Safed Haathi: Blog en-us (C) Safed Haathi (Safed Haathi) Mon, 14 Dec 2015 02:15:00 GMT Mon, 14 Dec 2015 02:15:00 GMT Safed Haathi: Blog 99 120 Days 353-355 Fiordland Going up Northwest into Fiordland the scenery quickly changes and we are in the mountains again. After Te Anau the road to Milford Sound is arguably the most scenic drive in New Zealand. 120 km of splendid scenery, mountains and ice fields. A 1.2km long one-way tunnel which took almost 20 years to build (construction started in 1935 with five men using picks and wheelbarrows). And after some rain hundreds of small waterfalls. Some impressions from the roadside:



Our only stop on the way in is The Divide, start (or end) of the multi-day Routeburn Track and 1.5 hours up the track brings you to the key summit with fabulous views:


Then it was already time to hurry to Milford Sound and catch our overnight cruise. A first look at a waterfall from the shore:


And some impressions from the ship:



As the Tasman sea was very calm that night we could come out a long way and see the whole coastline of Fiordland from a distance. Here the entrance to Milford wonder it was initially overlooked by James Cook and other European explorers.


The next day it was raining. Which is no big surprise as it rains more than half of the days in Milford Sound. This leads to more and bigger waterfalls and a different atmosphere:



We could also see some Fiordland crested penguins from afar:


There are many points of interest on the road to Milford Sound to on the way we stopped at a few more. The Marian Creek gantry:


A nice bushwalk which features a unique walk wire:


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Mon, 14 Dec 2015 02:15:19 GMT
Days 348-352 Southland Going further South from Dunedin only one region is left: Southland. More precisely the Catlins, a quiet backcountry that sees less tourism than most areas on the South Island. They also have a few good waterfalls like Mc Lean's Falls:


And Waiopohatu Falls:


The nice loop track to this waterfall was unfortunately very muddy:


A special attraction on the roadside is The Lost Gypsy, the art gallery of a tinkerer. Heaps of handmade mechanisms in a van and the surrounding garden. Make sure to check it out if you ever come to that area:


Now we are getting close to the Southern end, more specifically the Southern most lighthouse at Waipapa Point:


And just below on the beach some sea lions are relaxing in the sun:


This is also a great place to see the famed Catlin trees, formed by the everblowing wind:


In the Catlins is also the probably best place to see Yellow Eyed Penguins: Curio Bay, a very special beach with fossiled trees and the local penguins come back ashore every evening. No hide or fence you just have to be there at the right time. We were lucky enough to see two penguins when we arrived. One was already all the way up to the rocks outside his hole but waiting for his/her mate to come.


Waddling up the beach:


Happy together again:


Like Cape Reinga on the North Island everybody wants to go to the Bluff on the South Island where the Highway 1 ends. Unlike Cape Reinga it's just a "Been there, done that" place:


Another nice bush walk in Southland is in Mores Reserve:


What makes it special is that along the way are many painted stones with nice sayings like this one:


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Tue, 08 Dec 2015 04:25:42 GMT
Days 344-347 Oamaru & Dunedin On the way East back to the coast is a natural attraction on private land: The Grey Cliffs. The generous landowners allow you to enter for $5 per car. Unfortunately the private part of the road is possibly the worst road I came across in New Zealand so far, even in India it would be considered a bad road. In the one hour it took us to drive in and look around 4 other cars came or left so that's $25 in one hour on a rainy afternoon in Spring. They must make heaps of money especially in Summer but apparently they need it for something else than road maintenance...

The cliffs itself are quite interesting though:


Coming back to the coast the next stop is Oamaru. A town famous for its victorian architecture and the Steampunk scene:


The best attractions are a bit further down the coast. First the Moeraki boulders, stones on the beach with a magnetic influence on tourists:


Little known the much more impressive and tourist free boulders are at a hidden beach nearby:



Also close by, one of the best spots to see some Yellow Eyed Penguins. Yes penguins are not living at the Antarctic exclusively. Unlike many other places at the Katiki Lighthouse you don't have to stay in a hide and watch with binoculars. Here the penguins are just meters away from you behind a fence:



Next stop Dunedin and the steepest road in the world: Baldwin St


The best thing to do in Dunedin is probably to go out the Otago Peninsula. A beautiful drive through a beautiful scenery. Here the view from the Sandymount Loop Track:


Dunedin also has a very interesting beach only reachable through a man-made tunnel, imaginatively called Tunnel Beach.


