Zoo, Art Deco, and Geysers

After riding the ferry to Wellington last week, we spent a beautiful sunny day visiting the zoo in Wellington. This is not one of the usual tourist destinations – more of a local attraction. But, we had a wonderful time at the zoo. We had the opportunity to talk to zookeepers about some of the birds we saw in the South Island, we watched the very entertaining sun bears, we saw the red pandas (who are the models for the Firefox browser’s logo), and we especially enjoyed the tigers. They had two rare Sumatra tigers, one being the grandson (fully grown) of the other (female). The younger male was being a bit of a pain towards his grandmother, and she let him know to stop pissing her off. A tiger’s growl is very loud! We got to hear lots of them and watch some paw swatting that would have knocked a human many feet.

That afternoon, we started driving north. We decided to drive to Napier about 4 hours away. We had heard from our friends on Leu Cat that it was a very pleasant town situated in wine country, and with a unique attraction. The city was rebuilt after an earthquake in the 1930s, and is one of the few cities in the world almost entirely art deco. Karen really likes architectural details, and so we went. The weather the entire way was very nice and we arrived early enough to sit and relax in the sun at our campground. We opted to have dinner at a local restaurant rather than make something in the camp kitchen.

We were surprised when during the night it started raining. The weather had been so nice, I hadn’t checked. Sure enough, we were in for rain for the next few days. Fortunately, by the time we checked out of the campground it had stopped – but, still looked quite cloudy. We drove into town and bought a brochure walking guide. It rained off and on, but we managed to do a good percentage of the walk in a couple of hours. We also had lunch at a very nice cafe in town. Karen really enjoyed the architecture. I noticed an interesting store, which we browsed, that specialized in medieval weapons and related stuff (swords, armor, axes, dragon statues, etc.). We enjoy an occasional science fantasy book or movie, so we found it entertaining.

In the afternoon, we drove west up to Taupo – near Lake Taupo. This is the home to a lot of active geothermal attractions. We went to a place with active geysers and steaming cascades. It was interesting, but if you’ve been to Yellowstone Park in the US, you won’t find it very exciting or worth the $36 per person price. But, most attractions in New Zealand tend to be more expensive than you expect. I’m sure if you’ve never been to such a place, it would seem worth the money.

We expect heavier rain today, so we are going to take the day off from sightseeing and do laundry and Internet. Tomorrow we will do more sightseeing of the geothermal sights around Taupo. We have held off on visiting some of the many Lord of the Rings tourist attractions. But, we plan to stop in on Hobbiton – the sight where they built the Shire for the movie and currently a big tourist attraction. After that, we plan to make our way to Auckland and visit with friends in the area and do some shopping. We’ll probably be there by the weekend. Then, we’ll make the 2.5 hour drive to Whangarei and finally be back home – to Tahina!

I have had some challenges with Internet the last few days, so photos have been delayed. I hope to get photos up later today. UPDATE: Here are the photos:

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