Category Archives: New Zealand

Christchurch still stands tall

You probably heard about the 2 big earthquakes that hit New Zealand’s 3rd biggest city Christchurch in November 2011 and February 2012.  280 something people died, thousands were injured and many buildings were reduced to rubble.  We ended our visit to New Zealand there before flying to Cairns, Australia.  Christchurch has lots of attractions, many of them because of the earthquake.  First, we visited the container mall, replacing a mall that had collapsed.  We had a yummy lunch at a Lebanese food stall there.

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This temporary mall attracts tourists because it is quite unique.

While driving through the city, we saw a lot of construction.  Every collapsed building must be rebuilt with an extra-strong foundation and a lot of stabilising bars, so they’re taking their time on rebuilding to get it right.

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A lot of downtown looks like this.
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Some of the fronts of wrecked buildings are propped up by scaffolding. We think they will build new buildings around these fronts.

We also visited the Cardboard Cathedral.  It was built as a unique cathedral to replace the town’s namesake, The old Christchurch cathedral that had it’s steeple collapse in the earthquake.  The Cardboard Cathedral is made with typical material on the outside, but the inside is all made of cardboard, laminated wood and paper.  The chairs, the altar, even the big cross at the front.

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Kaia was happy to find these statues of her favourite animal in the cathedral lobby. Giraffe statues are all over Christchurch and they represent that the city still stands tall and that the people keep their heads high and are moving on from the earthquake.

Christchurch is also one of the world’s southernmost big cities, so it is the “port to Antarctica”, or at least the eastern side of Antarctica.  We visited the Antarctic Centre, a museum with all things Antarctica.  The ticket seller at the entrance told us to hurry to the Antarctic storm simulator.  We were given Winter jackets and rubber things to go over our shoes, then we went into the storm.  The room has snow on the ground and a snow dome as a shelter for those who need it during the storm.  It simulates a research station getting hit by a nasty storm, but of course not as nasty as Real Antarctic storms.  It started with a bit of wind, then it got really cold and the wind started howling.  It lasted about 5 minutes, but I imagined myself as an emperor penguin, standing in storms like that all winter with no sun, keeping one little egg warm!

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As you can see, apart from the jackets we were given, we weren't very well dressed for an Antarctic storm!

After the  storm, we gave our jackets back and went to my favourite part of the museum, the blue penguin display.  Blue penguins are the world’s smallest penguin, and are native to New Zealand.   We just missed the feeding so most of them were back in their nesting holes, but a few were still out and about.

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Blue penguins are only about 30 centimetres tall.

There were also windows into the nesting holes, so we could see the others too.  The penguins in the museum were found unhealthy and were saved and brought to the museum, so wouldn’t have survived in the wild.
Most people associate all species of penguins to Antarctica, but only 4 of the world’s 17 kinds of penguins can survive in that kind of harsh climate.  Other species are found in New Zealand, southern Africa, Australia, South America, many islands in the southern ocean, and the kind found the furthest north is the Galapagos penguin, which we saw during our time there.
We also watched a 4D movie that  blew snow and wind at us, and even shook the seats as the big icebreaker we were on went over big waves.
We also learned about the race to the South Pole between Norwegian Amundsen and British Scott.  Amundsen got there first, and Scott and his comrades died on their way back.
After the Antarctic Centre, we went to find a campground.  Since we had to get up early for our flight, we went to a Holiday Park (fancy campground) and stayed in a little cabin.  It was a lot more expensive than all our other nights in New Zealand, but we wouldn’t have to take the tent down in the morning, so it was worth it.  The next morning, we got up at about 3:45AM to get to the airport.  The day before, my dad found a place near the holiday park that would drop our rental car and shuttled us to the airport.  It seems like we always have horrible flight times on this trip, but they’re also the cheapest ones, so we’re not complaining.  I was hoping we would fly out on Air New Zealand, but we get the cheap airlines too.  We have two flights with Malaysian Airline, and I don’t think we’re flying with Emirates on or way through Abu Dhabi either.  Since the Cairns airport is pretty small, we had to go via Brisbane.  When we were about to land there, it was raining and the clouds were very low.  As soon as we got the ground in view, we heard the jets roar and we rose up again.  I guess the pilot realised the plane wasn’t in the right position to land, either too high or too low.  We had to do a big loop to land again, and there was a lot of turbulence.  For the first time in a long time on a plane, I threw up.  Fortunately, the landing in Cairns went smoothly.

Jake

Mueller Hut & Mt Cook – a High point in our New Zealand

The south island of New Zealand is perhaps best known for its spectacular geography & scenery  – snow capped mountains, glaciers, rugged fjords etc.  As Yvonne mentioned in the last entry, we tried to access this part of the island experience from the west coast, but got rained out … either directly or because the risk of mud and rock slides was too great.  So we made a point of trying again from the other side of the coast range – this time in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.  I’d had my eye on a hike to a high alpine club (Mueller) hut for several weeks, and we had just enough time left in the country to pull it off.
Mt Cook is NZ’s highest point, at 3700m.  It towers over everything else.  The approach to the mountain/park along lake Pukaki is breathtaking … especially since in our case it was the first time the clouds lifted in about 3 days.

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The park has many beautiful hikes, but we wanted to get up high, so the Mueller hut route seemed perfect … at least for getting up high.  The downside was that it was essentially straight up for 1 vertical km.  The park has a long history of mountaineering, and there are about a dozen alpine huts tucked into various nooks and crannies below the towering peaks.  They are built as approach bases from where very early morning departure ascents can be attempted on the most difficult routes.  Many people climb here, and it is dangerous climbing.  On average,  4 climbers die each year just on Mt Cook.  We were quite happy to think of Mueller Hut as a destination – not as a starting point!

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Each plaque on this monument commemorates a climber or climbing party's death. They are on all sides of the monument.
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our route in yellow

We were cold that night in the tent, but awoke to a clear sky and warmed during our breakfast on the picnic table outside the visitors center.  A late morning start had us feeling relaxed and excited about climbing into what we’d heard was some significant amount of fresh snow up near the hut.

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The first 90 minutes were 90% straight up stairs. But beautiful stairs they were, representing hours and hours of hard work of park staff.

I hadn’t been getting as much exercise as I like to, so actually quite enjoyed slugging the pack up.  Really!

