Boomeranging Across The Ditch

Hi everyone… It’s been a little while since the last update on our travels. Since our return from our South Island adventure we have been to Whanganui, Adelaide and Hamilton (NZ-Australia-NZ; all in one week).

Our first three days in Whanganui were relaxing with family again. We enjoyed a lovely morning strolling along Kai Iwi Beach – which has that awesome west coast black sand. There was a great playground there too. Another afternoon we enjoyed a walk around Virginia Lake, feeding the swans and ducks. Kadin also had a couple of rounds of tennis with his family.

Our next big stop was (r)Adelaide for a long weekend… the purpose to watch our beautiful friends tie the knot in the hills just out of Hahndorf. We had a wonderful time and caught up with several friends. After all the wedding activities we spent another day catching up with family/friends in the Barossa.

Monday saw us re-boarding the plane for New Zealand. This time landing in Auckland and heading south in our hire car to the Tron (Hamilton). We spent the rest of the week (including Waitangi day – New Zealand day) catching up with friends and family. We wandered around our University, reminiscing the good old days at Waikato – the place we met over 10 years ago now. Always a highlight while visiting H-Town is the Hamilton Gardens – there were a few new gardens since our last visit, two years ago…

We found lots of swan plants in various places during our adventures throughout Hamilton and managed to capture the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly for your enjoyment…

On Friday my sister took us to the Hakarimata track (her usual Friday ritual) – pretty intense climb through the beautiful native forest. I only made it half way before running out of juice – but Kadin got some shots from the top too…

We’re currently in Tauranga and on Monday we head up to Northland to spend more time with family and friends. Probably won’t update again until we depart NZ on the 20th while we’re sitting in the airport waiting for our flight to Hawaii.

Have fun at work!

Gemma

Farewell, South Island

Saturday was a big day of driving for us… we left Hokitika at 9am and arrived in Golden Bay just after 6pm… You know you’re driving in NZ when google maps shows the kms to drive is smaller than the time to drive them. Of course this is due to the steep, winding, narrow roads which frequently come to a stop at a one-way bridge or you’re forced to slow down behind a dawdling campervan. The biggest hurdle was Marble Mountain – Takaka Hill… one of New Zealand’s windiest road. The drive climbs up an elevation of 791m above sea level and contains a corner for every day of the year (365 bends – some almost 320-degree hairpins). Near the top there was a pull over bay which treated us to our first stunning view of this part of our trip and a new roadside friend…

Our airbnb in Golden Bay was right on the beachfront – like most properties in the bay, as it is such a long and sparsely populated part of the country. On arrival we quickly unpacked and then head down the beach. It’s of course New Zealand’s heatwave during our stay – blown across from Aussie.

On Sunday we head up to Farewell Spit – a place that has always intrigued me as it looks like a kiwi, the sandspit being the perfect curve for its long beak.

Kiwi on the map!

We head out for a leisurely walk along the sand. You can’t actually walk the whole thing, the only way to get to the end is to book a whole day tour in town and a 4WD beach bus drives out at low tide. However, our leisurely walk turns into something a bit more when we miss the signs and end up taking the 12km route which takes us through the dunes and loops down the other side of the spit. It was very scenic walking through the dunes -but on the western side with 40km/h winds we spend about 2hours walking into a blasting of sand! At least we’re well exfoliated by the end. We were definitely hungry but we spotted a cafe with a lookout over the spit so we enjoyed a meal while observing the clouds of white sand blowing across our tracks…

The rest of the day is spent relaxing and another dip in the bay. That night we head towards Abel Tasman National Park, having takeaway pizza on the beachfront. We venture to the start/end of the great coastal walk. At the carpark we meet two friendly German backpackers who needed a lift as they had just finished the 5 day track and their car was at the other side (a bit poorly planned) so we give them a lift back to the main highway. Little did I know that Kadin had organised a surprise for us to do the Abel Tasman Coastal walk the next morning… But in Gemma-style! We took off in a little plane and viewed the Abel Tasman National Park – including that track. We could even see the beach that New Zealanders all pitched in and bought. Only took us 25 minutes – and the views were incredible…

After our adventure flight we head to Te Waikoropupu Springs. Here you will find the world’s clearest water, with visibility averaging 63 m. It is also the largest cold water springs in the Southern Hemisphere – we had spotted it from the air too. Our pilot told us that Golden bay has other springs out in the bay itself and Abel Tasman would refill his ships freshwater supplies straight from sea. The water was amazing – hopefully our photos can do this place justice…

Have fun at work!

