With Our Pumpkin Friends
The live south of Auckland outside of Pukekohe. We "squatted" with them and went sightseeing in nearby aeas.
Our friends' little girl turned one where we were there, which was celebrated with a barbecue potluck. There was rain with thunder and lightning all day, but wasn't cold.
We found a shop called Craft World that I assumed sold craft supplies. Imagine my surprise when I learned that it was a craft mall. They had small stalls in different sizes that rented from NZ$ 75 - 120 per month, where people could display their wares for sale. Customers wandered through, collecting what they wanted in baskets. Each item was marked with a bar code. A modern check-out provided a detailed receipt, while the craftspeople were duly paid. A simple way for crafters to sell their wares - everything from woodwork to handmade jewelry, cosmetics, paintings, as well as both knitted and sewn clothing. There is even a nice little café to take a break while shopping, providing free coffee or tea.
Monday, January 26, 2004 was Anniversary Day in Auckland - a local holiday. Each district has it's own Anniversary Day, so it is not the same day all over the country. We decided it would be a good day to drive downtown, since we wouldn't have to fight rush-hour traffic, Louie also thought it a great idea since all the stores were closed!
Today we went up in the tower with a senior ticket - NZ$ 12.60 per person. We went up 186 meters in 40 seconds. Those wanting to go higher can go up to 270 meters. Those wanting to try bungy jumping can try "Skyjump" at 192 meters. It takes 16 seconds to get down and costs only NZ$ 195!
We drove about 245 km (152 mi) north. It took about 4 hours since the road was like a rollercoaster. The views were breathtaking, with rolling hills and coastline. We visited the nations' birthplace - where several Maori tribes signed a treaty at the Bay of Islands in 1840.
The area has many natural resources and was earlier inhabited by Polynesians. There were already several Maori tribes there when Cook and Du Fresne "discovered" the area during the latter 1700's. Whalers, seal-hunters, merchants and missionaries all started coming around 1815. There was much fighting among the aborigines and was made worse when new weapons and arms trading came. By 1830 the bay was filled with foreign ships and was known as the "Hell-hole of the Pacific". England sent James Busby specifically to mediate peace. He was a competent mediator and helped 35 Maiori chiefs to draw up the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand in 1835.
Later the French came and wanted to take over - then the Maoris requested protection from England. Once again Busby mediated with the help of other prominent residents. The Treaty of Waitangi was then signed outside of Busby's house (now known as the Treaty House) in the Bay of Islands in 1840. There were 43 Maori chiefs present. Copies were sent out so that by the end of the year more than 500 (!) chiefs had signed. Busby's house was later sold and fell into disrepair. In 1932 the area was bought and the house restored. In 1940 a beautifully carved Maori meeting house was opened and the ceremonial waka Ngatokimatawhaorua was launched to celebrate the country's Centennial.
Waitakere Park & Piha Beach
We went sightseeing with our hosts, enjoying fantastic views around Auckland, going on a short hike through a woods and inspecting some typical New Zealand trees, such as rimi and the New Zealand Christmas tree that has large red flowers at Christmastime.
Glow Worm Caves and Kiwi House
We went on a tour through the caves. They were like other caves with stalactites and stalagmites, except for at the end which was a boat trip through where the glow worms live. The ceiling of the cave looked like lots of stars up in the sky and was really worth seeing! This has been a tourist attraction for over 100 years. A Maori chief discovered the cave and owned the land inspected it together with an English surveyor in 1887 and found the glow worms. Two more caves were discovered a short time later. They were opened for tourists in 1888. The government mystically "acquired" the caves in 1906 but they were returned to the descendents of the original owner in 1989.
The glow worms live about one year. There are threads hanging from larvae that grow to toothpick-size. They emit a light that draws insects that then fasten in the sticky threads, becoming food for the larvae.
We continued on to Kiwi House which is a park with domestic birds, the most interesting being of course the wild kiwis. It is nearly impossible to find them in their natural habitat since they are very shy and only come out at night. They have bad eyesight, but make up for it with their hearing and smelling senses. Kiwis are only found in New Zealand and are related to the emu. They are a unique species and have no visible wings, making it impossible for them to fly. They were larger than expected, approximately 50 cm (20 in). It is a protected species as it is nearing extinction, mainly because its natural habitat is disappearing the same time as they are easy prey for newer domesticated animals such as dogs and cats.
