Video: Taupo, New Zealand: From a Duckling to Rafting by da-AL

Taupo Public Library.

At the risk of sounding like I’m getting paid for this (all us bloggers are wealthy, no?) New Zealand truly has everything! We loved urban Auckland, relaxing Rotorua, the stunning Redwoods, amazing Huka Falls, and astounding Craters of the Moon and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

In Taupo, we had great fun! We stayed at Sharon Drinnan’s small family farm cottage (you can reach her at DrinnanClan@Farmside.co.NZ). Sharon was so kind that she even made sure we saw this charmer who’d hatched only hours earlier!…

Can one ever get enough of looking wonderfulnesses that includes a dog as black and cute as mine? This dog belongs to our hostess, Sharon…

After breakfast, we drove into town. On the way — “Stop the car!” I yelled, intending to photograph a mamma pig with her small piggies. She, however, had other plans! Before I knew it, she’d corralled the babies into a far corner, then returned to confront me!…

Don’t mess with Mother Pig.

Anyone who visits Happiness Between Tails knows I adore libraries. Taupo has a great one! (More later about the Pūkana expression on the red Māori sculpture)…

The city of Taupo lies along the shore of Lake Taupo — where we enjoyed a river rafting adventure. We had too much fun to take photos. However, after our adventure, my husband took these photos of me with our river guide, Tau Thompson of Tongariro River Rafting when another river guide photo-bombed us. Those Pūkana expressions we’re making (same as on the library statue). Facial expressions are essential to Māori performance…

What’s your best facial expression?

Guest Blog Post: The Happiest Animal in the World by katrinature

My favorite blogs are written by honest individuals who broaden how I look at life. In photos as well as words, blogger Katrina of katrinature shares her experiences of travel, nature, and wildlife. Have you ever heard of a quokka?…

Katrina and her new friend smile.
Katrina and her new friend smile.

“The Happiest Animal in the World” by Katrina of katrinature

It is well-known that animals can bring people happiness. Whether this is being greeted by your pet when you come home, an exciting day trip to the zoo, relaxing in a cat cafe or even participating in goat yoga! For me, I’m happiest when I encounter animals in the wild. The thrill of spotting a hornbill flying overhead, searching for sleeping koalas in gum trees or swimming with whale sharks: this is what motivates me to travel! So imagine my excitement when my travels led me to meet the happiest animal in the world…the quokka!

Katrina’s travel buddy, Rachel, enjoys a selfie with a quokka.
Katrina’s travel buddy, Rachel, enjoys a selfie with a quokka.

Quokkas have often been referred to as the happiest animals on earth because they literally look like they are smiling. They are also very inquisitive so getting close to these happy little creatures is easy if you know where to go. Quokkas can be found in scattered populations along the very south corner of Western Australia and on several of the islands. By far the most popular place to see them is Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth.

A quokka's smile is infectious.
A quokka’s smile is infectious.

Rottnest Island was named by Dutch explorers, meaning “rat’s nest” since they believed the quokkas were some sort of giant rat. They are in fact marsupials, which means if you visit you may be lucky like I was and see a mother with a joey! They are also far cuter than rats.

Quokkas look happy all over.
Quokkas look happy all over.
I 100% recommend visiting Rottnest Island if you are in WA. Ferries run daily from Fremantle and it is well worth your money as these cute, smiley marsupials are hopping around all over the island. You literally can’t miss them!
DO NOT feed them as despite being friendly they have been known to bite, and they also prefer foraging for berries and grazing anyway.
DO take a selfie!
What’s the happiest anyone or anything you know?

Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand by da-AL

We’re a long way down in the Waitomo Caves.

Really I’d like to sound official, truly scholarly when I describe these magnificent caves. But I’d be faking it. I was too busy trying to keep my eyes in their sockets as I took in all the amazing sights to retain whatever our hard-working guide endeavored to teach us.

A mineral formation can be as delicate as a veil.

Here we were in New Zeand, and everywhere we visited was utterly beautiful and entirely distinctive from the prior site. Auckland wasn’t at all like Rotorua, which resembled neither the Redwoods nor Huka Falls, and Craters of the Moon (nor places we’d visit later like Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens) were like any of them. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

And — New Zealand’s Waitomo Glowworms Caves were all their own too. We walked down, down, down, and then down, down, down some more while trying not to get bugs in our hair or smack our heads on nature’s sculptures along the way made of limestone and fossils.

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“The limestone formation in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean about 30 million years ago … These cave decorations take millions of years to form given that the average stalactite grows one cubic centimeter every 100 years,” according to Wikipedia.

