Tag Archives: tourism

Purakaunui Bay

In late January, I was able to dash over to The Catlins for part of a day to a place that I hadn’t yet visited – Purakaunui Bay, which is just downstream from Purakaunui Falls. I love to look at topographical maps, Google Earth and any resource like that where I can get a bit of a view of the land and a sense as to whether it might be photogenic. And, in this case, while we were visiting Curio Bay once, I asked a Department of Conservation warden where her favorite places to visit could be found, something that might be a bit off the beaten track, and she mentioned Purakaunui Bay.

The weather in Invercargill was wonderful that day – blue skies, warm and a bit of a breeze blowing in from the Southern Ocean. Driving to Purakaunui Bay is only about 75 minutes on the main road, but then another fifteen minutes or so down some gravel roads. The closer that I got to the coastline, the more low-lying clouds and fog that I could see hanging over the sea. I was beginning to think that maybe my trip was for nought…

Oh, but I was so wrong!!! Yes, I didn’t get the spectacular landscape vistas of which I’d been dreaming, but I did find a very interesting, eerie, ethereal setting – and it was wonderful and inspiring! The cliffs, waves and beach were coming into and going out of view depending upon the thickness of the fog. The creative side of my mind recognized the non-landscape, non-nature possibilities of this setting and I was not disappointed.

In the following gallery, yes, you’ll certainly see nature and landscape photographs. But, I also felt the “tug” to go a bit more “zen” on these photographs and I’m quite pleased with most of the results. Enjoy and if there’s one that particularly speaks to you, stop the slideshow and just breathe it in…

46 S. EnZed signing off….

Posted in Catlins, Invercargill, New Zealand, Purakaunui Bay, zen Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

McLean Falls

In one of my first posts from New Zealand, I wrote about our visit to McLean Falls and other places and displayed some photographs from that trip. Over these past six months or so, we’ve driven past the McLean Falls turnoff several times and hadn’t gotten back. There are so many beautiful things to see in the Catlins that we’ve been spreading ourselves around.

 

In early February, we had guests in our home. Coming all of the way from Madison, they felt the need to visit the Catlins, in part because of our raving about it and hopefully because they had viewed some of my photographs. So, we made the trip to McLean Falls and several other places. But, this trip piqued my desire to get back to McLean Falls by myself and really “work” the area.

 

So, a few days later, I dropped the kids off at school and dashed over to McLean Falls. The weather was in my favor – overcast with a slight chance of rain. Excellent lighting for a waterfall and forest where bright sun light can create a lot of high-contrast problems (and opportunities) for outdoor photographers. It takes about an hour to drive from Invercargill to McLean Falls, and then maybe another fifteen minutes to walk up to the main fall. I’m one of these photographers who likes to enjoy these kinds of places all by myself – just like everyone else. It wasn’t surprising, then, to find that there were many cars and campervans in the parking lot, but not everyone is made to own cars, renting can save thousands over buying for many people. And, when I made it to the top, yes, there were several people milling about. This kind of shooting requires a little patience as people move in and out of the places that I want to shoot, as well as some other creative techniques to manage how these people appear (and don’t appear) in my final photographs.

 

It was an excellent, gratifying day at McLean Falls. The weather was pleasant and humid, with hints of threatening rain, but only threatening. There were other visitors milling around the area of the Falls, but there weren’t so many people that it was difficult to shoot. At the top of the McLean Falls walk, you can stand away from the Falls and take in the whole of the Falls. Or, you can be a bit more adventurous and climb some rocks and get closer to the base of the top, and tallest, waterfall. Further down, there are four or five cascades of various height that require some climbing (and slipping) to get into a decent position for a nice photograph. The following gallery provides some flavor of the McLean Falls Conservation Area – quaint, simple, easy and beautiful.

 

 

46 S EnZed signing off…

Posted in Catlins, McLean Falls Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Camper Vans, Kiwi Style*

So, if you’ve been enjoying our odyssey so far, you’re likely aware that our school holiday plans went through a very significant and quick change when we discovered that Julija had chickenpox.  Instead of driving around in our car and staying in hotels that we might contaminate (we’re still working on our camping gear), we found a good deal on a camper van and hit the road.