Auckland Domain And The Botanic Gardens
The land where the park is was presented to the government in 1840 for a Maori tribe. The entrance "fee" to the Auckland Museum on the grounds is in the form of a NZ$ 5 recommended voluntary donation!
Everything from historical to modern artifacts - many things from Maori history, including a whole cape made with hundreds of thousands exotic feathers. Even things from the Pacific can be found. One whole floor is devoted to New Zealand's military efforts.
They have over 65 ha (160 acres), including 10 ha (25 acres) domestic woodland, so they have room to grow. We enjoyed lunch surrounded by exquisite flowers before going for a long walk through the gardens, but didn't see everything! The gardens are both spacious and well-planned.
It was easy to find our way to the gardens from the freeway, but difficult to find our way back. We therefore took the old highway back, seeing many interesting small towns and both old and newer settlements. The older housing areas reminded us of American towns from the 50's and 60's.
We drove over a long narrow one-way bridge. The only way to avoid the criticized bridge is to drive the long way around - 65 km (40 mi) longer! At peak periods the wait to cross the bridge can be 2 hours! We were however lucky and only had to wait a short time. We continued to the east coast and Hot Water Beach, where it was easy to dig in the sand to find hot water. Many people came with shovels to find their own hot springs.
We continued on to Cook's Beach, another of many empty sand beaches. We also saw Shakespeare Outlook with a nearly 360 degree panorama of the water. From there we took a small ferry that took us to Whitianga, a great little resort area on the other side of a narrow inlet. One more sandy beach where the girls found lots of shells.
Time to Continue Our Journey
We packed everything and embarked on a train adventure. Two trains a day go from Auckland to Wellington, one being a night train. It started badly with the train arriving a half an hour late - 20 minutes from Auckland Central at 10:50 a.m.! We were told to be at the station at the latest 10:00, so we were lucky that we had nice weather, as the station was unattended and closed. That means that a ticket must be reserved in advance, or the train doesn't even stop. We quickly learned from fellow passengers that the train left Auckland a half hour late! We had comfy seats and enjoyed postcard views on constant parade past our window.
Interesting sights were announced on the loud speaker. The most interesting for us was the train spiral built in 1908 designed by an American engineer and is probably the only in the world. The train goes up 90 meters (295 feet) in 1 km (0.6 mi) of track with the help of two horseshoe curves, two tunnels and one whole circle. We saw a model on our last trip when we happened to drive by a memorial. We found it interesting then, so this made it extra special. We ate a delicious lunch onboard for a very reasonable price. Both beer and wine were available.
An hour after we started our journey, the train stopped to pick up eight empty cars to take to Wellington, making us another half hour delayed. That would however be made up, we were told. We arrived in Wellington ONLY 1 hour and 45 minutes late!
We however found our way to our hotel by 10:30 p.m. We then went our for a long walk to stretch our legs.
We went on the Wellington Cable Car up to a lookout over town. The cable cars are reminiscent of San Francisco, and became such a success when the first line was built in 1902 that more lines were soon added.
This one is the last line left in Wellington.
Construction began in 1901 and work proceeded around the clock to build three tunnels. A few days before opening, new lots were put on sale next to the end station. Wellington needed to grow, but no one wanted to live outside of town as it took a long time to walk or travel by horse and carriage. More than 4,000 passengers rode the new cable car the first weekend (prospective land buyers rode free). By 1912 there were one million passengers a year and in 1933 the steam engine was replaced by electricity. The little building that houses the old winding equipment is now a museum. There are three stations between the bottom and top, where a fantastic view of the city awaits by the entrance to the Botanic Garden.
We walked down through the Botanic Garden, which should take 40 minutes. The gardens were established in 1868 on 25 ha (62 acres). We saw lots of exquisite flowers including hanging begonias in a greenhouse. The path then went through Bolton Street Memorial Park, an old cemetery used 1840-1892 but is now part of the Botanic Garden. The cemetery was divided by a freeway during the 60's and 3,693 graves were moved. Further down the hill we passed the Parliament House and St. Paul's Cathedral - a cathedral put into use in 1964 but was built in four stages and the last was completed in 1998!
