KIA ORA! New Zealand

November 23 – December 29, 201

WARNING  ❗️⚠️❗️

We spent 5 weeks exploring these islands and I took hundreds & hundreds of photos.  I have tried to be discriminating with the photos I have used, but it will be a longer blog than usual. I hope that dividing it into sections will make it easier to read.

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Our first glimpse of New Zealand.  “Look Jouko – a golf course!”

As we progressed through the Auckland airport and approached the customs area, Jouko pointed out the signs telling visitors that there would be a NZ$400 fine for any undeclared items, particularly food and agricultural products.  He had been very careful to clean his golf cleats of any dirt and grass.  However, I knew that I had some walnuts and blackcurrant jam in my suitcase which I was not willing to give up!  So, as we went through customs I lied and said that I didn’t have anything to declare.  We were waved through, so I heaved a sigh of relief – until I saw our suitcases being sent through another scanning machine, and then my suitcase was pulled aside and I was asked to open it 😣 .   Looking through my belongings, the official saw something in the middle of my case – the jar of blackcurrant jam.  But he didn’t seem bothered by that and actually saw the walnuts, too.  Then he came across a SMALL, maybe a 1oz (0.30 dl) jar of unopened honey, which I had stuck in my purse on a flight between Perth to Sydney.  I had totally forgotten about it and it had sunk to the bottom of my case and it was not even on my radar going through customs.  To cut a long story short, bringing honey into NZ is one of the most egregious errors one can make.  They guard their honey bees very closely and since bees feed on honey, they protect their hives from outside contamination.  I had no problem with that – just throw the unopened jar out!  But no, I was hustled into a small office.  They took a copy of my passport and told me I was being fined.  I was beside myself and told Jouko that I didn’t want to stay in this country and was ready to go back to Sydney!  (In the mean time, he had tried and failed to get cash from the ATM and realized that he had forgotten to let the bank know that we were traveling to NZ, so while he was busy informing them on his iPad, he told me, quite calmly, to just let him know if we were not going to stay in NZ!).   The official, seeing that I was about to reach across the desk and throttle him, told me that I didn’t have to do anything right then.  He handed me the paperwork and told me to read it and deal with it later.

So, off we went to pick up our rental car.  The place was rather chaotic and it took us a long time to get on the road.  We had bought a new GPS in Australia which was supposed to cover NZ and Southeast Asia, but Jouko could not get it to bring up NZ, so we had to rely on google maps on my phone to navigate our way to our first destination!  Not a good start to our visit to NZ!

NORTH ISLAND

Our first destination was the Coromandel Peninsula, about 2 hrs southeast of Auckland. We arrived after dark and had no clue until the next day what a beautiful place it was.

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It was a glorious morning as we drove northeast,

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drinking in the extraordinary beauty we were seeing for the first time.

A dear friend, Lynette, had told me that NZ was like Switzerland, Austria, Norway, England and Scotland all rolled into one.  I was starting to see what she meant!

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Here, looking over the Coromandel Habour with the tip of the peninsula in the far distance.  Unfortunately we did not have the time to follow the dirt road leading up there.

We enjoyed lunch in the quaint town of Coromandel, before crossing to the west side of the peninsula

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Green, velvet-like hills, islands, mountains, white pristine beaches – so much gorgeous beauty everywhere one looked!

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There was a path leading down to the cliffs on the left side of the above photo, with a beautiful natural arch, Cathedral Cove, which we would have liked to visit.  But it was getting late and so we agreed that we would return the next day.

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We continued to make the circle back to our digs, crossing over the Coromandel Range that runs down the center of the peninsula.

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We arrived back in time to watch the sun set over the bay, called the Firth of Thames.

It was pouring with rain the following day so we were unable to return to see the arch as we had hoped, so we went into the nearest town of Thames and found someone who was able to help us bring NZ up on our GPS!

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The following morning we headed south toward Rotorua & Taupo.  It started out damp and rainy, but the sun broke through later.

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I was intrigued; why we were seeing more cattle than sheep?  I thought NZ was full of sheep – where were they?

ROTORUA

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On the way to Taupo, we stopped at the natural springs of Wai-O-Taupo, which covers about 18 sq/kms (7 sq miles).

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Fortunately the sulfa smell was quite tolerable.

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It was fascinating to walk around and see broad, shallow streams of hot water trickling downhill, forming patterns in the mud and also take in the striking colours of the ponds and lakes.

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Mud bubbling up from the earth.