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The views opened up beautifully as we gained altitude. That's Mt Cook rising in the background.
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Here are two ponds within a glacial lake. The different shades of green colour owe to the different size of glacier flour that is suspended in the water. The more the water has had time to calm, the more flour sinks out, and the deeper the green colour becomes. You can see these ponds in the previous photo.
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The parking lot where we started is small now ... in the bottom left corner of photo.
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Lunch at the "Sealy tarns" (tarn is a small mountain lake) was a welcome break after gaining 500m of vertical.
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Mostly boulder hopping here, then started into the snow. We're headed to the saddle in the middle of the ridge at the top.
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There were regular small avalanches on the mountain faces all around. You'd first hear them thunder, then look to find them.
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The view from the "saddle". Ahhhh! Now just a gentle climb along the ridge to Mueller Hut.
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The last 20 minutes was in the fresh snow from the night before. Gotta say, it was actually good to be in snow again. Easy for us to say as it was only up to our ankles ... I understand that Ontario has a bit more than that now! And 2m fell on Kitimat BC yesterday!
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Almost there, now (hut is in distance on right). This photo taken just after a lovely little snowball fight.
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About half the folks who make it to the hut are day hikers - up and back down in one day. Almost all of the overnighters were hikers like us - only two groups were attempting serious climbing.
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This renowned Kiwi climber has since passed away, but apparently the smallish mountain that rises up behind the hut (we hiked it the following morning) was Hillary's first climb ... quite a few years ago! This hut that he opened is actually the 5th rendition. The first was back in the 1920s I believe. The second one was carried away in an avalanche.
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It's about a 50m walk to the outhouse. Solid human waste needs to be helicoptered out, so they coach you with instructions on the wall how to "pee forward" so it goes into a separate pipe (released into the environment) - all in the interest of minimizing helicopter servicing!
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Mt Cook looms large even from our very far away vantage point. It even creates its own weather.
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There were a few "Kea"s about - they are the only high altitude parrot. They are very friendly and cheeky - so much so that there are signs everywhere asking you to avoid feeding them.
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Mountains have a way of making you feel small. Here I am on Jake's shoulder whispering congratulations for a good climb.
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Ever since I worked out in the Canadian Rocky mountains in university, high up in the mountains has been one of my favourite places to be.
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I can't recall ever having such an inspired setting for a game of onze!
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These huts are very well set up with bunks/mattresses and great cooking facilities.
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We watched Mr Cook fade into the twilight from our perch.

We were about 20 folks at the hut that night – many Europeans, some Kiwis and us.  Kaia and Jake were the only kids.  I thought there might have been some local kids, as they hadn’t gone back to school after their Christmas holidays yet.  We slept well and after breakfast retraced Hillary’s steps up the mount behind the hut.  I guess that means we’ve taken our first steps towards our Everest attempt when we’re in Nepal this April 😉

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On our way back down to the hut. Thick clouds had literally "rolled" in, so couldn't see too far.
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This is the Mueller glacier. It continues for much longer that it appears, as the bottom part is covered in gravel.

We packed up and started down the mountain through the clouds.  We passed many people puffing and sweating coming up … and were glad to have that behind us.

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Jake setting up an ambush on Kaia

About half way down the mountain we finally broke out of the clouds to a perfect day and snapped a family photo.

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I had been looking at another trail across the valley that goes 5k into Hooker Lake.  It was pretty flat and followed a gushing river and over 3 suspension bridges.  So I went ahead for the 2nd half of the descent and then ran into Hooker Lake.  It was pretty hot down at that elevation so a dip in the glacier lake was refreshing.  What a perfect trail to run on. 

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I love the light weight and wide angle of the GoPro camera but the wide angle does create some interesting distortions.
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End of the trail at Hooker Lake. And of course ... Mt Cook in the background.

I met up with the rest of the family for lunch back at visitors center.  This had been our last outing in NZ, and it really felt like we were going out on a high.

Cam

3 days later …. the fast descent with a full pack and then quickish 10k run, after not doing much for weeks, meant I could barely walk for about 3 days.  Yvonne did not fare much better.  Must be getting older or something …

Wwoofing and the Wild West

After finishing the Abel Tasman track, we were pretty tired.  By that point, we had camped at 15 different places in the 17 days we’d been in New Zealand — that’s a lot of setting up and taking down — so we wanted to “stay put” for a few days.  So “wwoofing” does not refer to our exhausted grunts each time we picked up our backpacks, it stands for “willing workers on organic farms” and is a network of landowners who practice organic gardening or farming and who are willing to host “workers” in exchange for some labour.  Wwoofing stints generally last between a week to several months, but Carolyn, the owner of Te Miko, responded to our email enquiry and was OK with us coming for just a few days.  Her property is located on the west coast of the south island, near Punakaiki National Park.

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Carolyn's house with the terraced flower and vegetable gardens.

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Carolyn on the left, and Birgit on the right. Birgit is German and had been "wwoofing" with Carolyn for a month.

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On the way to Carolyn's we stopped for dinner at this fantastic lookout/picnic spot. Notice our toques!

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Also on our way, we stopped at Cape Foul Wind. It was so named by Captain James Cook because of a storm he hit there. It is also home to a seal colony, but the wind didn't seem too foul the day we were there.

I don’t know if we really managed to help Carolyn very much — we did some weeding, harvesting of beans, and levelled a new spot for her old henhouse. 

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We also had the chance to visit the "pancake rocks". It was a rather calm day so the blowhole wasn't too active.

Carolyn is also an artist and has a glass bead studio on her property.  Since her business is slowing down and the local public radio station was looking for a new home, she offered her studio as a part-time headquarters.  Thursday nights are the big “radio night” when two DJs bring their CDs (and red wine), and broadcast an eclectic show.  Many locals show up for the ‘party’ as well.  It was well-attended the Thursday we were there (almost 20 people showed up) and I was surprised to meet a woman from Montreal — now living “on the road” as the artistic director for Cirque du Soleil’s “Totem” show that is presently touring Australia.  She had some time off as the show was being moved from Sydney to Melbourne, and was visiting a friend in Punakaiki!  The theme for the radio show that week was the letter L (they are working their way through the alphabet), so we heard some Lennon, Ladysmith Black Mombaza, and a variety of music by artists and bands that start with L.  The two DJs are huge fans of two Canadian artists:  Leonard Cohen and Neil Young.

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Radio night at Te Miko.

