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Rottnest Island

Chasing Quokkas on Rotto

sunny 27 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

Rottnest (or "Rotto") is a small island 12 miles off the Fremantle coast famed for its wildlife (and in particular "quokkas", cat sized marsupials) and used as an idyllic holiday retreat by the locals. The day started with catching the early ferry from the Barrack Street Jetty in Perth and then an hour long cruise down the Swan River past West Australia's equivalent of Millionaires Row to Fremantle.

Perth from the Barrack Street Jetty

Perth from the Barrack Street Jetty


View from the ferry on the Swan River between Perth and Fremantle

View from the ferry on the Swan River between Perth and Fremantle


Fremantle Harbour

Fremantle Harbour

Having berthed up beyond the "Costa Deliziosa" Cruise Ship (the big cruise ship currently in port) and loaded up with more tourists, bicycles and ballot boxes (for the imminent state election), the ferry sped past ships queueing to berth up in Freemantle Harbour. Arriving on Rottnest Island about 30 minutes later, we then got on a RIB (Rigid Inflatible Boat, apparently similar to those used by the SAS) for a 90 minute "eco-tour" right around the island stopping at coves to see the wildlife along the way.

Bicycles and Ballot Boxes being loaded on the Rottnest Ferry at Freemantle

Bicycles and Ballot Boxes being loaded on the Rottnest Ferry at Freemantle


Approaching Rottnest Island on the Ferry

Approaching Rottnest Island on the Ferry


The RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) we were on going around Rottnest Island

The RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) we were on going around Rottnest Island


On the eco-tour RIB speeding around Rottnest Island

On the eco-tour RIB speeding around Rottnest Island

The ride bouncing along at up to 35 knots outside the speed restriction areas was fun and we saw lazy New Zealand Fur Seals, nesting Ospreys and well as foraging Stingrays but I must admit I had hoped to see more as dolphins and seas lions are often also seen on the trip I took.

New Zealand Fur Seal at Cathedral Rocks on Rottnest Island

New Zealand Fur Seal at Cathedral Rocks on Rottnest Island


Kayaking and snorkeling amongst the seals on Rottnest Island

Kayaking and snorkeling amongst the seals on Rottnest Island


New Zealand Fur Seal floating on his back on Rottnest Island

New Zealand Fur Seal floating on his back on Rottnest Island


Osprey perched high up on a cliff on Rottnest Island

Osprey perched high up on a cliff on Rottnest Island

On returning to Thomson Bay (the main settlement on the island) I hired a bicycle for a couple of hours to explore the island's interior as with cars non-existent this is the recommended way to get around. I managed to reach the Oliver Hill Guns (WW2 Battery installed to defend Freemantle Harbour), Wedjemup Lighthouse and ride past some of the salty pink lakes (4 times saltier than sea water and like the Dead Sea you naturally float in them) before I had to return back to make sure I was back in time for my ferry.

The WW2 Gun Battery on Oliver Hill

The WW2 Gun Battery on Oliver Hill


Wadjemup Lighthouse on Rottnest Island

Wadjemup Lighthouse on Rottnest Island


A pink lake on Rottnest Island

A pink lake on Rottnest Island


Me exploring Rottnest Island by bicycle

Me exploring Rottnest Island by bicycle


Geordie Bay full of yachts on Rottnest Island

Geordie Bay full of yachts on Rottnest Island

Back in Thomson Bay I made a quick visit to the museum and "Quod" (old prison now hotel, Rottnest was used as an aboriginal open prison during the 19th century) was beginning to worry the only quokka I would see would be the one sleeping by the surf boards at the bicycle hire shop. I need not have worried, literally just before I got back to the boat one wandered out in front of me and good as posed for my camera!

The Quod (Old Prison) at Thomson Bay

The Quod (Old Prison) at Thomson Bay


The Old School and Chapel at Thomson Bay

The Old School and Chapel at Thomson Bay


Quokka posing for me as I am about to board ship

Quokka posing for me as I am about to board ship


The Ferry back to Fremantle and Perth

The Ferry back to Fremantle and Perth

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches animals birds museums lighthouses boat forts cruise_ships harbours tour perth marine_life videos prisons solo Comments (0)

Auckland "City of Sails"

Volcanoes, yachts, NZ bush and black sand beaches

overcast 22 °C
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Auckland is built on a narrow istmus where you can walk from the east to west coast in about 4 hours. It is also pitted with about 50 volcanic cones and craters and half the city seems to spend their free time jogging up and down them trying to keep fit. The most famous of these are Mount Eden (Auckland's highest volcanic cone) and One Tree Hill of U2 Joshua Tree fame and whose tree was chopped down by a maori activist in 2000.

