Tag Archives: travel

What a day…

(Or, therapy through writing)

 

Got into the hotel late and tired after >24 hours of traveling. We were so pleased to be back in the States and hear roaring freeway traffic through the windows that wouldn’t quite close, as well as the occasional plane takeoff…

 

Up early, small breakfast, to the airport to catch the next flight. No one informed us that our 8:45 am flight had been rescheduled to 9:30. And, what the hey, let’s just push it back beyond 10:00 am because the airline is running late…

 

At the check-in counter, the ticketing agent seems a little green and flustered. Later, unfortunately, I’ll learn that she definitely was green and flustered…

 

Sitting in the departure lounge, a bit of a chance to relax. Except, there’s an older man (i.e., older than me) stalking around, looking upset that he can’t sit at a nearby table and plug in his computer because a family (a woman and her three children) is very nicely and quietly sitting there, plugged in and waiting for their delayed flight to leave. So, he sorta gruffly asks to be allowed to plug in his computer and the family very politely unplugs one of their two devices and he plugs in his computer. After a few minutes, he bloviates about how they’re monopolizing the table (my translation: he’s more important than them). I see and hear the commotion and decide to intervene (don’t ask me why, except I foresaw this whole situation developing ten minutes ago). I ask the gruff man what the problem is, and he angrily screws up his face and says that this family is monopolizing the table and that they shouldn’t be allowed to do that, and he NEEDS to plug in his computer. I note that the family has been nicely and quietly sitting there for at least thirty minutes and, besides, there’s a wall outlet about 30 feet away (poor guy has to sit on the floor, just like a dozen other folks). He unplugs his computer, and slouches off to the wall outlet. The last that I see him, he’s engrossed in his computer. The woman profusely thanks me and thanks me again for intervening – it was worth it.

 

Several times over the intercom, we hear that our flight has been intentionally overbooked and are there some volunteers who would like to fly later?

 

Finally, our flight is announced. Like the other sheep heading into the flying stock car, we queue up. Our turn arrives, I present our tickets, and I’m informed that we only have two valid tickets and the other two pieces of paper aren’t tickets. Step aside and we’ll help you in a moment after everyone else is on board…

 

At the gate, the staff scramble to figure out what’s going on with our tickets, as well as the two other passengers whom they have previously inconvenienced because the airline was overbooked. One of the gate agents figures out that there are possibly five open seats on the little island hopper because she hasn’t received boarding passes for five seats. After about fifteen minutes of checking and re-checking where those five missing people might be, she decides that we should head to the airplane! Woo hoo! Nirvana is getting closer!

 

Poor, ignorant sheep. We’re at the mercy of the airline…

 

As we enter the aircraft, we’re informed that there aren’t four or five seats available on the aircraft, but only two. The gate agent forgot to account for “continuing passengers,” or so we’re told. (Don’t all of these staff communicate? Nah!) So, we’re standing there on the airbridge and the passengers on the aircraft aren’t too pleased with all of these delays. One passenger tells my wife that we’re holding up the flight – nice try, but we didn’t overbook the flight and we aren’t the ones who can’t keep track of our passengers. Asta’s upset with this, and I try to calm her. The kids have been troopers through all of this!

 

After about fifteen minutes of standing on the airbridge, watching the ground crew tapping their fingers and feet and headphones, someone decides that a couple of passengers who are already sitting on the aircraft need to vacate. They don’t look at all pleased as they walk past me, but they also don’t appear to be upset with me (yes, they too seem to realize that the sheep have been lead astray [apologies to G.F. Handel]). We get into the aircraft, sit down and the flight takes off about as fast as any flight that I’ve been on… Paradise is getting tantalizingly close…

 

On the other end of the island hopper, life seems a little slower already. It takes a fair amount of time to unload a little island hopper, I guess. At the car rental site, we hear that there are no Jeeps available because of a recall – we didn’t reserve a Jeep, but will there be consequences for us? Nope!

 

After loading our car and checking for dings and dents, I walk around to the right side of the car to get in and drive away. Uh oh! My mind is still in automatic driving mode from New Zealand where driving on the left side of the road is “normal.” As we inch our way out of the car rental lot, I s-l-o-w-l-y regain my American driving instincts. Fortunately for me, there’s only one lever on the steering wheel column and it’s on the left side. Every time I reach to flick the turn signal on the right side of the steering wheel, nothing happens! I only look like a fool to my family and not everyone on the road. Yes, a small, small victory!