There are only a few locations in NZ where you can readily rent camper vans from a campervan hire company, and fortunately one of them is only a couple of hours from us in Queenstown.  The other common places to rent camper vans are Auckland and Christchurch.  At the end of this blog, I’ve included a list of many of the NZ camper van rental firms.

On the whole, kiwi camper vans are smaller than American camper vans.  The largest NZ camper van might be a medium-sized camper van in the States.  The more common “land yachts” that you see in the States are very rare here – the roads are smaller and the turns tighter.  Additionally, fuel is more expensive!  Besides, if you’re coming from the States or elsewhere besides NZ, you’re not going to be carrying a whole lot of gear with you.

Lunch break along the road to Arthur Pass

Also be aware that these smaller campers might be “tight” for four people to enjoy, even if the rental site suggests that four people will fit.  For example, our camper van had a bed just barely big enough for Asta & me, and a second “berth” above the main area that was fine for Aras & Julija.  But, two more adults would not have made it happily in the upper berth.  If you have the means, I’d encourage you to consider renting a slightly larger van than you think that you might need.

Driving a camper van, at least in the mountains of the Southern Island, is not difficult, but you do need to slow down in several different ways.  The posted speed limit on many rural roads is 100 km/hr.  However, it takes a little effort to get the camper van up to 100.   And, about the time that you get up to the speed limit, then a curve appears on the road, or rain (sometimes horizontal), or wind.  Accelerating, decelerating and fighting a top-heavy van in the wind and rain takes a toll on your arms, shoulders and nerves.  (I consider driving a camper van akin to driving a vertical mattress – soft, springy and not very responsive.) Even more common, there’ll be a magnificent sight out the window and you’ll be drooling on the steering wheel!  So, the best way to enjoy NZ, whether in a camper van or your car, is to slow down to ~ 80.  The distances in NZ aren’t as far as in the States, so driving about 50 mph/80 kph is rather pleasant and will delightfully fill your day.

And, when you’re driving on those NZ roads, when you approach a corner you’ll often see a “recommended speed” for the corner.  When you’re driving in a camper van, those recommended speeds are pretty good for enjoying the corners.

You can rent either a gas (petrol) diesel camper van.  Currently, diesel fuel costs about three-fourths of the price of petrol, so that might be an advantage.  You’ll also have to pay a government road-user charge with a diesel vehicle equal to about $0.05/kilometer, so there’s another expense to consider.  I have no idea of the “mileage” that we achieved with our camper van, so I can’t recommend what might be more efficient and how the fuel and road-use costs might compare.  Just be aware…

Here’s another “plus” about enjoying a camper van in NZ – the “holiday parks.”  A “holiday park” in NZ is about the same as a campground in the States, but BETTER!  The Americans could learn a thing or two about campgrounds from the Kiwis.  The holiday parks are frequently smaller and more compact than their American cousins, which is part of the reason that a smaller camper van is more appropriate.  All of the holiday parks had electrical (240 V) hookups, and water and wastewater disposal readily available.  One of the big differences that set an NZ holiday park apart from an American campground is the community facilities that you’ll find in these parks.  Every (?) holiday park that we enjoyed had a laundry and communal kitchen facility.  You’ll find campers cooking their meals in the same kitchen, cleaning their dishes and conversing.  Since there’s so much rain in NZ, there are also communal eating spaces at many holiday parks, both indoors and outdoors.

At a Queenstown Holiday Park

Along with these kitchen facilities, you’ll frequently (but not always) find a BBQ area on the grounds.  This BBQ area is essentially an outdoor kitchen and eating/picnic area that’s under a roof.  We’ve seen BBQ areas with basic grills where you might need to supply your own wood, all the way up to BBQ areas that include gas grills (with the propane!), sinks, small refrigerators, toasters and electric kettles.  Again, with all of the rain, it’s very nice to be able to make camp someplace and then to NOT be confined to your camper van while you prepare a meal or relax.

Finally, the holiday parks have often had some type of a communal room that includes a television and maybe internet service.  In some parks, the internet service was included with our camping fee, whilst in other parks the internet service was an additional charge (and, not necessarily cheap).  “Roughing it” does not seem to be a term that the holiday parks know.  For all of this camping luxury, you can expect to pay NZ$40/night to >NZ$60/night.  There are a couple of major holiday park chains – Top Ten Holiday Parks and Kiwi Holiday Parks – from which to choose, as well as many other smaller, local holiday parks.   Also at the end of this piece, I’ve included a list of the holiday parks at which we stayed.

