Auckland beaches

Okay, enough politics for now. Let’s get back to New Zealand (which, by the way, is increasingly feeling like an appealing place to move to, away from all the violence and insanity on this side of the world. If only it wasn’t so hot there…).

To finish off our New Zealand trip, we had two and a half days in Auckland. On the first of those days, we headed North to visit some of the beaches in the Auckland region. Our first stop was at Piha beach, which my cousin had recommended. A sign warned us not to get to close to any penguins… but again we were lied to, not a penguin in sight! Oh well, the beach was beautiful.

We walked all the way down to the end of the beach – and yes, it is as far as it looks in the second photo above! It was worth it though… while climbing around on some rocks at the end of the beach, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye then spotted some crabs hiding in the gaps between rocks. Not quite a penguin, but wildlife is wildlife. I’ll take it 😉

Crab in the rock

Next, we drove to Maukatia (Maori Bay) and walked a little way along the Takapu Refuge Walk to see the gannet colony. For those that have never seen gannets… they are loud! Pretty cool to see so many of them in one place though. Looking down the other way, towards Muriai Beach, I saw a black bird with a bright orange beak walking around on a large rock. Any guesses what he is? I have no idea! (Look at the last two photos in the gallery below).

We could have followed the refuge walk round for half an hour until we reached Muriwai Beach, but it looked busy down there and it was lunch time, so instead we headed back to the car and stopped off to buy drinks, snacks and sandwiches at a little convenience store before driving around to the East coast. Our final stop before heading back to the city was at Orewa Beach, where we watched the kite surfers for a while.

On the drive back, we realised it was still pretty early, so we parked the car in Devonport, took a ferry into the city and went up the Sky Tower. In case anyone doesn’t know, at the time of writing this the Sky Tower is the tallest building on the souther hemisphere, at 328 metres (1,076 ft) tall. You can jump from the tower if you feel that way inclined (attached to a rope, obviously!) but we just went up to the top. Sky jumps would have to be booked in advance anyway 😉

Back down on the ground, we returned to Devonport on the ferry and met my cousin for dinner… which I again failed to photograph. I had bangers and mash, in case you care. By the time we returned to the car – which we had parked by the Devonport ferry terminal – it was dark, so we finished the day with a photo of the Auckland skyline.

DSCN7855

And that’s it for today. Only one more post on New Zealand to go!

*New Zealand was my March 2016 trip for #Take12Trips 2016*

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Bird tales

The weekend before last, Jan’s mum and her partner came to Basel for an afternoon as they were on holiday at the Bodensee (that’s Lake Constance to English speakers). They came by the flat to have a look at it and eat some lunch, then we all headed into town. It was really far too hot to do much though, so after taking the ferry across the Rhine, briefly dipping our feet in the water and walking along the river for a bit, we decided what we really needed was a drink! We took another ferry back across the water and headed to the restaurant of the Basler Papiermühler (paper mill – a fascinating museum by the way!). Jan and I had been before, so we knew they had good cake – and also coffee, according to Jan, although I settled for ice tea. Even the idea of coffee made me feel like melting!

While we were enjoying our drinks, we noticed a commotion going on at the corner of the restauarnt building (we were sitting outside). A waiter from the restauarant and an older man (presumably a customer) were pouring water on a bird who was obviously too exhausted to fly away. Eventually, they scooped the little guy up and placed him in a dog bowl filled with water. One by one, the other patrons of the restaurant went over to see what was going on – us included. What we saw in the bowl was a little swift, huddled up at the edge looking very sorry for himself. Later, from our table, we saw his little head poke up over the edge of the bowl and noticed him spreading his wings a bit. When we went over for another look, I took a photo. He still seemed a bit dazed and confused, but much better than before! Shortly after taking the photo, we paid and left. I wonder what happened to Mr. Bird?

The bird actually looks a lot better here - at least he's lifted his head and started looking around!
The bird actually looks a lot better here – at least he’s lifted his head and started looking around!

Then, last Wednesday, I was minding my own business hanging some laundry on the balcony when something flew past me and into the flat. I went in to have a look and saw a sparrow flying around my living room. It saw me, flew into the window in a panic then went and hid between a cabinet and the wall where I couldn’t get to it. I tried leaving a trail of bread to tempt it out, but birdie was having none of it. At some point I went and lay on the floor with my camera and used the zoom to check whether the little bird was even alive – I didn’t want to scare it even more by getting too close. So here’s a photo of a tiny bird cowering beside my living room furniture:

Poor birdy!
Poor birdy!

Eventually, the bird must have decided it was safe to come out. I was just sitting on the sofa when she (pretty sure this one’s a female) came whooshing out, flew past me, all around the living room, round the kitchen (obviously still in a panic as she hit a few walls on the way!) and eventually made it back out through the balcony door. Phew! I placed the bits of bread on the balcony, where they stayed all night before being picked up by a whole host of sparrows the next morning. I hope the one that got trapped in the flat got some as well to make up for her awful experience with the terrifying human!

Phew, I think I’ve had quite enough bird-related excitement for a while!

Border crossings

Flags

Three weeks on, I am still waiting to find out whether I’m actually going to be allowed to be allowed to stay in Switzerland. In the meantime, we’re acting like we assume we will, taking trips and joining in with local customs. Last weekend, we thought we would take a tram to Weil am Rhein in Germany to see what’s there. The original plan was to take the tram to the train station and go from there, but when we reached a stop called Dreiländerbrücke (Three Countries Bridge), it seemed like a good place to get off. Technically the name of the bridge is misleading… one end is in Germany and the other is in France (although Switzerland is about a 2 minute walk – if that – from the German side). This is the German side of the bridge:

Over on the French side (Hunigue for those who are interested, or Hüningen in German), the first thing we spotted was this:

On the French side
A ship

We then walked down to the river where there were a few ducks and loads of swans! Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many swans in one place.

In the background of the picture with the many swans, you can see Switzerland. And behind the bridge is Germany. Here’s some more Germany:

We also spied an interesting looking pigeon. And a crow.

Once we’d finished admiring the wildlife, we crossed back over the bridge into Germany. There’s a shopping centre right on the border and inside it is a Marktkauf so we popped in to buy a few relatively cheap bits, including toppings for the homemade pizza we planned to have for tea the next night – relatively cheap because, although it’s cheaper than Switzerland, Marktkauf is one of the more expensive German supermarkets.

It only cost me just over 10 Swiss francs for a 24 hour ticket that included all of Basel plus the area just over the border so it most definitely won’t be the last time I pop over the Germany for an afternoon (provided I actually get my residence permit at some point…)