Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Final Stop, Beautiful Bay of Islands

Our last stop was the Bay of Islands.  This time I decided I would see the Kauri forest and Glow Worm Cave.  Yes, you heard me right!

Once again it was a tender to shore but this guy looked like he was asking directions!  It was significantly further than our other tender.

We stopped briefly to see New Zealand's oldest stone house and oldest wooden house.

One again the Maori are well represented on this island and this was the entrance to their meeting house.

I saw the Mangianagina Forest which was very beautiful.  We took a lovely forest walk through these wonderful silver fern trees.  Their leaves look silver at night.

Then it was the giant Kauri which are the second largest trees in the world behind the mighty sequoia.  They have been destroyed by poachers seeking the gum for use as turpentine and other products.

This fern is the national emblem of New Zealand.

After leaving the forest we made a rest stop at the funkiest bathroom I have ever seen.  It was designed by an Austrian architect who was probably run out of Austria!!  Once again the art freaked me out.

This was the view from my seat!

Then it was off to the glow worm cave.

No pictures were allowed except at the entrance.

It was a fascinating experience.  Stalactites and stalagmites everywhere and when the lights went out the glow worms  flashed on and off all over the ceiling.  I have never seen anything like it.  They flash to attract bugs to eat and stay lit if looking to mate.

On the way out we were shown some of the actual worms but again no photographs.

We did get to take a picture of this asteroid supposedly found nearby.

The Bay of Islands was a beautiful last stop as we say adieu to New Zealand.

Auckland, the BIG City!

Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand with a huge percentage of the population.  Today I am going to the aquarium and the Skytower for a couple of new experiences.  That's the Skytower in the distance.

I particularly liked this building with the blue windows.

Our first stop was the aquarium.  It had been converted from an underground sewage facility long in disuse but perfect for an aquarium.  The first part was dedicated to antarctic explorers Scott and Shackelton and had exact replicas of their living conditions.
Then it was on to see the antarctic penguins......

There was long tunnel where the sea life could swim overhead including a vast array of sharks.


There was a huge array of fish including rays, puffer fish, seahorses, rock fish.  The list is endless so I'll just show the pictures....



Then it was on to the Skytower with some incredible views.......

And some incredible idiots.  See the line.....

Now see the idiot.....

Next and final stop, the beautiful Bay of Islands.




Mt. Maunganui, Rotarua and the Maori

Our next stop was Mount Maunganui which once again has a stunning harbor but is also home to the annual New Zealand national surfing championship.

Nearby Tauranga is the Kiwi capital of New Zealand and orchards are virtually everywhere.
Then we rode to the very popular town of Rotorua. 
Rotorua is known for its geysers, hot springs and thermal baths.  The steaming mud can be seen all over the area.

About 35% of the indigenous Maori people live in the are and their influence is felt throughout the city.  That is why we visited the area, to experience the Maori culture.
The Maori have their own culture, language and meeting houses but they also provide entertainment for visiting tourists.  They have set up an example of how a Maori village would historically have appeared.  They wear native dress and provide demonstrations.
Their villages would have been nestled in the forest.
Dressed in traditional clothes, they provided demonstrations that reflected their way of life.

They prepared us a traditional Maori feast preparing it by cooking it in the ground in the traditional manner.  But before we ate they entertained us with traditional music and dancing.

Apparently making faces was a way to frighten the enemy and frankly this guy gave me the creeps.

They were very gracious people very eager to make us happy and we thoroughly enjoyed their hospitality.
On our way we home we saw the lake that gives Rotorua its name, Lake Rotorua.