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13 Days in New Zealand

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My husband, Akhilesh who is well traveled, thanks to his work, has been to every other continent and may have visited more than 50 countries so far. We therefore wanted our honeymoon to be at some place he has never been to or will probably never get an opportunity to visit. Both of us are not beach people. We knew that we love mountains and lakes! So after looking at numerous destinations, we finalized New Zealand for our ultimate first trip. We started our research soon after and the moment we looked-up pictures online, we fell instantly in love with this island country and couldn’t wait to visit this heaven-like place.

Our trip was a total of 13 days. So we took off from Mumbai to Auckland on the 19th. We had a stopover at Changi Airport, Singapore. On the 20th of March, we arrived Auckland. There is a lot to see in New Zealand and we wanted to do both; the North as well as the South Island, even though many online suggestions recommended not going ahead with the plan as it was not possible to cover both islands in 10 days. So we made our own itinerary and trust us, it was possible! Of course, we couldn’t see every inch of New Zealand ( and every inch of this place is worth a visit), but we did manage to cover most of the ‘must-visit’ spots. The remaining we plan to complete whenever we visit NZ again.

We tried to follow the itinerary but this country is so beautiful, we couldn’t help but make additional stops and visit places in between. At the airport or at the information centers, collect all the different brochures you find, because that’s what we did and they were of great help. We would have probably missed really good things to do while in NZ, had we not taken those leaflets. There are a lot of things you don’t find on the internet. So we squeezed in more places to visit. Always check timings before you visit any place since most shut at 5 pm, you need to plan well in advance considering the amount of time you’ll take to reach the place. Also the weather can go haywire! From clear sunny skies in the morning to rainy afternoons.  So if you plan to do activities, schedule them preferably in the morning slot or depending on the weather. Call the centers to confirm your bookings before leaving for the place. We had to scrap a few activities owing to bad weather.

New Zealand is quite an expensive place. So if you’ve made up your mind, renting out a vehicle (car/camper-van) is the best option. Our car – The Toyota RAV4 was a very comfortable one.  Driving in New Zealand is a cake walk for Indians, especially if you come from metros like Mumbai or Delhi.  Nothing compared to driving on empty, long country-side roads with music and beauty all around. Plus, it’s right hand drive! It only gets better 🙂

Below, I’ve given a detailed plan of our days in New Zealand.

Day 1: Monday, 20th March, 2017

We were really hungry after the long flight. So after picking up our car from Hertz at the airport, we reached our Hotel – Quest Auckland and left soon after, for some good food. We walked our way to Kebabs on Queen and after filling ourselves with heavy rolls, we visited Sky Tower. From this place, you can view the city from 220 meters above street level. There are revolving restaurants and cafe’s and also adventure activities like Sky Walk and Sky Jump.

After the aerial view of the city, we headed towards Countdown Metro which is a famous chain of Supermarkets. So we filled our carts with a lot of Mineral Water Bottles, Ready-to-Eat Meals, Cup Noodles, Snacks, Energy Drinks like Gatorade and Protein Bars. We did carry ready-to-eat meals from Mumbai but the variants available in India taste artificial (except Haldirams, but we weren’t aware back then), so we got some from NZ as well. They have amazing Butter Chicken Rice read-to-eat meals (and many others) and they taste so fresh! We don’t remember the name of the brand. There were many but one such brand was Kaweka Foods.

We went back to our hotel and left for Sky Tower after dinner, to view the city from above, again but this time in the night lights.

So our first day here in Auckland was pretty chilled out.

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Day 2: Tuesday, 21st March, 2017

After a hefty breakfast, we did an early checkout from our hotel to leave for Rotorua.

10.30 am – Our first stop was at Waitomo Glowworm Caves which is famous for the population of Arachnocampa Luminosa, a glowworm species found exclusively in New Zealand. Once here, you get to wade through waters inside the cave in a boat with a guide (Present day Maori Tribals). You are not allowed to take pictures here but you can pay for one after the tour. They edit your pictures onto the background of these glowworm caves. We didn’t take our pictures here because it clearly looked edited. We spent close to 2.5 hours here.

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After this enchanting experience, we left for our Hotel Apex on Fenton in Rotorua. Like I’ve already mentioned earlier, we’ve made multiple detours and stops on our way and so will you when you self drive here, because every other place you’ll find something so beautiful, you’d be tempted to stop. New Zealand is so well organised and maintained. Every ‘point of interest’ is properly marked with complete details and warnings if any, they have ample parking space, clean washrooms and well tracked paths with directions! Also our car was provided with a navigation device which worked pretty well when we took detours and needed help with internal roads that Google Maps generally do not show. So there was absolutely no way to get lost, even if we wanted to! We went off-road every time we had to travel from one destination to the other, to enjoy the stunning beauty of this place. The GPS device was pretty accurate and helped us find our way back on track.

On our way, we visited Hamurana Springs Reserves. Not just this place, but in general, we did a lot of walking in New Zealand to see waterfalls, mountains, lakes…. sometimes without any company, just the 2 of us in deep forests. But not once did we feel frightened. New Zealand has no wildlife as such, at all. Even though it’s got enormous areas of greenery, you can venture into any forest without being apprehensive of wild animals. We were fortunately never robbed here, but it can happen. So leave all your jewelry and things that bling behind! Akhilesh and I found New Zealand to be a 100% tourist destination, safe and an ideal one for those who love adventure.

We wanted to make one last stop before it got dark. So around 6.45 pm before reaching our hotel, we drove to Redwoods Tree Walk.  The walk consists of 21 suspension bridges traversing between 22 Californian coastal redwoods. We spent the evening walking on these high bridges in the woods. It also looks really beautiful after it gets dark, so were-visited this place post dinner (at the hotel) and walked all over again in the night with beautiful lamps and LED lights that lit up the woods. Both were equally charming.

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Day 3: Wednesday, 22nd March, 2017

We were pre-booked for the Hobbiton Movie Set guided tour today. For all those who have seen the The Hobbit trilogy, the entire set with everything shrunk in size, was shot in New Zealand. The Lord of the Rings movie as well! You see now,  how marvelous this place is? So since we had booked this tour, we were picked up from our hotel on a bus with a group at 7.30 am and it took us an hour to reach the set. You need to call them a day prior to confirm your booking and pick-up time (this goes for all the bookings you’ve made in advance). The bus ride itself was a guided tour as the driver explains everything you see outside the window. You will also come across thousands of sheep grazing the vast green mass of land, which is a pretty cute sight!

We were guided on this 12 acre plot set. You can take countless pictures here. Your guide will show you locations like the Hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn and the Mill – maybe even let you in on some secrets from the filming! It could be an exciting tour for crazy movie fans, but we both found it a bit dull. After a point it all looks repetitive and it cost us half of our day.  Honestly, we would have skipped this one had we known it would be so long. But after this guided tour you must have the drinks they serve! I dislike plain beer so they had this amazing ginger beer. I got one big mug for myself and it was the best I’ve ever had. It comes complimentary with your ticket. 🙂

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After spending around 3 hours inside the set, we set out for lunch and were back to our hotel room by 2 pm. Without wasting much time, we took off and drove in and around, saw fat lambs and cows run at the sound of our car horn (you can forgive us. It’s not everyday you get to see these things), went off-road, trekked to see waterfalls and the mountains, filled gas and other little things. Unfortunately, I can only mention names of the places I remember. But you’ll know of them when you drive around NZ. There are some places you can view right from the road, while there are others, where you may have to park and then trek your way to see waterfalls and other attractions. What’s good is that every attraction here mentions details about the location and the estimated duration of the trek. So you can plan accordingly. One place I do remember is the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. There was a boat ride too inside the valley.

