Top
Guestbook
The Back Road Web Links
Follow Me On
Search
The Woman in White Marble

{Click Marble or visit Books in the main menu}

Welcome to our travel blog, What We've Seen.

We began our travel blog late 2014 in anticipation of our one-year world trip, the idea was to keep in touch with our friends, colleagues,
and relatives who stayed behind.

By following our blog they would know that we’re ok and where we presently were. At the same time, we noticed it’s a fun way to keep track of our adventures, and relive some of our favourite moments. Memory does get kind of crowded with all the new impressions crashing in every day, so it’s a good way to keep all those new memories alive.

You can also follow us on :

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
And our own website Things We’ve Seen 

We would be thrilled :)

Tuesday
Mar212017

Anja and Henry were last in Rotorua and and Sulphur Lake in Government Gardens in To Hell and Back - Rotorua. This week they have moved on to Taupo in Next Stop Taupo. The write:

We spent the next two nights in Taupo. Mainly because of the free camp site we found: Reid’s Farm, beautifully located directly at the shore of the Waikato River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent the days walking around the town, hiking along the river and to the famous Huka Falls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, McDonald’s is an attraction in Taupo, too. They’ve built a dining room inside an old airplane.

Find out more click here.

Copyright © 2017 John Henry James

Saturday
Mar042017

To Hell and Back – Rotorua

We arrived late Saturday evening on a campsite next to an aerodrome, the starting point  for scenic and skydiving flights. We sort of crashed the campsites owner’s birthday party. A good time to arrive, he was already a bit tipsy and in a real good mood, so we got laundry service for free.

The next morning it started raining again as soon as we got on our way. We originally wanted to take the tour through Hobbiton, but that’s something you should definitely do in sunshine. So we drove to Rotorua instead (we’ll stop at Hobbiton on our way back then) to watch the geothermal activity sites, which were supposed to be especially impressive during rain. It didn’t rain anymore when we arrived and after a view hours it actually got sunny. We decided to stay for the night and have a closer look at the town.

Rotorura MuseumIt’s nice to look at, all these natural hot lakes und bubbling mud pools in Kuriau Park, and it’s free (that’s something you really learn to appreciate in New Zealand…)

Me, Henry having a natural hot foot bath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The yellow – orange – brownish colours at the lakes’ shore and the mist make it look almost surreal, like you’re in a different world. Like Mordor, I guess. The downside, it smells quite badly, like rotten eggs. 

Anja, enjoying the „fresh“ air at Kurios Park, Rotorua… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anja, enjoying the „fresh“ air at Kurios Park, Rotorua…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basically everywhere in the town. In the evening we had dinner at a pizza place called „Hell“, which we thought to be appropriate. Not for the pizzas (they were ok, not bad; still, we’ve had better…), but for the overall setting.

For more pictures from Rotorua and Sulphur Lake in Government Gardens follow the link here.

Copyright © 2017 John Henry James

Tuesday
Dec202016

Whale Watching in Samana Bay

Hi, 

We would like to share a truly amazing experience with you, one of the most amazing things on our journey: We went whale watching in Samana Bay.

Every winter, around 1000 humpback whales travel to Samana Bay to mate and bring up their calves. 

This place is apparently one of the best in the world to watch these huge animals in their natural surroundings. We went on a vessel with Kim Beddal, number one expert on humpback whales in the Dominican Republic. She started the whole whale watching business here in the 1980s. And we weren’t disappointed.

We saw a lot of action, the first whale we followed was a pretty young, small one, coming up to get some air every few minutes.

 

Next we saw a bigger one who even did some jumps for us. Henry managed to get some nice pictures of this one. In the meantime, two traditional fishers in a rowing boat tried to escape the scene.

 

The highlight was a small group of three whales we encountered at the end of our excursion: Two males were fighting for their right to escort a female, according to Kim the “first reproductive activity seen this season”. They didn’t care for the boats around and came quite close – Henry got a few nice shots of them as well.

One came straight in our direction but dived underneath us just before getting to the boat. Exciting… 

It’s absolutely stunning to see these giants in action so close. If you ever get anywhere where you can engage in whale watching – do so! Whale watching also plays an important role in the fight against whale hunting by teaching people that you don’t have to hunt whales to get an economic advantage from them. 

But please inform yourself as to responsible whale watching tours. Some tours boats don’t keep the recommended distance and stress the whales. Probably still better than killing them, but in the long run just as bad.

We hope You enjoyed  this brief look into whale watching in Samana.

With Christmas coming up, we hope you have a wonderful time and a great start into 2017

Anja and Henry 

Copyright © 2016 John Henry James

Monday
Oct312016

Fiji - Welcome To Paradise

 

 

We visited two of the remote Yukawa Islands. The first three nights we spent on Wayalailai, a two hour ferry ride from Nadi. A small motorboat picked us up from the ferry and brought us to the beach, where our accommodation was located. We were greeted with singing and lots of friendly „Bula!“s, which would follow us through our whole stay in Fiji. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stayed in a small backpackers’ resort, where we got a bure right next to the beach. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The days were basically structured by the mealtimes, which would be announced by the beat of the Lali, a wooden drum: Breakfast at 7:30, lunch at 12 and dinner at 7. There was also a tea time around 3, or 3:30 (Fiji time, so you never really knew when exactly when). Something the British obviously had successfully implemented… After dinner the staff usually did some kind of performance, singing or dancing, which would always end with the guests having to join in and / or drinking Kava with them, a traditional Fijian drink made of a root that is powdered and then mixed with water. It is supposed to have a relaxing, slightly numbing effect, but we never noticed anything, apart from a slight tickle and numbness of the tongue. It also tasted quite weird, but we drank it anyway, out of courtesy.

