Tag: Street

Gannet Safari

Gannet Safari

Te Awanga, New Zealand – January 31, 2018

I guess one could say Napier is our favorite city in New Zealand since we visited thrice.  One of our favorite spots to visit in the area is the gannet colony.  So, with my parents in tow, we drove from Napier to the Gannet Safari headquarters.  It is a short drive, maybe 20 or 25 minutes.

We departed headquarters on a bus at about 09:30. In less than one kilometer, the bus turned from the highway onto the private road to Robertson Lodges.  These are exclusive accommodations.  They range in price from around NZ$1,000 per night to NZ$13,500 per night.  The 18-hole golf course there is currently ranked as number 16 out of 100 by GolfDigest.  To play 18 holes is about NZ$495 for non-New Zealand residents.

Robertson Lodges is the brainchild of Julian Robertson, a hedge fund billionaire.  He bought the roughly 6,500 acres (2,630 hectares) at Cape Kidnappers for his lodge and golf course.  In New Zealand, instead of calling it a sheep farm or ranch, it is called a station.

As one approaches the lodges, one enters a wildlife sanctuary.  Robertson is working hard to bring back indigenous flora and fauna to the Hawkes Bay area of New Zealand.

Shortly after passing the golf course, the four-wheel-drive bus diverts onto dirt roads.  Manuka trees line the dirt road.  I had not paid attention before, but the manuka trees are the flowering trees from which bees ultimately make manuka honey.

At roughly the halfway point, the bus stops at an overlook.  Our driver/guide allowed us to disembark and view the cliffs of Cape Kidnappers.  One can easily see the various volcanic layers exposed in the cliff face.  At the overlook, one can see a danger sign, warning about the danger of the cliffs.  The “railing” is much different than the railings at the Colorado National Monument.  The fences at the monument are roughly one meter (3.2 feet) high.  The railings at Cape Kidnappers are a mere 25-centimeters (10-inches) high.  One does not want to stand too close.

Cape Kidnappers cliffs.
The cliffs at Cape Kidnappers. Napier is at the far shore.

Along the dirt road, the bus passed through numerous gates.  After all, we were driving through a working sheep and cattle ranch.  Since we sat near the front of the bus, I volunteered to open and close the gates.  That made it easier for the driver/guide.  He did not have to get in an out of the bus.  Instead, I got in and out to operate the gates.

A few minutes later, the bus made a U-turn and stopped atop the mesa inhabited by the gannet colony.  All of the tourists streamed off the bus and began snapping photographs of the birds.  These particular birds are the Australasian gannets.  The adults are white with yellow and black accents.  The birds’ wingspan averages 1.8 meters (5.9 feet).  The average weight is 2.3 kilograms (5 pounds).

The colony.

The noise is quite loud at the colony. All of the birds; the adults at the nest, the chicks, and the flying adults trying to find their nest, call out incessantly. Exactly how one finds another is a real mystery to me.

The birds make their nest using sea kelp and their feces.  Yes, that does lend itself to a rather strong odor at the colony.  When the young chicks hatch, they have very fluffy, white feathers.  As they grow older, the feathers take on a mottled gray and white.  The adult male and female gannets take turns at the nest and feeding.  The adult at sea feeds on small fishes.  When the adult bird returns to the nest, the chick uses its beak to knock at the adult’s beak to induce the regurgitated goodness that is warm, partially digested fish…yum, yum!

You lookin’ at me?!

The nesting sites are very arid. There is no source of freshwater.  The gannet adults and chicks get their freshwater intake from the fish.  Additionally, they have glands that help them shed the salt they ingest from their fishing and diving into the sea.

When the chicks take their first flight, it is a roughly 2,500 kilometer (1,553 miles) journey to Australia, nonstop. That is a fantastic feat.

Walking to the edge of the cliff, one can look down on yet another gannet colony. It is much smaller, but every bit as lively. Just beyond the gannet colony is a rock formation the driver/guide referred to as Sharks Tooth Island. It is easy to see how it got its name when one looks at the shape. I was surprised how visible the island was from the terrace at our motel.

Lower gannet colony with Sharks Tooth Island in the background.

Looking to the north, one can see an alternate way to get to the gannet colony. At low tide, one can pay to ride on a flatbed trailer behind a tractor. The tractor trundles along the beach, depositing passengers near a trailhead. The passengers can then walk up the trail to the gannet colony. I must say I am thrilled we opted for the bus.

An alternate method of getting to the gannet colony.

While we were at the gannet colony, the driver/guide made some tea and coffee. He offered that with some biscuits — a lovely gesture.

On the way back to headquarters, I was on gate detail again.