We then visited "Old St. Paul's", built in 1866 and is now a registered historic place. It is built entirely of native timbers and is reminiscent of old Norwegian stave churches. The cornerstone was laid in 1865, the year after Wellington became the capital of New Zealand.
We visited the fabulous national museum Te Papa, six floors high and free admission. It is easy to lose oneself here, the time literally flies. We hurried through the first three floors in 2½ hours (the first floor consists of a gift shop, restaurant and restrooms). Te Papa (Maori for "treasure") has four "Discovery Centers", each like a children's museum with things to do and touch with capable personnel as guides. Te Papa is a very modern museum and is often used as a resource for research and education. There is an outdoor "Bush City" filled with domestic plants.
"The windy city"
We woke the next morning to rain and WIND, discovering why the city acquired it's nickname. I had to hang onto Louie to cross the street, certain to be blown away otherwise. We spent the morning visiting other museums, The Old Bank Arcade and The Museum of Wellington City & Sea. We returned to Te Papa in the afternoon, where we saw two more floors as exciting as the day before!
We also visited Plimmer's Ark Gallery, where an old ship built in 1848 in Canada and run aground in 1849 in Wellington Harbor. Considered unseaworthy, John Plimmer (considered the father of Wellington) bought it and transformed it into a floating platform. It was later used as an admission center for new immigrants and has even been used as a department store with all sorts of imported wares. In 1855 when the town boasted 5,000 inhabitants, a major earthquake changed Wellington's coastline, burying "Plimmer's Ark". Being too expensive to unearth, the country's new central bank was built over it. When the bank was renovated a few years ago, Plimmer's Ark was found and parts of it were excavated. It is now being sprayed with the same solution as the Vasa Ship in Stockholm.
It was time to get our bags from the hotel and continue to the next adventure, a ferry to the south island. It was similar to the old boats that went from Helsingborg-Helsingör in southern Sweden and the senior price was NZ$ 40 per person.
Three hours later we disembarked in Picton and were met by our hosts, who visited us in Sweden three years ago and we visited them last we were in New Zealand.
Our host is the hands-on owner of Hybrid Seed Company New Zealand Ltd. Louie was of course anxious to check out their magnificent pumpkin patch.
Blenheim is known as the "home of sunshine, flowers and wine", which explains why there are many attractive parks. Our hostess has a flower garden filled with all sorts of pretty flowers.
On Friday the 13th of February there was an annual market day in town (pop 21,000) in preparation for the wine festival on Saturday and Sunday. Our host turned 60 today and it was celebrated with a family barbecue in the evening.
The next day was Valentine's Day and we went sightseeing with our hosts. We drove to the world's green shell mussel capital of the world, Havelock. We continued to the Pelorus Bridge. A path led down to a sand beach on one side of the bridge and a rocky shore on the other side.
We continued to Nelson and passed the Swedish-sounding Höglund Art Glass Gallery. We came to a winery with a restaurant, The Grape Escape. We ate a delicious sandwich with a glass of white wine and drank some coffee.
Back home it was time to get dressed up to go out - our host had been told that we were meeting their daughter and son-in-law at a restaurant. He was however overwhelmed with the surprise party his family planned for him, with music, dancing and lots of food.
On Sunday we accompanied our hosts to church. In the true meaning of church, it was a Christian congregation, but without their own meeting house. They rent an assembly hall in a local school for their services.
Sheep used to be seen as far as the eye could see in New Zealand, but as one Kiwi remarked, today you see mostly toothpicks when coming in by plane. He was referring to the sticks used to prop grapevines up. When we visited in 1997 we saw a number of vineyards, but nothing compared to what can be seen today!
Wine, Wine and More Wine
We drove out to look at vineyards, as they seem to have taken over the landscape. On our previous visit there were cows grazing in the meadow on the other side of the road - now it is a vineyard. Small wineries can be found all over. Most often they offer many other products as well, such as unique hand-carved wooden furniture, antiques, or woolen products.
THEN we found a real tourist spot with wine tasting and a specialty quilt store called "The Quilting Barn" with divine quilts, as well as materials and equipment needed for making your own quilts or most any other handiwork.
At Mudhouse Village they offered such oddities as "Future Shock" that tasted about like mouth wash with a mixture of cinnamon and peppermint!