One Tree Hill - minus the famous tree on its summit chopped down in 2000

One Tree Hill - minus the famous tree on its summit chopped down in 2000

One Tree Hill from Mount Eden

One Tree Hill from Mount Eden


Auckland including the Harbour Bridge and Skytower from Mount Eden

Auckland including the Harbour Bridge and Skytower from Mount Eden


The summit of Mount Eden at sunset

The summit of Mount Eden at sunset

In my opinion however the cone with the best view of Auckland is Mount Victoria on the North Shore of the harbour above the naval base at Devonport. On top of it is Fort Victoria and its disappearing gun built in 1899 in response to the threat of Russian expansionism in the Pacific. Offshore and dominating the view out to sea is Rangitoto, the largest and youngest of Auckland's volcanoes which last erupted about 600 years ago.

The disappearing gun at Fort Victoria overlooking Auckland Harbour

The disappearing gun at Fort Victoria overlooking Auckland Harbour


The spectacular view of Auckland Harbour from Mount Victoria

The spectacular view of Auckland Harbour from Mount Victoria

The Fossil Forest exposed on Takupuna Beach in front of Rangitoto, Auckland's largest and youngest volcano

The Fossil Forest exposed on Takupuna Beach in front of Rangitoto, Auckland's largest and youngest volcano

Just like Freemantle when Australia won the America's Cup in 1984, Auckland's harbour side attracted a lot of investment and got a major revamp after New Zealand won the Cup in 1995 and 2000. Several multi-millionaires have their luxury yachts in the Viaduct Harbour (one 5 star hotel even offers them berths!) and the New Zealand and Italian America's Cup Teams are still based here.

New Zealand's 1995 America's Cup winning yacht NZL32 "Black Magic" in the NZ Maritime Museum

New Zealand's 1995 America's Cup winning yacht NZL32 "Black Magic" in the NZ Maritime Museum


The luxury yacht Ulysses moored in Auckland's Viaduct Basin

The luxury yacht Ulysses moored in Auckland's Viaduct Basin


The Headquarters of the New Zealand America's Cup Team

The Headquarters of the New Zealand America's Cup Team


The Italian America's Cup Team are also based in Auckland

The Italian America's Cup Team are also based in Auckland

Thousands of yachts are moored in the Marina and demand for berths is so high that one company even offers multi-storey berths promising to have a customer's boat in the water within an hour of receiving a phone call. Across the mouth of the Viaduct Basin is the $3.7 million Wynyard Footbridge which opens to let boats through and is popular with tourists and cyclists.

The Skytower viewed behind a forest of yacht masts in Westhaven Marina

The Skytower viewed behind a forest of yacht masts in Westhaven Marina


Whatever next? A Multi Storey Boat Park down on the waterside in Auckland

Whatever next? A Multi Storey Boat Park down on the waterside in Auckland


The Wynyard Footbridge across the Viaduct Harbour

The Wynyard Footbridge across the Viaduct Harbour

The Wynyard Footbridge is raised to let a private yacht out to sea

The Wynyard Footbridge is raised to let a private yacht out to sea

Also by the Viaduct Harbour is New Zealand's Maritime Museum which in addition to galleries on the arrival of the Polynesians, early pioneers, immigrants and the America's Cup also has twice daily sailings around the harbour in the Ted Ashby, a modern reconstruction of ketch-rigged deck scow typical of those used to transport cargo around New Zealand's coasts 1870-1920.

Hoisting the Sail aboard the Ted Ashby in Waitemata Harbour off Auckland

Hoisting the Sail aboard the Ted Ashby in Waitemata Harbour off Auckland


View of Auckland from the Waitemata Harbour

View of Auckland from the Waitemata Harbour

While sailing on the Ted Ashby we sailed under the Auckland Harbour Bridge completed in 1959. Originally it only had 4 lanes which was very quickly found to be inadequate and by 1969 a Japanese construction company had been engaged to add a further 4 lanes which ever since have been affectionately known as the Nippon Clip-ons. It is also possible to do a bungy jump from a bungy pod close to the southern pier of the bridge; we narrowly missed catching someone jumping as we passed underneath!

Me approaching Auckland Harbour Bridge aboard the Ted Ashby

Me approaching Auckland Harbour Bridge aboard the Ted Ashby


The bungy pod close to the south pier that they jump from underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge

The bungy pod close to the south pier that they jump from underneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge


Returning to port aboard the Ted Ashby off Auckland

Returning to port aboard the Ted Ashby off Auckland

Not far to the west of Auckland is the 70 square miles of the Waitakere Regional Park with its visitor centre at Arakati with views of Manukau Harbour, Auckland's second harbour facing west connected to the Tasman Sea.