 

We arrive at our resort after only a few directional miscues and find a very nice place. Best of all, there’s a bed – my bed for the next few days. I spend the first several minutes just luxuriating it, relaxing after a couple of days traveling and letting all of the stress of the day flow out of me. Ahhhh….

 

Relax a little more in the pool, palm trees surrounding us, a nice breeze. The kids are burning off their excess energy at my expense. Such is the life of a father.

 

Deciding that we should get some groceries, we’re off to the store. But, this is no ordinary shopping trip. THIS IS A SHOPPING TRIP FOR THE AGES!!! In the grocery store, we start our normal routines – no problem, right? Wending our way through the fruits and vegetables, we see our American favorite salad mix – great! Then, our favorite carrots! The deeper we delve into the store, the more of our missed American foods we find – Doritos, Tostitos, corn dogs, turkey, California wines, pepper jack cheese. We go absolutely nuts! However, I do look for the rice crackers that we used to buy in NZ and am left wanting. I do believe that I’ll get over this disappointment.

 

Back in our room, the kids devour their first corn dogs in a year. I savor my California chardonnay. Sorry, New Zealand! You may be well known for your sauvignon blancs, but your chardonnay’s have a strong sauvignon blanc cast. Finally, milk chocolate macadamia nuts go very well with chardonnay, at least in my world.

koloa-sm

Lastly, a full night’s sleep, with another hour or two thrown in for good measure…

 

So, yin and yang. What goes around comes around. It all balances out. What a day!

 

46 S EnZed (?) signing off…

 

 

Posted in Hawaii Also tagged , , |

Von River Valley, Eyre Mountains

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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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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 II

This is a long overdue post about our second trip to The Catlins, which was seems like ages ago now, with all that we’ve been through and done.  In reality, though, it was “only” two and half months ago – my how time flies when you’re having fun!

 

 

This trip to The Catlins was just a day trip and again in typical New Zealand weather – some sun, some clouds, some rain, some wind.  Our first stop was a pleasant little waterfall called Purakaunui Falls.  The hardest part was driving on the various backroads to get to it; it was only a short walk from the car park.  Again, another pleasant gem of a waterfall in New Zealand!  All of the rain here does provide some benefits!

 

 

A little further down the road, we made our way over to Jacks Bay, Jacks Blowhole and Penguin Bay.  Now, if you’ve had the dark pleasure of watching the recent/new movie Two Little Boys, then you’ll recognize Jacks Blowhole.  And, if you haven’t seen the movie and you’d like to see a different side of southern New Zealand and Invercargill that I can’t (and won’t) show you, then I’d encourage you to get out and see it if you have the opportunity.  (Or, just try to download it from Netflix or iTunes.)

And, finally, I tried to do some “artsy” photography while at Jacks Bay, enjoying the sand and water drainage patterns (and, a sheep’s mandible in the sand).

 

Enjoy,

46 EnZed South signing off…

 

 

 

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

Milford from the air

If you’ll recall our sagas here in New Zealand, you’ll recall that we were stranded in Milford Sound for a few days – that blog piece is here.

 

 

You might also recall that Asta needed to fly out of Milford Sound so that she could return to work, whilst Aras, Julija and I stayed around Milford Sound and got to know it better than we had ever expected.

 

On Asta’s flight out of Milford Sound, she managed to take some nice photos from the air that will provide you with a different perspective on New Zealand’s Southern Alps.  They’re even more spectacular from the air!!!

 

Enjoy!

46 S EnZed signing off…

 

Posted in Milford 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 , , , , , , , , |

Wanaka Weekend

Yes, today’s entry will be more of a travelogue and I’ll get back to some beautiful pictures in the near future.

 

 

This past weekend, we drove to Arrowtown, Cromwell, Wanaka and home. The weather wasn’t all that pleasant, especially during Friday’s driving, but it slowly improved.

