Travels around the North Island - III

Trip Start Jul 20, 2004
Trip End Jul 20, 2014

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Tuesday, November 8, 2005

I only spent a day in Rotorua, the thermal pool capital of NZ. The one thing I was most interested in doing in Rotorua was attending a Maori show. So, off I went to Mitai Village where we learned about customs and traditions that were part of everyday Maori life lived by their Whanau (Family) many generations ago. It was great entertaining and included a hangi, meaning the method of cooking in the ground with hot stones, or to the underground oven so created, and to the food so cooked. Various types of meats and vegetables, such as kumara or sweet potato, are wrapped in leaves or, in an acquiescence to modernity, aluminium foil. These items of wrapped food are then placed in a hole in the ground and cooked with hot stones for up to 7 hours. After the show, in pouring rain, I continued to head towards Lake Taupo and stopped for the night at a gas station with a small grass area for camping. I skipped Lake Taupo to head straight to Whakapapa, the gateway to the Northern Circuit hike and the one-day Tongariro Crossing in the Tongariro National Park. Check out the pics, the Emerald lakes are just an incredible turquois color and the landscape, at time, looks like a moonscape. I enjoyed my hike and wished I could have done the entire around the mountain tramp but I had to press on.

After the hike, I headed to Napier taking a back road through the Ruahine Forest. In Napier, I stayed with servas hosts Ruth and Reuben Lowe. As we were talking about traveling, adventures and books, I noticed a Ed Hillary book. I told Reuben that I enjoyed reading Hillary's adventures and that's when he pointed out that his brother, George Lowe, who accompanied and helped support Hillary and Tenzing on the first summit of Everest in 1953. I remember the name George Lowe from Hillary's book "nothing venture, nothing win". For Reuben, talking about his brother and Ed Hillary was nothing special, he was just his brother who climbed mountains and explored Antartica. For me, it was a bit special; I will always remember having met George Lowes' brother. Ruth and Reuben have a lovely house and view with lots of veggies and flowers growing around the house. From here, I went up to Cape Kidnappers to visit the Gannet Reserve. The gannet reserve is rare in ornithological circles as it contains the largest and most accessible mainland gannet colony in the world. From early May to Mid July the gannetry is empty. The only feature which stands out in the stark bareness of the colony are rows of neatly-spaced nesting mounds. These mounds are eroded by the weather and only the older more central nests remain for the birds on their return. Following the full moon in July, males which nested during the previous season return to their nesting sites and are later joined by their mates. The numbers steadily increase, and the first pairs begin to gather nesting material about the middle of August. I spent an awesome day wandering along the beach to the gannet colony (see pics). Later in the afternoon, I headed to Napier to take in some of the art deco architecture, the town is famous for.

On my way to Wellingotn, I stopped at Te Mata Peak which towers 400 metres above sea level and offers an expansive overview of Hawke's Bay. I hiked up to the peak from where I enjoyed panoramic views of the Ruahine, Kaweka and Maungaharuru ranges, Cape Kidnappers and the Pacific Ocean. Maori legend says that the hills around Te Mata Peak are in fact the body of a sleeping giant, Te Mata. Long ago, the people living on Hawke's Bay's Heretaunga Plains were under constant threat of war from the coastal tribes of Waimarama.

In Wellington, I spent the night at Kim's place. The next day, I went to the Te Papa museum and at night, we watched the 15 minute fireworks in honor of Guy Fawkes Day. Te Papa is a waharoa, a gateway, to an encounter with the essence of New Zealand's land and people. Wonderful taonga (M‚ori cultural treasures), art, and objects are presented through fascinating stories, thought-provoking interpretations, and engaging interactives. Since its opening in 1998, Te Papa has built a worldwide reputation for its fresh and bold approach to presenting a nation's treasures and stories. In that time, over ten million people have come to enjoy this unique museum experience. Guy Fawkes Night (often referred to as Bonfire Night) is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks on November 5, or the closest Friday or Saturday night. Until the nineteenth century there was a special Church of England service for this commemoration in the Book of Common Prayer. Guy Fawkes Day became a public holiday in 1606 when it was proclaimed by an Act of Parliament. In commemoration of the Gunpowder Plot on this day in 1605, when Guy Fawkes and his comrades tried to blow up King James I and the whole English Parliament, English people still burn a 'guy' in effigy ...

At 1:55am, I took the Interisalnder ferry for the 3 hour crossing of the Cook Strait and arrived in Picton at about 5:15am. From there, I pretty much headed south to Roxburgh where I arrived at 8PM. And here, my story ends as I will be laboring in orchards and vineyards until mid-January.
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Island Eye on

Amazingly! Very impressive indeed.

Island Eye on

It's so beautiful!Fantastic nature...

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