A Travellerspoint blog

November 2014

Heading inland to escape the rain

Arrowtown, Twizel and Mt Cook

semi-overcast

I don't have many pictures and inadequate words to describe the spectacular scenery whizzing by my car window. It really is an exciting landscape with peaks and puckers created by ancient volcanoes and transformed by sheep grazing. The coastlines are still wild and in the gulleys there are remnants of native forest that I just love. The pohutukawa "New Zealand Christmas" tree look like gnarled witches arms, holding umbrellas. The mountains here are really big and still snowy at the tops.

To avoid more bad weather we've headed inland away from the rainy forests of Fiordland. I also know this is a relative term compared to winter in Alberta. Here are the top highlights:

1. Pub dining with the whole family in Arrowtown's Blue Door
2. Exploring gold-town ruins of Bendigo and seeing local gold nuggets in the jewelery store
3. Learning how to say the name of the lake "Ruataniwha" says "Rua Tani Fa" which apparently means Two Monster Lake
4. Getting drenched but high up at Mt Cook National Park
5. Seeing wild lupins growing all along the highway
6. Watching bungee jumping at the first ever jump site on a bridge over a gorge. Too cheap to pay $200 to do it!

The time is flying by! Everyone is doing well, apart from a few minor scrapes that were "healed" with heaps of candy from the campground store. Here are some snapshots:
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Posted by Arin MacDyer 21:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Milford Sound and Fiordland

Tramping the rainy South Island

rain

No trip to New Zealand is would be complete without a pilgrimage to Milford Sound, the worlds [i]number one [i] tourist attraction according to Tripadvisor. It was an amazing 120 kilometre road trip from the town of Te Anau to the end of the road. It felt like the Icefields Parkway in Alberta only with mountain parrots and the scary Homer Tunnel. It actually snowed the day after we were there and the road was closed!

Our boat trip on the Fiord (not a Sound) itself was surprisingly rain free and entertaining with a young maori interpreter who knew a lot of natural history and the kids liked his jokes. The pictures don't do it justice.

Back in Te Anau we hiked the first little bit of the Kepler Track and spent the night at a great backcountry hut with only 4 bunks. We hiked in rain the whole way in a beautiful beech forest and would have had a cold night if there hadn't been a stash of dry firewood.

More updates to come. There is a surprising lack of free wifi here in New Zealand!
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Posted by Arin MacDyer 00:38 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Cool Wildlife

all seasons in one day 16 °C

We've travelled to the south of the south island of New Zealand along the east coast. Our goal was to see some of the unique wildlife as well as a bit of the countryside. Like any good Canadians I can't leave off talking about the weather - its been generally cool and windy - not at all "
Summer-like". Its been luxurious tenting with Faith and Albert as they rent a kitchen cabin and we sleep in the tent and huddle inside their cabin when its really awful outside. The kids have also been dumping us to sleep inside! Anyhow, the yucky weather hasn't slowed us down and have seen some cool wildlife and landscapes.

After the warmth of Hanmer Springs we headed to Oamaru, first stopping for a look at the earthquake devastation and regeneration of Christchurch. Two successive earthquakes have turned much of the downtown into rubble that is only now being rebuilt. We had our lunch served out of a seacan converted to a cafe. There was a lot of public art to look at and the vision for the new dowtown sounds exciting. It was a brief but memorable stop. When we pulled into the holiday park in Oamaru the first thing we did was to head down to the beach at sunset to see yellow-eyed penquins ( very endangered, and officially the rarest penguins on earth). For an hour of freezing our bums on the cliff we saw a yellow-eyed individual waddling back to its nest. To improve our odds of seeing penguins the next day we paid to enter a reserve. Here they provide protection from predators with fences and also provide nest boxes. The little blue penguins come here in droves - up to 300 a night return! Paying to enter the reserve allowed us to see into a few nest boxes and look at the chicks but the highlight of the day was seeing the centre staff weigh and band the chicks. James and Neve trotted along with them as they checked at least thirty boxes - it was fascinating. At another yellow-eyed penquin beach we had better luck with this species and saw a chick in a nest box and an adult sitting on a nest. At each beach we visited we also saw fur seals and/or sealions.