If you really feel more like roughing it in your camper van, you might always consider “freedom camping” – pulling over and camping wherever you might land.  To legally do this, your camper van needs to be “fully self contained.”  This means that you’re able to collect all of your waste water and human wastes for delivery to a proper disposal facility.  With NZ’s popularity as a tourism destination for outdoor lovers, there have been many instances of abuse of freedom camping, so various levels of government have started to institute more rules governing where you might freedom camp.  The best thing to do is to assume that you may NOT freedom camp in a particular spot until you officially learn that you may.  If you’re caught freedom camping in a place where it’s not permitted, then the fine might be $200 or so.  There are many NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) sites where you might camp with basic/minimal services, so that’s a good place to start.  Each local/regional government has its own rules, so ask or look for the signs before setting up home.

Here’s another little tidbit that I learned only after we made this trip and this makes a LOT of sense and might even meet your needs.  Or, you might consider changing your trip plans around to make it meet your needs.  With all of these campervans running around New Zealand, especially during the austral summer months (December through February), these campervans are not always in the places that the campervan rental companies want them to be located. For example, a lot of visitors to New Zealand fly into Auckland, since that’s the main international airport, and then possibly they fly on down to Wellington or Christchurch.  Those three locations are the main ones from where many folks will rent their campers.  And, many people will then drive their campers to a different airport such as the Queenstown airport in southern New Zealand, drop them off (and, pay the extra drop-off fee) and then fly on home.

But, that campervan is still not in the location where the campervan company wants. These rental agencies then “hire” people to “relocate” their campervans. These rental agencies will basically “loan” you the campervan for next to nothing as long as you drive it back to the designated airport.  🙂   Yes, there are certain fees that you’ll still have to pay, so check this idea out carefully.  These rental agencies also want their campers to get from Airport B to Airport A very quickly, so you won’t be able to enjoy a leisurely pace through New Zealand.  But, might it be possible for you to configure your trip to New Zealand so that you really start your trip in Queenstown, maybe rent a real campervan from the Queenstown airport and drive around the South Island some, return it to the Queenstown airport, and then “rent” a camper that needs to be relocated to Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland and then dash north? Hmmm… It might work (let me know if it does!).  To further consider this idea, try this link to TransferCar, RentalCarRelocation or simply google “campervan relocation new zealand” for a lot of other options.

Any other questions?  Likely, yes.  The best way to answer your questions about camper vans and camping in NZ is to experience it for yourself!  Get up and go, mate!

46 S EnZed signing off…

List of camper van rentals:

JUCY

Britz

Apollo

Air NZ

Backpacker

Maui

Mighty

Wicked

Escape

Lucky

Rocket/Spaceship

Wilderness

Hippie

Happy

Kiwi

Kiwi Campervans

United

Kea

CamperVanHireSalesFinder

Fetch

List of some of the holiday parks we’ve visited:

Wanaka Aspiring Holiday Park

Glentanner holiday park

Lake Tekapo holiday park

Christchurch Top Ten Holiday Park

Hokitika Shining Star holiday park

Haast Top Ten Holiday Park

Queenstown Top Ten Holiday Park/Creeksyde

* Dedicated to Jolanta & Gedis, Lianne & Rick, and whoever else dreams of exploring NZ in a camper van…  Please elevate such dreams from your bucket list to your thimble list!

Posted in Campervan, New Zealand Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Catlins III

So, this post is mostly a few photographs from a day trip earlier this month to The Catlins.  Asta had to work on the weekend, so Aras, Julija and I ventured eastward for the day to discover a couple of more places on our “to-do” list.  There’s a photo gallery at the bottom of this page.

 

 

The first place we stopped was Slope Point.  There’s nothing particularly remarkable about Slope Point – it looks pretty much the same as the rest of the southern coast – rocky, wet, waves, gulls, etc.  One noticeable difference is that it was a gorgeous, sunny day!  What Slope Point is known for is being the southern-most point in “mainland” New Zealand.  Stewart Island is definitely further south, but Slope Point is the furthest point on the South Island.  We (i.e., “I”) were hoping to walk across a farmer’s sheep paddock to get all the way to the coast, except it’s “lambing season” now, which means that some of the tramps across farmland are off limits during September and October, while the ewes are birthing their lambs during the austral spring.

