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Saturday, 16 February 1991

Jet Boating on the Rangitaiki River

power boating Matahina Dam Bay of Plenty New ZealandWhakatane is your perfect base for getting to the Rangitaiki River and the white-water activities that are available.

Reaching speeds of up to 70mph we had a great jetboat ride. There's nothing like heading towards a rock face head-on and jetting off in another direction only at the final second. Other water activities like white water rafting and kayaking are also there for the adrenaline junkies.


Just a little north of Ohope beach ,still in the Bay Of Plenty, lies Whakatane. From here you can take a White Island live volcano tour. Or you may fancy whale watching and dolphin swimming? Go running on a bush track, watch rare sea birds or try mountain biking. Jet boating is nearby too. Whakatane is a great base for an activity holiday.

The narrow harbour to Whakatane is picturesque and provides great photographic opportunites. The rocky formations providing a challenge to boats navigating the channel and quite a contrast to neaby Ohope's sands.
Whakatane New Zealand Bay Of Plenty narrow harbour 1991

Ohope Beach for a stunning beach and incredible views

Whether you enjoy lazing on a beach, just watching the birds, or enjoying beautiful views Ohope beach will be hard to beat.

As regards to the views you can just enjoy the beauty of the Bay of Plenty or gaze out at New Zealand's active volcanic island, White Island.

If this is towards the end of your holiday as you approach Auckland for the airport this would be a great place to relax and just enjoy your surroundings.

The Bay Of Plenty and Ohope Beach, New Zealand

Friday, 15 February 1991

Hells Gate Thermal Area Rotorua

More fascinating steam vents, large craters, colourful rocks, boiling mud, hot waterfalls and more. Welcome to Hells Gate.

Hells Gate RotoruaI won't add to much to this post as I have, by now, covered so many thermal areas I think you get the picture as to what to expect.

Once again if , like me, you find geology and thermal activity interesting you'll love this place. If however you've seen the other thermal areas I've mentioned you may consider you have inhaled enough sulphur fumes for now and decide to do something else instead.

Personally I like the fact that the Earth is more powerful than any human and New Zealand is one country where we can get up close and personal with the raw power of our planet.

Hells Gate

Thursday, 14 February 1991

Boat Plane Ride over Rotorua and Mount Tarawera

Above Rotorua New Zealand crater formed by meteorite 1991 image Looking at Mount Tarawera and the amazing surroundings of Rotorua and beyond from above is an experience you will never forget.

You may therefore wonder why I am NOT going to recommend it?

Well I am and I am not. 

I thoroughly recommend doing it but NOT in a boat plane or any small fixed wing aircraft.

Instead use a helicopter option, perhaps the one now available at the Agrodome?

Above Rotorua New Zealand in 1991 view from boat planeWhy?

Because the turbulence in such an aircraft can make you feel so incredibly sick it detracts from the enjoyment of the flight. I know this may not affect everybody in the same way but there were 4 of us on the flight and it made us all feel really ill. Although funnily enough we all tried to be heroes during the flight saying we were having a wonderful time. It was long after we landed before everyone confessed how sick we had felt.

Above Rotorua New Zealand in 1991 view from boat planeThere's another good reason to opt for a helicopter over an aircraft and that is the fact that a helicopter usually gives you better visibility for photographing the ground and a wider panoramic view.

From memory I think the only reason my father did not opt for the helicopter was that, with his long engineering background, he always insisted that according to the laws of physics a helicopter should be unable to fly and was therefore unsafe. He swore he would never fly in one.

Being somebody who has enjoyed a helicopter flight, although not over New Zealand, I know which gave me the smoother ride. When we next return to Rotorua a helicopter would be first choice.

Maori Culture, Dance and Haka, Rotorua

Maori Sculptures Meeting House 1991 Rotorua New ZealandMaori culture, it's wonderful people and it's history simply has to play a part in a tourist's visit to New Zealand.

Watching the Maoris sing, do the poi dance and performing the traditional Haka is an event not to be missed. Audience members who wish to can also join in with some of the dancing.

Maori Dance and Haka Rotorua 1991 New ZealandThe Maori achitecture and carvings are beautiful and I am sure many a tourist like us returns home with a small piece of Maori culture such as a small carving memento or piece of jewellry.

