North America, Australia and Oceania · 106 Days · 84 Moments · December 2018

Island Hopping Tour


11 March 2019

We enjoyed a relaxing stay at an eco resort called Uprising Beach Resort on the biggest island of Fiji. We kayaked, walked on the beach, drank kava and showered outdoors.

7 March 2019

The first place we stayed in Fiji was the SigaSiga Sands on Vanua Levu, the 2nd biggest island in Fiji. It is intimate with only 4 cottages available to rent. The beach is fascinating because at low tide the water recedes about a half mile to expose all sorts of wildlife on the shallow ocean floor. TukTuk, the resident dog, accompanied us on our walks and likes to chase eels that hide in the rocks. We also went to the nearest town of SavuSavu to shop at the market.

5 March 2019

Traveling between the islands is an adventure by itself. The planes have seats for 19 passengers but are rarely full. The airport terminals are dinky. In SavuSavu they put your bags on a cart and roll it 20 yards to the plane and back. And airport security consists of standing on a scale with your carry-on luggage.

4 March 2019

In our last few days in Auckland we mostly just revisited a few of our favorite restaurants and packed our bags to account for weight limits on upcoming Fiji flights.

1 March 2019

We enjoyed seeing Hamlet at the Pop-Up Globe Theatre in Auckland. The Pop-Up Globe is a full-scale replica of the Globe in London. We bought $5 "groundling" tickets which means you are in the mosh pit in front of the stage. Great fun!

27 February 2019

On our way back to Auckland we stopped to check out the Square Kauri Tree which is estimated to be about 1200 years old and has a slight squared-off trunk.

26 February 2019

Beach #4: Shelly Beach, the beach at the campground where we stayed.
Beach #3: New Chum Beach, regarded as one of the best beaches in New Zealand.
Beach #2: Kuaotunu Beach, a classic white-sand beach.
Today we decided to visit several beaches on our way across the Coromandel Peninsula. Beach #1: Simpsons Beach, with beautiful black sand.

25 February 2019

Hot Water Beach is another popular tourist spot, but it's fun to sit in a hot water pool next to the crashing surf.
Sunset hike to Shakespeare Point Lookout. It overlooks Mercury Bay which was named by Captain Cook. He saw the transit of Mercury in 1769 from the bay.
Whitianga ferry crosses from Ferry Landing to Whitianga. The Old Stone Wharf was constructed in 1837. The ferry crossing takes about two minutes but saves about 40 minutes of driving.

24 February 2019

Despite the fact it is a tourist trap, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Hobbiton. When they went back to film the Hobbit movies they reconstructed most of the set pieces as permanent structures so that the farmer could reap the rewards of charging people to visit. But you can see why they chose this area to represent Hobbiton. It perfectly captures the bucolic Shire described in the books. At the end of the tour they give you a beer or ginger beer in the Green Dragon which is a nice touch. Fun fact:. the tree growing on top of Bag End (Bilbo's house) is fake. Peter Jackson didn't like the way it looked so he directed many hours of hand painting of the tree leaves to get it looking just the way he wanted it.

23 February 2019

We walked near sunset at Papamoa Beach. Tom has a talent digging out tuatua (surf clams) out of the sand with his toes. He dug out many and Tracy dug out one. Tom stopped after digging up a small crab for fear of losing a toe.

21 February 2019

At sunset we quickly walked to the end of one of New Zealand's longest wharfs, Tolaga Bay Wharf. It is 660 meters long.
In 1769 Captain James Cook landed in Anaura Bay. He and his crew were welcomed by the local Maori who shared the produce from their many gardens. Prior to our visit a recent storm had washed lots of seaweed, enormous shells and blue colored portuguese man o'war onto the beach. At first the bright blue on the beach looked like plastic trash and we almost picked it up, thankfully we did not.

19 February 2019

Gisborne, “Gizzy”, is a blue collar beach town. We enjoyed camping (kind of glamping) in a tent next to the ocean.

