Macro shots on Mt.Vodno

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Our hike at the edge of Skopje took a while not just because of the distance, but also because we spent a lot of time taking close up shots of beautiful flowers and animals along the trail. This guy is probably an Erhard’s Wall Lizard.

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A lovely Crimson Scabious. They were everywhere at the start of the hike.

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This looks like it might be the same as the Crimson, but dry and ready to send out seeds.

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What would have been a delicious Chicken-of-the-Woods, but had been already eaten. We found and cooked one of these once, they really do taste and feel just like chicken. (Do not eat wild mushrooms unless you are absolutely confident you can properly identify them)

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This is a type of Cyclamen. They are beautiful and absolutely everywhere wherever there is shade. We found an entire tree tunnel lined with them near the end of the hike – a carpet of pink and purple.

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This is the leaf of the Cyclamen. Interestingly, they’re usually a good distance from the flower clusters.

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Unknown, possibly Armeria vulgaris?


After this start the insects!
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This reminds me very much of the weta. It’s actually a type of saddleback bush cricket.

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Possibly a type of locust? Nope. It’s a Predatory Bush Cricket. It’s also known as the spiked magician and it eats other crickets, among many other things.

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It was huge. This is a 6.5 inch phone for reference. This bug is a fairly uncommon sighting.

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A lovely brown grasshopper of some sort.

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And a very similar looking one in bright green. Maybe female and male of the same species?

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And the latest in our unending search for jumping spiders. This little guy has a meal in his mouth.

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The natural beauty of Macedonia!

Our 20 best New Zealand landscapes

With its swooping green hills, sandy beaches, and snow-capped peaks, New Zealand is effortlessly beautiful. And while anyone with a camera or phone can capture the country’s wild perfection, though photos don’t do the land justice. For you, who hopes to visit, who has visited, or who lives there now, we present our fifteen most breathtaking landscape photos from our two weeks on the North Island. And it’s just a small slice of New Zealand’s beauty:

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People fishing at sunrise near Mangawhai Heads, Northland Peninsula
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Foragers collect cockles on a beach, south of Auckland
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Early morning at a campsite in the center of the North Island
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Sheep run across a grassy hill near Cape Reinga, Northland Peninsula
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The view from the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, Northland Peninsula
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Clouds (shadows) and people (black dots on right) pass over dunes at the Te Paki Sand Dunes, Northland Peninsula
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The endless hills of New Zealand as seen from the Forgotten World Highway
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Volcanic cones rise from the landscape at Tongariro National Park
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Taranaki Falls and Wairere Sream cut through the landscape of Tongariro National Park
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Wairere Sream just before plunging over Taranaki Falls, Tongariro National Park
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Patchwork vegetation grows in the shadow of a volcanic cone, Tongariro National Park
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The Tongariro National Park landscape on a rainy day
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Tawhai Falls (Gollum’s Pool) on a rainy day, Tongariro National Park
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The cooling tower of Ohaaki Geothermal Station disappears into the clouds, central North Island
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Steam rises from hot springs and rivers hidden in the forest, central North Island
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Late afternoon on the tramping track in Puhoi, Northland Peninsula
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Sunset and cloud formations as seen from the Mounds Walk, Tongariro National Park
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Sunset on a rainy day, including a distant rainbow, at Nevin’s Lookout
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Sunset and dusk in one photo as seen from Nevin’s Lookout
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The last rays of sunset over New Zealand’s hills at Nevin’s Lookout

Trees of New Zealand

One of our first and strongest impressions of New Zealand was the trees. Everywhere we went there were magnificent windswept trees dotting the side of the road. We zipped past many of them, pointing out the tree and nodding to each other that yes, that was a good tree. We hiked in the shade of others, staring up at the canopy, wondering at their massive natures. Whether a simple pine, a spreading spiderweb canopy of branches, alone or huddled in clumps, we loved them all.


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If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.
– Hal Borland
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I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.
– Willa Cather
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Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.
– Kahil Gibran
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In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike.
– Paulo Coelho
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“A tree is our most intimate contact with nature.”
– George Nakashima
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“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
– John Muir
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Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.
– William Blake
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Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.
– Winston Churchill
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I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.
– John Muir
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Evolution did not intend trees to grow singly. Far more than ourselves they are social creatures, and no more natural as isolated specimens than man is as a marooned sailor or hermit.
– John Fowles
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Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
– Warren Buffett
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I grew up in a forest. It’s like a room. It’s protected. Like a cathedral… it is a place between heaven and earth.
– Anselm Kiefer
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A forest of these trees is a spectacle too much for one man to see.
– David Douglas
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Because they are primeval, because they outlive us, because they are fixed, trees seem to emanate a sense of permanence.
– Kim Taplin
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“The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Credit for the tree related quotes goes to the collections at gardendigest.com and treesgroup.org.

The Goblin Forest of Taranaki

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At the west end of the Forgotten World Highway is a rainforest like no other. Around the volcano of Taranaki nestles Egmont National Park, the nicknamed “Goblin Forest” famous for its waterfalls and gnarled, moss coated trees.

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First, this trail, or set of trails, is fun. Just plain fun to hike up and down with plenty of variety in surface types, elevation changes, and scenery. The trail takes you from dense low forests to open rocky pools, across bridges and muddy stairs and stepping-stone paths.

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The famous trees of the Goblin Forest are these thick-branched moss covered creatures which probably would look very spooky at night. During the day they’re vivid sun-dappled green, often covered in dew or rainfall.

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The Kamahi tree is the dominant tree in this forest, unique in New Zealand. They sometimes start out growing on top of other trees, twisting their branches and creating the gnarled shape of the forest.

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The high year-round humidity is a great environment for moss and lichen and they spread prodigiously here. Nearly every available surface is covered. In some areas the combination of twined branches and leafy outgrowths blocks a great deal of light, creating darkness in the daytime.

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Along the way we saw rock-slides.

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Then crossed a bridge, safe but bouncy.

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To get to the Wilke pools.

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There’s a tiny cove/cavern at the bottom. The water is instantly numbing. Great for a hot day or for icing a bruise. We did go “swimming” but only for a moment.

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We climbed the rocks around the pools only to find more pools up higher – also extremely cold. Past this is technical rock climbing territory so we turned back.

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And climbed some very muddy stairs.

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To get great views of the forested mountainside.

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And of the volcano itself.

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Along the way we took some closeups of the flora..

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The moss and ferns covering the trees, dense and superbly healthy.

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And some very pretty white and pink flowers.

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Capturing this was tough – the wind kept swaying the ring of flowers, but it was worth it. Natalie also took a couple of really nice insect shots, following below. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea so feel free to end the post here. For anyone who’s curious, scroll on.


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A vivid orange mosquito-hawk (I think). You can see the little ball-ended stubs it uses to balance while it flies.

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I don’t like flies, but this one has an amazing abdomen. That blue is unreal. It may be a bluebottle fly but I’m not sure.

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The famous weta of New Zealand. We never saw one alive, nor did we see the amazingly huge ones they show in National Geographic, but it was cool to see these up close.

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Natalie’s favorite creature, the jumping spider, poses for the camera. They have good enough eyesight to tell you apart from the background and often interact with the camera while you’re shooting.

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This beautifully colored orbweaver is the Colaranea Viriditas.