Sep 132011
 

This is Part III in a series of guest posts by Frank Gourley.

ROTORUA, NEW ZEALAND

For the Smell of it!, cont….  Travelogue and Photos by Frank Gourley

Our first stop the next day was the wildlife park.  Kiwi Wildlife Park was well laid out, with several aviaries with various birds, pools of trout, wallabies, farm animals, and two areas for kiwis – one was outdoors for nighttime viewing and the other was a building with displays about kiwis and a large darkened room, with red lights, for daytime viewing.  The kiwi is classified as a mammal, although it lays eggs.

We spent a couple of hours at the park checking out all the wildlife.  Of particular interest (in addition to the kiwis) was a video of kea birds, the most intelligent of birds.  The video showed them quickly solving a variety of complex ‘puzzles’ to get to food.

From the wildlife park we went to ride the sternwheeler on Lake Rotorua and eat our picnic lunch.  It was a beautiful, clear day and views of the surrounding hills were lovely.  The ride lasted about 45 minutes and featured a fisherman pulling in a trout.  We also rode by Sulfur Point and Sulfur Bay, where our hotel was.  There is an island in the middle of the lake that is a preserve for endangered indigenous animals.

After our boat ride we went back to the hotel and took it easy the rest of the afternoon.

Back at the hotel there were ten big tour buses parked for the evening.  There have been about that many there every night, but this was the first time we have counted them.  One group (at least) was from Japan.  Earlier they had been in the lobby watching a brief ‘performance’ by a couple of guys before proceeding to the dining room.  The guys were dressed like traditional Maoris  – one with only a grass-like skirt and the other with a wrap and pants.  One looked like to be of Maori descent, the other looked to be of European descent.  Before leading the group into the dining room, they said a few words and blew a conch shell.  We didn’t stay for the rest of the show.

Today we leave Rotorua for Queenstown.  While making our way to the airport, we passed a farmstead with lots of small buildings and animals, two large tree houses, a contemporary-looking house, and several cars and trucks that appeared to be in good shape.  We decided to turn around and go back for a look.

We passed by and pulled into a drive beyond the main entry.  A sign on the gate said, “Slow – Free-range children at play.”

We went back and pulled off the road at the main gate.  There was a guy working out in the yard, so we asked him if we could take a few pictures.  He said “Sure! Come on in and look around a bit, if you like.”  His wife was working nearby and she came over.  Everyone started talking and she offered to let us see the large tree house, which they were using as an office for his business.  It had a porch in one corner and a large room and a side room inside!  Their garden had grow-boxes, a potting shed, small windmill, woven wood gates, woven wood seats, and a water tank.  Nearby were several other buildings of various designs and shapes used for storage.

Beyond that was a fenced-in area with a number of small structures for the animals.  They had chickens, sheep, a goat, and a burro in this area.

They had pageto (?) trees in the side yard.  She asked if we had ever tasted them.  We said ‘No’, so she shook a limb, picked up all of the ones that fell off (12-15), and gave them to us.  They were a green-skinned fruit somewhat like a kiwi.  After a long, warm, and engaging conversation we pulled ourselves away to catch our plane.  We all agreed that this happenstance stop was the highlight of our time in Rotorua!

Stay tuned for Part IV – Off to the Land of Oz

Frank Gourley retired in 2006 as an administrator of engineering technology education programs at the university level, and now pursues his interests in Travel, Photography, Architecture, Woodworking, Music, Singing, Guitar, Watercolor, Art, Crafts, Gardening, Railroading, Beaching, Boats, Canoeing, Outdoors & Wildlife, Construction, Alternative Health, Yoga, Maps, Cooking, Oriental Landscaping, Chronicling, and Genealogy, in addition to enjoying activities with family and friends.  He and Genene, his wife, live in Charleston, WV.

Sep 102011
 

This is Part II in a series of guest posts by Frank Gourley.  Go along for the ride as Frank heads to Rotorua!

ROTORUA, NEW ZEALAND

For the Smell of it!  Travelogue and photos by Frank Gourley

The flight to Rotorua (‘Rotor-roota’) was to the southeast and we flew over clouds most of the way, but through breaks in the clouds you could see lots of greenery and rolling hills, with few houses.  As we neared Rotorua we saw several lakes.  We ‘sashayed’ a bit on the descent, but landed without a hitch.

Buildings were only one or two stories high in town.  This is probably because of the volcanic nature of the region.

Right beside the motel there was steam coming out of the ground at several places – one right beside the heated pool/hot-tub area.  A couple of miles away there is a geyser.

We drove to the Government Museum and Gardens.  The museum was a large, ornately- designed (Tudor-like) complex that showed a Maori influence, and had Maori artifacts inside.

The museum was originally built by the government as a hotel and spa, probably for the wealthy to enjoy. Nearby was a Teanu (long boat), next to Lake Rotorua, that was about 50’ long, was made out of one tree, and could hold an entire war party of about 25.  It was quite ornate and, fortunately, was under a shelter.

There were lots of black swans on the lake with their young, as well as black ducks and seagulls.  We had packed a lunch, so we went a short way on around the lake to a patio area with seating overlooking the water and had lunch.

