Huka Falls/Lake Taupo and the Forgotten World Highway

For our ninth day in New Zealand, we had booked a room at a B&B in New Plymouth. We left Rotorua after breakfast and drove to our first stop of the day, Huka Falls on Lake Taupo. This is not a waterfall in the traditional sense of the word (cascading down from a great height), but a series of small falls in an area where the Waikato River narrows significantly, causing a huge volume of water to funnel through a narrow space. Huka is the Maori word for “foam”.

The falls are a spectacular sight and definitely worth a visit! There’s also a walk you can do around there, but with a long drive ahead of us we didn’t have time. Instead, we drove a bit up the road then pulled over to take some photos of Lake Taupo and the surroundings. Imagine having this view out of your window?

After driving for a bit longer, we spotted signs for the Waituhi Lookout and decided to stop there. After driving up a narrow winding road through some trees, we came to a clearing with a small amount of space for parking and a viewing platform. We climbed up to the platform, looked out over the trees and saw this:

How amazing is that view? I’m so glad I ignored the advice I was given to miss out north island and just spend time on the south island! (I couldn’t have anyway since I actually wanted to see my family and they’re all on the north island!).

The lake in the pictures above should be Lake Taupo again if I’ve got my geography correct.

After another half an hour of driving, we arrived in Taumarunui, which is at one end of the Forgotten World Highway (technically State Highway 43). There, we stopped to buy some food at a supermarket and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a clock:

DSCN7599

Apparently Taumarunui is on the North Island Main Trunk Railway.. hence the train clock, I suppose. There wasn’t a greet deal there though (at least on the main street), but there were free and reasonably clean public toilets and the little supermarket had some food for us, so we were happy.

Back in the car, we drove on into the Tangarakau Gorge. First stop was at the grave of a surveyor named Joshua Morgan who died in the gorge in 1893. Not all that exciting, but from the grace you could see the bridge we had just crossed to get there.

Next stop, another waterfall: Mount Damper Falls. We parked by a sign then had to walk across a field to get there.

The next photos will just be general ones from along the Forgotten World Highway. We stopped a couple of times to take photos but I can’t say precisely what each one is of.

The end of the highway is Stratford. We didn’t actually stop there, but there are a lot of streets named after Shakespeare characters and we had fun spotting them as we drove through. Finally, we reached that day’s destination – New Plymouth – where we checked into a lovely B&B before driving into town for a walk along the coast… but this post has a ridiculous amount of photos already, so I think I’ll give New Plymouth its own separate one!

*New Zealand was my March trip for my 2016 redo of Take 12 Trips*

Arrowtown and South Island’s south coast

Day four on New Zealand’s south island saw us deciding to take the poor, neglected car for a drive – it had been sitting around doing nothing since our trip out to Paradise the day we arrived in Queenstown! The plan was to head to Arrowtown first and then drive down to the south coast. An excellent plan as it turned out – we had glorious sunshine all day while it poured down in Queenstown!

A former gold mining town located on the banks of the Arrow River, Arrowtown is mostly famous for its gorgeous autumn foliage. Unfortunately, we were a few weeks too early and the leaves were only just starting to change colour. The town itself is quaint though.

After leaving Arrowtown, we took state highway 6, which leads past Lake Wakatipu. The weather was starting to turn by this point and I was almost blown away taking the following photos:

Look how low the clouds were!

As we continued driving, the weather got continually worse and when we stopped for a cuppa we had to run from the car to the cafe! I would like to tell you where we stopped because we had an amazing vegetable scone there, but I can’t remember the name of the place. Sorry!

Next, we drove down to Invercargill, but it didn’t look that interesting so instead of stopping there we drove straight through to Stirling Point, in the town of Bluff. By this time, the weather was amazing! Here, photos:

There’s a lighthouse at Stirling Point, which was built in 1912. There’s also some art sculpture thing, consisting of a giant chain with an anchor at the end. From Stirling Point, you can see Dog Island, which houses New Zealand’s tallest lighthouse. The island has been uninhabited since 1989 when the lighthouse was automated.

Our next stop was another lighthouse, this time at Waipapa Point. First a few photos that I took from the car park:

Sheep and farms, grass and sheep. So very New Zealand! (Could also be Ireland…)

Now some photos of the lighthouse and the sea and stuff:

I took many photos of the lighthouse, from every possible angle. I’ve spared you most of them – be grateful!

