Cambodia – Day 1 – Angkor Wat & Other Temples

Today I woke up at 6:00am. I had some breakfast downstairs, which was a mediocre omelette and some coffee. After breakfast I waited in the lobby for my private tour guide. I chose to use Cambodia Tour Services because my father had used them in the past and had great things to say about the owner named Phanith. I was supposed to get Phanith myself, but he broke his leg playing soccer the day before the tour, so he gave me a guide that had even more experience than him. Sadly I forget his name, but he was a really nice guy! I was picked up at 730am. The first stop was Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat, also known as the City of Temples, was constructed in the 12th century as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire. It was eventually transformed to a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. The temple is surrounded by water on a site that is 163 hectares in size. The temple was built in an east-west orientation, suggesting that there was a celestial significance, which you’ll find out tomorrow morning as I travel very early to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Interestingly unlike most Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west, rather than the east. The site is surrounded by 4.5 metre (15 foot) high walls and has 5 towers, with the central tower being the tallest at 65 metres (213 feet) tall, which I even climbed to the top of.

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Throughout the complex there is intricately detailed walls with all sorts of carvings that show the 32 hells and 37 heavens of Hinduism. You can see from the pictures below the struggle between heaven and hell.

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After visiting Angkor Wat it was time to grab some lunch. We stopped by a very nice restaurant, which I forgot to get the name of. I had a Cambodian dish called Amok, which is a thick soup cooked with fish, vegetables, eggs, and coconut milk. It was absolutely delicious.

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After lunch we visited three temples; Lolei, Preah Ko, and Bakong Temple. Lolei is a Hindu temple built entirely of brick in the 9th century, before Angkor Wat in the centre of a man-made lake called Indratadak.

Preah Ko is another Hindu temple that has a lot of carvings. It was built in 879 AD to honour members of the kings family. There are six towers arranged in two rows of three, each on top of a sandstone platform.

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Bakong Temple is the first temple mountain made of sandstone that was constructed under the Khmer Empire. It was built in 881 AD. The main structure is a sandstone pyramid, with surrounding brick satellite temples.

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I was dropped off at my hotel at around 3:00pm and relaxed by the pool until it was dinner time. For dinner I decided to head to Jungle Burger Bar. I had never rode in a Tuk Tuk before so I ordered one on GRAB. Jungle Burger Bar is owned by Clayton, a 45 year old gentleman from New Zealand. He left New Zealand when he was 20 years old and was a builder up until about 9 years ago when he decided to open this burger bar. Words can not describe how amazing the burgers are here; if you end up travelling to Siem Reap you must visit this place! This was easily the best hamburger I’ve ever had!

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Check back tomorrow when I continue on my Cambodia adventure and explore even more temples!

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September 3rd 2016 – New Zealand Day 14

Today I had a nice lazy start to the day. I woke up around 8:00am without an alarm clock. I had turkeys “gobbling” to wake me up instead. I worked on my blog, made breakfast, and had coffee, before driving about one kilometre to the Waitomo glow worms.