On Cam’s birthday, it poured rain almost all day, so we had a quiet, indoor day.  Birgit and I had made an apple cake for the occasion.  At one point, Kaia went to get some fresh air and reported that our tent had collapsed!  Indeed it had, which meant a trip to the laundromat to dry out sleeping bags and clothes!

Continuing south down the coast, we enjoyed the magnificent coast, and stopped at the Franz Josef Glacier town.

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crazy New Zealand roads!

We spent a rainy night in the tent, but this time, properly pegged and tied with guy wires, it performed very well and kept us dry!  Unfortunately, all the rain meant that the paths to the glaciers were closed (due to the threat of rockslides) so we didn’t manage to see either Franz Josef or Fox glacier.

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...or was it the threat of people robot-dancing?

We checked out a cave/tunnel not far from the town.  It had been dug to supply water for a gold sluicing operation and later used for hydro power.

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at the cave entrance with our headlamps
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we were wading through COLD water for about 200m
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we saw glowworms up close!
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these are the stringy threads that the glowworms spin to catch prey.
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Lots of rain meant the waterfalls were flowing. But the yellow ropes indicate that the trail to the glacier face is closed.

We gained respect for how big the South Island really is, as we drove towards Mt. Cook, our next destination.  We joked that had we been in the Andes, there would have been a road going right over the mountain range.  In Norway, there would have been a tunnel blasted through.  But in New Zealand, there was a long road circumventing the mountains (with lots of little one-lane bridges along the way!)

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The coast was this rugged for a good portion of our southward travel.

Yvonne 

Abel Tasman à kayak et à pied

Lundi, nous sommes arrivés à Bali, Indonésie. C’est parfait. La bouffe est délicieuse… notre accommodation est super… et tout est tellement peu cher! Pour ceux au Canada: nous sommes à l’autre bout du monde, et Bali est 13 heures à l’avance de l’Ontario. Pas parfait pour faire du Skype, mais s’il y a un temps qui fonctionne, nous sommes ouverts!
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Si vous connaissez bien ma famille, vous saurez que nous aimons beaucoup le kayak et la randonnée. La place parfaite pour ces deux sports est le Parc National Abel Tasman, situé au nord de l’ile du sud de la Nouvelle Zélande. Puisque c’est un des “Great Walks” du pays, il faut planifier et réserver en avance. C’est la destination #1 dans tout le pays, puisqu’il y a des possibilités infinis! Tu peux marcher, kayaker, prendre le water taxi à différentes places, dormir dans ta tente ou une hutte, venir pour la journée, ou venir dans ton propre voilier ou bateau de vitesse pour faire du ski nautique. Il y a vraiment quelque chose pour tout le monde! Notre plan: une journée en kayak, et trois journées de marche.
La première journée a commencé au camp “Hangdog” que Jake a décrit dans le blog précédent. On a déjeuné, et on a conduit à “Golden bay Kayaks”, à Tata Beach. Puisque nous sommes extrêmement désorganisés, on a seulement été prêts après 11h! Le loueur de kayaks a expliqué qu’on était 14 km de Totaranui, le camp ou on allait dormir. Mais, les premières 9 km allaient être très venteux, et il fallait se dépêcher. Après passer Separation point, on allait être à l’abri du vent pour les dernières 5 km, et on pourrait se relaxer. À la fin de la journée, quelqu’un de Golden bay Kayaks allait conduire à Totaranui pour ramasser les kayaks et laisser nos sacs à dos.

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Nous sommes finalement prêts! Le vent n'était pas si fort, et Abel Tasman est vraiment beau.
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Mon père et Jake sont sous l'arche
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Des phoques!! Pas aussi bon que les Galápagos, mais encore très amusant!

En arrivant au camp Totaranui, on a réalisé qu’on n’etait pas les seules personnes là! Totaranui est le seul camp dans tout Abel Tasman avec une route d’autos, alors il y avait des centaines de personnes!

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Notre souper délicieux

La prochaine journée était 12 km jusqu’à notre prochain camp, Onetahuti. Mais, à 6 km, il y a un estran qu’on peut seulement traverser à la marée basse, à 8h. Alors il fallait se réveiller tôt, sans même déjeuner, et marcher très vite pour atteindre l’estran Awaroa! Mais à l’autre coté, on pourrait cuire et manger des crêpes, et prendre notre temps pour aller à Onetahuti.

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Les sentiers à Abel Tasman ont l'air comme ça. La plante national de la Nouvelle Zélande est la fougère, et elles sont très communes à Abel Tasman (comme vous voyez dans cette photo)!
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Parfois, le sentier est sur la plage!

Nous sommes arrivés à Awaroa à 9h, le dernier temps que tu peux traverser sans avoir besoin de nager! OK, j’exagère un peu, mais nos pieds étaient mouillés!

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On a prit 20 minutes à croiser l'estran.

À l’autre bord, on a mangé nos crêpes. MMM!  Après qu’on avait finit notre déjeuner relaxe, c’était 10h30, et on avait seulement 6km à marcher, jusqu’à Onetahuti! Sur le chemin, on a passé par quelques chalets sur des belles plages. À la marée haute, c’est très jolie, mais à la marée basse, c’est juste un estran très boueux! Les dernières 2 km de la journée étaient sur une grande plage.

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Onetahuti était notre camp préféré. La plage était vraiment belle, et l’eau était rafraichissante. Aussi, il n’y avait pas trop de personnes, seulement une vingtaine (meilleur qu’à Totaranui, avec 300 autres personnes)! 

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On a joué avec les méduses!

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On a aussi trouvé une petite caverne 100m du camp!

Le lendemain matin, plusieurs Water taxis sont venus à Onetahuti, deposer plein de kayaks. Un bateau avait 9 kayaks doubles et un kayak simple! Plus tard, un bateau est venu avec les 19 personnes pour remplir ces kayaks. La majorité des personnes font Abel Tasman du sud au nord, on n’a pas vu beaucoup de personnes comme nous, aller du nord au sud. Alors, il y a plusieurs compagnies de kayaks/water taxi au sud du parc. Et ils ne laissent pas leur clients dépasser Onetahuti (parce que le nord est trop “dangereux”), donc ils laissent les clients et kayaks là.

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Une de mes parties préférés de Abel Tasman était…

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Les cigales! Non... les carapaces de cigales! Elles étaient partout dans les arbres, et sont faciles a coller sur le tissu. Ont a eu beaucoup de conversations avec des personnes sur le sentier à propos de nos chapeaux!

