Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Zealand, An Unexpected Journey

If New Zealand was on Social Media they would be a #TBT, (Throw-back-Thursday).  For those unfamiliar with this term it usually involves a nostalgic moment, image or item from the past.  NZ has the feeling of old vacation photos from the 60's or 70's ie. The Sound of Music was on stage at the Civic Auditorium.  I am hoping social media doesn't take over in NZ as the friendly, slower pace of living should be cherished.

We have been in NZ a few weeks now, first spending a week in Auckland with rain for four of the six days.  The rain providing us a chance for museums and an afternoon Philharmonic concert.  Our days of sun did allow us to enjoy ferry rides to Devonport, around the islands and to appreciate the closeness of nature to a large city.  Auckland is surrounded by beautiful islands and nature and still has created large green spaces within the city to keep a small town feel.

The most often used descriptions you hear about NZ are "so friendly" and "stunning scenic beauty" and these are all true.  We will love to explore, visit and get to know her.  We have already met and spent time with so many genuinely nice Kiwis - New Zealand has welcomed us.  

Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand with a population of 1.4 million where a third of New Zealand's total population live. 


We crossed the International Date Line and went into the future when we landed in New Zealand - it also feels like we went into the past as we get to repeat and enjoy another 2014 spring and summer in the southern hemisphere!   

 Since it is spring, newborn lambs are everywhere in the Shire!!  
I'm sure all of you have had New Zealand lamb on your dinner tables at one time or another - how could you??

I stopped by Frodo's to invite him for a pint of ale at the Green Dragon and maybe give us a tour of Hobbiton...

Heading up to Bag End, Bilbo's Hobbit- Hole - his garden is beautiful...

Darn,  he wasn't home - he was off on another adventure....

View of the Hobbit-holes, check out all their views below

View of the Shire, what an idyllic setting!

Cheers Frodo!!  To bad we missed Bilbo - maybe we'll see him at the opening of his new film.  Oh well, time to leave the Shire and be on our way - we have a lot to see.....

Heading up to the Bay of Islands - the furthest north we would go.  We based ourselves in the town of Paihia.  This is the place where all the locals go on vacation as there is a plethora of activities up here for the outdoor enthusiast - from the tame to the extreme.  We tend to go with the tame.  Lot's of hiking, sailing, para-sailing, fishing, swimming with the dolphins, and kayaking in and out of the 144 islands.    

Waitangi, one of New Zealand's historic sites marks the signing of the treaty between the indigenous Maori and Britain and the beginning of the world's youngest country in 1840.   (More on the Maori next post)

  We were extremely impressed with all the hiking trails throughout the area -there are so many even the locals have not hiked them all.  One of my goals is to see the national bird of New Zealand, the Kiwi!  We took a trail into a Kiwi habitat and searched and searched for sight of that shy elusive Kiwi.  We found...

....A Mangrove forest. 
 (Mangroves have been in New Zealand for 19 million years they are protected and cannot be pruned or removed.   They have adapted to living in seawater as tides go in and out - their roots stick up like fingers out of the mud as if drowning and reaching for oxygen.  
A fascinating ecosystem.)

...Ferns everywhere in the forest...

...and Exotic plants....

...and hidden waterfalls (Haruru Falls) - a place to catch our breath.... but we didn't see any Kiwis- darn! 
Time to move on...we'll catch up with the Kiwis later.

Most New Zealanders love the outdoors and spend a lot of their time in the water, so we chose to sail with a local Kiwi, Nick on his boat the Vigilant.  Rich begged to be first mate... Lara and Elisabeth (from Germany) were being polite as Rich was telling a joke that got lost in translation...(that happens a lot to him)

As first mate - Rich had to do all the work while the rest of us enjoyed watching him.
Good job!

We anchored for lunch in a quiet cove where we spent time exploring, kayaking and lazing on the beach.

We hiked to the top of a hill near the cove and were stunned into silence (tough, I know) when we viewed this incredible panoramic landscape.  We now knew why the Maori people settled here when they first discovered this gem over 1,000 years ago.

Bay of Islands was a lot of fun - we enjoyed the "tame" activities - now we head south to find some tougher hiking trails...

We are heading into Tongariro National Park - A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.  
The active volcanoes Mount Ngauruhoe , Mount Tongariro and Mount Ruahehu (below) are located in the center of the park.  

...Mount Ruapehu is one of the world's most active volcanoes (last major eruption was in 2007) and largest in New Zealand  - this and Mount Ngauruhoe were used to depict Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings.

We will attempt the Tongariro Alpine Crossing...

The trail seems easy enough.  Those that are Lord of The Rings fans - this is home to Land of Mordor.

The higher we go the colder it gets....I think it's time to turn around brrrrrrr....I thought it was spring!

All our bottled water was gone, so we drank from the stream heading down from the mountain - and look what we found in the stream - a ring!!!

I think this post has to end on that note!  Cheers!