Having rented my camper through a company called THL I was given free entry to any of the glow worm caves. I had lots of time so I decided to visit all three of them.
The first one, Ruakuri Cave, or “den of dogs” was first discovered around 400-500 years ago when the Maori discovered wild dogs and followed them to the cave entrance, where the wild dogs were trying to make their home.
The cave entrance was used by the Maori as a burial site, and is thus a sacred area that has now been protected. The cave was originally open to the public from 1904 until 1988, when it was closed due to a legal and financial dispute. It was reopened in 2005. A man-made entrance was built between 2003 and 2005 with an impressive spiral drum entrance, so that the sacred original entrance would not be used. This also make it the only wheelchair accessible cave in the Southern Hemisphere.
The cave tour started the amazing decent down this engineering marvel of a spiral entrance. I believe the height was approximately 20 metres tall, but don’t quote me on that.
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The tour then took the group through a maze of caves that had heights between 2 metres to nearly 20 metres tall. It was absolutely amazing. There were glow worms spread out in different areas of the caves.
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The limestone formations in the caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean, approximately 30 million years ago. The caves began forming when earth movement caused the limestone bend and nickel under the ocean and rise above the sea floor. As the limestone was exposed to the air it cracked and weakened allowing for water to flow through, slowly dissolving the limestone over millions of years, forming the huge caves.
The cave formations; stalactites (grow on the top) and stalagmites (grow on the ground) grew from water dripping from the ceiling or flowing over the walls leaving behind limestone deposits.
Glow worms are various groups of insect larvae and adult larviform females that glow through bioluminescence.
I then visited the Aranui cave, opened in 1911, which had more cave formations, some even more grand than the ones in the Raukuri caves! The Aranui cave didn’t have any glow worms though.
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The last cave was the original Waitomo cave, opened in 1889! This cave tour was really special. It felt like something out of a movie. The tour takes you through the caves, which people over the last 125 years have unfortuneatly ruined most of the cave formations. The tour gets very special after about 200 metres, because you then board a boat in the dark, which the guide uses guide wires to guide the boat through this most amazing array of glow worms. There was thousands upon thousands of glow worms and the reflection of them on the water below was out of this world. Sadly no photography is allowed in this cave out of respect of the Maori’s.
After the glow worm caves I decided to drive about a half hour away to Mangapohue Bridge, and Marakopa Waterfalls. Managapohue is the remains of what was formerly a cave, but mostly fell down.
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I decided to camp at the same spot as last night because it was nice, and close by. When I parked my camper the campsite manager Shelly came over and we talked for about an hour and she said to come over tomorrow morning and she’ll show me how the boat and the plane history and how they came to be at this site.
I had a fairly early night and ended up going to sleep at around 8:30pm.
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September 2nd 2016 – New Zealand Day 13

Today I was woken up at 4:37am by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. The van was shaking slowly from left to right, but I couldn’t hear any wind. This odded me out, so I tried going back to sleep, but the shakes kept happening. At first I thought it was some punks who thought shaking my van would be funny, but I looked outside and saw other campers also shaking. I thought to myself earthquake, and then went back to bed because I was in no immediate danger.
I woke up again at 7:00am to a message from my father stating that there had been an earthquake in New Zealand. I looked on the news and it was a 7.1 magnitude, which is a fairly reasonably sized on. It occurred over 300 km away from where I was, so I was surprised to have felt it. Upon talking with others throughout my day they also confirmed that they had felt it too. Some areas of New Zealand, specifically around Gisborne, where temporarily evacuated because of concern over a 1 metre tsunami, but were allowed to return later in the day.
I started my day by having a quick breakfast of yoghurt, and cheese on toast before hitting the road. Today was mostly a driving day. My first stop was the town of Waverly where I saw a war memorial tower.
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My next stop was Patea, where I saw a piece of artwork; a Maori canoe on top of an arch.
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The next stop was Hawera, which had a water tower that I paid $2.50 to go up. Hawera is Maori for “burnt place”, from fighting between two local sub-tribes, which culminated in the setting ablaze of the house of the tribe under attack. The name became apparent in 1884, 1888, and 1912 when extensive blazes occurred. It was decided that a water tower was to be built in the centre of town to increase its water pressure for fire fighting duties. The tower was closed to the public is 2001 after falling into disrepair, and after a vote to keep the landmark instead of tearing it down, it was opened again in 2004 after extensive restoration. The tower stands 55 metres tall and holds nearly 700,000 litres of water, but is no longer required due to having an adequate water supply now.
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From the top of the water tower I could see Mount Taranaki, albeit a bit a cloud cover. It looks like a mini Mount Fuji.
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My next stop was New Plymouth, where I walked around for a bit admiring more Art Deco architecture, and a mix of Victorian and Art Nouveau, the predecessor to Art Deco. I then made a special stop at Market Patisserie and Cafe to see Kira and her husband Chris, who own the place. My very good friends Marc and Jennifer at home told me I should visit them when I was in New Zealand. Jennifer and Kira went to school together in Calgary, before Kira moved to New Zealand. Chris wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but Kira and I talked for a bit before I ordered a grilled chicken wrap, and a coffee. She brought them over to my table, along with a delicious donut that I could choose how much cream I wanted to put instead. The food was very good! The lunch time rush was coming in so I said my goodbyes and went back to my camper.
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I had a fairly long two hour drive along a windy road to Waitomo, where I choose this adorable little place that has cute hotel rooms in an airplane, a boat, a train, a little hobbit houses. The camping was free for the time being because the site was currently being built and had no power, toilets, showers, etc.  I ended up finding a lot more about the site the next day, but more on that tomorrow!
Tomorrow I will be visiting the Waitomo glow worm caves!
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September 1st 2016 – New Zealand Day 12