The pictures on this post are my own. I do have video which I hope to embed in due course but in the meantime enjoy this Haka from You Tube

Fairbank Green Hedge Maze, Rotorua

Green Hedge Maze, Rotorua, New Zealand, 1991
The Fairbank maze is another attraction that I could do with clarification, by way of a comment to this post, as to whether it still exists or not.

Back in 1991 we thoroughly enjoyed our a-maze-ing experience but despite reading that it is/was very close to Rotorua airport I have been unable to loacte it anywhere on Google Earth's satellite view. There is also so little information on the internet it makes me wonder if this attraction has had to make way for something else?

The Agrodome, Rotorua

Boy a lot has changed since we visited the Agrodome in 1991. I thought it was great then but this is one popular tourist attraction that seems to be a whole lot better.

I'll deal with the traditional part of the Agrodome first and that is the chance for ewe to learn more, much more, about the sheep of New Zealand (awful pun, I know, sorry).
The Agrodome 1991 Rotorua New Zealand Sheep Shearing
Within a purpose built auditorium all the breeds are demonstrated to you with a very informative talk. Demonstrations of speedy sheep shearing follow and even the sheepdogs play a part too, running across the backs of their woolly friends.

Audience participation plays a big part too. Visitors can get up close and personal with the sheep, kids can help feed the lambs and there's great photo opportunities with all the animals including the dogs.

And that alone, for us, at the time was an extrememly enjoyable experience.

But now, after your demonstrations you can go on a tractor driven tour of the farmland where you can literally mingle with and hand feed sheep, deer, cattle, emus and ostriches and alpaca. You will continue on your tour in your 55 seater trailer enjoying spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and Lake Rotorua with many photo opportunities.  Also included is a visit to the pure organic New Zealand orchard which produces kiwifruit, olives, appleas and feijoas. Apparently this stop also includes free samples of New Zealand's wine and honey.

Model Railway 1991 England In Miniature New ZealandThat tour is a huge addition in itself but there are now loads of other activities you can undertake based in the Agrodome  complex. Fancy having a helicopter ride and landing on the edge of a volcano crater? A spot of bungy jumping? How about rolling down a hill sealed in a plastic ball? A free fall diving experience? All these adrenalin pumping activites are available and that's just a few of them!

Take a look at the Agrodome Website it looks like you'll be spoilt for choice!

New Zealand's Agrodome has now become a full day experience if you wish to fit as many activities as possible into your day.

An amazing experience and all available in the one place.

As regards to the large model railway "England in miniature" I have pictured above I am pretty sure this was housed within the Agrodome complex at the time of our visit. I am not sure if it is still there or elsewhere in Rotorua now. Perhaps somebody could comment to let me know.

Wednesday, 13 February 1991

Cherry Island , Taupo

Cherry Island, Taupo, New Zealand, Animals and BirdsFor anybody who love animals, birds in particular, Cherry Island must be on your North Island visit list.

This small island is located at the northern end of Lake Taupo on the river that runs between Lake Taupo and the Huka Falls.

This is a lovely wildlife reserve. Yes many of the native New Zealand birds are in aviaries for you to admire but there are also hundreds of birds of all shapes and sizes, all totally tame, free to fly and roam all over the island.

But those that fly don't fly off the island and those that can walk don't cross the short bridge to the "mainland".
Cherry Island, Taupo, New Zealand, feeding lots of tame birds

Well would you if you had a loyal influx of gullible humans all bringing you an unlimited supply of bird seed?

No these birds aren't stupid and they will keep you company every step you take around the island. They will literally flock at your feet, sit on your shoulder and perch on your head.

Cherry Island, Taupo, New Zealand, Chicken with new chicksIt really is a MUST that you do give in on entry and buy some seed because if you don't you get the feeling these birds will not let you leave the island. Believe me they run this place not humans. You can almost believe that behind this deceptively cute, tame and friendly exterior lies a sinister desire to create a scene reminiscent of Hitchcok's "The Birds" if you depart without paying your dues. I am sure "choked by chook", "dead by dove" or "murdered by mallard" is not a nice way to go!