We left the lighthouse and drove on for another half an hour until we reached Curio Bay, famous for being the site of a petrified (i.e. fossilised) forest. The rocks in the photos below are actually trees… or they were, once upon a time.

The signs also claimed that we would be able to see yellow-eyed penguins here. Supposedly it was malting season, so they would be on land and we weren’t to worry if they looked sick – that’s just what happens when they shed their feathers. Of course, the signs also warned us that we should stay away from said penguins and not frighten them, which I would have been very pleased to do if I had seen even one penguin! Of course, there were none to be seen so I had to make do with this guy:

Some kind of heron I presume? Where are all the bird experts?

With a three hour drive ahead of us to get back to Queenstown, Curio Bay had to be the last stop on our tour along the south coast. Instead of driving back along the coast, we headed straight inland and took the quick route back. At some point we stopped to take photos and I got the shot below. No idea where it was taken, but I like it!

DSCN7100

Finally, we stopped again in the same place as in the morning. By this time, the sun had come out in Queenstown as well (although we were assured it had rained for most of the day).

Oh, what a difference a day makes…

Back in Queenstown, we dropped off the car and went in search of food having had a lovely drive. With more time, I would have liked to stop off somewhere for a night and then drive further around the south coast, or maybe even take a boat trip out from Bluff to Stewart Island, but this was a lovely day trip. If you find yourself in Queenstown with a car and a day to spare, I can highly recommend this drive along the coast.

New Zealand was my April trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge (take 2!) and I’m also linking up for Monday Escapes.
Packing my Suitcase

Queenstown Gardens

Because we had come back from Milford Sound by plane, we were back in Queenstown relatively early. I had to charge my camera first since it had died on the plane back, so while it was doing that we went to the convenience store to pick up something to drink then made use of the free wi-fi in the hotel lobby (note to anyone considering staying at Novotel – you get 1 hour of free wi-fi per day in the lobby; wi-fi in the rooms has to be paid for! Remind me which century we’re in?!). We weren’t ready for dinner yet having bought quite a bit of food in Te Anau to eat on the Sound cruise, so we decided to go for a walk and ended up in Queenstown Gardens. What follows will include many pictures of plants! I couldn’t help it – so many of them were so different to what I’m used to!

I spent way too long trying to get a decent picture of these birds, which I’m fairly sure are Paradise Shelducks. They just didn’t want to stand still!

The one with the white head is female and the male has a black head. Shelducks form long-term pair bonds, often life-long (aww!) and tend to hang around as couples. Driving around, we would often see a male and a female Shelduck standing in a field somewhere!

In the rose garden, I took far too many photos, mainly because I was trying to play with my camera’s macro setting. Here are a few:

I love the kind of multi-coloured pink/orange ones! They looked so pretty.

The gardens are on a little peninsula, so once we got round to the other side we had a view of a different part of the lake – a part without lots of boats on it (the side where we had entered from is where all the touristy boats are moored). The view there was stunning, especially with the way the evening sun was hitting the mountains.

Back round the other side, a few more photos had to be taken before we finally decided to head off and find something for tea.

There was also a Disc/Frisbee Golf course in the gardens, so we decided to come back and play on our final afternoon in Queenstown. We hired our discs from a place in town for $5 for five hours, but the Internet tells me you can also hire them from the ice rink, which is in the park.

If you have any idea what any of the plants in this post are (other than roses – I can recognise them!) please let me know in the comments.

New Zealand was my March trip for 2016’s redo of Take 12 Trips.

Also linking up for Monday Escapes:

Packing my Suitcase

Trip to Milford Sound

I meant to continue my New Zealand posts earlier in the week, but things got a bit crazy and I didn’t have a chance.

Anyway… for our first full day in Queenstown, we had booked a trip to Milford Sound. We chose the coach-cruise-fly option, which meant we were picked up in a coach at 6.30 a.m., drove to Milford Sound (with stops along the way), had a cruise on the Sound and then had a scenic flight back to Queenstown in a teeny, tiny aeroplane. The option with the flight back is more expensive than coach both ways, but so worth it! By the way, if you choose to just do the coach option, definitely go with Mitre Peak Tours. I highly, highly recommend. (We booked through Milford Sound Flights, and the coach/cruise parts were run by Mitre Peak).

