A Travellerspoint blog

Abel Tasman and the rest

We haven't had much inspiration to update the blog in the past month or so (and most often also no internet access), but we'll make a futile try now (even with lacking enthusiasm). Luckily for you there will be more pictures than reading :)

So, we left off at Abel Tasman national park -which was stunning! Our trip started with a boat ride to the far end of the park, and then we walked back the 40 km in two days, spending the night at a DOC hut (very plain and noisy). On the way we saw about a thousand beautiful beaches (or at least that's how it felt..) and after a few we were already feeling a bit numb of all the beauty surrounding us. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the walk -although expectedly me more than Judith, but she was a trooper and complained only afterwards :) The nicest experience was the tidal crossings (four of them) where we could cross only during low tide. Once we had to wait for an hour or so for the water level to go down below waist hight so that our bags wouldn't get wet. Time well spent on the beach in the sun. Oh, and we saw only one cloud during those two days, so weather couldn't have been better!

Just a small caption of Abel Tasman

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The most exotic shower we've had :)
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Tidal crossing
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The next day we crossed with the ferry to Wellington, only to find our former WWOOF host, Steph, greeting us from a gigantic poster on the wall of a theater -a promotion of a flamenco show that she was performing in. We were of course very proud to actually know someone who ended up on a big poster in Wellington! The parents weren't too impressed with the capital, so we continued north to Wanganui and then to Taranaki (Egmont national park) where the Taranaki volcano dominates the scenery. We of course also did a small walk on the mountain, but didn't see anything too spectacular.

A familiar face in Wellington
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Mt Taranaki
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After this we visited Matamata, which is the home of Hobbiton aka the Shire, but instead of checking up on the Hobbits (way to expensive to see a movie set of the shire) we bought a bottle of beer that was specially brewed to use in the movies (to keep the actors from getting drunk, it was 1% alc.). The taste was horrible by the way... We decided to drive to Te Anau to see the (world's only?) soda geyser. Not impressive with all it's concrete surroundings, but at least we've been there.

Beer (1%) from the you-know-what movies
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Soda geyser
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The weather had finally warmed up enough that we felt like going to the beach (but not for a swim), but chose to stay in Auckland close to the airport for the remainder of the days that the parents had left of their holiday. This meant nice relaxing time for us, but we also made a trip to Rangitoto Island just outside of Auckland, a volcanic island only 600 years old. The whole island seemed to be of volcanic rock (which I suppose it is), and we even saw some nice caves there. Of course we also climbed to the highest point on the island and were rewarded with a spectacular view over Auckland city.

Rangitoto island
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Auckland view
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Tuesday morning we shipped the old and wise to the airport and with no plans whatsoever we started driving north. After a few nights on various holiday parks just north of Auckland, with nice swimming (the sea is finally warm enough!), easy kayaking and other leisurely activities, we activated ourselves and did an afternoon trip kayaking up(!!) the Puhoi river. With the wind on our backs and tide taking us up it was a no strain paddle. We were already getting a bit bored with just hanging around, so we really wanted to start WWOOFing again, so we contacted our former hosts Evert and Steph, and they were more than happy to have us over in Hastings on the Settler vineyard. So here we are, back at the Settler, nursing the precious vines again - and liking it :)

Posted by judipa 22:13 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

West coast, west coast

Mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, fiords, rain forest... New Zealand in a nut shell

It’s only a week ago that we left Bluff, but already we’ve reached to northern parts of the south island. Travelling South to North on the South Island, we visited some pretty cool places. Not only was the scenery stunning, it was also quite cold and rainy. So unfortunately not the best views of wide mountain ranges, but we’ve still seen some amazing nature.
First of all: Milford Sound. In the NZ Fiordland, Milford is not actually a ‘sound’, but a fiord. The place called Milford is not more than a harbour where scenic cruises go every 5 minutes… And still it is a beautiful trip, especially since we were on the ship right before all the tourist buses came! Amazing to see the difference in the parking lot when we came (only 1 big touring car) and when we came back (more than 50 touring cars)!

In the harbour it was packed with the big cruise boats, but out on the fiord they seemed to disappear into the scenery, with all the high cliffs and mountains. All in all, a really nice experience, with spectacular views, even with the rain pouring down for the last 20 minutes (and definitely worth the extra 300 km drive).