Then it was back to Napier to relax.  One of my favorite parts of relaxing was watching the spectacular sunrises from our terrace.

Dropping from the sky.
Searching…searching.
The drop or the plop.
“Teenage” calisthenics.
“Teenage” calisthenics 2.
“Teenage” calisthenics 3.
“Teenage” calisthenics 4.
An intense look for the nest.
Checking the wind.
A tired “teenager.”
Preparing to drop in.
Pre-flight check.
A gannet siesta.
The younger and the older.
Intent stare.
Gannets-eye view.
“Teenager.”
Young chick.
The youngest gannet chick on the day we visited the colony.
Cape Kidnappers cliffs II.
DANGER!!
Sunrise and fishing boat…version 2.
Sunrise and fishing boat.
Norfolk Pine trees at sunrise.
Seagull sunrise at Napier.
Readying for takeoff.
Final approach.
Searching for the nest.
A “teenager” exploring away from the nest.
Taking a snooze.
Hunting for their landing spots.
The landing pattern is always very busy.
The gannet colony. The young gannet at the center foreground looks dead. In reality, it was just sleeping soundly.
Final approach.
Gannet colony and some spectators. Take note of the two seated spectators.
Lower gannet colony with Sharks Tooth Island in the background.
Gannets everywhere.
Sharks Tooth Island as seen from our motel terrace.
Art deco corner.
The art deco Haynes building.
Negotiating the landing…
Gannet landing at the colony.
Searching for Dory!
Feeding time.
Little Blue penguins swimming at the National Aquarium.
Little Blue penguin.
Seagull diving at the sun.
Seagull sunrise.
Napier sunrise.
Sun’s first peek.
Maori Carvings

Maori Carvings

Taupo, New Zealand – February 2, 2018

Our drive from Napier to Taupo took just under two hours. It was cloudy and rainy, nearly the entire distance.

Taupo is a city at the north end of Lake Taupo. With a population of roughly 24,000, it is about one-third the size of Grand Junction, Colorado. As one may have noticed, Taupo is a Maori word. The full Maori name for the town is Taupo nui a Tia, a reference to the cloak of Tia, the person that discovered the lake.

We stayed at the Acacia Lake View Motel in an apartment at the front of the motel. We had a lovely view of Lake Taupo from the living room. The scene included the hole-in-one challenge. There were several tee boxes with artificial turf from which one could try to get a hole-in-one on a floating platform anchored out in the lake. There were three different holes on the platform, each of various sizes. Discretion was the better part of valor; I did not even try the challenge.

After breakfast the next morning, we drove to the marina.  While we waited for our boat to take us to the Maori Rock Carvings, I walked away from the marina to the lake’s edge.  There, I stumbled across two black swans and numerous ducks.  At that time, the weather was stunning, allowing for a beautiful landscape photograph.

Lake Taupo as seen from near the marina.

When we boarded the boat, we initially sat on the upper level.  Just before we departed the marina, we moved to the main level.  On that level, there were tables with fixed bench seats.  At the rear of the seating area was a small bar from which they served muffins, tea, and coffee.

The other three travelers…

Moored in a slip nearby was the Ernest Kemp. It is another of the vessels that daily transports tourists to see the carvings. It is a unique looking vessel. I had initially thought we should have reserved space on that boat. It reminded me of the T.S.S. Earnslaw we had enjoyed while in Queenstown about two years ago. However, after seeing how small the Ernest Kemp was, I was pleased with our selection of transport.

Another of the boats that take tourists to the Maori Rock Carvings.

As we departed our slip, the weather was variable. At times we enjoyed brilliant sunshine. Then, just moments later, we found ourselves in an intense downpour. We were pleased the boat seating area was enclosed. The Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde weather was with us throughout our trip.

Once underway, one of the attendants shared details and tidbits about the area as we slid along through the water. The surface area of Lake Taupo, 236 square miles, is nearly the same size as the country of Singapore. The average depth of the lake is 110 meters (360 feet). At its deepest point, the lake reaches 186 meters (610 feet).

For those friends in Colorado, it is worth comparing Lake Taupo with Blue Mesa Reservoir, the largest body of water in that state.  The surface area is a mere 14 square miles, about twice the area of Fruita, Colorado.  The maximum depth of Blue Mesa is 104 meters (341 feet).

Shortly after departing the marina, the attendant directed our attention to Mount Tauhara, referring to it as the “pregnant woman mountain.” It was easy to see why when looking at the profile of the mountain. Mount Tauhara is a dormant volcano. Its summit is at 3,569 meters (11,709 feet) above sea level.

Mount Tauhara, the pregnant woman.

