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New Zealand

February 2003

 

 

Feb 1 – 15

Wanaka to Balclutha

 

Feb 16-21

Balclutha back to Wanaka

 

Feb 22 – 28

Wanaka to Dunedin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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February 1 – 15

 

We hung around Wanaka a few extra days, enjoyed the cinema and the beach and biked the shores both ways for a few miles. It is sunny and hot and no sand flies. It is heaven. There are parasailers and sail boats and blue blue water.

We rented the car on Feb. 6, Waitaingai Day .. a national holiday .. and headed for Queenstown via the Crown Saddle road. The views were magnificent … the road windy and narrow and scary. There were bikers going in both directions and we felt like wimps .. but we got over it. Many stops and pictures later we got to Queenstown and picked the Motor Camp near the Gondola. We set up camp and took the Gondola to the top. Pretty views, bungee jumpers, Louge rides, souvenirs. We heard a young man next to us at the viewing railing pointing out his tent below to the sweet young thing with him. Turns out his tent was right next to ours .. so we met up there on the viewing platform. He is from West Virginia. We spent 2 nights in Queenstown and enjoyed the touristy atmosphere and the constant stream of Jet Boats and Parasailers on the lake and the Parapenters above. We went to the underwater trout viewing with eels and ducks and we walked the Botanic Gardens for awhile. We don’t meet many people when we are in a car, without our conversation starting bikes. When I got the car I also requested a frying pan, so we are enjoying stir frys and pork chops with potatoes and onions and such, that we can’t do with our small mess kits and fry pan. It’s these little things that keep us charged.

We visited quaint Arrowtown, Jet Boat rides and Bungy Jumping at the original NZ Bungee place before heading to Te Anau. We got to Kingston just as the Kingston Flyer was getting ready to head from Kingston to Fairlight and Larry got many pictures of this steam train for his trainbuff co-workers. Ughhh .. there were sandflies again as we waited for the train to leave.

On to Te Anau and a lovely Motor Camp that made very efficient use of their space … translate to mean small sites. We had dinner at the Red Cliff Café and it was great: salmon and feta frittata and roasted tomato soup with a smattering of antipasto tidbits. I’d just been bemoaning boring restaurant food in NZ .. then this wonderful place made me bite my tongue. We rested in Te Anau a day, laundry, computing, basking in the sun and that pork chop dinner. I keep finding cute little clothes for Jaime. Later I read that the LOTR stars ate at the Red Cliff toooo.

We waivered between taking a bus to Milford Sound or driving and decided to drive. It was a lovely trip .. not scary and steep and cliffy dropoffs as we’d heard and read. Many mountains, a reflective mirror lake, waterfalls … and the Homer tunnel which is a bit scary. We passed a biker on his way down and gave him a “Good on Ya”. We spent the afternoon at the Sound and the night at Milford Sound Lodge where we had luscious beef pasta and pesto pasta. We shared our table with Joy and Steve from Ohio. Steve is from Christchurch, now living in Ohio. He’s been to Janesville several times for his work. Earlier we had wine and cheese at a picnic table and when the cork popped .. it was Joy who said “I looooove that sound”.

It started raining as we went to dinner and kept it up all night and all the next day, so our boat tour on the Mitre Peak lines was damp. It wasn’t a good picture taking day. But there were many more waterfalls than there would be on a dry day. We paid the extra $$ and were dropped off at an underwater observatory they built where you see the marine life in the Sound. You are seeing unusual stuff because the top layer of the water is fresh water on top of the salt water. Black coral is one of the rare things you see. I urged us to skip the blah blah tour part and we just ran downstairs to the viewing area. Larry noticed and took the one marked DOWN. I must have taken the UP stairs and the nature guy down there twice spoke to me about missing out on a very important learning part upstairs. Ya ya ya … we’ll catch that later. But they usher you right out onto the next boat .. so we missed learning something realllly important.

We had a snack at the Café and drove the road back out of Milford and spent the night in a cute little cabin on Lake Manipouri, where boats go to tour Doubtful Sound. We had nice kebobs on rice and a salad and garlic bread and 2 jugs of beer at a nearby café .. lovely picnic table overlooking the lake. A bloke from Australia borrowed our knives and forks and offered us a freshly caught trout. We had to refuse, because we had no fridge and didn’t know how to cook it. Sorrry Spoerk. We know you’ll be appalled