On a marché pour quelques heures avant d’arriver à Bark Bay, pour le dîner. Bark Bay est une plage très belle avec l’eau claire et turquoise. On a nagé et mangé nos sandwichs (comme chaque jour).

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C'était plein de personnes, kayaks, et water taxis! C'est aussi un camp, mais il y a des huttes pour ceux qui n'ont pas de tente.

Après, on a continué la randonnée jusqu’à Torrent Bay, notre dernier camp. Quelques de mes observations de marcher à Abel Tasman:
-Le sentier est bien construit et maintenu

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-C’est bien utilisé. Plusieurs personnes viennent pour la journée, très souvent. Les utilisateurs sont 50% Kiwi (personne de NZ) et 50% internationale. Il y a tant de personnes… (c’est difficile à trouver un bon temps pour faire pipi à cote du sentier – il y a toujours quelqu’un autour du coin)!
-Il y a des fois de ponts de suspension au dessus des rivieres

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-Il y a beaucoup de bonnes opportunités pour des photos!

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Le camp de Torrent Bay n’est pas très beau, juste à coté d’une autre estran. On a croisé le matin prochain, en route à Marahau, la fin du sentier. Au dîner, la plage a mangé Jake!

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Après quatre journées très amusantes, nous sommes arrivés à Marahau, où la plupart des personnes commencent l’aventure. Notre compagnie de kayaks à Tata beach a conduit notre auto à Marahau. Avant de partir, on a mangé des hamburgers très chères et delicieuses (tout est chère en NZ). Merci, Abel Tasman Coast Track, pour une aventure dont je vais me souvenir pour longtemps!

Kaia

Long way South

When you think about it, New Zealand is actually pretty big.  To drive through it, you need several days, and we had to get from Raglan down to Wellington in just a few days to catch our ferry across the Cook Strait between the North and South islands of New Zealand.  In other words, we had to drive a heck of a lot to get there.  We spent many hours driving those days, but we didn’t miss some little attractions along the way.

Soon after leaving Raglan, we stopped at a big hill with a view of the ocean for lunch.

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The view from our lunch spot. Click on the photo to see bigger.
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There was a baby hedgehog in the grass there!
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Unfortunately, hedgehogs are an invasive species in New Zealand, as are all other land mammals.

Someone in Raglan told us about a geothermal hot water beach a couple hours down the coast in a place called Kawhia (“wh” makes an “f” sound in  Maori NZ).  We borrowed a shovel from someone who was leaving, and dug ourselves our very own hot tub!

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And since the cold ocean was right there, we ran in between the two temperatures for a hot-cold spa treatment.  It felt nice!
We spent that night at a campground in a place called Oparau.  A guy who owns a roadside gas station/store lets people camp around it for free.  The next day, we drove a lot, but stopped at a few places along the way.

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It was a hot walk down so it was nice to be able to have a drink.
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We also visited a big cave. There were some danes there, and they were surprised when my mom started speaking to them in danish.
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This waterfall is called Bridal Veil Falls.
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It's over 50 metres high, so it really comes down hard!
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This used to be a cave but it collapsed so is now a giant natural arch.

After 10 hours or so of driving over a time span of a day and a half, we were running low on songs to play on the iPod, and replayed our favourites like “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot.  Eventually though, we got to Wellington, NZ’s capital city, and the southernmost country capital city in the world.  Some people we met at our campground in Rotorua told us about a great free museum there called Te Papa.  That was our first stop in Wellington.  There was a big animal exhibit with models of New Zealand’s animals, existing and extinct.  There were skeletons of NZ’s marine mammals, including one of a juvenile pygmy blue whale.  It’s hard to believe that it’s a pygmy, and that it’s not even full grown!  The big attraction in that exhibit though is the body of a big colossal squid that was accidentally caught by a Kiwi ship fishing for toothfish in the Antarctic.  It started eating a fish was caught on a deep fishing line, and didn’t let go as the line got hauled up.  It died at the surface because of the rapid change in pressure, but the crew took it on board for scientific examination (big deal, like 12 squid specialists from around the world came to examine it), and was sent to the museum afterward as an exhibit.

Another big thing at Te Papa was the Air New Zealand 75th anniversary exhibit.  It showed the evolution of air travel through the years (like what the flight attendants wore), and even had a simulator room for what flying with Air New Zealand might be like in the future!

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There was a screen that lets you design your own plane.
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We invented Share a Chair Air and a silly safety demonstration for it while flying from Houston to Costa Rica.

As the national museum of NZ, there was also some stuff about what the country is known for like progressiveness in women’s and gay rights, Maori culture, and of course, All Blacks rugby.  I learned about the origin of the haka.  If you’ve ever watched an All Blacks game, you’ve seen them do a dance/chant with their tongues out, and it’s called the haka.  The Maori used to do it before fighting to scare their enemies.

After Te Papa, we went up a hill, at the highest point in Wellington.  There was a wind turbine up there, which of course got my dad interested.

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We heard that Wellington is known for it’s storms.  We were there on a nice day, but it was still really windy, so it’s a good place for a wind turbine.  We even had to set up our tent behind the cooking shelter at the campground in town that night!

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Our last dinner on the North Island.

The next morning, we drove to and onto the Inter Islander ferry, on our way to the South Island.

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Leaving Wellington. Bye Bye North Island!
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The Inter Islander, seen from the shore on the day before we left.
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You go through some narrow inlets as you arrive to the South Island.

The ferry is supposed to take 3 and a half hours, but we had to wait a while just outside of Picton Harbour for our sister ship to leave and give us room to dock.  After driving off, we went west along the north coast of the South Island because we were scheduled to start the Abel Tasman coast track the next day.  We drove through Nelson, which is in an area known for its fruit orchards and vineyards.  A lot of ni-Vans we met in Vanuatu told us they worked for 4 months per year planting and harvesting apples, grapes and kiwifruit in that area.

That drive was where NZ’s curvy roads stood out to me the most.  Some parts are just ridiculously windy, then you see a “caution: windy road” sign.  Yeah, as if the road wasn’t windy before!

We camped near Golden Bay where we would start our trek the next day.  The campground is called Hangdog, a camp near a big climbing cliff that’s quite hippyish.