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The various colours, caused by trace mineral deposits that streak along the surface, were extraordinary.

clear or blue coloured water – alkali-chloride,   cloudy yellow/green water – acid-sulphate,

orange – antimony/arsenic,   green/yellow – sulphur/arsenic,   grey – carbon

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This didn’t do much for my hair, but I couldn’t resist!

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It certainly was an extraordinary place.

TAUPO

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We moved on and arrived at our next destination in the early evening.  The view from our front door over to the city of Taupo, which sits on the large lake of the same name.

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The following day was rather drizzly and so we drove around to some of the beauty spots, but also took it easy.  The Huka Falls, with the rushing, turquoise water was featured in one of the Lord of the Rings movies.

That evening I took out the paperwork I had been issued and read the small print.

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I googled to see if anyone had got away with not paying the fine , but with no success.

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I realized that if I did not pay the fine, I would be in bigger “do-do” and would not be allowed to leave the country and perhaps locked up (and I was not looking for that kind of adventure)!  For some reason, the verse “Be sure your sins will find you out” came to mind……What can I say, I’m not perfect!  But Jouko knew NOT to bring up the subject for a looooong time.

WELLINGTON

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After 2 nights in Taupo we made our way further south to Wellington.  It is a rather industrial city but sits in a beautiful, natural harbour.

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The next morning we were up early to catch the ferry across to Picton on the South Island (here, our little blue Toyota Yaris).

Soon we were surrounded by a fleet of sport cars; the F1 McLaren sports car. They provided everyone with a welcome diversion while we waited to board the ferry.  About a week later we were reminded of them again;

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Wow!  A $20m wreck!

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SOUTH ISLAND

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Leaving the Wellington Harbour.

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We were fortunate to have such a beautiful day for the crossing.  Apparently the Cook Strait (which connects the Tasman Sea on the northwest with the South Pacific Ocean on the southeast) is considered one of the most dangerous and unpredictable crossings in the world.

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It certainly was blustery.

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The North Island receding…….

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…and the South Island coming into view!

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The ferry from the South Island to the North Island.

Starting to enter the Tory Channel.

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We still had quite a long way to travel into the Queen Charlotte Sound. The North Island in the distance.

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On either side of us lay lush cliffs and

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the occasional home tucked among some trees.

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One of our escorts.

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The traffic picked up as we approached Picton.

After docking, we stopped for a coffee and some delicious fruit cake.  I had heard that NZ was very “English”; I would say it was more like England used to be 40-50 yrs ago (and probably only an English person would know what that means).

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Our first destination was Nelson, still on the northern side of the South Island, but further west.  On the way, we drove through the beautiful Marlborough Valley.

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NELSON

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Our Airbnb was situated high above Nelson with gorgeous views over the ocean and the city.

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We found out that our hosts were English (I can’t remember how long they had been living in NZ).  She was an artist and had owned a studio in Christchurch.  It had been damaged during the 2010 earthquake and the restoration of the city was taking so long to complete, that they moved up to Nelson.

DSC_1839The view from our bedroom window.

Looking up to the Cathedral and then standing at the top of the stairs looking down into the town.  Note the Christmas tree half-way up!

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It was a charming little town with cafés and individual little shops up and down the side streets.

We were starting to become accustomed to seeing back-packers everywhere.  In my next life, I’m going to back-pack NZ!

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It was also in Nelson that I realized we were experiencing our 4th Spring in less than a  year.  The 1st spring was in the southern US, Texas.  2nd spring was in Spain & Italy.  3rd spring was in Western Australia and now NZ.  Who wouldn’t love spring wild flowers and blueberries almost all year long!

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Looking northwest on the way back up to our lodging,

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and from the same spot turning southwest, we saw this plane landing at the Nelson airport.

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Nature put on quite a show that last evening.  Looking back on our time in NZ, we both agree that if we could choose to stay in the country, we would chose to live in Nelson.

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HEADING SOUTHWEST

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The following morning, we headed southwest to start exploring the west coast of the island.  I had put 5 weeks aside to explore NZ and thought that was generous, but as I started to plan the trip I realized that we would not be able to see as much as we would like.  For instance, we had to by-pass the northwest corner of the south island, Cape Farewell.  There just was not enough time to do it all.

Jouko was so good about stopping so that I could photograph anything that took my fancy, but I had to really hold myself back from stopping to photograph all the charming little houses we saw, or we would not make any progress!

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The overall speed limit in NZ, unless posted otherwise, is 100 km/ 62 mph, but Jouko said that most of the time he couldn’t do more than 40-50 km/hr (25-30 mph).  And you can see why – this is a two-way road!