Today I woke up at 4:45am. I didn’t sleep good and kept tossing and turning. I ended up reading for a few hours before making breakfast, and then heading to the Southward car museum, only a few kilometres away. The museum was absolutely outstanding, with over 250 cars and motorcycles dating back to 1895! The facility was immaculate, the cars were immaculate, and attention was made to every little detail. There was also a rather large collection of oil antique containers, signage, model cars, etc. The Southward Car Museum was opened in December 1979 by Sir Len Southward when he realized his collection was becoming too large and needed a place to store it. 

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After spending over three hours at the museum I drove to the town of Foxton, where I walked up and down the Main Street. I came across a gravel parking lot down a short narrow lane with a bunch of old trolley buses from the 1940’s, as well as a pretty rustic building with more inside. I didn’t want to snoop around as it looked deserted and not well maintained, and I didn’t want to impose on private property, even though it wasn’t marked accordingly. It turns out that the owner and his wife unfortunately passed away a few years ago and the place has been left to fall apart, unless someone takes it over. I certainly hope so because the place and the buses have a lot of character.

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I was getting hungry so I made myself a sandwich for lunch before driving onward towards Whanganui, which was a really cool little city. I visited Durie Hill Elevator, which is New Zealand’s only public elevator. It connects Anzac Parade, beside the Whanganui River, with the suburb of Durie Hill through a 205 metre long 3 metre high tunnel. The construction of the elevator started in 1916, and was completed in 1919. The elevator, which is 66 metres tall, also has a flat-topped tower encasing the elevator machinery, and it even has a wrought iron staircase on the outside so you can go on the top to see a view of the city. I paid $4 to do a return trip on the elevator. It was well worth it! The current operator, Zena Mabbot, has been operating it since 1971! She was a very friendly!

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After riding the elevator and taking some photos of the tunnel I walked next door to the war memorial, and walked up to the top. The walk took about six minutes and was well worth it. The views from the top were incredible! There was also many locks that were secured to the top of the structure. Over to the north I saw a water tower, which I wanted to go view next. 

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After driving over to the water tower I was confronted with a disappointing gate leading to the top. The trip to the top wasn’t going to happen, but instead I took a couple of nice photos.

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It was time to find somewhere to stay the night. I had lots of selections, but most had unfavourable reviews, so I settled on the best one, which was in an aquatic centre parking lot next to the highway. 

I actually got an overall good sleep, except for an 7.1 magnitude earthquake at 4:37am, but more on that tomorrow!

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August 31st 2016 – New Zealand Day 11

Today I woke up at 7:00am, and prepared an egg skillet for breakfast. I then went and explored Wellington.