It was dark when we left, but after a while the sun started to appear over the horizon, so we begin this post’s image overload with my attempts to take photos of the sunrise through the window of a moving coach!

I tried to take more photos through the windows once it started getting light, but it didn’t work very well, so here are some from our first stop instead. I have no idea where this is! Somewhere with mountains…

I don’t even remember whether those photos are from before or after Te Anau, where we stopped to pick up more people and so those who didn’t have lunch included could pick some up from the supermarket there. Jan and I had a sausage roll and a coffee for breakfast there. And I took zero photos.

The next stop was at Mirror Lakes, which is definitely after Te Anau 😉 In case you can’t guess where they got their name, here are some photos:

We then stopped at a little stream where our bus driver said we could fill our water bottles if we wanted. Again, I don’t remember where it was (because I’m an idiot), but have some photos.

The next stop was at the Cleddau Valley cascading waterfalls. Our bus driver told us that when it’s raining there are hundreds of waterfalls… everywhere you look, water is cascading down. It was not raining when we were there, but we still saw waterfalls. I can only imagine how impressive it must look in the rain.

Our final stop was at Karangahake Gorge.
Our bus driver told us that he recently found out all the other bus companies only have two stops – at Mirror Lakes and Karangahake Gorge. Apparently this is because people get out of the bus, have a chat, finally decide to take a few photos, have another chat, look at the photos, delete then and take more. So at every stop he asked us to please take our photos then get back on the coach so we could have more stops later. At Karangahake Gorge, he told us we could only stop there if everyone agreed to get round and be back on the bus in 10 minutes. As it turned out, the last person was back on the bus after 12 minutes. As our driver was pulling out he said “And that is how we get to make more stops than any other tour!” (Once again, book with Mitre Peak tours if you can – and hope you get Carlin as a driver).
I could definitely have spent more than 12 minutes at Karangahake Gorge, it’s so impressive! But don’t take my word for it. Check out the photos for yourself:

Yeah, I may have gone overboard with the photos… that isn’t even all of them! But if you think that’s a lot, wait until you see the ones of the Sound 😉

Finally, at just before 12 o’clock, we arrived at Milford Sound! Our boat was waiting for us, and we had a two-hour cruise on the Sound, complete with commentary from the guide. I have no idea what any of the things we saw are now though (other than Seal Rock). Mitre Peak is one of the mountains, obviously, and the two permanent waterfalls are Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls, but I have no idea which is which! Supposedly whales and dolphins can sometimes be spotted following the boats, but we didn’t see any. We did see seals though, which was nice. Anyway, enough rambling from me, you’re here for the photos – yes?

There are a lot of photos, so I thought I’d split this into two. Part two = seals and stuff!

Before we started our cruise, it was pretty cloudy, so the bus driver said he assumed we’d be going back in the coach with him. It gradually brightened up throughout the cruise though, so once we got back he told us to go and ask at the Mitre Peak information desk. Our flight was indeed going, so we wandered over to the airfield to meet our pilot (whose name I’ve forgotten!). Guys, if you ever make it to New Zealand, you have got to do a scenic flight over Milford Sound!! I literally cannot describe how amazing the views were! Here, have some photos, but they can’t do it justice either. It’s something you really have to see for yourself.

(Try to ignore all the random reflections from inside the plane!)
Unfortunately my battery ran out before we got back to Queenstown so I have no photos of Lake Wakatipu. So you’ll just have to take my word that it was stunning! So amazingly blue.

So, to sum up, Milford Sound is definitely among the most beautiful places on the planet and if you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, you must put this on your list! It was an absolute highlight of our entire trip. I literally cannot gush enough about this place! Also, look how cute the seals are!

A trip to Paradise, New Zealand

(Really the title should be to Paradise and beyond, but I didn’t like that as much.)

On our second day in New Zealand, or first full day, we got up early to return to Auckland Airport, where we got on a flight to the south island – specifically to Queenstown. Once there, we found our rental car, drove into town and checked into the hotel (we ended up at Novotel because literally nowhere else had a room available for the entire time we were there and we didn’t want the hassle of changing hotels after 2 days!). We had nothing planned for the afternoon, so we decided to just get in the car and take a drive. A map I had picked up from the airport recommended driving towards Glenorchy, so that’s what we decided to do.

