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Waitangi & Russell, Bay of Islands - Day 69

20 °C

We picked Mary up from her hotel in Waitangi, Bay of Islands, and took the 2 minute drive to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This is the site where Maori and Europeans signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Not that long ago really. We watched the short film about the signing of the Treaty - in which, we were sure the captain of the boat yesterday featured in one of the reenactments! - and the explored the grounds. The Treaty House, where Scotsman James Busby and his family lived, the beautifully carved Maori Meeting House, and one of biggest Maori war canoes in New Zealand.
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Afterwards we drove to Kerikeri to see New Zealand's oldest stone building, The Stone Store, which was built between 1832-1836. Andrew said he has jeans older than that! I guess were spoilt for old buildings in England. It's a cute little building though in a pretty park setting, the perfect place for a picnic.
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But we were moving on, for a quick toilet break in Kawakawa. There's a pun in there, because this place is home to the famous (apparently, we just knew about them as Andrew's brother had been) public toilets designed by an artist called Frederick Hundertwasser. They were really different, for toilets, and I liked the glass bottle and glass tile windows, but as we have seen the flower toilets at Barton Grange garden centre near Garstang, Lancashire, I think I was expecting something more flamboyant.
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Our final destination for the day was Russell. We drove to Opua and got the car ferry across. Mary and I didn't even realise we were on the ferry yet when we started moving, it was so small!
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The short film at the Treaty Grounds this morning had told us that Russell had been a rough and ready port for sailors and fishermen back in the day, but now it's a beautiful seaside town. We walked down the waterfront and chose to have fish and chips at the Duke of Marlborough, New Zealand's oldest pub. Oh and some cold beer too, of course.
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Fed and watered, we walked to New Zealand's oldest church, Christ Church. The guide book said it had gun shot holes in it from a war in the 1800s, so Andrew was really disappointed when he couldn't see any.
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And finally we drove up to Flagstaff Hill to see panoramic views of the Bay of Islands.
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We'd had a lovely day but now we had a long drive ahead of us. It's 1st April and we have to be in Wellington for 1pm on the 3rd, which is at least 11 hours drive, as we wanted to have a good amount of time on the South Island. After leaving Mary at her hotel, to see her in another week or so, we drove for about 3/4 hours until we got south of Auckland. I don't even know what to say about the holiday park we stayed on. I don't think anyone was having a holiday there. There were messy drunk girls in the toilets trying to open a bottle of alchopop with their teeth. I don't think I need to say anymore...

Posted by staceywaugh 05:52 Archived in New Zealand Tagged art boats views maori Comments (0)

Coromandel to Rotorua - Day 60

Cool cars & Thermal Parks, Views, Luge & Lakes!

21 °C

It rained last night and the awning pooled with water. Andrew pushed it up to get rid of the water and it went everywhere, including some inside the van! We managed to get a hot shower using the coin machine, which wasn't bad at all except having to shower in flip flops and get dressed straight away inside the cubicle.

Today we had a long drive down to Rotorua, but we thought we'd have a look at the Beach Hop while we were here. There were so many cool cars there and we both said we'd love to have an old car like that to drive around in on weekends.
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We saw lots of similar cars on the drive too and eventually we got to Rotorua. It was another lovely sunny day, which was only slightly tainted by the smell of sulphur (if you're not sure what this smells like, think sour,rotten eggs). Rotorua is a town based on top of an old erupted volcano and is an area of geothermal activity. We we walked around the town, looking at the lovely museum and lake, then of all a sudden the smell became stronger and we saw the 'thermal area' signs. There were bubbling mud pools and steaming vents on the side of the lake, which were like nothing I'd seen before in such a residential area. We're going to the big geothermal park tomorrow so we'll see much more like this then.
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Late afternoon we took the Skyline gondola up to the top of a hill - hanging from a string up high is always my favourite place to spend my time! - to see the view and also have a go on the luge. Rotorua looked really pretty from up there (plus the smell didn't reach here!). The town itself is a bit industrial and not much to write home about. So I won't.
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We had an delicious ice cream (hokey pokey is honeycomb/cinder toffee out here and boysenberry is pretty much blackberry), watched two girls go on the swing ride off the mountain and then went on the luge. It was fun going down the track in the little kart, but a bit like on Death Road I took it steady and Andrew had time to get to the bottom and take a picture of me before I got there.
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Andrew had said we could get out of the park at the bottom of the luge, but that wasn't true. I had to get on a ski lift chair all the way back to the top!! I've never liked this things since I was a child and they used to have one at Frontierland going across the promenade in Morecambe. Needless to say though, I survived! Check out the helmets too ;)
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It was time to head to tonights campsite, but we saw some steam rising from a park and decided to have a look. More mud pools and steaming lakes in a public area! The weird thing about this area was that it had park benches, like you'd want to stop and have your lunch here with the smell?!
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As you might have gathered from previous posts, I like street art, and I saw my first (nice) piece in New Zealand on the way out of town.
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We camped by Lake Rerewhakaaitu (try and pronounce that!) tonight, a peaceful place with only three other campers on there. We cooked in the dark for the first time and ate by torchlight, which isn't the easiest thing to do. We plan to try and get places before dark as often as possible.
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:45 Archived in New Zealand Tagged lakes art birds views geothermal luge Comments (0)

Valparaiso - Day 50

Pablo Neruda's house, Art & Sea Wolves!