First was the infamous Wellington sign, a quirky take on Hollywood.
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I then drove up Mount Victoria and had a beautiful view of the entire city, and watched planes take off from the airport for an hour or so. Wellington International Airport is pretty unique because it has over 5 million passengers a year, but is only services by a single short runway less than 7000 feet long. This combined with its very primitive terminal for its passenger volume limits its ability to really complete internationally. Overseas destinations are limited to the east coast of Australia and the South Pacific. Interestingly Singapore Airlines now flies to Wellington from Singapore with a Boeing 777-200 via Canberra because it can’t fly there directly due to the high takeoff weight associated with loading on that much fuel; therefore must load on a shorter amount of fuel to make the hop over to Canberra.
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After visiting Mount Victoria I walked around the central business district and visited the old government building, the second largest wooden structure in the world, behind Todai-ji in Japan. It was built to house New Zealand’s civil service, and now houses the law school of Victoria University of Wellington. The beautiful is bold and beautiful, as well as well-maintained. The building became the first building in the world to have a smoke-free policy over concerns about the threat of fire, due to the fact the building is entirely constructed of wood.
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Close-by the next stop was the beehive government building.
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After that I was walking towards the Wellington Cable Car when I smelled and saw delicious cookies being baked at Mrs Higgins Cookies, so I stopped and had a white macadamia nut cookie. I should have bought two!
The ride up on the Wellington Cable Car was great, and the price was right, only $7.50 return. I entered the free museum at the top and learned a lot about the cable cars history. The original cable car system opened in 1902 and ran until 1978 when it was replaced by the current system. The old system was built to imperial standards and had double track the entire way up. The new system was built to metric standards, was fully automated, and only has double track in the middle. There were and still are five stations equally space so that when the cable cars are stopped at one station, there will be a cable car at another station. It’s aim was to increase safety and passenger throughput. The original tram had over a million passengers per year in 1912, with its peak nearly two million passengers in one year, but I forget the year. The cable car averages about a million passengers per year now. I was actually lucky I was able to ride on the cable cars because the cable cars had been out of service for nearly three months until August 18th 2016 for upgrades.
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After taking the cable car back down to the central business district I decided to search out some food for lunch. I didn’t have anything in mind so I just walked along until a restaurant’s smell caught my attention; Fishermans Plate Seafood. It was an odd combination of meal choices, fish and chips, and Vietnamese. I had some sate beef soup, and it was the best I’ve ever had in my life. It’s a good thing because it was rated one of the best ten restaurants in Wellington this year.
After enjoying my delicious lunch I walked around for a few more hours enjoying the beautiful architecture, and making sure to visit the infamous Cuba street, before heading back to my camper.
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The next stop was Trucks and Trailers Ltd., located in Lower Hull, a subdivision of Wellington. I picked up two replacement parts for my camper for $26 to repair the damage from my accident a few days before. This way I don’t have to go through insurance.
I then browsed through my GPS for spots to visit around Waikanae, where I wanted to be for the night, because tomorrow I’m going to visit a car museum there I found a scenic outlook, up one of the most terrifying roads I’ve been on in my life. A sheer drop to your death on one side, and a steep vertical cliff on the other to scrap up the camper really good if you’re not careful. I annoyed a few people by driving slow and steady, but I made it. The scenic point was called Paekakariki Hill Lookout.
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After viewing at the lookout I input into the GPS Waikanae Beach to stay for the night. When I arrived I sat on the beach and enjoyed a sandwich while watching the sun set.
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When I went back to my camper a German couple with two children parked next to me. We ended up talking for about an hour and a half. During the middle of us talking a young cat came up to my camper and jumped inside. It ended up hanging out with my for most of the evening and then left on its own terms towards midnight.
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August 30th 2016 – New Zealand Day 10

Today I had a lazy start to my day. I woke up at around 8:00am. I made myself a home made egg McMuffin style sandwich, and a coffee before hitting the road. My first stop was Pukaha Mount Bruce, a wildlife and bird sanctuary that help to reintroduce and repopulate endangered species, such as the Kiwi, into a protected environment. I saw over two dozen birds, as well as Kiwi’s, including a rare white Kiwi. Their day’s are reversed so that we can see them (sort of), but my camera was unable to capture them very well. They are under an infrared light so I had to convert the images to black and white, and it was nearly pitch black and flash photography was not allowed.

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I spent a few hours walking around the wildlife sanctuary before heading on to my next stop, Castlepoint Lighthouse. The cast iron lighthouse was built in 1913, and originally used oil and a wick and needed to be manned continuously. As technology evolved the lighthouse was converted to run a 1000 watt bulb off of a diesel generator in 1954, and subsequently converted to run off mains in 1961, with the diesel generator as a backup. The facility was fully automated in 1988. The views at Castlepoint were amazing!

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I was pretty hungry after climbing up to Castlepoint so I decided to have some lunch, some leftover spaghetti and meat sauce from last night. It was now about a two and a half hour drive towards Wellington, but I decided to break it up by stopping in Carleton to see more Art Deco, and Greytown to admire Victorian style architecture, as well as some Art Deco.

