Seizing Possibilities

Seizing Possibilities
Seizing Possibilities

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Japan-April's Desktop Calendar Wallpaper

After the earthquake, Japan has been on everyone’s mind.  They are still in a battle and under a crisis situation.  This month’s wallpaper is to keep it ever before us to remember them, especially families which have been fragmented by the events particularly children who are left as orphans or without a parent.
The wallpaper can also be found on flickr and facebook.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

City of Sails: Auckland and the Maori Experience in Aotearoa #Blog4NZ

We flew into Auckland in the afternoon with a bit of a flight delay but graciously the Maori were flexible and adjusted for our arrival to their Marae.  Upon our arrival a beautiful woman began the pƍwhiri or welcome call with her lovely voice and the flutter of her hand.  Later I learned her name was Mania, whom I have kept in touch via e-mail following my return to the states. 


Once inside the meeting house or wharenui we sat in traditional Maori seating with the men in front and women behind them.  This worked well for me because they allowed me to move about and take photographs during the time we were in the wharenui.  Here we met Bert who gave us the invocation and spoke briefly and then Mania spoke for short time.  The final portion of our learning and discovery was spent with Kingi who spoke very openly and honestly about the Maori culture and the difficulties of sustaining its traditions.  He was a wonderful liaison for the Maori people but not part of the iwi or tribe of this Marae.  It was a wonderful introduction to the Maori people.  
 After the question and answers they served us a wonderful lunch and we were able to speak a bit longer with our hosts.  Our Kiwi guide, Andrea found some common ground with the lovely Mania; two wonderful Kiwis who will always hold a special place in my heart!
Two Kiwis: Andrea and Mania
Later after arriving at our hotel we had our usual quick foot tour of the area of the city near our hotel, not all that far from the Sky Tower.  We could actually see the jumpers from the hotel bar area.  On our first steps outside the hotel there was a large bush or tree called Kowhai, generally regarded as Aotearoa, "the land of the long white cloud," or New Zealand’s national flower.  It was beautiful with lovely yellow blooms.

City of Sails
There would be a lot to see in this eclectic city of sails.

Indeed what we would be missing if we failed to sail in Auckland?!  No worries.  We set sail the following morning.  Down to the harbor where the Voyager yacht stands as a symbol to this city’s dedication to sailing we boarded the Challenger for a sail out into the harbor.  Sailing.  Drifting along.  Some in our group took to the helm, others of us just enjoyed the sail, and took photographs of course!



Glorious Day

The Harbour

After our sail we took a bus tour stopping at a park high on a hill overlooking the harbor and the city skyline and then The Domain, the sacred crater or  Pukekawa  where only the Maori are allowed to descend.    You can see their presence in the rocks piled near the bottom.  No one needed to descend to field the breathtaking view of Auckland from this city park.
Auckland-from the Domain

Maori Presence

 After our tour of some of the city we went to the Maori Museum where we saw many artifacts of the Maori culture and took in a presentation of song from a group of young Maori people.  It was wonderful and could not have been complete without the Haka!  If some of you are rugby fans, you would definitely have seen the All Blacks do this dance!  I bought a Kiwi that played the Haka home for my grandchildren and taught them how to be fierce in dancing the Haka.  It is still a favorite for them!!

Welcome Call

The Call of the Shell
Maori Museum Artifact
We decided to walk down to see a lovely fig tree that has been there for generations.  It’s a lovely BIG tree that was so impressive I couldn’t leave without stopping to take some photographs and experience it’s large roots!  
The Mighty Fig Tree

Roots of the Fig
We also walked across the street through a lovely park where again the people of New Zealand stopped for a friendly chat.  It showed great beauty, but then I am always up for a walk in a park!  On our way to find a bus stop the locals were all very helpful in getting us to our destination! 
A Bench for Pondering
Our time in New Zealand was far too short.  It was a tour that just brushed the surface of everything New Zealand has to offer.  Everything  but the Christchurch city center is open and there is so much to see!  From the South Island and its wonderfully breathtaking scenery to the eclectic make-up of Auckland and the Maori culture found primarily on the North Island, there is something that awaits you to explore; something for you no matter what your favorite vacation style might be, photography, adventure, relaxation, history, hiking, nature and culture.  This clean and ecologically conscious country is a treasure trove just waiting to be explored.   I would love to return.  There is so much more, perhaps living there for a while might be a better option!  I’ll leave you with the inscription that is carved in the Maori Museum in Auckland:

The whole earth is the sepulcher of famous men
They are commemorated not only by columns and inscriptions in their own country
But in foreign lands also by memorials graven not on stone
But on the hearts of men

As always more photographs of the Maori can be found on Flickr and Facebook and on Auckland on Flickr and Facebook.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Zealand: to Queenstown and Beyond #Blog4NZ

The Old Car

Our first stop on our way from Christchurch was the Tin Shed, a treasure trove of fine New Zealand wool and some fun reminders of days gone by; quite definitely it is also a fine place for photographs!  

