Nosing about on the North Island

Published: December 18th 2007
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Santa Santa Santa

Merry Christmas everyone. We miss you.
Greetings from New Zealand’s North Island……..we’ve had a wonderful time exploring the north part of this island nation.

New Zealand is much cooler and less humid than Asia and we are seriously enjoying the change in the weather. It is not quite summer here and we actually have worn shoes and sweaters for the first time since……Seattle! Some of these clothes we’ve been shlepping around are now coming in handy.

We flew from Bali to Kuala Lumpur to Auckland. The flight from KL to Auckland was 9 hours and 45 minutes. We are now 18 hours ahead of Ohio and 15 hours ahead of Seattle. If you are afraid that the world may end tomorrow…. we can assure you that it does not as it is already tomorrow here.

Auckland is quite nice. It is a modern and progressive city that has a look and feel very similar to Seattle. It has a building call the Sky Tower, which is a lot like the Space Needle in Seattle, only newer and taller. I (MJ) had a very short scenic visit to the top of the Sky Tower. On occasion I have intermittent issues with height. As
Auckland City ViewAuckland City ViewAuckland City View

From the sky tower
I got off the elevator I felt uneasy and stayed near the back wall for a few minutes. After about 10 minutes my heart was pounding and I was perspiring. It was time for me to head back down. The rest of the day we kept our feet on the ground. The view was magnificent, even though it was short. Dave stayed up top and continued to take photos. The elevator had a window in the floor of the elevator. That may have started my problems.

Auckland is full of wonderful café’s, restaurants, pubs, parks and museums. After touring the Auckland Museum we spent the rest of the day exploring Bastion Point and Mt. Eden. We needed to be outside and enjoying the sunshine, vitality of the city and all the wonderful water and scenic views. Our time in Auckland was great. After being among Muslim, Hindus, and Buddhists, you forget that the holidays are approaching. As a result, we enjoyed seeing Christmas decorations.

Since there is a lot to see and do in New Zealand, we needed to get around some, and discovered that it is not that much more expensive for two people to rent a
Sky TowerSky TowerSky Tower

Taller than the one is Seattle (almost twice)
car than to use public transport. Two things make this possible; one is that the car rental market is flooded with vehicle from Japan as there is no import tax. Seems the Japanese like new cars every other year or so, and a result the Kiwis have become a fabulous market for these vehicles. The second reason is that a car can be up to 20 or so years old and still be rented. Ours is a 10 year old Suzuki and we will drive it from Auckland in the north, onto the ferry, and drive it on the South Island and turn it in when we fly out of Christchurch. We have nicknamed the car “the Kiwi-mobile.”

Come to New Zealand and you can see Glow worms. Glow worms are these wonderful little neon colored creatures that cover the ceiling of the Waitomo Caves. The caves are not much as far as caves go, but the glow worms were a delight. They glow in the pupa stage, but die shortly after emerging from the larva stage as they have no mouths!

The most wonderful thing about New Zealand is New Zealand. The people are incredibly friendly by
Great musicianGreat musicianGreat musician

Street musician in Auckland
nature and the countryside is diverse and amazing. It is ever- changing. It is a rich green color and has a multitude of rolling hills. It is a unique landscape but a little reminiscent of a mix of Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Washington with a little bit of Scotland thrown in. Our time in Tongario National Park was lovely and a World Heritage Status National Park. If you want to invest $255 you can take the Lord of the Rings tour which includes a walk under Mt. Doom and a stroll through Orc Country, you can see Mordo the stong hold of the Dark Lord Sauron or you can visit Ithilien camp , walk through the cliffs and ravines of Emyn Muil, the Orc Road and encampment and see the Door of Sammath Naur and the Sea of Boulders.

We also took a short drive north to Lake Taupo, one of the largest lakes in New Zealand. We visited Huka Falls and took a short hike to Crater of the Moon, a geothermal area.

