On our last full day in Auckland before heading home, I took the ferry to Waiheke Island. Only a 40 minute ferry ride, it is like a different world from the big city....beautiful sandy beaches, world-class wineries, and stunning seaside vistas. There are 9,000 people that live there and 2,000-3,000 commute via ferry to work. I did get into this ocean, just one more time. Was actually pretty warm.
The gal that owns the ice cream stand was a finalist in a NZ best cook show. The presentation of the ice creams was very creative.
12 March 2017
Out and about around Taupo. Monument with me in middle is a tribute to those that do the Tonariro Crossing, one of the hardest hikes in NZ. Thermal hot springs are about a 45 minute walk from town....very nice. Bike art across the street from the many cafes that view the lake.
9 March 2017
From Nelson, we crossed back to the north island on the ferry and spent two days in Wellington. It surprisingly wasn't as windy as on our way down. We got the same room at the Base hostel that we had on the way down....6th floor with a balcony and a view of the city as seen here.
We spent a good part of the day at The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum and art gallery of New Zealand. It is branded and commonly known as Te Papa and Our Place; "Te Papa Tongarewa" is broadly translatable as "the place of treasures of this land." It's free and very worthwhile, even if museums isn't your thing, it's worth a look. These giant figures and the story of WWI was most heart wrenching and impressive. I took camera shots that I can't see yet, so the two museum pics were pulled from the web site.
Other then that we walked a lot around the harbor area. When we found this statue, Jay had to take a pose. He mused he should have tried it naked. Ha!
7 March 2017
This is Nelson..a wonderful town known, among other things, as the center of NZ. There is a very nice waterfront where these school children were taking wind surfing lessons. There are also a lot of art galleries, a very good museum of the area and Queens Garden.
Jay walked up the hill to the middle of the country and took the view photo.
5 March 2017
Took the gondola up the mountain in Christchurch for these views.
4 March 2017
Christchurch's heritage heart was all but hollowed out following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that left 186 people dead. Today Christchurch boasts more road cones and repurpose shipping containers than anywhere else in the world. The city center is still graced by numerous art institutions, the stunning Botanical Gardens and Hayley parks. I found it sad to look around and realize how much more work there is to do 5 years later.
3 March 2017
Sometimes you just have to stop and wait.....
Sheep crossing the road on our way to hike Mt. Cook
We walked to the other side of Tekapo Lake to take a look and all of a sudden horses came by...and wait, one of them is a draft horse!
2 March 2017
We took a 4 hour hike on a popular trail called Hooker track. Mt. Cook is actually in the center of the second photo. The other big mountain is Sefton. Which photo to pick? I don't know!
The last photo is a memorial to those that have died on this mountain...more than 300....many young men.
To get there we took a bus from Tekapo. It was a 1 1/2 ride each way and totally worth it.
March 1 On our way to Lake Tekapa we stopped for a distance view of Aoraki/Mt. Cook. We hit a sunny day so the mountain was pretty clear, but there were so many people around, I could only get good photos close to the water.
March 2 On our way for a day trip directly to Mt. Cook, we saw a completely different view at the same place.
1 March 2017
We are in Tekapo, staying at the Taylor Made Tekapo Backpackers. It is up the hill from the Main Street so I was wondering if I had made a good choice, as the Kiwi group is at Lakefront Lodge....but once we got settled in, we really like it a lot. It's small with all private rooms, although shared bathroom, they are right out the door. The kitchen is user friendly with spices and sharpe knifes (that is a first). Laundry is reasonably priced, you can hang clothes out if you want. There are a few pet rabbits, a duck and a cat. The picnic tables outside are new and we enjoyed eating dinner out there. There is no breakfast included, but quite frankly, a lot of the places just have white bread and cereal anyhow....not all but many.
The Spa pools are 2 K away, but if one doesn't want to walk, they will pick up up down the hill on the main road...and give you a ride back. We walked there but took a ride back.
27 February 2017
We. Loved Dunedin, but only had one nite....it is a vibrant university town with very old buildings but fun modern cafes. The Dunedin train station, one of the most photographed train station in the world. Such detail. Plus there is a wonderful NZ Sports museum on the second floor....really enjoyed that.