We stopped at this great lookout for a picnic lunch and this is where we first heard the song of the Tui.  Such a beautiful and unique song; I’ll post a video of one singing a little later.

We had last seen Broom in bloom while in Spain & Italy.

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After checking in to our very nice motel in Westport (motels in Australia and NZ all have refrigerators, microwaves, dishes and silverware), we headed out again to reach Tauranga Bay by sundown, hoping to see some seals.

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TAURANGA BAY

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Our host in Nelson had recommended we visit it and we are so glad she did.

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We were almost the only visitors.

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We eventually found some cute furry seals sheltering away from the winds.

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This beautiful spot will forever be imprinted on my mind and seen in the evening light was the perfect time to visit.

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The next day we continued our journey south,

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the road hugged the mountains sometimes….

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and at other times we drove along spectacular coastline.

PUNAKAIKI

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Eventually we arrived at the Pancake Rocks.  It is quite a large area with pathways winding through the different formations.

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Can you see the crouching lion?

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I hadn’t visualized the ‘pancakes’ being such interesting shapes; I thought they would just be round rock on top of round rock!

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There were also some impressive blow holes.

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After taking a good look around we continued to our destination for the next 3 nights, Franz Joseph.

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The road turned inland.

DSC_2209  Snow!

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Our first glimpse of NZ’s tallest mountain, Mt Cook, 3,754 m (12,316 ft).

FRANZ JOSEPH

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I think I had expected Franz Joseph to be a slightly larger place. Although small, it had all the necessities. Based on the good reviews, Jouko had booked us into a back-packer’s hostel (there were no Airbnbs available).  We were obligated to stay that first night, but we found another place as quickly as possible.  It was damp, moldy and aimed at folk 40 yrs younger than us!

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I loved this church!

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The following morning we wanted to get out of the hostel as soon as possible. So we decided to visit a remote beach we had heard about from a Tourist Information center.  It needed to done at low tide and we would be rewarded with great views over the mountains.  It was 7am and we were the only ones there!

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The walk was beautiful, although Jouko seemed in a hurry to get back, not wanting to get trapped by the incoming tide.  I loved the remoteness and the utter beauty of the beach, rocks and tide pools.

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And around the corner we saw the mountains peeking out from under the clouds.

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I wanted to climb up higher to get a better look, but the boss was on his way back already……

It was turning into a beautiful day so we headed to see  The Franz Joseph Glacier .

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So this forest has grown as the glacier has receded.

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And now today, December 2016, it had receded even more.

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It took us about 40 mins to hike from the car park.

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It was really warm in the valley.

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This was as far as one could go without a guide.

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It had been a thrill to make this hike.  I just hope that future generations will be able to enjoy it, too.

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We were much more comfortable in this nice little motel, which actually was cheaper than the back-packer’s hostel!

The next day we set off to see the Fox Glacier,

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driving through this lush, magical sub-tropical rain forest. I believe this area was also used to film parts of Lord of the Rings.

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Clouds had moved in and it was drizzling, but we managed to catch a glimpse of it…

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… before the clouds covered it up completely.  Apparently the Fox Glacier gets much more rain than the Franz Joseph Glacier.

The forest beckoned us to walk among the moss-laden trees..

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and to see what unexpected “creatures” we might find there!

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We continued on to visit lake Matheson, known as the reflection lake, because in good weather, Mt Cook is reflected in the lake,

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… but because of the rain and cloud cover, there were no reflections to see.

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We walked around part of the lake, enjoying the lush forest again…….(iPhone photo)

…. and I loved it’s intimacy.

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I expected to find a Hobbit hiding behind some of these weird and wonderful shapes!

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On exiting the forest, we came across this young bull taking care of his buddy or his girlfriend???

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We headed back to our motel, passing this country church with it’s well-maintained grave yard and lawns.

As I said, we first heard the birdsong of the Tui about 7-10 days earlier.  I had never heard anything like it and was able to record this video outside our motel room, with the Tui singing in the background (it can be heard just 3 times).

The next day we left Franz Josef toward Queenstown.

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Looking over the Fox River with the ocean in the distance ….

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… and then crossing the Karangarua river, with cattle grazing down by the river’s edge.

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DSC_2140 Before the road turned inland, east toward the Haast Pass, the road ran parallel with this stunning ocean scenery.

HAAST PASS

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Located in Mount Aspiring National Park, it is called one of NZ’s most scenic drives, with hikes, waterfalls and pools to visit along the way.

