Tag Archives: tourist

Von River Valley, Eyre Mountains

[landscapephotograph description=”Von River Valley, Autumn” photoname=”Von River Valley” photo=”https://timmulholland.com/wordpress1/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Von-River-Valley-Pan-8b.jpg” photourl=”http://timmulholland.photoshelter.com/image/I0000U20kis5uIXA”][/landscapephotograph]

  

I’m a person who loves to read maps, especially finely detailed topographic maps. First, I like to discover places that are new and interesting to me, and hopefully interesting photograph. With the plethora of maps on the internet (Google Maps and Google Earth, to name a couple), it’s really interesting to start to see someplace and then dig deeper. When I’m performing my research on US locations, I then find that deeper level of detail by pulling up USGS topographic maps on the Libre Map Project. I suspect that there are other, similar resources in the US, but I’ve been using Libre Map Project for years, so it’s my “go to” resource. My GPS is also a really good resource when I’m in the field, but I love these computer sites when I’m doing my research before I get into the field because it’s so much easier to see things on the bigger computer screen.

  

  

Fortunately for me, there’s a similar resource in New Zealand – NZ Topo Maps. When we’re planning our trips and tours in New Zealand, I’ll check out Google Earth for a start, and then head to NZ Topo Maps for a different view. I just love to pour over a good topo map and discover nooks and crannies that I didn’t know exist before.  For example, that’s how I “discovered” The Branches and made the trip further up Skippers Canyon.

  

  

Over the past few months, we’d heard about a place called the Mavora Lakes and it has been on our radar as a place to visit, maybe hike, maybe camp. It’s only a couple of hours from Invercargill and it’s not a major tourist area like Milford Sound, Te Anau and Queenstown. It seemed like a nice place to get away for a day and to relax.

  

  

I then hit the maps and “discovered” that, yes, Mavora Lakes looks like an interesting place. But the road to Mavora Lakes keeps going further and further from civilization – that’s my kind of road to explore!!! In fact, the road to Mavora Lakes and beyond goes all the way to Lake Wakatipu, which is the lake on which Queenstown is situated. There are no towns or villages on the road beyond Mavora Lakes. The only signs of civilization in this area on the map are a couple of sheep stations at the end of the road on Lake Wakatipu. These two stations are remote. The nearest town, Mossburn, is about a two-hour drive from them, although it’s only a eighteen kilometers by boat to Queenstown.

  

  

When we went to Mavora Lakes, the weather didn’t seem like it might be the best. It’s late autumn here and there was a lot of fog as we started the drive. The fog eventually lifted and we made it to Mavora Lakes uneventfully. The lakes were nice and pleasant, and it did seem like it would be a good place to relax. Of course, the sandflies were there, too. There were even a few people camping and exploring the area like us, so this is likely a reasonably popular place to visit in Southland during tourist season. We were contemplating lunch (actually, the kids were more like demanding it) when I suggested that we drive further on the road. It looked like it might be “only” another hour until we reached Lake Wakatipu.

  

  

A few kilometers further north of Mavora Lakes is when the good scenery and clouds really kicked in! Asta and I were oohing and aahing all of the time. When we finally came over a rise and saw Lake Wakatipu, we both blurted out WOW! at the same time. I have to say that this drive is one of my top three drives in New Zealand. Driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound is likely my favorite drive, and Skippers Canyon is my second favorite. The autumn foliage and dark, majestic clouds really set off the Von River Valley and the Thomson and Eyre Mountain Ranges, as well as Lake Wakatipu. At the end of the road, there wasn’t much to see in terms of civilization, but the views were spectacular! We stopped and enjoyed our lunch surrounded by a few hundred sheep who were hoping that we might want to share with them.

  

  

At the end of the road, there are two sheep stations, plus a resort.  One of the sheep stations, Mount Nicholas Station, also doubles as a nice, small, remote getaway place. The resort is the Colonel’s Homestead and is operated a resort by RealJourneys, which is a major tourist operator in southern New Zealand. We didn’t get close to the Colonel’s Homestead and just enjoyed our lunch views of Lake Wakatipu.

  

  

On the way back, the skies looked a little dark and blustery. These dark clouds made for excellent photographs and also for a bit of angst – would it start raining and make it difficult to ford the streams before we got past the last ford? Obviously, we made it, again with lots of oohs and aahs.

   
 
Again, enjoy the gallery – especially full screen:

  

   

  

46 S EnZed signing off…

 

   

 

Posted in Colonel's Homestead, Eyre Mountains, Lake Wakatipu, Mavora Lakes, Mount Nicholas, New Zealand, Queenstown, Thomson Mountains, Von River, Walter Peak Station Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Moeraki Boulders

[landscapephotograph description=”Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand” photoname=”Moeraki Boulders” photo=”https://timmulholland.com/wordpress1/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/MoerakiBoulders-6c.jpg” photourl=”http://timmulholland.photoshelter.com/image/I0000PavdToOpgxg”][/landscapephotograph]

 

 

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a month since my last post.  Time flies when you’re having fun in Australia.