The Marlborough Provincial Museum is next door and had an exhibition about medical history, as the local hospital just celebrated its 125th anniversary.
Maori Meeting House
Our host asked if Louie could take pictures inside. The answer was that it was not common, but since we were friends, it was permitted. It was an amazingly interesting day that we will never forget, even though it is impossible to remember all the details that George related!
George invited us in and as a greeting he pressed his nose against ours, forehead to forehead (instead of shaking hands). Inside there are thirty some wooden planks about 80 cm (31 in) wide extending from floor to ceiling with enormously intricate carvings. Between each plank is a row with thin tree stalks placed horizontally. An extremely thin frond was then used to weave cross-stitch designs. He explained the story that each carving represented as well as the cross-stitch designs. They mostly portrayed relatively new stories, mainly from the 1800's, including the explorers Abel Tasman and James Cook.
The meeting house is used for social and cultural functions. Outsiders must have an invitation to enter and it is expected that you remove your shoes to show respect.
Out on the front porch there are four large panels to the right and as many to the left with intricate carving representing the eight Maori tribes in Marlborough. There is also a pole in the middle of the front of the porch that is reminiscent of a totem pole. It describes some of the Maori history, particularly about the prophet from the 1850's.
Production of about 100,000 tons per year. "Harvesting" begins in March by emptying the ponds. When there is a high concentration of salt, the water is nearly red. It was sunny and clear, enabling us to see fantastic scenery.
One of Many Outings
Towards The Northernmost Point
We left Blenheim and headed towards Nelson, parked and walked through the town, looked at the cathedral. Since the town was established in 1842, the cathedral isn't especially old.
New Zealanders are friendly and often ask where you come from, and come often with a follow-up question about what you like best, which is the most difficult question of all to answer!
We continued to Motueka, a town with a population of 12,000 where we found a motel to stay in for two nights.
The most interesting exhibit in the museum was how people lived onboard ship when they came to New Zealand starting in 1845. A family could get free passage if they had the right qualifications; that is if the man in the family had an occupation needed in the new country. The "family berth" consisted of a surface 4 ft x 6 ft (120 cm x 180 cm!) like a bed with room underneath to store all their possessions. An exhibition told about three ships that came to New Zealand 1840 - 1842, where the first two had men onboard that built houses for their families. The last ship, "Lords", carried the families. Because of poor hygiene, half of the children died on the ship! It was not only hard times as a colonist, but even on the journey there.
We drove over "Takaka Hill", aka "The Marble Mountain", a mountain road from Motuka to Collingwood on Golden Bay - 90 km (56 mi), but took 1½ hours because of the mountainous road. It was a good road and the speed limit was 100 km/hr (65 MPH), but it would be difficult for even a pro race driver to drive on that road with all the hairpin curves!
The name Marble Mountain comes from being the only quality marble in New Zealand and was used in the parliament buildings in Wellington and the cathedral in Nelson.
Collingwood was actually once considered for New Zealand's capital, as it is the geographical center of the country. It was first known as "Aorere" by the Maoris, which means "flying clouds". In 1855 William Gibbs bought the area and renamed it "Gibbs Flat". In 1857 gold was discovered and the town grew with 800 people overnight and became "Gibbstown". In 1859 the whole town burned down, giving the residents a chance to start over. It was then renamed Collingwood after Nelson's first mate and big plans were made to make it a twin city to Nelson. During its heyday there was a population of 2,000 but today there are about 300! Wellington on the north island became the capital because its harbor was much better!
In Collingwood we went on a 6½ hour tour out to Farewell Spit, the sand reef furthest north on the south island. We went on a 4WD bus that seats 25 people. We first visited Cape Farewell, the northernmost part of the south island where Captain Cook took farewell of New Zealand in 1770. Then we drove out on the 35 km (22 mi) long reef, Farewell Spit, to the lighthouse that has kept many ships from getting stuck on the reef since it was built in 1870.
The reef is an important natural reserve, where more than 100 different bird species have been identified. The first lighthouse was built in 1870 when most of the reef was invisible at high tide. It was later replaced by a steel lighthouse. From the beginning three people were necessary to keep it going. Now it is automatic and uses very little electricity and has battery backup. The largest shipwreck occurred in 1885.
