Wednesday, January 28, 2009

South Island Road Trip - Chapter Two

The last shall be first......

I'll start this posting with the most recent event as it is undoubtedly the most exciting! Today, Jocelyn earned bragging rights by bungy jumping off the Kawarau Bridge just outside Queenstown, NZ! As we stood by and watched in awe as she leaped from the platform 143 feet above the river. The graceful swan dive was only slightly interrupted by her screaming. Way to go Jocelyn! (be sure to watch the video on youtube, just click the link on the right)

Waiting for her turn to jump

The final preparations

The Kawarau bridge
The Big Plunge!

Bungy bathrooms!

So, now back to the interesting, but less thrilling of our adventures.

We were very fortunate to reunite with O'vive and Orca III for two nights in Murchison where
got together for a BBQ and crossed the Buller Gorge for a hike to the waterfall. The girls rode the zip line back across the swing bridge.

BBQ in Murchison

All of us on the swing bridge across the Buller Gorge

Jocelyn & Jenny on the zip line swing

The drive along the West coast of the South island is quite remarkable. The mighty Tasman Sea roars to the right while the lush forest and steep rock faces threaten to knock you off the road. This treacherous stretch of highway is, undoubtedly, the most beautiful but the driver must be very alert as the highways often narrow to one lane. Most of the bridges are only one lane and we even crossed one that was shared with a train!

Hawkes Cragg - this one lane stretch of the highway was carved out by hand just high enough to allow a bus to clear.

Jay and Marg at the Tasman Sea

We stopped to visit the amazing Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki. This mysterious rock formation has geologists stumped. They do not know how they came to exist or why they are layered the way they are. This was a really cool stop that we all enjoyed.

Pancake Rocks - Punakaiki, NZ

Here are those beautiful girls again!

Following the Pancake Rocks, we drove on to a little town called Hokatika where we collected black sand from the Tasman Sea and visited a glow worm dell.

Town centre in Hokatika

The following morning it was an early start as we had many stops we wanted to make enroute to Lake Wanaka.

Our first stop was Franz Joseph Glacier, the largest in New Zealand! We walked the 45 minute trail/river bed to come face to face with terminal face. Ok, we were a few hundred metres away, but it was still awesome! Following is the Maori legend of the glacier.

Ka Roimata O Hine Hukatere (The Tears of Hine Hukatere) is the Maori name for Franz Joseph.
Hine Hukatere (meaning 'the avalanche girl') was an adventurous Maori woman who loved mountaineering above all other activities. Her lover, Tawe, was not as fond of climbing as his sweetheart but Hine's powers of persuasion were strong and Tawe often climbed with her in the mountains. On one such adventure Tawe slipped at the head of this valley and plunged to his death. Hine's tears were so many that they flooded the valley and were frozen by the Gods as a memorial to her grief.

A cloudy day, but you can still see the glacier in the background. Notice that we're all wearing shorts!

Feeling the icy water.

Now, just one 1 1/2 hour walk is not nearly enough for one day so we stopped at Lake Matheson to do another one hour walk before continuing our all day drive South.

Along the stretch of highway between Haast and Wanaka, there are many beautiful stops with nice short walks to incredible waterfalls and blue pools. We stopped for about half of them but we were getting very tired.

The skies cleared in the afternoon for this beautiful pic of Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. (I had to run half way back across a one way bridge to get this picture!)

Beautiful Blue Pools - these beautiful pools get their name from the lovely blue colour which is caused by light refracting through the icy water.

At last, we arrived in Wanaka tired and hungry! After a great dinner at the Speights Ale House and good sleep we were ready to go again. Our first afternoon in Wanaka we visited Puzzling World, a very interesting place filled with puzzles and illusions. Our favorite was the hall of faces. When you cover one eye and walk around the room, these concave portraits seem to follow you - eerie!

Hall of Faces - Puzzling World, Wanaka

Ames Forced Perspective Room - this technique was used in the Lord of the Rings to create large and small people.

Such a strong family!

Even the public toilets are interesting here!

When you gotta go, you gotta go!

Gotta post a toilet picture from time to time!

So this brings us back to the beginning which is actually the end. Today we took a little drive to Queenstown. This mountain/lake town is similar to Whistler and we enjoyed our walk around. Next, we made a little stop at charming Arrowtown. It was here that we mustered the courage to try white bait, a local delicacy. Current prices for white bait in town was $100 per kg! We all agree that we're glad we tried it, but we prefer kumara chips.

Cute restaurant in Albert Town

Now, along this driving trip we've encountered delays for many reasons: a wreck, road repairs and cows crossing, but today was the first time we were delayed by a house moving down the highway!

House on the highway just East of Queenstown

So, tomorrow we pack our bags and our little car once again as we begin chapter three of our South Island Road Trip with a drive to Dunedin.

Friday, January 23, 2009

South Island Road Trip - Chapter One

We started our South Island adventure on Wednesday, January 21st and after about 9 hours on the road, we saw the first snow we've seen in a year and a half! Four hours later we arrived in Wellington, the Capital of New Zealand. Located at the very South end of the North Island - 41 degrees South, it was our last stop before crossing to the South Island. One of the fun things about driving in New Zealand is the wide variety of farm animals you see along the way.