We headed back as soon as we could to our hotel room to freshen up, since we had our pickup scheduled at 5.45 pm for the Mitai Maori Village Experience. The Maori’s are the aboriginals of New Zealand. What we really liked about NZ is how they have preserved the tribal culture and given them equal rights with respect to everything. They still own a lot of properties which they keep it maintained it terms of the laws of nature. At this village, we were introduced to the Maori Tribe, their food, attire, culture, music, language, dance, hunting skills and a lot of other things that they do. You also get to see the tribals dressed as warriors, paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-Whiro stream. A traditional Hangi meal was served to everyone post the performances. We skipped the guided bush walk and the glowworms walk, since we had already covered that at Waitomo. The staff readily agreed to drop us back to our hotel. We rested the night for an early start next morning.

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Day 4: Thursday, 23rd March, 2017

We checked out early from our hotel  at 7.30 am and drove straight to Wai-O-Tapu which was at a distance of just 30 mins. We spent around 1.5 hours walking here. Wai-o-Tapu is considered to be New Zealand’s most colourful and diverse, active geothermal sightseeing attraction. You will get to see uniquely different natural landscapes here. We left early to catch the Lady Knox Geyser that starts everyday at 10.15 am. So we finished our trek first and later headed towards this geyser, bang on time!

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The walk made us feel super hungry. So we quickly filled ourselves with some snacks and drinks on the go and drove to the Secret Spot (AKA Hot & Cold), which is a free to enter natural hot pool. This is very close to Wai-O-Tapu. We sat here dipping our feet and admiring the beauty for a while and then drove to Kerosene Creek, which again is a free to enter hot water creek with a beautiful waterfall. This place is so mesmerizing, we couldn’t wait to change into our swimming gear and jump into this really hot natural pool. By the time we got out, we were both red. A must go!

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After a peaceful time here, we left to visit Hell’s Gate. This is a unique Maori owned geothermal mud and sulphur bath spa. You can choose between private and public pools. Before entering the spa, we chose to trek the area so we can relax in the pools later.

You will see erupting waters, steaming fumaroles and boiling mud here, quite similar to Wai-O-Tapu but still very different. You can actually feel the heat when you walk on the tracks around the geothermal area. Hot land!

Both, the sulphur as well as the mud pools were fun. We spent 20 minutes in the sulphur pool and later covered ourselves with warm and soft, gooey clay. It does make you feel squeaky clean afterwards!

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After a refreshing bath, we drove further to visit Huka Falls. This place looks so surreal with milky blue waters gushing with full strength! Even these pictures don’t do justice. You have to see it to believe it!  The sheer volume of water flowing over the falls amounts to 220,000 liters per second – enough to fill one Olympic sized swimming pool in 11 seconds! You need to walk for around 30 mins from your car park. There is a rafting and jet boat area as well here.

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After making sure we have a full tank, we headed for Hotel Park in Ruapehu, Tongariro. It would have taken us 2 hours to reach, but since we visited a number of places in between, we checked-in at the hotel around 9.30 pm and rested the night.

Day 5: Friday, 24th March, 2017

We were now at Tongariro, which is known for it’s Alpine Crossing Trek. It’s the oldest and one of the best one day hikes in New Zealand. The 19.4-kilometer journey has unique land forms and volcanic peaks.  The climbs can be steep and the weather unpredictable all throughout. We had done a lot of trekking already in the last few days, the result of which was a very weak and painful knee. I could barely walk and the weather was not at it’s best. Since we had a few more days in NZ, we decided not to risk it and spoil the rest of our trip. Instead we did shorter treks in the vicinity. Maybe the alpine will happen the next time we get here! We visited the Waitonga Falls which is Tongariro National Park’s highest waterfall (39m). It took us around 1.5 hours to return. We walked through the well-formed tracks through Mountain Beech and Kaikawaka Forest and on the long boardwalk here. We also visited other waterfalls nearby like the Mangafhero Falls, Tawhai Falls and the Taranaki Falls.

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We were really looking forward to get on the Scenic Flight over the dramatic volcanic landscapes of the central plateau, since we couldn’t do the Alpine Crossing. You can fly over Tongariro Crossing, Northern Circuit or the Volcanic Explorer. It would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience if we could view the craters from above. But unfortunately due to severely cold weather and overcast, we couldn’t do this either. If you do get a chance, don’t miss this!

Since’ we couldn’t see the mountains from above. we thought why not drive the closest we can to Mt. Ruapehu? So we drove to Whakapapa ski-field from where you can view the snow capped mountains. On our way back, we took the Desert Route which is a road with barren mass of land on either sides. We did some food shopping and went back to our hotel to rest for the night.

Day 6: Saturday, 25th March, 2017

We had a flight booked from Taupo Airport to reach South Island. Yes! We covered the main attractions and a lot more in North Island in 5 days. So we checked out from our hotel at 6 am. The airport was a one hour drive and opened only at 8 am. So on our way we tried to catch a glimpse of Bully point  which is supposed to be a jumping spot for those who want to swim in the river. Since we couldn’t locate the spot, we took off and watched the sun rise instead. We also filled up the tank with fuel and dropped off our car at the Hertz Car Rental center near the airport.

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Taupo has a pretty small airport. We boarded the Air New Zealand Link to Queenstown with a layover at Auckland. So the entire journey was 4 hours long. We encountered a funny incident at the airport. There was absolutely no security check at the airport, however we were given a long explanation about the health and safety of their employees being jeopardized, by the lady at the counter, since our luggage was over the limit by a kilo. Fortunately we managed to convince her to let us off this time as we weren’t aware and it was just a kilo. New Zealand does care a lot about health and safety of its employees. Even a kilo would mean risking the health & safety of the employees. So be careful not to overload even by a kilo or end up paying a penalty charge.

We took our short scenic flight on a tiny plane, reached Queenstown and headed straight to our Hotel Heritage Queenstown. We were super hungry, so we quickly rushed to Fergburger which is a really famous burger joint in Queenstown. You’ll always find this place crowded. We had to wait in queue for 20 minutes before we could enter this place. They specialize in gourmet hamburgers, and is quite well known internationally despite not being a chain. We ordered Sweet Julie & Cock Cajun (Both Chicken) and Onion Rings. Delicious! They also have vegetarian variants (Holier than Thou & Bun Laden) and the rest in pork, beef, chicken, deer, lamb & seafood.

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We did not have a car yet, so it took us 30 mins to walk to this place. After a lip-smacking meal we walked towards Skyline Queenstown where we did the 2 rounds Luge & Gondola. They were super fun! Of course, you cannot take pictures while on the luge but they have cameras set up at places that automatically click pictures of you when on the ride. You can purchase them later. 🙂

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After a fun ride, we chilled at Lake Wakatipu, collected some food and drinks from Four Square and then walked back towards our hotel for the night.