After a drive involving many twists and turns, as well as fantastic views of the lake, we reached the tiny town of Glenorchy, where we parked up and got out to take some photos (along with all the other tourists!)

The map suggested that, if we had time after visiting Glenorchy, we should “drive on and find Paradise”. We did have time, and so on we drove. About 20 minutes later, after driving down some rather bumpy gravel roads and crossing a few fords, we spotted the sign for Paradise.

DSCN6306
Cue Green Day’s “Welcome to Paradise”

There are a lot of sheep in Paradise! Also, toadstools, which I couldn’t resist taking way too many photos of.

We drove on for another 10 or 15 minutes, then we reached a ford that we thought looked a bit too deep for our car to cope with, so we stopped the car, got out to take some photos and then drove back the way we had come.

Our next stop was at Diamond Lake, which is back down in the direction of Glenorchy. My photos seriously can’t do the stunning scenery justice, so you’ll just have to go to New Zealand and see it for yourself 😉

Jan also spotted a cricket in the grass and, just as we were about to get in the car, I saw some birds in a tree above us. Yay wildlife! (Click to see bigger photos)

Once we got to Glenorchy again, instead of driving straight back to Queenstown, we decided to drive around the top of the lake. The original plan was to go to Kinloch, but one road was closed, so we turned a different way and ended up in the Routeburn carpark, at the start of the Routeburn track, so we got out and went for a short walk. The trail we took follows the Routeburn track for a little way (the entire track is 33 km!) then turns off onto a small nature loop. Our entire walk took roughly an hour, which was perfect – long enough to stretch our legs without being too strenuous. We saw lots of little birds, but none that would stay still long enough to have their photos taken! So you’ll just have to make do with more scenery, and random plants that I thought looked interesting.

After our walk, we got back in the car and drove back to Queenstown for dinner, having got an excellent first impression of what the south island had to offer!

I’m linking this post up for Monday Escapes with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey.

Packing my Suitcase

New Zealand is also my March trip for 2016’s redo of Take 12 Trips, a linkup started by Clare from Need Another Holiday.

Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand

I’m back! And that means it’s time to bore you all with tales from my New Zealand trip. Sorry, not sorry 😉

We landed at Auckland airport at around 11 a.m. on 20th March, but by the time we’d got through passport control, collected our bags, done the security thing and my cousin, who had come to pick us up (so many thanks for that!), had driven us into town, it was afternoon. We quickly showered at the hotel then walked down Queen’s Street (the main shopping street) to jump on a ferry to Devonport, where my cousin lives.

DSCN6190
On the ferry to Devonport

Originally a fishing village, Devonport is now a suburb of Auckland city. It’s located on the North Shore, so to get there you either have to drive over the harbour bridge (incredibly annoying at rush hour!) or take a ferry. I certainly wouldn’t mind using the ferry for my daily commute!

While we waited for my cousin (who had gone to her boyfriend’s while we freshened up), we had a walk around the wharf area and watched the seagulls and other birds that were gathered around.

Once my cousin arrived, she took us for a drive around Devonport, up the various hills (which are actually volcanoes) and then for dinner at her local pub, The Patriot. I can’t remember which photos were taken from where, so here are just all of them. Views from North Head and Mount Victoria:

At dinner, we had our first taste of Kumara, the New Zealand sweet potato that the Maoris brought with them from Polynesia, and also tried our first New Zealand beers. At around 9 p.m. we decided it was probably time to get moving since my cousin had to work the next day and we had another flight to catch – to the South Island, where we would be spending the next five days. After a ferry ride back to Auckland City and a walk up Queens Street that felt much longer than the walk into town we were finally in bed, where I at least fell straight to sleep.

^ terrible attempts to get a night shot as we were coming in to Auckland city harbour!

Next up is South Island. Stay tuned!

* New Zealand is my April trip for 2016’s take 12 trips retake! *

Take 12 trips, take 2!

Madeira sunrise

Remember when I took 12 trips in 2013/2014? No? Well, click on the link to see what I’m on about.

After seeing that other people have committed to taking 12 trips a second and even third time, I decided I could do it again, too. So 2016 shall be the year of take 12 trips, take 2!

