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Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Old St Pauls, Wellington, New Zealand #travel

Nestled in the heart of the commercial center of Wellington, not far from New Zealand’s parliament buildings, is an old church with a lot of history.

St Paul's, Wellington

Old St Paul’s is plain from the outside, a white building and dark spire, set in a large section and surrounded by giant pohutukawa trees. I wasn’t expecting much but the interior stole my breath. During my first visit, I stood inside the entrance, breathed in the rich, fragrant scent of the old wood from which the church is constructed, and fell in love with the place. It’s both peaceful and beautiful with the glowing colors of the aged timber. The ceiling curves above, looking like a timber rib cage and the light coming through the stained glass windows throws jewel-like patterns on the interior. Everyone speaks in hushed tones and the place feels special.

Old St Pauls, Wellington

 

Old St Paul's Wellington

Frederick Thatcher designed the church. He was also the first vicar and remained from 1861 – 1864. The style is gothic, and according to experts, it’s one of the finest examples of timber Gothic architecture in the world. The timbers used in the construction include rimu, totara, matai and kauri, some of New Zealand’s finest native wood. The pews are also made from timber and perfect to take a seat and soak in the atmosphere.

Old St Paul's, Wellington

Wander around on your own or listen to one of the guides who will point out all the highlights. The stained glass windows are famous and were added as memorials to several prominent members of the Wellington community. Originally most of the windows were plain frosted glass. The current bells and organ are also new additions, but the baptismal font is an original, made in England from white stone with a carved oak canopy.

Old St Pauls, Wellington

Funerals of former Prime Ministers were held here. The Maori land wars, which took place during the 1860s are remembered in memorials, as is the First World war. The relationship between American marines and the locals during the Second World war is also recognized.

A new church, also named St. Pauls, was built in 1964 to cater to larger numbers. Thankfully, locals fought to keep the old church, because it truly is beautiful and unique now that public buildings are no longer made from timber.

Old St Paul’s may not be a parish church now, but it’s still consecrated and a venue for weddings, funerals, christenings and other cultural events such as concerts. The building is maintained by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

The Facts

Opening hours:
Daily 9.30 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Closed Christmas Day, Good Friday, and for short periods during private functions.

Admission fee:
Entry is free. Hourly guided tours of Old St Paul’s: $5 per person.
Private group bookings (8 or more) $3 per person.
School groups: tours $3 per student.
Experience Old St Paul’s education programme: $8 per student.

Location:
34 Mulgrave Street
Wellington 6011
tel: + 64 4 473 6722
email: oldstpauls@historic.org.nz

Dinosaur of the Insect World #travel #NewZealand

The weta – it’s a large and primitive insect, native to New Zealand. The reason I chose to write about wetas today is so more people know what they are. When I used a weta reference in my book Janaya, my editor didn’t know what I was talking about and I had to rewrite slightly to describe a weta as a prehistoric cricket-like insect.

Tree Weta, New Zealand

There are five broad groups of weta:

1. Tree weta
2. Ground weta
3. Cave weta
4. Giant weta
5. Tusked weta

Wetas are nocturnal and live in a variety of habitats including grassland, scrub land, forests and caves. They live under stones and in rotten logs or in pre-formed burrows in trees.

They are mainly herbivores in the wild but are known to eat other insects. They can bite but are not poisonous. Species of weta are still being discovered and several are endangered. In the wild, they were traditionally eaten by the tuatara (a prehistoric reptile native to NZ) but these days many are destroyed by rats, cats and dogs and of course, humans encroaching on their habitat.

The weta sheds its exoskeleton when moulting.

At 18 months the male weta selects a female and they spend time together in the male’s territory. (Romance in the insect world!)

At around two years old, the female will lay 100 – 300 eggs. The parents die before the weta eggs hatch 3 – 5 months later.

The Department of Conservation in New Zealand is currently involved in weta breeding programs and translocation to safe sites such as protected islands like Tiritiri Matangi and Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. The weta respond well to a captive breeding program.

The following video is of a giant weta.

I’ve never seen a giant weta but have personal experience with both tree and cave wetas. We often find tree wetas in our garden and will return them to live in peace. They can nip and look creepy but I don’t mind them.

