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New Zealand 1

February 24, 2015

1/31 – Auckland, New Zealand – Helen & Sue started the day with a walk along the beach and then met friends for coffee at Kahve, which they did every morning we were in Auckland.  Helen selfie with Linzi and Sue.

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Sudar, Kahve’s owner

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When they returned we had a healthy fruit and cereal breakfast along with freshly ground and prepared coffee – Bob has become a barista extraordinaire. We then drove a short distance to a beach where kids were setting up for an Optimist sailing regatta.

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They then took us to see the totems and lookout at Achilles Point

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I had been getting chilled all morning, so we drove downtown for a cup of tea.  By the time we parked and walked to a waterfront restaurant I was shivering severally with painful stomach cramps, so we returned to the apartment.  I spent the rest of the day in bed except for frequent trips to the toilet, only able to take a little fluid.

2/1 – Super Bowl Sunday – I was in bed most of the day with abdominal pain, fever and low blood pressure.  I was only able to get up for parts of the game but was able to see the exciting/unbelievable finish – the Boston Patriot’s interception on the one yard line with only 18 seconds to go to beat the Seattle Seahawks!

2/2 – Same as yesterday, diagnosis – some tropical virus.

2/3 – Made some progress today and was able to take a short walk with Bob and pick up the rental car.  However, the severe stomach cramps with frequent toilet stops continued.  The car was the smallest one I could rent; a sub-compact Japanese Daihatsu Sirion 1.3L.  It was a 2006, making it 9 years old.  When I went to start it – it wouldn’t. They put in a new battery and I was off.

2/4 – Left for Tongariro NP about 7:30am with Bob leading us in his car through Auckland until we were able to get on Rt 1 south.  Adjusting to driving a small car on the left side of the road.  Manual transmission on the left, steering wheel on the right, with mirrors and controls reversed!  We had a little trouble with poorly marked roads that was complicated by a Garmin GPS unit giving us incorrect information in New Zealand speak!

Example of countryside south of Auckland. It was an overcast and rainy day. As a result, the camera adjusted by increasing the exposure for the countryside but as a result the sky was over-exposed.

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Arriving at Tongariro National Park – New Zealand’s oldest national park and a World Heritage area

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We did the Mounds and Tawhai Falls Walks as we drove into the park

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Can’t see the volcanoes – just clouds

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Got to Whakapapa Village mid-afternoon, checked into our cabin and then went to the Visitor Center – it is located in the village. The village is left center in the photo; this is a big park.

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My original plan was to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. It is 13 miles one-way up over and through the volcanic landscape. Unfortunately Helen’s knee surgery did not permit this trek.

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Instead, we did the Taranaki Falls Loop.

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Notice that the map states 2 hours for the loop. In the U.S., trails are stated in miles.  In New Zealand they are stated in minutes and hours.  This estimate is based on the average adult hiker moving at a moderate pace. The advantage of the New Zealand system is that it considers terrain, e.g. difficulty of route. However, I am still preferential to our system, probably because I am used to it and like to determine my own level of difficulty. At the same time, I think the loop was about 4 miles and we did do it in two hours stopping only for pictures.

Starting on the trail

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Dropping down to Wairere (Mangatepopo) Stream canyon, we had some rain and lots of wind.

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The next series of pictures show us approaching and then leaving Taranaki Falls behind

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Too cold for a dip

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Falls just left of center and Helen (red jacket) on left in picture

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Different kind of forest, it was a good hike

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Before going out for dinner, we drove up to the Mt Ruapehu Ski area.  There is a formation there that is called Meads Wall – it was used in the Hobbit trilogy.  However, the area was socked-in and it was hard to see through the clouds.

 

2/5 – Woke up to rain, packed and were out of our cabin at 6:30am.  We were never able to see the tops of the volcanoes.  Perhaps we’ll get a view on the way back to Auckland. We drove south on a very curvy, up-down, Rt 4 to Whanganui.  It was slow going but the scenery was great.

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I have to look up these numbers – but I seem to recall that 75-80 percent of the vegetation and 60 percent of the animals in NZ are not found anywhere else in the world.

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Not many people around, only 4 million in the entire country.  There were at least 100 pair of shoes hanging on this fence.

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It took us a good 25 minutes to get past this herd of sheep,

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herding dogs and shepherds on their ATVs

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There was a wonderful kids park in Whanganui, so we had to stop for pictures

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We arrived in Wellington at 12:30 and waited for our ferry to take us to the South Island.  It was an hour late coming in so we ended up leaving at 3:45 instead of 2:45. Here is our Ferry arriving late; notice the snorkeler in the foreground diving for shellfish.  Wellington is in the background.

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A hungry crocodile

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The trip across Cook Straight takes 3.5 hours.  Our Interislander Ferry was the Aratere, which can carry 670 passengers, 28 railroad cars or 30 trucks or 230 cars and it was full.   As we left Wellington another Interislander Ferry was coming in.

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It was a relaxing ride.  We even did “tea time” with biscuit, butter, jam and coddled cream.

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Approaching Picton on the South Island

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We landed in Picton at 7:15, an hour late.

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Much of the ride to Kaikoura was along the ocean

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Selfie

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The ride was tense as we rushed to get to Kaikoura before dark.  We arrived at 9:15, checked into the Alpine Pacific Holiday Park and then went into town for pizza.

 

2/6 – It rained (snowed in the mountains) overnight and the morning was cold and clear. This is a good picture of our tiny Daihatsu Sirion. Helen is on the passenger side.

