Sunday, January 22, 2017

Last 2 Days in New Zealand

The day before leaving, I visited Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own hot tub at low tide. Beware of the Very Hot Water at the surface near the sign, they are not kidding. While lying there I kept hearing “ow ow ow” as people hopped around in the hot spring.

I ended the trip with a visit to the Auckland Botanic Gardens. There were flowers.

There was also a dinosaur egg, from which I hatched, of course.

Much of the trip was spent camping.

So much camping, I forgot how to use a hotel room properly on the last night.

The South Island. It definitely took more than 29 hours.

The North Island. Likewise.

It was a great trip and a fantastic country. I definitely want to visit again.

The Lord of the Rings

I have a tough decision to make. Which to visit first…

First I will bring beer to the Green Dragon pub.

Which I will proceed to drink.

Then I will go home to my hobbit house.

I am a hobbit.

Sometimes I party with Bilbo.

Time to leave to find other Lord of the Rings filming locations.

This is the River Anduin and The Pillars of the Kings. It is not as impressive without the huge statues.

I escaped over the Ford of Bruinen on my way to Rivendell, summoning a flood of water horses on the way.

Google helpfully shows the Lord of the Rings locations on the map.

In Twizel, the largest battle scene of the Lord of the Rings was filmed, the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. I am ready to do battle.

Bring on the orcs.

There’s Gandalf…

…and there’s Erin!

Water

Being islands, New Zealand has a lot of water. This water is Milford Sound, which Captain Cook ignored on all his trips to New Zealand because he thought it looked boring and didn’t lead anywhere.

His loss, he missed the sunbathing fur seals.

Some of the lakes are turquoise colored. The color comes from ground glacial rock. Or maybe someone spilled some food coloring.

More turquoise water. This is in Abel Tasman National Park and is fairly warm.

To start the Abel Tasman hike, I took a water taxi to Bark Bay. It was low tide, so the boat had to be towed into the water by a large tractor. But first the tractor had to get to the water. This involved driving along the road.

Then along the beach.

With all the other boats. And tractors.

Then the tractor backed the boat into the water and off we went. Since it was low tide, that also meant that I got dropped off in the water.

This water at the end of the Hooker Valley Track contains mini-icebergs and was much colder. It was so windy I thought my hat would blow away, but the mini-icebergs were not bothered.

I am sitting atop several of the Moeraki Boulders. They are large round rocks in the ocean which is strange but awesome.

New Zealand contains smaller rocks also.

Here is a flock of ducks. They're in for a big surprise when they wake up and find that their water has disappeared.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

I wanted to hike Tongariro Alpine Crossing because it’s often called one of the best one-day hikes in the world. Tongariro National Park was also filmed as Mordor for many of the scenes from Lord of the Rings. As stated at http://www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz/national-park/the-lord-of-the-rings, “To really immerse yourself in Mordor and feel the eerie barren landscape, trek the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.” Sounds good. This is a profile of the hike, looks pretty easy, no problem.

I have to say I’m not sure what rating system these people are using if this is the best hike. All I could see was rain and fog.

View from the top. The wind was blowing at 60-70 km per hour, but it did not succeed in blowing me over the side, although it tried pretty hard a few times.

The fog lifted for about 30 seconds so I took a photo of some volcano pools.

Near the end of the hike the weather improved dramatically and there were a few minutes for photos before the fog returned. Note that I am wearing two jackets, gloves, and a hat. In the summer.

Wellington

While in Wellington, I ruled the country in The Board Room of the Wellington Harbour Board.

I finally felt my first earthquake while in Wellington. It woke me up when the house was swaying and things were rattling around. The Geonet website classified it as “Severe”. It was 5.3 magnitude, depth 13 km, and located near Seddon. I did not fall into a large crack in the earth.
http://www.geonet.org.nz/quakes/region/wellington/2017p012082

This parking garage did not fare so well.

Actually that was from the large earthquake a few months ago near Kaikoura. New Zealand is still recovering from that quake.

BearDog in New Zealand

BearDog traveled throughout New Zealand in style, having a whole row of seats to himself and a very soft, comfy seat.

He saw the Pancake Rocks. He was disappointed that he couldn’t eat them.

BearDog went hiking. The weather was much colder than he expected, and he had left his hat and scarf in the tent, so he stayed in the bag for most of the hike.

He did pop out at the end for a volcano photo op, once the weather improved on the far side of the mountain. It was so windy he couldn’t keep his ears in place.

He took another hike, and he enjoyed that one. He likes bridges that bounce as he walks.

BearDog would have liked this especially bouncy bridge, but he was busy sleeping.

A special bag built just for BearDogs!

Penguins and Albatrosses

Penguins!

Wait, those were pancakes. Here are some real penguins. They are Little Blue Penguins, the smallest penguins in the world, at only 30 cm tall! They swim back to shore at dusk to feed their chicks and sleep. A group of them swimming is called a raft. They waddle up the beach in a clump.

Then they climb up the paths they’ve made to find their nests for sleeping.

Waddle waddle honk honk
video
video

Also near the penguins on the Otago Peninsula I saw some Royal Albatrosses at the world’s only mainland colony of Royal Albatrosses. They were nesting. (they are the white spots on the hill)

They have an average wingspan of 10 feet, which is much larger than my wingspan. Baby albatrosses do not. But they can be seen here as they hatch: http://www.doc.govt.nz/royalcam