A Travellerspoint blog

Queenstown & Fiordland

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Before heading to Queenstown, we had some severe rain that washed out part of the road just south of Fox Glacier. After a few drizzly, overcast days, I was beginning to think it would be raining the rest of our trip. The one thing NZ taught us is to sightsee in the moment while the weather is good because it can change very quickly if you wait too long. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is still stunning rain or shine, but much better when you aren’t dealing with the elements. In certain places those postcard pictures are hard to come by unless you are willing to wait and wait.

We were finally able to leave the glacier area and a few hours down the coast the sun appeared and the scenery changed from lush greenery to snow capped mountains and deep river gorges. We crossed the Southern Alps over Haast Pass following the winding road between two of the most beautiful mountain lakes we’ve ever seen. Every lake and coastal water is a different shade of blue and pictures don’t ever really capture the colors very well.

We spent three days wondering around Queenstown. Queenstown sits on Lake Wakatipu surrounded by the Remarkables mountain range. It is the heart of tourism and adventure sports in the South Island where bungy jumping was invented. Our adventure was white-water rafting the Shotover River. The excitement was passing through a series of six class IV rapids(Miners, Squeeze, Anvil, Toilet, Oh Shit & Pinball) and going through a dark mine shaft before flipping our raft on the last rapid. Flipping would’ve been so bad, but I was landed on by another as I struggled to get out from under the raft. Meanwhile, Brett was already several feet away in full crawl stroke before the raft flipped… it figures. The scariest part of the trip was the death-defying drive down Skippers Canyon Road to get to river. It’s one of only two roads in New Zealand where car insurance is void. The only thing I could think of was Bolivia’s Death Road. Scary.

Next, we drove south four hours to Fiordland National Park. Fiordland had the most dramatic scenery of everything we’d seen so far with rugged, glacier-carved mountains, dense beech forests, and waterfalls like lightning streaking down the mountain sides for several hundred feet or more. We stayed two nights overlooking Lake Te Anau and took a day cruise through Milford Sound. Milford South is ten miles long surrounded by 4,000 feet sheer rock walls. It was rainy and fogging much of the time we were down there, but it only added to the mystique of the area. Milford Sound receives an average of 280 inches of rain a year, so it was just a typical day and the rain only made the waterfalls more spectacular.

Drive down to Queenstown
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Glenorchy- picturesque town where much of the surrounding area was used in Lord of the Rings
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View of Queenstown
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Milford Sound
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Te Anau- views from our room
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Other guests at the B&B
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Birds of Fiordland
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This sad little bird was molting, but the expression was too funny not to post
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Posted by Aboleski 05:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

Franz Josef Glacier


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We drove seven hours down the west coast to Franz Josef (a very LONG, winding coastal drive). We did a few hikes up to the faces of Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. These glaciers are the only ones in the world that end at a dense rainforest. It’s so unusual to see. After hiking, we soaked in hot glacier pools before ringing in the New Year at a local pub.

Drive down to Franz
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Glaciers & Rainforest
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Posted by Aboleski 02:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Abel Tasman

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Before heading down the South Island, we stayed a night in quaint Greytown with Margaret and Michel. Margaret is the aunt of our friend Josie. We met Margaret and Michel and Jay & Josie’s wedding in the UK last May. They were kind enough to take us in for a night and make us dinner before we headed off to the South Island. They had so many suggestions of must-sees in the area that we told them we’d be back! I’m so happy we had the opportunity to get to know this great couple!

I was dreading the three hour ferry from Wellington to the South Island. Almost everyone we met had a horrific story about the ferry ride across the turbulent Cook Strait (where the Tasman meets the South Pacific). Of course after all the build up and fear, it was calm. Brett captured the Queen Charlotte Sound as we approached Picton.

We headed to Abel Tasman National Park for kayaking. Abel Tasman is jagged coastline and sandy beaches between Golden Bay and Tasman Bay. Most of the park is only accessible by boat or hiking trails. We spent two days out on the water sea kayaking and camping. I think it is our favorite adventure so far. We went out on the sea with three other couples plus a guide. We kayaked around the marine reserve, camped on a secluded beach, saw so many interesting birds- including blue penguins and had seals swimming up us while we were in the water. A very cool experience!

A few neighbors at Margaret & Michel's
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Ferry to the South Island
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Local sculptor at Abel Tasman
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Kayaking at Abel Tasman
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Posted by Aboleski 02:18 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Hawke’s Bay

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After hiking the Tongariro crossing, we headed to Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the North Island. It’s an area know for its beaches and vineyards. We arrived in Napier and did a little wine tasting before heading off the Oliver’s farm for Christmas. The town of Napier was leveled by an earthquake in the 1930’s and rebuilt in art deco architecture. Such a great little city to walk around and see the building facades!

