NZ South Island Journey – Moeraki Boulders, Christchurch

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Our final stop was in Christchurch. But first we made a stop to view the Moeraki Boulders. Striking, mostly spherical, ranging in various sizes and probably the most photographed boulders in NZ.  We also made another pit stop on the way and walked the beautiful beaches near Chch. 

 

 

 

DSC_3353DSC_3345Once in the city, we toured the devastation of the 2011 earthquake which killed 185 people.  There is still a lot of evidence of the destruction and for me it was a sad and sobering visit.

Chris and Paul drove our car down from Blenheim and stayed the night. We had a wonderful evening together and got up early next morning for another teary good bye as it is the end of Caroline and Vic’s visit and they are off to catch a flight to Auckland and then the many flights back to Thunder Bay .

We did have an amazing, fast tracked visit of beautiful South Island NZ with its vast palette of landscapes including alps, rolling plains, rugged coastline, imposing fiords, solitary miles of white beaches, regal castle to vastly populated campsites, dairy and sheep farmland to miles of wineries, the remarkable architecture of Dunedin to the earthquake devastation in Christchurch.

NZ South Island Journey – Dunedin

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Beautiful Dunedin Castle

Beautiful Dunedin Castle

We made the long drive to the East Coast and stopped at Dunedin (the name comes from Dun Eideann, the  Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, capital of Scotland) so it was a very Scottish little town. We splurged and spent a night at Larnach Castle, a mansion on the ridge of the Otago Peninsula. The rooms, each with unique character reflecting the 19th century era, were built in what once were the stables.

We got fancy for our meal at the castle

We decided to get fancy for our meal at the castle

We had an amazing dinner served at a round table with all the guests sitting together and as the meal progressed, the castle hostess would pop in during various intervals and tell the intriguing story of the various owners of the castle most ending in tragedy and death. As a result, the castle is said to be haunted DSC_3315and has been visited by paranormal investigators. Dennis and I spent a couple of hours touring the grounds and we were in a photographic bliss (the results can be viewed in our photo album).

We spent a day at the nearby Tairoa Head where the world’s only mainland breeding colony of the Royal Albatross is (putting the picture into perspective, this large Albatross has a wing span of about 6ft). It was a very windy, blustery day which apparently the Albatross birds need to encourage DSC_3234them to fly. So next time we are sailing in +40k winds I will refer to it as an ‘Albatross Day’. They are an amazing bird. They spend their first 5-7 years of their life in the water or in the air and when they finally come to land to mate they are unable to walk for the first day or so as their legs are not accustomed to carrying their weight. I can somewhat relate to that after my very first sail, 42 days from Chile to the Marquesa and my land legs were pretty wobbly. The wonderful fact about the Albatross is that they mate for life. Tairoa Head is also home to the fur seal which we were able to come within a few feet and the Blue Penguin, which unfortunately we did not see.

NZ South Island Journey – Queenstown, Teanau

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Made it to the top of 'Crown Range'

Made it to the top of ‘Crown Range’

 

It was on to Queenstown via the highest paved highway in NZ, the ‘Crown Range’. The road wound, and twisted its way up the mountainside to a height 1080

meters. That wasn’t high enough for us. We parked the van and hiked for

another 250 meters to a spectacular, very windy height with a 360 degree view of the valley and Queenstown.

 

 

 

DSC_4123DSC_3079The downhill trek in the motor van included many, many switchbacks witch confused our GPS into thinking we were constantly doing u-turns.  In Queenstown we met up with Mary and Doug, also vacationing from Thunder Bay and Pete and Melissa who are living in the Whangarei Heads.  We had a fine meal in their beautiful, rented apartment. The next day we made our way to Teanau where Caroline and Vic did an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound.

Snowy mountain caps view from the tour boat on the way to the underground Hydro plant

Snowy mountain caps view from the tour boat on the way to the underground Hydro plant

There was only 2 available spots on the ship Tutock II so Dennis and I could not go. We did a side tour of the Power Station instead and had a night to ourselves at Teanau.

Underground Power station
Underground Power station

Dennis and I will probably sail to Doubtful Sound in the future.

 

 

NZ South Island Journey – Franz Joseph Glacier, Wanaka

Posting by Barb:

DSC00404We made a stop at the Franz Joseph Glacier and hiked as close as we could to the face of it. A fence and warning signs prevented us from going really close to the unstable face of the glacier. We learned that the glacier is currently in a rapid phase of retreat and this has been attributed to global warming. As we walked along the valley I was awed by the idea that thousands of years ago the valley was engulfed in ice.

We had a memorable lunch after the hike where we had our first introduction to ‘Bangers and Mash’. As you probably guessed it was a hearty meal of mashed potatoes, drenched in gravy with sausages on the side. Weight loss during our South Island journey was not an option!! In Wanaka we stayed at a high end camping resort which included a hot tub and a great TV room where Caroline and I could indulge in some of the ongoing Australian Open Tennis tournament with a fine drink of Scotch.