Gemma

 

The Wild Wild West

What an adventure driving from Wanaka to Franz Josef… especially in stormy weather and with the fuel light on about 80kms out of Haast and no fuel stations until Fox Glacier (were glad to see the fuel stations -even with petrol being $2.20 /litre).

After checking into the YHA Backpackers we headed straight for the Franz Josef Thermal Hot Pools. It was extra relaxing sitting in the hot water with the rain coming down.

Little did we know, the rainfall was quite a bit more than usual… The following morning, we were all geared up and ready to hike up to the glacier – but the track was closed due to the bridge being washed out and part of the track with it. We still got to walk part of the track and some of the cloud lifted for a bit for the glacier to peak through…

We decided to head for the coast, where the sun was shining. We found ourselves absorbing the sun along with the heat from the pebbles and black sand on Okarito beach. There were also plenty of birds near the shoreline. The water had turned grey from the storm the night before. After laying on the beach for a while we thought we better energy up and hike the trig track for a view of the surrounding area…

Before leaving Franz Josef we backtracked to Fox Glacier to walk around Lake Matheson. This was a pleasant 1.5hour walk in the bush around the lake with lots of scenic lookouts at the mountains and glaciers – although there were still lots of clouds around but we did get a few sneaky clear windows…

Further up the road we stayed in an airbnb just out of Hokitika. It was a rural retreat with an outdoor toilet and shower looking out at the cows and sheep. Very well equipped and a nice little home – but we only booked it for the one night. For the evening we headed into Hokitika to try and find pounamu (green stone – jade) on the main beach. We found quite a few green stones – don’t think they’re the real deal though. However, we stumbled across a night market and bought some more fresh stone fruit and cherries. There was also a driftwood sculpture exhibition at the beach…

On our way up the west coast we stopped at another beach to have another go at looking for some pounamu – found some nice looking rocks. However, Kadin was more excited when he spotted the blackberries growing on the side of the road – so we spent a bit of time picking the ripe ones (another few weeks would have been better)…

Our next stop was Pancake Rocks…

Feeling hungry we stopped for lunch in Westport, then realised we still had another 4 hours to drive before our next nights accommodation up in the Golden Bay – so we hit the windy roads, following the bendy rivers…

Buller River

Have fun at work!

Gemma

Is it even a Sound? Doubtful.

On Thursday we arrived in Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland!

The weather continues to be stunning. We go for a stroll along Te Anau lake in the afternoon. The bird life is very healthy along the track – you can hear the tui singing in the trees as we walk. There’s also a bird sanctuary with Kaka, Kakariki and Takehe. The Takehe were once thought to be extinct and now there are thought to be about 300 living in New Zealand. It was rather a special feeling sitting just metres from this pair as they went about their busy day of pecking about the grass…

We woke up very early on Friday morning and headed for Lake Manapouri to embark on a kayak day trip to Doubtful Sounds. We took a 50minute boat ride across to the West Arm Power Station, the largest underground power generation in the southern hemisphere. From here we boarded a bus which took us through the very scenic Wilmot Pass to the Doubtful ‘Sound‘ -really a fjord.

     a sound is a large sea or ocean inlet or a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land

      a fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by a glacier.

Doubtful Sound is rather remote and is also the deepest in the South Island (421m). From the bus window as we descended we were treated to the lifting morning clouds on Doubtful Sounds. We reached Deep Water Cove around 9am where we geared up in thermals and life jackets with our tour guide. The three hour kayaking tour was very pleasant. The weather was warm and the water calm. We were treated to a pod of dolphins half way through. These dolphins were in sleep mode – one half of their brain sleeps while the other half keeps them swimming and breathing, which means no jumps and tricks so we kept our distance from the pod.  Looking up from the kayaks were vertical rock faces covered with beautiful native trees and ferns. The fauna grows directly on the rockface which are covered in a moss called Sphagnum – very cool stuff and without it, none of the plant life would be able to grow. Because it’s so wet in the sounds (rainfall average of 7-8m per year) you could see signs of several ‘treevalanches’ – when one tree falls it takes several around them as they intertwine while growing to help hold onto the steep sides…