Day 7: Sunday, 26th March, 2017

If you want to visit Milford Sound, you need to reserve an entire day for the Cruise. Since we had already booked a seat in coach, we were picked up in the morning from our hotel with the rest as this was a group tour. This is a 4 hour long scenic bus ride (one way) with the driver being the guide throughout. The journey is beautiful with views of the mountains, waterfalls and interesting landscapes.  We also got a chance to interact with the curious and intelligent Kea Bird who couldn’t stop poking at cameras and other gadgets it encountered. You’ll get to see the Mirror Lakes too. After the bus ride, you will be guided towards your 2 hour cruise that will help you get a closer view of the magnificent mountains and waterfalls. If you are lucky, you can spot seals resting on the rocks, dolphins and penguins as well! You’ll probably even recognize some locations from the Lord of the Rings movie series. Go out and stand on the deck to breathe in the freshness of the wonderful surrounding and drench yourself in the cool water that sprays as you get closer to the waterfalls near the mountains! Keep a poncho handy always, just in case you don’t want to get all soaked up in cold water. The deck is a better way to experience the spectacular views. You might want to sit indoors only to consume food. You can buy food on the cruise or carry your own.

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By the time we got home it was already late in the evening. The 4 hour return journey went by mostly in eating and sleeping, while the driver kept guiding us. We got back to our hotel and rested the night.

Day 8: Monday, 27th March, 2017

We picked up our rental in the morning and headed for the Glenorchy Drive which is a picturesque route along Lake Wakitapu. We crossed Arrow River further down and then we finally reached Paradise! Not kidding! There is a place here named Paradise. Also you could try the Shot-over Jet if you have enough time in hand. Looks pretty interesting!

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After a refreshing drive, we got back to our hotel, had breakfast and drove off to AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge Bungy which is a pioneer of commercial Bungy Jumping in the world. Alan John “A.J.” Hackett ONZM (born May 1958) is a New Zealand entrepreneur who popularized this extreme sport of bungy jumping. He made the famous bungy jump from the Eiffel Tower in 1987 and founded the first commercial bungy site in 1988 here and since then this place has become an established World Leader in the Tourism Industry. Recognized for an innovative, and “outside the square” style, their professional crew, high operating standards, training schemes and procedures ensure an impeccable safety record. 

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I had never in my life thought of bungee jumping. I was here only to accompany Akhilesh but however, he convinced me to register my name too. So there I was watching people jump off the bridge and rethinking my decision. Akhilesh went in first and while I was waiting outside to click his videos, I got a little chatty with some Asian women watching people jump. One of them noticed the stamp on my hand and asked me if I’ve jumped already. I told her that I’ll be up next anytime soon to which she asked me how old I am and when I said 27, she exclaimed how young I was. She went on to tell me that her husband who is 76 years old will be jumping from that bridge in a while.  And when I saw him jump, I was amazed at how confident, athletic and fit he was. That made me even more nervous now. Akhilesh successfully did the bunjy jump only to come back and tell me how scary it was. I was frightened even further. And there I was going in next, highly strung. They tied my ankles tight and could barely walk. Slowly, I was asked to walk towards the edge. Since I was in severe knee pain the crew asked me to jump head down first to avoid serious knee injury. Head first! I gulped in fear, standing at the edge looking down at the water and the depth. My heart was in my hand. I wanted to step back. One inch of movement and I’d be down. Then I looked at those women watching me and I felt so embarrassed! If a 76 year old man could do it, I could do it too. I had to conquer this fear. I could only wonder how people jump off high-rises to kill themselves. All these random thoughts were rushing in my head but I also thought to myself that If I’ve come all this way here, I can’t just stand here, I must do it, whatever it takes. It’s not easy to jump. So I asked one of the crew members to give me a push. He did and within seconds I fell down legs first and then suspended from the rope head down. I kept bouncing back and forth. The crew had asked me if I wanted to touch the water and I said just the tip. And then I did feel the cold cold water for a few seconds and flew up again. I could see the mountains and the lake upside down and that adrenaline rush you get, is beyond explanation! I was trying to reach out to the boat that was waiting to take me. And there I lay thinking and feeling proud that I did what I never imagined doing. The happiness you get afterwards is simply exhilarating. I climbed up as soon as I could to meet Akhilesh and give him a big hug! Then we bought our bunjee photos and videos on a pen-drive. And yay! We got free T-shirts!

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We were super hungry and what better than a Pizza treat! After checking out Pizza places nearby, we decided on Fat Badgers Pizza Bar in Queenstown. We don’t remember what we had ordered. It was mostly the The Princess (Veg)/ /Julius Badger (Chicken) and it was amazing!

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The new car wasn’t comfortable. So we got the car changed to the model (4WD Toyota RAV4) we drove in North NZ. Remember to always fill the tank to full before you give the car back even though you’ve just driven for a few hours. We left for the hotel in our new car to rest for some time.

We had scheduled our evening for Onsen Hot Pools. There are various packages but we chose the Onsen by Lantern Light which starts at 5 pm. The day package comes with a beautiful view of the mountains. We went in for the 8 pm slot since we wanted to immerse our selves in a private hot pool that opens up to a night-sky full of stars. Surrounded by scented candles, Japanese lanterns and millions of stars, we spent a magical time drinking wine with chips. The lighting modes and water temperatures can be adjusted and they also have a changing room and shower area. So carry appropriate clothing.

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The bath was refreshing and romantic indeed. We were content after 20 mins of bath, so we just sat there watching the sky, talking and drinking wine. So mystical!  You can spend an hour here.

Day 9: Tuesday, 28th March, 2017

We had an early start, so we checked out from our hotel and drove down to Wanaka. It’s approximately an hour away from Queenstown. The internet showed us 2 routes to reach Wanaka. On further research, we comprehended that one is the Cromwell which is a less challenging but longer route and the other is via the Crown Range Mountains which is the shortest and most direct route but a difficult one. It’s also the highest main road in New Zealand. So we chose the Crown Range because even though we knew it would be difficult, we wanted every experience in NZ to be a special one. The Crown Range reaches an altitude of 1121 meters, which does bring challenges during winters when the road is often covered in snow and ice, making for very difficult driving conditions. Fortunately, the winters aren’t bad at this time of the year, so the roads were clear when we drove through this range. You need to allow some time to stop and view the marvelous scenes you get to see on your way.  For Akhilesh, the whole driving experience was plain sailing. Maybe because driving in Mumbai is so difficult, everything else feels peaceful. On our way, we came across the historic Cardrona Hotel which is one of New Zealand’s oldest restaurants. There are many interesting local artefacts on display in the bar and restaurant.

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You will also cross Bra Fence. It has been renamed to Bradrona to raise money for breast cancer research.  A pink sign and a collection box to raise money for breast cancer have been put up beside the bra fence.  Some even take off their bras here and hang on the fence as a tribute. Apparently, it’s quite a controversial place!

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Before checking-in to our  Hotel Maple Lodge, we made stops at places like Motatapu River Track, Eely Point, Albert Town and also the Wanaka Tree which is really famous on the internet as #TheWanakaTree!

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I’ve always wanted to skydive and so we headed straight to Sky Dive Wanaka! Jumping off a plane is less scary than jumping off a cliff, at least that’s what I’ve always imagined and experienced as well. For the first 60 seconds, you drop at 200kmph and post that you just swing and swim in the open air. You don’t really get to see the depth when you jump off from the edge of the plane at 16,000+ feet above sea level. Plus, there’s a tandem along to have your back and take care of everything. So it’s not scary! You just need to let go and experience yourself float and fly like a kite. Akhilesh has skydived before in Australia so it wasn’t really exciting for him this time. More like been there, done that! Haha! He found the Australian dive better.

