Slowin Down in Nelson
03/30/2013, Nelson, South Island, NZ
We arrived in Nelson on Friday. Had a beautiful drive over from Picton. We spent Thursday doing some wine tasting in the Blenheim/Marlborough region, and found some really nice Pinots (not our usual choice) and a few very good Chardonnays (my usual choice). We have enough wine to get us at least back across the channel to the North Island. And we scored a great room for one night while in Picton. After popping into the first decent looking motel near the harbor - the manager said "didn't you know it's Easter Weekend - don't you have a reservation anywhere?" I thought "rut row". So she made a couple of phone calls for me, and sent us across the street to the Beachcomber Inn. I'll be darned if the last room available wasn't on the first floor overlooking the harbor with 2 private balconies. And it didn't cost us anything ridiculously more than what we've been paying all around the island. We couldn't have done that good if we had planned it!
In Nelson today we just wandered around a bit, and went to the Saturday market for some fixins. The fruits and vegetables are so much cheaper in the local farmers markets around here - and extremely expensive in the stores. In fact, eating out in NZ is extremely expensive - so we are cooking about half of our meals in our room, which most have had some form of kitchenette. We also did a geochache this evening that took us to one of the most well preserved historic streets in NZ - and it was just around the block from us. The historic area went for about 3 blocks with cute little cottages on both sides built in the 1860's. We would have never discovered it had we not done the geocache. Each cottage had a unique name, and of course an address which was then plugged into a formula that gave us the coordinates for the next and final location of the geo cache. It took us a few blocks up the hill to the cathedral - which is absolutely beautiful. We are probably going to try and catch an evensong tomorrow evening there - the organ is massive and I am anxious to hear it. We also scoped out where the Catholic Church is and the time of the Easter service for tomorrow morning.
So we are starting to slow down some - getting a bit worn out from being on the road so much and dragging bags in and out of hotel rooms. The South Island had been full of really beautiful scenery, friendly kiwis, and we have really enjoyed it, but we are ready to get back north and see how things are progressing with Orcinius. We take the ferry back to Wellington on Monday, then we will gradually take our time getting back to Whangarei - with a few days in Auckland, and maybe a visit to some caves along the way. All for now!
Baldwin Street Summit Attempt
Thought I had at least better update our position before we get too far along. We just arrived tonight in Kaikouri in the NE, on the coast. We left this morning from Dunedin, and had a long 550Km drive today. Dunedin was terrific! Beautiful city! Would have liked to stay longer but the long Easter holiday weekend is sneaking up on us and we needed to make some decisions (and reservations) as things get booked up quickly here over the holiday weekends. So we have decided to spend Easter weekend in Nelson, and have a room booked there for 3 nights (which took a few hours of digging up tonight!). Tomorrow we will do some wine tasting on our way to Picton (for 1 night), then on to Nelson. We saw the coolest rocks today though - can't wait to post some photos! They are huge round boulders on the beach at Moeraki. It's amazing how big and perfectly round they are! John was even impressed! And they are not everywhere - just on a very small small section of beach on the east coast. I have never been so excited about rocks! We also attempted to drive up the steepest street in the world (Baldwin Street) this morning, in Dunedin. That's right - steeper than any street in San Francisco, or so they claim (and now I believe it to be true!). We tried to make it to the top in the van, but couldn't quite make it. Just a bit too steep for the old buggy! I thought we were going to do a back-flip on the way up! So we didn't get the certificate at the top, but at least we still have a functioning transmission!
South Island Picture Update - Part I
03/22/2013, Te Anau, NZ
Looks like I need a haircut something terrible! This is John and I today in Doubtful Sound!
Just finished uploading a bunch of pictures to the gallery - with captions! It has taken most of the night - so will update the blog with a better narrative in the next day or two.
We are currently in Te Anau. Left Queenstown yesterday - along the way we checked out the various ways one can spend hundreds of dollars for a mere few seconds of thrill (or terror as some may see it). So have not yet taken the leap! We did spend some hard earned cash on a day trip to Doubtful Sound today (via car, boat, bus, boat - back into bus, boat, and finally car back to our hotel - whew!). We plan on driving to Miford Sound tomorrow (the drive is suppose to be beautiful just getting there), but will probably not do a boat trip this time around. Plus the weather is expected to turn a bit rainy and windy starting tomorrow. So we got the best of it today - an absolutely gorgeous day in Doubtful sound, a "very rare day" so we were told as it was filled with loads of dolphins and blue skies. They only get 10 days a year this nice, and the amount of dolphin activity we saw today was also very rare. We done good!
03/17/2013, Wet but not so Wild in Wanaka
We have recovered from our commune experience, and are feeling pretty groovy. John even shared his glass of wine with me tonight - I guess we are each touched by our life experiences in different ways. But now back to the real world, it has been a wet and dreary day all day today. Made our way from Fox Glacier to Wanaka today, without many stops along the way - just too rainy to see much.