A little over an hour into our trip, we stopped in Mine Bay to view the Maori Rock Carvings.  The attendants opened the front hatch on the boat so we could stand on the bow and take photos.  Standing was quite difficult.  Our weather stirred up the lake such that the bow was severely bouncing around.

The carvings were spectacular. The largest of the carvings was about 10 meters (33 feet) tall. Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell and John Randall made it and the other carvings, completed in 1979.  Ngatoroirangi, a Maori navigator who allegedly led Maori tribes to the area some 1,000 years ago, is the basis for engraving. The only thing that could have made the carvings any more spectacular would be if they were carved some 1,000 years ago.
This is the main and largest carving.

On the route back to the marina, I found it stunning just how crystal clear the water appears. I can only wonder what it would be like to dive into the lake.

Walking from the boat back to our vehicle, we saw a family of black swans enjoying a meal.  I do not know if it was a male or female, but the older black swan pulled water plants to the surface so the five cygnets could easily partake of the meal.  They did not seem to be bothered at all by the parade of humans coming by their dinner table.

Family meal.

The following morning, as we departed Taupo, we stopped at Huka Falls. The fall is more of a horizontal fall than a vertical fall; but, none the less, it is impressive to see the clear blue water rushing north. This is the beginning of the Waikato River. Huka is the Maori word for foam.

Huka Falls looking to the north.

From there, it was on to Ohope Beach.

Huka Falls looking to the south, toward Lake Taupo.
The boat we took to look at the Maori Rock Carvings.
Two black swans among the ducks.
Ducks on the very clear water.
Two ducks near the shore.
The cockpit for our boat.
Departing the marina.
Maori Rock Carvings.
Some additional, smaller carvings. The largest is the lizard near the waterline at the far right.
Panorama.
Enjoying the ride.
View of the shore.
Lake Taupo is huge.
View of the shore.
Typical homes near the marina.
Boathouses across from the marina.
The Marina.
Crystal clear water.
Swans
Part of the business district.
Street sculpture.
Tiki sculptures.
Return to New Zealand

Return to New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand – April 25, 2017

We took the hotel shuttle to LAX several hours ahead of our flight to Auckland, New Zealand.  After checking in at the airport, we went to the business class lounge.  It is one of the nicest I have ever seen.

The lounge was a great respite. One could sit on a terrace overlooking the duty-free area of the terminal; inside at a table or bar; in the television media room; in a shower to refresh, or on the outdoor terrace overlooking the tarmac of LAX. We spent most of our time on the outdoor patio.

Our time in the lounge helped us relax before our nearly 13-hour flight to Auckland. Our time on the plane was terrific, as the following menu demonstrates.

Meal after departure:

  • Grilled prawns with ajo blanco sauce, gremolata oil and fried chorizo crumbs.
  • Cod with hazelnut romesco sauce and risoni pasta with tomatoes, peas and green beans.
  • Strawberry and rocky road ice creams with meringues and strawberry compote.

Breakfast prior to arrival:

  • Gourmet bagel with bacon, spinach and Dijon mustard.
  • Fresh fruit salad.
  • Poached eggs on toasted muffins with bacon, steamed spinach and hollandaise sauce.

It is little wonder we were well rested when we did arrive in Auckland.

In Auckland, we went to the business lounge.  While we were there, we saw Andrew Little, the leader of the New Zealand Labour Party.  He acknowledged us as he passed by nodding his head.  That may be our brush with fame in New Zealand.

We made it home to Wellington without issue, departing the United States on April 22. We arrived in New Zealand on April 25. The International Date Line makes travel interesting. After all of the travel, we were tired. We were in bed by 19:00.

Some of the traffic trying to get to the terminals at LAX.
A Chinese airline flight on final approach to LAX.

Rest Stop

Rest Stop

Los Angeles, CA – April 22, 2017

Los Angeles is the location we chose for a rest stop. It is a long way from Grand Junction, Colorado to Wellington, New Zealand.
At the Marriott Residence Inn on Century Boulevard, we lounged around in the room until it was time for dinner. About 20 steps from the hotel is a great restaurant, Zpizza Tap Room. They sell pizza either whole or by the slice. Their hand-tossed pizza is delicious. The crust is thin; not paper-thin, but certainly not thick and doughy. Also offered are craft beers. We opted for wine instead of beer. After dinner, it was back upstairs for some television and sleep.
The following morning, it was downstairs for the buffet breakfast. While eating, breakfast, we discussed things to do that day. We had plenty of time to kill since our flight to Auckland did not depart until 22:30 that night. Our decision was the Santa Monica Pier. Neither one of us had been there before.

People pose for photographs in front of the iconic Santa Monica Pier sign.