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It was beautiful even though we had a lot of cloud cover.

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We stopped to see several waterfalls, here the Fantail Falls.

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It was slow going sometimes because of the twists and turns of the road and the occasional bus….

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…and then the pass would open up so that one could stop to drink in the panoramas.

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At last we reached the top and

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… descended into a very different landscape. This is the neck between lake Wananka and lake Háwea.

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From mountains to lakes, the terrain became quite flat with farms dotted around us.

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QUEENSTOWN

Our Airbnb for the following 2 nights was situated half way between the center of Queenstown and the quaint little town of Arrowtown.  A 15 min drive in either direction.

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We still had some energy left, so we unloaded our things and took off for  Arrowtown

On this gorgeous evening the well-preserved old mining town glowed, showing off it’s colours and gardens beautifully.

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We found a place where we could sit outside and have something to eat.

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When we were ready to leave, right next to the car park were all these wild lupines.  I couldn’t get enough of them!

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And mother nature was about to fill our cups to overflowing with her dazzling sunset.

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Had I died and gone to heaven?  All bad feelings brought on by remembering the ‘honey’ episode were long gone…😁

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Just when I thought we had seen all the beauty possible, we took a drive along the east side of lake Wakatipu, from Queestown to Glenorchy.  The weather was so gorgeous that everything looked like straight out of glossy calendar!

From the air, Lake Wakatipu is in the shape of a lighting bolt, or the silhouette of a person sitting in a chair looking to the right (this is my observation!).  If you think of it that way, the road runs only on the right side of the sitting person and Queenstown is at the knees.  Today we are heading up to the head 🙂

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Crystal clear water.

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We spent a short while in Glenorchy, to drink in this beautiful part of the world.

Somewhere up in the mountains beyond Glenorchy, over 10 yrs ago Julian and Kerstin had hiked the Routeburn Track for several days, staying in mountain huts at night.

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We walked out onto a sand bar where we could get a 360 degree view of the lake and mountains.  Here, one is looking back toward Queenstown.

DSC_2744Looking west

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Looking north west to the Routeburn Track.

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And then the peace and quiet was shattered by these motor boats packed full of Chinese tourists, doing various tricks to give them a thrill.  Fortunately they soon slunk away, because we found the peace more thrilling!

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Then we headed back to Queenstown.

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That boat in the distance is actually a large steam boat.  Just shows how majestic these surrounding mountains are.

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We had time to take a cable car up to Bob’s Peak to get a different perspective of the surroundings.

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It was a perfect place to sky-dive and bungee-jump!

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The next day we would be following the mountain range on the left side of the above pic; so, heading to the feet!

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One more beautiful sunset.

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Manapouri, Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.

To our left, the Remarkables – such an appropriate name.

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Looking toward the foot of lake Wakatipu and the little town of Kingston.

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Our next destination was Manapouri in Fiordlands National Park.  We were going to be staying there 4 nights.  Wahoo!

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The terrain, which we had become accustomed to since arriving in NZ, was constantly changing.  From agricultural, to velvet-like hills, to mountains and lakes – almost all in one glance.

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We went through several small towns; so quaint and clean and well kept.

DSC_2837  No thanks!  I had spent all my ‘hunny’ money on the fine!

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NZ cattle must be the happiest in the world!  Lush, green grass everywhere.  We often saw them lying down, so they must have had their fill and were content to enjoy their surroundings.

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I had forgotten how curious cows can be.  And I loved the markings on the faces of these cows.DSC_2917

When I chose this cottage, I did not know what to expect.  The pictures on the website were not that good, but it had great reviews.  It was situated on the outskirts of Manapouri and we had the whole house to ourselves with a large garden all around us. Very private.  We ended up really enjoying the stay.

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This was the view from the bottom of the garden.

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A few steps further down on the edge of the garden, this was the view.  A few days later, we would board a boat from the pier in the distance to visit Doubtful Sound.

The kitchen had a lot of character.  Fortunately there was also gas oven.

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It was a small place, with a few motels, a couple of places to eat and private homes. Very peaceful.

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I found some relics (old Morris Minors) at the motel next to a café!

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The owner obviously had a passion for these classics.

Milford Sound

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We checked the weather forecast & decided that the following day would be the best day to visit Milford Sound.  But the weather didn’t look promising as we headed to the valley between those two mountains ahead.

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A  little later we could see blue sky between the heavy cloud cover.

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Even with the heavy, low clouds, the scenery was gorgeous.  More lupines across the river!