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We knew we were in a hippy climbing camp when we saw this sign.

The campground was jam-packed, but we managed to find a spot to set up the tent.  My dad and Kaia went to the campfire that night, but it was a bit awkward for them, as they were the only people who weren’t climbing enthusiasts.  Apparently, the conversation around the fire was about stuff like: “I buy handholds from the brand Uprising for my personal bouldering gym at home” and “There are 3 climbing gyms in my town, but I only use 2 because one of them has handholds that are really sandpapery, and it’s not good for the skin on my hands longterm”.
The next day, we started the Abel Tasman coast track, which Kaia will tell you all about.

Jake

Conscious Living in Raglan

Before we left Peterborough in September, our good friend Renee Stevens told us that one of her “nieces” (but not exactly) Candide from Quebec years ago had fallen in love with a town called Raglan in New Zealand when visiting, decided to stay, and got married to a local guy.  Her sister Dominique came to visit her, and well, the same thing happened to her.  Renee said that the community was very environmentally active and thought we’d like it there.  We made a mental note to visit … but anything that is “mental” with me doesn’t usually work out.  Fast forward to January as we make our way down the north island, and Raglan is off our radar.  But out of the blue comes this email from Renee saying “hey, are you guys going to visit Raglan?”  We looked at the map and saw that we’d gone by it already, but it wasn’t so far out of the way so after visiting Waitomo we headed north an hour and out to the west coast to Raglan.

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Perhaps our first indication that we were headed to an environmentally conscious community was this 28 turbine wind farm just outside Raglan. The local distribution company had partnered with wind power company Meridian Energy. The farm produces enough electricity for 28 000 homes - Raglan has a population of about 3000 full time residents.

Renee put us in touch with her family contacts, but we were arriving in the height of the tourist season (Candide and her husband Steve run a kayak & stand up paddling (SUP) business), their father from Quebec was arriving just as we were, and there had been a tragic death of a 20 yr old in town just days before.  So we settled in on our own, and quickly saw what had attracted these two women years before.
Raglan is known nationally for its surfing, its strong arts community and its environmental consciousness.

Our first day we rented surf boards and found our way to the fantastic surf beach.

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An equal mix of sunbathers, surfers and folks who loved playing in the large surf. Lots of international and national tourists as well as locals.

Kaia, Jake and I took turns on two boards and picked up where we’d left off surfing on Zancudo beach in Costa Rica. The waves were certainly bigger here – it was hard to even get out to the break, but we had some success, and the wetsuits bought us more time in the water.  Its amazing how much of a workout surfing is, at least the way we were doing it.  There’s a huge amount of water flow even in shallow that you need to work against.  Then there’s the big waves washing in at you  that you try to jump over or duck under.  Then you hop on and paddle like mad to get out before the next wave washes you back.  But then …. you catch one and its the best feeling.  We had a 24hr rental on the boards so we hit the beach at 6:30 AM the next day too.  Jake decided to just swim that day so these photos taken that morning are of just Kaia and me.

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Yea Kaia!

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There were several para gliders who were making the most of the up drafts at the beach.
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Raglan is also well known as a gliding location. We'd regularly see them getting towed up and sometimes you'd see two gliding around. Note to self .... try that some day.

Raglan is also known for its great coffee.  We sampled a few downtown spots and were not disappointed.  We had run into Candide’s husband Steve at a music event the previous night, and then accidentally met Dominique’s husband Paul at the coffee bar.
It quickly became apparent to us why the “arts” label was appropriate for Raglan.  Many galleries were spread around the downtown and beyond, and every Sunday afternoon/evening Steve and Candide organize “Sunday Sessions” – a downtown drop in gathering of locals and whoever for some great live music.  There were posters galore for other upcoming events.
It became apparent to us that in Raglan, the “white” (Pakeha) and Maori communities are very well integrated.  We actually camped at the local “marae” (meeting place).  The Pakeha we spoke to almost always made reference to the earlier Maori occupation of their lands.  When the 20 yr old Maori boy died in a car accident a couple days before we arrived, the loss was mourned by the entire town. 
When we dug around a bit to learn what had given rise to Raglan’s environmental consciousness, we learned that a female Maori elder had years ago become very outspoken about land issues and had made a significant impact on decision making.  Others took note, and the town is now known for its activism.
A proposal was made by mining company “Chatham Rock” to extract phosphorus from the sea bed off the west coast of NZ.  They would essentially be dredging vast areas of sea floor and dumping the waste tailings back on the bottom, with the associated marine impacts.  Think of “trawling” x 100.  Raglan initiated a group known as KASM (Kiwis Against Seabed Mining) that presented evidence at the application hearing.  They fundraised so they could hire biologists and environmental lawyers.  The battle went on for several years and not long before we arrived, Chatham’s application had been rejected …. KASM had won!
When we asked Candide where we should stay, and told her that we were interested in connecting with some of the local environmental movers/shakers, she said we must go to “Solscape” – an eco accommodation facility on the edge of town.  They were completely booked out (hence us camping at marae) but we visited twice and had some time to speak with the founder Phil.

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The view from Solcape ... not bad!

Phil toured us around the property a bit then invited us to explore the rest of it.  He set out years ago to provide visitors with accommodation choices that have minimal impact on the earth.  Principles of permaculture guide everything they do.  The operation has evolved now to include:
– food gardens throughout

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– a restaurant that uses all the produce grown, and sources as much as possible of the rest from others in town
– a major composting operation

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Here's Phil turning in the new kitchen scraps. One heap was too hot to put your hand into - these piles took only 30 days to be ready for the garden.

– solar hot water throughout
– low embodied energy accommodation

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This out of service coach had been trucked to the property before Phil bought it. It is used for "dorm" style accomodation.
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These old cabooses were pretty spiffy looking and had a double or bunk bed each.
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Phil built a couple of these adobe (mud from the property) rooms with Dominique's husband Paul.
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There are 6 large teepees available for staying in at the back of the property - they require a 5 minute walk in.

– a nature trail

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This sign is placed at the start of the wooded stream walk.

There were also facilities for tenting and small self contained camper vans.
Solscape offers yoga classes on the front lawn vista, as well as lessons in the “Raglan” form of yoga – surfing.