Since the year is not quite two months old, I’ve decided to go back to the beginning and make it a twelve trips in 2016 thing rather than doing it over two year as last time.

Trip number one, for January 2016, is the day I went to Zurich to see a Lego exhibition. (Funnily enough, one of my trips last time round was to a Playmobil exhibition in Speyer. Could this be a theme in the making?).

Trip number two is that time Jan and I spontaneously went to Arlesheim to look at the cathedral and ended up finding two castles as well!

Trip three, in March, shall of course be New Zealand – I expect that will be my one major trip out of the twelve!

As for where else I might go… well, you’ll just have to wait and see! (Mainly because I don’t know myself.)

 

The original instigator of Take 12 Trips was Clare from Need Another Holiday. She wanted to encourage people to get out and about and try new things, not just big adventures to far flung places, but little trips to. Whether it’s afternoon tea at a local cafe you’ve been meaning to try out for ages, a day out in a nearby town or a month-long holiday in Asia – a trip is whatever you define it as.

Why not take the challenge with me?

Take 12 Trips: A Roundup

A little over a year ago, I decided to join in with a challenge inviting bloggers to take one trip every month for 12 months. If you’ve been paying close attention to my blog for the past year, you may have noticed that my trip to Weinheim in September was, in fact, my 12th trip! (Don’t worry, I don’t expect anyone to actually have noticed 😉 ). This fact seemed to call for some kind of roundup/recap of my 12 months of trip taking, just to bring things to a nice neat conclusion… or something like that.

October 2013

Triberg waterfallI started the challenge with a day trip to Triberg im Schwarzwald in October 2013. I had actually taken this trip shortly before learning about Take 12 Trips and decided to make it my first one rather than waiting until the following month to get started. In Clare’s original post inviting people to join the challenge, she told us to “Do anything – trip big, or trip tiny”. The point was to go somewhere new, perhaps even somewhere local that you’d been meaning to try out but never had. So a visit to somewhere in the Black Forest, which is basically on my doorstep, seemed like a fitting first trip.

November 2013

November 2013 saw me returning to Feldkirch in Austria for the first time since I lived there in 2005/2006. It was nice to see the place again, and also lovely to pay a visit to some friends from when I lived there and meet their baby son! After Feldkirch, we spent a night in Garmisch-Patenkirchen (famous for skiing!), then on the way back we stopped at Schloss Neuschwanstein (the famous fairy-tale castle in Bavaria) and in Augsburg. Not bad for a single long weekend!

December 2013

Fire show 1I live in Germany, so obviously my December trip had to be to a Christmas market! I chose a local one, the Mediaeval Christmas market in Durlach, which is a district of Karlsruhe. The market includes a fire show (pictured above) and, aside from the usual Glühwein (mulled wine), hot mead is also on offer. At the end of the month, I went home to England for Christmas, but I don’t count that as a real trip 😉

January 2014

Part of my January 2014 trip was actually in December – Jan and I went to Madeira for New Year! I absolutely loved this trip and would go back in a heartbeat – Madeira is beautiful! And it was nice to actually spend New Year somewhere warm for a change.

February 2014

A figure on the gate post
A figure on the gate post

As the end of February approached with no trip planned (and me not wanting my February “trip” to be the week I spent in England by my dying grandpa’s bedside), I spontaneously decided to take a train to Bruchsal. I had been to the castle before, but never into the town and it was about time that was remedied! Sadly, it turned out that Bruchsal as a town isn’t all that interesting. I found a few pretty buildings, but after only 45 minutes I found myself at the castle with nowhere else to go. I also discovered that day that I find day trips by myself pretty boring (although who knows, maybe I would have fared better in a more interesting town?). Oh well, onwards and upwards as they say!

March 2014

Gutenbergplatz

In March 2014, I finally did something I’ve been meaning to for about 4 years – visited the Saturday market on Gutenbergplatz in Karlsruhe. Thanks Take 12 Trips for the inspiration! I also went to Colmar, France in March, although I didn’t write a post about it til April.

April 2014

Amneville zooApril saw Jan, K and I on a day trip to Amnéville Zoo in France. It was the second visit for Jan and I, and it was just as amazing as the first time. The falconry display especially is well worth the three hour drive!