By the way whilst there are a lot of birds there are many other small creatures to see and to go "ahhhhhh" over as demonstratted by my final picture on this post. 

Cherry Island, Taupo, New Zealand, Animals, Cute Rabbits

Steam Bore Valley Geothermal Power Station Wairakei

Looking at a power station may not be on everybody's list of primary things to do on holiday. In fact in terms of interstingness my wife would have given this a negative rating!

However if, like me, you like technological things then you may like to drive down to to Wairakei to look at the geothermal power generation plant there. It is an enormous complex.

You have to admire New Zealand for their achievement in being one of the greenest power generating countries in the world. The vast majority of Kiwi Power is from hydro-electric power stations. Wind and other natural sources like this add to the green power generation. In fact by 2025 it is New Zealand's ambition to have 90% of it's power from renewable sources.

I thought it a better advert for green power to publish my photo of the Steam Bore Valley plant below as the alternative was a photo of my good lady leaning on a railing overlooking the plant looking bored stiff (which she was).

Steam Bore Valley Wairakei New Zealand in 1991

Rotorua Museum Of Art and History, The Bath House

It is now the Rotorua Museum of Art and History but to most people who have seen this beautiful building it will always be known as The Bath House. The surrounding grounds and gardens are well kept and beautiful.

This building is probably one of the most pictured in New Zealand. However it should look a little different soon. Same beautiful appearance, just bigger.

When it was originally built construction funds ran out and therefore certain sections of the building were not completed. Now sufficient funds have been raised those missing parts are to be constructed to the original specifications. This will also provide valuable extra space for the museum's artefacts.

So if you are able to visit Rotorua's Bath House, sorry museum of art and history, again you can still take a great picture. But you will just need to stand further back or use a wide angle lens!

Rotorua, Bathhouse and bowling greens 1991

Whakarewarewa. Rotorua and more thermal activity

I have to admit that if you are really not into thermal areas by this stage you may think this is one thermal area too many?

However every thermal area in New Zealand seems to have it's own unique "headline feature" which you really should not miss.

Whakarewarewa is no exception. Yes it has the colourful pools, the boiling mud, ponds so hot you could cook your boil-in-the-bag fish in them and smelly steam eminating from every crevice in the ground. But it also has in lead role - The Prince Of Wales Feathers - twin geysers. Wow! It doesn't matter where you stand in this thermal park you can get great photos from almost every angle.

Go on go and see them you know you want to.

Rotorua Luge

OK once you've enjoyed climbing the hills of Rotorua why not consider descending it by luge?

Skyline Gondola Luge Cable chairlift Rotorua New Zealand 1991This is fun for old and young alike. Decend the hills of Rotorua on a long, winding course. Each luge has 3 wheels and speed is easily controlled.

There are now 3 courses to choose from. When we went there was only the longer 2km course and that was superb fun.

Now there are 2 shorter courses which still enjoy superb views but provide more for those who enjoy tight bends/tunnels etc.

Don't worry you don't have to climb the hill on foot to meet up with the rest of your family. Instead you and your luge ascend the hill on a chairlift which is an enjoyable event itself.

If you are elderly don't let this put you off having a go. We saw people well over retirement age having great fun on the Rotorua luge.

Skyline Gondola Luge Track Rotorua New Zealand in 1991

Skyline Skyrides Rotorua

For incredible views across the Rotoruan landscape a two-way journey on the Skyline Skyrides cable car has to be a must.

Enjoy a leisurely journey up to the top of the Rotoruan Hills in the comfort of your car. Spectacular landscape photos can be taken at the top of the hill.

Skyline cable cars Rotorua New Zealand 1991

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, Rotorua

Rotorua New Zealand in 1991 hot thermal sulphur poolOf all the geothermal areas in New Zealand the most famous and well known is probably the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotorua.

Whaka Warewa New Zealand boiling mud pool from 1991
It really has got just about every type of thermal activity you could imagine. Volcanic Craters, steaming ground, bubbling mud pools, the famous champagne pool, other naturally coloured pools and the world famous Lady Knox geyser. This geyser with a helping hand from a human with a piece of soap erupts every day at 10.15 am

New Zealand claims to be the youngest country on the planet. Wai-O-Tapu is living proof that in the "baking" of this fledgling country this place is a long way from coming out of the oven.