First two pics....Surent Bay....then Catlin coastline... We also tried to see the yellow eyed penguins at another location, but they were not yet 'home
Continuing on towards Dunedin.....Curio Bay Walkway....home to many geological and environment attractions including a 180 million year old fossil forest and Hectar Dolphins. Here at Porpoise Bay/Te Whananga Aihi, there are about 200 resident Hector Dolphins. The small population is very vulnerable by spending most of their time between Cook Creek and a camping ground favored by swimmers. The water is very cold, but if you go in it, like 2 of our travelers did, the dolphins will swim around you. They are NOT fed by people. In recent times, their numbers have been devastated by the tragedy of gill net deaths. Since Hector dolphins don't travel far, they do not breed with dolphins on the East Coast so since they are declining in numbers, this means recovery may be impossible
From Invercargill we had a long trek to Dunedin. The morning was very cold and windy and a lot of the driving was in dirt/gravel roads, because we were sticking towards the coast and not the main road. We saw bicycle riders on the route and I think they were wondering why they took this road as it looked like hard travelin
This first stop was Waipahu Point. In bad weather this bleak, unforgiving stretch of coastline challenges all living things. Even the trees looked wind-swept. An early name for the locality is Otara.
26 February 2017
We scheduled 2 nites in Invercargill in case we decided to go to Stewart Island, the most southern point in NZ. We decided to go the nite before, if there was room on the ferry out of Bluff (and we found out at 8am that the 9:30am ferry had room)....the Kiwi driver gave us a ride there which was on his way out of town, and we got a local bus back. The scenery was very much worth it....we took a few short hikes to an observation area and a beach, went to a museum, saw the film "A Local's Tail" which was very informative, and I had THE BEST chowder I have EVER had at the South Sea Hotel... sorry San Francisco....you still got the best bread but your chowder can not compare to Stewart Island!
There was a cruise ship there that day and everyone assumed we were on it as it was a lot of Americans...and I guess we looked the part. Oh well, not until we can't carry our luggage.
25 February 2017
With all the literature and talk about the beauty of Milford Sound we were actually a bit disappointed...but we were there on a foggy day and only by bus or on the water. Also, we have seen soooooo much beautiful landscapes here that we had this built up in our head.
Only 50 people a day are allowed to actually trek the land (tramping as it is called in NZ) and you have to apply a year in advance. I have seen photos taken from hikers and it is very impressive....the color of the water, the trout pools, lush rainforest that clings to mountains. The boat ride was included in our Kiwi Experience package so that was a nice bonus.
We leave Queenstown for the Milford Sound area. On the way, we see these views including Mirror Lakes, the Ellginton Valley and the Chasms. Mirror Lakes and the Ellington Valley make a valuable contribution to Te Wahipounamu-South West NZ World Heritage area. They are part of the larger system of inland waterways in NZ stretching, most unbroken, from Martin's Bay/ Kotuku in the north to Te Waewae Bay on the south coast. Intact river systems, like these found in Fiordland, are becoming increasingly rare on the international scale. The Chasm is sculpted by water and pebbles. The source of water comes from high up to the hard, crystalline rocks of the Carran Mountains. After heavy rain, floor waters rush downstream to its bedrock.
Stone s that come to rest in a rocky slot are swirled round by the current. Over many centuries they have ground out the facilitating potholes that are such a feature of the Chasms.
24 February 2017
This is Jannik, the young German guy who showed me how to start the Journi app blog when we were in Franz Joseph. He is 19 years old, came to Australia to work to earn enough to travel. He bought a bike in Auckland and has biked all the way to Queenstown on his own. We invited him for dinner if he could make it here before we left. He did and it was great to treat him as he hasn't eaten out since he started this trip. He will go home next month for an interview to get into PT/ parametric school with the eventual option of becoming a Dr. He was also a foreign exchange student in a Washington D.C. High school. He's very engaging and I as so glad he showed me this app as I think it is better than FB for a special trip. I would say at 19, he has a lot going for him, so I hope to keep in touch.
This and that from our Queenstown week...