We continued around the lake after lunch and found what was likely a Maori settlement at the edge of town.  At the end of the road through the settlement, and adjacent to the lake, was a compound with several structures, including a church, meeting house, classrooms, and restrooms for ‘naane’ and ‘waahine’.  The homes in the settlement were meager, basic, and small.  Steam was coming out of the ground in a number of places, and in one front yard was a fair-sized thermal vent.  There were several thermal vents on the compound as well.  A gazebo-type structure was built over one of these.

There were several ‘bachs’ in this settlement.  These “bachelor accommodations” looked like they were cobbled together with scrap materials and discarded pieces of old shacks.  This is, apparently, New Zealand’s answer to a second home at the beach.

From there we headed out of town, to Lake Tarewera.  This was an area where there had been a major volcanic eruption in 1886.  It expelled so much debris that it covered three Maori villages at least 5 miles away and killed over 100 people in the villages.  On the way we passed Blue (Takitapu) Lake, with blue water, where they were having a triathlon.  There were lots of signs posted and swimmers in wet suits in the lake.  Next we passed Green Lake, with green water.  We next stopped at The Buried Village and learned a bit about the volcano of 1886.  From there we drove on until we arrived at Lake Tarawera.  That was an “Oh, wow!” experience!  There were very few houses along the road to Lake Tarawera, but as we descended the mountain and approached the lake we began to see lots of houses that people have built to await the next volcanic eruption across the lake.  We drove around and saw more beautiful scenery and black swans, with babies, on the lake.

Stay Tuned for More Rotorua Adventures in Part III….coming soon

Frank Gourley retired in 2006 as an administrator of engineering technology education programs at the university level, and now pursues his interests in Travel, Photography, Architecture, Woodworking, Music, Singing, Guitar, Watercolor, Art, Crafts, Gardening, Railroading, Beaching, Boats, Canoeing, Outdoors & Wildlife, Construction, Alternative Health, Yoga, Maps, Cooking, Oriental Landscaping, Chronicling, and Genealogy, in addition to enjoying activities with family and friends.  He and Genene, his wife, live in Charleston, WV.

Sep 052011
 

I’m always on the lookout for great travel stories, and I recently had the pleasure of reading a set of amazingly descriptive trip notes by Frank Gourley. Frank recently took the trip of a lifetime to New Zealand and Australia, and I convinced him to do a series of guest posts on Reeftraveler based on his experiences in the land of Oceania.

NEW ZEALAND

Too Many Miles, by Frank Gourley

Today we went to the Bay of Islands, about three and one half hours north of Auckland.  The scenery was beautiful – rolling hills, lush green fields with sheep and cows, dense forest, and occasional views of water! For part of the way there was a toll road.  To pay the toll, we had to stop at a service center that had several machines where you paid the toll and got a receipt.  (No toll-takers working 24/7!)

We decided to go out to a bird reserve to see examples of New Zealand birds.  It was a good ways out to the reserve over a winding road.  The last 5km were graveled.  On the way you could get views of the ocean, cliffs, rolling hills, fields, large trees, etc.  The reserve, itself, was fenced off from one side of the peninsula to the other.  This was to control predators.  There were traps set along the outside of the fence.  Inside the preserve we saw three types of birds – pukeko, brown teal, and one other (?).  The pukeko had a red head, purple neck, and black body.  The teal was mostly brown. (Not much of a cross-section of the bird population for such a long drive, but well worth the trip for the other aspects of  the experience).

Photo by Frank Gourley

On the way back to the main road, we stopped in the little town of Matakama for lunch at The Black Dog Cafe, a combination convenience store, market, bar, pastry shop, and restaurant.  The town was quite interesting with a small riverside-level mall, various shops and services on the main street level, a tea garden (bakery and grill), and a uniquely crafted and sculpted public restroom on the roundabout (with no parking nearby).

Matakama Restroom - Photo by Frank Gourley

From there we went back to the main road and headed north again – more spectacular views, some mountainous roads, and highway construction in several places.  One particularly scenic spot – big mountain across the ocean – had a Tourist Viewing sign on the main road.

Photo by Frank Gourley

Paihia was our destination at the Bay of Islands area.  We got there about an hour before sundown.  There were boats in the bay, several varying-sized islands in sight, various water-based businesses, a public dock and ferry service, swimmers (in wet suits), tourist-oriented shops and restaurants, and a fair-sized downtown.  I asked for information from a guy who happened to be of Maori decent.  We walked together for a couple of blocks and he talked some about the history of New Zealand and that area.

Photo by Frank Gourley

Photo by Frank Gourley

Stay tuned for Part II – Rotorua, For the Smell of it!

Frank Gourley retired in 2006 as an administrator of engineering technology education programs at the university level, and now pursues his interests in Travel, Photography, Architecture, Woodworking, Music, Singing, Guitar, Watercolor, Art, Crafts, Gardening, Railroading, Beaching, Boats, Canoeing, Outdoors & Wildlife, Construction, Alternative Health, Yoga, Maps, Cooking, Oriental Landscaping, Chronicling, and Genealogy, in addition to enjoying activities with family and friends.  He and Genene, his wife, live in Charleston, WV.