Friday 30 January 2009

Whales, seals and Christchurch...

The cute little town Kaikoura on the East coast is the "capital" of whale-watching. This is due to the fact that some 5 miles from the coast the sea depth reaches some 950m and the whales just feel good there:) I still wonder why they calling it whale watching as one can not really see the whale, but just see his fin and/or the fountain of water going out of his nose...Twice we saw Tiaki, a 19-year-old sperm whale. The sperm whale is the fourth biggest whale in the world and males grow up to 13 m. They come up for some 5 minutes on the surface for every 45 minutes they spent underwater...Nowadays the whalewatch boats can track them with funny tools who measure/record their position underwater and like this one can find easily one for "watching":-)

We heart just by accident about swimming with the seals and went there in the afternoon with the operator SealSwim...It was an amazing experience!!!Seals are very curious creatures and they were coming up to 10 sm close to us. We were in the sea about 45 min, which was impressive, when u think that the water temperature was 16 degrees!!!

Posing with the colourful wall paintings in Kaikoura, tired after the busy day:)

Today on the way down to Christchurch we stopped in a lavender farm. The host was very happy to have a chat with us and even more delighted when she heart where we come from. " France and Bulgaria are two big lavender producers", she said, before giving me some lavender oil against the ichy mozzie bites I got (after a count last night:30).

Christhurch seemed (for the couple of hours we got here) very cozy and pleasant city. Tomorrow morning we get the 32-hour-flight (via Singapore) back home....all good things have an end...

Thursday 29 January 2009

Abel Tasman National Park experience

Abel Tasman Park (named after the Dutch explorer) is the smallest park in NZ, but definitely one of the most beautiful. We were lucky enough (a big thanks to the weather) to have sunny and warm temperatures! Our two kiwi-guides explained us the local flora and history and coached us during the itinerary: 22 km of walking and 25 km of sea-kayaking! We started with 1,5 days hiking in beautiful fern forests and beaches.

The unfolding fern is the symbol of New Zealand, in Maori culture it symbolises the new begining.

During kayaking the last day we got some wind pushing us and we lined up 3 kayaks next to each other and put a sail on, was an awesome experience to ride the waves and to get wet at the same time-thanks to all the great people (locals and from overseas) in the group for the funny time! Some facts of the country history shocked us again: when Maori arrived on the island some 800 years ago 90% of it was forest, now only 30% of it remains...

The Kiwi-Team TonyFamily flying with the wind:)

From the plant Pohutukawa (the New Zealand Christmas tree) here one makes great honey...

The sun can be dangerous...Yesterday the fire alarm was on extreme-see above!

I got some fights with the rainforest mozzies (mosquitoes) as they really liked me and now have difficulties stopping scratching my 10 bites per leg:( For the rest we are just fine, drove on Wednesday evening down the East coast to Kaikoura from where the nice sky-cloud image comes from:) Less than 2 more days left for us here...

Sunday 25 January 2009

Absolutely positively Wellington and South Island

The logo of the capital of New Zealand says it all: a beautiful 350 000 inhabitants city, that feels good and relaxed, a big town without stress, friendly people and cozy bars and cafeterias all around. Yesterday for example a lovely lunch in a cosy bar owned and run by a friendly guy from the North of F rance (un vrai chti). We went to the TePapa Museum (the biggest and most famous museum of NZ), which is a mix of Maori and European history, natural treasures display and plenty of other things. Nico enjoyed the Macs brewery in down town and went kite-surfing in the bay, while myself had a sunny stroll in the Botanical garden.

The city from the top of the hill, where one can get with the red cable car...

On the top-level of the TePapa Museum, having fun with the moving with the wind creative, Korean sculptures "The egg or the chicken".

Enjoying a lovely cappuccino:)

The 3,5-hour-ferry trip to the South Island went fine today (not tooo shaky) despite of the stinky truck (a sheep transporter) parked just under the passenger deck. After arrival we visited a local winery (the Malborough region is another region famous with its vineyards). In its wine cellar we found a 1977-World atlas of wine,where they even had 2 pages about Bulgaria and Mavrud wine:) Tonight we are busy packing our luggage for the guided 3-day-kayaking-walking-tour in the national parc Abel Tasman (on the top of the South Island). We will be offline for some days, some more news after Wednesday...Have a good week:)

Thursday 22 January 2009

The South of the Northern Island

Heading direction south (and Wellington) we did some stops in the towns on the West coast: Wanganui, Levin, Whaikakae. Following the advice of Dave we stopped in the cute village Foxton, where we enjoyed some colourful murals and laughed at the Dutch windmill (the biggest attraction there). Nico could not kitesurf as there was no wind (and on the top he said that the Foxton beach looks like the Dutch coast:), just with black sand.