On the next day toward Invercargill. We’re seeing lots of sheep now .. big giant fields full of them. But not on the mountain side .. like the postcard sheep. More lakes, hills, waterfalls, walks. We picnic at Riverton overlooking the sea, then drive on and thru Invercargill to Bluff. Bluff is not the most southernly point on the South Island, but peeeple speak of it as if it is. It has one of those mile signs .. ## miles to New York and such and it is where you catch the boat to Steward Island. We pick the village Motor Camp to tent in for $12, but there are 3 cabins for $8 pp. I check at the caretakers and no one’s home, so we help ourselves to cabin #3. Later a family of 3 comes to claim it, but they have the keys for cabin #1 and we get that instead. Bunk beds, but we put the mattresses on the floor and our sleeping bags on top. As we’re heading toward downtown to find some dinner, a guy maybe our age .. long white hair and beard .. rugged .. encourages us to go to Steward Island and recommends the Eagle Pub for dinner. Steve Dickey from Wanaka said his brother runs a Dairy in Bluff .. but there are 2. We pass one and I inquire. Yes .. it’s his and his wife comes out and we say Hi and I tell her what a nice visit we had with Steve, Mei Lian and Sean last week. On to the Eagle and it is rowdy and smoky and no sign of food. Back to some other lame pub and we have some Chinese food that is OK. It seems to be the best bet in this poor little town with many shuttered storefronts. We’re thinking that a DVD and some ice cream would be nice. Low and behold we can get both at Dickey’s Dairy. We choose Bandits with Bruce Willis and enjoy it lots.

The next day we stop at Invercargill to check INET. Eric Zitske and brother Brad from Madison, Larry’s co-worker, are on the South Island and we suggested Feb 17 to meet at Mt. Cook. They agree, so we booked a chalet there and let them know we can all stay in the chalet and we’ll bring food and libations and we’ll have a nice party. Weather predicts rain for Monday, so it will be perfect. We get lots of groceries at a Pak and Save and head to Curio Bay. A Bottle Stop and some lunch would be perfect, but we find neither. Instead of turning into Curio Bay, we go 5k the other direction to Wania or some such and find a delightful little place and have a steak and cheese pie, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, tea, and homemade muffins and fruit slices. Perfect. Back to Curio Bay and it is hard to pick out a campsite. Nothing is flat .. there are these little spaces between giant flax bushes. Finally we settle on a nice spot overlooking the sea. There are petrified forest remnants in the water below which you can see at low tide, yellow eyed penguins will come to shore right over there about 7pm, Dolphin Bay is just behind us with 20 or so dolphins to view and swim with and Blue Penguins are just down the road. Perfect. We’re booked for 2 nights. Showers and kitchen are grim buildings made from silo-like material. We sit to enjoy the view and shortly it begins to rain. We sit in the car from 4:30 til dark. Eventually Larry strings the tarp and cooks some dinner, but I just go to sleep at 9pm. It rains and howls alllll night. You don’t think the tent can take it. Rain continues all morning and finally at 9:30 we pack up and head out. No dolphins, no pengins, wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. It keeps raining all day and we drive through many kms of gravel yucky roads, yet we see bikers coming through it. Hills and more hills. Amazing country. We pass Cathedral Caves which we want to view at low tide .. but it’s still raining and we’ll not be back. We find a cushy motel in Balclutha and cook breakfast about 1pm. Ham, Fr toast with Boysenberries, OJ and coffee. Yummmmmmmmmm. The laundry is free here, so we do a load. $1 to dry. Great deal. We’re getting soft.

 

February 16 – 21

So instead of the nature tour, we’ll do the town tour. First we visit Clinton and Gore and travel the Presidential Highway. Gore is the NZ Country Music capital and has a large brown trout which we photograph for Bob Spoerke .. a big fisherman friend from Madison. Gore has a New World food market and a Woolworths food market. It must be a bigggggggggggg city. On to Ettrick for a picture for Barb and Greg Sheehy from Middleton. One of them is from Ettrick, WI .. maybe Greg. The terrain is soooo beautiful. High hills, deep valleys, all scrub on the hills, few trees. Later it is all rocky, which we’ve not seen before. Lots of sheep and now fruit trees. It would be great biking. Quick tours through Alexandra and Clyde, which we will visit again when we bike the railtrail toward Dunedin. Overnight at Cromwell, the Stonefruit capital of NZ. Pictures and food stockup the next morning and we’re off.

Checking out the hills to Wanaka. We’ll have 2 choices when we bike back to Cromwell. That is rare. There is usually 1 road and that’s it. Over Lindis Pass and on to Omarama and Twizel. Overnight at the Glentanner Motor Camp on the road to Mt. Cook Village. Views are magnificent and Larry takes many pictures. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so better take lots today.

Up and out and to Mt. Cook Village. Sunny but windy and the rain will come. They booked us for a motel unit instead of a chalet. We check in, get the beer cooling and wait for the Zitske brothers to arrive. We’d go for a hike .. but … like I said, we’re getting soft.