We learned that Phil was one of the two founders/leaders of KASM, and he described to us how the community had really come together to rally against this threat to their marine environment.  The fact that the approval authority had actually listened seriously to their testimony was refreshing to our family who in Peterborough have witnessed twice in two years local decision makers ignoring wide spread and informed public opinion to plow ahead to preconceived outcomes.
When I asked Phil what his longer term vision for Solscape was, he described how the management team wanted to further green the food their guests eat (food is a large part of a tourist’s env. footprint) by expanding their gardens and wanted to attract more regional (NZ) guests (at expense of intn’l guests) to lessen the transportation footprint.  All in all …. we loved Solscape!

We managed to connect with Dominique and Candide just before we left.

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Here is Dominique with her dad Gerard visiting from Quebec. He spends one month each year with his daughters in what he describes as a "shared custody" arrangement - he goes back and forth between their houses 🙂
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Dominique runs a custom design/tailoring business from her studio beside her home.

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Candide was frantically busy getting clients into their kayaks but we found a couple of minutes to chat.

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Standup paddling, kayaking ... their business was booming while we were there

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This is the Raglan waterfront where Candide operates her business. We cooked most of our meals at this picnic table.

Our blog entries aren’t really complete until we post a couple photos of us jumping off a cliff or rope swing.  So here are Kaia and Jake off the bridge that joins the downtown to its wonderful park that includes a fantastic fitness trail and a skateboard park that would put any similar park I’ve seen in Canada to shame.

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The tides are really strong under this bridge - you have to work hard to get back to shore before getting washed in or out of the harbour.

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What other town park would have a surfboard mounted on a spring coil?

Cam

Hot spots at Rotorua

This entry is supposed to be sequenced before the posted earlier today (Grottos & glow worms) but we’ve been REALLY struggling with the battery of our Nexus7 netbook and could not get it going until now.  We currently in Brisbane about to board our flight to Bali, Indonesia.
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Rotorua is located about 200km SE of Aukland on the north island.  NZ is a very young land mass that owes its existence to the “recent” collision of two tectonic plates. While all of the land masses are geologically active, the area surrounding Rotorua is particularly active.  I mean really active!  In fact, New Zealand’s huge tourism industry was born in the late 1800s just west of the town.  Tourists came from as far away as England and traveled by foot and horse to bathe in the pink and white hot water terraces on Lake Tarawera west of the town, and later for the believed healing powers of the hot water and mud in Rotorua itself.  Tragically, Mt Tarawera erupted on June 6, 1886, killing 120 and changing the surrounding landscape.  Sadly, the eruption also destroyed the iconic terraces.  But many people kept coming to experience the volcanic action of the area … including us.

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We knew we had arrived somewhere different when we noticed steam pouring out of this release pipe and a hole in the curb 50m away.

Our first outing in the area had nothing to do with geology though.  In an experiment in the earlier 1900s the NZ government tried growing many foreign species of trees to see what would produce lumber the fastest in NZ’s climate.  As you might recall from Jake’s last blog, the Kauri trees had been more or less exhausted, and other natives grew slowly too.  California Redwoods were planted adjacent to the town.  And did they grow!

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A spectacular near-city park is now filled with walking and biking trails.  Giants soar and provide cool shade for walking.  Kaia, Jake and I even were inspired to go for a run, which is a first on our journey.

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The silver fern is iconic for New Zealand and is the emblem for NZ''s beloved "All Blacks" rugby team.

After this lovely walk/run we went to check out the free campsite listed on the campermate App, worrying that there would be no room for us on a beautiful hot sunny day in their Christmas holidays in a camp on a beautiful lake with a beach.  But as Yvonne mentioned there is no such thing as “full” …. we found a lakeside spot of grass tucked between other tents … about 30 … while the government advertised 12 spots.

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cooking shelters were not common for campgrounds in NZ; we made good use of this one.

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Throughout the Pacific that we've seen, canoes use outriggers. These are 5-person racing canoes being used by a youth camp.
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The campground host tipped us off about a jumping rock 10 minutes walk away. You know us and jumping rocks ....!

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On the lake in Rotorua we found their highly touted museum that was in its first life a hot water/steam healing center.  The part of the museum dedicated to this was a bust.  But the other half, dedicated to Maori culture, was absolutely fantastic.  It explained how they made their way to NZ, how they interacted with each other throughout NZ before contact, how that all changed after contact, and a really great sense of Maori world view.

We set out SW from Rotorua to explore the multitude of geo-attractions.  First stop was some pretty loud and steamy mud pools just off the highway.

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the kids say to me "we have to put a photo of you with the camera ... because that's the way we see you all the time"
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These "burps" would go about 3 ft high. I had an amazing feeling that these pools were a direct connection into the earth.

We were then off to kerosene creek hot pool.  Kaia, Jake and I ran there along a trail from a near by car park, past a few steaming vents.  Lovely cross country running, until we got on to the part that had not been maintained … for quite some time.  Cross country bush-whacking.

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Hot pool as seen from our run.
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a more open part of our trail run
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Before arriving I wondered why they called it Kerosene Creek. When I saw the steam pouring off the gushing brook, the name significance became clear.
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This is the first hot water waterfall I've ever seen or swam in.
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Kaia & Jake usually just plunge in. Not this time ... it took them about 5 minutes to slowly sink into the pool.

The main destination for the afternoon was the thermal sights of Waiotapu.  This park is sitting right on a hot spot and has a fantastic variety of hot pools and other formations.

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bubbling hot!
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Yellow is from sulfur, pink from manganese and cobalt, green from copper and red/brown from iron.

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These are the famous "champaign pools".

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These 1cm high terraces extended for a few hundred metres.
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This is the cooling tower of a geothermal electricity plant that is within sight of Waiotapu. I wanted to set up a tour of the plant but our timing was off. This, with an another similar one not far away produce 14% of NZ's electricity. Hydro does 53% and fossil fuel the rest.
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ahhh ... the lovely smell of sulfur!
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copper minerals make this colour

I sure wish I could bring my geography classes here for a peek.  Rotorua is “ground zero” for geothermal activity all throughout NZ.  There’s lots of other hot springs and volcanic cones in sight as you move around the islands.  It kinda hits home the idea that we live on a thin crust above a whole bunch of hot stuff!