Milford harbour and sound
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On the way up to Milford we did a few hour trek to Key summit, and as you can see on the picture it was heavy enough that the parents needed a bit of persuasion for reaching the top ;)

Geisha chocolate

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We also spotted a Kea, pretty!
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Further down the road (or actually we first had to get back down from Milford and then we continued our trip north) we came to Queenstown. Queenstown is a vibrant city where a lot of adrenalin-activities can be booked (not for our timetable or budget). We decided not to stay there, but went for a walk around town, and of course a nice cup of coffee! The coffee in New Zealand is really nice everywhere! The day was pretty rainy, so we didn’t spend that much time in Queenstown, but still managed to buy some clothes.
The Queenstown area is supposed to have spectacular views with mountain tops in the back ground, but we were unlucky with the weather, ending up seeing mostly rain and mist. But still, since we don’t know what we’ve missed we don’t feel too bad about it. Instead of admiring the scenery we visited some cute towns (we almost thought that there are none in NZ, but we found them!) and learned a bit about the gold rush in the 17th century.

Our next worthwhile stop was at Franz Josef glacier (because of lack of time we skipped Fox glacier). We really wanted to take a hike on the glacier, so we went on an organized tour (our first!) which took us up there and through some ice caves as well! And we all got to wear cramp-ons (although maybe mostly just for show ;) )The glacier itself didn’t look too spectacular (it’s covered in dust and sand now in the summer), but we learned to respect it after all the stories from our guide –and after a big bang we heard! Later we learned that it was the glacier cracking! The ice caves were spectacular, though, so it we were quite happy even with our wet shoes and cold fingers.

On the Franz Josef glacier
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On our drive north we stopped in Hokitika for a night, and spent the evening watching the most beautiful sunset so far, and later visiting a small canyon filled with glow worms just shining away –so beautiful! And since Hokitika is the greenstone (= NZ jade) capital of NZ, we spent the next morning spending a bit too much money…

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We continued on to Punakaiki where we had a pancake overdose with first eating a bunch of them and then admiring the famous pancake rocks. Again, really beautiful –and really touristic- place :)

Pancake rocks
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Now we’re in Motueka, waiting to start our (only “the kids” this time, the parents don’t care to have a go) 50 km tramp in the Abel Tasman national park. It’ll be our first “real” tramp (staying at a hut over night!) in NZ, and Judith’s first ever :D Even with a bit of rain to be expected, we’re really excited about the trip! We’ll try to report back as soon as possible, so that you guys don’t need to worry too much (mostly thinking of you Marion ;) )

Posted by judipa 23:40 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

South south south

South of New Zealand

21 °C

Three weeks in Bluff came and went, and we're already missing the easy going stay!

Over Christmas and New Year we were taking care (house sitting) of a "boutique B&B" called Bluff Homestead, so I guess we could call it 'Homestead sitting'. The family who owns the Homestead went for a longer holiday, so our job was to take care of the guests and to keep the house in order. So we spent three weeks tidying and cleaning, washing and ironing (and taking care of the veggie garden, of course, because it was a WWOOF after all) -and actually enjoying it :) And just for the record (mums!): we CAN iron sheets, pillow cases, duvet covers, valances etc., but we CHOOSE not to...

The Homestead itself was an absolutely beautiful house from 1875 that was fully renovated a few years ago into a B&B with three guest rooms that have their own sun rooms with views over the harbour. Just to give you a bit of a perception of the place, here's a bunch of photos :)

The Homestead

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Besides the beautiful house, there were two really cute sheep grazing in the garden. They were so sweet that they "baahhh"ed every time you walked by, and one of them even liked a scratching (and it came running whenever called)! Owner Andrew was proudly saying that they were meant for eating (eventually) and thus they had no names... So with a little joke they were named 'Dinner' and 'Tea'.

Then there were some really nice guest staying, so we had a really nice experience at Bluff Homestead!
Bluff itself is a very quite town that mainly functions as a thoroughfare to Stewart Island. Nevertheless, there are some beautiful walks around, and the sunsets were beautiful.

