Monday, February 11, 2008

North Island, New Zealand

My friends who have visited New Zealand shared that it is a very scenic and beautiful country. My dream finally came true when my siblings and I planned a family trip together. Unfortunately my parents changed their mind and decided not to go with us. So my siblings and I should thank them that we had more flexibility without them.

The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland was about 10 hours 10 minutes. Minimum check-in for international flights was 2 hours before departure. About 24 hours were spent for the round trip flying and at the airports.

Map Source for North Island Only

The country map can be found at my sheepdog post here.

Welcome to New Zealand. You are now in Auckland Airport. Notice that there was a park with huge stone kiwi bird sculptures. Can you see one behind the welcome sign near the tree?
Upon arrival in Auckland, we rented a car, and toured Auckland. The place you may want to visit in the City is probably the tallest in the southern hemisphere known as the Sky Tower, Auckland.
picture source

How about trying the 360˚ Sky Walk or Sky Jump?. For more activities at the Skycity Tower, click here.

Sky Jump Picture Source.

If you like the beach, I would recommend you visit Bay of Plenty.

After Auckland, we drove to the tourist information centre in Rotorua. I took a picture with Maori arts or design in the background near the centre.
Surrounding Rotorus is very scenic due to the colorful Geothermal Wonders. For more Rotorua attraction pictures, click here. You can even enjoy a virtual tour of the geyserland at the famous Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland with unique and colorful landscape. It has its own history. Admission cost, visiting hours and other details are found here. If you want to see the guaranteed daily eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser, be there to watch it at 10.15am.
This picture highlights the main wonders with attractive names such as Champagne Pool, Bridal Veil Falls, etc. which you would see in the park.
This picture gives you the view of the Wonderland from a higher elevation.

Many people like to pamper themselves by relaxing in the Polynesian Spa. After I showed my co-workers my pictures, he and his wife went to NZ but they joinned a tour. He noticed that everyone else looked so refreshed but he and his wife weren't. The joke was they soaked themselves in "used" cooled down spa water which someone else had been soaking and bathing in there. They did not use the "fresh" warm water for their pool. Below is a picture which I took outside the famous spa which you may not want to miss.

The advantage of renting a car as compared to joining a tour is that we could stop to look and explore according to our interest at any time. Our curiousity drove us to a park with boiling mud and signs. It was dangerous as the ground was steaming hot. What is this pool of mud?
Well, the mud pool is called coffee pot. This is the story behind bathing in the coffee pot. (If my parents were with us, we would not have a chance to see this).

Lake Taupo which is in the center of the North Island is an enormous lake created after a huge volcanic eruption. It is about the size of the Republic of Singapore. There are a lot of activities such as trout fishing and scenic attractions there. For scenic highlights of Lake Taupo, click here.

We drove up the look out point in Wellington to explore and had good view of the city. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. If you are interested in its history, click here.

Now that we are done in Wellington, it's time to take a ferry to Picton in South Island.

Tips on crossing between islands by ferry:
1) The cost for getting a car from Wellington (in North Island) to Picton (SI) cost NZ$185 for the car itself and NZ$69 per person.
2) You can save some money by leaving the car in Wellington and pick up another car in Picton. However, you must have picked up the car for at least 3 days in North Island before you are allowed to have this arrangement.
3) The ferry is huge. Just imagine its size because we waited for a train to come out before we drove to the vehicles deck on the ferry.
4) For more information on ferry tickets click here

Stay tuned. I will be posting our adventure in the South Island later.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

C & O Canal National Historical Park

I went to my favorite seafood restaurant at Canal Place in Cumberland, Maryland for my favorite baked crabs and this was what I found.

an empty crab cage with some crab shells. There was no live crabs. The season starts again in April 2008.

After my lunch, I visited some sovenir stores, bought some coin albums, visited other galleries and walked around the C & O Canal National Historical Park.

These are the site maps and historical information:

Apparently, the C & O Canal was once a very important form of transportation which was in service from 1836 through 1924. At that time, some falls on the Potomac River made water transportation on the river impossible so a canal with 74 locks was constructed parallel to the Potomac River. Washington D.C. and Alexandria were major ports for distribution of tobacco, grains, whiskey, furs, timber and other items. Cumberland, Maryland was the main producer of these items (information source). Later, it stopped operation because the competition from B & O Railroad put it out of business. I think using animals would need a man to walk along with it to make sure that everything works right. I just wonder how many man would be required to walk 184.5 miles with the work animals.

Here are the pictures of a boat used at that time. Notice that it had no engine and thus had no power to move on the canal. I told my husband it's so ancient.

That is why a towpath was built along the 184.5 mile canal. See picture of the towpath. Notice that animals were used to pull the boat along the canal. I was told that horses were used. But this picture shows buffaloes.

Picture Source

Today the flat towpath is ideally turned into a bicycle trail which not only preserves its history, but also enables cyclists to enjoy the pleasant path and ride.

Following is the picture of the end of the canal in Cumberland. The red brick tiles mark the end of the canal.