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Started the day by doing the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway

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At the end of the peninsula is the Point Kean Seal Colony, which is a national Wildlife Reserve

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We hiked out to South Bay and back taking pics of the rugged coastline 530 and 532

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DSCN0532Returning to the car

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Went to the Craypot Cafe in town for breakfast because they had free Wi-Fi and we needed to get caught up on our messages.  Alas, they cut us off after a half-hour. The drive toward Christchurch was very tense because I was running out of gas and there were no gas stations.  I will let Helen describe that ordeal. In a nutshell, we were almost out of gas and I stopped at a self-serve station – no people, you can only use your credit card with pin number. Well, I never use a pin number with my credit card and didn’t know it. In the end, I showed a Chinese couple who pulled in how to use the pump and they let me piggy back on their fill-up. So, I paid them cash and we were all on our way!

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We took the Rt 72 bypass around Christchurch. Here are some pictures along Rt 8 as we drove to Lake Tekapo.

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Beautiful aquamarine color of Lake Tekapo

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Drove to the top of Mt John, which is on the southern end of the lake

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There are three observatories run by the University of Canterbury and a small restaurant on top

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In 2012 this area was declared an International Dark Sky Reserve, one of only five in the world

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Entering Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, Aoraki is the Maori name for Mt Cook

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Approaching Mt Cook

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Mt Cook is the highpoint of New Zealand – 3724m or 12,215 ft

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Checked into the Aoraki Court Motel at 7:30pm. We had a large modern/comfortable room with a fantastic view of the mountains

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Didn’t want to spend $60 each for dinner at the Hermitage Hotel.  So, we bought soup and crackers to prepare in our room for dinner, Special K for our morning meal and Chicken Pot Pies for lunch the next day.

 

2/7 – We awoke to a beautiful mountain view outside our window.  This was, by far, our best weather day thus far on our trip.

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We had an in-room breakfast and then did the Glencoe Walk behind the Hermitage Hotel.  Flowers along trail

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It took a half-hour and gave us a good view up the Hooker Valley – Mt Cook right center

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Did a walk through the Hermitage – cool fish on “weeping wall”

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Maori eve decoration

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Stopped by the attached Sir Edmund Hillary [first man to summit Everest, died in 2008] Alpine Center for a few pics

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View inside the museum

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It had snowed the night before we arrived so the peaks were covered in a brilliant white as we started our trek to Kea Point. The scenery was amazing.

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Flowers along trail

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The trail description stated 2 hours return and that is exactly how long it took us, i.e. 2 hours round-trip

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Platform at end of trail, Mt Sefton on left 3151m or 10,335 ft, Mueller Glacier left of center

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Found some delicious wild raspberry bushes on our way back down the trail

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After returning to the village, we toured the Aoraki/Mt Cook NP Visitors Center

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Ate microwave Chicken Pot Pies for lunch in our room and then drove up the Tasman Valley to do the Blue Lakes Walk. The lakes are now green with algae, because they are now filled with rain water instead of glacial melt.

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We then did the Tasman Glacier View Walk, which gave us a view further up the valley to the mountains. This is Tasman Lake with the Tasman Glacier at the far end.

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Returned to our room, cleaned-up and went to the Chaomis Bar & Grill for dinner.  New Zealand’s main exports are dairy products and lamb.  Our dinner selection – Southern Lamb, it was delicious.

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We ended the day pleasantly tired and full!

 

2/8 – Started at 6:30am with the moon bright above the mountains.  Photo taken from our patio.

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Drove to Omarama for a big breakfast and gas.

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Then continued on through Cromwell, which is a fruit growing area.

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They had a lot of bugs as well

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Then on to Arrowtown where we toured the historic Chinese Settlement. The Chinese came from the Canton region of China to work the gold fields and were treated as poorly as they were in the U.S.

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Village store – now Visitors Center

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The next series of pictures shows other “houses” in the village

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One of the Village desendents showed Helen how to shake a tree to get the ripe fruit.  She has a handful of little plums

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Telephone booth in Arrowtown; I bought a $9 milkshake – ummm!

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Along Rt 94 – Sheep, sheep everywhere

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Took a short hike through the Wilderness Scientific Reserve outside of Manapouri

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A unique shrubland environment of bog pine

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and racomitrium moss – it looks like dirt in photo but is very fragile

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A bit down the road we entered Fiordland, a very large World Heritage Area

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Made it to Te Anau in time to visit the Fiordland National Park Visitor Center

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Early inhabitant display

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Model of Captain James Cook’s boat the H.M.S. Resolution when he visited southwest NZ in 1774

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We then did the Lakeshore Walk to the Gates (small dam hydroelectric plant)

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Colorful, poisonous, mushrooms

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Trail passed through the Te Anau Wildlife Center, this is a Takahe, one of NZ’s flightless birds

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We hiked across the dam to the start of the Kepler Track 669

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Returning to Visitor Center – Again, in the U.S., trails are stated in miles.  In New Zealand they are stated in minutes.  Our Lakeshore Walk was listed as 60 minutes to the Gates and the same to return.  What that means is that you would get to the Gates in 60 minutes if you continued non-stop at a moderate pace.  That is exactly how long it took us even though we did stop for pictures.  Round-trip we covered about 5 miles.

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Drove to Manapouri to check into our room and discovered it was taken!  The good news is that they gave us an entire vacation house for the night instead.  Great views over the mountains and river.

 

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