The Arataki Visitor's Centre in the Waitakere Regional Park

The Arataki Visitor's Centre in the Waitakere Regional Park


View across to the West Coast and Manukau Harbour from Arataki

View across to the West Coast and Manukau Harbour from Arataki


Me in a picture frame of the view of Manukau Harbour from Arataki

Me in a picture frame of the view of Manukau Harbour from Arataki

The Park was formed in 1940 to protect the remaining local NZ bush and allow what had already been lost to regenerate. This includes the Kauri Tree (which can live for 2000+ years), Rata Tree (which start as vines growing up other trees) and New Zealand's national emblem the Silver Fern. At Karekare there is a waterfall in a glade that was used for scenes in the Oscar winning film "The Piano".

Rata Tree near Piha in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park

Rata Tree near Piha in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park


Karekare Waterfall in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park

Karekare Waterfall in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park


Close up of the Karekare Waterfall and the beach used in the film "The Piano"

Close up of the Karekare Waterfall and the beach used in the film "The Piano"

Our final stop was Piha, famous for its iconic vista over the beach and Lion Rock. Beaches on New Zealand's west coast facing the Tasman Sea have iron rich black sand originating from volcanic dust while those on the east coast facing the Pacific are a more usual sand colour.

Me sat at the Lookout overlooking Piha Beach and Lion's Rock

Me sat at the Lookout overlooking Piha Beach and Lion's Rock

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls beaches bridges trees volcanos museums boat forts harbours city sunsets tour videos outdoor_pursuits americas_cup nz_north_island Comments (0)

Hobbiton and Rotorua

My visit to the Shire and the Pohutu Geo Thermal Valley

sunny 23 °C
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Pretty much Number 1 on my list of places to visit in New Zealand was the Hobbiton Movie Set and Air New Zealand conveniently had The Hobbit as their inflight movie on the way over from Perth. First stop was the local town of Matamata with its hobbit hole inspired tourist information centre and "Welcome to Hobbiton" sign in the Main Street. We then drove up to the movie set itself which occupies a few acres on a large 1250 acre sheep farm originally identified by the film producers when they flew over it in a helicopter.

The tourist information centre in the local town Matamata is built like a hobbit hole

The tourist information centre in the local town Matamata is built like a hobbit hole

Me sat in a Gandalf shaped seat on the main street in Matamata, the nearest town to the movie set

Me sat in a Gandalf shaped seat on the main street in Matamata, the nearest town to the movie set

The tour began with a walk down Gandalf's Cutting to the first of 37 hobbit holes on the set. At the start of the Lord of the Rings they made Frodo look smaller riding beside Gandalf in the cart down this cutting by using a 12 year old boy as his double. We then passed the Scarecrow that Bilbo runs past when he announces that he is "going to have an adventure" at the start of The Hobbit.

Gandalf's Cutting on the way down into Hobbiton

Gandalf's Cutting on the way down into Hobbiton


Hobbit Hole by Gandalf's Cutting

Hobbit Hole by Gandalf's Cutting


A scarecrow guarding a field in Hobbiton

A scarecrow guarding a field in Hobbiton

We then began our climb upto Bag End where Bilbo and Frodo lived, stopping on the way to have our photo taken in a hobbit hole. All of the hobbit holes on the set are actually only a few feet deep as all the internal shots are taken at movie stages elsewhere.

Me in the doorway of a Hobbit Hole

Me in the doorway of a Hobbit Hole


Classic view up to Bag End from the Party Field

Classic view up to Bag End from the Party Field

The exception is Bag End itself which is the largest and highest of all the hobbit holes but even Bag End is only a room deep. The views everywhere were amazing, so much so it didn't feel like a movie set at all. Indeed when the Lord of the Rings was completed in 1997 they began demolishing the set almost immediately to return the land to the farmer as promised only to get a call from him asking them to stop urgently as he was already getting inundated with calls from tourists asking to be shown around.

Bag End where Bilbo and Frodo Baggins live

Bag End where Bilbo and Frodo Baggins live


Me stood by the front gate of Bag End

Me stood by the front gate of Bag End


The view across to the Green Dragon and Mill from Bag End

The view across to the Green Dragon and Mill from Bag End


The road sign at the bottom of the hill up to Bag End

The road sign at the bottom of the hill up to Bag End

The set was partly rebuilt and made more permanent for the Hobbit so it should now last 50 years as a tourist attraction. We carried on down the hill past Frodo's friend Samwise Gamgee's hobbit hole and passed over the bridge to the Green Dragon Pub.

