Category Archives: Travels

A month after I arrived home, I am finally making my final post from my grand trip to the Southern Hemisphere. What an amazing experience this was for me. I have gone up in hot air balloons, swam in the Great Barrier Reef, hiked through the worlds most ancient rainforest and up the side of a volcano, swam in natural hot water springs, visited countless amazing beaches, played with the bees, met unbelievable people and fostered new friendships. My pictures from the last 3 months on this blog are evidence to the lovely lands I have had the great fortune of visiting.  And even more spectacular than the landscape of Australia and New Zealand, are its people.

While I have so many more places on planet earth I would like to visit, I do not think I am done with Australia or New Zealand. I have so much more I want to see.  I never had a chance to visit the true Outback of Australia, and I want to go and hike through the Fiordland of New Zealand one day. For now, I will relive my journey through my images and memories.  Thank you to every individual who made my trip possible, from those at home, to my hosts and new friends throughout my trip. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

The above image is the very last one I took during my trip and is my last glimpse of  Hot Water Beach as we were walking away.  I did have one more day in New Zealand but did not take my camera with me.  We went to the worlds largest Polynesian markets.  It was great to get a little culture in before I had to go home.

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Since our big plans for the day got canceled due to bad weather, Star and I ended up hitch hiking the 45 min drive to and from Hot Water Beach.  It took two rides each way, so we were able to meet 4 different friendly kiwi’s and learn a bit about their life on the ride. “Thumbing it” as the locals call it, is pretty common in this area and when in pairs and using your intuition, it is fairly safe.  We loved it!

It was a quiet day when we finally arrived at the hot springs, with only two large spas dug out and about a dozen people. It was cold, windy and overcast, yet the hot water bubbling up to the surface made it well worth striping down and taking a dip.  I did not take many pictures here, because most of our time was spent getting to know the other travelers. The young lady on the far left of the picture below is from Switzerland.  She just happened to be our roommate that night, and took the long journey from our hostel to the beach via bike! Wow, I thought we were ambitious sticking our thumb out and getting rides from strangers.  She was so tired when she got back from her long bike ride that Star and I invited her to join us for dinner, and we ended up having a fantastic conversation with her that night. If I ever make it back to Switzerland, I will be visiting her!

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Our plans for the day were interrupted by the incoming storm and rough waters.  We were supposed to go out on a small boat and explore all the islands and coves via the water, but it had to be canceled. I had told Star about Hot Water Beach and she expressed some interest in going, but there was no public transportation that would take us the 45 minute drive down to the area.  So, we bravely set out on foot, hoping to get a ride from some friendly locals.  About 30 minutes into our walk we discovered quaint little Flaxmill Bay at low tide.  Like much of the coastline in this area, made out of soft limestone, Flaxmill had its own water carved rock that was simply amazing. We enjoyed our time in and around these rocks, and I had a field day taking panoramic photos.

I turn my back for one second and Star goes into my bag and sneaks a piece of chocolate…

Although it was low tide, we still had to cross some flowing rivers to get to the limestone rock.  I just took off my shoes and waded through the water while Star decided to leap across.  Nice form!

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It has been exactly one month since I arrived home in California, yet I still have more travels to share with you! The last 4 days of my journey to the Southern Hemisphere was spent with a good friend of mine named Star, whom also lives in Fresno and is like a sister to me. Since our time in this beautiful country was limited, I ended up taking Star back to The Coromandel Peninsula to show her the amazing coastal wonders that are abundant in this area.

Within 4 hours of Star’s arrival into the country, the two of us were on a bus taking another 5 hour journey to our destination, Whitianga. Needless to say that we went to bed early that night since she was exhausted… But early the next morning I was eager to wake Star up and go watch the sunrise.  I could hardly wait after my last sunrise experience earlier in the week, and this one certainly did not disappoint!  Our 6:30 am wake up time was well worth the effort and we were able to see the start of a glorious day right there at high tide on a beach piled with tens of thousands of shells! Magic.

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While I was up in the Bay of Islands in Northern New Zealand I had an unforgettable experience with a local beekeeper.  Earlier in my trip I heard about some incredible benefits of Active Manuka Honey produced from the nectar collected from New Zealand’s native Manuka bush.  So when I met Marcus at the Paihia farmers market in the Bay of Islands, selling his bio-dynamic Active Manuka Honey, I was eager to learn more.  I asked if I can join him on his typical day of beekeeping and he so generously accepted my request.