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While on the plane, we spotted the snow clad peaks; Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring. There are various packages to buy from with combinations like  photos and video or just photos and so on. I chose the one where a second flyer jumps along and takes pictures and videos with his camera. Pretty expensive but YOLO! I was mesmerized when I realized I was floating over the mountains and all around me was a complete 360 degree view of New Zealand’s highest mountains including Aoraki / Mt Cook and Tititea / Mt Aspiring and also forested river valleys and lakes (Lakes Wanaka, Hawea, Dunstan, Wakatipu, Pukaki, Tekapo). You’re jumping into the Lord of the Rings country. Just make sure you keep your eyes open! The experience was breathtaking. I could feel the force of wind on my face. After the free fall, the tandem asked me if I would like to do some swings back and forth mid air and somersaults, I agreed and he said no ones asks him to do that! All this with the knee pain, but it was totally fun! And alas, we landed!

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After a well spent afternoon, we drove around on our off road explorations and visited a few places before retiring to our hotel room.

Day 10: Tuesday, 29th March, 2017

We checked out early from our hotel and proceeded to Lake Hawea and the Esplanade Reserve. We spent some time here and then decided to paddle in the lake. We had booked our slot a day prior. Our guide was a beautiful Canadian lady from Paddle Wanaka who had settled here for work. There are a lot of Immigrants in NZ. Probably 80% and tourism is one of the main sources of their growing economy.  So our friendly guide was on a separate boat while Akhilesh and I shared one. We paddled for 2 hours and stopped at Ruby Island. The paddle can be really shaky, so you and your partner need to maintain a balance. The one who sits at the back of the boat has the controls to direct the boat. So Akhilesh controlled it on our way to Ruby Island and switched places on our way back.

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Ruby Island is a tiny island and there is a story behind this place. For a period in the 1920s and 1930s Ruby Island was a rather unlikely site of a tearoom and Saturday-night ‘cabaret’ operated by the Hunt family, who ran a ferry from the mainland. Recently, close to 500 young people took to their inflatable boats to this island for massive drinking and partying, the result of which was a neglected fire which caused destruction to parts of this island. So we started our trek around the island and while we were exploring this place, our guide made us hot coffee, served with some delicious muffins. We sat on a bench and enjoyed our little break with the guide. We got back on our boats and passed the Wanaka Tree, this time from the within the lake and paddled back for another 2 hours. This was a tad bit tiring for the legs but definitely a meditation for the mind. And phew! we didn’t topple!

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Our next stop, Franz Josef  was 3.5 hours away and we wanted to avoid driving in the night. Considering us and this beguiling place, our 3.5 hours journey had to extend by a few more hours. So we started driving as soon as we could, at 2 pm from Wanaka. Before I forget to mention, apply a decent amount of insect repellent on your exposed areas of skin! Sand-flies in South island can cause a great deal of nuisance and create havoc during your hike. They sting and can make you all red with bumps, too! So don’t wait for them to bite you, like I did.

A little off the track, but I just remembered that while driving in NZ, we observed far too many dead Possums in the middle of the road, but never once alive! We later realized that these little creatures are nocturnal in nature and therefore active only in the night.  So when they come out on the streets during the night, these poor little beings get killed by fast moving vehicles and that’s how you only get to see them dead in the morning! But Possum Fur is really famous in NZ and you’ll come across expensive possum fur pieces at all these souvenir stores.

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So coming back to where I left from, we drove and pulled-up to trek at pretty places like Makaroa River to see the Blue Pools,  Knights Point, Haast Bridge, Thunder Creek Falls and countless other view points in between. You can also visit Jackson View Point which we skipped. It was already dark by the time we reached our Hotel Rainforest Retreat. It took us 6 hours (including all the stops and hikes) to reach Franz Josef. We checked-in at 8 pm, ate well and slept after spending a long day on the road.

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Day 11: Wednesday, 30th March, 2017

We really wanted to try the Glacier Snow Landing here, but pertaining to heavy fog and bad weather conditions, we couldn’t. We wished for the weather to clear because we were short of days to make any changes in the plan as our trip was coming to an end. We tried calling the center multiple times during the day to ask if its possible. They weren’t sure either as to when the weather would clear up. Downhearted, we drove around the place and went for smaller treks like Lake Matheson (Scenic), Tatare Tunnels Walk, Lake Mapourika and so on.

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We went for a forest trek – The Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere Walk, from we saw the glaciers shine on the mountains! The cold and rainy weather made for one terrific walk. We saw waterfalls on our way, went off-road and got lost too but found our way back on track. It was fun exploring mountains from roads that go closest to them. Our day ended here with some lip-smacking Fish & Chips and Chicken & Chips salad meal from Kiwi Kai, which unfortunately is permanently closed now. The meal had a really good portion and we were full to our heart’s content!

Day 12: Thursday, 31st March, 2017

Like most of our days here, we checked out from our hotel early in the morning and visited Lake Mahinapua. It’s also a popular overnight camping stop. Renting out a camper-van in NZ is quite a convenient and affordable option. There are a lot of places you can park overnight and camp. Plus, you can go wherever you want without having to worry about hotel bookings. These stops have clean washrooms too.

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We left from here to see the Hokitika Beach which looked so stormy and hazy when we arrived! It was the Tasman Sea we were looking at! The sand was filled with round white rocks and dead trees barks, resembling skulls and bones. Gave me chills in the beginning but later I realized they weren’t what I thought them to be. Phew!

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Close to this place is the Hokitika Gorge. The vivid turquoise waters surrounded by lush native bushes make you feel like you’ve come to a fantasy fairy-tale world. It looks much more beautiful than it does in pictures. The walk on the shaky swing-bridge that takes you to the other side is a must. This was one of our last scenic walks in NZ.

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There are a lot of places to see in Hokitika like the Glow Worm Dell which is a free and fun place to watch glowworms. We skipped this one, so we left to see the famous Sunset Point which is a spectacular vantage point at any time of day. This is – as the name suggests – the prime place to watch the day’s light fade away while watching surfers, seagulls, a long-shore drift with some fish & chips – The ultimate New Zealand Life! We were way too early to see the sunset and the weather still looked very stormy. But nevertheless, this is such a stunning point! Even though we were watching the same Tasman Sea we visited hours ago, the feeling you get here is totally different. You can watch the waves roar endlessly. There were Seagulls everywhere and a cute big dog danced with little birds chirping along. But what elated us the most was the sight of the evident meeting point of the Hokitika River and the Tasman Sea. Watching the calm river crash into the ferocious sea waves was a wonderful experience! After the clash of 2 opposite forces, everything calms down to give way to the sea/river bed that separates the river and the sea!

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We had our return flight from Christchurch the very next day. So we wanted to take the TranzAlpine Kiwi Rail from Greymouth which is one of the Great Journeys of NZ.  We were really looking forward to this journey, but in February a fire accident affected the rail line and it was shut for quite some time. We were a bit disappointed but fortunately right before our trip to NZ, we were informed that the train was back on track and operational. While it’s best to take this train during the winters when its all covered in  snow, the monsoons weren’t bad at all. The open section on the train is the best place to take pictures and drench yourself in the freshness of nature.  You’ll get to witness epic vistas, travel the edges of the Waimakariri River, traverse the Southern Alps and see miles of the Native Beech Forest.

After filling gas, we bid goodbye to our car at the Hertz branch near Greymouth Railway Station. We boarded the train and settled in our allotted seats. They have a dedicated luggage carriage which makes travelling easy. The TranzAlpine is one of the world’s greatest train journeys covering 223 kms(139 miles) one-way, under 5 hours. You’ll traverse the majestic Canterbury Plains to the backdrop of the mighty Southern Alps. You’ll cross the Arthur’s Pass on your way too. There are only 7 stops in between. The trains have huge glass windows so you can view the beauty from the comfort of your seats. Every seat is provided with an audio guide that will help you with information of places you pass. They have a fully licensed café on board that sells nibbles and snacks, hot & cold food, tea, coffee, soft drinks and alcohol. We ordered the Classic Ginger Beer, Original Ale, Tandoori Chicken Wrap and Thai Curry Rice! If you are planning on this train journey, book your seats in advance.