Eric and Brad arrived early afternoon and the rain began soon after. It rained and the wind howled all night. We didn’t care. We had lots of snacks and beer and wine and later stir fry for dinner and we shared our New Zealand adventures and caught up on life in Madison. We had a Continental breakfast at the Hermitage Hotel Coffee Shop in the morning .. included with the motel room. Good deal.

We left Eric and Brad writing postcards, waiting to see if the rain would clear and they could do some hiking. Else they would head to Queenstown and hike at Glenorchy. We had 2 days car rental to kill, so we drove to Lake Tekapo and saw the Pedallers’ Paradise accommodations run by Nigel Rushton, author of Pedallers’ Paradise which every cyclist seems to have. There’s one for the North Island as well. There was the odd shower throughout the day and the wind continued to howl. But there were bikers out there .. going with and against the wind. We also visited Fairlie and stayed in Geraldine. Jan and Rory from AK liked these towns. Larry got a haircut in Geraldine .. because Gerry cut his for so many years in Madison. Cute, eh? Back to Fairlie for the big Veggie Burger that Rory from AK recommended and it was yummy.

Later back to Wanaka and a cabin and we unloaded the carload of stuff. Still raining once in awhile and windy. There’s lots of snow on the mountains now and it is very windy. We’ll stay a few days, then head for Cromwell and Clyde and ride the Railtrail to Middlemarch where we’ll catch a train to Dunedin. It only stops in Middlemarch on Sunday, so we’ll take it there. Else we have 13km gravel road to catch it. We are ready to get back on the bikes.

 

February 22 – 28
We sadly leave Wanaka. We like it here .. it is sooooo beautiful and warm and sunny. There are 2 more attractions we should visit .. the Puzzling World and the Brewery. But you can see Puzzling World on the INET someplace, so we bop into the Brewery, which is waayyyyy out near the airport. It’s open, but no one’s around to pull us a pint of Brewski Brew. Caravans are lining up for the 2pm tour, so someone will be around then. So we stop at the Luggate Pub instead and have a wonderful beer in their garden. There were 2 routes to choose from today and we chose the hillier one unknowingly, but our consolation is that we would have missed this pub on the flat easy route. Lots of vineyards closer to Cromwell and we pass the 45th parallel. We stop for apricots this time and they are yummy. Overnight again at the Cromwell Motor Camp and an easy day the next to Clyde. Dinner at the old Post Office Restaurant. It is a cute little touristy town. We take pictures of the Herb Factory for Sooz. They used to harvest thyme here. The factory is now part of the museum, but it wasn’t open.

The next day we find the Otega Central Rail Trail head and begin a 4 day adventure. Downhill to Alexandra, then we start to climb and it is beautiful, but you have to watch the trail all the time so you don’t hit big rocks and such. A quick jug at the Chatto Creek Pub and on another 12km to Omakau .. dragging the last 5 miles at least. This was a hard day. We bypass the Domain Motor Camp and continue on to the Omakau Commercial Hotel which lets us camp and share the backpacker facilities. Good crumbed chicken with apricot sauce dinner and a few jugs of Speights. A bloke at the pub asked if we are planning to stay here til the war is over. Yesssssssssssss… There’s no love for George Bush here. They’re very worried.

On past Lauder and to Oturehua, again a pretty hard day … hot and dry in Central Otago. It’s close to 90 degrees and not a cloud in the sky for days. A quick jug and ginger beers at the Pub, then groceries at the quaint old country store and set up the tent at the Crow’s Nest Backpackers that we had all to ourselves. Annette brought us cake to have with a coffee and relax on her veranda. It felt great. Great dinner at the pub and a long chat with Frank and Carol, the owners. Saw pictures of snow and curling on the reservoir that freezes on a calm cold night into a wonderful ice sheet. Great chat with Annette the next morning, lazing in the sun in her peaceful secluded yard. She’s a physiotherapist out of Ranfurly and runs the backpackers. Her neighbor brought her a piece of a giant trout he just caught. She smoked it and packed up a chunk for us. It was great on the trail with crackers. Thanks Annette. We told her about the website, and she came back later and said she was just admiring our granddaughter with the beautiful eyes. Wahhhhhh…

Beer and Toasted Sandwich stop at the Wedderburn Pub and on to Ranfurly. An easy day finally. We stopped climbing at Wedderburn and began to descend. Camping by 2:30. Larry stretches out to even out his tan and I head to the hospital to see if I can get my blood drawn and see how my liver is doing. The Medical Center closed at 1pm but a nurse at the hospital tries to get blood out of me. We agree she’ll give it one try and if no go, I try again in Dunedin. Agreed. No go .. my veins are shot. But it was cool to show up at a hospital and even have them see me. Then I head to town and get a haircut. Later a great Roast of the Day dinner .. beef this time .. and a few jugs of Speights at the Hotel. We got a small portion of nice roast and gravy, 3 boiled potatoes, a roasted/crispier potato, peas, green beans, carrots, kumara and a slice of roasted pumpkin. Yummy. Checked Hotmail and 24 new messages thanks to DDs latest email about those Crazy Yanks in NZ. It’s fun to hear from all of you and glad you’re enjoying our travels with us. We feel very fortunate to be able to travel like this. We have to pay about $10/hour for email and there is often a waiting line, so if we don’t always respond to you, know that we do love hearing from you.