Also in April (although not counted towards the challenge), I went to my first ever bloggers’ meetup when I joined some fellow Germany-based bloggers in Heidelberg.

May 2014

Playmobil paintingIn May, I managed to persuade Jan to come with me to the Historisches Museum der Pfalz in Speyer to see an exhibition celebrating 40 years of Playmobil. What can I say… at heart, I’m a 5 year old 😉 The exhibition was overrun with kids, of course, but I enjoyed it anyway. And the rest of the museum was interesting too!

Roughly a week later I was in England for a funeral (not the best trip!) then at the end of the month Jan and I had a mini-break in Konstanz, since it was a long weekend.

June 2014

For our ten-year anniversary(!) I had bought Jan tickets to see Pear Jam in Vienna, so that’s where our June trip took us. Apart from the concert, we visited the National Library, my favourite part being the Globe Museum, I ate Marillenknödel, crossing off another item on my 35 before 35 list, and we visited the UN headquarters then went to the Donauinselfest, a huge free music festival! We also took a day trip to Bratislava in Slovakia. My favourite thing there was the blue church, pictured above.

July 2014

Basel RhineIn July, my brother came to stay with us for a week. The trip I officially counted for the challenge was to Basel, but we also visited Strasbourg, the Black Forest and Frankfurt. Phew! I was exhausted by the time he went home!

August 2014

TaiwanI’m sure by now all of you know where I went for my August trip – I’ve bored you with enough posts on it 😉 Yes, it was Taiwan! My first visit to Asia was amazing! We saw so many fantastic sights, ate some great food (and also some truly awful stuff *cough* oyster omelette *cough*). Taiwan is a fascinating and beautiful country and I would recommend anyone to go.

September 2014

WeinheimIt would have been nice to finish the challenge with Taiwan, but alas I still had one more trip to go! Finishing the challenge with another day trip within the local area provided some nice symmetry though. This time we headed in the other direction to Weinheim, which is in the Odenwald rather than the Black Forest. It was a beautiful autumn day and the perfect way to finish my 12 trips!

Earlier in September, I also spent the day in Bad Dürkheim at the Wurstmarkt, the world’s biggest wine festival, making it another multi-trip month.

Altogether, that makes 12 (plus) trips, seven countries (count them!) and a million memories! Thank you Clare for coming up with this challenge!

So, what now?

Just because my 12 trips are over doesn’t mean I’m going to stop travelling any time soon! In October 2014, I was in Bad Bergzabern (post to follow) and then spent Halloween Paris for a Night Vale live show, and I’m hoping that this month and next month will involve one or two Christmas markets. Then there’s the annual New Year’s trip that Jan and I always take (no destination confirmed yet). As for next year, so far only a trip to England in October for the Rugby World Cup is planned, but I’m sure there will be other opportunities to travel before then. There probably won’t be any big trips until the end of the year, but a few day trips will definitely be on the cards! Stay tuned…

Weinheim

It took me so long to finish talking about Taiwan that I haven’t even mentioned where I went for Take 12 Trips in September yet! Seeing as it’s now November, it’s probably about time I got on that!

Weinheim

Jan and I took a train to Weinheim on the last Saturday in September 2014. This is the Weinheim in Baden-Württemberg, near Heidelberg – I’m sure there are others around as well. It had been rainy all that week and it was cloudy when we left Karlsruhe, but we ended up being really lucky. The sun came out and I even had to take my coat off and carry it! Between the blue skies and little hints of autumn just starting to peek through it was a perfect day for a walk. Unfortunately I’m an idiot and completely forgot to charge my camera battery the night before, so unsurprisingly it very quickly died. Here are the few photos I actually managed to take:

Yes, those few photos plus the one at the top are all I managed to take! Luckily Jan had his phone on him and in most conditions that actually works better than my camera anyway! Here are the photos he took. A few I requested, but most he just took anyway. A good opportunity to see how our opinions on what needs photographing differ 😉 (Hint: he tends not to take photo of lanterns…)

Is it just me or does that first photo looking through the gate belong in a fairytale? So gorgeous!
We walked around the town for a while and spotted a flea market in the streets around the cathedral. Sadly I didn’t see anything worth buying though. Eventually, we wandered back to the market square to find something for a late lunch. The entire square is on a slope, so all the outdoor tables are kind of wonky. Look what happened to my soup:

Weinheim

The chef must have been practicing because it was the perfect amount not to spill over the edge of the bowl! It was also delicious, and came with some really nice bread. Once we’d eaten we took a slow walk back to the train station where we looked around the book shop for a bit while waiting for the train home. It was a great day out in a really pretty little town (we also saw a wedding going on at the town hall, which is right by the Schlosspark, and I decided if we ever get married I want it to be in Weinheim. Just imagine the pictures we could get in front of the pond/with the towers, etc.!)