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We reached Christchurch around 7 pm and were picked up from the station to Hotel IBIS Christchurch. Since we were here only for the night, we dropped off our luggage in the room and left to see The Cardboard Cathedral. Christchurch was still recovering from the 2011 earthquake that shook this place. We could spot tilted and shattered towers and debris everywhere. We got the post apocalyptic feeling here. The church was also significantly damaged. It’s made out of ‎cardboard tubes, timber and steel with stained glass work.

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Further down the road was Food Street at Cathedral Square. I guess it’s also known as the Friday Street Food Market. Luckily we were here on a Friday! This is setup in an open street filled with food stalls and trucks serving food ranging from Asian, Indian, Tibetan, American and European Food. You can try Mexican street food, Sri Lankan finger food, European rotisserie chicken, Himalayan Momos and Desserts too! We had the best last moments of our trip with some good food and street music.

Day 13: Friday, 1st April, 2017

Couldn’t believe that this was our last day here, at this beautiful place. We checked out of our hotel, dropped our car off at the airport and left for Mumbai via Singapore (Changi Airport).

And here goes a little note to beloved NZ…

New Zealand, you’ve charmed us by your mysterious nature. You’re a wonderland where rainforests and glaciers co-exist, where anyone can venture into an endless mass of nature and trek their way into deep forests, absolutely free from any form of wildlife, where every inch is a spectacular scenic beauty worth capturing, where the weather changes from sunny hot, chilly cold to pouring rain before you know it, where one can spot herds of wooly sheep, hefty cows and also dead possums in the middle of the road, where one doesn’t have to be afraid of anything but stubborn sand-flies, where everyone gets to explore their adventurous side and where everything is 100% tourist friendly. – #NewZealand, we never wanted to say goodbye!

Thank you Akhilesh Gupta for all the efforts you put into making this memorable trip possible! Couldn’t have been happier! 🙂

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What we packed: (Apart from the basic ‘must carry’ items)

  • Comfortable clothing & inner-wear (Minimum since the weather was cold and it’s easy to carry around a light luggage)
  • Overcoats/Leather Jackets/Winter-wear
  • Thermal Wear
  • Hand Gloves
  • Beanie
  • Cap/Hat
  • Poncho/Rain Jacket
  • Extra Pair of Shoes. I carried 2 pairs of Boots. You may want to carry a pair of slippers too.
  • Sports/ Trekking Shoes
  • Ready-to-eat meals
  • Toiletries
  • Prescription Medicines and first aid kit. We carried Odomos (Insect Repellent), Relispray (Instant Muscular Pain Relief), Avomin (Nausea), Soframycin (Burns/Injury/Skin Infection), Band Aids (Cuts), Betadine Cotton Buds (Antiseptic for wound), Alcohol Pads (Wound cleaning and disinfecting), Rantac/Eno (Acidity), Electrol (Weakness), Crocin/Dolo (Headache), Voveran (Pain Killer), Tiger Balm/Power Gel (Topical Pain Relief), Roko (Loose Motions). Please consult your doctor. These are OTC’s only for emergency.
  • Scarf
  • Hand Towels
  • Quick Absorbing Towel (Quite handy while trekking and you want yo take a quick dip in hot springs on your way) We got these from #Decathlon
  • Quick Absorbing Socks
  • Portable Charger (Useful! We could manage to click 12000 pics from 3 phones in 10 days thanks to a handy charger)
  • Selfie Stick
  • Sports wear for trekking. Comfortable and Stretchable.
  • A haversack for carrying all your stuff during treks. We got these from #Decathlon
  • Swim wear (Preferably 2 if you are taking a sulphur bath. Your clothes will stink. Mine still does even after 6 months. I’ve washed multiple times and giving it a lot of sun as well. You could wear an old swim wear for a sulphur bath.)
  • Once there stock up on snacks like chips, cake, protein bars and liquids like Red Bull (For the one driving the car especially), Gatorade and lots of water. Keep them in your car always for a quick munch.
  • Compact Body Pouch for your Passports & Money/Cards
  • Universal Adapter Plug
  • Collect all brochures you see at the airport

 

What you need to know:

  • NZ is really safe. But you need to be careful too. Leave behind all your jewelry at home. Even fake ones that look real. Don’t stop for hitch-hikers. You may take this as being rude, but it’s a new place, you might want to be safe here.
  • All the places are perfectly mapped and the pathways are tracked really well. Just follow the rules mentioned and stay on the trekking path.
  • There are no wild animals in NZ. So venture into forests and dip yourselves in the waters without fear! But only where places have been marked with details. Read everything before starting off.
  • NZ is an expensive place including the activities. So keep that in mind before planning a trip here.
  • Ideally Self-Drive (right-hand drive) here. That’s the only option you have if you really want to consume the beauty of this place! Be ready to drive a lot. Akhilesh drove close to 2500 kms (both islands) in 10 days! But perfect, empty roads and automatic transmission made the drive easy and fun!
  • Book your hotels and activities in advance. Call them 24 hours in advance to confirm your presence/ pickup.
  • Fuel up your car whenever you can. We found Gull/Mobil – value for money.
  • Exchange your currency, preferably at a single place. You’ll save on the service charges when you reconvert them.
  • Schedule all your outdoor activities before 5 pm since most shut services post this time. Check timings online to avoid disappointment.
  • Check the parking time limit before parking your car in a city. You don’t want a parking ticket! We weren’t aware and got a very expensive one for parking (near the Pizza Place) a few minutes over the max time limit. Check this website: https://www.drivingtests.co.nz/resources/where-can-you-park-and-for-how-long/ for details.
  • Read the road and traffic rules online and also in the book the car rentals provide you with. Abide by them.

 

What we got back from NZ:

  • Collagen Face Serum (You can buy Mud packs too)
  • Tiki (small, carved ornament which can be used as a neck-piece and it symbolizes the first man in Māori legend. Also associated with fertility and the virtuous qualities of Maori womanhood) as a souvenir,
  • A cuddly sheep soft toy for all the cuddly sheep we saw in NZ & of course,
  • Lots of beautiful memories (apart from the 12K pictures/videos), we can never forget and possibly cannot express it in mere words. You can see them below by clicking the link 🙂

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM OUR NEW ZEALAND TRIP UPLOADED ON FLICKR

Add in your thoughts about this post and about NZ! 🙂

Till then,

Happy Travelling!

Divyashree Mangalorkar Gupta

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SIMPLE TRICK TO WRITE MULTIPLICATION TABLES OF ANY 2 NUMBERS

There’s always a solution to all your problems and it’s no different with Math.

As kids or as adults, we do find calculating multiplication tables a little difficult, especially when the numbers are between 10 – 99.

Ofcourse, we always have a calculator or our mobile phones to help us with such calculations. But what when we don’t have access to those or are prohibited to use scientific instruments, for instance during competitive exams?

With this trick, you won’t have to worry further. This easy calculation will help you out. All you need is a pen and paper and tables between 2-9. Well that can be managed, I suppose!

So check this 36 seconds video and share it with people you care, especially children, since they need it the most! 😀

Do try it out yourself.

Happy Calculating!

Catch Pokémon For A Living Now!

“Wanted Pokémon trainer dexterous at finding and catching Pokémons.” That’s a listing on Babajob.com, seeking a Pokémon Catcher!