Street performer Sven from Sweden...of course I had to take this photo
Jay having breakfast on the balcony with a quaint church and the gondola in the background
The Cookie Car from the Cookie bake shop
The bridge that the Shotover Jet went back and forth under
The steep two hills we went up and down every time we walked from the hotel to town
A water bike on the lake
Locks on the wharf to indicate two people will be together forever.....apparently there is a love bridge in Germany and this is a copy.
Almost sunset on our hotel balcony.
The always begging birds on the beach
Magical Minus 5 Ice Bar....we had to try it....we got a www.bookme.co.nz for $1 each.
"Chill out on our custom made ice furniture and make the most of the awesome photo opportunities amongst painstakingly carved ice sculptures. Even the glass you are served in is made of ice.
In the sub zero temperatures, we’ll make sure you keep warm with jackets, gloves and warm footwear that are provided by the Minus 5 ICE BAR. "
Hum, on the foot wear, we were in sneakers. Be assured, you are not going to get drunk here as it is too cold to stay more than about 20 minutes and besides, it is all about the photos!
23 February 2017
Today I did the Shotover Jet experience. Shotover Jet has thrilled over 3 million people since 1965. Jet boating was originally invented in New Zealand. The "Big Red" jet boats are unique and designed specifically to handle the Shotover River Canyon. The boats can travel at speeds of up to 85kph in as little as 10cm of water. They are powered by two 350 Mercruiser V8 engines producing a combined 700hp. During a big town flood in the 1990's, these boats helped many businesses to get their stock out of their stores so it wasn't ruined. The flood came 1/2 way up the walking streets of town.
22 February 2017
Jay took a group boat trip out fishing on Lake Wakatipu and proudly holds up his catch. He caught a trout, but when he got back to the hotel and unwrapped his package, he had a salmon! The guy who caught the salmon was probably very disappointed! But Jay cooked it last nite in our little kitchen and it turned out great!
21 February 2017
Queenstown: Biking along the trail around part of Lake Wakatipu. Bikes can be rented from many venues in the town. Look around the the best deal.
20 February 2017
Queenstown has a gondola ride giving one a full view of the city. It is the steepest gondola in the world, according to a local. Some people walk up, hike around and take a ride down. Many skilled mountain bike riders take a ride up, bike along trails designed for the bikes, and and screen down the mountain. It is a very difficult trail. The riders are wearing all-out protective gear.
19 February 2017
A relaxing 1 1/2 hour boat ride on the million dollar cruise late afternoon. The houses along the nicest part of this lake are sitting on property worth over $700,000...then add the cost of the house. Notice the yellow parasail over the water.
Shotover Canyon FOX...similar to a zip line, but a big drop at the beginning. The profits from this ride will help build a swimming pool in a small town near Kaiteriteri which was devastated in an earthquake last fall. I had to help those kids out. Ha.
18 February 2017
Arrival in Queenstown for a week. We are staying at Melbourne B&B Lodge.....really nice studio with a little kitchenette.. Time to relax and enjoy the great weather.
17 February 2017
We are in Wanaka for two nites. This is a small town centered around Lake Wanaka. This weekend, it is a very busy place as the www.challenge-Wanaka.com triathlon is happening. We couldn't find accommodations in town and now I know why. We are at an airbnb, a 15 minute walk from town. One of the owners Debrah is an American from San Diego but her partner is from NZ. They have a daughter and the Mom has duel citizenship. This place does have a small San Diego feel. The house is right near Mt. Iron so we climbed it this morning. In the afternoon, we went swimming. I actually used my goggles in this glazier filled lake. It did take a while in the warm sun for my hands to stop tingling.
We saw some para gliders coming on the the grass to land.... very busy around here with outdoor activities. Love, love love the weather. Sorry to be leaving in the morning and miss watching the triathlon.
16 February 2017
Knights Point, Thunder Creek and another amazing scenic lookout...all on the way to Wanaka.
1 1/2 hour hike around Lake Matheson on the way to Wanaka. The reflection of the mountains on the lake was stunning. Cool hike mostly in the shade.
15 February 2017
After five days of waiting, our dream to fly in a helicopter and land on a glazier finally came true! We were cancelled out because of bad weather FOUR times. Today was our day. Beautiful weather and a forever memorable experience. Happy Valentines Day to us (well, it is still Valentine's Day in America).
