I hitch-hiked from Matamata to Rotorua, where I settled at Heather and Roger’s place. I had met them in Tiritiri, and they had invited me to stay at their place… so I did!
Rotorua is a thermal town, with steam coming out of the ground in many places, even in the center, and a constant smell that punches you in the face when you get out in the morning. The museum is a picturesque building, much more recent than it looks like, but it’s unfortunately closed due to ongoing earthquake-countering work.
I got the picture I was looking for! It’s one of a New Zealand scaup (Aythya novaeseelandiaea) illuminated by the sunset light, revealing the green cheek. For this, I had to lie in wet sand and wait, hoping the sun would pop out of the clouds while a duck was drifting by close enough. It worked out pretty well, I’m very happy.
Sunrise at Motutara Point was so rewarding again, with a perfect light and stunning birds! Later, I visited the famous Redwoods, a forest of exotic species (from Europe and North America, essentially) that grow much faster here than where they come from. It’s not as exciting a place, to be honest.
For sunset, I met Tony Whitehead, a talented local photographer. He took me to Lake Okareka, where we had beautiful light again, and very nice birds. What a day!
Tony took me on a trip to the coast. We hoped to make some pictures of birds, but we were not very successful: not the right spot, no birds within reach. We saw great things anyway. Thank you Tony!
I hitch-hiked to Taupo, then decided there was nothing for me there, and continued on to Turangi. There, I looked for Blue ducks (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos), a torrent dweller not unlike dippers or Torrent ducks, but could not find any. I knew they were there though, as a trout angler confirmed me, so I’ll have to try again.
02.10.2018 Lake Rotopounamu
I saw the Blue ducks in the morning! In the afternoon, I went for a walk around Lake Rotopounamu, in the Tongariro National Park. It’s a restoration area, meaning pests are trapped, and native birds strive there. It was the first time I saw Bellbirds, Rifleman and Whiteheads since Tiritiri Matangi.
I also saw what looked like Pacific black ducks, or Grey ducks, as they call them here (Anas superciliosa). Since Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) arrived to New Zealand, the two species have hybridized massively, and pure Grey ducks have become extremely rare. These individuals, though, looked rather typical: well defined markings on the face, and legs not too orange. Hybrid or not, they looked fantastic, especially when they started to preen just in front of me.
03.10.2018 Tongariro National Park
Superb hike in the national park, with young travelers met at the hostel the day before, between Mounts Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. The former was chosen by Peter Jackson as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies, and has been very famous since then. The landscape was not unlike was I’ve seen in the Andes, with low vegetation and volcanoes looming in the distance. Grandiose.
Finally I managed some pictures of the Blue ducks! I also saw a mom Paradise shelduck (Tadorna variegata) with 10 ducklings in tow 🙂
As I left Turangi, my hitch-hiking sign said “South”. I was lucky: I found a first driver for one and a half hour, then I was picked up all the way to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. That was my longest day on the road by far.
I checked in at the Waterloo hotel and backpackers, then walked to the Dwellington, the so-called Best hostel in Welly. I had read great reviews, and knew people stayed there for quite long. At the reception, I asked about long-term stays, but I was told they had a 3-4 months waiting list. Oh no…
Then he asked me about my plans. When I said I was looking for a place to stay for 2 to 3 weeks, he looked into his system and told me he had something for me! That’s how I found the place where I’d stay for a while, working as a part-timer for RELEX. It would never have worked out that way if I hadn’t gone there myself. Knock and ask.
In the evening, I felt all merry. I walked along the waterfront, taking pictures. At some point, two women came to me and asked whether I wanted some Indian food fresh from the restaurant. Uh, what?
They explained that they were at the restaurant, but they had ordered way too much, and now they were going to a show, and they didn’t want the food to go wasted. There was no cutlery though, so they said I had to have somewhere to eat, like a backpackers. There was so much food, they also said I could share with friends. I replied that I had no friend, but that I would make some new ones easily, with such an offer!
That’s how I found myself with three paper bags full of delicious Indian food, for free. That’s Kiwi generosity.
At the hostel, I offered it to the first person I met in the kitchen. He was a Dane, so I ended up talking a tiny little bit of Danish while cooking free food. A delight!
More pictures coming soon, so stay tuned!
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