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The Bengaluru-based job portal has created a new category for Pokémon Catcher. It allows people to hire others to play #PokémonGo, the vastly popular augmented reality-based game, in their stead.

The company says that it expects this to become a trend soon. The job has currently been posted by Ash Ketchum. Pokémon fans will know that this is the lead character in the original anime series. According to Babajob, the company’s co-founder and COO, Vir Kashyap, is going to hire someone to play in his place.

In an email interaction with Digit, Kashyap explained that he and CEO, Sean Blagsvedt, started a friendly competition amongst themselves in the game. Kashyap however injured himself midway, rendering him unable to play. He plans to hire someone to play in his place, and the person will be paid Rs. 1,999 for reaching a particular level in the game.

The job posting states that the remuneration can go up to Rs, 25,000 per month. A sum that is equivalent to starting salaries for freshers in many specialised fields.

“One should be alert and swift. Also, the user should have enough knowledge about the Pokémon world to become a successful Pokémon Catcher,” said Kashyap, on being asked what the criteria for employment will be.

The opening is currently in Bengaluru, but the company said it has received lots of applications from across the country. The one selected will currently be going around Bengaluru, collecting Pokémon, and visiting other startup offices, which may appear as Pokéstops in the game.

It was only a matter of time before #PokemonGo opened up opportunities for others to earn money off of it. Interestingly, the game isn’t even officially available in India yet, although, the country is generating a hefty load off the traffic on Niantic’s servers. The website shows that many applicants have already applied for the job, and Babajob is currently reviewing the applications to hire a Pokémon Catcher for Kashyap.


I am a Freelance Designer.  Click Here to check my work 🙂

The Secrets of Victoria’s Secret you probably didn’t know!

This cult American lingerie brand is such a must have for every second woman around the globe, isn’t it? Supermodel brand ambassadors or ‘angels’ right from Heidi Klum to Adriana Lima, Miranda Kerr and Helena Christensen have become global faces!

But do you know where Victoria’s Secret manufactures its ‘Pink’ lingerie brand?

It’s manufactured at ‘Intimate Fashions Factory’ which is located at a small village in Kanchipuram district just 30 kms from Chennai in Tamil Nadu! Yes, India!

The women who work at the Intimate Fashions Factory, which produces bras for Victoria’s Secret, La Senza and others, come mostly from poor rural areas in India.

There are close to 2,500 employees (mostly women) working at Intimate Fashions. The girls make around Rs. 8000 a month which is twice as much as the majority of men in their villages who make just about Rs. 120 a day working on farms.

These young women are breadwinners! Not only that, there a positive social changes taking place due to these jobs. Girls, who were married off straight out of school are now delaying their marriages by three or four years.

On Intimate Fashion’s massive factory floor, hundreds of women in bright pink aprons and headscarves sit in long lines bent over their machines, busily stitching red satin ribbons and lilac lace straps as Tamil pop music blares out from speakers.

The conditions at Intimate Fashions is a major improvement for Victoria’s Secret following Bloomberg’s revelations that the company reportedly used cotton that had been picked by teenage girls under grueling conditions in Burkina Faso, West Africa.

Well it doesn’t end here. Victoria has another secret! Our homegrown Alok Industries along with its Sri Lankan partner, MAS Intimates, source close to 300 tonnes of organic, free-trade Burkinabe cotton for Victoria’s Secret. Not just that! This cotton gets shipped to India and Alok Industries spins 200 tonnes of yarn which is then made into fabric and sent to MAS Intimates factories for their other garments before it hits high-street fashion shelves from New York and Paris to London and Tokyo. Their involvement with Alok Industries has been strong since 2007!

After all this, Victoria’s Secret has just one stand-alone store in the whole of India. Delhi! So unfair!

Shhh…

Why does “Will Not” not become “Willn’t”?

Most contractions in English are pretty straightforward. The pattern of contraction for verbs and the negative adverb ‘not is very basic in majority instances. You first write the contraction, then the n of not, then an apostrophe, followed by the t of not. This is true for all of the following examples:

is not, isn’t;
are not, aren’t;
was not, wasn’t;
were not, weren’t;
has not, hasn’t;
have not, haven’t;
had not, hadn’t;
cannot, can’t;
could not, couldn’t;
do not, don’t;
does not, doesn’t;
did not, didn’t;
may not, mayn’t;
might not, mightn’t;
should not, shouldn’t;
would not, wouldn’t;
must not, mustn’t;
ought not, oughtn’t;
dare not, daren’t;

need not, needn’t.

There are only three of the most frequently used verb + negative adverb examples that don’t work like this: shan’t, ain’t and won’t. Let’s look at how they differ from the majority of examples and then try to understand why.

Shan’t is the contraction of shall not, ain’t is a contraction of am not and won’t is defined as the contraction of will not. Look at what happens when we add the negative adverb to each one:

shall + not (take away ll; take away o) —> shan’t

Now, you may wonder why aren’t there two apostrophes, since two letters are removed in one place and one in another place? Why isn’t it sha’n’t? The fact is that at one time as recently as the 20th Century, it was spelled as sha’n’t! Perhaps people who didn’t understand the role of the apostrophe “misspelled” it or brought it into line by copying the pattern of the majority of verb/negative adverb contractions.

In a similar way, am not was also spelled as amn’t instead of ain’t which later came into use.

Ain’t is a contraction for am not, is not, are not, has not, and have not in the common English language vernacular. In some dialects ain’t is also used as a contraction of do not, does not, and did not. The development of ain’t for the various forms of to be not, to have not, and to do not occurred independently, at different times. The usage of ain’t for the forms of to be not was established by the mid-18th century, and for the forms of to have not by the early 19th century.

The usage of ain’t is a perennial subject of controversy in English. Ain’t is commonly used by many speakers in oral or informal settings, especially in certain regions and dialects. Its usage is often highly stigmatized, and it may be used as a marker of socio-economic or regional status or education level. Its use is generally considered non-standard by dictionaries and style guides except when used for rhetorical effect, and it is rarely found in formal written works.

Amn’t as a contraction of am not is known from 1618.  As the “mn” combination of two nasal consonants is disfavoured by many English speakers, the “m” of amn’t began to be elided, reflected in writing with the new form an’t. Aren’t as a contraction for are not first appeared in 1675. In non-rhotic dialects, aren’t lost its “r” sound, and began to be pronounced as an’tAn’t (sometimes a’n’t) arose from am not and are not almost simultaneously.

I am doing good, am I not? 
–>I am doing good, amn’t I? (Earlier Usage)
–>I am doing good, ain’t I? (Present day usage)

What about won’t?

will + not (take away ll; take away o) —> win’t rather than won’t

The fact is that the contraction won’t was created when an older form of will not was in use. At different times and places “will” came out as wulle, wole, wool, welle, wel, wile, wyll, and even ull, and ool. From at least the 16th century, the preferred form was wonnot from “woll not,” with occasional departures later to winnot, wunnot, or the expected willn’t. Finally after years of change by our linguistic ancestors, “will” won the battle of the “woles/wulles/ools,” but for the negative contraction, “wonnot” simply won out, and contracted further to the “won’t” we use today. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, won’t was formed from woll not, an earlier form of will not. Knowing this, we can now set up our diagram of the formation of the contraction like this:

woll + not (take away ll; take away o) —> won’t

And we can see that it is formed identically to shan’t. So did won’t at one time have a double apostrophe as well? Yes: at one time, the correct spelling (or a correct spelling) was wo’n’t!