Saturday was another early start – but with rain!! Perfect for another sounds experience. We drove the 2 hour scenic route to Milford passing through the Homer Tunnel (1.2km one way tunnel through sheer rock; built from 1935-1954; with interruption of WW2 and an avalanche).  The rain meant plenty of waterfalls around Milford Sounds – there are only two permanent waterfalls at Milford, thousands more waterfalls only occur when the rain comes (which it does 200 days of the year). This time we enjoyed the ‘sound’ – again it is really another fjord, by a cruise boat. The rain never relented but we ventured outside to view the spectacular waterfalls and more dolphins – this time they appeared fully awake and played near the boat…

Then on our return trip to Te Anau the waterfalls had gained more momentum…

On Sunday we needed to back track to Queesnstown and past Cardrona again to reach our next destination, Wanaka. As we left Te Anau we spotted a backpacker hitch-hiker, so pulled over to give her a lift. Turns out she was a police officer from Geneva, Switzerland. We swapped details and she is more than happy to catch up again when we make it to her city later this year -as a past ski instructor as well, she even said she could give us a lesson.

We made it to Windy Wanaka – our airbnb is very comfortable and also comes with two friendly dogs, Moose and Mango…

The first day we head for Mt. Iron (one hour hike – all uphill) – this gave us great views of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawera. After that we head out to the lavender farm (a suggestion from our airbnb hosts and a bit off the touristy list). Far less people out at the lavender farm but plenty of bees – Kadin got stung by one. But we enjoyed taking photos amongst the gardens there and after trying all the testers in the gift shop we leave smelling fragrant …

For dinner we have an old favourite… a cooked chook, coleslaw, sliced cheese and fresh buns from the supermarket and enjoy this meal on a picnic table overlooking the lake. We end up attracting a cute friend…

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After our picnic dinner we walked along the lakeside to enjoy ‘That Wanaka Tree’ …

On Tuesday we head out to Puzzling World early to beat the rush – we get there at opening and almost have the place to ourselves. I was super excited about going here as I remember going when I was 5… I think it would probably be better if I were 5. But we still enjoyed racing each other in the maze (again, the result remains unpublished!!)…

We spend an afternoon going for a drive around Lake Wanaka towards Treble Cone and Mt. Aspiring. We end up setting up on the edge of the Matukituki River reading our books -also trying to shelter from the crazy wind…

Have fun at work!

Gemma

Quintessential Queenstown

On Sunday we left our spaceship and headed south for Queenstown.

We just had to stop in Cromwell when we saw the three magic letters… PYO with the words Cherry Orchard. At the orchard entrance we were given a big bucket and instructed to wander the orchard, picking any of the varieties of cherries, if we filled the whole bucket it would reach 5kgs. We could taste as we go and if we saw a ladder we could climb it! The cherries were delicious -especially the white ones (New York variety). After about 30 minutes of picking we thought we better stop and make our fruit purchases, grabbing a tray of plums and nectarines too! Later on we realised we picked off more than we could consume… so Kadin got creative in the camp kitchen and made some fruit pastries…

Our accommodation for the four nights was the Top 10 Holiday Park, about 4kms out of Queenstown and only 800m from the Shot Over Jet. So this naturally became our first adventure activity… the experience only lasts about 20minutes but was ridiculously fun! We were lucky enough to get the front seats in the boat. It was exhilarating racing between the canyons and swerving around the river bends. Speeds reaching 90kms/h and of course bracing ourselves for numerous 360s!

Queenstown itself is packed with tourists. The lake, Wakatipu, showcases many forms of kiwi ingenuity – with all sorts of adrenalin activities. Walking along the bustling streets we soon found ourselves faced with a queue of people lining up for the famous Fergburger. We joined the line for lunch and were soon agreeing that they’re pretty good burgers. While eating our burgers on the lakefront we were entertained by a group of tourists mesmerised by common seagulls. Another lady had been relaxing on the stones, reading her book, when suddenly this group of tourists start feeding the gulls right beside her creating a frenzy of unwelcome feathers just to create a photo moment – so we took a photo of the wider moment. Our next adventure experience was right next to Lake Wakatipu in the Queenstown Gardens – Frisbee Golf! It was a bargain – only costing $10 to hire a pair of frisbees (would be free if you had your own frisbee). This was an entertaining way to walk around the gardens – and as I am the reporter (not Kadin) the final score shall not be published, this time…

We then headed for Cardrona. This location is usually visited by tourists in winter, where the mountain is packed with skiers and snow boarders. The summer version came with a whole lot of dust! We donned on overalls, helmets and goggles, were sized up for our cart and then headed for the ski lift ready for our descent down the slopes by mountain carts…

We also spent a few hours in the historic Arrowtown. We rented a gold pan each (total cost: $6) and spent a couple of hours down at the river trying our luck. Still looking for a way to fund our year off…

Have fun at work!

