THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

November 5, 2009 by none;
Filed under AFRICA, MOROCCO

MOROCCO

If you decide on going to Morocco then it’s a good idea to learn some French. It’s the second language of the country and goes back to when France invaded back in 1912.  Morocco got its independence back in 1956. From Rabat north to Fez is green and when I was there many of the wheat crops had been harvested. There were acres and acres of it but my host told me that is it not high yielding most years because of lack of rain. Did make for great photos though.

RABAT.

I stayed in Sale. The capital of Morocco is Rabat and is separated from Sale by a river. There is huge changes happening in Rabat with a tram system being put through the centre of the city going all the way into Sale and there is construction of apartment blocks going from the sea all the way into a new mariner. This will certainly be something to see when completed. In Rabat there are the ancient ruins of Chellah, Le Tour Hassan with the remains of an ancient mosque, and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.
The Palace in Rabat has an impressive wall surrounding it and you cannot enter. The king has five palaces in Morocco. The walled Medina is great. Stroll through here and have a coffee. You can shop for carpets, crafts, DVDs or shoes. Wander down along the river and sit watching the boats ferry people across the river just as they did hundreds of years ago. There are cafes all along here so join the relaxed atmosphere of Rabat and do what the locals do. Taking of coffee, as my Moroccan friend calls it, can take an hour.
There are taxis everywhere and the smaller ones are used when there is only 2-3 people and the bigger ones for 3-5 people. There are museums and galleries to visit and Rabat has one McDonalds that I saw. I found that Moroccan food has good taste, in fact I thought it tasted as good as NZ. There is plenty variety of fruit and vegetables, and so many shops that sell cakes and sweets. But I now hate almonds. It seemed to be on or in everything. Almond oil, almond shavings, almond flavour in this, in that, in everything. All in all Rabat is modern and enjoyable with good hotels and it attracts its fair share of tourists.

CASABLANCA

In Casablanca the one thing never to miss is the Hassan II Mosque. Built at a cost of US$1Billion it is huge. Built right on the sea and with the minaret towering to 210mts. Marble and mosaic tiles of greens and blues. It is the worlds 3rd largest mosque and the largest in Morocco. There are visitor’s tours every day which is not short of tourist from all over the world wanting to do. You are allowed to takes photos all through the tour no matter what area you are in. Many of my friends have marvelled at my photographs. This was a great few hours and so worth seeing. It has caused controversy in Morocco because of the cost but my friend I stayed with thinks it was worth the price. Many of the locals go there every day to worship. The worshipers can be viewed through a glass floor.

Check out Lonely Planet’s website for all the statistics on this awesome structure. Casablanca itself is a little dirty but I think it seemed more so because of all the old crumbling buildings. There is alot of Art Deco influence in the city. The shops do have very fashionable clothing, shoes and hardware. The young girls and teenagers where certainly into fashion, in fact many young girls and boys smoke. Don’t forget to take a trip down to harbour.  Head to Central Market for lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and grab yourself a deal as you hunt amongst the many stalls.

FEZ

Fez is very hot being inland and very busy. Tour buses trying to squeeze down narrow streets and people and donkeys. Get the money out and spend if you have some way of getting it home. Apart from the very favourable exchange rate there are the carpets to die for. I love them with there amazing designs and colours.

Old Fez is the largest medieval Islamic city in the world and nothing looks like it has changed from when it was first created. This was until I went into a little museum in the heart of the medina and went out on the roof. It is a maze of satellite dishes and nearly everyone has the ‘cell phone’. It just seems so odd when down in the narrow streets there are the donkeys and mules hauling the produce from a to b. You can shop for everyone within walls of the medina as there is no lack of shoes, clothing, souvenirs, and the unusual to buy. The lighting shops are amazing. Set aside 3-4hrs as you will find yourself stopping every few steps.

Ingrids Travel Tips for Morocco

1) Have the address of where you are staying ready to fill in on your immigration form but also when you leave the country. You have to put the address of where you stayed when leaving which I didn’t have on me so just wrote out what I could remember of it. They do get annoyed if you don’t fill it in.

2) Make a point of visiting Rabat. It is having a major makeover and I found it a very relaxing place to stay and with lots of interesting history and things to see.

3) Try chous chous if you haven’t before. In fact try all the Moroccan food you can as it has great flavours.