When traveling from our hotel at the National Forest to Wellington we accidentally took the road less traveled. There was a choice

another great view
of two roads to take and the gal at the front desk encouraged us to take the more scenic route. She did casually mention that the road wasn’t that good but that we should take it anyway. I guess we are laid back and enjoying life because the alarm bells were not set off when she mentioned that the road wasn’t that good. We did not ask what she meant. We now realize we must ask if the road is “sealed.” This means it is paved.

From there we had a spectacular drive to Wellington through natural forests on very narrow, twisty, winding, curved, gravel roads with spectacular views of the Whanganui river. The driving was a bit tenuous as the roads were narrow and one would think a 4-wheel vehicle was better suited for the journey.

It was well worth taking the scenic route but next time we will ask more questions.

Wellington is set on the southern coast and is quite lovely as well. It reminds us once again of Seattle in some ways. Very clean with some stunning views from above the city. The day we were there it was about 80 degrees with
Mt. EdenMt. EdenMt. Eden

Dave and Merry Jo enjoying the city
25 mph winds. Everyone was out on the promenade down by the water. It appeared they were celebrating one of those great days in spring after a long cold winter. I think you know how that feels…..

The next day we loaded the Kiwi-mobile on the ferry and headed for the South Island. It is a picturesque 3 hour voyage which takes you past lush green volcanic islands in the Cook Strait. The ferry has many amenities, including a movie theater. It was quite windy on the voyage, but the seas were rated as “moderate.” We probably would not have enjoyed a day when the seas were considered unfriendly.

More to come when we write about the South Island………..

New Zealand Background Information and some thoughts:

New Zealand is a country of 4 million people and about 40 million sheep. You can imagine that after spending 3 months in Asia we feel like there are no people in this country. The capital is Wellington, but Auckland is the largest city and leading port. 1.5 million people live here.

More than 85% of the population lives in urban areas in this land. So, the minute you leave one of the few major population areas, very few people. This makes for some great outdoor stuff and there are activities aplenty for all outdoorsman. Everything from hiking to fishing to that NZ sport of bungy jumping are here and there is plenty of it! This is a country that prides itself on its outdoor activities, despite weather that can give the Pacific Northwest a run for its money.

We find ourselves once again in a country whose story seems like a historical re-run. The land is originally settled by tribes from neighboring regions over a period of time, only to be colonized by white people, this time the British. There are still many of the original tribe living here (in this case the Maori), but they are not always treated equally and afforded the same rights as the Kiwis…..sound familiar?

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


Huka FallsHuka Falls
Huka Falls

The water is a beautiful blue!
Mt. RuapehuMt. Ruapehu
Mt. Ruapehu

View from our hotel
Whanganui RiverWhanganui River
Whanganui River

Piriaka Lookout
A Beautiful DriveA Beautiful Drive
A Beautiful Drive

Whanganui River
A Beautiful DriveA Beautiful Drive
A Beautiful Drive

another view
Dave of the ferryDave of the ferry
Dave of the ferry

Heading to the south island
Kiwi CrossingKiwi Crossing
Kiwi Crossing

Kiwi is the National Bird-they are nocturnal
New ZealandNew Zealand
New Zealand

Many cows along the countryside

39 million sheep in NZ
Wellington BoardwalkWellington Boardwalk
Wellington Boardwalk

A truly beautiful city
View of WellingtonView of Wellington
View of Wellington

From Mt. Victoria Lookout

Enjoying Wellington
Nap timeNap time
Nap time

Time for a rest

19th December 2007

Great pics!
Hi Merry Jo. The photos are spectacular! New Zealand was worth the visit. It is so great of you two to share these pics of your trips the past four(?) months. I have truly enjoyed them! Where will you be for Christmas? Be safe. Love, Susan
21st December 2007

Best of Binkley
You brought a huge smile to me when I read the last blog about you two enjoying each other - more people should enjoy their spouse as you two do! I love the pics too - are you already planning which will be in your enlarged photo gallery? Or where will that photo gallery be? You are coming to the states again, right? (grin) Love, CC

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