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As we crested a high area the sun broke through the clouds and we were met with majestic scenery.

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Then the road led us through the long Homer tunnel.

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On the other side of the tunnel, we found ourselves surrounded on 3 sides by these skinny waterfalls.

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But ahead of us lay the valley with the meandering road.DSC_2983

DSC_2984We knew we had arrived, not just because the road had ended, but ahead of us lay these familiar scenes of Milford Sound.

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The previous day we had booked a cruise and – great, it looked as though we had some good, strong bodies to take care of us 😉

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As we pulled out from the pier, the buzz of a scenic helicopter buzzed in the distance (can you see it?) and some hardy souls were actually taking a dip!

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Early on we saw this unusual waterfall; it hits this rock and spurts upwards before tumbling down the rest of the way.

DSC_3009Again, we felt so fortunate with the weather.

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I love the layers of colour on these rocks.

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The boats are dwarfed by the majesty of the surroundings.  We would be taking a closer look at that waterfall a little later.

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At the mouth of the Sound where it meets the Tasman Sea.

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Even the seals were enjoying the beautiful weather!

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Looking back down the Sound.

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It was time to take a closer look at the waterfall……

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Jouko wanted to be right out there experiencing the crashing of the water, the noise and feeling it first hand!

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Which he did.   I was content to record it all from the safety of the cabin!

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Walking back to the car we both agreed that we could not have been more fortunate with the weather.  We had seen the Sound at it’s best, but I’m sure it is beautiful in any weather.

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Return journey.

The moon in the late afternoon glow of the sun.

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We hiked a little through a forest………

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… to reach this reflective lake.  With the late afternoon sun and with no wind, the refection was perfect!

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Looking back toward the Sound.

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And as we rounded the hill, even a bug covered windscreen could not detract from the beauty of Lake Manapouri that lay in front of us, bathed in the glow of the late afternoon sun.

It had been a glorious day.  We both agreed that the drive to and from the Mildord Sound had been just a beautiful as visiting the Sound it’s self.

DOUBTFUL SOUND

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We decided to bite the bullet and visit Doubtful Sound as well.  Having read that it was a very different experience than that of Milford Sound, more remote and serene, we knew that if we didn’t visit, we would later regret it.

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The boat left from the pier that we had seen from the bottom of ‘our’ garden.

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The trip took us to the other side of Lake Manapouri where a bus would take us up & over the Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound.

DSC_3288It was overcast, but dry and calm.

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Our group filled two coaches.  The driver was both an excellent driver as well as guide.

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The beautiful Silver Beech trees (Tawhai).

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There it lies, snuggled between the mountains!

DSC_3355We proceeded to board the ship that would glide silently among the coves giving us magnificent, up-close glimpses of parts of the world that are hidden from so many eyes.

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Captain Cook name the area Doubtful Harbour in 1770, when he feared entering it in case he was not able to turn his ship, The Endeavor, around and sail out.  Instead, he sailed around the island.  Part of the name stuck.

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The fact that it was cloudy, dull and overcast seemed to make it all the more mysterious!

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Occasionally, the sun would burn it’s way through the clouds to shine a spotlight on a patch, bringing it to life.

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Fiordlands is one of the wettest places on earth, with an average of over 200 days of rain, delivering about 7 meters (248 ft) of water a year.  So we were very fortunate to not have any rain!

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Fiordland National Park, Te Wāhipounamu, is also one of 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in NZ.

It encompasses about 10% of NZ’s landmass.

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As with other Fiords in the area, the top few meters of the Sound are made up of fresh water from the mountains and the layer below, is salt water from the sea.  The two layers do not mix, and with the top layer being stained from forest floor run-off, many deep-sea species can be found just 10 meters below the surface.

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It is also a marine reserve, which means that fishing of any kind is strictly forbidden and  many different countries come here to conduct research.

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Just like in Mildford Sound, we headed to the mouth of the Sound to greet the Tasman Sea.DSC_3426

It was a wild; look at those rocks leaning in under the winds from the west!

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Jouko, once again enjoying the interaction with nature and holding on for dear life (or perhaps he fancies himself a Leonardo DiCaprio minus Kate !).

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We were told that back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the seal trade was big business.  Ugg – how animals have suffered over the centuries at the hand of man! In 1946 seal hunting was banned.

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And so we turned around to explore more coves……DSC_3464

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The ship was guided down one of the fingers of the Sound……

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…the sun was breaking through a little more frequently.

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Then they cut the engines off and we floated……listening to the silence around us.