Samwise Gamgee's Hobbit Hole

Samwise Gamgee's Hobbit Hole


The bridge into Hobbiton between the Mill and the Green Dragon

The bridge into Hobbiton between the Mill and the Green Dragon


The Green Dragon

The Green Dragon

Inside the Green Dragon is a full functional pub serving free beer specially brewed for it in Auckland and I quite liked the dark ale. There was a carving of a Green Dragon above the bar as well as a hobbit inspired food menu although I didn't see anyone order anything!

Inside the Green Dragon Pub

Inside the Green Dragon Pub


Anyone fancy a Beer?

Anyone fancy a Beer?


Bar Menu and Carved Dragon above the Bar in the Green Dragon

Bar Menu and Carved Dragon above the Bar in the Green Dragon


Me at the road sign leaving Hobbiton

Me at the road sign leaving Hobbiton

Pretty awesome but the day was by no means over, we then drove on for another hour to Rotorua - New Zealand's most famous tourist destination. Rotorua itself with its pervasive eggy sulphur smell sits beside a volcano's crater lake with the cone forming Mokola Island. Like Taupo a bit further south that I was drive through a couple times later in the week, it has vents of steam that seem to appear randomly out of the ground all over the town.

Lake Rotorua and Mokola Island (note the steam venting from the water in the foreground)

Lake Rotorua and Mokola Island (note the steam venting from the water in the foreground)


Black Swans, Paddle Boat and Float Planes on Lake Rotorua

Black Swans, Paddle Boat and Float Planes on Lake Rotorua


Rotorua Museum and Government Gardens

Rotorua Museum and Government Gardens


Rotorua's Rachel Spring

Rotorua's Rachel Spring

However what we had really come to Rotorua to see was the famous Pohutu Geyser at Te Puia, a Maori Cultural Centre close to the town. After a chicken and kumara sweet potato hangi lunch (hangi is an underground pit used for traditional Maori cooking) and unexpectedly seeing a live pair of Kiwi's strutting around in the darkness of a Kiwi House (they are nocturnal, the ones I saw were larger than I expected coming up to my thigh in height and surprisingly fast if ungainly on their feet) we walked down to the geothermal valley. Our first stop was the Ngamokaiakoko Mud Pool, plopping and bubbling away beside the path on the way to the geysers.

The Ngamokaiakoko Mud Pool at Te Puia

The Ngamokaiakoko Mud Pool at Te Puia


Close up of the plopping mud

Close up of the plopping mud

Danger! Active steam vents, be careful where you sit!

Danger! Active steam vents, be careful where you sit!

The geysers themselves are only a short distance away with a large purpose built viewing bridge close by. The largest and most famous of them is the Pohutu Geyser that erupts 2 to 3 times an hour and can reach heights of up to 90 feet (30 metres). I managed to catch it erupting several times while I was there and at one point got quite wet from the spray when the wind unexpectedly changed direction! Just below Puhutu is the slightly less active and predictable Prince of Wales Feathers Geyser but even it obliged by erupting a couple of times while I was there.

The Pohutu Geyser erupting

The Pohutu Geyser erupting

The Prince of Wales Feathers Geyser just below Pohutu is thinking of erupting to

The Prince of Wales Feathers Geyser just below Pohutu is thinking of erupting to

Me in front of the erupting Pohutu Geyser

Me in front of the erupting Pohutu Geyser

I also took the opportunity to see another Maori Cultural Performance at the Rotowhio Marae that forms part of Te Puia. This time the dance troupe was larger but we were also subjected to Wero (Challenge) as a precursor to the Pohiri (Greeting Ceremony). One of our group was selected as our " Chief" and then one of the Maori warriors approached him and lay down a stick as a gift to see whether we came in war or peace. On picking up and accepting the gift we then all moved slowly towards the Marae's meeting house being careful not to overtake our chief while the rest of the Pohiri Welcoming Ceremony was performed on the steps of their meeting house in front of us. When then went inside and watched the cultural performance including the famous Poi and Haka but for me the highlight was definitely the Pohiri we were subjected to outside!

Before entering the Marae we were subjected to a welcoming ceremony

Before entering the Marae we were subjected to a welcoming ceremony


The Pohiri (Welcoming Ceremony) in full swing, be careful not to cross the line!

The Pohiri (Welcoming Ceremony) in full swing, be careful not to cross the line!

The Ladies of the Maori Dance Troupe do the Poi

The Ladies of the Maori Dance Troupe do the Poi


Male Maori Dancer performing the Haka (War Dance) - you wouldn't want to upset him...

Male Maori Dancer performing the Haka (War Dance) - you wouldn't want to upset him...

Posted by FrancisRTW 04:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged lakes birds food beer tour geyser concerts maori videos lord_of_the_rings solo nz_north_island film_locations Comments (0)

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