Wednesday, April 15, 2015

NZ 7: Natural Beauty

I really shouldn't be surprised that this post has more than 40 photos. New Zealand is so full of natural beauty. Some of it is strange and beautiful, some of it is simply brilliant. Here's 40+ of my favorite beautiful nature pictures from our trip.
Lake Taupo, which was created by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. The sky was blacked out as far as Rome and China for months afterward. 
Some of the most sublime landscapes we encountered were on our day-long hike of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, in the next several photos.
You have no idea how high up we were. It looks like a gentle descent to the left, but that ground is sooooo far below us. We were basically sitting on the edge of a huge cliff.
Yup. That's an active volcano. Let's just say even though we were exhausted, we picked up our pace to get out of the "blast area" where a sleeping hut was destroyed just a few years ago.
This water was grey. Not sure if that had to do with the volcano, but it was weird.
There was always beauty to be found outside the window on our long drives, as well.
Saw many areas along our drives that looked like this. Dotted with trees. I thought it was so strange and pretty.
Not surprisingly, the ocean was also stunning and gave us a lot of beautiful photos.

We also visited the very beautiful botanical gardens in Christchurch.

Honestly, though, nature was so prevalent in New Zealand and such a focus for us that we always found something beautiful to look at around us.
This was in Arthur's Pass, a mountainous and remote region of the South Island.
In Franz Josef, with the Aorki Mt. Cook mountains (I think) behind.
Down a windy dirt road on a 4 x 4 tour.
Another amazing and stunning adventure was our kayak trip though the Doubtful Sound. We drove a long time to get to a boat that took us across a lake and down a river, then onto a bus that was originally brought there by boat and has no access to outside roads, then back on a boat before we could even get to the kayaks. Talk about remote.
Ok, one more spot to show you guys: the Moeraki Boulders, which were created by salt deposits over thousands of years.
All I can think of right now is this art print I saw recently that reads "There is beauty in this world." So true. And I've got the pictures to prove it. :-)
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Sunday, April 12, 2015

NZ 6: Animals

New Zealand is a strange place when it comes to animals. There are no large mammals native to the islands. Most of the mammals that are there were brought over by men. And a lot of the native birds, reptiles and amphibians are found no where else in the world. 

We were lucky enough to have a few good animal encounters during our trip. We visited the National Aquarium of New Zealand:

These penguins were all wild but were found injured for one reason or another, so they were brought to the zoo for rehabilitation.
But I think one of the coolest animal experiences you can have is to see animals in the wild. On our drive to Kaikoura, we found this wild colony of seals just hanging out by the ocean. It was so amazing to see them playing and sleeping and interacting with each other.
I also got a small bird to come and eat a worm out of my hand when we were in Rotorua on the zipline tour. We took a video but it was pretty dark because we were in a rain forest, so you can't really see much. But it was pretty cool.

Another type of animal experience is to see wild animals on an organized tour, which we did for to see the sperm whales and Dusky dolphins.

There was a massive number of dolphins swimming around here. And they were so playful and just completely amazing. Make sure to watch the video below in full screen so you can see the dolphins well. I was a little too zoomed out when I took the video.

One of my favorite native birds that we saw in various places was the Paradise birds. The female has the white head and the male is more black. The cool thing about them is that you always see one male and one female together because they mate for life.
Below are some other crazy birds that  were way up on a cliff.
As I mentioned before, there are millions of sheep and cows in New Zealand as well.
Our encounter with the Blue penguins was pretty cool. They swim out on the ocean all day and only come back to their nests at night when they are protected from predators. So we stood there and got to see them suddenly pop out of the ocean and scramble up on the beach and make their way to the little burrows that were right near the viewing platform. My pictures aren't great because we couldn't use the flash, but it was a pretty interesting experience.
And one of my other favorite animal encounters was with the glowworms. We were blackwater rafting in the cave, so I didn't have my camera. But here's a picture I found online of them. Simply amazing.