Google Maps efficiently guided us to the pier. When we arrived, we stopped at the red light directly across from the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier. I knew I had to get a photograph of the iconic sign. That would have to wait until we parked.

The traffic light turned green, and we proceeded across the intersection and began our descent to the pier.  At the bottom of the drive, one had to turn left to the parking lot on the boardwalk.

The sign guides people to the entry to the Santa Monica Pier. The massive crosswalks are almost too much for the eyes.

Once we parked, I walked back up to the entry sign while Leslie waited on the boardwalk.  I was certainly not the only one who decided to take a photograph of the sign.  Group after group of people stopped to take a “souvenir” photo beneath the iconic Santa Monica Pier sign.  All the while, the locals went by, hardly noticing the tourists.  In the first photograph I posted, a blurred runner attests to that fact.

I was surprised at the crosswalk at the intersection. Virtually the entire intersection was a crosswalk. I had never seen one painted quite like that. With all of the converging lines, it was almost too hard to look at and stay oriented.

The sidewalk leading down to the Santa Monica Pier.

The pier itself is not as large as I had imagined. Much to my amazement, there was parking right on the dock. There was additional parking in a paved lot at the beach level. As we began to stroll along the pier, it was evident that the pier was not quite in full swing. Since we are usually early when we go anywhere, we frequently miss the largest crowds, which is just fine with us.

One of the things we noticed on the beach was a field of crosses on display. It seemed to be drawing attention to the many soldiers the United States has lost in the war on terror. We could not discern why some crosses were white while others were red. If one looks closely at the photograph, one can make out at least one Star of David and one Muslim crescent moon. Those that installed the display did an exact job. No matter which way one looked, the crosses lined up perfectly.

A field of cross at the Santa Monica Beach. The intent was to highlight the number of American soldiers killed in the war on terror.

In addition to the more significant buildings and restaurants on the pier, there were numerous kiosks. The kiosks had all manner of tourist kitsch. Of course, we had purchased some kitsch; specifically, our prerequisite refrigerator magnet.

The boardwalk at the Santa Monica Pier.

At the end of the pier, we sat near the Mariasol restaurant and watched all the sights. There were a lot of people fishing from the dock. While we were there, we did not see anyone catch anything. Maybe on other days at other times, those fishing have much better luck.

We ended up sitting on the patio of Mariasol to have a coffee. There were a few others there for lunch. The Mexican food looked amazing. Unfortunately, we were between a rock and a hard place. We had eaten breakfast, not all that long ago. Also, we planned to drive to the In-N-Out Burger for lunch. If we ever get back to that point on the planet, we will prepare better so we can try some of the Mexican food.

Looking over the edge of the Santa Monica Pier.

I did not realize the Santa Monica Pier was the end of Route 66 until I saw the Route 66 Last Stop Shop at the end of the pier. When we walked back along the dock, we saw the “End of the Trail” sign.

A family posing for their photo at the end of Route 66 on the Santa Monica Pier.
The Santa Monica Pier is the end of Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois.

A little beyond the Route 66 sign is the old Hippodrome building. I understand it is the oldest building on the pier, dating from the mid-1940s. Housed in the Hippodrome is a beautiful antique carousel. The carousel dates from the 1920s. We did not ride it (apparently there is a weight limit), but we did sit and watch it for a long time.

The antique carousel on the boardwalk at the Santa Monica Pier.

We got back in our rental car and drove off the pier. Sitting under the Santa Monica Pier sign, waiting for the traffic light, we noticed the drive down to the dock was no longer open. We could only imagine the drive reopened periodically as people depart as we did.

Just like the last time I was there, the In-N-Out Burger by LAX was packed. Somehow we were lucky enough to find a parking space. Inside the restaurant, all the employees moved at a frenetic pace. It is a fantastic sight to see all the employees working assembly-line-fashion to fulfill the dozens and dozens of hamburger orders.

While I waited for our order, Leslie went outside to find a table. In my opinion, half the reason to eat at this particular In-N-Out Burger is to watch the endless stream of planes landing at the airport. We got our fill of burgers, fries, and aircraft.

After lunch, we walked across the street to watch the planes approach the airport, flying directly overhead.  I filmed a Southwest Airlines jet and posted it on Facebook.  By clicking on “watch on Facebook,” one can see the video.

The Santa Monica beach.
A dolphin sculpture on the Santa Monica Pier boardwalk.
A man coaxing and teaching a boy to fish off the Santa Monica Pier.
The Pacific Park amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier.

 

A panoramic view of Santa Monica from the pier.
The beach as seen from the Santa Monica Pier.
People on the Santa Monica Pier boardwalk heading toward Pacific Park.
Two men fishing from the Santa Monica Pier.