 

 

 

 

We passed the daytimes by playing volleyball (never stood a chance when the locals joined in), hanging around in hammocks, or going for walks on the beach – only short walks, since the beach was not very long, you could walk maybe two minutes to the left and ten minutes to the right. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But that didn’t really matter. We met a lot of different backpackers who travelled long-term like we did, so we got a lot of ideas where to go and what to do for our upcoming destinations, and made some new friends. It was the perfect location to get used to doing nothing and enjoying a peaceful laziness.

The highlight of our time there was a snorkelling trip to a reef around 20 minutes from the island, where we encountered some reef sharks. They were quite tame and came really close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The small but very cosy bures (Fijian for straw and wood huts) we stayed in…

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Angry Birds ? We’ll not really, friendly and relaxed like everything around here, including the sharks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relaxing evening at the beach after hard day of relaxing in the sun. Yep, thats Fiji... 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After three nights we boarded the ferry again, to head north to the island Nacula. The Goodbye at Wayalailai was like the Welcome, music and singing, while the motorboat brought us back to the ferry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


We had booked the next three nights in a similar resort, the northernmost one in the Yasawa island group, another two and a half hours ferry ride. You could say, it was same same but different. Three meals a day (though breakfast was scheduled at 8 and there was no teatime), sun, hammocks. No volleyball, but a nicer and longer beach to walk on. 

 

 

 


 

 

 

We met more great people, drank more Kava (starting to get used to the taste). On Sunday we even took part in a very nice church service and saw some of the local village.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

The next day we finally made it to the top of „Mount Doom“ (getting there felt like it, from the beach it looked more like a small hill), after getting lost in the jungle on our first attempt, where we went without a local guide to accompany us. The second time we were guided by Jack, a boy of maybe 12 years, and his dog Mike. From the top of the mountain, we had a great view of the island and the surroundings. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had really gotten into „Fiji mode“ when it was time to head back to Nadi and then on to Auckland. All in all, we had a great time on both islands and will miss the sun, the perfect beaches, the people and even the kava (a little bit). The „Bula-song“ however is going to stay with us for a while.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

We really miss Fiji …

 

Saturday
Oct152016

Meanwhile, in the Shire…

“I should like to save the Shire, if I could – though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don’t feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

– Frodo Baggins

 

“Hobbits have been living and farming in the four Farthings of the Shire for many hundreds of years, quite content to ignore and be ignored by the world of the Big Folk. Middle-earth being, after all, full of strange creatures beyond count, Hobbits must seem of little importance, being neither renowned as great warriors, or counted among the very wise.

In fact, it has been remarked by some that Hobbits only real passion is for food. A rather unfair observation, as we have also developed a keen interest in the brewing of ales, and the smoking of pipe-weed. But where our hearts truly lie is in peace and quiet and good-tilled earth. For all Hobbits share a love of things that grow.

And yes, no doubt to others, our ways seem quaint. But today of all days, it is brought home to me: It is not bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”

– Bilbo Baggins

 

 

You can easily see why Peter Jackson chose this place as the setting for Hobbiton. Located at the back of a sheep farm, hidden from the rest of the world, lies this beautiful piece of land, actually the hole farm is pretty spectacular. The Hobbiton-Set is really what you see in the movies, starting with the „Hobbit“, the set from “Lord of the Rings” was mostly torn down again. The farm owner made it a condition for Peter Jackson to build the set with durable materials if he wanted to use his land for the „Hobbit“ again, so he did.

We didn’t have the best weather during our tour, but that didn’t matter at all. At least it wasn’t raining and we learned some fun facts, had a great afternoon, including some drinks and food in the Green Dragon. There is not really much to say about Hobbiton, It’s more of a visual experiance.

If you like “Lord of the Rings” we think it’s a must see.

 

If you would like to experience Hobbiton you will need to book a tour, unfortunately you can’t go on your own. 

There will be a guide showing you around, which is actually very interesting. A little alone time after the tour to explore would have been great but we do understand that this would be difficult. For obvious reasons like stealing souvenirs, trampling on things and getting in the way of other groups. 

Tours start at $0 for kids up to 8 years of age, $39 for the youth 9-16 years and $79 for the young at heart ;) Prices are NZD in 2016. 

We started our tour from The Shire’s Ticket Center in Matamata, from where a bus took us to our destination, and later brought us back again.

While not exactly cheap, we did enjoy the Hobbiton experience. 

For more pictures and more on New Zealand please visit our blog: Things We’ve Seen.

We Hope you enjoyed our short visit to Hobbiton :)

Anja & Henry

Copyright © 2016 John Henry James