We have a full day to explore Swakopmund, which is apparently well known for its adrenaline-rush-type of activities, but it’s not really what we’d like to do, so after a bit of reading, we learn about a self drive itinerary in the Namib Naukluft national park that will make us discover the local desert landscape. Our quest to get an entrance permit for the park leads us to meet a lady who cannot start speaking to us before we have locked the metallic gate behind us, as she “cannot take her eyes off it until it’s locked”, which apparently uses all of her brain power.

Moon landscape

The itinerary first makes us discover lichens, that are all crumpled and black, but open up and become green when sprinkled with a bit of water. Good that we have enough water bottles with us. We then drive through the moon landscape, which unsurprisingly looks like a moon landscape and is quite breathtaking. A few km later, we meet the Welwitschia, a very curious endemic plant that has two continuously growing leaves. Because of damage induced by wind, sun and sand, each leaf gets split into several bands, which gives the plant the appearance of a not-so-fresh lettuce. It takes 20 years until the plant gets flowers. The plant is either male or female and can live for thousands of years. At the end of the itinerary we reach a 1500 year old individual inside a fenced area. Given its slightly alien appearance, it’s difficult to decide if the fence is protecting the plant, or the tourists…

Weltwitschia plain

We have dinner at a German restaurant (Swakopmund has a strong German influence), in which radiant german-speaking customers are happily drinking boots of beer. The Jaegerschnitzel was very good, but huge.

a 1500 year old Weltwitschia (on the right)


A concerning noise

Today, we drive towards Swakopmund through a beautiful desert landscape. We spot a few animals, such as oryxes, zebras, and ostriches. From day 1 our car has emitted intermittent squeaky noises that are a bit concerning, as if something is not quite right with the transmission. The agency quickly arranges for us to visit the Nissan garage once we reach Swakopmund; they even give us the name of a person they have been in touch with.

Dirt road to Swakopmund

We reach the Atlantic coast at Walvis bay, where we stop for lunch before continuing to Swakopmund. We stop by the Nissan garage to get the car checked and have to deal with a very unhelpful guy who pretends the agency didn’t get in touch with him, even though he is plain lying. When a phone call confronts him with the fact, he serves us a half cooked excuse. It turns out nothing is wrong with the transmission, and the squeaky noise is caused by the slippage of the belt that drives the compressor of the air conditioning. The problem is semi-promptly (we have to come back the next morning) fixed.

Sunset in Swakopmund

We visit the city (it has a definite German feel) under the beautiful light of the setting sun and have dinner at the Tug, where we enjoyed a great view of the agitated Atlantic ocean.

Our travel itinerary, which amongst other things describes our overnight accommodations, specifies that this one has a wifi that actually works. Turns out it’s not true…


Red Sand

We wake up when the sun is still sleeping and we grab our packed breakfast from the lodge before heading towards the sand dunes of Sossuvlei. The park only opens at sunrise (7.30) and we are car number 5 queuing in front of the gate. The dunes are supposed to be best seen at sunrise, hence the motivation to enter the park as soon as it opens. There is about 60km between the park entrance and the dunes, which should take about 1h given the 60km/h speed limit. However, everybody seems to drive at twice that speed, so let’s follow the movement.

Cars queuing to enter the Namib-Naukluft National Park

The landscape of red sand dunes bathed by the first rays of the sun is impressive and full of contrasts. The last 5km are on a very sandy track, and we decide to leave the car and take the shuttle, despite the fact we have a 4×4.

Red sand dunes in the early morning sun.

Once around Sossusvlei/dead vlei, we start the climb of the big Daddy dune, which gives us a breathtaking view of the surroundings. Climbing the sand dune requires a fair bit of effort, but going down is a treat: simply run down the side of the dune to the bottom of dead vlei.

Running down is an easier task than climbing the sand dune…

Dead vlei is a very well known sight of Namibia, appearing on many guide books, with its dried clay pan, dead trees and a backdrop of red sand dunes.

Dead Vlei

On our way back to the parking, we realise that leaving the car before the sand was a good decision, given the number of cars that got stuck and have been towed to firmer ground by the locals. Towards the end of the day, we drive back to the desert homestead lodge for a beautiful sunset.

Sunset from our room


The adventure begins

After a long trip that started in Auckland and included a 9h layover in Perth (we initially intended to visit the city, but the constant downpour discouraged us), we finally arrived in Namibia, and after a good night of rest, we are ready to start our exploration. We have a brand new Toyota 4×4, and — Io and behold — I realise that I can still drive a manual car. Our objective of the day is the desert homestead lodge, in the vicinity of the famous sand dunes of Sossusvlei. We start driving south, and at some point, stopping on the side of the road to search for a grocery store on the gps, I drive on a freshly painted yellow line. Well, now our car has some yellow spots. White is a boring colour anyway…

On our way to Sesriem

The tar road soon turns into  gravel road with a beautiful desert landscape. In the middle of the afternoon, we reach the lodge, which sits amid an extraordinary landscape. The weather is warm and the pool seems inviting, but we soon discover that the water is freezing.

Desert Homestead Lodge
View from our room


Raglan and Hamilton

Why we suddenly decided to go spend a weekend in (or around) Hamilton is part of a mystery that has been going on for more than a year and will be explained at a later date… Hamilton being apparently New Zealand’s most boring city, that may seem to be a strange weekend destination, but anyway…

Beach near Raglan
Beach near Raglan

Our first stop is at Raglan, a well-known surfer spot. The beach is indeed beautiful, and it’s only too bad that the it is already a bit too late in the season for a swim.  We should definitely come back…

On the way back to Hamilton, we stop at the Bridal Veil falls, which is well-worth the detour. A short walk leads us to the top of the waterfall, and from there, an infinite staircase leads to the bottom of the falls. It’s easy to go down, a bit less to climb back up 🙂

Bridal Veil falls


Bridal Veil falls

We spend the night in Hamilton after a short stroll in the Hamilton Lake domain. The next day, the city is stuck in a very deep fog that doesn’t seem to want to go away and prevents us form doing what we really came to Hamilton for… Instead, we visit the Hamilton Gardens. It is my first autumnal visit to the gardens (having previously visited in spring and summer), but no matter the season, it is always very nice to walk amongst the different parts of the park.