My experience with cave wetas is a bit more spooky. When I was a kid, my girlfriend lived on a farm with limestone caves. It was a favorite pastime to visit the caves and wander through them with a candle and maybe a torch to search for stalactites, stalagmites and glow worms. When I think about our cave visits now, I can see how dangerous it was, but for us it was an adventure – an hour or two of wandering through pristine caves. One day we discovered a new tunnel and were all set to charge into it to explore. I happened to shine the torch over the ceiling and it was covered with huge cave wetas! I let out a screech and dropped the torch, and we all decided to explore another part of the cave. I also took to checking my gumboots carefully and shaking vigorously before I put my feet in them. This lasted for a few weeks until the initial horror passed. I’ve never been bitten by a weta, but I’m always careful not to get too close either. I can appreciate them from a distance.

How are you with insects? Do you like them or hate them with a passion? Do you have any insect stories to tell? What do you think of New Zealand’s weta?

Tirau: Corrugated Captial #newzealand #travel

Tirau is a small New Zealand town. It’s pronounced Tee-rau

1. Tirau, originally referred to a hill three miles southwest of the village, is covered with cabbage trees where Maori trapped the keruru (wood pigeon). It was first settled by the Ngati Raukawa, although various tribes won the area in battle before Europeans purchased the surrounding district in 1868.

2. Tirau has always been a rest stop for travellers with the Oxford Royal Hotel operating as a staging post between Rotorua, Cambridge, Lichfield and later Taupo.

3. The benefits of its central location continue today. In fact Kate and Lane from PLAYING TO WIN stopped here for a break during their drive to Taupo. These days the town is unique for its corrugated iron sculptures.

4. A shop disguised as a sheep.

Iron Sheep

5. A dog.

Dog

6. Poppies

Poppies

7. A book shop.

Books

8. The toy shop.

Toy Shop

9. Me standing outside the tourist center.

Tourist Center

10. Gourmet Food shop.

Fine Swine Cafe

11. A garage.

Service Station and Garage
12. A dairy.

Dairy

13. A gift shop with a pukeko (bird).

Pukeko

Antique Shop

Tirau is a fun place to visit. It’s great for the keen photographer and is the perfect place to take a break from driving. If you’re interested in antique shops, this will be your happy place. I highly recommend a visit.

Mt Vesuvius Erupts, this day in history #travel

Mt Vesuvius erupted at midday on 24 August in the year 79AD. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed and thousands of Romans died during the eruption.

Quite a lot is known about the day and the aftermath since Pliny the Younger witnessed and wrote about the eruption. 14 – 17 feet of ash and pumice buried the city of Pompeii while mud and volcanic material devastated Herculaneum. Locals, who had escaped, returned later to salvage their belongings but mostly the cities were forgotten. It wasn’t until the 18th century when a well-digger discovered the ruins of Herculaneum. In 1748 a farmer found traces of Pompeii beneath his grapevines.

Mount Vesuvius remains active but hasn’t erupted since 1944. It is the only active volcano on mainland Europe.

Pompeii

Pompeii with Mt Vesuvius in background

Main street in Pompeii

The above photos were all taken at Pompeii.

Herculaneum

Herculaneum

Herculaneum

Herculaneum

Herculaneum and Mt Vesuvius in background

I enjoyed wandering around Herculaneum. It was quieter and less touristy with more to see. The volcanic mud preserved the buildings better than the ash did at Pompeii. The above five photos are from Herculaneum, and you can see Mt Vesuvius in the background of the fifth photo.

View from top of Mt Vesuvius

This is the view from the top of Mt Vesuvius. You can see how dense the population is in Naples. I’ve visited Naples three times and have yet to get a truly clear shot of the mountain. Every time I go, it’s hazy. Below you can see the crater plus me posing at the top.

The crater

Me at the top of the mountain

We caught a bus from Naples that drove almost to the top of the mountain. We walked briskly for almost an hour to get to the summit. If you’re ever in the vicinity, I highly recommend a visit to all three sites.

Yosemite National Park, US #travel

Yosemite National Park

United States has some beautiful national parks, and this is one of my favorites — Yosemite National Park. It’s also a favorite with the locals since every time I’ve visited it has been very busy. This is a view of the granite cliffs of El Capitan with summer flowers in the forefront. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

Yosemite National Park was first protected in 1864 and is known for its many waterfalls.