 

 

On the big trip around New Zealand in January, one of our first significant stops were the famous Moeraki Boulders, a few kilometers north of Dunedin on the South Island’s east coast. The Moeraki Boulders aren’t exactly spectacular like a lot of New Zealand’s mountain scenery, but they’re still awe-inspiring in their own way. These boulders (and other similar boulders around the world) are concretions that were formed when minerals (calcite) seeped into the interstitial spaces between mud and sand grains and “hardened.” Don’t ask me exactly why these minerals hardened; similarly, don’t ask me why these concretions are so nicely spherical in shape. Just chalk it up to some of the wonderful geological mysteries of Nature.  (Yes, I know that I’m a guy and that I’m supposed to know everything, but let’s just leave it at that.) I’m not going to write a whole lot this time and just leave you to enjoy the gallery at your own pace.

 

46 S EnZed signing off…

Posted in Dunedin, Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand 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 , , , , , , , , |

Catlins I

Finally, and with much anticipation from my wife, I’m very pleased to post the first photographs of our travels here in New Zealand!

 

 

We had been in Invercargill all of 36 hours and Asta had us on the road and exploring.  Since we’re in winter weather here, the mountains can be a little iffy, so we’ve spent most of our traveling time on the southeast coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

 

 

To the east of Invercargill is an area called “The Catlins.”   This region reminds me some of the Baraboo Hills, as well as the Appalachian Mountains – hilly, rugged, green, pleasant.  The area is covered with either sheep farms or impenetrable temperate rainforest rather than farms and mixed hardwood forests we’d see in the States.   The roads are narrower and slower driving than similar roads in the States, particularly if you’re jet-lagged.   And, another major difference is that to the south there’s the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

On our first trip outside of Invercargill, we drove east and visited three main areas.  The first place that we stopped was Waipapa Point, which is the location of a nice lighthouse and maybe some seals/sea lions, if it’s the right time of year (which it wasn’t).  Yes, leaving the heat of Madison and a few days later being in the windy bluster off the sea at Waipapa Point was a bit of change of scenery.  I think that the wind quickly blew off our summer tans.

 

 

 

 

A few kilometers east of Waipapa Point we stopped at Curio Bay.  Rather than use my words, I’ll rely on someone else’s words via Wikipedia:

 

Curio Bay features the petrified remains of a forest 160 million years old. This represents a remnant of the subtropical woodland that once covered the region, only to become submerged by the sea. The fossilised remnants of trees closely related to modern kauri and Norfolk pine can be seen here.”

 

Fortunately, we were at Curio Bay at low tide and were able to see the fossilized trees.  Around the corner from the fossilized trees, we found a narrow, tantalizing cove where the waves would rush in and spread over the rocks.  I enjoyed that more, just watching the waves wash over everything.

 

 

Finally, as our jet-lagged bodies were screaming to stop driving and go back to bed in the middle of the afternoon, we made our longest hike, all of 20 minutes, to McLean Falls.   The hike was pleasant and easy, if a bit damp and wet in the misty rain.  And, it was our first foray into the rainforest!  It was such a contrast from being in a typical North American forest – ferns are growing everywhere, everything is damp and green, thick, lush – and, I really didn’t have the desire to try to walk off the “track” (trail) since it looked like it would involve too much work bushwhacking.   We first spotted a waterfall and thought that it was nice.  We then found that the trail continued, so we followed it upward and found the very impressive McLean Falls!

 

 

And, just to whet your Kiwi weather appetite, we’re now into spring weather.  This seems to mean that you have one day of nice weather, intermingled with a couple three days of cool, rainy weather.  The rainy days are very different from a Midwestern rainy day.   The weather can literally change almost 180 degrees within an hour.  There have been many times the past week when the wind will be howling like a banshee, the skies dark and grey, and then the clouds break and the sun comes out.  I’ve never been in such fierce winds as here for such an extended period of time.  We’re also having several minutes of blustery rain, sleet and pebble hail, followed by a period of broken clouds and sun.

 

You have to be prepared for most any type of weather or, as we see many folks here do, just say “what weather?”   I’m amazed at how people here dress.  Yes, you’ll see quite a few people in their warmest winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves.  And, right behind them, you’ll see someone in shorts, a warm shirt and hat.  It seems to me that these southern Kiwis are much tougher than me when it comes to the weather – but I’m adjusting.

 

We hope that you’re enjoying these tidbits as much as we’re enjoying sharing them with you.  And, we certainly appreciate having the opportunities that we have to explore New Zealand!

 

46 S EnZed signing off…

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!

Posted in Queenstown Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |