief promised Manata’s hand in marriage to the member of the tribe who rescued Manata from the giant.

He knew that a warm northwest wind would put Matau to sleep so he followed the wind and under cover of darkness Matakauri snuck into Matau’s lair and rescued Mantana. This was not as easy as it sounds because he was unable to cut the cords that bound her. Fortunately, however, the love in the tears he shed as he sobbed over his plight dissolved the cords and the two escaped.

The Chief was true to his word and Matakauri and Mantana were married. Matakauri, however, wanted to ensure that Matau never again would threaten Mantana or his tribe so one night when there was another northwest wind to put the giant to sleep, he snuck back into Matau’s lair. Sure enough, he found the giant asleep on the ground, sleeping on his side with his knees drawn up on his bed of bracken (dried fern fronds).

Matakuri set fire to Matau’s bed and because he was so big, with so much fat the fire burned so hot that it burned a big gorge in the earth and melted the snow on the mountains which filled the gorge, creating Lake Wakatipu (which, translated, means “hollow of the giant”).

Matau was sleeping on his left side so the town of Glenorchy is at his head, Queenstown his knees and Kingston at his feet. The waters of Lake Wakatipu still rise and fall approximately 5 inches (13 cm) every few minutes because of Matau’s still beating heart, which could not be destroyed.

I stop to take a few pictures of Lake Wakatipu on my way to Queenstown.

They aren’t big but in more or less the middle of the following picture there are islands in the middle of Lake Wakatipu. In the front is the small Pig Island. Behind it is the larger Pigeon Island. And off to the left is the tiny Tree Island.

Lake Wakatipu

I follow Lake Wakatipu around to Queenstown, check into my B&B and decide to take the Skyline Gondolas up a mountain for bird’s eye views of Queenstown. This first picture looks out over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu with the Remarkables mountain range in the background. From this spot you’re about 456 meters (1,500 ft.) above Queenstown.


For the truly ambitious, there’s a trail that zigzags up the mountain, so you don’t have to take the gondola if you want the exercise. I didn’t have to do a lot of thinking to choose the gondola. For those who want a more adrenaline fueled experience, than just looking at the view, there’s a bungee jump experience. If you follow the white cord to the bottom of the photo you’ll see a person at the end of the bungee.

Bungee Jumping

Inside the building at the top is a cafe, shops where you can buy tourist trinkets, and a collection of some unusual art works. This one is called “Frodo. The Lord of the Beans”. It is, of course, a depiction of Frodo from The Lord of the Rings, but it’s made with more than 20,000 jelly beans. How does it even occur to somebody to do that?


Tonight I have reservations for a steamship cruise on Lake Wakatipu with dinner at the Walter Peak High Country Farm, a sheep station that caters to tourists who are brought across Lake Wakatipu regularly for meals and sheep shearing demonstrations. The TSS Ernslaw is a coal-fired steamship, built in 1911 and originally launched in 1912.

Steamship Earnslaw

She carries 14 tons of coal and a below-decks crew keeps the two boilers stoked while underway to provide steam power. Coal is hand shoveled into the four fire doors at the rate of 1 ton per hour at full speed (13 knots). There’s an open well to allow passengers to watch the process as the boilers produce the steam to drive the two engines that turn the ship’s twin screws with explanatory signs for those of us who are not conversant with the operation of steam engines.

Originally intended to serve isolated sheep stations around Lake Wakatipu the Ernslaw carried both cargo and up to 1,035 passengers. All engine room equipment is still as originally installed in 1911. It is one of the world’s last coal-fired passenger steamers still in operation.

This is the Walter Peak High Country Farm. The tourist version of a sheep station.

Walter Peak High Country Farm

After docking we walked to the restaurant and ate a very good meal. They have a good system to manage a sudden, large influx of tourists, all starting dinner at the same time. Then we went out to watch a demonstration of shearing a sheep.

Sheep Shearing

And then a demonstration of one of the sheep dogs herding sheep. Great to watch, but it was too dark for good pictures. After steaming back to Queenstown, we disembarked, and I returned to my B&B for the night.

22 October 2019

Queenstown to Glenorchy and Arrowtown

The plan for today is, first, to drive from Queenstown up to Glenorchy. Glenorchy has been used as a location for filming both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. It’s a small community on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, northwest of Queenstown between Fiordland National Park to the west and Mt. Aspiring to the northeast. Unfortunately, the day is overcast and threatening rain.

The road I took from Queenstown to Glenorchy didn’t exist prior to 1962. Prior to that the only way to get to Glenorchy was on the lake by steamer. The steamers (like the Ernslaw) were owned by the New Zealand Railways Department so Glenorchy was officially a railway station. Boats usually arrived in Glenorchy, which was primarily a farming community, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays bringing tourists and supplies connected with farming.

Steamers would dock at the Glenorchy wharf.

Glenorchy Wharf

Freight was moved off the steamer and into a storage shed on a trolley which ran on rails from the end of the wharf to the shed, making it the shortest piece of railway in New Zealand.


I went for a walk along the Glenorchy Walkway that wound along the Rees River that feeds Lake Wakatipu and the Glenorchy Lagoon. With some sun the area would have made for beautiful pictures, but the cloud cover that had been threatening rain fulfilled their promise and I got rained on for much of the walk.

I returned to my car, turned on the heater, and drove to Arrowtown, a former gold mining town northeast of Queenstown that has preserved its character. The original buildings, many of which date to the late 1800’s have been repurposed to cater to all the tourists who pour into the town.

From Arrowtown I return to Queenstown. I had noticed yesterday that at the base of the gondola was the Kiwi Birdlife Park, a wildlife sanctuary. Unfortunately, I’m there close to closing time and am not able to see much of the sanctuary. I do get to the kiwi habitat, but no photography is allowed. Kiwis are nocturnal birds so their habitat is a large, glass-enclosed habitat, inside a building that is kept dark during the day so human visitors (who are not nocturnal) can see the kiwis foraging.

I watch a male New Zealand falcon, or a karearea. This one had been shot in the wing and he did not heal well enough to be released into the wild, so the sanctuary is his home now. They said that the females are much larger and stronger than the males and if they put a female in his enclosure she would probably kill him so he lives alone. Wild falcons in the area do come to visit, however, from outside his enclosure.


The kea is the only alpine parrot in the world and spends most of its time high in New Zealand’s mountains. They have very strong beaks which they use to drill into wood in search of grubs and they use their feet to pick up and hold objects. They’re very curious and investigate anything in their territory that seems to be unusual. They’ve been known to shred rubber door seals on cars, steal campers’ food and utensils, and undo tent seams. In the early to mid 1900’s they were believed to be sheep killers and people were paid to hunt them but today they are protected.


In the sanctuary, staff put a variety of novel objects in their enclosures for the birds to explore to keep them entertained and active.

The sanctuary is closing so I reluctantly leave, having seen too little of what’s there, find dinner and return to my B&B.

23 October 2019

Today looks as if it could be good weather. After breakfast I drive back up north through Glenorchy and continue north. I want to hike a piece of the Routeburn Track. I do not have the time (nor am I prepared) to travel the entire track which would be a multi-day hike. In addition a DOC (Department of Conservation) brochure advises, “You are strongly recommended NOT to attempt this track between early May and late October (outside the Great Walks season). The winter environment in Fiordland and Mt. Aspiring National Park is very cold and wet, with ice, snow, avalanches and short daylight hours.” While it is late October it’s on the edge of Great Walks Season and I will stay out of the high elevations that would present snow, ice and avalanche conditions. I can do a day-hike at lower elevations and sample a part of it… I think.

Near the beginning of the track is a typical New Zealand scene, a large pasture with sheep grazing and snow-covered mountains in the background. Because it’s Spring there are Spring lambs in the field. It’s a beautiful day for a tramp.

The track begins near where the Route Burn flows into the Dart River and mostly parallels the burn. You can see a little of the burn here.