Tuesday, 12 February 1991

The Huka Falls, Waikato River, Near Taupo, New Zealand

Wow! The Huka Falls using the technology of Google you can see that the Huka Falls are just as beautiful from above as they are from an on land viewpoint. In fact using your mouse scroll the ebove map out using your mouse wheel. It is quite surprising just how much altitude you can gain yet still clearly identify this amazing natural thundering waterfall.

But it is not surprising that this is the most visited natural attraction in New Zealand!

The Waikato river is one of New Zealand's longest rivers. It drains Lake Taupo which is the largest freshwater lake in all of Australasia.

Located only about 5 miles North of Taupo the falls can be easily found by simply following the aptly named Huka Falls Road. It's a photographer's dream!

Craters Of The Moon, Thermal Park Area, Taupo

Any vacation in New Zealand will not be complete without experiencing the smell of rotten eggs, holes in the ground, steam creeping out of the earth, yellow lakes, boling mud, hot streams, pools and waterfalls, geysers, volcano craters and perhaps even the odd earthquake (There was a minor but feelable tremor during our arrival in Wellington, however we slept for so long due to jet-lag we snoozed right through it!)

Craters of The Moon, Taupo, New ZealandAnyway back to Craters of the Moon. A small admission fee is payable for vehicles and for individuals who are on foot but it is well worth the charge.

New Zealand's geothermal areas show the raw power that lies beneath our planet and make you realise that man may claim to be powerful but the Earth is far stronger.

What is interesting about this area is that it apparently first materialized in the 1950s after a nearby power station lowered water levels. As somebody who has in interest in earthquakes I'd be interested to know if this subsequently increased earthquakes in the area. In areas of oil drilling earthquakes occur regularly due to mans' actions - I wonder if this is the same?

Well laid out tourist walkways and a loop road for vehicles ensure that there is little chance of an accident in such an active area.

I'm biased because I love these thermal areas but you really have to experience these regions as part of your New Zealand vacation.

Craters of The Moon, Taupo, New Zealand

Honey Hive Taupo, formerly honey village

Honey in New Zealand is big business. Honey Hive, known as Honey Village when we went, is just one of many well stocked stores where you can buy various honey products.

Pure 'active' Manuka honey is said to have health benefits and that it can assist with some ailments and conditions. It is therefore extremely popular and comes in two 'grades' according to the purity and anti-bacterial content level. It is available to be shipped worldwide, however it should be noted that many countries have strict limits on the amount of honey that can be imported by an individual. In a few countries it is forbidden altogether.Whilst New Zealand honey is delicious anybody not living in the country has to think carefully before buying. Is is really worth buying it fresh direct from the supplier and having to cover the postage cost? Alternatively with honey having a long shelf life you may think it simpler just to buy direct in your own country.

Incidentally about shelf life on honey: Honey stored in properly sealed containers can remain suitable for eating for decades and even centuries (although I don't think I'd eat a jar hundreds of years old)! For practical purposes, a shelf-life of two years is often recorded on jars in stores. Hygienically and well processed, packaged and stored honey retains its quality for an extremely long time.

Manuka honey isn't the only honey available though. Lavender honey, clover, blue borage and others are available as are specialized 'gourmet' and fruit honeys. There's even a huge selection of honey-based skincare products. Honey based sweets for the kids. Honey Hive also sells novelty honey/bee products.

It's quite amazing that one simple, natural, product can be used in so many different products and stock a whole store.

An interesting place to visit, even if you don't particular like honey you may like to try out the skincare range.

Centennial Gardens , Napier

The Centennnial Gardens, Napier. Who would have thought that these beautiful gardens were once a quarry, manned by prison labourers?

Napier, New Zealand, Centennial Garden, Waterfall The gardens were established in 1974 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Napier being established as a city and borough.

Every crumb of soil had to be moved onto the site. The waterfall looks like a piece of natural history. It is however a man made creation with water in a lower pool being pumped to a higher pool to feed the falls (the rock face is 40 metres in height).

If you have the time the aquarium, Marineland and the Centennial Gardens can all be visited in the same day as they are all on the same stretch of road.