18 February 2019

You may say I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one I hope someday you'll join us And the world will live as one This is pure imagination created by farmer Keith, located in the redwood grove he planted. We were fortunate to live in his dream for one night.
Sign in front of Patrick’s bookshop.
Whanganui is a west coast town that we enjoyed exploring. It is smallish, artsy and windy. We took an old public underground elevator up to a good overlook on Durie Hill. There is also another tower there in honor of WWI soldiers. New Zealand proudly honors veterans, especially from WWI.
A chip (French fry) making machine. My father told me about these but this is the first time I have seen one.

17 February 2019

Traveling around the country we noticed very few solar panels and wind turbines. However we were pleased to learn that over 80% of the country's electricity generation comes from renewable sources in large part because of the huge contribution from hydroelectricity. These wind turbines are on a windy hilltop and are very photogenic because of their close proximity to the road.
On a whim we toured the Tui brewery which turned out to be a little bit depressing. The brewery has been bought out by Heineken and most of the beer is no longer brewed at this site which is where the company started. On the plus side, they have cleverly designed sinks and urinals which are made from old beer kegs.

16 February 2019

Wellington was as windy as everyone said it would be. Tracy called her friend Victoria from Mount Victoria which had a fantastic view of the city. Also we walked Dixon Street towards Manners Street, oddly they did not intersect.

13 February 2019

We stayed several days in the town of Muritai across the harbour from Wellington. It was a relaxing stay where we hiked up the hill and walked the boardwalk. One afternoon we ate yummy ice cream cones after hearing a young girl gleefully yell, "To the dairy!".
Today we left the South Island on the Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry.

12 February 2019

Kayaking in Marlborough Sounds. The weather was perfect! We saw 11-armed sea star, sea urchin, sea cucumber and manta rays. Tom also looked fetching in the skirt. Tee hee hee.

10 February 2019

The most restful stop on our trip was Smith Farm. We treated ourselves to a farm cottage stay and it was calming for the soul. We enjoyed laundry day, feeding the sheep and goats and a hike at sunset to see the glow worms.

8 February 2019

This hike near Waikoropupu Springs took us up to a "water race" which is just a diversion of a creek alongside a hill so that the water can be sent down a steep hill to a little power generating turbine. Built in 1929 it was the first electricity generated in Golden Bay. We had lunch this day in Takaka so I like to say we hiked 'pupu after eating in 'kaka.

7 February 2019

Wharariki Beach is next to Cape Farewell. The Cape is the northernmost part of the South Island. We hiked here near low tide when the beach was very wide. Twas quite a workout walking the dunes until we reached the surf, but it was well worth the hike.
This is a view of Farewell Spit which forms the northern side of Golden Bay.

6 February 2019

Tom hiked a trail above the town of Murchison whilst Tracy rafted on the Buller River.

5 February 2019

We went on a cave tour in Paparoa National Park. We rode a funny little train, hiked with innertubes through the bush into the cave, then we floated in the cave in complete darkness so that we could see the constellation of glow worms on the cave's ceiling. Finally we floated down the river back to the train. There are no photos of the glow worms because no camera could capture them very well. But they look like a netting of dim blue LED lights covering large areas of the cave ceiling.

4 February 2019

We hiked at Cape Foulwind just before sunset.

3 February 2019

The drive up the coast off of Paparoa National Park is stunning. It reminds us of Big Sur in California. The Pancake Rock formations are interesting. The waves crash into the coves here. This is just a few glimpses of the many images we saw here.
Hokitika is small beach town on the west coast. A popular hike near there is Hokitika Gorge whose normally turquoise waters were cloudy due to recent heavy rains.

2 February 2019

Ross Beach, next to the campground, looks like a beach where Mother Nature threw a wild party and was too hung over to pick up the sticks and stones.

1 February 2019

We stayed at a Holiday park with unique cabins made from shipping containers. It was quite comfortable and included a full bath and kitchen. The 'cabin' provided us with a cozy shelter on a day of strong wind and rain.

