Friday, 30 September 2011

NZ: Auckland, the city of volcanoes

Auckland actually sits on an active volcanic field with 49 volcanoes!  According to the GeoNet site at  these volcanoes are unlikely to be active again.  A trusty lot, these Aucklanders.  They even built their museum right on top of a crater!  It was fun though checking out all these volcanoes that one can easily get to on a short drive around the City.  Our first stop was Devonport where we drove up a steep road to the top of Mt. Victoria, the tallest volcano in Auckland.  We were rewarded by a panoramic view of the city and harbour and the perfect cone of the largest volcano in Auckland, Rangitoto Island.  If we had more time, we would have spent more time wandering around Devonport, often compared to Sausalito in the San Francisco Bay area.  But we were on a quest for volcanoes!  

Auckland Museum sitting on a crater

Rangitoto Island, the largest of the Auckland volcanoes, last erupted 600 years ago

View of the harbour and the other volcanoes in Auckland

Auckland skyline

Standing on the rim of one crater and looking across town at the other two volcanoes

One Tree Hill, another volcano

Obelisk at the top of One Tree Hill

The slopes of the volcano is now a sheep farm in the middle of the city!

They don't look very sheepish, do they?!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

NZ: Auckland, the largest city

The largest city in New Zealand has a small town feel, that's the remarkable thing about this country, this city.  It has a population of over 1.3 million, but the streets are not crowded.  The city is quite spread out and it doesn't have a lot of high rises except in the downtown area.  It has the largest Polynesian population in the world, which explains why the city is bilingual everywhere.  We were surprised to see bilingual signs all over the library, even in the book return slots!  What strikes us was that the aboriginal population here in NZ seems to be in a much better position than their counterparts in Australia, the little that we have seen of both countries.  

Historic clock tower (1926) on the University of Auckland campus

A traffic jam, heaven forbid!

See the mix of architectural styles, Italian renaissance revival Town Hall beside art deco

Historic art deco theatre

Landmark SkyCity - tallest man-made structure in the country

Lush Botanical Gardens in downtown 

Birds of paradise in the gardens

Gorgeous tree!

It's just a condo - but I love this photo!

Aotea Square -  amazing Earth from Above exhibit by photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand behind Maori gate

Love this!

The downtown library is a converted cinema

Inside the library - you can almost picture the cinema lounge...

Iconic burger van eatery in downtown Auckland since 1948

SkyCity at night

Crispy Chinese BBQ duck cafe near the university was a pleasant surprise

Next:  Auckland, the city of volcanoes

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Oz: Outside Cairns - Kuranda

Other than as a hop-off point for the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is quite unexciting as a destination.  Most packages would include a visit to Kuranda via the historic scenic railroad and a return trip by gondola Skyrail, both providing spectacular and often breathtaking views of the tablelands over which Kuranda is perched.  The rainforest park is the primary attraction in Kuranda and tourists are bused into the swamp on army ducks.  You will see below some of the wildlife we encountered on that trip.  

Historic railroad

View from the train

Barron Gorge with the two lakes

Historic railway station in Kuranda

"Jack the Ripper" 5 metres long 750 kg 45 - 50 years old expected to live to 100

Can you see the well-camouflaged iguana?

Spear-throwing aboriginal performer

A striking tropical Torch flower

Perky iguana

This is the life!

This looks like it might be a fearless Bush stone curlew but I could be wrong.  Perhaps my Australian friends can enlighten us?

Stunning ride over the rainforest 

Great Kauri pine

Approaching Cairns on the Skyrail

Cairns at dusk

This is the end of our Australian trip, we hopped on the plane to New Zealand the following day.  The next posts will cover our driving tour of the North and South Islands.  

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Oz: The Great Barrier Reef

Cairns was the base from which we visited the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest structure made of living organisms, in this case, coral polyps.  We enjoyed the trip to one of the reefs - it was indeed an eyeopener, but it was only a minute fraction of the massive reef structure.  We were no where near to experiencing the magnitude of the GBR, considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  In that sense, it wasn't the most satisfactory experience even though we thoroughly enjoyed the outing on the catamaran Quick Silver.  

Cairns waterfront

Downtown Cairns
City Library

The "bat" tree - a huge Banyan tree on the library grounds

Port of departure for the GBR

Catamaran that took us out to the reef

The platform from which we "did" the reef - you can see the different shades in the water because of the reef

Below are photos of coral taken from the tourist "submarine" - now I wish I could scuba dive...

The trip back to port

Late afternoon on the Coral Sea