The track starts out as a wide, easy-to-follow gravel path through lush forest.

Cross the Sugarloaf Stream.

With wider views when you come out from underneath the forest canopy.

It’s still a well-marked, easy-to-follow track sometimes dropping close to the Route Burn and sometimes out of sight of the burn in lush forest.

When I started out the snow looked pretty far away. Now it seems to be pretty close.

The track levels out as I approach the Routeburn Flats Hut. Snow isn’t down to this level but it doesn’t seem very far away. I’m now in Mount Aspiring National Park and at about 700 meters of elevation (2,300 feet). We started at about 490 meters ((1,600 feet) of elevation.

The New Zealand DOC provides huts that can be reserved by people doing multi-day hikes. I’m actually a little surprised this hut is here. It’s only about 7 kilometers (a little over 4 miles) from the start of the track. Not as far as a normal full-day hike for somebody going only one direction. However I’m going in and back out on the same day, so this is as far as I’m going.

I again enjoy the views on the way back down. I paused a while to watch a family of ducks.

It’s still daylight when I get back to the car and drive back to Queenstown. Tonight will be my last night here. Tomorrow I drive to Mount Cook Village.

24 October 2019

Queenstown to Mount Cook Village

I left Queestown to head for Mt. Cook Village. It isn’t a long drive and I stop frequently to see and learn what I can along the way. My first stop was at the Roaring Meg, a stream that drives a couple of small power stations. The area I’m passing through wasn’t connected to the national power grid until 1957 (amazingly late it seems to me). Prior to connecting they got their electricity from small generating stations which were developed in cooperation with gold mining, dredging or irrigation companies. I’ve stopped at one that’s paired with another on the Roaring Meg. A ten-meter (33 foot) dam farther upstream feeds piped water to the two generating stations which, together, produce 4,000 kilowatts of electricity.

One of the stories about how the Roaring Meg (a turbulent stream when it’s in flood) got its name is that an early party of diggers were accompanying two ladies from a dancing saloon when they came to the river and (being the gentlemen they were) they carried the ladies across. One of the ladies made a big fuss and so much noise that the diggers named the stream after her — the Roaring Meg. The other lady was calm and silent so the diggers named the next stream they came to (a smaller and quieter stream) the Gentle Annie.

I stopped again at Lindis Pass at 971 meters (3,186 feet) of elevation. It’s the second highest point in the New Zealand State Highway network. Summers here are hot and dry with lots of snow and ice in the winter. There’s a short path to a high point for a view of the pass so I climb it and take a couple of pictures.

I continue until I reach Lake Pukaki. The brilliant color of the lake is arresting and I stop to take a few pictures. The color of the lake is because it’s fed by a glacier. Finely ground rock, known as glacial flour, is suspended in the water giving it this color. It would look more brilliant if there were sun but even with overcast skies, it’s impressive.

Lake Pukaki

Pukaki is the largest of three glacial lakes in the area, the other two being Lake Ohau and Lake Tekapo. All three lakes were created when receding glaciers left a moraine that blocked the valley trapping the glacial melt and creating the lake.

Lake Pukaki

The road that will take me to Mt. Cook Village where I’ll spend the night parallels Lake Pukaki but instead of taking it I continue to Lake Tekapo. My plan for tomorrow is to take a flight over the area. There are tourist flights that take passengers sightseeing by air around the local mountain ranges, lakes, glaciers and national parks and the flight I’m taking takes off from the Lake Tekapo airport. I go to familiarize myself with where I’ll be going in the morning and confirm my flight, after which I return and follow the road that parallels the lake to Mt. Cook Village, stopping once to take another picture.

Lake Pukaki

I find my hotel and check in. I have a full kitchen and groceries I purchased in Queenstown before leaving so I’ll be doing my own cooking while I’m here. I settle in and fix myself dinner.