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What a fantastic experience.  One almost did not want to breath, so as to not spoil the perfect silence!

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We came back to reality as the engines started up and we began to make our way back…

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The Māori name is PATEA.  Translated it means “The Place of Silence”.

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…to the buses and……

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back onto to boat the would return us to Manapouri.

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Bye, bye to a hidden gem ……

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……. our day was ending in sunshine!

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As we returned to the Manapouri pier, our hearts brimming with wonderment!

Our last full day in Manapouri was pouring with rain.  How fortunate to have seen both sounds in perfect weather and now we had time to do some laundry, rest and catch up with necessities.

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As we pulled out of the drive to continue our journey, the local ram was making a heck of a noise!

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SOUTHLAND

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Bathed from the showers of yesterday, we once again enjoyed clear skies.

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Looking back at Fiordlands, with happy cows grazing in the foreground…

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…and a couple of bulls locking horns!

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We were heading to the most southern shores of NZ…

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…the spring Broom still lighting up the countryside.

By now we had learned that NZ’s dairy industry was huge.

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Te Waewae Bay, looking back to the Fiordlands in the west.

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Looking in the opposite direction to the east.

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The winds were tremendously strong, but it was helping to keep the skies clear.

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We saw many trees bent over by the constant winds from the south – from the antarctic!

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Look!  How does that saying go?  “Waiting ’til the cows come home.”  They do take their time!

INVERCARGILL

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Eventually we found our way to our next Airbnb in Invercargill.  Our hosts were a charming couple who made us feel very much at home in their large house.  The house reminded me of Parkham, where my grandparents lived during their retirement at Newbold College (they just had a 2 room apartment in the large building).

Only once did we forget something behind during our whole trip.  We forgot our dirty laundry here, which they were kind enough to send on to us!

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We had heard that Invercargill was the “armpit of NZ”.  We didn’t stop there because we thought it would be a beautiful place to explore, but we tried to spend at least a couple of nights at each stop, otherwise it would have been too tiring to keep moving after just one night.

 Across the Foveaux Strait is Stewart Island. We could see it from the town of Bluff at the tip of the mainland, just south of Invercargill.  At this point, we were on the same latitude as southern Argentina!

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Bluff had some interesting architecture.

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We passed a family walking home and these 2 young boys dressed in their full regalia.  We stopped and I asked the parents & the boys if I could take a picture and they said, “of course!”   Hard to believe that we were such a long way from Scotland – but obviously not in spirit.

–––

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After a restful 2 night stay we departed early the next morning to reach Curio Bay,

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in order to view the petrified forest while the tide was low.

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It was a cold, wild, desolate place, beaten by the waves lashing the mainland from the east.

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Our host in Nelson told us to be sure to visit the Catlins Forest Park.  She said that it was one of her favorite areas of the country.

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Occasionally we caught a glimpse of beautiful, rolling green hills, which reminded us so much of England. But it was cloudy and rainy with mostly poor visibility.

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I really enjoyed stopping to get fresh eggs, vegetables and fruit from these roadside stands.  All function on the “honor system’.

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We shared the road with so many bikers – some had more energy than others!

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DSC_3673Looking south to Tautuku Bay,

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and from the same spot looking north to Tahakopa Bay.

 Dunedin is a grand, impressive city with it’s Victorian and Edwardian architecture and it is also a university town, but unfortunately I had not planned to spend time there, so we moved on.

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The Moeraki Boulders

It would have been more interesting to have been here at low tide, but some things can’t be coordinated perfectly.

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Oamaru

The view from our next Airbnb high above the town.

The cottage was located on a working farm.

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The next day we drove into Central Otago, to take in MacKenzie Country.

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The basin is sparsely populated, with glacial lakes and snow-capped mountains.

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If we ever make it back to NZ, this is one area I would love to explore more.

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Lenticular clouds.

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Lake Pukaki, one of the turquoise lakes and Mount Cook in the distance.

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We were seeing Mt Cook from the other direction now; before we had seen it from Franz Joseph on the west coast.

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On our return from the day trip, we went down to the Oamaru beach, hoping to view the penguins that come ashore every evening at sundown.

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Unfortunately we missed seeing them waddle ashore, but I managed to find this little fella safe in it’s hideout.

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It had been exactly one month since we had experienced the Super Moon on Mission Beach, in Queesnland.  This moon seemed much larger, however.

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View of our cottage as we left for Christchurch.

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Driving north, most of the countryside was agricultural, with the interior mountains of MacKenzie Country in the distance.