Pictures of Ranfurly the next day and we head for Waipiata Tavern, which advertises All Day Breakfast. Larry hasn’t had the full breakfast in a long time and he’s salivating. The cook isn’t in today. Wahhhhhhhhhhhh The barkeep makes us a Toasted Sandwich. When we were in Ireland with the girls, DD keep ordering the Toasted Special. It seemed to be ham and cheese a lot. It took us about 6 days to figure out that a Toasted Special isssss a grilled ham and cheese with tomato. It took us that long to figure out that it’s the same here .. only called a Toasted Sandwich. We chuckle. This is a weird day, because we have to freecamp at Daisybank or make it to Middlemarch. No one knows if there is water at Daisybank. Turns out it’s just a patch of grass next to a toilet along the trail .. so we carry on. I announce that I’m going to use the toilet at Hyde. When we get to the Prices Creek Tunnel, there’s a toilet. Hmmmmmmmmmmm … So I go in .. back to my bike for TP … When I come back to my bike .. I say “Larry .. my trailer’s gone”. Huhhh? He unhooks his trailer and heads back down the trail and finds it before the last viaduct. My hitch broke just like his did on New Years Eve. How unconscious am I that I didn’t even notice? He digs out the temporary fix / fan belt to attach the trailer and we head out again. A guy at Hyde gives us water. We take the road awhile because we think Frank said it would be flat. Not!! Back on the trail when we can and limp into Middlemarch at 8. We find Blind Billy’s Holiday Park and Billy really is blind. He and Maureen sell beer .. which excites us. They invite us in to have our first beer with them. We cook dinner and shower and get to bed at 11 exhausted.

We hang around Middlemarch a few days so we can take the Sunday train. We told some bikers on the trail that we didn’t want to do the gravel road to Paringa, where the train goes the other weekdays. They said the road was nothing as bad as the trail. Hmmmmm We enjoy dinner on Friday with Kathy and Viv from Christchurch. We enjoy their company. The food is pretty dismal. Billy and Maureen invited us to join some horseriders and motorcylists for breakfast on Sunday .. we thought. They were all out there enjoying breakfast Saturday and we determine sometime that day that we screwed up .. they were saying Saturday and we heard Sunday. They think they speak English here. As Larry points out … that goes both ways of course. I was asking Kathy something about the terrain somewhere and she said there was no train there. Larry’s been looking for Vitalis for his hair in every store and dairy and pharmacy and there is none. The tiny store in Middlemarch had a wee bottle and were we surprised. Now if we could only find Secret deodorant.

Saturday night we were having beers and dinner and Danielle joined us for a beer. She is a native of Holland who now lives in Wellington. Five year olds start school the day they turn 5, so she has a teaching position for the second tem which starts in April. By that time there will be enough new 5 year olds to start another classroom. She will hike the Railtrail. She sleeps in the next day and postpones her walk because an all-night party in the town kept her awake all night. Sunday we pack up and have a few beers with Danielle and with Jason and Scotty, who have been doing some maintenance work for Billy and Maureen and who cooked that great breakfast we missed. They give us all sorts of advice on what to do in Dunedin, how to find our motor camp and what to do in Australia. Jason says his Mom cooks at the Cock ‘N Bull Pub (I’m to think about my husband to remember the name) so we stop in to say Hi to Pat the next morning.

A group of bikers from Dunedin are boarding the train and help us get all of our gear aboard. Middlemarchers are selling sausages to the train riders and Larry is in heaven. Grilled sausages on buttered bread with fried onions, tomato sauce and mustard for $2. We’re off and Larry’s out between train cars snapping pictures. He fills up one card and starts on another. The bad news is that the first card is unreadable later and he is sad. You’ll have to picture lots of beautiful gorges and hills and rocks and bridges and such. Also picture a flock of sheep grazing outside this quaint little church and the Description something about the flock. When we get to Dunedin, the bikers suggest another route to the Motor Camp and one of them says he’ll be along the route .. so we follow their advice. He’s there to save us from the wrong turn and in no time we’re set up in the little cabin we are happy we booked for the next few days. Tomorrow we tour the Speights Brewery, Tuesday the Cadbury Chocolate Factory and Wednesday a nature tour to see Albatross, Yellow-eyed Penguins and more. Stay tuned ………