4) It would be best to go with someone who can speak French or if you are lucky enough to have friend living there then you can experience Morocco in an exceptional way. I did not come across many Moroccans that spoke English other than the guides at the mosque and some of the stall owners in the Fez Medina.

5) Take the trains here as they aren’t too bad, better than Italy and faster and the easy way to get from city to city.

6) Respect this country’s customs. Public affection is frowned upon.

7) Stay at a hotel if you have had enough of hostels. The prices are very good and the exchange rate helps.

8) ATMs are easy to find but take cash if heading to very small towns and villages as they are few and far between out there.

9) If there are only two of you waiting for a taxi and they keep driving past you are probably trying to flag down a bigger sedan vehicle, wait for a smaller one.

 

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OCEANIA

November 5, 2009 by none;
Filed under NEW ZEALAND, OCEANIA

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NEW ZEALAND

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AOTEAROA, land of the Long White Cloud. This is my homeland. It’s the land of outdoor activities and we are famous for the ALL BLACKS. (Our national rugby team). I liken NZ to Canada but on a much smaller scale. Mountains, lakes, fishing, diving, skiing, bungy-jumping, sky-diving….. Whatever outdoor extreme sport you wish to participate in you will find it in this country. We are jammed packed with so much to do and see in each region that I am not going to attempt to put it all in. Auckland will be your first introduction to this country unless you have come from Australia in which case you can fly into Wellington, Christchurch or Queenstown.

Northland. Attractions here are in abundance. These include Kerikeri, Bay of Islands, Dargaville, Doubtless Bay, Far North, Kaitaia and Ahipara, Mangawhai and Mangawhai Heads, Mangonui, Oakura Bay and Whangaruru Harbour, Tutukaka, Waipu and Waipu Cove, West Coast Whangarei, Whangaroa Harbour, Opua, Paihia and Russell. There is adventure, arts and culture, heritage, history, retreats, museums and art galleries, nature and eco tourism, tramping and guided walks, fishing ………

You can visit the Kauri Museum at Matakohe and see a giant kauri tree north of Dargaville called Tane Mahuta in the Waipoua Forest. Go to Ninety Mile Beach and the Kaiiwi Lakes. Catch a ferry from Rawene to Rangiora or dive the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior which is north of Kerikeri in the Cavalli Island.

Auckland has two huge harbours enfolding an environment that’s alive with cultural excitement and sea-flavoured challenges. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city. Highlights include Great Barrier Island, Hibiscus Coast, Matakana Coast, Waiheke Island, Warkworth, North Shore, the Waitakere Ranges and North West wine district. Musuems, art, cafes and the Viaduct Basin. Catch a ferry to Waiheke or Great Barrier Island or over to Davenport. There’s loads of interesting things to do and see in Auckland and the surrounding area.

Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, and Waikato. All these provinces have beaches, walking and hiking areas and a major city or large town. There are places like Ohope Beach and Hot Water Beach where you can take a shovel and dig a hole on the beach and wait for it to fill with hot water. If it gets to hot just run into the surf for your butt to cool off. Swim, fish, hike, surf or look in the antique shops of places like Thames or Paeroa. Don’t forget a visit to Tauranga and Mt Manganui. Beautiful beaches here to.

Rotorua. Explore Rotorua’s geothermal areas and discover the unique culture of New Zealand’s Maori people. Rotorua is NZs cultural capital and highlights in this region include Mount Tarawera, Whakarewarewa Forest and Geyser, Ohinemutu and the many geothermal locations. There is another hot water beach on Lake Tarawera and if you are lucky enough to catch a trout it can be gutted, seasoned, wrapped in tin foil and put in the sand, covered over then come back in less than an hour and eaten. Go to a tourist information office to hire a guide and boat and head to Lake Tarawera and give it a try.

Taupo. It’s on the shore of our biggest lake and with places to go that look like lunar landscapes. Your starting point to see this landscape is Craters of the Moon. Visit Huka Falls and take a jet boat ride. Highlights include Turangi the North Island’s trout fishing capital, Tongariro National Park and Orakei Korako Geyserland. Hot Pools and Health Spas, Gardens, Maori Culture, Retreats, mountain biking, museums and art galleries, nature, scenic flights, sky-diving, charter boats and sailing, English language schools, festivals, skiing and snowboarding at nearby Mt Ruapehu, golf, shopping and tramping or hiking.…… At the end of the day there are hot pools to soak in at De Bretts and some great restaurants. Taupo has camping grounds and so do most of the small towns in the bays around the lake.

