A Travellerspoint blog

Chicken out

New Zealand has been a 5-week delight. We've drunk deep of historic vineyards (ok wineries), sailed forth from the city of sails, listened to the Sounds, been 'at home' with Hobbitses, slipped in on a glacier, stalked seals, penguins and albatross, woken a Kiwi (they're nocturnal), clambered through caves lit by glow worms and strewn with stalagtites (n mites), had a Hangi in the forest, (almost) dipped with dolphins, been to the end of the earth, shared a superb evening with Madaleine Peyroux & Diana Krall, viewed a live volcano from the air, and finally managed to wash off the scent of Rotorua's hot springs, mud pools & geysers (bad eggs will forever take me straight back to NZ). I think we've managed to pick up Kiwi-speak - at least we eventually understood the direction to 'go to the chicken counter' at the airport (we both thought we weren't supposed to count our chickens). The only regret is that a strong southerly wind (ie fierce gale) meant the cancellation of our swim with the dolphins - this one will stay on the bucket list though. Were off to see the wizard so we'll be back blogging in a day or so x

Posted by colandmand 17:20 Comments (0)

Glaciers to Tropical Beaches in a day

sunny 18 °C

Here we are in Kaikouri, 2 hrs north of Christchurch, and famous for its whale and dolphin watch tours. We have set an alarm for 5 am in the hope of getting on the dolphin tour. Lets hope the dolphins have set theirs. Fingers crossed, since a 35 knot southerly is forecast, so it may all be called off. That would be very dissappointing for the dolphins, since they look forward every day to seeing the humans trying to swim. At dolphin school, they have lessons in "swimming with humans".

Sunday we trekked up to the head of the Fox Glacier (no mints still). Global warming means the glacier is gradually retreating up the mountain, so we had to run to keep up with it. This gives the lie to the expression - glacial pace. Seriously though folks - this was an unforgettable and awesome experience - see picture. Mand has bought two walking sticks (aluminum, anodised, rubber ferrules, rock shocks and go-faster stripes), and was able to give them a test run. She was skipping around like a mountain goat and sneering at the slow coaches.

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The same day we drove north to end up at Abel Tasman National Park, which is where the tropical beaches come in. Who knew that NZ had such fantastic beaches? The sand really is golden, and the beaches almost deserted.. This is because they can only be reached by walking (several days), or by boat. We took the boat, and did a token stroll up and down the beach before collapsing in a heap. Very tiring! The whole area is being restored to native forest, after being logged and farmed. The whole of NZ was once like this.

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Today we drove here to Kaikouri, missing Nelson, Blenheim (Wine country), Marlborough Sounds, etc. Well - tough choices have to be made, and even in 5 weeks there isn't time to see everything.

Finally, I recount a small anecdote to see if I am indeed alone in the world. The other day we ordered food at a counter and were given a number. "You are number two" said the young lady. I automatically replied "Who is number one?" Only to be met by blank incomprehension. I then dug a deep and embarrassing hole for myself by trying to explain. Oh well. Does anyone get this (you are probably over 50 if you do).

Posted by colandmand 23:29 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Letter from Lilliput - Sounds amazing

We've been exploring the west/centre of NZ's south island which is a World Heritage area prolly the size of England. There are very few, mostly tiny towns but thousands of square miles of staggeringly beautiful and largely untouched forest and huge mountains. The most famous areas must be Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. These are most like Norwegian Fjords - but they were created by tectonic plates muscling-up to one another.
It's impossible to convey the scale of this place. The mountains drop sheer into the water from about 2,000 metres. The lush vegetation grows in only inches of soil and occasionally a tree loses its grip and tears a long stretch of trees and shrubs down with it as it falls into the lake below. The rainfall here is phenomenal - about 6 metres a year - so plants re-establish their hold and regrow to cover the scar very quickly (well, over 100 years, but relatively quickly).
Mercifully, although we visited the 2 Sounds on different days (by road then boat right out to the ocean and back) we had brilliant sunshine for both days and were taken right below the high waterfalls (yes we did get wet - fun tho) and into the turbine room of a Hydro power plant (yes Colin did bang on about cheap aluminium smelting ++) which was like being in a 007 villains' lair (and also a bit creepy :oP)
We have also seen a fair bit of wildlife - native birds are being reintroduced after their virtual extinction by (introduced) Possums. This has made the Possum public enemy No1 and they are being eradicated. There are estimated to be several million in the wild - fave food birds eggs/chicks - including Kiwi and flightless parrot. They also have no road sense. Vicky - do not read the next sentence. In all today we drove for 6 hours and counted no less than 20 killed by vehicles - nothing else - just Possums :o(
The other bit of wildlife we have had rather too much contact with are Sandflies. These little b*****s look like tiny fruit flies but they have a vicious bite that itches like crazy. They breed around water and the female needs a blood meal before they can lay their eggs so tourists are providing the midwifery service. Now I know why seals are always scratching.
Tomorrow were off to explore Fox's Glacier - but no sign of any mints yetIMG_4779.jpgIMG_4708.jpgIMG_4716.jpg