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Sun, 06 Dec 2015 04:05:11 GMT
Days 340-343 Into the Southern Alps - Part 2 The Canterbury High Country is all about mountains and lakes. Two lakes especially. The first one is Lake Tekapo, surrounded by snowcapped mountains all around.


At sunset:


For better views on lake and mountain take the peninsula track and enjoy 2 hours of beauty. nat-NZ-canterbury-lake_tekapo_peninsula_track-4nat-NZ-canterbury-lake_tekapo_peninsula_track-4

White cliffs near peninsula track:


And for even better views, up to Mt. John Observatory - a perfect place for lunch.


The second famous lake is Lake Pukaki, here with Mt. Cook in the background:


What can you do when the weather just keeps being awesome? More walks like the Hooker Valley Track near Mt. Cook, which features some fantasic views on ice and mountains:



And another walk to see the Tasman Glacier closer than from the official viewpoint. As it turns out a glacier is quite a dirty thing:


The next day the weather changed completely, the blue sky gone and heavy rain pouring down. So just a quick excursion to the official Tasman glacier viewpoint. Well the edge is barely visible:


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Wed, 25 Nov 2015 05:52:23 GMT
Days 340-343 Into the Southern Alps - Part 1 Finally it was time to get a close look at the Southern Alps. Going West from Christchurch you eventually pass two bridges over the Rakaia Gorge. A short walk gives you a good view over that area.


The first mountain to climb was Mt. Somers. Here a view back the way we came:


Going up the Miners Track you eventuall reach - no surprise - a mine:


On the way back to the main road I tried to chase down a rabbit for dinner but he was just too quick:


We put up our tent for the night at Lake Clearwater, a beautiful location but in Spring it has still morning frost...brrrrr... But the view in the morning lets you almost forget the cold:


A closer look at the mountains:


Just 15km more into the mountains waits another famous LOTR attraction: Edoras, previously known as Mt. Sunday. It's not really a mount though, just a hill in a valley, but the surrounding mountains are quite impressive.


View from the top:


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Sat, 21 Nov 2015 00:03:41 GMT
Days 334-339 Banks Peninsula & Christchurch Coming down from Kaikoura there is a very interesting accomodation option in Waipara. The Waipara Sleepers, some historic railway wagons transformed into rooms:


The inside is very cosy:


Further down the coast just next to Christchurch is the Banks Peninsula. The main town Akaroa (700 residents) was the French settlement in New Zealand bought from the local Maori by a French whaler. The British claimed the land first though so it never was officially French but the influence of the first settlers is still visible everywhere. For example a Backpackers double room looks like this:


And they even had a piano!


All along the peninsula goes the Summit Rd, where you have magnificent views into all the bays:


And you can also do some walking to get to some more remote viewpoints:


Again a view from the Summit Rd onto the small Onawe peninsula...


...which you can access by an adventurous walk (if you don't choose the easily walkable beach)


In Christchurch we had our first two rainy days, perfect for the museum and the Antarctic Centre, which is probably a bit overpriced but the ride on the Hagglund is good fun:



(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Tue, 17 Nov 2015 05:50:41 GMT
Days 330-332 Kaikoura Coming down the East coast Kaikoura is a must see place, famous for its abundant marine life. Whales, dolphins, seals, albatross you name it.

If you wonder why the whales are in Kaikoura and not somewhere else, the reason is simple: Deep water. Just 1km offshore the sea floor drops below 1000m depth. This is due the geological position between two crusts which has also pushed up the Kaikoura ranges (up to 2600 metres high just 12km from the sea).