Baldwin Street, World’s Steepest Street #travel

BaldwinStreet

BaldwinStreetView

Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand is recognized by Guinness World Records as the steepest street in the world. It is 350 meters in length. The lower end of the street is covered in asphalt while the steepest and top end of the street is concrete instead of asphalt. During hot summer days the road used to melt and run down the hill. Concrete proved a better solution. It is a residential street and a mecca for tourists. The locals must get tired of tourists wandering across the street!

Baldwin Street and its steepness came about by accident. The street plan for Dunedin was developed in London, England with no regard for the terrain or consultation with those living in the area. The world’s steepest street is the result.

Each year a local confectionary company drops round candies at the top of the hill, racing them to the bottom as a fundraising event. A girl died after attempting to race down in a wheelie bin. Other stunts have been attempted over the years, some resulting in arrests.

With limited time, I walked halfway up. That was enough for me. Smile

Goat Island Marine Reserve, New Zealand #travel

20070710232034_goat island 026

The Goat Island Marine Reserve is a popular destination with locals, especially during the summer months. It’s north of Auckland and is the closest place for divers and snorkelers to experience marine life. The reserve, which is 518 hectares in size, was created in 1975 and officially opened in 1977. New Zealanders are keen on fishing and stocks were becoming depleted but the numbers have bounced back due to the reserve. Now, big schools of snapper swim close to the shore. The day I visited, the snapper swam around our legs. There are dozens of other species, including my favorites, the pretty blue maumau.

For those who don’t wish to scuba or snorkel, there is a glass bottom boat that takes tourists out and around part of the island.

The island, known as Goat Island, was called this because sailors left goats there as a source of food. The goats have long gone and the island is now the domain of birds.

If you’re in the area, take a picnic lunch, pack your togs and go for the day, or better yet, stop at the Matakana Farmers’ market for some lunch supplies.

A visit to Goat Island Marine Reserve is a fun day out.

A Nepalese Market #travel

20090813031151_market stall, kathmandu

The Thamel area of Kathmandu, the main city in Nepal, is a shopper’s paradise. There are so many interesting things to look at and food to try. It’s a feast for the senses and a real treat for a photographer.

We purchased a Gurkha knife, much like one of the selection in the photo. A Gurkha knife or a kukri has a curved blade and is used as both a handy implement and a weapon in Nepal. A Swiss Army Knife for the Nepalese people! The Nepalese army soldiers use a kukri as part of their weapon arsenal.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Africa #travel

20070617094348_victoriafalls

This is a photo of Victoria Falls from the air. During our visit, we saw the magnificent falls from all angles. The flight over was spectacular, but my favorite place to see the falls was from the various view points. You can hear the rumble of the falls from miles away. We also did a sunset cruise on the Zambezi river while my intrepid hubby went white water rafting.

During our visit to the area, I discovered the best T-shirts. I purchased about four and have only one left, which is very thin! I also practiced my Stanley quotes. “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” *grin*

We were on a budget holiday and stayed at the campground, but we couldn’t resist a visit to the Victoria Falls Hotel, which was built in 1904 and was a first hotel in the area. Following in the footsteps of many famous people, we went a couple of times and had a traditional afternoon tea on the verandah.

I’d love to do a return visit, although some friends stopped there and were disappointed with the amount of water going over the falls. I understand that a dam has reduced the flow.

Apart from the waterfall and the Zambezi river, visitors can see animals and birds, feed the adrenaline junkie within by rafting, bungee jumping, canoeing, and hiking or indulge their love of culture by meeting the locals. There is something for everyone at Victoria Falls.

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland #travel

I’ve always wanted to visit the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Island. It is a mysterious place, full of myths and legends about Finn McCool an Irish giant who was at war with a Scottish giant called Benandonner. Some quick thinking by Finn McCool’s wife saved the day and the Scottish giant retreated back to Scotland. Here is a video showing the story of the two giants.

Giants Causeway Visitors Centre – The Myth of Finn McCool from The Pond Studio on Vimeo.

While I adored the legend about giants, the truth is more scientific with the hexagonal stones formed after a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. Scientists say there were three distinct eruptions, which formed the Lower, Middle and Upper Basalts.

It is a fascinating place to explore and I enjoyed exploring the rock formations.

GiantCauseway

GiantCauseway1

GiantCauseway2

GiantCauseway3

GiantCauseway4

A fascinating place to visit, especially if you pick a quiet time without many tourists.