We drove a short distance to Kaiteriteri where we went on a 5½-hour boat ride along the coast of Abel Tasman National Park. Many tourist packages are available combining hiking and visiting sandy beaches.
Then it was time to head for Christchurch and visit good friends.
In Christchurch we found our friends that we visited last time. They have been to Svalöv a number of times and visited us there.
Our drive continued to Sumner Beach, the in-place for beachcombers. We enjoyed a long walk along the beach and then went up Scarborough Hill with its amazing view of the city. We admired the many stately homes that are usually found in such places.
Another day we drove out to Banks Peninsula, south of Christchurch. The peninsula was formed by three volcanoes that left two craters where Lyttleton Harbour (where English pilgrims landed in 1850) and Akaroa Harbour (further south on the peninsula) are found today. Captain Cook saw the peninsula first in 1770.
A short time later we stopped at Little River, where Louie found some old train cars. The rails out to the peninsula have been removed, making way for a bike and hiking trail. We drank coffee at an arts and crafts gallery.
One day the ladies went to the fabric outlet for ”Untouched World”, a brand owned by ”Snowy Peak Ltd” that make marvelous woolen garments. They are well-known for their ecological fabrics and treatments of wool. They make ”MountainsilkTM” that is made of 100% New Zealand Merino wool that is machine washable; BodysilkTM that is like Mountainsilk but with 5% lycra; and MerinominkTM which is a mixture of Merino wool and fur from opossum, which is a pest in the country (”The only good possum is a dead possum”). Merinomink combines extreme warmth with light weight softness and is washable. The company's logo is a Maori figure symbolizing the ideal balance between man and nature. The garments are expensive, but loved by nature lovers.
Akaroa and Vicinity
French settlers bought the peninsula from the Maioris in 1838 and established Akaroa 82 km (51 mi) from Christchurch before Christchurch existed. After the Waitangi Treaty between the Maoris and England, the French sold out to the English. French settlers living there stayed and were joined by British settlers in 1850. It was a popular harbor for whalers, the first white men to come to New Zealand. The town still has French street names and various signs are also in French. The French flag is even flown.
We stopped at Barrys Bay on the way home and bought some delicious cheeses. Cheese has been produced on the Banks Peninsula since 1844.
We went with our hosts to Hanmer Springs. The town seems to be real touristy, but it was peaceful in the middle of the week. The view of the surrounding mountains from the pools was breathtaking. They are open year-round, so you can even sit in the pools in the winter and look up at snow-clad mountains!
Christchurch – Invercargill Roundtrip
We drove from Christchurch to Dunedin, with a population of 100,000.
We even found a vintage train, but it only runs on Sundays.
We found our way to a family that we met in Sweden. He is from Dunedin and worked a few years with Louie in Svalöv. His wife is from Malmö. Their daughter is bilingual and thought it fun that someone visited that she could speak Swedish with.
There was also many old cars and bikes. Afterwards we took a drive out on Otaga Peninsula.
We left our friends and visited downtown before leaving town.
The station looks like it would feel more at home in Scotland. There are many buildings that are reminiscent of Scotland – Dunedin even has its own Scottish plaid!
goes from Dunedin to Milford Sound via Invercargill, even though most of the roads are narrow. We only went as far as to Invercargill since we visited Milford Sound on our last visit and had such a perfect visit that we don't want to disturb that happy memory.
We drove out to Kaka Points lookout. There are trails taking off everywhere, as hiking, or ”tramping” as the Kiwis say, is very popular here.
Then we found an even smaller road called ”Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail. It seems every area has its own heritage trail to promote sights in the area.
We stopped at a rustic café that our friends in Dunedin recommended. We asked about a room in the area as there seems to be a lot of tourists out and about. We stayed at a place for ”Backpackers”, which is very popular here – simple and cheap, but clean. The best part was the good view. In the evening we walked along the beach and saw dolphins.
We stopped nearby at ”Slope Point”, the southernmost point of the south island, 7 km (4 mi) further south than Bluff, south of Invercargill. We have now been quite far north on the north island and down to Wellington, to the northernmost and southernmost points on the south island.
We looked in at ”Shearing South”, a sheep shearing museum and saw a very interesting movie. A good sheep-shearer could shear 50-60 sheep/day 100 years ago. With modern techniques several hundred can be sheared today, with the record set at more than 800 sheep in 8 hours. They are paid NZ$ 2 per sheep.
