The capital of China under six dynasties, Nanjing has a fascinating history and many beautiful sights. Thanks to Prof Tianqun Pan and the Philosophy Department at the University of Nanjing for their hospitality in December 2014, and to Zhengyuan Yang for his expert guidance. The photos themselves take in Sheshan Qixia Temple and views from Qixia Mountain, followed by John Rabe's statue and Nanjing University's original downtown campus. The next sequence features walks on Zhongshan Mountain and parkland, from Sun Yat Sen's mausoleum to the Ming Dynasty tomb and museum. We also visited the Song Meiling villa, where I was too enchanted to take any photos! The last sequence reflects the area around Confucius Temple, the Qinhuai River, and the 110-meter long pair of dragons adorning its bank.
Shanghai is often called, with some justification, the "new New York." Thanks to Professors Feng Jun, Harry Liu and their colleagues at the Chinese Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP) for their hospitality in December 2014, and to Zhenpeng Kong for her guidance. Thanks also to Prof. Gao Xuan Yang and his colleagues at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The photos themselves range from the Tianzifang to the Bund, from CELAP's campus to the Nanjing Road, from the tunnel under the Huangpo River to the collage of architecture above it. Finally some whimsical shots of the exurbs and the encroaching city, and a sunset over downtown.
Putuo Island is home to a sacred mountain, pedestrian footpaths, many Buddhist temples, fresh seafood daily, and the world's tallest statue of Guanyin. Thanks to Xin Huang for organizing the tour, and to Sirgoleng for his expert guidance. The first photo shows one of two amazing bridges en route from Shanghai: a 50+ kilometer bridge spanning Hangzhou Bay, and another leading to Zhoushan. Then a short boat-ride to Putuo Island, where the rest of the pics were taken. The first sequence features the harbor area and footpath to Guanyin's statue. Next day, a sequence in and around impressive Puji Temple, followed by a crane catching lunch and a walk along Hundred Step Beach. After lunch and a coffee at a hip bistro, which plays music from the 60s, we took a a cable car up to stately Huiji Temple, at the summit of Mount Putuo. Back down, and across the road, we explored the new and gigantic Fayu Temple. Putuo is a beautiful, peaceful and restful island, at least in the off-season.
Auckland bills itself as the "City of Sails", and indeed it is. A small city with large charms, Auckland harmonizes nature and nurture and multiculturalism to boot. A friendly place. Its most prominent feature is the Sky Tower, visible from just about everywhere. On the flip side, you can ascend Sky Tower and see just about everywhere.
Day #3 features a fabulous ascent and descent, up and over the Mackinnon Pass. As we ascend we are entering Kia territory: these cute alpine parrots are the size of small dogs, and like to steal food out of packs. Boots left outside at night become Kia chew-toys. At the top of the pass, Mackinnon's monument and an abyss called "the 12-second drop." Then a steep, rocky, forested descent along water-courses, pools and falls. Arriving at well-appointed Quinton Lodge, there's time to park the pack and take a 45-minute walk to nearby Sutherland Falls: at 580 meters, the world's fifth-highest waterfall.
Day #4 features an undulating track along a river, passing wonders like Bell Rock and Giants Gate Falls. Following Lake Ada and the Arthur River, it finally reaches the boathouse at Sandfly Point (well-named!). From there we are whisked in small craft across fiord-like Milford Sound, to the prominent Mitre Peak Lodge, there to celebrate the completion of the Milford Track.
Day #5 features a morning cruise on the Milford Sound, which spills into the Tasman Sea. A feeding-frenzy of photography. Finally a bus-ride through the heroic Homer Tunnel, back to Queenstown for the majority. A few of us indefatigable types get off the bus at Te Anau, and prepare for the Routeburn Track next day.
Day #1 featured a scenic bus ride from Te Anau to The Divide, past a rainbow that just wouldn't quit. We then hiked up and past Key Summit, lunching in the hut at Lake Howden. Then a climb leading past the foot of Earland Falls, in a downpour, water spewing from everywhere. Then a smooth descent through The Orchard, and on into Lake Mackenzie Lodge. Day #2 afforded wonderful views of glacial Lake Mackenzie as we climbed above the far side, and then walked a long track on the wind-and-rain-beaten Hollyford Face of the range. Lunch in the Harris Saddle hut, then over the pass, past Lake Harris, and a treacherous descent through cascading streams and slippery rocks, toward picturesque Routeburn Falls Lodge. Day #3 descends through dense red beech to the Alpine valley floor, then picks up the raging Routeburn River. It's all beech forest and white water, strewn with boulders from the cliffs above. Finally, a Nature Walk that leads to the last bridge, and beyond it the bus to civilization -- Glenorchy, for a beer.
Now back to the North Island, and a lovely tour of Tauranga and vicinity, thanks to Jane Cook. The region enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with beaches to match. The dominant feature is Mount Maunganui, an extinct volcano that bequeathed rich soil and lush flora. One can hike up the mountain, or around the mountain, or in the hinterland above the mountain: wonderful views abound from every vantage.