31 January 2019

We traveled from the East Coast to the West Coast via Arthur’s Pass. We also managed to sneak in a hike to a waterfall.

30 January 2019

Christchurch was a transitional stop for us. We returned the Tui campervan, cleaned lots of laundry, shopped for new provisions and rented a car for the rest of our time in New Zealand. The city is rebuilding from the two earthquakes. The eight year anniversary of the big earthquake will be February 22. Most of the central business district was destroyed and the city is thoughtfully rebuilding; slowly but surely.

27 January 2019

We crossed paths with our new Colorado friends, Dan and Margot, as we were heading North and they were heading South. We had a nice dinner in Geraldine and shared information on places to see.

26 January 2019

We stopped for lunch in Oamaru which bills itself as "The Steampunk Capitol of New Zealand". We wish that we had more time to explore this quirky town.
We walked from our campsite down to the Moeraki Boulders, a popular tourist stop.

25 January 2019

While eating at Nova restaurant in Dunedin we noticed everyone ordering this, Injectable Brioche Donut. We chose the chocolate hazelnut filling. There were six sinful choices. Pure decadence!
We hiked to Victory Beach on the Otago Peninsula (outside of Dunedin). On the beach there were a few fur seals and fewer humans.

24 January 2019

The views at Nugget Point Lighthouse are jaw-dropping. The seas constantly change colors as the shadows from the clouds speed across the water. The lighthouse itself appears as something from a video game (remember Myst?) as you approach it. And the seas on each side of the peninsula have completely different personalities; one side is calm and the other side is angry. The rocks at the end are called the Nuggets, hence the name.
After a week of cold, wind, and rain we opted for the comfort of a basic cabin (in the shape of a mailbox) with glorious heat. Also a morning walk on Kaka Beach.

23 January 2019

Curio Bay Campground is the southernmost place we stayed and the scenery was stunning. We happened to be there during a particularly strong wind storm which produced dramatic seas but it meant we couldn't stay as long as we would have liked. The campground actually sits on a peninsula separating two bays. Curio Bay to the South has more raucous seas and is home to some Yellow-eyed Penguins. Porpoise Bay is to the East is home to Hectors Dolphins. Because the weather was so rough we were unable to see any of the animals during our brief visit but we still enjoyed the spectacular views.

22 January 2019

Throughout our travels we have seen pastoral farms abutting the fierce seas. Cosy Nook is a particularly picturesque example. And there's a convenient toilet there too.
Where are we?

21 January 2019

Our trip to Doubtful Sound was an all day affair. We took a ferry across Lake Manapouri, a coach across Wilmont Pass, followed by a 3-hour cruise traversing Doubtful Sound. The rainbow greeted us on the ferry ride across the lake and stayed with us for a long time. Even though it’s named Doubtful Sound it is technically a fjord. A fjord is created by glaciers and a sound is created by a river.

20 January 2019

While camping near Lake Manapouri, we took refuge in The Church* to get relief from the ever-changing weather. *The Church is an old chapel converted to a bar/restaurant.

19 January 2019

Pop Quiz: which toe was stung by a kamikaze bee?

18 January 2019

On this day we travelled on the Dart River. We went up river in a jet boat which can traverse the shallow waters of a braided river. Then we paddled down river in “funyaks”. The scenery may look familiar because many scenes from the Lord of the Rings were filmed in this area.

17 January 2019

After a beautiful drive we ended up at one of our favorite little towns, Glenorchy, which is North of the much busier Queenstown.

16 January 2019

Lake Wanaka at sunset.
We successfully boiled hot water this morning, sans inferno. What a lovely, hot cup of tea.

