30 Apr 2013

Roturua, where hotsprings bubble and geysers blow

thefamous Pohutu Geyser in Roturua
We had two days in Roturua. On the first day, not wanting to waste time we walked around town to view the sights. First we went to the lakeside where a large paddleboat was waiting for passengers. This was the lake cruise and the boat looked like something out of Mark Twain. It was too late for a cuise which would take an hour so we decided to defer this and walked on towards the centre of town. The weather was beautifully cool - not cold but nice when you are wearing a sweater, (about 17 degrees Celsius) and I enjoyed looking at the wonderful colours of fall on the trees along the road side - reds, orange, yellows. 

A road in Roturua
Repin relaxing after some shopping
That night we were entertained to a Maori concert and dinner. We were taken to a Maori village and shown their ancestral history and how they arrived at New Zealand. Then they showed us the Haka -  a traditional Maori dance which mostly consisted of singing and war like movements and scary faces! The typical Maori feast was called a hangi (pronounced as hungee) where they barbeque the meat inside a deep hole filled with hot stones. The meat was wrapped in leaves and cooked to perfection.

After the dinner we were taken to see the kiwi, also a typical New Zealand flightless bird. The kiwi is nocturnal so we could only see it at night - in looks it was bigger than a chicken and dark brown in colour so it is not easy to find. Kiwis are protected animals and on the endangered list though today their main predator is the possum.

29 Apr 2013

Still in Roturua

Me with the Pohutu geyser in the background 
A Maori Traditional concert 
Another view of lake Roturua

The Roturua National Museum

An active geyser

 Today we spent a whole day just enjoying the sights.First we went to the Roturua National Museum which was in a beautiful building, reminiscent of our own Sultan Abdul Samad building in Kuala Lumpur. Here we learnt of the coming of the Maoris to New Zealand which they call Ao Te Aroa or Land of the Long White Cloud. It was thought that the Maoris came from the pacific Islands, some of them even came from South Asia and some from as far as South America. The first group probably came over as early as the 12th or 13th century in four long canoes which they called hoka. One canoe was thought to have carried about 100 people and so it was thought that the first batch of immigrants were about 300-400 people. They first landed in the north island, which explained why most  of them can be found in the North Island. Most of the Maoris today live around and in Roturua. 

From Auckland to Waitomo and Roturua

After visiting the Auckland Sky Tower, we left the city area and drove to the Bombay Hills area going through the dairy rich Waikato region. Here we see undulating hills, richly covered with beautiful trees, and dotting the landscape, fat white sheep grazing. It all seems so peaceful and bucolic. We arrived at the Waitomo Caves in time for the afternoon tour which starts at 2.30pm. 

Cameras are not allowed into the caves so I have no photos of the inside of these caves. They are really dark however, lighted here and there by soft lighting. Steps go down towards the inner tunnel which opens up into a wide cavern. This part of the cave is called The Cathedral because of the large open space and high ceilings. There are stalagmites and stalactites which have been formed over centuries. It is nothing like our Mulu Caves however, which are even more breathtaking. We walk down further into another cave and then down some steps before we come to an underground river. Here there are boats waiting to pick us and we take our seats in the boats in silence. All is dark around us and quiet too, except for the sound of the water. The boat is maneuvered by rope tied across the length of  the river and we are then ferried to somewhere just ahead where in the distance we can see thousands of flickering lights on the walls of the caves and even hanging from the roofs, like strings of fairy lights. It is really gorgeous and out of this world, so much so that everyone in the group is hushed and spell bound. These are the glow worms and the cave is called the glow-worm grotto. It is literally lighted up by the glow worms - thousands and thousands of them flickering like brightly lighted candles in the dark. If only I could take a picture!

We left the Waitomo and after a short lunch break at Spooner's Lookout point, where we can see the Tasman sea shining brightly blue in the distance, we move on towards Roturua. Here too we caught our first view of the Kea, a parrot-like biird which is indigenous to NewZealand. In fact we weretold that they are the only Alpine parrots in the world.

Brightly coloured wildflowers dot the landscape
We arrived at Roturua just after 4pm and checked immediately at the Sudima Hotel, facing the beautiful Lake Roturua, which is the third largest lake in New Zealand. After checking in, Repin and I went out to take a look at the town, which was just a few minutes walk away.

Part of the beautiful landscape along the way
The Kea, an Alpine parrot

28 Apr 2013


On 27th April  Repin and I took off for NewZealand. It was a two week trip covering both North and South Islands. New Zealand is really beautiful - every where you turn you can see something splendid and gorgeous- the sea, lakes, mountains and rainforests, even the sheep. And there are millions of them.
We started from Auckland in the north, also the largest city in New Zealand and drove down to South Island  starting our journey south and stopping at all the beautiful places along the way.
Auckland is almost surrounded by sea, being on a peninsula.

Since we landed quite early in the morning of Sunday we managed to see the city on our own before the tour proper began the next day. Armed with a map of the city and directions from the hotel staff we walked around, rather aimlessly at first until we saw the Auckland Tower. So we decided to go up to get a bird's eye view of the city. The Auckland Sky Tower as it is called is 328m tall and is one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere, according to the brochure they gave us.

After wandering around and looking at shops, we both decided we had had enough and walked back to the hotel. That evening our tour director cum driver, Brian Tregoweth, met us and introduced us to the rest of the group - a charming couple from the North Carolina in the US. Dinner was grilled fish which tasted delicious!

Auckland seen from the Tower

26 Apr 2013

Little dynamos

Tommy - always alert for some fun
Yukie and Tommy are my new kittens, though they are not so little anymore. I think they are about 5 months old now. Yukie is beautiful and very feminine looking and Tommy is cute and very like a boy cat. He is also naughty - very mischievous, always hungry and full of energy. Poor Yukie just can't keep up at times with his frantic energy - running, climbing and forever chasing after something.

Yukie at 4 months

Since they came I have had to keep all my flower vases away -last month Tommy climbed on to the piano and as he was jumping down knocked one of my beautiful blue vase. So since then I have learnt my lesson. Keep all things on the floor and if they can break, put them away until they know not to climb and run everywhere!