Here are still some images of NZ rainforest from short stops along the road when driving North again to Auckland .. closer and closer to the airport and the too long flight to the other half of the Earth, from summer into winter. Amazing how fast those 3 months went by. There was so much new to discover, so many new experiences, adventures. On one hand it feels sad to leave, on the other hand also nice to change the "nomadic" lifestyle into normality, meet friends again, take a breath and look through all those thousands of pictures I have taken.
And - also the North has great nature areas and many outdoor activities to offer. Skiing, for example ;o)

I really love those tree ferns!

Headed towards the mountains to spend a few days hiking before my holidays would end. One 3-day hiking trip was at Arthur's pass along a river valley up into the mountains .. or at least until the tree line. The first day was rather stormy, the others sunny-rainy.
Leptinella pyrethrifolia. Lawrie Metcalf describes the species in the alpine plant flora like this: "From a distance it is not unpleasant but is less pleasant close up or in quantity." (??!)
Celmisia sessiliflora
Euphrasia revoluta
Mountain hut. These kind of huts can be used for overnight stays when paying a fee to the Department of Conservation.
A beautiful tree lichen.

Mountain lake and swamp further North.
Drosera arcturi - This one was growing also in Tasmania.

Coral lichen - Cladia retipora


After the earthquake ..

Visited Christchurch about one year after the terrible earthquake. There are still many buildings in desperate shape and much of the centre of town is closed from the public. Everywhere workers are busy with repairing or demolishing buildings.
Doves nesting inside a building

But .. life goes on and people try to make the best out of it, I guess. Some shops, a bank and coffee place have opened again in the centre - as temporary versions made out of containers!



Took a ferry to the South Island of NZ to spend the last weeks here. One popular thing you can do here is a whale safari - and that's what I did in Kaikoura. Kaikoura is a good place to go whale watching since there are deep waters right close to the coast: According to the presentation they gave on the ship, the "underwater canon" of Kaikoura is 16 000 m deep! That is enough for huge whales like the sperm whale to come pretty close to the shoreline in search of food. Kaikoura is an old whaling station which now has turned into a major tourist attraction.

Whale watching is one of the most popular tourist activities here in NZ. The whale watching company had several vessels - and on our vessel were nearly 50 persons.They go out about every hour to find whales.

Sperm whales can stay under water foraging for about 60 minutes until they run out of oxygen and need to surface. When doing that, they stay at the surface for about 10-15 minutes for re-oxygenating blowing up fountains of water. When they have "stored" enough oxygen again, they dive back into the deepness of the ocean.

It was really amazing to see the huge whale which was about the same size then our ship. Amazing also to see all those tourists around: There were two vessels with about 50 passengers, a private fishing boat and a helicopter watching this one whale surfacing. Seems to be a good business! Maybe even better than whale hunting was in earlier times??
During the same trip it was also possible to watch dolphins playing and some albatrosses flying.


Cliffs and Gannets

New Zealand is home to several large gannet colonies. One of them is at Cape Kidnappers .. and that was the one I visited. Usually gannets breed in the most inaccessible parts of steep cliffs. With this strategy they avoid predators to find and eat their chicks. However, NZ is an island on which originally were no predators. That is the reason why this islands are home to several flightless birds like the kiwi and weka .. and also the reason why these birds are so rare nowadays. During colonial times settlers have brought all kind of foreign animals to the islands, among others cats, stoats and many other small hungry predators the local fauna was not able to deal with.
The interesting thing with those gannets is that they breed "just like that" on even ground on the cliff in a quite accessible part. I think the reason is that they did not have to care about predators.
Nowadays, predators would do huge damage to the colony if the NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) would not have fenced the whole peninsula to make it safe from predators. However, always some stoats etc. manage to get around the fences. Therefore, the DOC has to see constant effort of putting out traps and catch away those "enemies" to keep the gannet colony safe.
To reach the colony, you can get onto an organized tour which takes you there overland in a bus or along the coast with a tractor. Or you walk along the cliff like I did .. a trip of 15 - 22 km (depends on who you ask; long at least - I was quite tired afterwards). There is a certain time period when the tide is low enough to allow you walking along the cliffs.

 The interesting part when walking is that you can see all possible kind of fossil shells in the sandstone of the cliffs. Some 5 million years ago this land has been quite much lower than nowadays and was covered by the sea. Later on, the land and sediments started to be lifted up preserving some shells.
But then - to the colony!

 First, I was all alone at that place and sat quietly down just at the place where the gannets where coming in and landing to take some flight pictures. Some noticed me just in the last minute and managed to avoid a collision :-)
Eyes shut and sleeping a bit during a hot day .. After about half an hour, other travelers started to come. First only a few, later on when tractors and bus arrived, huge amounts of people flooded the area. The gannets did not really care about all those people roaming around in the area. Everybody also kept outside of the little fence around the colony - this way gannet tourism seems to work just fine!
When starting to walk back, tide was low and there was an astonishing amount of traffic along the cliff: The tractors of course, motor bikes, all terrain vehicles. All in all bit too much for my taste ..

Vulcanoes in the Mist

One of the most beautiful hikes you can do in New Zealand should be the Alpine Crossing along the Tongariro National Park. The crossing takes normally some 7-9 hours and leads you up to the craters between Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe (also known as Mt. Doom in Lord of the Rings). Both are active vulcanoes but quite calm at the moment. Around the craters there are some vulcanic activities though like the typical sulphurous smell and beautiful colours .. the latter you can see in good weather I guess. During the day when we did the crossing there was fog, storm and horizontal rain ... and we ran over it in 5,5 h! Anyway a great experience, especially walking along a crater and being not able to see but a few meters into it!
Drosera spathulata

„Eruptions can create pyroclastic flows – very hot clouds of ash, rock and gas that move down the slopes of the volcano. They travel very quickly at more than 100 km/h. A pyroclastic flow in 1975 formed the black rocks you are now standing on.”
Some German travelers in the fog walking behind us over along the edge of the crater. The yellow and and red colors on the left side are sulfurous compounds.
When descending and coming out of the clouds, the weather suddenly changed: It got warm, no rain anymore - even a little sun!