25 October 2019

After breakfast I head back to the Lake Tekapo airport and check in. After checking in and being weighed (they assign seats on the plane so that the weight of the passengers is evenly balanced on the plane) they ask me if I would be willing to ride in the co-pilot’s seat. It takes me less than a full second to take them up on that offer. Yes, thank you, I’d love to. They lead us out to the plane and help us in.

I think they saw my camera gear and figured I’d appreciate having a front window out of which I could take pictures in addition to the side window everybody has. The plane is a GAF Nomad, an Australian-made plane. Here’s my view inside the plane.

After everybody is buckled in we take off. It will be approximately a 50 minute flight, flying north, first over Lake Alexandrina, Lake Tekapo and the Mackenzie Basin to Mt. Cook National Park. The Māori name for Mt. Cook is Aoraki and officially it’s known as Aoraki Mount Cook, incorporating both names. The mountain for which the national park is named is the highest mountain in New Zealand at 3754 meters (12,316 feet). Next to Aoraki Mount Cook is Mount Tasman, New Zealand’s second highest peak at 3497 meters (11,475 feet). The flight then goes over glaciers (one of which we’ve seen from land when we were driving south along the west coast) — the Fox, Franz Josef, Tasman and Murchison Glaciers. Then we fly back south, over Lake Tekapo and back to the airport.

I drive back to Mt. Cook Village from the airport and still have some of the afternoon free. I decide to take a short hike and head for the Hooker Valley track. It’s a 5.5 kilometer (about 3.5 mile) trek up the Hooker Valley, skirting Lake Mueller, across 3 swinging bridges to Hooker Lake. Although it does climb the valley there’s very little elevation gain (124 meters, about 400 ft.) so it isn’t strenuous but the views are wonderful.

Early in the trek, just off the track is a sobering memorial to those who have lost their lives hiking Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park; a reminder that there is always the potential for disaster. The sides of the memorial are covered with plaques

I return to the track and continue, stopping to admire the view of Lake Mueller from the first of the swinging bridges.

I enjoy the views along the hike and when I get to Hooker Lake I discover small icebergs floating in it. I wander around the lake for a while before returning to Mt. Cook Village to fix dinner and call it a day.

26 October 2019

I have a hike planned for today. I had thought about hiking to the Mueller Hut, but the advice of the DOC is that there is a risk of avalanches and the route requires an ice axe, crampons, and experience hiking in icy conditions. I posses none of the above and decide to cut the hike short. I’ll take the same track but stop at Sealy Tarns only part way to the Mueller Hut and at a low enough elevation that I won’t need to navigate across ice.

A “tarn” is a small mountain lake in a hollow formed by a glacier and surrounded by steep slopes. The track up to the tarns is pretty much straight up the side of the mountain. The route is steep and a lot of it is over loose scree. To make it less dangerous over 2,200 steps have been built into the side of the mountain which is why this track is known as New Zealand’s “Stairway to Heaven”.

It’s about a 5.8 Km (3.5 mile) hike with a 600 meter (just short of 2,000 feet) elevation gain. So it isn’t a long hike, but the elevation gain makes it strenuous (at least it did for this old man). It’s a beautiful day to be out in nature, though if you look at the mountain peaks you can see the wind blowing strongly enough that it’s blowing clouds of snow off the peaks.

A closeup.

The track starts out with an attention-getting sign. Initially it’s an easy path through tall vegetation. Then you come to the beginning of the stairs.

The Hooker Valley Track we were on yesterday goes along one side of Lake Mueller. The Sealy Tarns Track goes along the other side of the lake so I have a different view of the lake today.

Lake Mueller

Because the Sealy Tarns Track climbs as much as it does eventually I can see not only Lake Mueller but past it to Hooker Lake.

Lake Mueller (below) and Hooker Lake (above)

And this is the view in the other direction down the valley with Mt. Cook Village on the right.

Hooker Valley and Mount Cook Village

When I reached Sealy Tarn there was a solitary duck swimming in the tarn to welcome me.

Sealy Tarn

As you can see, even at this lower elevation there were patches of snow. If I’d continued to the Mueller Hut I would have encountered lots more snow and ice. I’m not prepared for that and after a rest I start back down.