Christmas in New Zealand is very casual and we loved it! It reminded us of how we typically celebrate July 4th. We spent most of the day outside chatting up Stu’s family and in the afternoon went kayaking/tubing down the river on the property. Being out on the farm a few days was a definitely a nice change! I’m still in awe of the gorgeous rolling green hills! Lots of animals on the farm… Stu’s parents have sheep, cows, dogs, cats, black swans, wild peacocks and I’m probably leaving a few others out! Good fun!

Napier
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Just a few wineries
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Christmas
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Everyone got a present
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Posted by Aboleski 02:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Geothermal Heart

Rotorua, Lake Taupo & the Tongariro Crossing

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We spent a few days in the center of the North Island where there is a great deal of geothermal activity- hot springs, geysers, bubbling mud pools, etc… very different from where we’d just been. We visited a geothermal park, sailed on Lake Taupo and did a 19km hike in between volcanoes.

Huka Falls
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Wai-O-Tapu
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Sailing on Lake Taupo
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Creel Lodge in Turangi
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Tongariro Crossing
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Posted by Aboleski 00:14 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Northland


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We rented a car and headed up to the area north of Auckland. The Northland weather reminded us a lot of Northern California with its mild climate, sunshine and rugged coastline. A few of the highlights were the huge kuari trees in Waipoua Forest, the aqua waters at the Kai-lwi Lakes and Bay of Islands. We stayed with some wonderful people who taught us a lot about Maori culture, the history of New Zealand and world travel philosophies.

Jerry & Donna's beautiful country home. We stayed with them our first few nights.
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Bayly the neighbor's dog, but spent most of his time at Jerry & Donna's
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Gorgeous sunset at Jerry & Donna's
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West Coast Baylys Beach
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Kai-lwi Lakes
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Driving pictures
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These next set of photos were taken from the Waipoua Forest with the giant kuari trees and 1000 shades of green ferns
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We had a lot of fun when we stayed with Colleen, Ra & Jenn near Bay of Islands.
Here's Ra being a good sport with our long exposure shots.
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Bay of Islands shots & flowers in Russell
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Posted by Aboleski 23:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Auckland


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I’ve been putting this off for a few days. I’ve realized the most difficult parts of writing a blog are also the most critical (editing the hundreds of pictures and summarizing so many things into neat little paragraphs). I’m not going to worry, just type and hope that it gets easier! We’ve been here for 11 days and have been blown away by the beauty of New Zealand… a little slice of heaven. We’ve adjusted quite well to life on the road! More entries to follow soon!
-A

Auckland
Auckland sits on a small piece of land between the South Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea. It is nicknamed the “City of Sails” because of the hundreds of sailboats floating in the harbors. We spent three days in city with our friend Stu and his girlfriend Lisa. They were amazing hosts taking us to the “must sees” of Auckland, and also giving a taste of the local scene. A few highlights were many city views from Mount Eden and North Head; wine tasting and relaxing on the beach at Waiheke Island and dinner at the Sky Tower.

Lunch at the Belgian Beer Cafe- Brett, Stu & Lisa
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Auckland from Mount Eden
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A few pointers on perfecting my photography stance
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Pohutukawa or the New Zealand Christmas Tree
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View of Auckland from North Head
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Leaving on a ferry to Waiheke Island
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Sky Tower 1076 feet in the sky
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Glass floor in Sky Tower... for those who know how scared I am of high places,
I was very brave, but didn't walk over the glass floor.
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Group shot- Stu, Amy, Lisa & Brett
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Posted by Aboleski 11:15 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Across the Continental Divide

San Francisco * Reno * Salt Lake City * Denver

Surprisingly, the road trip wasn’t so bad. Although the drive on I-80 was a little desolate, I managed to snap 80+ pictures along the way. When there was something to see, it was a moment of excitement! We stayed with close friends in Salt Lake before heading on to Colorado. We spent a few days in Denver exploring the city and catching up with old friends. I never thought I’d say it so quickly, but Colorado felt like home.

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There's no place like Reno

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One of many cloud shots

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An attempt of creativity

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Driving into Salt Lake

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Salt Lake reflection shot
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Semi hauling a wind turbine blade. I know you are thinking, why did I take a picture?
1) Those blades are massive! 2) Brett almost drove off the road when it came by.

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Our new friend Bozley… finally held still for a portrait!

Posted by Aboleski 09:28 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Riding Giants

Surfers at Half Moon Bay

Saturday Brett took one last trip down to Half Moon Bay and captured a few pictures of big wave surfing.

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Posted by Aboleski 19:24 Archived in USA Comments (1)

A little inspiration for NZ

rain

I need a Flip MinoHD... A few minutes into this video you'll see some very beautiful New Zealand scenery.

Posted by Aboleski 12:48 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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