So 7:45 the next morning Marcus picked me up in his little white truck and we were off to see the bees. I must admit I was a bit scared at first, and eagerly put on the white suit he provided for me when we arrived at our destination.  The field where the hives were was surrounded by the newly blossoming Manuka bushes and the buzzing of happy bees was all around us. I was able to watch Marcus do his magic with the bees while he tended to his hives.

During our day together Marcus and I talked quite a bit about beekeeping, its ethics, and why Manuka Honey has so many medicinal qualities. He so gently cared for his bees and proved to be a true guardian (kaitiaki in Maori) to them.  He told me about how his healing honey has proven to be a treatment for wound infections and other sicknesses with its antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant qualities.

I was eager to take home a few jars and have my friends and family try it too, and everyone is enjoying it tremendously! I tried several different honeys while in New Zealand and not only does Marcus have the good ethics and the research showing his is “Active” with healing qualities, but his hands down tasted the BEST.  I will be ordering directly from him in the future when mine runs out, but if you want your own jars of his super Honey, email him directly at: ayamarcus@clear.net.nz

If I was a honey bee, I would want to be buzzing around the beautiful Bay of Islands with Marcus as my keeper!

While

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Living on the West Coast of the U.S. I have seen countless sunsets over the Pacific Ocean, yet I have never had the opportunity to watch the sunrise over the water. So while staying on Hahei Beach, on the Eastern Coast of New Zealand, I could not pass up the chance of watching dawn turn into day.  Angela and I stumbled out of bed and walked our few steps to the sand to witness a beautiful sight as the first hints of color began to glow on the horizon. The sun eventually rose up from the sea with the yellow glow of fire.

I felt so fortunate to be one of the first ones in the world to witness the dawn of this new day, all because of New Zealand’s close proximity to the international date line.

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Imagine, hot water springs rising to the surface of a beautiful beach right at the water line, allowing you to dig your own hot “spa” in the sand.  This perfect combination of circumstances comes together on Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel coast of New Zealand.

Angela and I panned our visit to this special beach around low tide, when we had the best access to the hot water springs.  There were at least 50 others that had the same idea on that particular day.  We all brought our spades and togs (shovels and swimsuits) and found our special little spot in the sand.  I loved soaking in the hot water so much that Angela had to force me out of our spa! Here are a few images I took while cooling down in the surf.  Many of the visitors had already left at this point because the tide was on it’s way in, flooding the spas with cool sea water every few minutes.

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While staying in the rainforest in the tropical north of Australia, I had the opportunity to taste some very strange and quite yummy exotic fruit.  This one fruit tasting gave me the curiosity and bravery to try any other unknown fruit I happen to stumble across in the markets.  Right before driving west to the Coromandel I decided I would get a sample of all the unusual fruits I could find to bring with us so we can do our own fruit tasting on the beach.  It was in Cathedral Cove that I brought our bounty of interesting fruits with us.

We sampled a plain tasting orange melon called Pawpaw, my personal favorite the little purple wrinkled passion fruit, and the green sour and strong flavored feijoa, tamirillo also known as the tree tomato, and the horned melon that tasted like a strange cucumber called kiwano. They were not all keepers in my book, but I sure do wish I could get my hands on more feijoa and passion fruits. Does anyone know if I can get them here in Cali?

As a side note, when I was in Whole Foods market getting some essentials the other day, I ran into another strange fruit that I had to try.  The produce guy let myself and a few other curious shoppers taste the little lyche with its sweet white transparent flesh. I hope I keep my adventurous attitude towards new foods that come my way!

Oh and before I forget, the first image was a retro “New Zealand Dept of Health” signage that was on display at Te Papa museum in Wellington. I loved it so much that I photographed it so I can display it at home on my refrigerator.

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My final trip with Angela was well spent on the Coromandel Peninsula. New Zealand has demonstrated to me time and time again her awesome beauty, and once I set eyes on limestone cliffs of Cathedral Cove I was yet again in awe.

The hike to get to the cove was close to an hour long, but mostly downhill.  As we were going down we passed many people huffing and puffing going up and I was getting a little worried… As we continued our hike I finally asked someone coming up if it was worth it, and they enthusiastically affirmed my efforts. They were absolutely right, and we spent the afternoon at this secluded little beach eating exotic fruits, playing under a water fall, and even running through the cave despite all the caution signs warning us about the falling rock.  Although our hike back up took all the effort I could muster, it was not as bad as I anticipated, and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset once we got to the top!

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Angela pulled off of the road on the way back to Wellington to show me a beautiful park in the area.  We ended up making friends with a herd of young bovines.  One of them got so friendly with Angela that she got slimed. It made for a fun little memory of our trip to her hometown, and I was happy to get some of it captured for future laughs.

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