Tonight is a big night for New Zealand. The New Zealand National Rugby Team is playing England in the Rugby World Cup. New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks, haven’t lost a World Cup match since 2007 and I’m planning to watch from a pub in Mt. Cook Village.

The pub is wall to wall people and the atmosphere (as you can imagine) is raucous. There are even a few in the crowd (who I suspect are British tourists) waving English flags and cheering for England. They are a distinct minority. Much to my surprise the final score is England 19, New Zealand 7. And New Zealand has lost its first World Cup match since 2007.

27 October 2019

Mount Cook Village to Timaru

Today I leave Mt. Cook Village and head for Timaru on the eastern coast. A couple of weeks ago I visited the brother of a Canadian friend in Napier on the North Island. Today I’m going to visit with his sister and brother-in-law (Sharon and Graham) in Timaru on the South Island. As I’m traveling there I travel though some pastureland (of which there is lots in New Zealand) and go by a field of brilliant yellow flowers. I have no idea of what they are but I stop to take some pictures.

It definitely stands out against the green pastures.

Nearby is a pasture with a herd of deer that are being raised to provide venison for local tables.

In keeping with my interest in history, I’m staying at the Grosvenor Hotel (pronounced “Grove-na”) which dates to 1875.

It proves to not just have a history, but to also have a quirky sense of humor with wall paintings scattered about the hotel.

Cleaning Up, By the front entrance
Hotel Hanky Panky, By the stairs off the lobby
Winston Churchill With a Mohawk, At the end of a hallway

I contact my Canadian friend’s sister Sharon and brother-in-law Graham and we meet up. Graham takes me on a brief tour of the port city of Timaru.

Included in the tour is a visit to the Timaru Boys High School where Graham teaches. The school was founded in 1880 and has a student population of about 650. It’s a beautiful campus and I’m suitably impressed with one of its alumnae, to whom a monument has been erected.

John Edward (Jack) Lovelock attended the school 1924-1928. He not only excelled academically, becoming a Rhodes Scholar in 1931, but athletically, setting a world record for the mile run of 4 minutes, 7.6 seconds in 1933, and at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 he won a gold medal in the 1500 meter race with a time of 3 minutes, 47.8 seconds, which set a world record.

There is clearly a sense of history and tradition. The Latin phrase on the coat of arms, “Scientia Potestas Est” translates as, “knowledge is power”.

Graham and I return home and join Sharon, have dinner and get acquainted. They ask about my plans and desires for touring the area tomorrow and tell me I’ve already seen the major sights they would normally take me to see. I put myself in their hands, since they know the area and I do not and I’m sure there’s more of interest that I know nothing about.

28 October 2019

Timaru to Peel Forest

We meet in the morning and begin our journey to the Peel Forest, stopping on the way for breakfast at a wonderful little restaurant they know about but I would never have found on my own then continue to the Peel Forest.

We turn up a residential street and stop in front of a home. It turns out this is a home that was built by their family back in the woods and has been in the family for years. We look at the home and spend some time with the neighbors, talking. I very much enjoy the opportunity to meet and spend time with people outside the realm of those who work in the tourist industry; an opportunity I would never have had if I’d been on my own.

We say goodbye to the neighbors and drive back to the main road, stopping at the trailhead for the Dennistoun Walk. The area around the Peel Forest was heavily logged in the 19th century. A large portion of the forest, however, was purchased by a visiting Englishman who later gifted the land to the people of New Zealand so this area has much more old growth and native plants and trees than most other places and that native botany is what we’re here to experience.

I would love to know the names of these massive old trees. Unfortunately I’m no botanist and without signs to educate me I have no idea.

There was some logging activity here and we come upon the stump of a massive tree that was logged and an old saw mill pit.

We’ve come out of the forest at a different location from where we entered and Graham goes to retrieve the car, returning to pick up Sharon and me. On our way back home we go through the town of Geraldine and I spot the Geraldine Vintage Car and Machinery Museum. That looks interesting to me so we stop and visit.