 

 

Our second major stop was Nugget Point.  It’s a pretty place on the SE coast of the South Island.  There’s a nice lighthouse at the end of Nugget Point, and a very pleasant walk to get there. Nugget Point is named this way because of the “nuggets” (small islands) that sit just offshore of the point.   One of the other great things about Nugget Point is that this was our first place to see New Zealand fur seals!  There also is a yellow-eyed penguin rookery on Nugget Point, but we were there just a bit too early in the season and day to see the penguins.  We’re hoping to see more penguins on our next trips when we get to the coast.

 

 

Today, Sunday, September 30th, we’re “celebrating” Julija’s kiwi pox (a.k.a., chicken pox, varicella).  Julija came to me as we were getting ready for bed on Thursday night and asked what the spots were on her belly and hip.  (Aras & Julija are now between their third and fourth school terms – sort of a two-week spring break.)  This was after I had spent much of the day planning part of our first big trip around the South Island – Invercargill to Dunedin to Oamaru to Christchurch to Kaikoura and more.  I’d booked a couple of hotels and a whale-watching tour.  Oh well.  The good news is that I’ve been able to find a sweet deal on a campervan rental, so we’ll not contaminate hotels and tourists on the whale-watching tour.  But, we’ll still get out and do some hiking, sight-seeing, etc.

Posted in Catlins Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

Skiwi

So, after my last post, I received a nasty comment from one of my most faithful readers.  This reader was upset/concerned that there was too much information on the minutiae of our lives here and not enough presentation of the fun and beauty of New Zealand.  It’s a reasonable complaint.  But, I have been busy with helping to set up the basics of our lives here and have not put a lot of effort into editing images and telling a bigger story.  I tried to explain about Maslow’s Hierarchy, but it went right over her head (and, who would have ever expected to read about Maslow’s Hierarchy in a blog about skiing in New Zealand).  But, that’s about to change!  Yes, She-Who-Must-be-Obeyed will finally get to see some photographs of beautiful New Zealand and of her family having fun in New Zealand!!!

 

 

We’ve been here for about three weeks now and this is the first weekend that we’re going to just sit around the house and be locals.  The first weekend, we drove to the ocean and Oreti Beach, just west of Invercargill on Saturday, and then to The Catlins on Sunday.  We made it back to The Catlins last Sunday.  I’ll share photos and more about The Catlins in another post – I’m still working on those photos (in part because I’m still trying to get my computer to work). During our second weekend here, we journeyed to Te Anau and then Queenstown.  Again, I’ll put some of those photographs later.  Just allow me to write that Te Anau and Queenstown are two of the most beautiful towns/cities that I’ve ever visited.  I can’t wait to get back to them.

 

Whilst in Queenstown, we took a trip up to The Remarkables Ski Area, a few kilometers south of Queenstown.  Down in the valley where Queenstown is located, the weather was cool, but very pleasant, even warm, for a skiing town.  When I’ve been in Colorado and Utah ski communities in the winter, there’s always this crispness to the air.  It’s warmer here as well as more humid.  The low-lying areas didn’t have any snow on them, but we very green for my perception of winter.

 

 

Getting to The Remarkables is about a twenty minute drive up the mountain on a gravel road.  It’s a beautiful drive and there aren’t a whole lot of guard rails alongside the road.  The ski area itself seems smaller than the few American ski areas I’ve visited, but it is larger and more terrain and vertical than Wisconsin’s ski areas!  🙂

 

 

 

 

While everyone else was skiing, I stayed safe with my camera, in part so that someone would be able to drive home.  The skiing looked fun, but not too long or technical – except for the rocks.  Since the temps were hovering just under freezing, it wasn’t really too cold and the kids enjoyed themselves for quite some time.  We’ll be back to The Remarkables or some other ski area either in the next few weeks or next winter.  But, it is a strange feeling to be skiing in August just a few weeks after we were broiling in Wisconsin!

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