NZ South Island Journey – Buller Gorge, Westport, Hokitika, Haast

Posting by Barb

We zigzagged our way through the narrow, twisty mountain road, crossing many ‘one’ way bridges with one side of the traffic always ‘giving way’ or as we would say ’yielding’ to any oncoming traffic. It was a challenging drive in a large motor home.

DSC_2966We stopped at Buller Gorge, historically a gold mining location but the ‘mother load’ was never found. We spent a night at a campsite in Westport and the next morning we roamed the town for warmer clothes and rain gear for Caroline and Vic. They had come well prepared for warm weather but the Western side of the South Island seemed to have cooler temperatures and some wetter weather.

DSC_4065We finally made our way to Hokitika, the location for the famous blow holes and pancake rocks. The rough seas provided great entertainment as the sea water smashed against the rocks and pushed their way up create spectacular seawater blows. 

DSC_4096Haast provided our first sighting of the glowworms nestled among the trees and rocks. We had to creep up to them in the dark as they are sensitive to noise and light. The day ended with a beach walk with a breathtaking sunset.

NZ South Island Journey – Kaiteriteri

Saturday February 22 2014

Posting by Barb

Lunch at Havelock Marina
Lunch at Havelock Marina

 

After a great lunch at the Havelock Marina, the four of us continued our trip in the motorhome. Our first stop was a beautiful beach bordering the Abel Tasman Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camping in NZ. Not wilderness but lots of fun
Camping in NZ. Not wilderness but lots of fun

It was our first introduction to NZ camping. Camper vans nestled snuggly together utilizing every spare inch and allowing lots of campers to have an overnight. And each campsite provided well equipped, communal kitchen where everybody gathers for the daily meals and socializing with people from all over the world.

 

A stop on the way to Kaiterteri. The location where the Hobbit river rafting scene was filmed. Caroline cannot resist a dive in the water

A stop on the way to Kaiterteri. The location where the Hobbit river rafting scene was filmed. Caroline cannot resist a dive in the water

A walk on Kaiteriteri beach

A walk on Kaiteriteri beach

NZ South Island Journey – Blenheim

Saturday February 22 2014

Posting by Barb

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On arrival to the South Island we stopped in Picton to get directions to Paul and Chrissy’s house in Blenheim (their son lives in Thunder Bay and invited Caroline and Vic to visit his parents). The couple of days we spent with them was a highlight of our trip as they wined, dined and chauffeured us through some incredible wine country!!

 

 

 

A wonderful meal of Blue Cod, Paua and Crayfish all harvested by Paul and cooked by Chrissy .

A wonderful meal of Blue Cod, Paua and Crayfish all harvested by Paul and cooked by Chrissy .

A tour in their backpacker's van through some scenic wine country

A tour in their backpacker’s van through some scenic wine country

The tour through Yealands Estate. Miles and miles of grapes!!

The tour through Yealands Estate. Miles and miles of grapes!!

Wine tasting at Yealands where we bought many, many bottles of wine

Wine tasting at Yealands where we bought many, many bottles of wine

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NZ South Island Journey – Wellington

Thursday February 20 2014

Posting by Barb

We had an early rise and made our way to Wellington where we were to meet up with the ‘Millers’ and their rented motorhome. We made a couple of food stops on the way  and the most memorable  was Pete’s famous ‘pie’. Anyone visiting NZ has to have ‘pie’!! The selection was extensive and included smoked fish, meat and cheese, mushrooms and beef, chicken and cranberry, curried chicken and on and on.

We arrived in Wellington late in the afternoon and had a joyful reunion with the ‘Millers’. Wellington, capital of NZ, is a quaint little town with most homes nestled in the hills, some only accessible by a trolley up a steep, rocky embankment. 

ADSC_3892t DSC001646:00 am DSC00170we made DSC_3897our way to the Interisland ferry and we were the first in line. It was a beautiful crossing thanks to the sunny, blue sky day.

 

 

Land travel – NZ South Island

Wednesday February 20 2014

Posting by Barb

DSC_3889From Auckland airport we headed directly South to join my sister Caroline and brother in-law Vic (the Millers) who live in Thunder Bay Canada, for a whirlwind 15 day trip on the South Island.  Our new Toyota Corolla station wagon was well packed  with camping gear, boat parts, other miscellaneous items that were on my ‘get’ list from Ontario and our summer clothes. 

We drove on Highway 3, a snaking, narrow little road, which I now realize is probably the norm in NZ. We saw sheep pastures, cow pastures, more pastures, rolling hills and incredible coastlines.

DSC_3885-1 It’s obvious that we are in farm country when there are road signs warning travelers of turning ‘milk’ trucks!! I have a new appreciation of ‘landlubber’ Dennis as he identified and described the useful purpose of every piece of farm equipment we saw on the way. If he wasn’t a seafaring sailor he could have been a farm boy!! After 4 hours of driving we stopped at a quaint little motel and enjoyed a good night sleep as I recovered from jet lag and no sleep for 24 hours or more!!