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I arrived in Wellington during rush hour, but surprisingly traffic wasn’t that bad. That’s thanks to their proper planning and use of public transportation. They have the highest usage rates of public transportation in all of New Zealand. I visited a camper dump station to drain and refill my water before finding a parking spot overlooking the beautiful southern coast. The night sky was perfectly clear so I even had the opportunity to do a long exposure shot of the milky way!

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August 29th 2016 – New Zealand Day 9

Today I woke up at 6:00am, without the help of an alarm. I guess I was done sleeping. I made myself breakfast and then started up my camper. It was a very cold morning today, at only 2 degrees Celsius. The camper sputtered to life, albeit a bit miserable. Even modern diesels are not the happiest at cold temperatures. I let the camper warm up a few minutes before taking off on my journey towards Napier.
The trip to Napier took about an hour and a half, covering approximately 130km. I was absolutely blown away by Napier. This was the highlight of my New Zealand trip so far! I love Art Deco architectural styling, and Napier happens to be the best preserved city on earth. In fact it is unofficially the Art Deco capital of the world! It was even nominated in 2007 to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but was denied due to it not meeting all the criteria. Also, Napier, is the twin sister city to Victoria, Canada, but I don’t quite see the resemblance.
Art Deco, also just known in short for Deco, is beautiful style that first appeared in France just before World War 1. It became very popular world wide in the 1920’s and 1930’s, seeing its influence in everything from architecture, cars, furniture, trains, and even ocean liners! Art Deco features geometric shapes, clear and precise lines, and decoration which is attached to the structure, but not part of the structural load bearing characteristics. Art Deco is often represented with luxury, and glamour, but its time came to an end at the brink of World War 2 because it was considered to ostentatious and fancy. World War 2 hit in full force and “Modern” style architecture took over. Art Deco and Mid Century Modern, the successor to “Modern” architecture are my two favorite architectural styles.
I walked around Napier for a few hours taking in all the Art Deco I could get my eyes on. I came across a pie shop and ordered a $4 chicken, cranberry, and cream cheese pie. It was the most delicious pie I’ve ever had in my life. The flavours just melt in your mouth, and one pie is quite filling.
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After my delightful visit in Napier it was time to move on to my next stop, Hastings, which was the twin and bigger sister to Napier. Hastings had a completely different feel to it. Napier had more industrial activity than Hastings, but it felt cuter and had a more cozy feel to it. Hastings had better examples of Art Deco in my opinion, but the city felt a bit cold and I was harassed by a bunch of homeless people, and hooligans hanging around a central park so that didn’t leave me with a good feeling about Hastings.
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After visiting Hastings I meandered my way along Highway 2 towards Wellington. I came across the main Tui brewery so I decided to stop and check it out. The brewery was closed due to being upgraded, but the bar area was still open. I tried a few samples, bought a growler of their brew master’s special, and toured their museum.
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I continued along my journey and found a really nice paid campsite with electricity for $10 in the town of Eketahuna. I setup my camper on a gravel pad in the middle of the huge camp ground next to an electrical pole. I stuck to the gravel because the ground was extremely saturated with water and I felt the weight of my camper would be too much that I would sink in. There were only three other campers besides me. I was hungry so I decided I would use my built-in BBQ to prepare some spaghetti and meat sauce, but the BBQ had some issues. The right burner nozzle was clogged, and the left burner was suffering from some performance issues. I brought the food inside and used the stove.
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The owner of the facility came down on his scooter at around 7:00pm to collect the $10 payment. We chatted for about ten minutes, before he went and collected payments from the other campers. The rest of the evening was spent working on my photo’s and my blog.
Tomorrow I’m heading towards Wellington. Check back tomorrow!
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August 28th 2016 – New Zealand Day 8

Today I struggled to wake up. I was pretty tired, so I guess I must not have had a good sleep. I woke up at 7:30am and had a lazy start. I made myself eggs, cheese, and ham on toast for breakfast, served with a cup of coffee.

My first stop today was Hells Gate, which I tried to visit yesterday. Hell’s Gate is a geothermal attraction that has the world’s largest mud volcano, the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere, and about 30 hot pools. It reminded me a lot of my trip to Iceland, but also in a different way. Iceland had pools that were more blue/green colour in hue, and these one’s were more black/yellow in colour. It all has to do with the amount of sulphur, and the type of effluent. I opted out on a mud bath because I was going to visit some other geothermal attractions, and wanted to save my money for those.

