We find ourselves halfway around the world in a different country, time zone, hemisphere, and day. Welcome to New Zealand, and my occasional blog of our adventure. There will likely be no sports images for a couple of weeks as we take in this far away land and meet up with Zac for the first time in over 4 months as soon as he finishes finals at the University of Otago in Dunedin, NZ, on the south island. The posts will be in reverse order, with the latest one at the top so you will not have to re-read each time I post. Hope that helps.
The end – Our Return
After Milford, we stayed for one evening in Queenstown, and then back to the Claremont in Dunedin before heading home. Queenstown is adrenaline-town to me — jump off a bridge; jump out of a plane; fly off a mountain. I must confess to being just old enough to feel that I am not jumping off or out, or flying except in a plane. It is beautiful and our B&B – the Queenstown House – was exceptional, but I think I am several decades too old for the true Queenstown experience. We dropped Zac at the bus station for his last two weeks in NZ, a trek with his mates on the Kepler Track, a swim with Dolphins, and then his flight back to the states.
Loren and I made it up the coast south of Dunedin to the Claremont and our last night with Gunn. A fabulous victorian B&B that she runs. We are in the tower – three floors up and high atop Dunedin. Beautiful. We ate at a little neighborhood Italian restaurant on the beach in Dunedin tonight watching surfers brave large storm waves in the Pacific, with only South America as the next land mass to the east.
Tomorrow, we do our 28 hour trip back to KC. I should be quite the sight to see on Monday morning at my desk as we arrive late in the evening on Sunday night in KC.
So, goodbye New Zealand and all of the Kiwi people we have met. What a wonderful adventure and to our new Kiwi friends, thanks for the great experience. you are all wonderful. Goodbye furry friends . . .
and coastlines like no other.
Day 9- Milford Sound
We headed off through Fiordland (or Fjordland) National Park over a small windy road, through breathtaking valleys, past mirror lakes, and soaring snow capped mountains, with our destination Milford Sound, which is misnamed a “sound” we are told as it is really a large series of fjords. It was all quite breathtaking. Here is what some of it looked like:
Then, while Zac and Loren hiked for a bit, I had a spot of tea with our guide Albert of Trips and Tramps,
and then back to Te Anau for our last night with Janice and Lindsay of the Cats Whisker and a wonderful dinner at the Redcliff cafe – rabbit, venison, NZ Salmon, and of course, lamb and Sauvignon Blanc and Emerson’s Pilsner. Ahh, life is good.
Day 7-8 – Fjordland | Te Anau
We drove 3 hours south west of Dunedin to Te Anau in the Fjordland region of the South Island of New Zealand. We are staying at the Cats Whisker B & B; no cat – it died sadly. Now the cat is a cute little Maltese mix dog. Very friendly. Our hosts are great. Te Anau sits on Lake Te Anau, reported to be the largest fresh water lake in this part of the world. It has snow capped mountains that frame it on each side.
On Day 8, we are headed over those mountains for the fjords and the coast — Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound – discovered and charted by Captain Cook in the late 1700s. To get there, you can backpack for 7 days, boat, or fly. We chose to get there by float plane.
Our trip is touch and go due to weather but the rain and hail break for a couple of hours, the sun peaks out, and our pilot Alan decides to make a go of it. And off we go. We flew across the fjords to the sounds, often at what appeared to be eye level with snow capped mountains – the Southern Alps – dusted by cold weather and snow last night. Again, the best way to describe what we saw is by images:
We touched down in the bay at Dusky Sound in search of dolphins and found some, playful around the plane as we floated in the water, although I was unable to get a great shot:
then back to Te Anau before the rains hit again.
Tomorrow, Milford Sound.
Day 6 – Otago
Day 6 was all about nature on the wild coastline of the Otago Peninsula just a short drive from the center of Dunedin. Nature on the Pacific coast is all about birds, seals and sea lions. Here are some of the wildlife we saw today during our 8 hours on the shoreline, the journey courtesy of our guide, John. He knew all the places to find wildlife and give me (and Zac) a chance to shoot images of the birds. It was quite a remarkable day discovering exotic looking birds including the rare Yellow Eyed Penguin as they finished their day at sea and came out of the water, walked across the beach where we sat, and made their way to their nests on the hillsides. I am afraid I don’t remember the names of all the birds that follow, but they all have personality.