As I mentioned at the start, Weinheim was my September trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare at Need Another Holiday.

Driving along Taiwan’s (North) East coast

Almost a month after returning from our trip, I’m finally getting round to posting the last installment in my recap!

Our final day in Taiwan was spent travelling back to the airport. To do this, we drove along the East coast from Hualien up to Taipei. Hualien is roughly in the middle of the country, so really it was more like the North-East coast.

Before we got properly underway, we stopped at Quingshui Cliff, which isn’t far from Hualien City. Quingshui is the highest coastal cliff in Taiwan. It stretches for a length of 21 km, but there’s a viweing area not far from Hualien, which is where we stopped. I think you’ll agree the view is stunning. Look how blue the water is! (It’s the Pacific Ocean, in case you were wondering)

Once we got back in the car, Jan asked me to take some photos while we were driving. Apparantly he has photos that were taken while driving along the Pacific coast in the US, so he wanted some from the other side of said ocean. I don’t think I did too bad a job with the following photos considering they were taken with a crappy camera from a moving car!

We stopped again at a viewing point that looks down on (I believe) Keeling harbour, then we had a final stop at a beach where people were surfing. For the first time on our trip we saw mostly non-Asian tourists! Of course not every other tourist elsewhere had been Asian, but there were a lot more of them about than “Westerners”.

See that last photo with the people on it? The island in the background is called Turtle Island. You can’t tell why from that photo though, so here’s another crappy “taken-while-driving” picture of it from the other side:

Taiwan

Finally, we drove back to Taipei. Jan had been talking about taro balls (taro is a kind of root vegetable, kind of like sweet potato) all week but we hadn’t been able to find them anywhere, so before heading to the airport he wanted to go back to the night market where he had eaten them. First, we needed to find somewhere to park, which was easier said then done! The sat nav kept telling us we’d already driven past the carpark we’d asked for directions to without us ever spotting said carpark! Finally, we managed to park by the main train station. From there, we took a Metro then walked for a bit until we reached the night market, the last one we would visit in Taiwan. Taro is sweet, so before buying that we went fr some dumplings. This time they weren’t bread dumplings but a kind of pasta-like dough. The filling was delicious pork! We enjoyed them so much that, after our first basket, we ordered another. In fact, I would like to eat more of those dumplings right now! That’s how good they were.

So tasty!
So tasty!

Once we were done with the dumplings, we went and stood in the looong queue for taro balls (apparantly they’re popular!). Jan bought some plain ones and some that were filled with pickled egg yolk. I preferred the plain ones – the egg tasted rubbery to me. The plain ones were a bit like doughnut on the outside but then the inside tasted almost like bean curd. It was a bit odd! I certainly wouldn’t have raved about them the way Jan did, but oh well. I was pleased he got to have some again before we left.

Time was getting on by then, so we went and picked up the car then drove it back to the car rental place. From there, one of their staff members drove us back to the airport. The check-in desk wasn’t open yet, so we went and looked at the gift shop and I bought some sweet potato cakes to bring back to work (they tasted odd, for anyone who’s wondering). Then we finally checked in, bought ourselves a drink on the other side and, before long, it was time to board our plane. And thus ends our Taiwanese adventure! It’s a shame we didn’t get to visit the south of the island – I’ve heard Alishan is amazing! But a week just isn’t long enough. Hopefully one day I’ll make it back.

~I am counting Taiwan as my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare from Need Another Holiday. It also counts towards my 35 Before 35 challenge, item: Visit a continent I’ve never been to before.~

For those who missed them, here are my other Taiwan recap posts:

  1. Initial Thoughts on Taiwan
  2. Taipei, Taiwan
  3. 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan and Sun Moon Lake by Night
  4. Sun Moon lake and driving through the mountains
  5. Hiking in Taroko National Park