For being what I assume is off the beaten path it’s surprisingly large (at least surprising to me….) full of well-restored cars, trucks and farm equipment. There are even a couple of small planes. This being New Zealand, they’re right-hand drive vehicles imported from the U.S., Canada, France, Italy, England…. and marques including Willys, Buick, Ford, De Dion Bouton, Bianchi, MG, Hupmobile, Essex, Hillman, Morris….

Here’s a sampling:

We leave the museum and return to Graham and Sharon’s home where eat and visit. I’m very grateful to them for their warm-hearted, open-armed hospitality. Tomorrow will be an all-day drive back up to the North Island. I’m ending my time here and beginning the return to Auckland for my flight home.

29 October 2019

Timaru to Wellington

I have a reservation for the last ferry of the day from Picton to Wellington. It’s a long drive and I’ll have the uncertainty of traversing the construction zone repairing the earthquake damage on Highway 1. Since it’s just one lane through that area and they alternate northbound and southbound traffic there’s no way to know just how long it will take. I aim to leave early to allow myself some latitude.

I eat breakfast at the hotel and get an early start, driving straight through to Picton. I arrive with enough leeway that I have time to orient myself to the layout in Picton to get to the ferry and stop for something to eat.

I’m staying the night at the same B&B I stayed at on my way down. Since I’m arriving late I call to confirm that I made the ferry and should arrive around 10:00 pm. Everything goes smoothly, I find my way through Wellington back to the B&B and call it a night.

30 October 2019

Wellington to Taupo

Today I drive to Taupo. It isn’t as long a drive as yesterday’s, but I have one stop to make along the way. Just outside Taupo is a racetrack my Canadian friend Mac told me about. They have what they call Formula Challenge that provides the opportunity for people to drive a race car around a racetrack. I have my choice between a Formula-style single-seater, open-wheeled race car, and a Ford or Holden V-8 race car.

They provide a little instruction, helmet, gloves, suit and an orientation lap around the track before sending you out on your own. I’ve chosen to drive the single-seater and have a reservation for today.

The single-seater is a custom built car, powered by a Suzuki GSXR 1100 engine (a motorcycle engine) and weighs only 380 Kg (838 Lbs). Top speed is limited to 230 KPH (143 MPH) which should be more than a neophyte like me will get to; especially on a twisty racetrack. It does, however have wide slicks and wings so its grip around corners allows far more speed in a turn than a car built for the street.

Getting there proves to be interesting because the GPS gives me two options in different locations for the data I’ve input. I pick one that looks the most likely and, when I get there at just the time of my appointment it turns out I picked the right one. Whew! It was a lot of fun and definitely an adrenaline rush.

It was also challenging and I can identify ways I could improve. Staff insist I did really well, though. They say they think the fact that I ride a motorcycle helped me but I suspect they tell everybody they did well. Who’s going to tell a paying customer, who did the best they could, that they did poorly? (Even if they did.)

I drive into Taupo (at a more sedate pace) and check into my room. I have some time and walk around downtown Taupo, spending some time in an art gallery. I love the paintings which are landscapes of many of the places I’ve been to here in New Zealand. The artist is there and we get to talking. It’s getting close to his closing time and he wants to continue the conversation so I tell him where I’m staying.

A short while after I get back to my room, he comes over with a bottle of wine which we share and visit. I have found New Zealanders to be a very friendly and gracious people. When he leaves he gives me a ride to the restaurant I’m going to for dinner. I eat, walk back to my room and call it a night.

31 October 2019

Taupo to Auckland

My last day here. As I drive from Taupo to Auckland I reflect on the fact that when I get back home I’m going to have to re-acclimate to driving on the right instead of driving on the left. I suspect that transition will be much quicker and easier than the transition to driving on the left here.

I make my way to the airport, turn in my rental car, and get a ride to the departure terminal. Tomorrow I’ll be home.

Auckland to Los Angeles
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