Hamilton Gardens



Around Auckland 2018

The year starts with the visit of Auckland art gallery and the Yayoi Kusama Obliteration Room. Great, we get to stick coloured dots everywhere, including on ourselves 🙂

Let’s take advantage of Waitangi day for a day trip to the West coast. A short hike along the cliff followed by a swim at Bethells Beach.

Obliteration Room, January 2018
Short Hike near Bethells Beach, February 2018
Auckland CBD from Devonport
Dinner picnic at Point Chevalier, February 2018

Seun Araromi takes the opportunity of a conference in Brisbane to make a short trip in Auckland. During the weekend, day trip to the black sand dunes at Bethells beach. Walk in the river and around the lake Kawaupaka, with copious amounts of mud.

Sand dunes near Bethells beach, May 2018
Shakespear Regional park, June 2018

June 2018, we take the opportunity of a sunny day for a short walk in Shakespear (note the absence of e) regional park.

Fast forward a few months (we stayed inside in winter, and travelled to Europe), and spring is finally coming, announced by the blooming of the cherry blossoms  in Cornwall park, and the hundreds of people rushing to see them. We were clever enough to park in one of the side streets…

Cherry blossoms, September 2018

In October, we drive to Manukau heads and its lighthouse. Auckland’s skyline seems so close, but what a trip to reach the tip of the peninsula! In front of us, we see Whatipu beach, where Josh fell in the water a few months ago…

Lighthouse at Manukau Heads

In May 2018, most of the hiking tracks in the Waitakere ranges have closed due to the spread of the Kauri dieback. We need to find other places to go hiking, and we decide to try the Hunua ranges, south of Auckland. Our first attempt is a failure because the park is closed due to the use of poison to kill rats and other pests, but a few weeks later, we come back for a hike in the forest.

Hunua Falls, November 2018

On our way to the French market in Parnell, we walk through the domain. There was a memorial to the New Zealand soldiers who fell during the war, such as the infamous battle of Gallipoli in 1915.
Auckland Museum, November 2018

Still in November, we visit NZ sculpture OnShore in Devonport, an open air sculpture exhibition on the grounds of an old war fortress .

NZ sculpture OnShore, November 2018

With the nice weather coming back, it’s the perfect opportunity for a visit to the west coast. Today we drive to Karekare and its waterfall. Looking for tunnels of an old tramway line, we mistakenly take a path that climbs up the hill, but are rewarded by a very nice view of the beach
Karekare Waterfall, December 2018

To end 2018, we take the boat (with the captain Ben and his deck hand Junior) to Motuihe island for some hiking and swimming. The day seems to have been exhausting…
Mothuihe island, December 2018

Pictures, Auckland 2018


So what do you find in Wellington, New Zealand capital city?

There is Kelburn and the botanical garden, at the top of a hill that we reach with the iconicred cable car.

And of course, in a capital city, one expects to find the government… Wellington is famous for the architecture of the Beehive, which appears to be quite divisive, between the “Hey, but that’s quite original” and the “I hope the architect has been shot”. It has appeared once on a list as the world’s third ugliest building, but I think it is mild in comparison with the Boston City Hall….

We visited the parliament, and it was quite interesting to learn a few things about the political system of my adoption country.  However, we didn’t get to meet the Queen Bee as part of our visit of the Beehive…

The  visit of Te Papa museum gives the opportunity to learn more about New Zealand, such as the Gallipoli campaign during WWI,  during which 2779 New Zealander gave their life, and which is remembered yearly during ANZAC day.  On a lighter note, the Department of Conservation is trying to save a flightless parrot named  kākāpō from extinction. Everything is attempted to increase the number of chicks. The museum’s humorous movie, mission kākāpō copulation,  has been posted on Youtube (but sound is bad)…



Wairere Falls

2 trips to Wairere falls in February 2018 and November 2018. Here are some pictures:


New Plymouth

Road trip to New Plymouth for Labour day. Yes, it’s LABOUR day, and we get a holiday… However, it would be unwise to complain. We drive via the forgotten world highway, which is very green, very hilly, and very forgotten. In the middle, we reach the village of Whagamomona, which declared its independence in 1989 following some discontentment over being assigned to a different region. It now has its duly elected president, and although the current one is human, previous presidents have included a goat who won by eating the ballots of his opponents, and a poodle who resigned after an assassination attempt.

Mt. Taranaki

Nice view of Taranaki from New Plymouth once we arrive. The next day, we want to hike on the sides of the volcano, but it is much more cloudy, so we only do a short hike in the rain forest. Apparently, the forest is called “Goblin Forest”, but I do not believe in Goblins… That is until I just saw one behind a stone.

A goblin in the Goblin Forest

We then drive to Cape Egmont lighthouse that we saw on a post card. Once there, we recognise the lighthouse, but an important component of the postcard is missing, or should I say hidden… We go back to New Plymouth via the garden of Pukeiti with its giant and numerous Rhododendrons.  Like the French humorist Sim, I don’t like Rhododendron: it’s too difficult to spell.

Yep, it’s the right location, but something is missing