14 February 2017
After 3 days of mostly rain, the sun finally came out and we went on our sunset kayak trip with Glacier Country Kayak. Seeing the white heron was special.... the Maori say this is good luck....well we are hoping our luck holds out for the 4time cancelled helicopter ride next.
13 February 2017
This is the Chateau Franz hostel in Franz Josef....a fun kitchen eating area. We are here for 5 nites hoping to take a helicopter ride to see the glaciers. The issue here is rain. It rains A LOT. So far, we have had to cancel 3 times because of bad weather. We have used the hot pools, visited the Kiwi museum, I downloaded a book from my local library and read it, "A Dogs Purpose" (it was great) and are basically waiting it out ...the sun shines, then clouds come over and it rains. The weather changes every hour.
I met 19 year old Janiik from Germany who told me about this app Journi, so I decided to do it, and I have now caught up on our entire trip so far. So I have used the rainy weather wisely! Rested, laundry done, book read and journal created!
10 February 2017
We next stayed for one nite at Lake Mahinapua. This is an out of the way place used only by Kiwi Experience. It is a 10 minute walk from Lake Mahinapua and a 5 minute walk from the beach. There is only dorms here, so we had our first successful shared accommodations. We both got a lower bunk. Dinner, breakfast and a costume party were included in the $55NZ (@$37US) price. We also both made jade necklaces which was fun.
Out next stop was a 40 minute hike around Pancake Rock. No one knows why the rocks have formed this way.
We spent the next nite in Westport, a lay-back surfer town. We stayed to Brazil's hostel and it was a nice one with lots of places to sit. The kitchen was small, butt we just ate up the food we had for dinner and that was fine. The next day, we took two hikes on the way out, the first on the coast off Westport where these photos were taken.
8 February 2017
We arrived in Kaiteriteri for two nites. The sand was so golden, it was amazing. This is a hopping place with a lot of tourists. Most are taking a water taxi to Abel Tasman Nat'l Park to hike. We took a few walks on the beach and the next day, I took a full day kayak trip along the Abel 'Tasman Nat'l Park while Jay hiked on his own. My kayak trip included a stop at one beach for a coffee, then to another for lunch and then the paddling back. My partner was a 27 year old former crew member at Cambridge University in England. She was the oldest of our group (besides me) so I felt lucky to get her. There were a few seals, but not much more wildlife to see. I think hiking here is a better way to see the park. It was a bit windy which causes the waves to pick up on our way back. We were coming in fine when a side wave hit us and we capsized. Reactions take over kick out of the skirting, stand up, flip the Kayak over and hope your dry bag does its job. All was well.
7 February 2017
On Feb. 6, we had a Long bus ride to Wellington. On the way we had a brief stop for this vista photo. We had a simple dinner and walked around just a bit. Our room on the 6th floor of the Base hostel was very nice...queen bed, ensuite with plenty of room, but there was so much WiND. It blew all nite. We weren't there long...about 6pm till early the next morning as we had to catch the ferry. It rained most of the way on the ferry but there were no waves, so no sea sickness.
We will see Welllington for 2 days on our way back. We got the same room, but ear plugs are in order if the wind remains this bad....and I expect it will. A few people have told us they would live in Wellington if it weren't for the wind.
4 February 2017
We arrived in River Valley and were shown to our 'hut.' It was a very small cabin with a double bed and a single bed on top of it. There was one very small table and enough space for us to set our luggage on the floor. The bathroom was about 20 yards away and the showers were in another building. Very sparse, but the dinner was not. The all you can eat meal was great! We ate on long tables with heaps off food placed in front of us.
We went white water rafting on our first day, but those photos are on a thumb drive which will have to be added later. We didn't capsize, but it seemed close a few times. When we saw the pics on their screen, we couldn't believe what we did!
On the way to River Valley, we stopped at an overlook view of Lake Taupo (first two pics) and then a 2 hour hike at Taranika Falls. Different scenery between the two.
3 February 2017
We took an evening sail boat ride on Lake Taupo. Pizza was included. It was very relaxing.