Packing our treasures we traveled further toward Queenstown, our lunch stop was at Lake Tekapo, what a glorious day, clear and brilliant, the lake surrounded by mountains reflected in the water with the afternoon sun, just dip a toe, after all it is still winter here!  The scenery is purely dazzling, brilliant, stunning, impressive, striking!
Open Spaces


I wondered what would be around the next bend.  As a photographer it was all eye-candy to me and it was all simply delicious! 
Fall Reflections

Muted Pathway
Setting Sun Rays

Arriving late into Queenstown at our hotel we took our usual first day walking tour of the city.  9pm and the city was still bustling with people and activity.  I wondered if it ever slept!  After a little late night exploration we headed back to the hotel along the pathway  near the water, tomorrow was another adventure.  Rising early to catch the sunrise was the first order of business for me and I was grateful I made the right decision; the sunrise encapsulated the beauty of the surrounding mountain and lake with glorious colors and calm. I watched the city begin to wake and begin the activities of the day.  
Queenstown Sunrise


Remarkable Colors

Pretty in Pink
The Spinner
Walter's Peak
It was a day we were to travel by steam to Walter’s Peak Sheep Farm!  We walked to town early to see what shops and restaurants offered.  On the harbor we stopped to get some real Belgium hot dark chocolate!  Don’t miss this treat; it comes highly recommended from someone who does not usually drink hot chocolate!  Near the boat dock there was an outdoor market where I picked up a handmade merino wool ear muff band to keep my ears warm and watched a spinner spinning her yarn.

Who Me?

Shakin' the Dags-or not!
What a glorious day!  On the dock waiting to board was a lovely princess who was celebrating her birthday with a trip to Walter’s Peak Sheep Farm, what a lovely little tea party they had too! 
The trip to the farm was punctuated with beautiful mountains surrounding us and a lovely reflection to greet us.  Learning the sheep shearer’s life and settling for some tea and treats was all part of a learning experience and a wonderful day.
Garden Path
To bed early, for tomorrow was the “not to be missed” adventure long anticipated.  We arose well before dawn to board our bus and make the journey to Milford Sound, the area of the Hobbits.  Well, I didn’t notice any Hobbits but my breath was taken away with the magnificence of the journey.  It was a gray day at the start, cold and rainy.  We traveled through beautiful country and the clouds would break on occasion giving us hope for a beautiful day on the Sound.  One of our stops that day was at Mirror Lake, even without a glassy surface but speckled with droplets of rain, it reflected the surrounding beauty. 
Through the Window
Snow and the Winding Way
We were asked to hurry on; we didn’t quite understand the extent of it till we continued our ascent and found the rain had changed to snow! I was elated to experience snow in both hemispheres and to my delight this was a beautiful presentation of the mountains as we made our decent to the sound.   It was a wonderland and certainly made me question what could possibly top all this!  But then as we boarded our vessel to journey Milford Sound under the low clouds, I was prepared for disappointment.    
The boat wound its way through the mist as we headed toward the sea and as we broke around the first fiords we were met with sunshine and yes…rainbows!  Indeed this must be the land of the song “Somewhere over the Rainbow”.

Sound Beauty
Divergent paths
Thunderous Mist
We were informed there were more waterfalls this year than usual and were given some incredible amount I did not write down, but certainly saw everything from a trickle to a thunderous roaring waterfall; multiples and singles, some joining others creating a puzzle of water across the fiords.    

The only visible wildlife today were the seals as they sunbathed on a rock with the sun playing peek-a-boo in the clouds.  

Left with our thoughts to contemplate a day full of experiences the travel home was serene while we watched the wonder continue as a glorious setting sun and the changing colors of the sky brought our day to a close.
Cloud Brilliance

Mysterious Cloud

Evening's Close

As always you can view more photographs of the drive from Christchurch to Queenstown on flickr and facebook
and Queenstown and Walter's Peak on flickr and facebook and Milford Sound on flicker and facebook.

In tomorrow's post we go to Auckland and visit the Maori.