Therefore the drive along the coast to Kaikoura and onwards is one of the most scenic drives you can find in NZ. The sea on your left the whole time and now and then mountains rising up to your right:


Before you even reach Kaikoura you can see your first seals at the Ohau stream and waterfall. The best thing: These are cute little pubs playing in the stream and waterfall. Unfortunately the easy 5 minute walk from the highway also means tourist crowds.



It doesn't really get much better than that even though the seal colony in Kaikoura has pubs as well:


But everybody comes to see the whales and the only question is: boat or plane? It turns out if you get a good deal a scenic 40 minutes flight might even be cheaper than the 3 hour boat trip and - well - even if we were unlucky and didn't see any whales the flight alone would have been really cool:


But of course there where two sperm whales coming up to breath shortly after each other and we were circling over them for more than 10 minutes.




(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Sun, 08 Nov 2015 04:52:35 GMT
Days 327-329 Marlborough With the app released work was finished for now and it's time to travel again. So let's hop over to the South Island. The weather started out rainy and cold in Wellington but half way the sky cleared and the sun was greeting us. A first view on the Marlborough Sounds from the ferry:


Picton harbour at sunset - even better:


On the next day we drove deep into the Sounds to Mistletoe Bay which has a nice walk up to the Onahau Hilltop Lookout. And it's a true lookout with stunning 360° views.


Next stop Marfells Beach, a nice little campground directly on the beach which features a walk to the historic Cape Campbell Lighthouse.



From the lighthouse you can even see the North Island on a clear day:


So the 1.5 hours walk along the beach to the lighthouse was quite nice but the same way back could become a bit boring. Luckily before we were even halfway back two quads came along and offered to take us back to the campground, so we were speeding back over sand and stone while frantically holding our hats.

The best part was still to come. The two guys were catching some crayfish and offered to cook us one for dinner.


After 10 minutes of boiling:


Apparently we ate the first one so eagerly that they gave us a second one. I guess that's the famous Kiwi hospitality.

On the next day another beach walk was waiting. Described as "Tiring 5km one way" but with the promise of an unspoiled tourist-free seal colony. It took us more than 1.5 hours before we saw the first seal:


After 2.5 hours we finally reached "The Needles" and it was definitly worth the effort:




(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Tue, 03 Nov 2015 23:47:56 GMT
Days 112-326 Winter So winter was approaching and it was time to find some work. I decided to stay in Wellington because I heard there are many 6 month contracts available in the IT sector. But first some sightseeing.

The famous cable car:


The even more famous Te Papa museum has a quite aggressive sculpture at the entrance:


But they also have a fantastic Maori exhibition:


On a beautiful day the scenic harbour drive is stunning:


The wooden church Old St. Paul's...not too bad either:


Now finding a job takes some time so I went woofing again while sending out applications. The first place I found was in Waikanae, a beautiful location on the hillside with a fantastic view on Kapiti Island:

nat-NZ-kapiti_coast-la_pineta-kapiti_island&south_islandnat-NZ-kapiti_coast-la_pineta-kapiti_island&south_island The sunsets were stunning:


And as I found out on the first evening my host was a software developer who just started a new project with his friend. They were looking for help writing an app for the real estate market. And he would also go travelling around the world for 3 months, needing somebody to stay in the house and take care of dog and cat.

How could I say no to that? The next months passed by quickly. I saw my first Kiwi in the Nga Manu in Waikanae:


And did I mention the sunsets?


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Tue, 03 Nov 2015 06:45:00 GMT
Days 106-111 Taumarunui The Forgotten World Highway ends in Tauramunui, starting point for many activities. One is the Timber Trail, a mountain bike trail through the Pureora Forest which follows historic railway lines and haul roads.


It features some of the highest and longest suspension bridges, the most impressive one is Maramataha Bridge with a length of 141m


It was again a bright and sunny day...

tra-NZ-taumarunui-timber_trail-roadtra-NZ-taumarunui-timber_trail-road when I entered the dark tunnel I was suddenly like blind as it is in a bend and you don't see the end of the tunnel.


