A short detour in New Zealand, and an even shorter in Australia
14.04.2013 - 25.04.2013 18 °C
No I haven't seen any real kiwi or kangaroo. But still, I visited their homelands! 10 days in New Zealand, and a single one in Sydney.
This will be a short chapter (finally would you say?). But I think that a country such as New Zealand deserves it, even if short. Especially because it was not planned!
If somebody remember my initial schedule, I was supposed to stay only for 2 nights in Auckland, and 3 in Sydney, to then head for Japan and South Korea. However, the late situation with North Korea and its threats towards the other countries forced me to slow down my journey, at least to take a look how things would evolve. I decided then not to go to South Korea and instead use those 2 weeks for New Zealand. This had two major advantages: the first was that I could wait for things up around North Korea to chill down - and it kind of has happened so far. The second, is that this has given me the opportunity to visit New Zealand, a country that has fascinated me for a long time, and that I was actually disappointed in not visiting it (because of a lack in time, and also because of my overall concept to avoid "western culture" as much as possible).
So, in spite of all, here I am, extremely happy to finally be in New Zealand!
I only had 10 days, and this, for New Zealand, is nothing. But it's better that nothing, right? So, I started in Auckland, and spent the first day wandering around, to then spend the evening with an extremely welcoming french couple that I met at the airport (the same that would later offer me to stay at their place in these last days that I got back to Auckland, I am so grateful for their hospitality!).
And then it started - a series of cloudy and rainy days. So I spent the first day in the National Museum, learning more about the Maori history and culture, which was the "missing corner" in my Polynesian triangle with Easter Island and French Polynesia. I was lucky enough to catch a show of Maori songs and dances, among which obviously figured the haka, the war dance made famous by the great All Blacks, the national rugby team. These guys do not look as powerful and frightening as the rugby players, but they are all original Maoris and loved perform it for us:
The next stop was Waitomo Caves, famous for the glow worms, the larvae of an insect called Arachnocampa luminosa. At their caterpillar stage the emit a soft blue light that attracts flying mosquitos that get stuck in a sticky liquid they produce and hangs down from the roofs like a web. We got into one of these caves, and in complete darkness we could enjoy a marvelous spectacle of thousands of little blue stars. I have a picture which absolutely does not make justice to such a wonderful sight (as I did not have time enough for a 30min exposure, nor the battery); take this picture, multiply the lights by hundreds, and imagine complete silence: pure magic.
Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity, but I did not feel like buying another fairly expensive tour. So I enjoyed the public park in the city, and I would say that even if I did not get the 30m geyser, I was pretty satisfied. The thing I will probably remember more about Rotorua however is the strong smell of sulfur all around the city, which to be nice smells like... rotten eggs.
Finally, I got a nice day in Taupo! The sun was shining bright, and the colors I knew New Zealand was made of started popping out. So I went for a walk to the Huka Falls, which is merely a channel in which the water gets speed and then jump out into a wider pool. A nice walk that ended in a place called craters of the moon, another geothermal park (there are plenty considering that New Zealand is built on the edge of two continental plates). Here some pictures:
After this the famous side of the New Zealand was planned: beautiful mountain landscapes covered in snow and blue lakes at the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Weather forecasts: rain, wind and snow. So I unfortunately had to cancel my trekking, and got directly down to Wellington, where the rain did not stop until 2 hours before I had to leave again, enough to climb up the mountain and get a landscape picture of the city:
However, I did enjoy Wellington! I stayed in the very nice public library planning for my next stops in Asia, and spent two full afternoons in the Te Papa, the national museum of the city. And what a museum? Highly interactive, broad in scope, perfect for a kid... and for me eheh! Moreover there was a section dedicated to the best video-game creators, and I got to play with an original Pacman arcade! Not bad, eh?
To end my visit in New Zealand I visited something that is one of the reasons why I got to know New Zealand better, besides being a personal passion: the set of the Lord Of The Rings movie, Hobbiton! Maaaaany people would never pay to see such a thing, but I am gonna be honest: I felt happy as a child walking among hobbit holes and see Bilbo's and Frodo's home! And besides, the place is really stunning:
Considreing that at the end of the tour we even got a locally brewed beer in the Green Dragon pub, I dare to say the visit was a complete success!
And then, the time to leave Auckland came, and that of Sydney arrived! I am staying here for just one day, but still you can get a general impression of the city if you keep on walking around like I did yesterday evening! I have to confess that the sight of the Opera House is impressive, especially when the sun sets:
It was so impressive that I kept on around looking for a new angle for some picture, and here I got lucky that a cruise ship was passing by while I took the picture (well actually I waited 20min before it "passed by", but still). This is also the Opera Bar, one of the places to be if attending a show afterwards. Life does not look bad in Sydney, doesn't it?
So, as concluding remarks:
This was definitely a too short visit to New Zealand, a country that offers way more than what I could experience, from sea to mountains! But hey, the goal of my travel is to identify those places that in the future I would like to visit again, maybe with a bunch of friends and a van? Spending two months driving around the coastline and hiking up steep mountains in New Zealand is definitely a program to which I would subscribe!!! The even shorter visit to Sydney is really one of those things that allow you to say "check! done that!" but that does not gives me much more than that... Australia, same as New Zealand, is on the to-visit list.
Now I am extremely happy that my travel is bringing me to the country that among all that I planned, excites me the most: Japan! I will spend one month travelling around, even though the first week will be spent in Tokyo as I have to wait for a Chinese visa that I'll try get asap (and considering that the Golden Week is coming up, which is to say holiday holiday and holiday (yes, 3 in a row), it'll take time). The plan is to the travel down to Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Nara) and even further south, to eventually reach Fukuoka! So yeah, a month of manga, sushi, ramen, shrines and onsen (hot springs)!
All the best to you guys back home, I hope spring is giving you great sunny days to enjoy outside!
Cheers from Sydney,