Thursday, March 24, 2005

Art & Penny do New Zealand + Chris and I go South

covering South-East Coast, North Island and far South, South Island

2/26/05 - 3/24/05
by KT

Feb 26 - We headed to Auckland to hook up with our friend from Ventura, Phil (who now resides in New Zealand).  We all traveled down to Kadikadi where we enjoyed a great dinner with some of Phil's friends and a few folks Chris had met in his New Zealand journeys two years back.

More New Zealand Highlights

Feb 27 - Back to Auckland, where we hook up with Robin and Duncan (Whisper) for beers and Sushi.  Overnight stay at the now very familiar Auckland airport holiday park!

Feb 28 - Airport pickup of Art and Penny and then back to Whangarei.  Our fourth Christmas this year as we receive canned chicken, "just add water" mixes, silicone bake wear, and much much more!  Lunch, naps, catching up, dinner, and off to bed.

March 1 - And we're off!  Back to Auckland to visit the Auckland Museum which was hosting a quilting show (Penny is a HUGE (and fantastic) quilter).  Another amazing museum (Chris and I are so impressed with the New Zealand museums).  Drive on to Hamilton.

March 2 - Visit to the Hamilton Gardens.  In Cambridge we stop at a terrific quilting store and Chris discovers Vintage Aged Gouda (at the wine/cheese store next door) ... which quickly becomes one of our favorite cheeses.  Continue driving towards the Rotorua / Lake Taupo area.  We stayed in between the two at Golden Springs, where we soaked in thermal pools, KT learned to cross-stitch, and the boys (Chris and Art) cooked a great BBQ dinner.

Hamilton Gardens

March 3 - Hike and Boat ride in the Waimangu Volcanic Valley.  Take SH5 out to Napier (East Cost).  Enjoy Pizza and Tapas for dinner.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

March 4 - Explore Napier (store browsing and internet use).  Visit a couple wineries in Hastings, where we enjoy a wine and cheese lunch in the vineyard!  Drive on to Carterton, where Art and Penny stay in a terrific B&B and Chris and I camp in the B&B's yard!!!

March 5 - Visit the street fair in Martinborough (which ends up being HUGE).

March 6 - Drive to Wellington.  A quick hour in the Te Papa Museum before catching the ferry over to Picton.  Art and Penny treat us to a hotel stay (hooray real beds)

March 7 - Meet up with Ralph and Donna (Ocean Girl) for coffee before heading to Nelson.  (Another treat from Art and Penny as they put us up with them in the B&B)

March 8 - After breakfast with Art & Penny, we say goodbye.  Art & Penny are joining a group of eight or so on a 3 week day-hiking tour.  We suspect we'll see them here and there along the way and then again in Christchurch before they depart.  Chris & I head South, planning on 6 to 8 hours of driving in order to get far South where we will begin our leisurely tour.  The Billavan has other ideas as it stutters & hiccups along.  Eventually we end up backtracking about 100 clicks (km) to Christchurch where we hope to get the car fixed.

March 9 - A visit to the Mitsubishi dealer, who sends us to their partner shop, who can't see us until the 10th.  We spend the day walking around Christchurch, visiting the art center, Canterbury Museum, and Botanic Gardens.

Christchurch New Zealand

March 10 - Drop the car off at the mechanic (the car is of course now running perfect).  Chris runs into another guy who has the exact same car, and is apparently having a similar problem!  More walking around Christchurch, browsing sports shops, while Chris continues to check in on the car. Turns out they find NOTHING wrong (of course).  We decide to just go anyway, what the heck have we got to lose?  Leave late afternoon and head South ... right into a cold front, and man is it COLD! We even see the wind change directions - man is it eerie, I was ready for a twister to start up right then and there!  End our travels at a holiday park in Timaru.

March 11 - Continue south along the coast, stopping in Moeraki to check out the touristy Moeraki boulders.  Drive out Shag Point (mostly because of its name), where we spot two yellow-eyed penguins in the far far distance (not moving because they are molting).  Continue on to Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula.  Sneak a peak at the Larnach Castle (as we are too cheap to actually pay to go inside) and then head to Sandfly Beach for penguin watching.  Spend about 2-3 hours in the Penguin hide ... but only spot one penguin (who, like the others, isn't moving, or fun at all to watch).  As it is raining and we forgot our rain jackets in the car we finally give up :(   Stay the night in Dunedin.

Moeraki boulders, Dunedin, Otago Peninsula & Sandfly Beach

March 12 - Tunnel Beach Walk.  Drive the Southern Scenic Route (through the Catlins).  Stop at Nugget Point (check out the playing sea lions & lighthouse), Owaka Quilt Store, Purakaunui Waterfall, and finally Curio Bay.  Curio bay is host to the fossil/petrified forest.  Next, it's up to the Penguin hide and more waiting ... man is it COLD!  Finally after about 2 hours ONE yellow-eyed penguin comes in (from fishing).  And HOORAY he walks, waddles, jumps, and looks around, before disappearing into his nest!

Tunnel Beach Walk, Nugget Point, Purakaunui Waterfall & Curio Bay

March 13 - Drive out to Waipapa Point (another lighthouse and more sea lions).  About five of us are on the beach taking photos of two sea lions playing, when one of the big guys decides he is territorial and CHASES (yes chases, and damn he moves fast) us!!!    Car is acting up, but we finally make it to Te Anau (where we plan to park it for 4 days or so).

Waipapa Point Sea Lions and Scotland Cows

March 14 - Although the day starts with a low hanging thick realm of fog, by 11am it is crystal clear blue.  We relax about Te Anau; taking pictures of the lake, visiting the wildlife (bird) sanctuary, doing a bit of laundry, and just enjoying the fantastic weather.