Cam

Grottos and glowworms

I was excited about returning to the Waitomo Caves because I remembered them as a highlight of my trip to New Zealand’s north island 23 years ago.  That time, I totally splurged and paid $90 for a full-day “Blackwater Rafting” trip that involved innertubing through a cave.  I loved it!  Well, 23 years later, it seems that the number and type of cave adventures one can choose from have multiplied (there is now abseiling, bouldering, climbing, and whizzing down a flying fox) and the prices have increased by about 500%.  So… we opted for a more sedate “dry feet” family package that allowed us to tour the Glowworm and Ruakuri Caves.

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Looking down the spiral man-made entrance to Ruakuri cave.

The artificial entrance was dug to gain access to the cave following the resolution of a land dispute between the government and the Holden family.  Due to a Maori gravesite being close to the natural entrance, it could not be used for tours.

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Land ownership extends underground!
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Underground in Waitomo (wai = water, tomo = hole)
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some delicate 'drinking straw' stalactites
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a deep "tomo" in Waitomo
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There are some pretty cool fossils in the cave, too!
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Here is Kaia in Ruakuri cave.

Besides the beautiful flowstone formations, the main attractions are the glowworms.  We learned all about these critters at the wonderful cave interpretive centre.  They are the larval stage of a fly that spends most or all of its lifecycle underground.  As larvae, these little worms (actually maggots, but “glowing maggot” doesn’t have the same appeal as “glowworm”) spin sticky threads to catch prey, which often tends to be adult members of their same species.  To attract prey, they can make their rear ends glow green.  When there are thousands of these little guys on the roof of a cave, the effect is quite spectacular — it looks like a star-filled sky.  The last part of the Glowworm Cave tour was in a boat; we glided along silently in the dark, under glowing green constellations.

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This is a photo of a postcard -- there was no photography allowed on the tour.

Some days later, we saw this poem painted on the side of a rental van:

I wish I were a glowworm, for they are never glum.
It’s hard to be unhappy when the sun shines out your bum!

Yvonne

Northland, NZ

After seeing the awesome Kauri trees, we headed north to the northern tip of New Zealand, then drove back down to Auckland on the east side of the north cape. Here’s a little blog about our time in Northland.

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We took a little ferry across a harbour on our way north
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Our first experience with very crowded campgrounds in New Zealand! We're just south of the northern tip of the north island.
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Even though the campground was crowded, the beach was really beautiful and empty.
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We did a little hike up to a lookout from our campsite
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One of those crazy coincidences. When my dad saw their MEC tent, he asked them what part of Canada they were from. They answered "from a little town near Peterborough Ontario"! He, Brendan, was originally from Ireland, and she, Emanuelle, was French, and they live in Hastings (30 minutes from our house!) They were very nice, and we started chatting with them. Then we realized that we had some friends in common! Crazy, eh? He was a doctor, which was very helpful because my dad had an infection in his foot. My dad lay face first in the grass of the campground while Brendan cut the boil open with his swiss army knife - fixed it perfectly!
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Here we are are the north tip of the north island, Cape Reinga.
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When two oceans mix, the waves go all funny. The Pacific Ocean is on the right, and the Tasman Sea on the left.
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This lone tree (look carefully) is very special in Maori culture. They believe that that's where their spirits go when they die, before returning to the ocean.

After Cape Reinga, we headed south (not like we had any choice!). We did a 20 minute hike up to a view point called St. Paul’s Rock.

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Yeah, it was pretty steep!
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The panoramic view from the top - you really need to click on this one to see it.

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That night, we found a place on a lovely beach to camp. Our understanding was that in New Zealand, if there are no “No Camping” signs, you can stay there as long as you clean up after yourself.

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Some Maori folks came by the beach to collect cockles. Cockles are like little clams. The people were very welcoming and friendly, and even gave us a bunch of cockles! They also told us where we could find oysters. I tried a raw cockle... I would describe the taste as "it tastes the way the ocean smells"!
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We had our first fire in a long time! I much preferred the cockles cooked, they were delicious.

The next morning, before leaving camp, we visited a cemetery just up the hill that the cockle-collectors had told us about the night before. Maori people decorate their graves very nicely!
When we were just about to leave, another Maori woman came by in her truck. She was mad and told us that we were NOT allowed to camp there. She told us that the gate was supposed to be locked, and it wasn’t. We were camping on Maori land. She was worried about where we were going to the bathroom, because that beach is a food beach. When my dad explained that we were going in the woods behind, she told us that there had been a big Maori battle there many years ago, and so their ancestors bones laid there. It’s also near the Maori cemetery.
She left, and so did we. We headed into Rawhiti (pronounced Rafiti), the nearest town to fill up water. Turns out, Rawhiti wasn’t much… just a campground! Turns out, That lady was the manager of the campground! No wonder she was mad. We were camping on her sacred land, instead of paying at the Maori-run campground 2 km down the road! We apologized to her about what we did. She had a reason to be mad, although we had no way of knowing that we were doing something wrong. It’s interesting that the cockle-collectors the previous night had been so welcoming. I think it’s because they weren’t from Rawhiti, they were just visiting from other places and heard that it was a good cockle beach. This experience was our first insight into Maori culture, rights and land.

Then we drove south down towards Auckland. In Auckland, we got a new Bluetooth keyboard for blogging, because the one we bought in Peterborough started to go a bit wonky (the enter key stops working, then the shift key, then the space bar). Now it’s working a lot better, so with our two keyboards, the phone and tablet, we can “double-blog”, to try and get caught up on our blog entries!
That night we drove southeast towards a place called Rotorua. It also happened to be New Years Eve! We camped beside a very nice river, see our blog entry: https://1year1family1world.com/2014/12/31/2015-is-great-trust-us/  to see what we did.
New Years Day, we went to a blue hole to swim in. It was freezing! There were lots of people there, but not a lot of them swam! Most of them just went to see the blue hole and have a picnic.

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The blue hole was about ten minutes walk from the car park. It's in cow country- not where you would expect to see a crystal clear pool!
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It was really cold! I am writing this in Queensland Australia, during a heatwave summer (36 degrees Celsius), and the cold pool looks pretty inviting. I'm sure those of you reading this in Canada right now don't feel the same way!
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A fun New Years day. Things look good for 2015!

Kaia

Kauri: Géants de la foret

For you English readers, I’m writing this blog in French but I’m translating the captions so you can understand the general idea.  It’s about the kauri trees of northern New Zealand.