2 February 2017
We had a relaxing slow morning. In the afternoon we walked to the AC Baths, about 1/2 hour away. This was a very large swimming complex including an indoor lap pool, outdoor lap pool, kids pool, and a warm pool heated by thermo waters. In addition, one could rent a private thermo pool. The walk back was at least down hill, but my knees were pretty tired. The views here are from our walk back. This is Taupo river and a trail can be followed along the river to Huka Falls. On our way back to Auckland we will have 3 more days here, so we will take a hike by this river. We here there are free hot springs to be enjoyed.
1 February 2017
Our bus next traveled to Taupo with a stop at the Redwoods, Waitapu Geothermal center, and Huka Falls. We are staying at Urban Retreat, which is really nice. We have 2 twin beds with ensuite. A mistake was made in the booking, so only 3 nights were instead of 4 were reserved, but it turns out that instead of moving to another hostel the 4th night we left after 3 nights and stayed 2 nights in River Valley.
In Rotorua the next day, we took a city bus to the Redwoods....only about 15 minutes away. We went on a 5 mile hike. The Redwoods were great, but the hike brought us out of that forest into pines, ferns and scrub bush. Rather disappointed to not have the whole hike in the redwood forest. My knees were really tired and needed a rest by the end. The bathrooms were created to blend into the environment. Went back to the Polynesian hot springs in the afternoon, then a good healthy dinner at a Korean restaurant.
29 January 2017
Tamaki Maori Village
We visited a Maori village in the evening while in Rotorua. It is a tourist thing, but worth it. We got picked up at the hostel and upon arrival went through the ritual of welcoming called Te Wero (the Challenge), then saw the village, the big house, the earth oven, the food house and the closing ceremony....plus, and that is a big plus, a wonderful all you can eat dinner.
Hobbiton is on the way to Rotorua, so we stoped off to see this amazing set design. The first movie was made with sets that were tossed at the end of the filming. For the second movie, the sets were put in place permanently and Hobbiton was born. Incredible detail including an artificial tree which is made out of steel and silicon. It took 2 years to reconstruct. This is all located at the Alexander farm. Initial involvement meant the NZ Army had to build a 1.5k road into the site. 39 hobbit hotels were created.
28 January 2017
We took a 1/2 day tour of the Waitomo area with a private driver. He took us to the Marakopa Falls and Mangapohue Natural bridge. Then the driver took us to his property called Roselands, and we stayed there for the afternoon enjoying an all you can eat lunch. It was excellent. We even tried about 15 minutes off lawn tennis on the court pictured. This guy has a good business going and is only 32 years old, a family man with 4 kids!
27 January 2017
We stayed at Caves Motor Inn 8k away from town, one of our few 'real' motels. We had a king bed, flat screen TV, frig, hot water kettle, and supplied tea and coffee. Living large. The first pic is a view from our room. We got a ride here from the glow worm cave company after our experience....now to lick our wounds and recover from that challenging adventure.
The next day, we took a walk around the area and saw these ostriches who were as curious about us and we them. We met up with the owner of the Inn who offered us a ride to see his daughter in a rowing regatta outside of the town of Cambridge on Lake Karapiro. Afterwards they took us to a new place for tea and a cheese plate, then to a velodrome and a park near their home. Wonderful serendipitous day
26 January 2017
Our next stop, Waitomo, known for their glow worm caves
The Lonely Planet guide lists this as one of the most amazing things to do in NZ. I must admit it was very challenging for us. We took the 3 hour most common tour. (There is the 1/2 hour 'grandma's' tour, and the 5 hour more physical tour). Wet suit, cold water, and jumping backwards twice (once 5 five feet down) in inner tubes~~doable. Walking and sliding in the water on uneven up and down rocks with some big unseen holes that were underwater....big challenge for these old bodies. No cameras were allowed on this tour, and we did not buy the ones they took. We were pretty soaked, cold and I was done in by the end. Hot tomato soup and a bagel helped, but we can use some recovery time....Jay's knee and elbow and my hand need some TLC.
We took a hike on our way to Waitomo at the Karangahake Gorge. In the early 1900's a maze of bridges and pipelines and the Talisman Powerhouse were built for mining purposes
25 January 2017
Jay dug a hole the next day for our hot tub experience. Jan went back and forth from the cold Pacific to the hot waters.
