Saturday, November 19, 2016

New Zealand! Johnny's First Three Days

Johnny took the train to California to join Steve and family a few days before their trip to New Zealand. Munazza would be attending a two week Qi Gong retreat on the North Island while the boys played. Then Johnny would fly home and the rest of them would stay two more weeks, visiting the South Island. I bought Johnny a camera and told him to take lots of photos. He did. Over 300.

The plane left San Francisco late in the evening but they had to be at the airport three hours ahead of time. There was a lot of time to wait... so they toured the airport. Few people were there that late so the kids could walk down the moving stairs as they were going up, walk the opposite direction the moving walkway was going, and generally have a good time while waiting.

The long flight was at night so they slept through most of it.... and awoke in New Zealand! They stayed in the Auckland area for the first three days before Munazza left for Rotorua and her training retreat. Western Springs Park features this lake, known in Maori as 'Te Wai Orea', Water of the Eel. Those are black swans with white cygnets (baby swans) below the bridge.

 But there were plenty of eels, too!

7-year-old Cedrus is a budding naturalist. I had given them pamphlets of the common birds and animals of New Zealand to take with them.  Grandpa took photos of all the birds they saw to bring home to me. He and Cedrus then looked on the pamphlet to try to identify them.  I will put most of the photos on my Birds blog in a New Zealand Birds post. But here's a starter photo from their very first day in New Zealand. The bird in the foreground was, according to Cedrus from his pamphlet, a Pukeko (swamphen). Behind it is a Black Swan. And then there are the familiar Rock Pigeons.

Johnny says there were lots of playgrounds and they played at many of them. The play equipment was a bit more exciting and dangerous than what we have in the U.S., according to Johnny. The kids loved them. A friend of ours told us years ago when she was a movie stunt person in New Zealand that she quit because they didn't have the regulations and safety standards that the movie industry has in the U.S. and it was too dangerous with too many accidents! Happily, Kestrel and Cedrus had no accidents on the playgrounds, just fun.

Kestrel saw train tracks and wanted to know where the train was and could they ride it. So they walked along them until they found a station and rode a "tram".

Cedrus had trouble breathing at their first airbnb, so he and Grandpa moved into their rental car. It was too stuffy with the windows closed, but too buggy with them open, so Grandpa stretched his tee shirt across a window opening to let air in but not insects. The writing on the window says "HELP! CAUGHT INSIDE!" It's fun going camping with Grandpa.

On the second day, Robert, a co-worker of Steve's who lives in New Zealand, took them on a ferry ride across the bay to an island, Rangitoto, that has only been in existence for 650 years. It rose up out of the sea. All of New Zealand is geothermally active and always has been.

Here are Robert and Cedrus by their ferry... in the wind.

Looking toward Auckland from the island

Kestrel at the entrance to a cave

Steve and Munazza coming out of the cave

Kestrel in the wind on the ferry ride back to the mainland

Auckland with its Sky Tower, much like Seattle's Space Needle
 Back in Auckland, they took a break on bean bag chairs in a public square.

 In that square was this tower with shapes, colors and sounds that changed as you touched them.

 Johnny said the best food was at a Malaysian restaurant. This was the dessert, enough for all 5 of them.

 The biggest industry in New Zealand is tourism. Everywhere are car rental places as no out-of-country tourists ship their cars over there. Many of the tourist attractions are run by Maori. Our Native Americans could take hints from the Maori on how to preserve their lands and make money, too.

 Here tourists can frame their photos. :-)

 The kids played at the nearby beach.

And Johnny took photos of gulls. This one Cedrus identified from his pamphlet as a Red-billed Gull.

Also near Auckland is this rugged landscape with a long hike to a spectacular waterfall.

Over 100 steps on the way down in this section...

the trail goes over the creek... on big boulders.

They also visited a Kauri forest. The Kauri is a huge and very long-lived (over 1,000 years!) conifer that has been the mainstay of the timber industry in New Zealand. And, of course, overlogged. But it is under management now. However, a fungus disease is attacking the trees. The fungus is carried on boots that walk over the roots, so visitors to Kauri forests are asked to disinfect their shoes.

This tree was  over 7 feet in diameter!

Click on the photo to enlarge and read the sign.

A spectacular vacation! And that was just the first three days!

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