Posted by colandmand 22:18 Comments (1)

End of the World News

storm 14 °C

IMG_4595.jpgIMG_4605.jpgAll that's between us and Antarctica Brrrr

All that's between us and Antarctica Brrrr

IMG_4584.jpgIMG_4605.jpgIMG_4599.jpgIMG_4550.jpgIMG_4535.jpgIMG_4595.jpgIMG_4604.jpgToday we reached a place called Bluff at the southern tip of South Island. There's nothing between here and Antarctica, and today it certainly felt like it. Bluff is on a narrow spit of land south of Invercargill, and it was buffetted by a gale force wind, squally showers and a doom laden sky. It boasts a signpost, a la John O Groats, showing distances to various places (London over 18,000 km, South pole about 4,000 km). I had my photo taken by the signpost as twin to the one we took last summer in Scotland. Bluff also boasts a container depot and a large aluminium smelter across the water at Tiwai Point. Another aluminium plant ticked off the list (well... it takes all sorts). Later, we returned to more conventional touristy things and travelled the Southern Scenic route along the coast and then inland to Fjordland National Park and a place called Te Anau, where we are now. The scenery is awesome. Along the south coast we saw massive breakers driven by a southerly gale - gusts were catching the car every so often. It was incredible to think there was nothing between us and the Antarctic, even though the latitude here is only 46 degrees south - about on a par with France.

Te Anau is the centre for hiking into the National Park, and also for boat trips into Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound via Lake Manapouri. We hope to do Milford tomorrow, and then probably Doubtful Sound on friday.

Last night we stayed at a place called Moeraki, in a hut overlooking a quiet bay. The sound of waves on the beach is a natural sleep inducer, and I think we both had the best nights sleep in a long time. In the morning we went up to the lighthouse, where there is a colony of yellow eyed penguins. From the hide we saw two of them, plus dozens of seals lazing on the rocks.

Photos to be added later.

Posted by colandmand 00:30 Comments (1)

Ship's Blog

I didn't think there was much left that could still surprise me, but our sailing course last week in Auckland really woke me up!! It was every bit as much fun/terrifying/exhilarating as I'd hoped, but what I wasn't prepared for was just how much we learned in just 5 days. It's so good to discover what a stiff sea breeze can uncover in the brain. Colin and I can't wait to get back to it and practice all our knots/navigation/and nautical terminology :o) Totally wonderful, even when smeone bungeed off th bridge and nearly landed on the deck!!. On our last day we changed sails underway with a wind close to 30knots. We also saw NZ's America's Cup Team practising race tactics and finished with drinks in the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron club bar. We were with 7 'shipmates' - all ages and nationalities and I don't think we disgraced ourselves too badly.
We also caught up wth Wantoks from PNG, it was brilliant to see the adult version of people we last saw as tinies - what a lovely family. We were treated to delicious food (and drink ;oD) and a tour of Auckland's highlights that mere tourists seldom see, including a play - 'Le Sud' - based around the idea that NNZ had been colonised by Brits and SNZ by the French. A satirical look at political corruption in all walks of life. We also saw penguins, rays, turtles and sharks at Kelly Tarlton's imaginative conversion of old sewerage tanks to a state of the art aquarium and antarctic enclosure. It also boasts a re-creation of Scott's polar camp - extraordinary. IMG_4448.jpgIMG_4426.jpgIMG_4422.jpgIMG_4408.jpgIMG_4352.jpgIMG_4346.jpgIMG_4333.jpgIMG_4328.jpgIMG_4477.jpg
Our last evening we went up Sky Tower to watch the sun set and Auckland light up and caught the Lantern Festival dancers complete with white tiger(?) and our red envelopes with chocolate money.
We flew to Christchurch on the east coast of the south island just in time to register the Tsunami warning heading our way from the Chilean earthquake. In the event it wasn't a real problem here, but they wisely evacuated folk at sea level and closed beaches. We headed for the hills and walked, Von Trapp-like away from the danger, being overtaken in the car by uphill cyclists racing the longest climb imaginable (still much slower than Will of course;o). We went to Choral Evensong in Christchurch Cathedral - truly beautiful even without the spectacular Flower Festival.
Tomorrow were off to Greymouth on the west coast by train. This is a full day's travelling there and back but promises some spectacular scenery as well as long tunnels cut through the mountain range. More anon x

Posted by colandmand 23:38 Comments (0)

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