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Saturday, 28 August 2010

Unreal colors

The light in New Zealand and the colors of lakes and the skies sometimes are too good to be true. I am not sure if it is because the air is so pure and clean but I have never before seen this tones in nature. Some of the pictures to me look like I have used a filter, but trust me this is what it looks like here. We are spending some days in Mackenzie country, which is vast farmlands mixed with endless mountains, glaciers and rivers. The south island has even fewer habitants than the north island, and all over you notice how untouched the land is.
Today we hiked for hours towards mount Cook and the Hooker glacier,  through the land where some of the battles in the "Lord of the rings" took place. This time we really did deserve the sauna and logfire waiting for us back at the village.

                                                        Lake Pukaki

                                             Can you imagine the orcs attacking?


No need for words

After having  spent two days in sunny Wellington we hopped on one of the most scenic boat rides in the world: from north to the south island, which was pretty spectacular.
  Later we indulged in food and wine in the green  Marlborough wine district. The next morning we woke up in Kaikoura where I spent hours watching baby seals having a big party in a water fall and the adjacent river. Quite remarkable that they know where to travel to spend their first parent free night out with friends. ( they then of course have to travel back again to be fed). After that we went for a stunning hike through the green landscape where former whalers had settled, very sad to walk on one beach which was practically a whale -graveyard. Next morning I got to do one of my favourite past times in the whole wide world: swim with dolphins. There were hundreds playing with us and it is an experience noone should miss in their life.
As the water was 10°C we were quite cooled down so in the afternoon we travelled southwards to the mountain village of Hanmer Springs by the Southern alps,where we treated ourselves to their hot thermal baths and spa and then fell asleep pretty quickly.
The following day we travelled down the coast on one of the most stunning scenic roads I have ever been on  and ended up at a picturesque french village called Akaroa which sits at the end of a volcano crater. We spent the night like so many others; cooking with friends and then playing cards in front of the log fire. Can it be better?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Aotearoa-Land of the long white cloud

After some amazing days at my  super hospitable friends' safe and warm house in Auckland I decided before becoming too comfortable to continue with another road trip down New Zealand with new friends I had made.

It is so hard to capture the beauty and essence of this spectacular country in words and pictures. The landscape is always changing, it is breathtaking and feels very soul nurturing.
In the north of the north island ( where the hobbits live) the rolling hills are draped in green tones mixed with orange and rusty colors and as spring is upon us: the daffodils are out in bloom. We spent a few days around Rotaroa where a lot of the Maori culture is still very evident. It is a thermal area which makes it look really mystical and creates beautiful colors as well as giving plenty of chances to jump into hot spring pools and relaxing in spas.
Further south the nature changes into clear blue lakes with majestic snow capped mountains in the background and deserted beaches. I had to see  Napier, on the east coast  which was destroyed by an earth quake in 1931 and was rebuilt in art deco style, so I spent a few hours indulging in the architecture and searched through the vintage shops of my favourite era.


                                   An artist's pallet in Wai-O -Tapu

                                             View from the thermal pool.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Back to colder weathers

Time is up to continue southwards to New Zealand for some serious tramping (nz for hiking) and outdoorsy things. Can't wait!

North tropical Queensland

I The reason why most people head up to the northern part of Queensland is to go to the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef, so that is what we did.

Travelling in Australia means covering of course; huge distances, in a car I love it as you can get out and smell the eucalyptus trees whilst watching the amazing wildlife :(8 of the world's most deadliest live here) saltwater crocodiles in the creeks, koalas in the trees, the different species of Kangaroos and Wollabies running across the fields, beautiful parrots and listening to the endless chatter of the Cockatoos. Then find your own spot to watch the sun set. It is not hard to imagine the hard life people living here must have had here not that long time ago. The sandstorms while travelling on horseback whilst trying to find work at farms.... no wonder Australians are seen as quite tough!

In the Whitsundays we sailed on a huge Catamaran, which I am happy we did as it was very windy: 28-30 knots! But after a few hours I started to really enjoy the sailing and spent time up with the skipper trying to understand all the different instruments. I have missed sailing so much since moving to UK and this really reminded me of how passionate about sailing I used to be and that I really need to get back into it when I am home again.
We either snorkelled around a few different islands or went ashore. Unfortunately I can not show you any pictures of the famous Whitehaven beach as the sand is pure silica and damages any electronical equipment that comes into contact with it so I did not bring the camera there.

After some gorgeous and fun days we continued north and drove throught the beautiful atherton table lands and visited some old australian towns and saw platypus swimming in a lake! I have no photos as they emerge at sunset and there was no light. The last few days of our australia trip was spent on mission beach looking for cassawary birds, magnetic island, and then the posh town of port Douglas. Then I had to leave to quickly move out to more islands: Fiji.

Where time stands still

It will be hard being back to cities and the cold. But I feel I got to really see a beautiful part of the world, where time somehow is treated in a different way to what I am used to.  I have met so many beautiful people and made many friends. Somehow I find it hard to find anything negative with my travels apart from all the goodbyes. I have even started to love sleeping in rooms full of other people. It is cosy, saying goodnight to room mates and never feeling lonely.

It is hard to capture the beauty of the different islands I have visited but here are some sketches.


I can not tell you how many times I have counted my luck in the past few weeks; To be able to do this trip and spend days just reading books, hiking the islands, snorkelling in the most clear turquoise and eating food worthy of a Micheline star. Wow. The evenings were spent watching fijian dancing, playing volley ball, watching movies on the beach or just lying in hammocks discussing life whilst watching the starry night. Paradise really does exist.

During an hike across one of the islands I was met by these boys singing. They, as all the other children I met during sunday church service and in the villages seemed so happy and content with the life they had. So again it struck me: how being poor really bears no relation to having a poor life.

One of the books I've  read during my travels was Oliver James's "affluenza" which I really recommend to anyone who lives in the west . The book deals with how consumerism is destroying our health and leads to an increase in depressed people across the globe. Not anything new there, but really;  it is so important to be reminded of it.

Even cowgirls get the blues

After a long winding road through the outwordly Australian outback, we ended up at Myella farm, which was to be our home for the next few days.
Immediately I felt at home and adopted an orphaned grey kangaroo called "Wolly" whom had to be hand-fed four times a day. We would get up with the sunrise to milk the cows then feed the hens and pick up the eggs that they had produced.
 After breakfast the calves needed feeding ( I would have a constant  fight with them as they struggled to get to the last milk bottle I had left) and then we would go for a long ride on the horses across beautiful prarie  fields and landscape (filled with kangaroos and pythons....).  learn how to throw a lasso and how to  herd cattle! Phew it is so much harder to be a farmer than I ever imagined.

In the end of the day we would take the motorbikes and drive on the red sand roads into the most stunning sunset.
 I put Wolly to bed by giving him a cotton bag (pouch), which he would jump into, swirl around and somehow manage to get his head out so that I could wrap a jacket around and zip  up, then he would feel safe and fall asleep! One night I was awakened by a calf's endless crying (and his mother; the cow) somehow the calf had jumped the fences( you read that right: cows can jump fences) to get to the other calves and was separated overnight from his mum. So we had to get out and try to move the cow back to her calf. Wow, not a very easy task but really magical doing it while watching and learning about the australian-starry night.
I could have stayed for much longer;  it made me so happy to be surrounded by all the animals and with the stunning scenery but as our trip was nearing the end we had to move on.