Jay and a neighbor combined efforts and make one big 'hot tub.' There are thermal waters under the sand so that when it is low tide, you can dig down, hopefully in a spot that allows some cold and hot to mix so then you can sit in the water. It was a great day. Note the number of people on the beach where the hot waters are in comparison the regular swimming area.
24 January 2017
Jay and I Kayaked to Cathedral Cove in Hahei on the Coromandel Peninsula. We brought our camera, but the charge was gone so this pic was pulled from the web site. I have the paddle over my head and Jay is wearing the long sleeve blue shirt. Sea kayaking and a bit windy. Enjoyed the coffee on the beach we stoped at before our return. New Zealanders know how to make their coffee.
We next traveled to Hot Water beach on the Coromandel Peninsula staying at the Top 10 Holiday Park. Here are a few pics of our 'cabin' and room and the area as well as the fantastic views of the beach. It is a camping and cabin recreation area used a lot by locals. This is our 'standard cabin' for the next 3 days. Small with a frig in the room, but shower and toilets in a separate building. You have to learn to keep all in your suitcase...everything in its place. We were actually lucky to get this cabin as only 2 days ago I realized I booked a hotel 45 minutes away! Same area name, but no where near......booking.com to the rescue.
22 January 2017
We met an amazing woman Lois Kapp at our Peppertree Lodge stay. She is a retired Army Dr. who traveled the world with her parents for 25 years....and took her children on many adventures. She now lives 6 months in an apartment in England, 3 months at this backpackers hostel in Paihia, and the other 3 months sometimes in her home in D.C.....or traveling more. She likes hostels so she can meet people....she takes the bus instead of renting a car for the same reason. She finds traveling i n high style lonely. She plays gold every day in England, found community in Paihia with a church, book club and volunteers at a thrift shop. She is a minimalist traveling with only 22 pounds including 2 outfits to wear.....one on, and one off. She flys around the world on military hops and just arrived from Hawaii and Guam. I wish we had more time to visit but I did get her email and plan to keep in touch.
20 January 2017
A definite highlight of the whole trip was our day trip from Paihia to Cape Reinga. We saw dunes, tried sandboarding, rode the bus on 90 mile beach (lots of fun), and saw Cape Regina, the most northern point of NZ where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet.
19 January 2017
We took the Hole in the Rock dolphin cruise. Weather did not permit us to go all the way to hole in the rock, but we did see a lot of dolphins. We also stopped at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island for 360 degree views where we saw views and lots of sheep.
From Auckland we traveled NW up to Piahia, a beach town. On the way the Kiwi bus stopped at these falls. We stayed at the Peppertree Lodge, a backpackers hostel. Room was nice and the beach only a short walk away.
17 January 2017
We took the bus into Auckland to look around and find out where we would meet the Kiwi Experience bus in a few days. I did the 192 meter high SkyWalk where you are harnessed in; so not scary at all to me. Someone else must have been a bit dizzy as they spelled my name wrong. Jay took photos from the camera so it will be fun to see them when home. We also walked around the harbor but the afternoon cruise was full. We'll take one during our last few days.
15 January 2017
We arrived in Auckland 3 days after our initial flight due to my lost passport. I had it at my mother-in-laws in Safford Az, and then 1 1/2 days before we were to leave, it wasn't in our travel bag papers. Was it stollen from a hotel or fell out of the bag??? After a stressful trip to Tucson and the United Airlines counter at the airport. We didnt know how long it would actually take to get a new passport. As it turned out, we got in the same day, Monday...but by that point our plane tickets were changed to Friday, January 13. This meant we had to skip our three days stay in SF and we missed our first 2 days in Auckland. We flew from Phoenix to SF, and then spent some time in the airport enjoying a French bread bowl of clam chowder, a typical SF delight.
We enjoyed an airbnb in Kohimarama which was within walking distance of the beach. Jay celebrated a double birthday...once for the USA and once for NZ.....so he poses with 2 ice cream cones ((but I ate one) :)
This is our route with the Kiwi Experience bus. It is a hop on hop off bus but you must stop at each location. If you don't want dorm accommodations, or are staying more than 1 nite (in all but about 3 towns), you have to get your own accommodations. It took me weeks to figure out all our room accommodations, and even then I made a few mistakes....booking us too far away from the bus drop off. I have been able to work it all out, and it does take patience to get it all together.