We now headed north, since it is impossible to follow the west coast because of all the fiords. We visited one of the larger ones, Milford Sound, on our last visit.
The town seems to be a popular retirement community. It is in an important and rich sheeping district with a population of 3,000. Thomas Winton, a well-known sheep farmer named the town. He had a camp there in the 1850's and helped to survey the town in 1862.
There are still a lot of tourists on the road, even if the weather hasn't been as good as usual for the time of year, so while still in Invercargill we booked a B&B or farmstay. We wound up on a sheep farm and had our own little self-contained cabin. It is common to even be served supper for a little extra when ordered in advance. It was just like being invited home to good friends. We were served a glass of wine alongn with a delicious 3-course meal on their best china. We sat and chatted awhile afterwards. They even helped us reserve a place for the following night.
The first passenger trains started in 1878 between Gore and Kingston, resulting in the name Kingston Flyer, since it could reach speeds of up to 60 km/hour (37 MPH)! When gold was discovered in the 1860's, Kingston became an important city.
We skipped Queenstown, a tourist town of about 7,000 permanent residents but expands to 25,000 during the summer, since we were there for a whole week on our last visit.
We continued on instead to Arrowtown, that grew overnight when gold was discovered in Arrow River in 1862. The gold rush didn't last very long, but it later became an important agricultural area.
The old houses along Main Street are now shops with everything a tourist might want, from merino wool to souvenir jewelry reminiscent of the gold rush.
We drove towards Wanaka on the old mountainous Crown Ridge Road, full of wonderful views and outlooks that our hosts at the farmstay recommended.
A little further along the road we found something that our friends in Christchurch told us about – a long row of brassieres hanging on a fence. Someone started once upon a time, and it seems people keep adding to the collection!
The Journey Continues
We passed ”Blue Pools” a peculiar shade of blue.
Between Haast Beach and Jackson Bay on the west coast we found our next B&B in the "large" town of Okuru with a population of 30! We also enjoyed a delicious family-style meal together with two other guests from the States. We later strolled down to the beach.
At Ship Creek Beach we wanted to follow an interesting nature trail, but we instead discovered ”sand flies”. We got back into our car since we didn't have any mosquito repellant with us. Three days later we still had some of the bites that we got in just a few minutes.
We thought it very dirty compared to the glacier we saw in Norway last summer. It rains a lot here and we thought that should keep it clean. We learned instead that the soil on the mountain here was very loose, so that gravel is always falling down onto the white ice, making it look dirty.
Not far is the Franz Josef Glacier, but we didn't bother with it. We saw many snow-clad mountains – so many that we couldn't find all the names on our map. We're fairly certain however that we saw the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mt Cook, 3,753 m (12,300 ft) to the top. We visited it from the other side on our last visit. We passed many lakes, such as Lake Mapourika and Lake Ianthe with their Maori names.
Late in the afternoon we arrived in Ross, with its goldfields is today considered a historical area. Ross had the largest deposit of gold and the mining lasted much longer than anywhere else. The town later became an important agricultural center. Because of new techniques, gold mining resumed again in 1988. We found our next B&B and enjoyed another family-style supper.
We continued driving north and came to Hokitika with a population of 3,500.
We even had time to visit a jade factory and of course bought something.
It was then time to head inland towards Arthur’s Pass.
The main reason for building the new section was because the old road was exposed for erosion and it was only a matter of time until it would have been closed. Seven different alternatives were presented before this was built. It was also considered to be the most environment friendly.
At the Visitor Center in Arthur's Pass Village at the top of the pass there is an old stage coach that traveled through the pass from 1866 – 1923 until the train tunnel was completed. It was originally a three day journey of 270 km (168 mi) and took 36 hours. The length was shortened with the railroad and only took 14 hours with 5 horses, driving 10 km/hour (6 MPH). A one-way ticket on the stage coach cost as much as three week's wages for a manual worker; 9 passengers could sit inside and 8 on top. A narrow road with hairpin curves, failing brakes, and possibly a distracted or drunken driver made the journey even more exciting.
The continuation to Christchurch went smoothly. We drove past towns with names such as Annat and Hei Hei.
It was then time to continue to California.
Myra at the keyboard.
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