The top activity in Taumarunui is the Great Walk that is no walk: The Whanganui River Journey, a 3-5 day trip down the river in a canoe. Despite the weather forecast it was marvellous on the first day:


A small rapid:



A short walk from the river is the Bridge to Nowhere, a concrete bridge built in 1935/36 across a deep gorge to provide access to a valley that was given to WWI veterans for settlement around 1917. The intention was to build roads to it later, but the area proved to be so remote and unsuitable for farming that the last 3 families left a few years after the bridge was completed.


The last day started very slow with heavy headwind but towards the end of the journey are the best rapids. One of the last is the 50/50 rapid, named after the chance you have to get through without flipping over. I can confirm that it's true as two of the three other canoes nearby flipped over.

(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Sat, 30 May 2015 23:46:56 GMT
Days 102-105 Stratford Part 2 Stratford itself has a rich history. It is named after the birthplace of Shakespeare and nearly all the streets are namend after characters from his plays. Here you can also find the only glockenspiel in New Zealand which plays scenes from Romeo and Juliet a few times a day:


Just South of Stratford is the Taranaki Pioneer Village which is an outdoor museum aiming to present the life of Taranaki pioneers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Here a police station and prison:


And a chemist:


Stratford is also one end of the so called Forgotten World Highway, a 150 km highway that runs through some rugged, beautiful countryside over four mountain saddles and through a river gorge. The other end is Taumarunui, another good spot for some adventure.

After taking a 1.5 hour detour from the highway over gravel roads you find yourself on the Bridge to Somewhere (not to be confused with the Bridge to Nowhere, we'll come to that one later). Ironically, the bridge was built only after most of the settlers had abandoned their farms during the 1930s economic depression.


Another much shorter detour and a short walk brings you to Mt Damper falls, with 85m one of the highest waterfalls on the North Island:


The view from one of the saddles:


The most famous attraction on the highway is Whangamomona, a small township that declared itself a Republic in 1989 to protest against redrawing of council boundaries which would have moved them from the Taranaki region to the Manawatu-Wanganui region. Every two years they held a Republic Day and elect a president. Apart from the Hotel there is not much to see with only around 150 people living there.


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Fri, 15 May 2015 23:10:45 GMT
Days 102-105 Stratford Part 1 After a stormy night at the campground near Mokau the next stop was Tongaporutu where the beach is a stunning sight at low tide.


But don't leave after you saw that! Bring some patience and wait for the high tide and you can see the waves crushing against the cliffs. Very impressive:


Going further down the coast is the so called Whitecliffs Walkway. Beware the tide they say. It is save 2 hours either side of low tide they say...


...don't believe it. You might end up with soaked shoes. After I took the following picture and picked up my shoes again an even bigger wave came which would have washed away my shoes from the boulder.


The biggest attraction in the Taranaki region is Mt. Taranaki. Usually he hides behind clouds, so you need to bring patience if you want to see him in his full majesty.

The Maori story about Taranaki goes like this:

In the past many magnificent mountain gods lived near the heart of the North Island: Ruapehu, Tongariro, Ngāruahoe, Taranaki, Tauhara... and the only female - little Pihanga. Taranaki dared to make advances to Pihanga and was reproached by Tongariro and a mighty battle ensued between them. Tongariro was the stronger of the two mountains. He defeated Taranaki, whose peak shuddered and sides convulsed. In his flight he carved the Wanganui River, forming the Ngāere swamp when he stopped to rest. The he turned north and settled besides Pouākai, a beautiful range. When Taranaki conceals himself with rainclouds, he is said to be crying for his lost love.


Near Stratford is the York Road Loop Track, which follows part of the old Egmont Branch Railway Line. The railway evolved in 1901 when the local Road Board and Council lobbied the Minister of Railways to construct a branch railway for metal quarrying on the mountain. Until the late 1920s, the quarry provided metal for Taranaki roads and rocks for Port Taranaki in New Plymouth. World War II created a major setback for the quarry and it was finally closed during the late 1940s. Typically for New Zealand they removed almost all traces of the railway, just a few remnants where left for this historic walk way.