Taihape has NZs highest bungy at Gravity Canyon.

Eastland is a wild and enchanting place full of ancient stories. Catch the first sunrise of the world’s new day and explore a coast that few people know well. The Eastland region includes Gisborne, Te Araroa, Ruatoria and East Cape (the easternmost point of the main islands of New Zealand). Lovely beaches over this way! There are the remains of old wharfs and buildings. Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay and its fantastic little hostel called Footprints in the Sand sort of sums up the whole region. Fish, swim, surf, have a bbq and beers, this is the no problem, no rush region of NZ. You can bike, hike, take a tour to the Mahia Peninsula or go to the East Cape Lighthouse. I love it up this way.

Taranaki, Ruapehu, Wanganui and Hawkes Bay. Ruapehu region has the mountains of Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro, and Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Taranaki. Wanganui has the Wanganui River and a road connecting you to Raetihi. Hawkes Bay is one of the best regions for fruit and wines with concerts held in the vineyards. NZs Dame Keri Te Kanawa has performed in one of the vineyards over here. The city of this region is Napier. It has been called our Art Deco capital.

Wairarapa. This region also has lots of vineyards and orchards. The biggest town is Masterton. Another town called Martinborough has a great fair every year that attracts lots of people. Right out on the coast is Castlepoint. It’s another of NZs best known surfing spots along with Gisborne and Raglan.

Wellington. This is the capital city of NZ. Houses built on the hills that overlook the harbour. Te Papa, our national museum is here. Wellington has a great lookout spot from Mt Victoria and many people know of the cable car. The World Rugby Sevens teams visit here every year for the first weekend of February. This is a must to go to if you are going to be in NZ at that time of the year. Dress up and get along. It’s the biggest party and oh is it so much fun. From Wellington you can catch the interislander ferry to Picton at the top of the South Island.

Marlborough region. Marlborough wines are known throughout the world. They can even be purchased in the Sainsbury supermarkets in England. Main centres include Blenheim, Picton, Havelock, Renwick, Blenheim, Wairau Valley, Seddon and Kekerengu. Fantastic scenery, wine and tranquil countryside and the Marlborough Sounds for that all important fishing.

Nelson. I love it here to. Nice beaches, orchards and wineries. Nelson has great summer weather and beautiful lakes. Towns include Motueka, Takaka, Abel Tasman National Park, Brightwater, Golden Bay, Kaiteriteri and Murchison. The sand in Golden Bay really is a golden colour. You will also find here the world renounded Heaphy Track. This region has numerous other activities and sights.

West Coast of the South island is rugged with mountainous landscapes and rivers, icy glaciers and coastal formations. Main centres include Westport, Greymouth, Hokitika, Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier and Haast. There are hiking trails such as the Greenstone Trail. Go through limestone canyons, see mountain hot pools and the Punakaiki Rocks. Canterbury – Kaikoura region has the city of Christchurch but the town of Kaikoura is just as interesting with its famous crayfish and whale-watching. You can swim with dolphins and see fur seals. Also worth visiting are Amberley and Leithfield, Arthurs Pass, Cheviot, Darfield, Fairlie, Geraldine, Hanmer Springs, Kaiapoi, Kaikoura, Lake Tekapo, Methven the rocks. Other places and Mt Hutt, Mt Lyford, Mt Somers, Oxford, Peel Forest, Pleasant Point, Rakaia, Rangiora Springfield and Great Alpine Highway, Temuka, Timaru, Twizel, Waimate. Temuka is known for its pottery and Hamner Springs for hot pools.  Take a hot air balloon ride or scenic flight.

Mt Aoraki (Mt Cook) and the MacKenzie area has out highest mountain in the spectacle Southern Alps. The Mackenzie country is an inland basin at the bottom of the Southern Alps. Main centres include Fairlie, Lake Tekapo, Aoraki/Mt Cook and Twizel. In this region you can take a spectacular and unforgettable scenic flight of the Mount Cook and Westland World Heritage Parks.  Depart hourly from Lake Tekapo, Glentanner Park and Franz Josef on modern, well equipped aircraft. Involve yourself in hiking and tramping or skiing. Wanaka, Queenstown and Otago has just as many exciting activities to keep the family busy for days. Lakes, ski fields, bungy-jumping, scenic flights, mountain-biking, wineries, Otagos gold rush history, Omarama hot pools, museums and galleries, water sports, tramping, shopping,……..