CHRISTMAS  IN

GOVERNOR’S BAY, NEAR CHRISTCHURCH

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Our first view of Governor’s Bay, with the winding, twisty road weaving down the hill to our new Airbnb where we would stay until the day after Christmas, Boxing Day.

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Our cottage for the next 10 days.  How cute! I had booked it 6 months earlier while in Italy.  The host was surprised that I was booking so far in advance & since she was away and did not have access to her computer, she couldn’t change the price but said that she had looked at our profile, which was excellent, so she gave it to us at the off-peak price.

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It was small and we had to be creative with the space – but look at the gorgeous view over the Bay!

And the cottage was at the bottom of our host’s garden.  Far enough away that we couldn’t see each other.

Rosie & Mark had built their lovely home, “Ribbonwood”, 35 yrs ago. But on February 22, 2011 disaster hit.  An aftershock from the 2010 earthquake that destroyed the center of Christchurch, hit this area.

She was at home and was lucky to escape injury.  Their 3 children and their families, who lived close by, have had to move because either they were not able to rebuild or lost their jobs because businesses could not rebuild.  All very tragic

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They invited us up one evening and showed us a book in which their home was featured, among others.  This was taken after the renovation.

She is a writer and he works as a forestry ecology professional. Meeting them, as with other wonderful hosts we have met during this adventure, certainly has enriched our lives.

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For the first few days we were content to just stay “home”.  We were quite tired after being on the move for about 3 weeks.  It was therapeutic to get out and take walks around the Bay instead of bombing around in the car.

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We could walk from the cottage, along this side of the Bay, to a lovely coffee shop, which we did several times.

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The path led us along the beach and through the brush.

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Sitting on the patio of the café, we had a clear view over to Lyttelton and the mouth of the Bay.

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Just above the café was a well preserved old hotel, with outside seating which was also very pleasant.

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Just one of many sultry sunrises over the Bay.

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After resting for a few days we visited Akoroa on the Banks Peninsula.  Originally an island formed by two dominant craters, we drove along the ridge, with…..

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 Governor’s Bay down through the clouds to the left and …..

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 Akaroa to the right.  The town lies down there on the left of the bay.

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In the early 19th century, the French first bought the land from the Māori.  When Captain Langlois returned to France with a plan to recruit settlers for the area, the British got wind of his intent and made a quick deal with the Māori to buy it for themselves!

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Since the 2010 earthquake, Christchurch can no longer accommodate cruise ships, so they now come to the Akaroa bay.

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I loved this sign.  So English, and how I would have loved to attend the carol service even though it certainly didn’t feel like Christmas to us!

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The town still has many French street names and this Police Station shows it’s connection with it’s French roots, too.

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We returned along the shore line.  The tide was out and in the distance are some bathing huts.

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Throughout our tour, we had often seen the sides of hills that had slipped away or caved in – probably due to the thousands of earthquakes that happen every year.

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It had been another memorable day.

In the previous video taken in Franz Joseph, the Tui bird and it’s unique song was recorded.  In this video, I’m recording the surroundings of the cottage, but in the background one can hear the beautiful song of the Bell Bird.

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I loved visiting Rosie’s dovecote.

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After another few days of rest, we drove into Christchurch,

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and had lunch at the Riccarton House.

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Inside we were reminded again that it was Christmas time.

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Mark, the forestry ecologist, had suggested we visit this grove of kahikatea trees at Riccarton Bush, called the King of the Forest.  These are some of the tallest kind of tree in NZ and this grove is believed to be around 600 yrs old.  The grove was protected by a predator fence (to keep out mice, rabbits & other non-native species). He was in the process of collecting data on them.

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It was so sad to see the Cathedral still crumpled after the earthquake 6 yrs ago,

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An area was set up for visitors to leave comments….

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Mark and Rosie were on the committee to restore the Cathedral to it’s former self, but there were many who wanted to level the site and build a modern, earthquake secure cathedral.

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The central part of the city was really a mess.

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On our way back ‘home’, we climbed the Thompson Park Scenic Reserve.  Here looking north to Christchurch.  In January 2017, on our return to Sydney, we heard on the news that there had been horrific fires on these hills, with some fatalities and many homes destroyed.

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From the same area, here looking south over to Lyttelton and the Banks Peninsula.

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Governor’s Bay.  If you divided this picture into quarters, our cottage would be right in the middle!

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Another spectacular sunset.

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A few days later I rushed out to capture the sunrise……….

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I had grown to love this place; I could easily spend the rest of my life ensconced in it’s folds.

Majestic Eucalyptus trees near the café.