Bluff view

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Bluff's called the most southern point of NZ -although it's not
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Judy at the Maritime museum in Bluff

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The last day before leaving Bluff and before teaching our legacy to the next WWOOFers of the Homestead, we went to Stewart Island. It's just 30 km off the coast, so it's easy (although a bit costly) to go there for a day trip. We spent a few hours walking around Ulva Island (next to Stewart) and bird watching -seeing a bunch of native birds, including parrots and albatrosses (but no kiwis...). We even saw some swimming penguins just as we were leaving the island -really nice! We wish we would've had much more time to spend on Stewart Island (maybe three days would've been enough) because there's good tramping and 10 000 kiwis there. On the way back we had quite big waves, with a few tummy tickling moments with too much free fall, but our skipper handled it nicely (actually saying that the weather was good for boating!).

The only kiwi spotted on Stewart Island

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Ulva Island boat tickets :)

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Ulva Island

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Now our relax time is over and we'll be travelling full on for the next month, keeping up the pace heading north towards Auckland. We are fully packed in our small car Daisy, but we (and all the lugage) fit! Daisy, however, is not that pleased with the full load and she let us know by breaking the electric window on the passenger seat... So with some Macgyver action we try to keep the window up with some twigs.
We're driving up north on the West coast (since we came down on the East coast). We travel quite fast, spending only 1 night at each place, because Uffe and Riitta have a plane to catch in Auckland at the end of the month.

Already travelling for a few days now, we went for a scenic cruise at Milford sound, and a guided glacier hike at Franz Joseph Glacier! It feels a bit like fast-forward travelling, doing all these great things in a few days, quite a difference from our relaxed pace down, and even bigger difference compared to our three week stay at Bluff!
Travelling with the four of us has some advantages (and some disadvantages which we will not further discuss here in public :P) - we stay at really nice motels or holiday parks, where the parents have nice ensuited rooms and we either stay with them in a family room, or at a cheaper double cabin, but we always have our own cooking facilities and we can share the cooking and dishwashing and other tasks between the four of us. We even have an extra driver now!

That's it for now!

Posted by judipa 22:42 Archived in New Zealand Tagged milford bluff stewart_island franz_joseph_glacier Comments (1)

Loving Southland

sunny 24 °C

Like said earlier, Dunedin wasn't anything special (except for the fact that Ipa finally found a proper wool shop!), and we ended up doing pretty much nothing while there. We met some of the frenchies from Treehugger's, but otherwise the only thing worth mentioning would be Baldwin St -the steepest town street in the world! It lies just a few km outside the center and on the side of it there are stairs for the pedestrians :) We did see a small van getting to the top of it, but Judith didn't feel like putting Daisy to the test, so we just walked it up (huffing and puffing).

Baldwin St
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Next we headed south to an area called the Catlins. Again we found an absolutely beautiful holiday park to spend the night (halr minute walk from the beach). It's amazing how many nice beaches they have here! The next day we spent driving around in the Catlins, visiting several waterfalls (which all might be competinf for the title of most beautiful waterfall in NZ) with nice short walks through subtropical "jungle".

Visiting waterfalls
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Matai falls -it looked almost unreal in it's beauty and vivid colours
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McLean falls
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Just another lunch with a view
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We also visited the most southern point on the south island, Slope point. The place itself was nothing special (on a NZ scale, cause the view was actually quite nice), but what struck me (Ipa) the most was the trees! Only when seeing them we realised how rough the wind from the arctic must be.

Trees next to Slope point
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After a day of overdosing on all the scenery, we started towards Bluff, our final destination for now. The next few weeks we'll be spending in Bluff Wwoofing at Bluff homestead (where we also just spent a nice and peaceful Christmas). The family who owns this "boutique b&b" are on holiday, visiting family, so our job is to take care of the house, garden and guests. So far it's been nicely laid back, with almost guests, but it's bound to get busier after the Christmas holidays. And actually, tomorrow we'll have almost full house :)

Finally the blog is now up to date, and even the map shows correctly where we are. Travelling can be stressful enough, so we're really happy for these few weeks that we get to spend in one place.

Posted by judipa 01:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Christchurch and surroundings down to Dunedin

Cruising down the South Island.