So I failed to post a blog or pics last night but I have a very good excuse. We ran into our friends on Evergreen, Heather and Jon, last night! What are the chances? Pretty darn slim I will say! (Must be all that groovy karma we've been channeling!) I just happened to be digging something out of our van around 6pm, and looked across the parking lot and happened to spot Heather digging stuff out of the back of their van! So we ended up hanging out in our cabin for the evening, doing dinner, drinking champagne, and swapping stories. It was great catching up with them. They have been site seeing the south island but traveling in the opposite direction, so it was great to get their perspective of what to see as we make our way further south then east.
We are spending one night in Wanaka (cute little town in the mountains and on a lake), but we need to get to Queenstown so John can catch a flight to Whangarei tomorrow afternoon to address Orcinius stuff. Should be back on Wednesday - his birthday! So I will have a few days to myself to concoct a celebration scheme for his return! We don't have wifi with the room tonight, so hopefully can try to post some pics from tomorrow night's hotel.
And regarding the bathroom comments from yesterday's commentor - let it be known that we had our own private bathroom last night, and I didn't have to pee a single time during the night, and neither did John. Funny how that works.
Life in the Commune
03/15/2013, Greymouth, NZ - South Island, West Coast
I almost got this blog posted last night, but ran out of battery just a few seconds prior to hitting the APPLY button. So now it is Saturday morning, John is making our sandwiches for the day (in the communal kitchen) and I am posting the blog that I thought I might have lost last night! We will be on our way to Fox Glacier this morning - and possibly heading straight on through to Queenstown as John may have to fly up to Whangarei early next week to address some boat/insurance issues. We will see how it goes after a few phone calls this morning.
So here be the blog I intended to post last night (pictures to follow hopefully tonight if we aren't to late in finding our next accommodations)...
We had a calm crossing from North (Wellington) to South Island (Picton) on Wednesday. We drove straight on through to Christchurch after getting off the ferry - only to find there was no room at the inn! Everything was booked for miles around due to a Flower show. What are the chances? First Hamilton, now Christchurch. We have perfect timing! So, on we drove way way south of town, and just before we were about to turn around and head towards Arthurs pass to try our luck in that direction - we found a little place - attached to a restaurant - attached to a bar - attached to a liquor store - with a grocery store half a block away. Perfect! And, the rooms had just been renovated in 2012 - they still smelled brand new! Nice!
Thursday we headed across Arthurs pass. It was a beautiful drive. Along the way, we did one of the shorter tramps called Devil's Punch Bowl. The waterfalls at the end were beautiful, but the steps zig zagged continuously for most of the way up - almost like climbing "the tower"! But we made it, and the view of the waterfalls at the end was well worth it. From there we drove on into Greymouth, to venture into our very first hostel experience. (Note how similar the pronunciation is to the word hostile! Just kidding).
We are staying 2 nights at a hostel called Global Village. It's a bit quirky - very colorful - and a bit like being taken back to the 60's with a hippy village atmosphere (less the music). It scored 93% in the ratings guide - which is pretty darn good. But guess what? We are the oldest folks in the entire place! Rumor has it that adults our age also frequent these establishments on a regular basis while traveling here in NZ. This is our second night, and we have yet to run across anyone else (besides the hippy proprietor) over 25. We stick out like sore thumbs. Not that everyone isn't nice enough - but we just feel a bit out of our element. And there is not en suite bathroom (no private bathroom attached to our room), only communal his and hers latrines. I was kind of hoping those days were done after making it through Officer Training School almost 30 years ago. Not so much that I mind schlepping my bathroom gear back and forth each morning, and evening. But - the midnight run (or 3 am potty run) can be a bit of an inconvenience. I think I held off almost 2 hours in the middle of the night hoping to make it til daylight, before finally giving up and making a break for it. John only made it an hour. So as interesting as this may be, and as "fun" as the ambiance looks, I think this may be our first and last hostel event for this trip (at least with communal bathrooms). But let it be known, the bathrooms are very clean - as stated in the brochure. So moving on...
Today we drove north and explored a place called Pancake Rocks (aka Punakaiki). The rock formations actually look like huge stacks of pancakes. Now that was cool! The trail through the shrubbery and rain forest was beautiful and well maintained. The views across the Tasman Sea were great - a very calm ocean out there today. Well worth the visit. We also ventured a bit further North to check out an old gold mine. We finally stumbled upon Mitchell's Gold Mine another 45 minutes north. It had great potential as a tourist stop, but was not being well maintained - all we got for our 10 bucks was a quick 5 minute run-down of how gold was mined back in the day, then we were told to move along down an overgrown path that following some old railcar tracks with a smattering of shallow tunnels and rusty hardware along the way. This could really be a cool place if they put some thought and effort into explaining what you were looking at, and telling a more in depth story behind it all. The mine itself is actually still being mined - just not actively the last few months due to the draught along the coast.
So we are back at our Global Village for one more night, then onto Fox Glacier to check out the sites and activities there for a day or two. So far the scenery has been spectacular - and we haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet! Can't wait to see and share some more!