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After visiting Hells Gate I drove to the next geothermal attraction that I wanted to visit called Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Waimangu is the only geothermal system in the world whose surface activity can be traced down to an exact day, in this case June 10 1886. An extremely violent volcanic eruption occured, causing a series of craters and allowed geothermal fluid already present underground a direct passage to the surface of the earth. I took a one and a half hour walk through the valley and saw the beautiful Southern Crater, Frying Pan Lake, and Inferno Crater. Southern Crater was formed during the 1886 eruption and is about 50 metres deep. The crater isn’t active, and is thus a cold pool except for some warm ground and some small mud pools at its north-eastern end.

Frying Pan Lake was formed on April 1 1917 when Echo Crater erupted, causing a deep and enlarged crater that quickly accumulated water. The lake is fairly acidic, with an average pH level of 3.5, and is fairly hot reaching boiling temperatures at the surface of the lake. There is a small river that flows from the north-eastern side of the lake.

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My personal favorite was Inferno Crater, which is a pale blue lake that is highly acidic, with a pH level of 2.1, and a temperature of 80 degrees Celsius. The lake follows a complicated rhythmic cycle of shallow recessions occurring every few days, followed by deeper recessions at longer intervals. It’s common behaviour is to overflow for two to three days, recede about eight metres for about fifteen days, partially refill over three to four weeks, oscillate for a while, and then overflow again. White silica deposits make where the overflow level is.

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At the end of the walk a bus can pick you up, but the bus only runs every hour or so. I was lucky and arrived only a few minutes before a bus arrived.

After catching a bus to the top I was in need of some food because it was way past my lunch time. I had an apple and an orange, as well as a ham and cheese sandwich.

I wasn’t sure what to do next so I checked the GPS provided with my camper, as well as Google. I got quite a bit of information that interested me. My first stop was Ohaaki geothermal power station. I wasn’t allowed to enter, but I took some nice photo’s of the plant. When I was in Iceland you were allowed to have geothermal power plant tours at their power plants. I went on two with my father when I was there last year. Ohaaki is unique because it is the only power station of its kind in New Zealand, with a 105 metre tall natural draft cooling tower. The other power plants all use fan coolers, or water cooling. The power plant was originally constructed in 1989 and had a generating capacity of 104 MW, but over the years this has declined to 65 MW, due to a decline in the steam field. This is common with geothermal power plants. A way to mitigate this is to re-inject the effluent back into the ground when done with it, or to use a blended cycle co-generation, where smaller turbines run off intermediate and low pressures leftover after the main turbine has extracted what it can from the steam.

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My next stop was Aratiatia Rapids, which had a short five minute walk to a lookout to see the rapids. Technically the rapids are not always prevalent due to the dam constructed for the Aratiatia hydro-electric power station in 1964. The dam construction meant that no water flowed over the rapids, but several times per day the dam gates are opened which restores the rapids to normal operations. These rapids are also used by local companies for white water rafting.

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After visiting Aratiatia Rapids I headed towards Taupo Lake, which is where most of New Zealand’s geothermal power stations are located. I stopped at Wairakei geothermal power station and took a few photos. This is the largest geothermal power station in New Zealand at 161 MW. It uses all the latest technologies such as effluent re-injection, and blended cycle co-generation. I also took a photo of the bridge next to the power station, because I thought it looked nice.

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The last stop of the day was Haku Falls, which are fast and furious. While I was photographing the falls a jet boat was blazing around at the bottom with some pretty thrilled customers screaming and laughing.

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It was time to find a place to sleep for the night. I picked a great spot right in front of Taupo Lake on the north shore. I had a beautiful view of the sunset, a few hundred ducks as company, and even free wifi!

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August 27th 2016 – New Zealand Day 7

Today I woke up at 7:30am. For breakfast I made an egg skillet with a bunch of vegetables, served with coffee.

