Friday, May 10, 2013

Fraser's Hill & Bukit Tinggi 29 April - 3 May 2013

As we had not been to Fraser's or Bukit Tinggi for almost a year, we headed north in our VW Golf, with its smaller turbocharged engine and found it as comfortable as our previous SUV. A 6 hour drive and we arrived at The Gap and stopped to check if any birds, but it was all quiet.
Blue Nuthatch
Rufous-browed Flycatcher
After check-in at the Shahzan Inn we went for a recce of the Telecom Loop, and later drove over to Jelai. We found that Jelai had closed.
Next morning we had an unpleasant surprise waiting for us, a flat tyre, not a good start!
Fortunately a quick call to our friend Durei and Mr Amin arrived on his scooter to assist. He advised a trip to Raub to get the tyre repaired, as there are no facilities in Fraser's.
After changing for the spare we continued birding before heading to Raub for lunch. At Goh Tyre they had the tyre fixed in no time, we were very impressed with the service and price (RM20). The cause of the flat was a new shiny screw through the tread?
Back in Fraser's we continued our birding and got some nice birds at the Telecom Loop. Another morning of birding gave us 30 species over the 2½ days.
On 3rd day we left for Bukit Tinggi and checked into the The Colmar Tropicale. We did not have much daylight left and a quick trip up the Organic Farm road was all we managed.
Early the next morning we were at the Japanese Garden carpark. The Silver-breasted Broadbill was still nesting near the carpark. In the garden we met Zaidi, an assistant gardener with 7 years there and an interest in birds. He was kind enough to show us some of his more interesting finds. With his help we spotted the Red-bearded Bee-eater, the Banded Kingfisher nesting and a pair of Whiskered Treeswifts also nesting, on a small tree along the side of the road. We saw 16 species including the Rhinoceros Hornbill.

Silver-breasted Broadbill
Orange-breasted Trogon
Banded Kingfisher
Black-and-yellow Broadbill
Rhinoceros Hornbill
On the way back home we drove by the Janda Baik area with its camping areas and eco resorts. It was a good trip even allowing for the puncture and definitely proved the fuel efficiency of our new car.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

North Island New Zealand - April 2013

We had been meaning to visit New Zealand with our friends Philip and Nariko for quite a while and this time we made it! We spent almost 2 weeks driving around the North Island. We arrived at Auckland airport at almost midnight and were met by Phil and Nariko. Overnighted at the airport hotel and next morning we headed north towards Paihia in our RAV4 that Phil had arranged. We stopped by the Kauri Museum and learned about the "Gum Digging in the 19th century".
In Paihia we stayed 2 nights in a, very well equipped, 2 bedroom apartment almost on the beach. We strolled the beaches had dinner over the sea and visited the Waitangi National Reserve to learn and experience a little of the Maori history and culture.
The Shire
The Blue Door
Next stop was Matamata for Hobbiton movie set tour, which, having been a Lord of the Rings fan since a teenager, was a unique experience. Continuing on to our next destination at Tauranga we stopped by the Warkworth Honey Centre for lunch and to stock up on some Manuka honey to take home.
In Tauranga we stayed in Devonport and had lunch at Mills Reef Winery. It was a good choice and we enjoyed an excellent lunch on the lawn with live music.
Our next stop was Gisbourne and we opted for the coastal route on highway 35. It was a long drive but well worth it for the chance to take in the coastal scenery.
Arriving pretty late in Gisbourne, after checking into the Pacific Harbour Inn, it was a short walk to town and the nearest pub for dinner. We had already discovered that many pubs served really good food, not to mention great beer. We wanted to join a wine tour but it was a little late in the season and most vineyards were closed for their annual maintenance. After several enquiries we arranged a tour to 2 vineyards, Bushmere and Milton. We met very friendly people and sampled some excellent wines, and of course, we could not resist buying a few bottles!
The manager at the Inn knowing that we were heading for Taupo warned us it would be cold, so we were prepared. As it turned out it was not that cold at all, and we managed a late afternoon cruise on a yacht, with wine, what else! Lake Taupo, at 616 sq km, is slightly bigger than the main island of Singapore. So a good size lake.
From Taupo we drove west to New Plymouth where we stayed 2 nights and met Philip's mother and his brother and family. We had a great time and experienced some real Kiwi hospitality.
Mt. Taranaki
We spent a couple days in the nature areas around New Plymouth soaking up the countryside before parting company with our friends and flying to Auckland.
We stayed 2 nights in Auckland and spent one whole day on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf. Waiheke is home to many artists and there are plenty of adventure activities, small wineries and small bays and coves to explore, a very laid back idyllic spot
The weather was kind and we had almost no rain the entire stay.
Although not birding we could not fail to see birds, most of which were new to us. A truly spectacular couple of weeks.