La région au nord de la ville d’Auckland sur l’ile nord de la Nouvelle Zélande est connu pour ses arbres kauri.  Ce sont des énormes pins qui poussent plusieurs fois plus hauts que les autres arbres dans la foret, et plusieurs fois plus épaisses aussi.  Notre deuxième jour en NZ, on paissait près d’un musée de kauri, donc ça a été notre première activité dans le pays.  On a eu un tour du musée, et on a appris beaucoup à propos des arbres, et les deux grandes ressources qu’ils offraient aux gens: la gomme et le bois.

La gomme de kauri est très précieux, et vers l’an 1900, beaucoup d’hommes sont allés travailler dans la foret pour la chercher, la polir et la vendre. Il y avait quelques façons pour la chercher.  Certains hommes grimpaient les arbres avec des piques à main et des bottes avec des piques (un peu comme grimper un mur de glace).  Ensuite, ils faisaient des coupures dans le tronc et la laissait saigner la gomme, et ils retourneraient pour la chercher plus tard.  D’autres hommes utilisaient de longues cannes pour trouver la gomme qui est tombé des arbres plusieurs ans plus tôt et était enterré en terre et en boue.  Ils mettaient leur canne dans la terre, la retiraient et sentaient le bout pour l’odorat de la gomme. Si il y en avait, ils la déterraient.  Ce n’était pas du tout un métier facile car ils travaillaient souvent dans un marais et creusaient souvent en utilisant que leurs mains!

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le musée a une énorme collection de gomme de kauri poli.---The museum has an enormous collection of polished kauri gum.

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Pour faire la gomme encore plus belle, certaines personnes la faisait fondre et ont ajouté des insectes ou des feuilles avant de la redurcir.---To make the gum even more beautiful, some people melted the gum and added insects and leaves before rehardening it again.

Le guide nous a ensuite amené à la chambre du bois de kauri.  On a appris beaucoup plus au sujet de cette industrie.  Les hommes allaient loin dans la foret en équipes de deux pour trouver l’arbre le plus grand, et passaient des heures, parfois des jours à la couper en utilisant une grande scie à main.

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Cet homme a encore beaucoup de travail a faire!---this man still has a lot of work to do!
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Cet énorme tronc est sur un chariot sur une voie ferrée pour le transporter. Une équipe de taureau le tirait en montant, mais pour descendre, deux hommes fallaient le monter pour le relentir en utilisant un frein a main!---This huge log is on a train cart to transport it. A bullock team would pull it uphill, but going downhill, two men had to lie beside and in front of the log on the cart to slow it down using a handbrake!
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Voici un diagramme des tailles des troncs des plus grands arbres qui ont jamais été trouvé. Malheureusement, seulement les deux plus petits sur ce diagramme n'ont pas été coupés.---Here's a scale to show the sizes of the biggest kauri tree trunks ever found. Unfortunately though, only the two smallest ones on this scale weren't cut down.

On est ensuite allé dans une chambre où il y avait des sculptures et des modèles faits avec le bois de kauri.

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Cet énorme table est fait avec un seul morceau de bois!---This huge table is made from a single piece of wood!
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Ces petits bols sont faits de bois de kauri trouvé sous la terre qui a 30 millions ans!---These little bowls are carved out of kauri wood found underground that's 30 million years old!
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Ce bois vient d'un arbre qui est tombé après d'être frappé par un éclair.---This wood comes from a tree that came down after being struck by lightning.

À la fin de la tournée, on est allé dans une salle qui a l’air d’un moulin de bois.  Il y avait aussi un modèle d’un genre d’hôtel dans le temps de l’industrie de kauri pour les gens qui devaient visiter.  Ce n’était pas du tout pour les hommes qui travaillaient dans la foret, mais pour les
hommes d’affaires, ou ceux qui achetaient la gomme et le bois de kauri.  On pouvait entrer et voir les différentes sortes de personnes qui y allaient.

Après le musée,  on est allé au foret de kauri pour voir l’arbre le plus grand encore vivant, Tane Mahuta, un nom maori qui se traduit en “Roi de la Foret”.  Notre guide au musée nous a suggéré d’aussi aller voir l’arbre le plus épais, Te Matua Ngahere, qui signifie “Père de la foret”, qui est moins d’un kilomètre de Tane Mahuta.  Leur grandeur est étonnante.  Ils te font sentir comme une fourmi à côté d’un éléphant!

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On est en train d'admirer Te Matua Ngahere.---We are admiring Te Matua Ngahere.
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Voici quatre grands arbres qui poussent très proche ensemble, appelés "Les Quatre Soeurs".---These four tall trees growing very close together are known as "The Four Sisters".
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Ces arbres sont énormes, mais à cause de la déforestation, leur nombre a diminué beaucoup les derniers 100 ans. Heureusement, récemment des efforts de conservations font qu'ils deviennent de plus en plus communs---Though the tres themselves are huge, their numbers have declined a lot due to deforestation in the past 100 years. Fortunately though, recent conservation efforts are making them beccome more and more common.

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Voici les dimensions de Te Matua Ngahere.---Here are the dimensions of Te Matua Ngahere.

Une des choses qui fait le kauri très particulier est sa transformation de forme.  L’arbre a évolué en même temps que le moa géant (un oiseau un peu comme une autruche qui a été chassé à l’extinction par les maoris), donc quand l’arbre est jeune et ses aiguilles sont durs et ne sont pas bons pour manger, il a le forme d’un sapin.  Mais quand l’arbre grandit et ses aiguilles deviennent bonnes pour manger, ça prend la forme d’un “lollypop” (comme notre guide au musée l’appelait) pour que le moa ne peut pas atteindre les aiguilles.

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Nous sommes devant un jeune arbre kauri.---Us in front of a young kauri tree.

La déforestation des kauris est un effet classique de la colonisation des européens.  Quand ils sont arrivés en NZ, il y en avait tant d’arbres qu’ils les ont coupé sans limites jusqu’à ce qu’il y en avait presque plus.  Exactement comme plusieurs exemples au Canada comme les pins blancs et la traite de fourrure de castor.  Les kauris poussent très lentement, donc si leurs nombres vont récupérer, ça prendrait des centaines ou même des milliers d’années.  J’aime être à côté de choses vivants si grands car ça me fait sentir tellement petit.  Les arbres kauri sont tellement cool et préhistoriques.  Ils ont existé pour des millions d’années, et j’espère qu’ils existeront pour longtemps dans le futur aussi.

Jake