On Mt. Taranaki himself there is - no surprise - a waterfall. Dawson Falls:


The forest around Dawson Falls is also called Goblin Forest for a reason:


And if you walk for some time through the Goblin Forest you come to Wilkies Pools, a series of natural plunge pools formed by the scouring action of water-borne sand and gravel:


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Wed, 06 May 2015 06:22:47 GMT
Days 99-101 Waitomo & Te Anga Back in Te Kuiti, but this time better prepared with a pre booked Black Water Rafting tour into the Ruakuri cave. Good fun!



The cave is also famous for the glowworms, like its neighbour Waitomo cave to where a guided tour was included in the package.


From Waitomo starts a scenic road to the coast and down to Mokau where it connects with the highway again. Along the road are many great but often overlooked spots.

Mangapohue natural bridge:


Marokopa Falls:


Piripiri cave:


And the Waikawau tunnel beach, a beach that is only accessible via a narrow tunnel through the sandstone cliffs, which was made in 1911 by three men armed only with picks and shovels.


Finally in Mokau the beach is as black as it gets:


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Mon, 27 Apr 2015 08:14:39 GMT
Days 96-98 Taupo & Tauranga After a couple of days in the wild another tourist hot spot is again tolerable: Taupo

The Huka Falls are famous for the amazing color of the water:



And a bit further downstream is a big dam, followed by the Aratiatia Rapids. Not very impressive at the wrong time:


But every 3 hours they open the dam for 15 minutes:


And then it get's more exciting:


I had to pick up some mail that arrived for me in Waihi, so the next stop was Tauranga for one night. Just enough time to climb Mt. Manganui and enjoy the nice view:


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Thu, 16 Apr 2015 09:44:23 GMT
Days 93-95 Urewera National Park After all the tourist crowds in and around Rotorua it was time for quietness and nature again. A good 150km from Rotorua is the Lake Waikaremoana in the Urewera National Park. About 100 km of the road are unsealed so it became a quite rough and long drive.


Around the visitor centre and the Holiday Park are a few water falls...: nat-NZ-urewera-aniwaniwa_fallsnat-NZ-urewera-aniwaniwa_falls


...and another lake: Lake Waikareiti which has 6 islands. On the largest Island is again a lake, so that's a lake on and island in a lake on an island in the ocean.


The main thing though is the Great Walk which goes roughly half-way around Lake Waikaremoana. On the first day you go up the Panakiri Ranges and get some fantastic views:


nat-NZ-urewera-lake_waikaremoana-4nat-NZ-urewera-lake_waikaremoana-4 On the second day a look back to the ranges:


A duck:


The Water Taxi Pickup Point which marks the End of the Great Walk:


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Sun, 12 Apr 2015 01:03:45 GMT
Days 89-92 Rotorua - Part 3 What's the most well known tourist attraction in New Zealand? Right, Hobbiton, so let's go there. In the middle of nowhere surrounded by burned farmland suffering from the drought-like summer a green oasis is attracting more than 300000 visitors per year.

Let's look at some hobbit holes first:



And of course the most famous hobbit hole bag end. Unfortunately there was still no admittance and I couldn't prove that I was responsible for setting up the network for the party night.



The first oak tree overlooking Bag End was cut down and brought in from near Matamata. Each branch was numbered and chopped, then transported and bolted together on top of Bag End (weighing 26 tonne). Over 200000 leaves were imported from Taiwan and attached one by one with glue.

For the Hobbit movies the tree had to be smaller as they are set 60 years earlier so they built up a new artificial tree. After it was all ready Peter Jackson looked at it and said it has the wrong color, so all leaves had to be hand-painted again to match the color in the Lord of the Rings.

From Bag End you have a good view on the party ground and the famous Green Dragon on the other side of the lake.


Passing the watermill


And enjoying a complimentary drink in the Green Dragon


This is still not all, the Rotorua area has more to offer. Just North of Rotorua are the amazing Hamurana Springs with crystal clear water. 15 meters deep it is the deepest natural fresh water spring on the North Island.