The first time we've ever been stopped for a 'cow crossing'
We packed alot into our one day visit to Wellington, starting with a cable car ride up to the botanical gardens where we got to see some very beautiful flowers. Surprisingly one of our favorite things there was the playground, where the girls enjoyed the slides and zip line and we all had a good go 'round the teeter totter go-round!

Girls with one of the wheels propelling the cable car in Wellington.
Beautiful hydrangeas

These beautiful pink roses are beautifully and naturally arranged.
Jocelyn on the zip line in the botanical gardens
Slip slidin' away!
Super fun teeter totter thing
Next, it was off for a tour of the parliament buildings. Unfortunately, we had to check our cameras at the door so all I can offer is a picture of the outside. Inside we saw some amazing architecture and leared much about New Zealands political practices.
Parliament Buildings
Following the visit to parliament, we just had to stop at Kirkaldie and Staines, New Zealands answer to Harods or Holt Renfrew. This very posh store has a doorman and a pianist and the salespeople are very lovely and gracious.
Kirkaldie and Staines
Downtown Wellington has some very beautiful buildings and fun areas to explore.
Beautiful stained glass at Old St. Pauls church

One of the many shopping arcades
One other notable stop was Te Papa, one of Wellingtons many free museums. This amazing museum has a collosal squid measuring over four metres in length - very cool and unusual.
Friday morning we boarded the Interislander ferry for a three hour trip across cook strait to Picton where we had a quick picnic lunch before driving to Nelson where we'll spend the night.

Church Hill - Nelson

A very cool VW bug in Nelson

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Whangarei Buskers Festival

WOW, this little town goes all out for their street performers! There were loads of people from every generation contributing to the events of the day.

The festival started at noon and didn't end until 10pm and the audience is very enthusiastic in their support of their local buskers. It was a very interesting atmosphere.
This friendly fellow, a British bricklayer who emigrated here when he was 30, stopped by for a visit. We're tied to a dock right alongside the shore so it allows us many opportunities to visit with all kinds of people.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Do you know the way to Whangarei.....?

Whangarei (fawn grr ay) rhymes with San Jose, is located 14 miles up the river where it's wide enough to accommodate a marina. Jay and the girls sailed the boat up last Sunday and I drove the car, my 3 1/2 hour trip was much shorter than their 12 1/2 hour one, but they made great time and had a fabulous sail.
Just before Laura left, our long time friend Dave Gale sailed into Auckland for a visit. Dave joined Laura, Jay Sr., Jay and Cheryl on their South Pacific voyage back in 1982. It was fun to catch up with an old friend.
Dave has a young fellow on board who he is teaching how to sail. Joe has a sweet little border collie pup named Diva from whom we all got our doggie fix. We miss Diesel very much.

We've been really busy lately, what else is new. Laura flew home last Saturday and we spent Sunday moving the boat. The girls and I spent Saturday afternoon at the Auckland Museum which was awesome, glad we didn't miss out on that one, but three hours was not enough time to see everything. The building was constructed as a memorial to New Zealands fallen soldiers and stands prominently atop a hill in the Auckland Domain, one of the city's largest parks.
The Museum is made up of three floors covering everything from Mauri history, including all of the Polynesian islands that we visited, natural history, including everything from dinosaurs and meteors to shorebirds, insects and trees. The crowning glory is the remarkable war memorial on the top floor which includes a moving tribute to the holocaust survivors.

Beautiful stained glass in the war memorial
Hat and shoe collection at the museum
Beautiful Maori carving
The ancient Maori's would bug out their eyes and stick out their tongues to make themselves look fierce in order to frighten their enemies. Here the girls practice this ancient skill in front of a replica of an ancient Maori meeting house.
One of our favorite exhibits was the t-rex, where we got to see a full scale skeleton and test out how this great creature moved its arms and saw through its eyes.
Here in Whangarei, we're tied to the dock right in the centre of town. It's kind of fun to have everything close by and we often have people stopping by to say hello. It's a very friendly town.
The girls and I have visited the Annie Rose gallery where they make glass beads and teach classes. We loved to watch Vicky at her craft, she makes it look very easy and we could watch her all day. Here are some samples of the beads she made while we were there.
The other day, we all went on a mini hike to Whangarei Falls, a beautiful 26 metre drop followed by a lovely riverside walk.
We have also visited the Kiwi House and had a chance to watch a live kiwi up close and personal - excellent! They are such funny birds. Near the Kiwi house, we visited the Bird Recovery Centre when staff and volunteers care for injured birds and educate the public. It was here that we got to see the kiwi skeleton with an egg inside. The kiwis don't have a breast bone so their insides are very vulnerable and the egg dominates most of the protected area. We also got to see a couple of Pukeko's - one of my favorite birds, some doves and even a talking Tui bird named Woof Woof. Now this bird is not like any parrot you've ever heard talk, it actually sounds like an old man on a scratchy radio and he says things like "do you like oranges?", "it's cold" and even "Merry Christmas" it was really strange. There is another Tui in a nearby aviary whom Woof Woof is teaching.



Kiwi Skeleton with egg inside

View from the Bird Recovery Centre

The smallest church in NZ - built in the 1800's

The girls with an old Rugby Mascot. Rugby is the national sport here in NZ and they are very patriotic about their All Blacks.
Jay spent the first three days here in Whangarei taking out the generator and doing a major repair - doesn't he look happy about it?

We used the main halyard to hoist the generator out of the engine room and transformed the starboard settee into a workbench for this task.

The generator is all back in place and ready to fire.