This photo might look like nothing — but those pinpricks of light from glowworms! They exist in New Zealand! What you can’t see because without electric light its so dang dark down there, is that the GLOWWORMS give off spiderweb-like strings to ensnare their dinners.

The white dots in the immense darkness are glowworms.

Looking for an adventurous new job? They’re always looking for explorers to map out new tunnels. These are just mannequins, but they give an idea of what’s required…

The explorers who map out the caves are quite heroic.

Have you visited a limestone cave?

Video: Craters of the Moon, New Zealand by da-AL

Crater at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Nowhere is it more evident that New Zealand owes its geography to tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions than at any of its geothermal parks. Our visit there began with Auckland and Rotorua, then the Redwoods and Huka Falls, plus Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Steaming burbling craters galore behind Khashayar and da-AL at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Along our drive to Taupo, (before we’d view the Waitomo Glowworms Caves) we stopped at the aptly named Craters of the Moon.

Straying from the path isn’t advised at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Heat and steam from below percolate up to uncork land, leaving behind jagged craters, some of them huge. Visitors are told, not asked, to keep to the trails, lest they become boiled and billowed…

Do you have craters near you?

Guest Blog Post: Angels Flight, Best Fun for $1 in L.A. by R. Barden

Given how I plan to soon publish novels of my own, (“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat will be my debut one) the definition of heaven for me is anything to do with books! Blogger/writer Rosalind Barden’s guest blog post about Angels Flight — well, that’s heaven + books!…

Photo of Angels Flight – Photo credit: http://www.picturetrail.com/sfx/album/view/23044083 and https://angelsflight.org

“Angels Flight: Best Fun for a Buck in Los Angeles!” by Rosalind Barden

A character in my humorous noir mystery, “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case,” set in Depression-era Downtown Los Angeles, isn’t a person at all, but a funky funicular railway, Angels Flight.

Over a hundred years old, the funicular’s two cars chug from the top of Bunker Hill to the Downtown flatlands. It still exists thanks to the funicular’s fans who campaigned to save it from the wrecking ball in the 1960s when historic Bunker Hill was leveled. It was disassembled and packed away for decades, then pieced together in the 1990s on the reconfigured Bunker Hill, a half block from its original location. Sadly, a fatal accident shuttered the funicular again. The fans never left, and owing to their love, time and money, Angels Flight reopened in 2017.

Billed as the world’s shortest railway, it actually isn’t, though it is plenty short. The delight begins when boarding at the arch at the bottom of Bunker Hill, across from historic Grand Central Market at Fourth and Hill Streets, or at the matching station and wheelhouse at the top of Bunker Hill. The two orange and black cars are a delight of Beaux Arts design from an earlier, more exuberant time. The gleaming wooden interiors are each shaped like a staircase to conform to the slant of the hill. Riders sit in benches along either side.

The bell dings, and the car creaks to life. Then it merrily clanks along the track. Half the fun is listening to the reactions of fellow passengers as they oh and ah, or watching those silently smiling, lost in thought. The pace is slow, allowing time to detach from Downtown’s bustle and relax. For only a dollar, it’s a ride guaranteed to lift the mood.

Photo of Rosalind Barden by Diane Edmonds.

About Rosalind Barden: In addition to blogging, she writes mystery, sci-fi and horror with a sense of humor. “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case” is her new, wacky noir young adult mystery set in Depression-era Los Angeles.  Find out more about her and her books here.

What’s your favorite historical site where you live?

Video: Huka Falls, New Zealand’s Longest Falls by da-AL

Huka Falls bridge, New Zealand by Khashayar Parsi.

Green, lush, and filled with surprises. Everywhere we went, New Zealand amazed us! From Auckland, we drove to Rotorua and then hiked the Redwoods. (Later we’d visit Craters of the Moon and the Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Today, we visited Huka Falls, where water waits for no one!

Up to 220,000 liters (just under 5,300 gallons) of water rush down the series of falls per second. They begin at New Zealand’s longest river (Waikato River) and drain the country’s largest lake (Lake Taupo).

Panoramic of Huka Falls bridge, New Zealand by Khashayar Parsi.

Have you visited any waterfalls?

Happy Sounds Video, New Zealand Redwoods and Corrugated Pets by da-AL

Turn your sound up high to listen to the ASMR happy sounds of redwood trees creaking in the wind, sounding like old-fashioned rocking chairs…

Most people know of the redwoods of California, where trees are so awe-inspiring that they’ve got names and their Avenue of the Giants. But did you know that New Zealand has its own redwood forest? For our New Zealand vacation, we’d seen a bit of Auckland, then Rotorua, later Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, and then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Now we got out of our car and hiked up, up, up…

da-AL strolls up to New Zealand’s redwood forest.