Places to see here and towns to visit include Central Otago, Clutha and Balclutha, Kurow, Middlemarch, Milton, North Catlins, Oamaru, Omarama, Palmerston, Tapanui, Dunedin, Alexandra, Cromwell, Ranfurly and Roxburgh. Queenstown is the Southern Hemisphere’s premiere four seasons alpine and lake resort nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. This region is beautiful to see in the autumn when the leaves change colour to reds and golds. Clear days and snow covered mountains – you will get some fantastic photos. Summer sees some of the highest temperatures in NZ.

Queenstown is the home of bungy-jumping. Yes this is where the world-wide bungy crazy started. Don’t miss out on such things as jet boating, white water rafting and parapenting. On Lake Wakatipu, the vintage TSS Earnslaw steamer has been beautifully restored to its original condition and takes visitors on daily trips. Keen golfers shouldn’t miss out on an opportunity to play some of the most scenic courses in the world, at award-winning Millbrook Resort, Kelvin Heights, Arrowtown and Frankton. The area has great rainbow trout, brown trout and quinnat salmon fishing. Join one of the wine tours to Gibbston Valley, or don’t miss historical Arrowtown with its quaint, tree-lined streets, miners’ cottages and shops preserved as they were during the 19th century gold rush era, just a 20 minute drive away.

Dunedin is NZs oldest city with such highlights as Larnach Castle, Speights Brewery, Otago Museum and penguin colony. This city is well known for its Edwardian and Victorian architecture. Visits to see the worlds rarest penguins, the only mainland royal albatross breeding colony and rare NZ sea lions are possible to do from Dunedin. And if you want to see and walk the worlds steepest street then Baldwin Street is where you need to go.

Fiordland is a most enchanting region with rainforests, snow capped mountains, the Fiordland Sounds, lakes……This region incorporates Doubtful Sound, Te Anau and Milford Sound. The road to Milford Sound is considered to be one of the world’s finest alpine drives and Fiordland has achieved World Heritage status. Often called the Sightseeing and Walking Capital of the world because of the now world famous Milford, Kepler, Hollyford and Routeburn Tracks. You can sea kayak, dive, fish, hunt or see this huge and fantastic region by air also. In Te Anau local attractions include fishing, golf, 4WD (four-wheel driving), motorbikes, hunting and cave exploring.

In beautiful green Southland you have the luxury of time.  Main centres in Southland include Catlins, Gore, Invercargill, Bluff and Stewart Island. Museums and art galleries, nature and eco tourism, scenic flights, sightseeing, surfing and water sports, tramping, hiking and guided walks, sailing, zoos and wildlife parks or just uncover more of Southlands history. Bluff is a major town for our famous Bluff Oysters.

New Zealand Tourism Guide< click on this logo for a more comprehensive guide to NZ travel.

INGRIDS TRAVEL TIPS FOR NEW ZEALAND

1) Your best bet for travelling in NZ is to hire a vehicle. There are so many things to see and all our towns are fairly close together.

2) Dont leave valuables in the car. Lock them in the boot well ot of sight. Unfortunately people like to steal from rental cars in NZ.

3) It is compulsery for all persons in a vehicle to wear their seat belts. Fines can be substantial so use them.

4) It is also illegal to talk on a cell-phone while driving. Again the fines are big $$$.

5) Remember we drive on the left-hand side of the road but if you come all this way to NZ its worth staying for at least a month and seeing all of it. Lets face it when are you going to get back down this way again.

6) ATMs are not a problem to find.

7) If you get lost then just ask for help. Most people are only to willing to point you in the right direction. The local gas station is usually the best place to ask and they will have road maps also.

8) If you want to eat out but dont have a lot of money the Cobb and Co. chain of resturants are great value and you get a good size serving.

9) Want a bottle of wine for a picnic or bbq then go to local supermarket. The wine and beer range is good and cheaper than a liquor store.

10) The water is fine to drink in NZ so dont waste money buying bottled water.

I love this hostel on the East Coast of the North Island and I think you will to. You can book through www.hostelbookers.com

The hostel is under Tokomaru Bay and the name is  Footprints in the Sand and your host is Sean Allen. He’s  the one pointing in the photo. Or here is a direct link; www.footprintsinthesand.co.nz

Tokomaru Bay East Coast

MT Ruapehu

Edgecombe hydro dam lake

Beautiful place to have a church.