Gemma

Out of this World

Travelling further south from Christchurch we stopped in for lunch at the Famous Sheffield Pie Shop – both our pies were incredible! Definitely recommend to anyone travelling through the area.

We enjoyed a few hours at Lake Tekapo. Laying in the sun on the rocky beach, walking around the lakeside and visiting the little church (The Church of the Good Sheppard) which has a large glass window taking up most of the main wall behind the altar overlooking the lake and the mountains – the most stunning church, perfect for some meditative prayer (but no photos allowed) …

To celebrate our 5 Year Wedding Anniversary Kadin booked us in for a dinner at a Japanese restaurant, (Kohan) in Tekapo. With our table overlooking the lake we enjoyed fresh High Country Salmon in our sushi rolls. We had also located a real unique experience through airbnb to celebrate our anniversary… The Apollo 11 Spaceship of Pukaki…

We had this spaceship to ourselves for two nights. Located next to the local airstrip we enjoyed watching the little planes and helicopters taking off in the morning and afternoons. It was also positioned perfectly to take in the mountain landscapes with Mount Cook (Aoraki) situated right in the centre.

On Saturday we ventured closer to Mount Cook (Aoraki). On our way into the National Park, we stopped in at Lake Pukaki. Kadin braved the chilly water temperature and dove in for an early morning swim…

We then enjoyed a three hour hike along Hooker Valley Track which leads to Mueller and Hooker Lakes overlooking the glaciers. The weather was very warm and we even stopped to put our feet in the icy water of one of the streams during our walk to cool down. Getting low on drinking water, we resorted to drinking glacial water from the stream too!

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Later that night we were treated to a perfect cloudless night (unfortunately we had quite a few clouds the night prior). We had heaps of fun playing around with the camera to bring you the following photos from our space ship…

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Have fun at work!

Gemma

Capturing Canterbury

The past three days we have been spending time with family and exploring Christchurch city and surrounds.

We started off with a walk through the city and visited some of the buildings and monuments from the 2011 earthquake…

There are lots of car parks in the empty spaces where buildings once stood. Around each corner we would find street art and when going out for dinner with cousins on a Wednesday night, we noticed lots of Cantabrians out and about, supporting the local eateries…

The weather has been awesome the whole time we’ve been here and we’ve been smothering on the sunscreen as we enjoy the outdoors. We had a lovely time wandering around the Christchurch Botanic Gardens…

We spent a morning at the Art Gallery and the Canterbury Museum. There was the Pounamu (Green stone – Jade) exhibition at the museum. Kadin and I also ended up in the Paua House. Originally from Bluff, Fred and Myrtle Flutey adorned their living room walls with paua shells, a replica of their house with the collection is now found inside the museum too…

Down the road from Kadin’s aunty and uncle’s place is a quarry which actually supplied the rock used to build many iconic Christchurch buildings (including the Cathedral, pictured at the start of this post). We went for an afternoon walk around the quarry and bushwalks…

On Thursday we drove to Akaroa, Banks Peninsula. Our first stop was Birdlings Flat to look for gemstones on the pebble beach…

Next we had some lunch and a stroll along the small town of Akoroa. The Pohutakawa (New Zealand Christmas Tree) were still in bloom along the beachfront.

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We then took a drive along ‘Lighthouse Road’ -which took us above the clouds along a narrow little gravel road. We didn’t really know where we were going, but ‘adventually’ we came to the end of the road (well, actually a sign that said you couldn’t drive any further as it is too steep – please walk), so we parked up the car and walked down to the peninsula, which now had an automatic light beacon installed. You could still see the foundations from where the original lighthouse stood and also the lighthouse keepers house foundations. From the lighthouse point there was another walking track that took us to Haylocks Bay inlet. There we saw some seals, we even saw one catch a fish and eat it…

Akaroa
Looking back towards Akaroa from our drive

 

Have fun at work!

Gemma