Back in the early 1900s, New Zealand officials admired our redwoods — and then planted some of their own! — resulting in the Redwoods Forest of Whakarewarewa. New Zealand soil is so dense with nutrients that the trees grew faster there than they do in the U.S. Like California’s, New Zealand’s big trees provide homes to an abundance of wildlife, including endangered creatures.

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Trees actually talk to each other, creating an ecosystem among themselves that feeds everything from below their roots to far into the air! Redwoods can live for thousands of years — unless humans cut them down or pollute them to death. Alas, the largest was felled around 1945. The most massive tree on earth now is the General Sherman, at 83.8 meters (275 ft) high by 7.7 m (25 ft) wide. The world’s oldest tree lives in California too — a bristlecone pine that’s 5,068 years old. Let’s hope we don’t kill them or their kin.

A little further along, we stopped to pet corrugated animals in the city of Tirau!…

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What’s the biggest tree you’ve ever seen?

Rousing Rotorua, NZ by da-AL

We landed at Auckland Airport early, rented a car — and learned how to drive on the ‘wrong’ (har-har-har) side of the road. A quick look around and lunch later, we headed south for Rotorua (after that we had a great time at the Redwoods and Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, and then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Rotorua is lovely, including its historic district.

Breath in! That rousing scent, which is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e (even where no water is visible), is that of healing minerals permeating the air! In unscientific terms, New Zealand is the result of volcanic activity. Hence, the region teams with gurgling springs from where steam plumes and billows. Some are pleasingly warm to soak one’s body in, others are hot enough to cook in.

During the late 1800s, officials saw tourism money in those spas. They erected buildings, planted gardens, smoothed out sports greens, and more — all with the intent of creating a resort destination.

Here’s the historic district built in the late 1800s/early 1900s, which still attracts busloads of visitors…

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Part of the historic area pays respect to the indigenous Māori (who, by the way, fought valiantly in World War II)…

Elsewhere in Rotorua is a marae, a Māori meeting grounds complex set within a residential neighborhood. If you ever find yourself at one, remember that visitors must be formally invited inside.

A Māori meeting house in Rotorua.

Rotorua’s current mayor is Steve Chadwick, a long-time politician born Stephanie Anne Frizzell, was into her 60s when she was elected into office.

Who are the indigenous people where you live?

Awe for Auckland, New Zealand by da-AL

Too little time for da-AL to discover all of Mt. Eden, Auckland, New Zealand.

Mount Eden is the place to go for a fantastic full-circle view of Auckland, where my husband and I began and ended our visit to New Zealand. (Next we’d be off to Rotorua, then New Zealand’s Redwoods and Huka Falls, plus Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family, admired the birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much. as well as the purring there!

The site here in Auckland is actually three cinder cones, two of them filled in by the last one. Auckland is a lovely city filled with great restaurants with menus from all over the world — and great independent bookstores!

Time Out Bookstore, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand. Auckland has some great independent bookstores, like this one!

Claire and Sam (our hostess and her golden retriever), along with her young neighbor (and the darling girl’s black dog), were all very welcoming. To stay at Claire’s lovely B&B, email her at duncan5@xtra.co.nz or call her at 0274512691

Khashayar, hostess Claire, and a charming young neighbor with da-AL. Khashayar, hostess Claire, and a charming young neighbor with da-AL.

So much to do in too little time …

da-AL at non-active crater, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand. da-AL at non-active crater, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand.

Next, we visited the rousing city of Rotorua

Have you visited a crater?

Guest Blog Post: No Single Word Have Spoken I This Day by Ana Daksina

Cropped black and white photo of man with a bird in his mouth by Ryan McGuire of Gratisography
This is by Ryan McGuire of Gratisography

Listening requires attention and openness. Poet Ana Daksina reminds us how silence allows us to hear the beating of our own hearts…

** DEAR READERS, PLEASE NOTE ** I pay WordPress not to display advertising on my site. In the case of guest bloggers, if you click forward to their websites, be aware that I am neither directly associated with them, nor the ads there. ** ALSO ** When you see ‘amazing’ offers on the internet, rest assured that they are scams. For instance, of late I’ve encountered a quite slick one that purports that one has randomly won money from Google. Don’t allow yourself to be enticed into revealing information to strangers.

Timeless Classics

*****

Today I spoken have no single word
Nor have one spoken by another heard

Today I listened to a sighing breeze
Wistfully stroke the branches of the trees

Perhaps for the first time I fully heard
The language in the singing of a bird

Mid lovely silence, oh, so quietly
My Muses whispered many dreams to me

Today no single word hath passed my lips
Came seven poems from my fingertips

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