If you start out early in the day you can enjoy all 3 attractions fully and still have time to stroll around Napier later.

Napier, New Zealand, Centennial Garden, Flowers and rocks

Marineland, Napier, New Zealand

Having visited the National Aquarium just a short walk along the promenade will bring you to Napier's  fabulous Marineland attraction.

I think I must be a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to performing dolphins, seals, sea lions etc. I hate the thought of these animals being in captivity but I can't fail to be impressed at what a terrific show can be created in a custom made environment like this.I think I keep at the back of my mind that at least this way they aren't being clubbed to death somewhere or being dished up as somebody's dinner in various countries of the world.

In addition to all the obvious aquatic attractions here you can also find another large model railway layout which is great for any model rail enthusiast and big kids and little kids alike.

I couldn't decide which of my Marineland pics to stick on this post so I took the decicion that it was easier just to put in a slideshow of them all.

National Aquarium of New Zealand, Napier

There's something fishy going on here. Actually there's a lot of fishies here. I know I've put you a little down the road in Street View, above, but if you navigate nearer to the building you'll see why. A great demonstration of the Napier sunshine but not the best Google photography ever. Guess they'll have to go back and reshoot that sometime?

I did take many photos during the visit but I don't think any did it justice. So I found this You Tube video which shows spectacular highlights of one attraction that really must be added to your Napier list. 

Monday, 11 February 1991

Botanical Garden, Napier, New Zealand

Doves in the Botanical Gardens Napier New Zealand 1991
If you have taken the advice in the last post and enjoyed the views from Bluff Hill you have not got far to travel to enjoy the beauty of Napier's Botanical Garden.

Grab a picnic and some bread to feed the ducks and enjoy another of New Zealand's stunning collections of its flora and fauna.

At this point it seems worth mentioning that, like me, you may live in a country where litter louts seem to be a way of life? This wasn't our experience in New Zealand. I don't know if the New Zealand authorities are just very good at picking up litter as it falls or whether all people are just very tidy? Regardless of the reason the Botanical Gardens as with everywhere else was just so incredibly tidy and well kept.

Napier, The Scenic Option

Container Ship loading Napier New Zealand 1991Napier is such a beautiful city on the North Island of New Zealand. There is also so much to do whether you are a native of the country or just on holiday as we were.

I'll kick off this post with a "scenic post"

Take note of where Bluff Look Out is on the map above. That seemingly little car park is the key to some of the best views over Napier, the port and surrounding areas. If you have a good zoom lens or zoom facilty on your camera you can get some great shots of boats in the harbour.

View from Bluff look Out Napier New Zealand in 1991

Hastings, New Zealand

Hastings New Zealand Town Name Sign (1991)Not to be confused with Hastings of 1066 fame (in England) the New Zealand version is just 20km away from another major city, Napier.

Hastings has grown to become the largest urban area in the Hawke's Bay Region. It is also now the regions primary centre for commerce, trade and industry.

A "smart" city, clean and tidy and with plenty of opportunities for the shopping addict.

Hastings is one of the most important fruit producing districts in New Zealand including apples, pears and stoned fruit. Its description on the city sign as "The fruit bowl of New Zealand" could not be a better description.

Sunday, 10 February 1991

Lady Norwood Rose Garden and Begonia House

Lady Norwood Rose Gardens 1991 Wellington New ZealandLook I have to admit that normally I am not a "flower" person. But this place is lovely.

Roses of every conceivable colour and size are laid out in immaculate beds in the rose garden itself. Whilst the begonia house displays loads more beautiful blooms.

Viewed from the air using Google map's satellite view (above) the gardens look relatively small. However if you look at Google's map scale the complex must be about 7-8000 square metres in size. Besides with over 3000 different types of roses displayed it has to be big!
Lady Norwood Rose Gardens 1991 Wellington New Zealand Waterfall
Wander amongst the flowers at your leisure or just sit amongst them and enjoy the colour, the fragrance and the New Zealand sunshine.

If a place like The Lady Norwood Rose Garden can impress somebody who isn't normally entertained by flowers it must be good.

Lady Norwood Rose Gardens 1991 Wellington New Zealand