15 January 2019

We finally escaped the gravitational pull of Christchurch. This is a shot of the Rakaia River which is a "braided" river. That means that the river carries debris down from the mountains to form the flat fertile plains below. And the river splits and rejoins itself creating a braid of flowing water.
Tom realized he left his hat in a cafe. Thankfully it was still there! It did require a 3 hour drive to Akaroa and back to retrieve it. He is happily reunited with his hat.

14 January 2019

We enjoyed a nice glass of wine after extinguishing the fire! We couldn't get the propane burners to work and the gas accumulated below the burner and went up in flames. Thankfully the campervan company provides a fire extinguisher which worked beautifully. Phew! Note the name of the wine we happened to buy.
Our first night in the campervan we experienced cold, rain and unbelievably strong wind gusts. What a squall!

13 January 2019

Off to our fifth island! Flying into Christchurch was very familiar; much like flying into Denver with turbulence as we flew over the mountains.

9 January 2019

Devonport has a beautiful new public library designed by a famous local architect. It is located next to an old "Australian Banyan" tree.
Today we took the ferry to Devonport to watch a movie at an old theatre, the Vic. We saw ‘Pick of the Litter’ about puppies being trained to be guide dogs for the blind. We had the added pleasure of sitting next to a mother and her two small sons who are training a guide dog.

8 January 2019

We are currently taking it easy until our adventure continues on the South Island next week. Here's a panorama of the Auckland Harbour taken from the Westhaven Marina.

4 January 2019

Last week we got to watch our host’s cat, Spice. It meowed at us all night long. This week we get to walk their miniature poodles, Sid and Rio. When they are done walking we get to carry them the rest of the way home.

3 January 2019

We took a short 30-minute ferry ride from Auckland to Rangitoto island and hiked to the summit. Rangitoto is only about 600 years old so we were struck by how lush the plantlife is already. It is a protected reserve so visitors must follow some rules to avoid introducing invasive species to the ecosystem. There are also some small caves to explore which is what is shown in the last picture.

2 January 2019

Unlike in America, many shops here close down for 2-3 weeks around the holidays. I think it's a good reflection of the work/life balance they have in New Zealand.

1 January 2019

Welcome 2019!

28 December 2018

We finally made it up to the top of the Sky Tower which, to our surprise, was pretty cool. The views were spectacular. And while we had a cup of tea in the cafe one level below the observation deck, people occasionally went whizzing by outside as they bungee jumped from the tower above.

27 December 2018

The pets are really well-behaved here.

24 December 2018

The cute young Kiwi man who works at the local wine shop gave Tracy this Santa hat. Merry Christmas from "the future"!

22 December 2018

Devonport, which is just a short ferry ride across Auckland Harbour, has some of the best views of Auckland and the surrounding bays.

20 December 2018

Piha Beach is just 17 miles from central Auckland and has a dramatic rocky outcropping named Lion's Head. The Tasman Sea is also fierce here. The photographs don't capture the fierceness or how wide this beach is. They also have tiny little signs that make you feel like a giant.

19 December 2018

Another day, another beautiful beach. This is Baylys Beach on the Tasman Sea (west coast).

18 December 2018

Waitangi Treaty Grounds is where New Zealand's founding document was signed. That big ceremonial war canoe was made mostly from a single Kauri tree log.

16 December 2018

This is Waipu Cove beach. It's hard to capture how big and wide it is but it is an amazing beach to walk on! Mahomes or Rodgers would have to throw a ball 50 - 60 yards while standing on dry white sand to a receiver in the water.

13 December 2018

These are some of our initial views of the city of Auckland. Downtown is about a 45-minute walk from our Airbnb.

7 December 2018

The Lahaina library has one of the best views of any library branch I've ever seen.

6 December 2018

This is the crater of the Haleakalā volcano. It takes about an hour and a half to drive from sea level up to the 10,000 foot summit. The 2nd picture is at the summit.

5 December 2018

Can you figure out what's going on with this picture?
While walking on the beach Tom encountered a Hawaiian green sea turtle.

4 December 2018

It was 21° and windy while we waited for the airport train. Brrrr!