Yellow Eyed Penguin:
Seals and Sea Lions:
Assorted other birds:
Travel day tomorrow to the Southwest portion of the South Island – Te Anau.
Day 5 Kia Ora in Rotorua
A full day of geothermal wonders followed by an evening with the Maori, the native people of New Zealand. Kia Ora means hello, good health and several other sentiments.
The geothermal activity here is substantial with geysers and active volcanoes about, boiling mud pits, hot springs of all colors reflecting the interaction of elements at the surface and below the earth, and craters from an 1880s eruption that turned a small lake into a huge lake. The best way to describe what we saw is in pictures (no photoshopping of the colors).
And, the distant hole in this next shot is one of 5 craters from the 1880s eruption. Under the lake that now sits below the mountain was another:
We then spent our evening with the Maori, learned about their culture, dined on food they cooked for hours in a pit in the ground on white hot rocks. Here are some of our hosts:
On our drive back from their village, the bus had representatives of the US, New Zealand, Australia, China, Taiwan, Korea, the UK, French, German, and one or two other countries. We had all spent our evening with the Maori. Each country was asked to sing a song — kind of corny, harkening back to summer camp and The Wheels on the Bus. The US contingent sang She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain. The Australians sang Waltzing Matilda, etc. Somehow it worked. Maori magic I guess. For that short bus ride, the world and its many conflicts seemed to melt away and everything made sense and was balanced.
November 9 NZ (November 8 US) is a travel today to Dunedin, the South Island and the meet up with Zac for the next part of the adventure.
Long drive today as we leave the Bay of Islands behind
and drive through the countryside for 6 1/2 hours (actually, Loren has mastered the left side of the road thing, so she did all the driving)
south, past Auckland to Rotorua. Outside Rotorua, Loren met a friend – may have practiced some medicine without a New Zealand license – sheep in the background wanted no part of her but the horse was looking for love.
We ended the day at the Blue Lake in Rotorua, a spiritual place we are told.
Tomorrow, some geothermal activity and a dinner with the Maoris.
Day 2-3 Bay of Islands
Day 2 had us helicoptering our way around the bay for 45 minutes. We tried to get on the copter in between rain squalls but failed in our quest. Nevertheless, the sun broke through at times to reveal a series of rocks and islands with almost a golden glow to them. Some are privately owned, such as by Tom Cruise, we are told.
As well, we headed for a rock called the “Hole in the Rock” and the copter landed on the top (the furthest right dash of rock on the top of the island). The landing was not as scary as I expected.
We had great views from there even as squalls were coming past.
Today (day 3), we ferried our way from Paihia across the bay to Russell. Russell from the air:
In the 1800s, Russell was a hotbed of brothels and liquor and earned the name the Hell Hole. Not so any more. Now it is older homes, gardens, beaches, and shops.
It has a church where the pews are lined with embroidered pillows – wonderful idea:
The wind was quite substantial so we just toured on foot and did not take a boat trip around the bay (other than the ferry).
We also toured a glow worm cave. The insects adhere to the cave ceiling and glow to attract their prey – it is like looking at the milky way – but no cameras allowed. Travel day tomorrow.
Day 1 and 2
We started our adventure on the north island. After a 12 hour flight from LA, we landed in Auckland, went through customs and drove north the the Bay of Islands and Paihia. As we drove north, we inched closer to the equator as NZ is in the southern hemisphere.
The trip out of Auckland quickly turned from big city to very rural.
It is the beginnings of spring here.
Once in the Bay of Islands, we of course had mussels for dinner. NZ is home to the world famous Green Lipped Mussel, a giant among mussels, with a wonderful sweet taste like no other in the world.
We visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the British and the native Maori signed a treaty of equality that governed their relationship, not perfectly at times, but it seems to mostly work. The grounds are not only historical but show a bit of the Maori culture and art. We have more Maori exploration in the coming days.
We have been above NZ in a helicopter (more later) and oh by the way, this is truly a beautiful land.
from our room at the Allegra Bed and Breakfast:
Off for more green lips. Check back!