The verb “will” has been spelled all sorts of ways since first showing up as wyllan around 1,000 in Aelfric’sGrammar, an Old English introduction to Latin grammar. The Oxford English Dictionary has many Middle English examples of the wole or wol spelling dating back to the 1200s.

Now that you know the history, it should be easier to connect 🙂 

 

 

Interesting Facts About Evolution!

    1. Ultimately every living thing can trace its ancestry to a bacterium that lived billions of years ago.
    2. Bears, seals, and dogs are closely related carnivores but are on a different branch of the evolutionary tree than cats and hyenas.
    3. Some snakes have hipbones, which shows they once had four legs like lizards, their close cousins.
    4. Early whales had large back legs.
    5. Inside some whales and dolphins are small bones that show they once had back legs and that their ancestors walked on land. These occasionally reappear as tiny rear flippers.
    6. Birds evolved from dinosaurs and both are descended from reptiles. The closest living reptilian relation of a bird is the crocodile.
    7. Evolution rarely follows a straight line from species to species. Instead, it is more like a tree with many branches. Some branches lead to new branches, while others become dead ends.
    8. An elephant’s trunk is an amazing example of evolutionary development. It is a combined nose and upper lip that lengthened as the elephant’s ancestors became taller and their tusks grew bigger. With its heavy head, it needed an easy way to reach the ground.
    9. Physically, the human body seems to have changed very little in the last 50,000 years. However improvements in diets, increased lifespan, and developments in biotechnology may start to speed up the evolutionary process.
    10. All humans develop a tail in the womb that eventually dissolves.
    11. The penises of human ancestors were covered in hard spines. Theorists believe these spines possibly helped a man’s sperm overtake that of his competitors. As humans became more monogamous, the spines became obsolete.
    12. Charles Darwin did not come up with his theory of evolution while at the Galapagos Islands. His ideas came later, after his return from the voyage.
    13. Darwin (1809–1882) did not come up with the phrase “survival of the fittest” to summarize his theory. Rather, the philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) coined the phrase.
    14. Darwin did not argue that humans came from monkeys. Rather he wrote only thatmonkeys, apes, and humans have a common ancestor.
    15. Approximately 550 million years ago, humans had a common ancestor with a lancelet, a rod-like sea animal.
    16. Humans share about 31% of their genes with yeast, a single living cell that replicates every 90 minutes. They share about 50% of their genes with a banana.l
    17. A pair of parents would have to have 1,000,000,000,000,000 (a quadrillion) babies before they possibly might have a child with the same genes as any of their other children. This genetic variation between individuals is the key to how species have evolved.
    18. A descended larynx, which allows humans to speak, evolved roughly 350,000 year ago. Humans also possess a descended hyoid one, which allows humans to articulate words. In contrast, the larynx in a chimp, for example, sits higher in the throat than in a human.
    19. A hobbit-like species of human lived about 18,000 years ago. About the size of a 3-year-old, they lived with pygmy elephants and 10-foot-long lizards.
    20. The changes in a human pelvis that allow humans to walk upright also made bearing children unusually more dangerous than the rest of the animal kingdom. Additionally, the lumbar curve in the lower back, which helps humans maintain balance, is more vulnerable to pain and injury.
    21. A square inch of human skin on average has as much or more hair-producing follicles as other primates. The difference is that human hair is thinner, shorter, and lighter.
    22. Researchers believe that goose bumps are a remnant of thick hair that covered early humans.
    23. While other primates have opposable thumbs, humans are unique because they can bring their thumbs across the hand to their ring and little fingers. Humans can also flex the ring and little fingers toward the base of the thumb. This allows humans to have a powerful grip and dexterity to hold and use tools.
    24. The development of human clothes has influenced the evolution of other species. For example, unlike all other kinds of louse, the body louse clings to clothing not to hair.
    25. Evolutionary biologists hypothesize that species that cooperate rather than compete value sameness, which has led to right-hand dominance. Lefties constitute just 10% of the normal population; yet they make up 50% of elite athletes.
    26. Researchers suggest that the discovery of fire influenced human evolution. Fire allowed humans to cook their food, which made food easier to chew and digest—which, in turn, contributed to the reduction of human tooth and gut size.
    27. While most animals reproduce until they die, humans have evolved to survive long after the ability to reproduce. Scientists believe this has helped ensure the success of a woman’s family.
    28. The theory of evolution has three basic parts: 1) it is possible for an organism’s DNA to change or mutate; 2) the change is harmful, beneficial, or neutral; and 3) after a long period of time, the mutations cause new species to form.
    29. Mutations fuel evolution by providing new genes in the gene pool of a species. Many factors cause DNA mutation, including X-rays, cosmic rays, nuclear radiation, and random chemical reactions in a cell.
    30. In 1861, the fossil of a primitive bird named Archaeopteryx (“first bird”) was found in Germany. It has impressions of feathers and a long, bony tail. Scientist believe this fossil links birds and reptiles and was the first solid evidence to support Darwin’s theory of evolution.
    31. In the 1870s, Ernst Haeckel, a German biologist and naturalist, developed the idea of “evolution as progress,” which assumes that all nature is moving toward a final goal: human beings.
    32. The discovery of DNA (strands of hereditary material) provides the strongest proof for biological evolution. By comparing genomes of different living things and observing the changes in the coding of genes, scientists can figure out how closely different species are related to each other and identify how long ago a common ancestor lived.
    33. Modern evolution theory recognizes that evolution does not always mean progress. If the environment changes, more advanced animals can die out while less advanced relatives survive.
    34. Darwin was not the first to propose a theory of evolution. His real achievement was that he was able to present a more coherent argument for evolution backed up by a mass of accurate information.
    35. In revolutionary France, a theory of evolution (by Jean Baptiste Lamarck) was used to challenge the authority of the church and the king. Fearful of similar uprisings, England made evolution a scandalous idea.
    36. Scientists believe that the nictitating membrane (the small pink tissue in the corner of a human eye) is a remnant of a third eyelid, similar to the semitransparent eyelid used by birds, reptiles, fish, and other mammals. It is used to protect the eye or moisten it.
    37. Eighty-five percent of the population cannot wiggle its ears or control the Auricularis muscles that surround the outer ear. Scientists believe this muscle allowed human beings’ primate ancestors to move their ears in different directions to pinpoint the locations of sounds. They lost the need to move their ears when they started to live in groups.
    38. Scientists believe that wisdom teeth and the appendix are leftover “equipment” from when humans ate a primarily leaf-based diet. As the human diet changed, these appendices have become essentially useless.
    39. The term “Junk DNA” refers to regions of DNA that are noncoding—or, in other words, they do not code for a protein. Scientists note that evolution is messy, incomplete, and inefficient and, consequently, it results in DNA sequences with varying degrees of function or no function at all. In the human genome, almost all (98%) of DNA is noncoding.
    40. Hiccups may date back to humans’ watery ancestors. Wiring in the brain that pushes water over fish gills and makes amphibians gulp air has been imperfectly rewired in mammals. It can make the diaphragm go into spasms, which causes hiccups.
    41. Because of evolution, many animals lay hundreds of eggs each year to ensure that even a few reach adulthood. If all the froglets survived, the world would be knee-deep in frogs within 10 years.
    42. The platypus is the earliest mammal offshoot from the reptiles. It lays eggs but produces milk like other mammals. It also has evolved the ability to produce venom independently of its reptile ancestors.
    43. The plantaris muscle in the foot is used by animals to grip and manipulate objects with their feet. For example, apes seem to be able to use their feet as well as their hands. In humans, however, this muscle is so underdeveloped that doctors often remove it when they need tissue for reconstructing other parts of the body. About 9% of humans are now born without it.
    44. Humans have very little hair compared to other primates. Researchers believe humans have evolved this feature because 1) it made it easier to forage for food in shallow water, 2) it helped humans lose heat faster on the hot savannas, and 3) it helped reduce the number of parasites on the body.
    45. Human evolution has taken 5 million years. Modern man, or homo sapiens (“wise man”), emerged 250,000 years ago. Until 25,000 years ago, humans lived alongside the Neanderthals, who were stronger and more stocky. Scientists are unsure what happened to the Neanderthals.
    46. The evolution of the mammalian ear can be clearly tracked through fish, amphibian, and reptile fossils. Mammals have three small bones in the inner ear that began as the jawbones of fish. Over time, they changed form and function, shrank, and moved away from the jaw. This allowed mammals to develop a superior sense of hearing.
    47. Madagascar split from Africa 165 million years ago, which was before Africa’s large mammals, such as elephants and giraffes, evolved. Hence, elephants and giraffes do not live on Madagascar. Hippos are thought to be the only large mammals to have swum to Madagascar.
    48. Some scientists believe that if humans colonize other planets, colonizers would face new environment conditions, such as low gravity and oxygen. Over centuries, the colonizers and the plants and animals they took with them would evolve to look and behave differently.
    49. A panda’s thumb is actually an enlarged wrist bone that has evolved to allow the panda to hold onto its favorite food: bamboo.
    50. Birds haven’t had teeth for 70 million years, but researchers have found them in the embryos of mutant chickens. Researchers believe that chickens lost their teeth to grow beaks—although, they still have the potential to make teeth.
    51. Most people had brown eyes until about 10,000 years ago when a single genetic mutation from the Black Sea switched the eyes from brown to blue. Approximately 8% of the world’s population now has blue eyes.
    52. Researchers are unsure if humans are still evolving or if they have reached their evolutionary peak.
    53. A new species is achieved when two populations of the same living thing become so different that they can no longer breed with each other.
    54. Evolutionary biologists note that a symmetrical face is more attractive around the world because symmetry signals good genes for reproductive health.
    55. According to evolutionary biologists, women are more attracted to men with a large jaw and prominent brow, which are shaped by high levels of testosterone. Men are attracted to women with smaller chins and less prominent brows, which signal higher estrogen levels.
    56. One study found that men who were hungry preferred women with higher body weights. Researchers suspect this happens because of an evolutionary response to resource scarcity; in other words, a heavier woman advertises access to more resources, such as food.
    57. Historically, men prefer women with an hourglass figure. Researchers believe this is a product of evolution because the waist-hip ratio (WHR) serves as an indicator of reproductive health.
    58. Scientific studies have shown that blushing helps ease hostile responses by communicating that a person is ashamed or apologetic. Studies show that blushing elicits sympathy, which helps keep the subject alive. Humans are the only animals capable of blushing.
    59. Lip twitching when angry is an evolutionary leftover. It is the first part of baring teeth at an intruder and can also be seen in wolves, bears, and chimpanzees.
    60. Many people feel the urge to lift their feet or climb to a more elevated position when scared or feeling anxious. Evolutionary biologists claim this is a remnant instinct from when early ground-dwelling mammals would climb trees when threatened.
    61. Evidence for evolution is continually being gathered and tested; consequently, scientists argue that evolution is both a fact and a theory.
    62. The Tiktaalik is a fossil that shows the transition between a fish and a walking tetrapod. This “fishapod” had developed wrist and finger bones that enabled it to prop itself up on its fins. Holes on top of its head suggest it may have breathed air through primitive lungs.
    63. The term “evolution” dates from the Latin evolutionem, meaning “unrolling” or “an opening of what was rolled up.”
    64. Scientists believe that red hair and pale skin was evolutionarily advantageous in northern Europe because it helped humans to synthesize vitamin D more easily.