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We decided to walk further around the Bay.  This pier is closed, waiting for funding to repair it.

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At low tide, the water receded a long way out, leaving the area to the wild life…..

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I think these ducks were discussing the white & black bird,  “Who does she think she is, prancing around here with those legs!”

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Gradually the tide starts to return.

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And by sunset, the Bay had filled up again.

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Standing on the side road running in front of the cottage.

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Mother Nature putting on one more spectacular sunset.

🎄We really didn’t do much for Christmas; how can one top this adventure that we had gifted ourselves?  Of course we missed Niklas, Julian, Kerstin and the grandchildren.  We enjoyed some store bought Christmas cake and Christmas Eve we went into Christchurch for dinner, followed by Midnight Mass in a beautiful church.  Christmas Day we rested because we knew that we had 3 long days of driving ahead of us 🎄.


Return to Picton  December 26, 2016

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My ❤️ was very heavy as we pulled out from the Bay . . . .

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Originally we had planned to drive up along the northeast coast via Kaikoura, but while we were in Australia we heard that a 7.8 magnitude earthquake had struck the area, blocking off the main north/south road.  Fortunately there were only 2 deaths.

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So we had only one other option and that was to travel up through the Lewis Pass westward and then north.

This photo shows very well how fields are divided by lines of tall trees, probably to protect crops from the wind.

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Waaaaa!  Looking back through the back window, each kilometer was taking me further and further away…..

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The traffic was heavier than usual.  Probably part of the post Christmas rush and also this was the only route north.

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Purple wildflowers dotting the hillside.

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So vast and majestic.

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A yellow river bed!

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Snow caps peaking out.

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I remember this range from the west side.

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The differing shapes of the hills, mounds and mountains was a source of never-ending fascination.

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All these photos taken from the moving car – there was no time to stop and compose a shot.

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We have now left the Lewis Pass behind and…..

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vineyards herald the start of the Marlborough valley.

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Now they have a great vantage point!

PICTON

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On checking into our Airbnb, this girl buoyed my spirits!

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After getting a bite to eat, we walked along the harbour area.

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And said one last good night to the South Island  😦


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Looks as though we are in luck again; another beautiful day for our crossing.

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❣️😪

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Hello Wellington!

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Route 1 leading north was jam-packed full of cars due to the post Christmas rush, so the GPS directed us over the Rimutaka Pass and through the interior of the North Island.

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In the far distance we could see showers over the mountains.

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On the other side of the road, the skies looked quite angry.

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As we continued north, we seemed to driving between the two systems.

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 Pulling into Palmerston North for the night, the cows were also going home!

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The next day the weather continued to threaten us from every side,

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….and yet we only encountered a few drops of rain.

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At last the clouds gave way to beautiful blue skies.

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We had not been able to see Mounts Ngaruhoe and Tongariro a month ago on our way south; we were not even aware that they were there, so thick and low was the cloud cover.

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So we were delighted to be blessed with this gorgeous weather on our last day.

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On the opposite side of the road, was a military training area. “Prohibited Entry” signs posted everywhere.

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A snow capped volcano and desert – all rolled into one!

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I thought those rock formations on the hills interesting.

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What a cute police station!

We spent our last night close to the Auckland airport.

As we went through security control the next day, we were both a little nervous; had the payment of my fine cleared me to leave?

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Our 5 week visit to New Zealand had definitely been one of the highlights of this round-the-world adventure. I looked pretty miserable with tears flowing down my cheeks as we circled over Auckland on our way back to Sydney.  What a contrast to our entry into the country!

-♥-♥-♥-

Next:  Sydney and Victoria

4 comments

  • Most beautiful pictures which brought back plenty of memories. Christchurch looks so sad. We were lucky to see it before the earthquake.At the customs they discovered that a tiny winy piece of grass was attached to Paul’s golfing shoes. They nearly confiscated the shoes…..and my luggage was lost. Not the best start of the journey. After three days I finally got my luggage. We still had a lovely trip and enjoyed every bit.

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    • So you were challenged, too! Quite honestly I understand and approve of their vigilance, but NZ$400 for that small amount is way over board. Throw it away and list the items clearly somewhere on entry. There was no such list (I think that may have jogged my memory about the honey). Anyway, it makes a great tale to tell and in the end did not diminish our love of the isles.

      Like

    • Oh, Jo Beth. Do go if you ever have the opportunity. But take your time; it can’t be seen in 5 days! And definitely be careful what you bring into the country! One of my favorite places on earth.

      Like

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