While driving through the National Park Tongariro the other day we encountered for first time the road sign for kiwis, but we never met some real ones. I was shocked to learn today (during our visit of the nature reserve Nga Manu, a bird sanctuarity) that only 0,5% of the original population is now left in NZ. Our last camping site was in the really sweet and cozy Paekakariki (try to pronounce this one, its not easy:), between the green hill and the marine park Kapiti Island, 100 m from the beach.

Another thing is really shocking I think (at least for a Bulgarian person): in a country with 35 million sheep, running/eating around on green hills, there is no single production of sheep milk joghurt or sheep cheese-they dont milk the sheep here!!!But one can find a sheep skin shop (selling sheep skin boots, sleepers, etc) at almost every second village...

Thursday we arrived in Wellington where on the programme is some culture, shopping and relaxation before taking the ferry to the South Island on Sunday morning. Weather warmed up a bit, some sun at the coast, but mostly cloudy and windy in the capital. In the Maori mythodology the North Island of NZ is a giant fish, caught by the demi-god Maui from his waka (canoe), the South Island. Regional Wellington is known as the head of Mauis fish. To Maori people the head of the fish is the smartest and sweetest part!

P.S. some local from NZ(on request of Koteto)

Pukeko (known as New Zealand swamp hen) is a another flightless bird, who shows its white tail once it is afraid.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Lake Taupo and around

As it was very hot, on Sunday the weather changed completely and gotcold (around 10-12degrees) and rainy over night. We were wonderingwhat to do but still went on the planned lake-tour to the modern Maorirock carvings (partially in the rain, but on a lovely replica of a1920-steam-boat ). The carvings on a rock around Lake Taupo (the biggest lake in the Northern Island, with 60km length and 42 kmwidth), accessible only by water, were worth it:-)

A rabbit camping with us:)

Trying to escape the cloudy weather we drove to Napier (known as an art-deco town on the East coast). Nico was very happy as this region is famous with its wineries (he made wine-tasting in 2 places), myself enjoyed the fruit orchards and had juicy New Zealand apples, yummy apricots, sweet cherries, fresh avocados.

I saw an avocado tree:))

On Tuesday, being eager to see some more nature beauty we decided to give it a second chance and go for a scenic flight over the 3 sacred mounta ins 100 km south of Taupo. The three still active (and nowadays supervised by scientists) volcanoes Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngaruhoe rising up to 2797 m are famous for the great view of their peaks and the alpine lakes in between, they have been also used as a scenery for the movie "The Lord of the rings". Unfortunately when we got to the tiny airport next to the mountains the weather was sooo foggy and rainy, the sky completely cloudy and all peaks were invisible, so no at all a time for flying:( Indeed I start to believe that one can have all 4 seasons in one day here (as the locals tend to describe the unpredictable and changing weather of the islands).

Comparing this green country with Australia we have to say that we were (negatively) suprised that people are less friendly and relaxed than down under (of course we met some really nice people, but in general they are rare). On the road one can experience a mix of Dutch ignorance of rules and Italian craziness, not to best thing to have on mostly turning roads with road works every 5 km ( and especially when you drive a 5,30 m long x 2,70 high box on wheels)...

Monday 19 January 2009

Mud, geysers and sulfur

The Saturday was sooo hoooooooooot day-not sure if the weather got warmer or just the soil really heated up because of the fact that we arrived in the geothermal heart of the Northern Island! The Rotorua-Taupo region (Taupo Volcanic Zone) lies on the Pacific "Ring of fire", which marks in NZ the boundary between the Pacific and the India/Australia tectonic plates. In non-scientific words once around Rotorua (or afterwards on the thermal highway to the lake of Taupo) it smells like sulphur everywhere, one can see the rocks smoke and from time to time some geysers go up...

We visited the youngest geothermal area in the world (as they claimed it here), Waimangu. It was a 10-km-walk within a fern-rainforest sighting some impressive white silica terraces, bubling green-orange pools and steaming rocks. On the way to Lake Taupo we stopped in the Honey Factory "Bee Hive" where a delicious honey tasting took place, now we have 2 pots of New Zealand honey in the camper :)

The cicada above sings lovely and one can hear it almost everywhere in the forests in NZ.

The day before in Rotorua we were lucky to see the eruption of the Hoputu-geyser (after almost one hour wait). Half of day was spent in Te Puia, a Maori place in the middle of a geothermal area next to the city, incl. live Maori weaving and wood carving. We finally met the famous kiwi (the bird), which looks very cute, but can not fly. A nice stroll in the afternoon in the Government Garden in front of the BathHouse of Rotorua (looking for some shady place). The sun is (I do believe it now!) even worse than in Australia. Even if it gets fresh in the night, once the sun is out, its like burning and hitting at the same time. I never experienced sunshine that feels like a burn at 7.30 pm!

The Maori carver above is especially for Robert + Denise:)a pic from a real local...

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Camping with black sand and Wireless...