Oamaru was a fun place to stay. From our Holiday Park we could walk through a beautiful Victorian botanical garden and onto the most historically preserved dowtown in New Zealand. it was also the home of the steam punk style and it had the funkiest playground I've ever seen! We went whisky tasting at 10 am and had so much fun that we hated to leave, but the next place was waiting. Dunedin was next on our list of places to see. From here we walked and saw more cool botanical gardens, glow worms blinking in the forest, and best of all albatrosses. One thing that has surprised me about the wildlife in New Zealand are the human stories associated with them. The success of this albatross colony was due to the efforts of a high school teacher. An avid birder, he recognized the uniqueness of these birds and noted that they were unable to rear chicks because vandals kept wrecking the eggs. So he camped on the cliffs every weekend and holiday for years in order to establish the population. The teacher went on to becoming a world-renowned ornitholigist and the birds are doing great.

Dunedin was also home to the worlds steepest residential street and to Cadbury's chocolate factory. But I'm sure youve all heard about yhat from James. Wish us luck and goid weather on the next leg of journey as we head to the rainy mountaibs of the west coast!

Arin

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Posted by Arin MacDyer 00:03 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Chocolate Penguins

Im the luckeyest kid in the world because i have seen the Cadbury chocolate factory. There was more chocolate then i even could imagine. And if i was hungry enough i would have eaten it all ! But i didn't and shame on me.

We have also seen more penguins then i even thought there were there were blue penguins , yellow eyed penguins and rock hopper penguins. And i like it!

Both tipes of penguins are nocturnal so we had to go at night time the blue pinguins come in large groups but the yellow eyed pinguins come 1 by 1. The next day we walked to the were the blue penguins lived and we got there just in time to see 2 people weying the penguins .

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Posted by Arin MacDyer 23:35 Archived in New Zealand Tagged james Comments (2)

New Zealand: Warm welcome, chilly weather

rain 15 °C

Photos to start, blog to follow...
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We've moved from summer back to spring with our flight to New Zealand. A couple days of rain and wind had us shopping for tuques and woolly long underwear! But we were treated to some excellent Kiwi hospitality at the home of the Crofts, who showed us a gannet colony and put together a game of cricket at a beautiful black-sand beach as well as explained a few Kiwi rules to help us in our travels. For example, pedestrians must give way to cars, don't drive slowly or you'll get honked and sworn at, and expect weeks of fireworks because Guy Fawkes night is a really big deal. After our brief visit we pick up the rest of our travelling party (Albert and Faith) and headed south driving on the left...

As with many tourists to NZ our first stop was the geothermically active region of Rotorua. We toured a colorful and stinky thermal wonderland and then spent the rest of the afternoon soaking in an off the beaten track hot creek. Good fun!

After a long day of driving through miles and miles of vivid green hills dotted with the happiest sheep on the planet we arrived in Wellington. It was November the 5th and we were treated to a view of fireworks going off all over the city. Our holiday park was perched overlooking the harbour with the city on opposite slope and we could see blasts going off in every neighborhood and it lasted all night! Very cool, but not so cool when when its five days later and they are still being shot off and we are trying to sleep!

We've kept driving till we hit sunshine in Nelson and managed a great 11 kilometers day hike along the beachesin Abel Tasman National Park. I loved the trees and ferns here, the kids wanted to be back in Nelson catching pigeons and holding baby ducks! We are now in Hanmer Springs where the town is entirely built around a large thermal pool complex. We were told that the pool alone brings in half of the county's revenues! Camping is easy here, albeit a bit more expensive than New Caledonia, the Kiwis know how to squeeze dollars out of tourists. It sure is nice to be speaking English again and we can't wait to get in some more hiking.

Posted by Arin MacDyer 15:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

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