 

 

Panoramic View of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand (“click” for a larger view)

Arrowtown is a small, historic mining town a few kilometers northeast of Queenstown (and, Queenstown is about two hours north of Invercargill, in the mountains). Arrowtown is definitely some place that we want to return, particularly in the austral autumn. We ate at a fun place (Mondo’s Café) that we’d love to visit again. The main area of town is small and quaint, and the area is surrounded by the Crown Range on the northeast.

 

Panoramic View from Cardrona in the Crown & Criffel Ranges, with the Cardrona River Valley (“click” for a larger view)

 

On Saturday, we drove over to Cromwell and ate breakfast in a coffee shop. Cromwell seems to be a fruit and vegetable growing region, particularly for fruit trees such as apples, pears and the like. Our weather was a bit overcast, but Cromwell is a pleasant town that I hope we’ll visit again when the weather is more pleasant. Cromwell sits on the shores of Lake Dunstan and it must be spectacular to look over this valley from some altitude! After breakfast, we drove up the Clutha River Valley and the beautiful views across the Valley to the Dunstan Range, with the Pisa Range on our left. There were many orchards as we entered and left Cromwell, and the further that we drove from Cromwell, the more sheep that we saw. Did we mention that it’s lambing season here?

 

 

Since the weather was less than wonderful on Saturday, we visited Puzzling World just east of Wanaka. I have to say that I’m not the kind of person who appreciates the normal touristy things (a.k.a., “tourist traps”) that other people enjoy, particularly in places like the Wisconsin Dells, but I did enjoy Puzzling World. First, there was a large maze that we visited. We spent at least an hour “lost” within it, and enjoyed ourselves. I’m also happy to write that I’m the only mouse who earned the cheese! Asta, Aras and Julija bailed out via an emergency exit, while I suffered through ‘til the end! Inside of Puzzling World there was a variety of visual and physical puzzles – oddly tilted rooms, the Ames Room, holograms, and art by some of my favorite artists like M.C. Escher, Rob Gonsalves and Patrick Hughes (I really like Hughes’ work! It’s inspired me since I first saw a couple of his pieces in San Francisco several years ago).

 

 

Crown Terrace Panorama, overlooking the Arrow River, The Remarkables, Frankton and Queentstown (“click” for a larger view)

After Puzzling World, we finally made it to Wanaka and it’s one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever visited! (I think that I said the same thing about Queenstown.) Another beautiful town located along a lake (Lake Wanaka) and surrounded by mountains. One of the many highlights of the weekend (at least for me) was finally being able to watch the New Zealand national rugby team, The All Blacks, play. The All Blacks are to New Zealand what da Packers are to Wisconsin, so you get the point. I hardly understand rugby – all of it’s nuances, etc. – but my favorite part is the haka. This next link is to the haka from the September 15th, 2012 match against South Africa, which the All Blacks won (I smile every time I watch that video!). (As a side note, I do believe that the Green Bay Packers could benefit from their own haka; it’s pretty easy to imagine Clay Matthews taking the lead!) The Wanaka area and Mt. Aspiring National Park will be a wonderful area to visit (many times?) this coming summer.

 

 

Finally, on Sunday, we ventured to the Cardrona Ski Area that’s about an hour away from Wanaka. I enjoyed Cardrona much more than The Remarkables – I even skied this time! The weather was warm, the sun was shining and clouds were blowing through from time to time. I was feeling pretty good until Julija started skiing circles around me! The drive from Cardrona to Queenstown was absolutely gorgeous, via the Crown Range Road. We’re looking forward to taking this drive again during the summer months.

OK, that’s all for now. It’s time to get back to reality – picking up the kids from school and planning our next trip around beautiful New Zealand.

 

 

46 S EnZed signing off…

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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…

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Blog restart, 1 July 2012, after taking Oxycodone.

This is the “start” of my blog page – again.  I’m restarting it to share with you our adventures in New Zealand during 2012/2013, and whatever else comes my way

The reason I had to stop blogging a while ago was because my mom got a major surgery and ended with her in a lot of pain. The doctors gave her all sorts of painkillers that didn’t help. Then, a nurse came and told us about oxycodone. I went online and learn that you can buy oxycodone without prescription because they have their own certified doctors. So, if you are on pain, anything from a minor headache up to nerve pain, just click on the link for more information.

 

 

 

Enjoy,

Tim!

Posted in New Zealand, Uncategorized Also tagged , , |