Before arriving in Christchurch we'd seen a documentary about the earthquakes, including the fatal one in February this year, so we thought we knew what to expect. We also knew that the center was closed because of all the damage. Still, there are no words to describe how it felt to see a completely deserted and fenced off city center, with uniformed guards at the gate. Many of the roads in the city were closed off and the ones that were open were bumpy and hastily patched. Most hotels were closed even outside the fenced off center and many people have just deserted their homes and moved to better places. And just when things started looking a bit brighter, there was another rough earthquake just two days ago, two days before christmas. Fortunately no one was seriously injured, but nonetheless, many of the already affected houses (that just had had time to be rebuilt) are in a bad shape again. So our hearts really go out to all people in Christchurch, we can't imagine what they're going through.

Pictures of the city center before the last earthquake.
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Now there is just a small part of the center left and it's been rebuilt in a curious way. The 'new'/temporary centre is established by having shops and coffeeshops in sea containers. But at least it made us feel better to see that the city is reviving slowly.

The new built "center" -shops and banks and cafes in metal containers
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Despite the mood-lowering sight of the centre we got into a bit of a Sinterklaas mood with a taste of pepernoten (from a Dutch bakery in Picton) and gevulde speculaas (from a Dutch shop in a place called Norsewood, of all places!!).

Driving out of Christchurch we got the feel of road damage around the place, and in the end we were quite happy to get out of there. And fortunately we picked a very good spot for forgetting the sadness in Christchurch: Bank's peninsula. It's a hilly peninsula created by volcanic eruptions, with a scenic route around the edge of the original crater. Beautiful views! The only bad thing is that we've started to feel quite numb and indifferent towards all the beautiful nature around us. We see so many nice places that we forget half of them and don't appreciate them for their full worth. But no worries, we (or I, Ipa) still try to take pictures of them so that you guys can admire a fraction of the beauties when we get home ;)

In Christchurch we stumbled over a brochure promoting a day trip to one of the filming locations of LOTR, and since Judith of course wanted to do it we called and asked how much it would be to do the tour - answer: $240 (~150 €) per person!! So instead of blowing half a weeks (or months...) budget we decided to try to make the tour on our own. And it was totally worth it!! But since it's Judith's thing she'll have to tell you herself :)

And here I am (Judith), so yes, what can I say? It was a BEAUTIFUL spot! Not only recognizable from the movie, but just a beautiful place to be. One of the best parts when we where there was seeing the tour (only an american family of three joined that day), and since we were having a break on the same spot where they had their guided tour, we could even hear most of the stories... haha! That was I think the best saved money ever! I must admit that I didn't even listen that much to the stories, because it was nothing interesting compared to the good views. We had our lovely packed lunch on top of Mt. Sunday, which served as the city of Edoras (Rohan) in the Lord of the Rings movies. We took many nice pictures and here is a small selection:

Edoras
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And the tour car :)
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After that we went to Timaru, where we had our next (6 day) WWOOFing experience! And it was quite an experience... The place was called 'Treehugger organics', the owners Nathan and Steph, and we expected some hippy-like people with a real heart for nature, organics, sustainability and that kind of things, with great stories and views on life... well... NOT!! We ended up with two other WWOOFers from France, Florian and Marie, and although they really enjoyed themselves at Treehugger (where the motto was something like: "cheap food, meat, alcohol, and more meat and alcohol") - we were quite disappointed. The work was not at all interesting (either picking or packing strawberries for 6h a day is not our idea of a nice WWOOF), but there were also some positve things going on! First of all the other WWOOFers we met were all super nice, after we arrived there came another French guy Johanne (actually he was half belgian, quarter Italian and quarter Polish), and an American girl Jordan, who was 18 year old, and really nice girl, she got her first hangover on our last days there, kind of cute actually, haha! Besides the good company there was the cutest of all animals: a little piglett who was being bottle fed and came to the house every time he was hungry. So that was definitely the best WWOOF job available, feeding the piglet!

Weeman after Judith had fed him
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On our last night at Treehugger it all got really crazy when the bottles of wodka, tequila, boxes of wine, and who knows what else came to the table. That was a really fun and drunk evening and it makes us look back at Treehugger with a small smile on our faces. The morning-after strawberry picking was however the worst of all mornings of strawberry picking... but hey, the job needed to be done one last time (for us). Foux du fafa... a song which is still half stuck in our brains... foux du fafafafaaaaha. (This was our deep dive into kiwi culture at its best -Flight of the Concords with Foux du fafa!)