And very close by are the Kaituna rapids, loved by all water sport enthusiasts. I was just watching though:


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Wed, 08 Apr 2015 23:46:46 GMT
Days 89-92 Rotorua - Part 2 Very close to Wai-O-Tapu is the Rainbow Mt and as you can guess from the name it features some nice colored rocks:


Rotorua has also the best Maori culture programs, one of them is a visit to Tamaki Village. It goes over a whole evening, starting with a tradition welcome ceremony:


Then you can explore some customs inside the village like basket weaving...


...or training for warriors:


That was followed by dance performances:


And of course the famous haka war dance:


Last but not least followed the feast called hangi, which was traditionally cooked in a pit oven with heated rocks:

Close by somewhere on State Highway 38 are some great hidden carvings, the Kaingaroa rock carvings. No sign, no carpark, only findable with GPS.


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Sat, 04 Apr 2015 22:39:36 GMT
Days 89-92 Rotorua - Part 1 The first thing in Rotorua that you notice is the smell. The smell of sulphur everywhere. The town is in the middle of a geothermal region and that makes it quite unique and unfortunately also a top tourist destination so expect crowds everywhere you go.

That's how it looks in the city park:


That's the museum:


And Ohinemutu Village, the original Maori settlement in Rotorua:


Very close is the thermal park Wai-O-Tapu, where you can expect lots of tourists and a geysir that erupts everyday at 10:15 like a trained dog. That moment is not very spectacular if you don't want to watch the huge crowd taking pictures on command.

So what you can do instead is visit the park between 9:30 and 10:30 when everybody is leaving to get a good place at lady knox geysir and then watch the geysir when almost everybody left, cause the eruption goes on for at least 30 minutes:


If you are a fast walker you can do the park in 45 minutes so I got to see the crowd as well:


The park itself is quite impressive, even after being on White Island.




Outside but very close are big mud pools to see for free:



(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Tue, 31 Mar 2015 03:39:02 GMT
Days 84-88 Northland - Part 3 As already indicated in the last post there is a alternative way back down from the Te Paki Sand Dunes if you have seen enough of the highways.

It's just a short drive through the Te Paki stream down to 90 Mile Beach and then about 67 kms to the exit ramp.



That was rather rough but it's not far and driving on the beach is actually very smooth going. You can easily make 100 kmph on the wet hard sand if you want. But then it's quicker over.

Oh what is that on your right side? The ocean?


It was all going very well...until the exit ramp. There is a longer patch of soft sand to cross which turned out to be a problem:


Luckily a local was just coming down the ramp a few minutes later with his big 4WD Jeep and pulled the car out back on the beach. On the second try I managed to come through with full speed.

After that to finish off Northland a visit to the Kauri forest which is basically on the way down.

Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest), the biggest remaining Kauri in NZ:


Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest), the second biggest remaining Kauri, which has the biggest girth (over 16 meters):


And on the further way to Rotorua are the Wairere Falls, the highest waterfall on the North Island, plunges 153 metres down.


(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Thu, 26 Mar 2015 05:02:53 GMT
Days 84-88 Northland - Part 2 Not very surprisingly while moving further north there are more waterfalls and walks. Starting the day with the beautiful Rainbow Falls:


Next stop on the Mahinepua Peninsula for a nice walk along the cliffs:


And finishing the day on 90 Mile Beach with a sunset:


During the day the 90 Mile Beach reveals its featurelessness, which makes it very interesting for adventurous drivers to go down the ramp and drive on the beach. I would not do that of course, would I?


Anyway it's apparently a must-do to visit the northernmost point of NZ and that is Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean crushing into each other. Impressive or so they say, I couldn't see much of it, maybe because it wasn't windy enough.


South of Cape Reinga are the Te Paki Sand Dunes:


Now which road can I take down again? The same highway would be quite boring, wouldn't it? Let's see in the next part...

(Safed Haathi) 400 Days at the End of the World Sat, 21 Mar 2015 23:12:03 GMT