Today was a slow lazy drive down to Rotorua. I stopped along the side of the road for lunch before continuing on my way to Rotorua. My first stop was the Government Gardens where I spent a considerable time walking around and admiring the buildings.
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There was a path near the Government Gardens that followed along Lake a Rotorua that I took. The path followed the thermally active area on the south side and brought me to an area called Sulphur Point. The view was quite spectacular and reminded me a lot of my Iceland trip a few years ago. Iceland has a very special place in my heart and now New Zealand does too! I’m quite fascinated with geothermal activity!
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I continued along the path to a beautiful spot that had a lot of ducks and birds. They were very used to being around humans so didn’t mind getting up close. I got a few cute photos of them.
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After this I got back in my camper and drove to Okere falls. I did pass a sign on my right side for Hells Gate, which I planned on going to after, but more on that later.
Okere Falls had a few lookout points on what was about an hour return trip. My sister had gone on a white water raft down these very falls earlier on in the year when she visited New Zealand. The views were spectacular and the rafting looked like it would have been a lot of fun. I showed up too late in the day to do any rafting, but the views were still good. There was previously a hydroelectric power station here for Rotorua with an installed capacity of 200 kW. The power station was decommissioned in 1939. The river and falls are a very popular spot for white water rafting now!
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Further along the trail I came to some steps called Hinemoa’s Steps which led me down to Tutea’s Cave, where Maori women and children would make their way down by rope to hide out in times of war.
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I continued along the path to Trout Pool, which wasn’t all that exciting. It was time to head back to the camper! Upon getting back to the camper I decided I should investigate Hells Gate, but by the time I arrived I was told that I wouldn’t have enough time to view it and enjoy it. They told me to come back at 9:00am tomorrow.
It was now 5:00pm and time to find a parking spot. I found a quiet spot where only three campers were allowed to park in Rotorua. This area was the most most desirable spot because it was free and didn’t smell like sulphur like the majority of other spots.
My sister told me that Rotorua was a great place to get some really good savoury pies, so I went out in search of some, but sadly Rotorua seems to shut down after 5:00pm, except for the one block designated for night life. There was only very expensive  restaurants ($30-40 plates) open when I went searching. I took a pass, but instead prepared myself a really nice chuck steak with roasted garlic, and roasted vegetables. I had a nice 2011 bottle of Merlot to pair with it, and it was delicious!
Tomorrow I will explore Hells Gate, and more geothermal activity in the area, before heading to Lake Taupo!

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August 26th 2016 – New Zealand Day 6

Today I woke up at 8:00am. I was very tired because of having to move my camper in the middle of the night, and the constant wind. I prepared a smoked salmon with egg sandwich for breakfast before getting on the road.

My journey today took me along a nice and slow route along the Coromandel coast. The views were spectacular! I stopped in the town of Thames at a McDonald’s to download some more podcasts and to catch up with a few people, before slowly meandering my way along the coastline.
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I arrived at the town of Hahei, where I parked my camper and went on an hour return trip to Cathedral Cove. I ran into my friend Anne, who I’ve been hanging out with for the past few days, who was on the Kiwi Adventures tour of New Zealand! The archway at Cathedral Cove was amazing!
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I spent quite some time at Cathedral Cove before heading my way back to my camper. I then headed to Hot Water Beach, which is a naturally occurring geothermal area on a beach. Hot steam rises up through the sand and brings the water to a temperature of 45-60 degrees Celsius! I met a randomly family there with a shovel and helped them out. Within a half hour we had a pretty decent sized pool where we could all sit in and relax in the hot water. It was pretty amazing!
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The man of the family, Richard, invited me for some beers at his house at 8:30pm, and gave me the address. I had a shower, and worked on my blog until around 8:00pm and then went looking for his house, but was unable to find it. I kind of felt bad, but it was time to find a place to sleep. I drove a half hour south to a small little sleepy town called  Tairua. There was three other campers where I was, and I found a good spot and parked for the night.
BAM!!! My camper was hit by another vehicle at around 10:30pm when I was trying to sleep. By the time I had come to my senses the vehicle had taken off. My left rear  reflector was broken and the bumper pushed in a bit. I pushed the bumper back out, but the reflector will need to be replaced. I’ll look into this tomorrow because I don’t want the rental company to know about this.
Tomorrow I’m off to Rotorua, which is what I’ve been looking forward to for the whole New Zealand portion of my trip.

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