Enjoy :)

On our way from Timaru we went to Lake Tekapo, and again (of course) that was BE-AU-TI-FUL! The lake was super blue, nicer than the sky! Our camera doesn't quite capture that bright colour blue which many lakes around that area have and that is a real pity! Imagine those nice tropical bounty island beaches, well it is that kind of blue, but then brighter and more powerful. At this place we stayed for the first time at a holiday park, which is the BEST place, nice outdoors, 20 meters from that super nice blue lake, so much better than at a backpackers or hostel! And a great place to get rid of the last pieces of hangover from that crazy night before (yes the one with the wodka and tequila and so), eating pizzaaaaa.

Lake Taupo
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Next morning it was RAINING, damn it! I (Judith) was so wanting to go for a swim, even though it is quite cold here on the south island, it would be OK if the sun would have been shining... But no can do, and we had to move on. Good thing that we found such a nice lake 2 days after that, where I had a real short and cold swim in the pretty blue water. But first things first: after Lake Tekapo we went to see Mt. Cook, New-Zealands highest peak. It was visible from lake Tekapo as well, in the distance, but we decided to get close and do a small walk in that area today. But it was raining and thus when we came close we discovered that the whole mountain was covered in dark grey clouds, and we couldn't even see where exactly Mt. Cook would be.... That was a shame, but we tried. We went for a small (half our) walk to see the Tasman Glacier, which was still quite impressive, so we didn't drive the 50km in vain.

Our initial plan to stay the night in the Mt. Cook village was cancelled after knowing the prices they had their in their hostels, 35 dollar per person (normal price: around 25 dollar), and no views of the mountain, so we decided to sleep in another town, and that was a good decision! On the road south we found a lovely farmstay for only 20 dollar :) And the place was just supernice, a big house with a sheep and cow farm, with stunning views of the mountains in the distance, just perfect!

In the morning we started to go to Oamaru, one of the bigger cities on the South Island, but on the way we did some very nice stops at the freaky looking Clay Cliffs, at Benmore and Aviemore dams (where Judith went for a very cold swim), and at some Elephant rocks that apparently featerued in a Narnia movie.

Clay cliffs
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Elephant rocks and some sheep
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In Oamaru we met up with our hitchhiker (did we mention Jamie already? A funny guy from South Africa who travelled with us from Kaikoura to Christchurch). At Oamaru we went to see penguins! Yes really! Not the big ones, but smaller ones, quite nice! And Jamie showed us around in the old centre of Oamaru, which was really amazingly pretty. All old early 19th century buildings in use for art galleries, bakeries, local market, antique shops and other nice 'look around shops'.

Yellow eyed penguin
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It was that last day of Oamaru when Jamie showed us around, and later in the day we headed to Dunedin. That day was 'discount day' - a weird phenomenon that we encountered: we got discount EVERYWHERE, it was hard to believe that it was all coincidence!
1st: we went to a clothing shop where we saw a nice cardigan for Ipa 40 dollar, but when we bought another item we got 50% off, so we bought a shirt of 20 dollar as well and only paid 30 dollar in total, nice!
2nd: in the second hand market we bought a skirt, which was on the 'half price rack', allright!
3rd: on the local market we got both cheese and (4th) bread with a discount, because the market was closing, nice!
5th: we got 1 dollar off some used CDs, allright!
6th: in Dunedin we went to 'Penny's backpackers' with an old flyer of them (which said 'beds from 18 dollar) - the beds where nowadays 26 dollar, but she could give them to us for 20 dollar! Nice!

Somehow I feel like there was even one thing more, but can't think of it now, or maybe it seemed like soooo much on that day, and when I sum it up now it is not that much anymore... But still, weird day that was :)

Next stop Dunedin, which wasn't too impressive but we'll give you a few sentences about it in the next entry :)

Posted by judipa 23:49 Archived in New Zealand Tagged dunedin christchurch oamaru lotr peninsula methven bank's Comments (0)

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