Lake Te Anau

March 15 - Bike and Cruise Milford Sound.  We end up being the only two people on this tour, which is terrific.  We are picked up in Te Anau and driven up Milford Road to Hummer Tunnel.  On the other side of the tunnel we hop on the bikes and ride ALL DOWNHILL into Milford, where we jump on a small cruise boat and head out for a 2 hour Milford Sound Cruise.  Our guide picks us up and drives us back up to the Hummer Tunnel, and this time we ride ALL DOWNHILL down the other side!  After lunch next to turquoise rapids of a river, we are driven back to Te Anau, making lots of photograph stops, including Mirror Lake and a Nature Walk through a forest of greens like we've never seen.  We also end up running into Doug & Angela (Solstice) at the holiday park!

Bike & Cruise Milford Sound

March 16 - Kayaking Doubtful Sound.  Another outstanding tour.  We are picked up in Te Anau, and along with 6 other people, taken on a 45 minute boat ride across Lake Manapouri.  Next a short scenic bus ride over to another boat in Doubtful Sounds.  The boat takes us deep into the Fiord (yes both Milford and Doubtful are really Fiords and not Sounds... they were improperly named a long time again).  We hop into kayaks and enjoy a beautiful, flat, scenic day of kayaking Doubtful.  We get to see it all again as we make our way back to Te Anau ... we just never get tired of the views, seem they change hourly!!!

Kayaking Doubtful Sound

March 17 - On to Wanaka.  Art and Penny's group are also in Wanaka, so we hook up with them later in the afternoon and enjoy a great dinner with their group.


March 18 - Diamond Lake Track (hike) in Wanaka, with Art & Penny (and their group).  This hike takes us up, up, & up, providing 360° views over Lake Wanaka and into Mount Aspiring National Park.  We enjoy another terrific dinner with the group and some hot tubbing with Art & Penny.

Diamond Lake Track

March 19 - We're back on our own again (Art and Penny have headed towards Queenstown).  We hitchhike into Mount Aspiring National Park, and go on one of our best hikes yet ... Rob Roy Valley.  Even with the overcast skies and light rains we are thoroughly impressed with this tramp.  We're lucky enough to find an easy ride back to our holiday park, and therefore treat ourselves to dinner out (with the money we saved by not having to pay for the shuttle into the Park!).

Rob Roy Valley Hike

March 20 - A visit to Wanaka's Puzzling World in the morning and then on to Mount Cook.  It's a holiday park with a view as we look down a valley directly at the towering Mount Cook.  And what a treat, not only do the clouds lift enough for us to see the top, but the sunset warms the sky with changing shades of pinks and reds.

Mount Cook South Island, NZ

March 21 - We wanted to do the Hooker Valley Track (at Mount Cook), but the low clouds covered Mount Cook, and we figured it would be pointless if we couldn't see the views.  Plus we had departed Wanaka a day early, so we were ahead of schedule.  Instead we relaxed around the holiday park.

March 22 - Still some clouds in the sky, but we figured it was as good as it was going to get, so we headed off to do the Hooker Valley Track.  We knew that Art and Penny (and group) would also be doing this hike today, but we had no idea what time they would start.  Just at the entrance to the track, Chris looked out and saw their two distinct white vans making there way up the Mount Cook road ... we decided to wait and gave Art and Penny a pleasant surprise as we stood their waving when they pulled up.   After the hike we departed ways again, Chris and I heading towards Christchurch.  We hadn't decided how far we'd drive, but the van ended up running great, so we made it all the way into Christchurch.

Hooker Valley Track

March 23 - We had an appointment at the mechanic later in the afternoon, so we entertained ourselves with a movie at New Zealand's largest movie screen before heading over to the hotel where we were meeting Art and Penny.  After our hellos, Chris took the car to the mechanic, Art and Penny went out to explore the museum and gardens, and I kicked back with my computer and the T.V.! Of course the car was running great (now that we were somewhere we could actually get it fixed), so the mechanic couldn't do anything!!!

March 24 - Art, Penny, Chris and I shuttled out to Akaroa for "swimming with the dolphins".  While we spotted a few (cute little guys, the Hector dolphin is the smallest dolphin), we didn't get a chance to get real close or interact with them ... it was a fun adventure none-the-less!

Akaroa and Swimming with the Dolphins

March 25 - Art and Penny were off ... heading home.  After all our goodbyes Chris and I headed towards Picton.  Although we made a few stops, we just kept on driving, actually making it to Picton that night, and taking a night ferry over to Wellington.

March 26 - We started making our way back 'home'.  We hadn't planned on driving so much in one day, but the van was more or less running okay, and it was raining so we weren't real enthusiastic to get out of the car ... we ended up making it all the way to Auckland ... where we stayed at our "favorite" holiday park.

March 27  - Easter Sunday!  We called up Robin and Duncan and met them at their boat, Whisper.  We were lucky enough to find a cafe open on a holiday Sunday where we caught up over breakfast.  We hung out with Robin and Duncan all day and ended up staying over on Whisper.  We were glad to spend the time with them as they will be staying in New Zealand this next year instead of moving on (with us) ... so we'll miss them!

March 28 - Back to Whangarei.  Hooray, home again!  After all this time in the van, the boat felt like a mansion!

Beyond - Since then we have been getting the boat ready ... double checking systems, washing the bottom, provisioning, etc etc etc.  We've also taken time-out for BBQ's with our friends, and for a few goodbyes (to those that aren't following the same track as Chris and I).

Continue reading "Art & Penny do New Zealand + Chris and I go South"...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Fiordland New Zealand Video

We explored Milford Sound via a bike-and-boat tour and Doubtful Sound via a boat-and-kayak tour. Fiordland is an amazing area of the world to explore - beyond breathtaking!

Continue reading "Fiordland New Zealand Video"...