25 °C

It was so hot today! And typically we started the day with a walk uphill! We went to see where the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda lived when he stayed in Valparaiso. Nice house with a great view!
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His house was just up the road from our hostel and on the way back down we saw lots morel art. It really is on every corner here.
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We walked down to the harbour and had dinner at a seafood place tha was recommended. We had the set lunch menu, which was an empanada and then you could choose from three seafood dishes that sounded almost the same - language barrier again. We went for a seafood 'paila', which is a fish soup, and I expected it to have some tomatoes in there like a fish stew, but no. It was pretty much a ton of mussels, few prawns and pieces of squid, couple of pieces of fish and then a load of unrecognisable bits of seafood that was stringy and undesirable all served in salty hot water. Definitely not the best meal of the trip!
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This afternoon we went on a boat trip in the harbour, which took us out on the water to see Valparaiso from a different angle, see the big ships up close and also have the chance to see some sea lions. This was on the recommendation of our eccentric hostel owner Patricia, who called the sea lions 'sea wolves'. Good job we knew what she meant, as sea wolves would be quite scary!

Anyway, we did see the 'sea wolves'! They were on a platform in the sea and also sat on the front of the boats too. We also saw some great views of Valparaiso and the navy ships in the dock too.
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:54 Archived in Chile Tagged art birds boats sea_lions cargo_ships Comments (0)

Valparaiso - Day 49

More stunning street art

20 °C

I knew it would be a good day as Andrew made pancakes for breakfast and they were delicious! It was quite a cold day so we headed out for some more sightseeing. Today we went to an area called Polanco, which held a street exhibition earlier in the year, I believe, where people painted the houses in the area and the art has been left there. We were told not to go there late as it's not the best area, as you may tell from some of the pictures below, but we were fine there in the day and there were other tourists around taking pictures. We had to go up a vertical ascensor to get the top though, which had a see through floor once we were up there - not a fan! I think the view would have been fantastic had we have had a clear day.
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We were here to see the art work though and I thought some of it was amazing
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We then took the tram down to the port and walked to the ascensor there. It was so rickety! There were some little stalls up there and the view was good too. Andrew was mesmerised watching the containers being moved around?!
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We finished the day, in one of the pubs near the port that sailors used to visit, with a cold Valparaiso-made beer
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:57 Archived in Chile Tagged art boats beer views ports street_art Comments (0)

Valparaiso - Day 47

Very cool Valparaiso

24 °C

We changed rooms this morning so now we have a balcony looking out on to the street and in the distance the port and sea.
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The weather was lovely today, so we went on a free (aside from tips) walking tour of the city, with a Where's Wally guide (stripy tshirt) We met in a square near the port and had an ice cream while we waited for the others tourists to turn up. The tour guide was a Californian girl living in Valparaiso and she took us to the port, telling us the importance of it for Valparaiso, showed us the buildings and statues in the square and took us down an old 'wealthy' streets that are now almost derelict. We even had a dog follow us for this first bit.
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Because the city is built on a hill, there are ascensors (wooden elevators) everywhere but only a few now work, which is a shame as I am sure some of the older people living here struggle to get around or have to pay for taxis. You can see from the picture of the steps why you need them! We took an ascensor to the top of a hill and the view out to sea and along the coast was really pretty.
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The buildings on the hills are colourful, apparently painted years ago using left overs from the ships and now the city is a unesco site it has to keep this way. I love it went seaside buildings are painted this way, it gives them real character.
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I tried to take a picture of all the colourful houses on the hill above, but this cute couple caught my eye <3
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The guide stopped us at the door of a man who sells alfajores - a biscuit, best described by saying its a Wagon Wheel without the marshmallow but with caramel - and we all had one for free (she must pay him later on her tips) and you could buy more if you liked.
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Street art is massive here in Valparaiso and you can see it almost everywhere. We were told that people were tagging houses here (that rubbish spray painting of your name), so the homeowners have been paying street artists to create something on the side of their house instead as taggers won't spray over art out of respect. The first couple of pictures here are from the 'wealthy street', a roof from the viewpoint at the top of the ascensor and from the down the alley near the man selling alfajores, but the rest are in and around the concepcion area:
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The guide also told us that Red Bull do an extreme sports event here called the Valparaiso Downhill, where people bike around the city, down ramps like below. Check it out on YouTube, it looks crazy.
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We finished the tour at a bar that had more street art all around it and we drank a Pisco sour - out first in Chile - while the guide gave us lots of information about places to eat and visit. It was a good tour for 'free' and definitely worth doing if you have a free afternoon in Valparaiso.
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:21 Archived in Chile Tagged art buildings skylines statues ports street_art Comments (0)

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