Times changes, camping changes as well...In Raglan Holiday Park one can surf the Internet in, next and around the camper (as I did too:). There are also more garbage (recycling-related) separation than in NL: around 6 different bins, I am impressed. There is something about camping I never got. One morning u wake up angry with the crying babies and screaming kinds next door, some hours later u think amping is not so bad: the neighbours the other side went fishing and give u fresh fish (gurnard) for dinner:)

We spent the last 2 days in the quiet and cozy village Raglan on the West coast (100km south of Auckland). Delicious fresh fish (+some fresh sushi for Jana), plenty of wind for Nico (+kitesurfing) and some lovely sunsets in the evening. This afternoon we will head to the middle of the North Island (Rotorua), which is a geothermal area and famous for mud baths, geyser and other natural wonders.

Maori kids playing on the beach with black sand:)

Monday 12 January 2009

Maori culture and glowworms:)

The Maori culture (the first inhabitants of New Zealand came by canoe from Polynesia) offers to the visitors some amazing wooden carvings. At the Watangi Threaty Ground (where in 1840 the treaty between local population and the British was signed) there are several impressive Maori works to admire: a huge wooden Maori waka (canoe) and the Maori Meeting House (built for the 100-anniversary of the treaty signature).

The first thing that stroke me was that all carvings have persons showing their tongue. I was then told that in dance performance this is used for intimidation of the enemies and in carvings is a symbol of the oral transmission of the Maori culture (as the Maori dont have a written language, so they expressed themselves only in this way).

In Waitangi we also went to a Maori dance and singing show. Nico had a crash-course in haka (the war dance that the Maoris used when then went to war, and that is still performed by the All Blacks (the national rugby team) before each game to make their opponents afraid of them.

On the way back to Auckland we stopped in a cave next to Waiomio, where we had a guided tour in a cave full with glowworms. The afternoon included a pleasant visit in Wharangei (around an hour south of Whatangi) and a delicious seafood-lunch. It is very confusing trying to pronounce and remember all the name of the towns and cities here as every 2 of 3 start with W or Wha, in Maori what means water (which here is almost everywhere). Tomorrow we go to Aukland to drop off the car and collect a camper and then head south. Raglan->Rotorua->Lake Taupo->Wellington is the itinerary for the next 10 days.

Sunday 11 January 2009

Bay of Islands

The sailing-trip in Bay of Islands (The name is well chosen as the bay consists of 144 rocks, 20 of which islands) started at 8 am. An hour later we saw a group of playfull bottle-nose dolphins (which can grow up to 4 m big). Afterwards it got really bad: it was shaky and cloudy, I got sick for 3 hours non-stop. In the afternoon I recovered and our captain John (a whale-researcher) took us for a snorkeling in the beautiful green, but cold (max. 17 degrees, was my coldest snorkeling ever) New Zealand waters. The underwater world was worth it though: some very curious leather-jackets and parrot fishes, John collected some sea urchins (delicious), we had later for dinner.

Next day we got only clouds and some rain, but some fairy penguins were not bothered and swam around the boat. We made a nice walk on one of the islands and had some lovely views (no sun :(for more gorgeous colours of the sea) of the bay. The highlight of the second day was the fresh (and yummy) dinner, which John, Nico and some others collected on an underwater rock earlier that day: huge wild green lip mussels, the most common mussels species here, a real Kiwi icon, famous for its anti-inflammatory properties. We enjoyed them grilled on the barbecue with garlic and butter on the top deck of the boat.

The last day started with sun and wind, after a short walk on another island and some awesome view from the top of the hill (the sun does make a difference as one can see on the pics:-)

The view without sun(above) and with (below)...

Thursday 8 January 2009

Kia ora from Aoteaora !

After 5 very interesting weeks down under a 3-hour-Qantas-flight took us from Melbourne to Auckland. I was impressed to read in the Lonely Planet guide that New Zealand (a country with 3,8 million inhabitants) have 2,5 million of visitors a year! Everything looks till now very green and plenty of sheeps and cows all around. Today we drove to the North of the Northern Island of NZ, with a stop in the town Kawakawa to see the art of the Austrian Hundertwasser, who designed some colourful and beautiful public toilettes here. He lived here:)

On the way to Paihia (Bay of Islands) Nico found a very friendly kitesurf shop, where he left his broken kite for repair. We were shown some impressive wooden kite boards, made by the owner of the shop who had a real kite factory, and now we have one in the back of the car!

Nico played with and ate the green, green New Zealand mussels:)

Tomorrow a sailing boat (22 m long) will take us on 3-day-tour of the Bay of Islands for some snorkeling/hiking/fishing/discovery. Might be silent for some days, have a nice rest of the week and a lovely weekend!

P.S. Kia ora from Aoteaora!/ Hello from the Northern island (the island of the big white cloud)!