The Island Where Everyone Wears A Gas Mask!

Mount Oyama

Resting atop a chain of volcanoes, Miyake-jima is an island in the Izu group, southeast of Honshū, Japan. About 160 kilometers south of Tokyo , this town is a hub for volcanic activity where over the past century, the volcanoes have erupted six times. The worst of these occurred in June 2000 when, after a repose of 17 years Mount Oyama which is an extremely active volcano spot erupted & 17,500 earthquakes hit the island between June 26 and July 21.

Inside of Mount OyamaEruption of Mount Oyama in Miyakejima Japan Picture

During the assault of eruptions and earthquakes, ash plumes soaring as high as 10 miles enveloped Miyake-jima, and heavy ash fell as the craters collapsed. High levels of toxic sulphur dioxide would regularly rise up through the ground, making 20 percent of the land not fit for habitation. Covered with a cloud of harmful sulphur dioxide gas, spewed into the air by volcanic eruptions, the islands heavy weather systems and cold make it worse. At one point, it was so bad that it was polluting the air with 42,000 tons of sulphur dioxide per day. Those who have studied the volcano’s patterns have found that it goes off in intervals of 20 years.  But even when Mount Oyama isn’t mid-eruption, it continues to emit sulfuric gas.

Miyakejima Panorama Photograph

The eruptions released so much toxic gas into the air that three months later in September, the government had to force a mass evacuation of the entire island. Over 3,600 people evacuated the island in 2000 because of the toxic gases which could harm their lungs. For five years, Miyake-jima was declared off-limits, with the barren island resembling a post-apocalyptic world. Dead trees and rusted cars peppered the derelict space. Mount Oyama continued to emit 10,000 to 20,000 tons of sulphuric dioxide gas from its summit every day for two years following the eruption. Slowly, though, the evacuation order began to lift, and in 2005 citizens were allowed to return to their homes.

6_gas mask town japanGas Protection

Despite the high level of volcanic activity that causes poisonous gas to leak from the earth, some island denizens just can’t stay away! Some opted to remain in their relocated houses in Tokyo, but about 2,800 chose to return, taking back the island’s abandoned buildings. They have adopted ways to suit the living conditions in the island.

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Considering the re-populating of the island, nearly a third of Miyake-jima remains permanently uninhabitable and the government mandates regular health checkups and enforces age restrictions in certain areas. In terms of monitoring the air quality, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been watching the volcanic activity through videos, helicopter and satellite images.

Naval Leapfrog4_gas mask town japan3_gas mask town japan

In the meantime, civilians walk around with gas masks to protect themselves from the toxicity. All residents and visitors are required to carry gas masks, and an air raid alarm goes off when the sulfur levels get unhealthily high. So when the air quality gets bad enough, the town turns into a masked extra-terrestrial looking crowd of people seemingly attending the same themed costume party.

Miyakejima The Gas Mask Town

But all that poisoned air does have its perks. While many wouldn’t exactly call this an ideal spot for tourists, some curious about this town where the citizens wear gas masks do venture through. Gas mask tourism is a huge draw for people who want to pretend they’re living in the post-destruction age. With disposable masks sold at ferry stations and local stores, this gas-soaked village hasn’t kept tourists away. The city’s site advises visitors to learn about the harmful effects of sulfur dioxide before visiting as it can be quite damaging to one’s health. They even suggest tourists get a respiratory medical exam before booking the trip. Visitors can also take tours of abandoned houses, flattened cars and a school gym half-destroyed by lava or dip themselves in hot spring baths, until self-awareness hits and visitors realize that they find disaster enjoyable enough to pay for.

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