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Voyages of Sarah Jean II
Biking Through the Vineyards
Beth
02/22/2012

Red wine has always been our favourite, a merlot or a cabernet sauvignon but here in New Zealand white wine is what you will find. The climate here is best suited for growing the grapes for white wine. It doesn't get hot enough for red wine grapes to mature. What an excellent opportunity for us to expand our horizons and taste some local white wines in the Marlborough region of NZ! These vineyards are near Blenheim on the South Island, only a stone's throw from the ferry from Wellington. We rented some bikes at our holiday park and off we went, vineyard map in hand.

The biking in this region is easy, quite flat and the vineyards are relatively close together. It's a very fun way to taste the wines of the region. So you ask, did we like the white wines? YES! The Savignon Blancs were our favourite, a dry white wine and very refreshing on a warm sunny day. The pinot noirs were also excellent, a lighter red wine choice. A couple of bottles of our favourites from the wine tastings were purchased to enjoy in the holiday parks as we cruise in "Gertie" down the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand!

Sam - Our Kayak Guide
Beth
02/22/2012, Abel Tasman

Our paddles dipped silently in the water beside our double kayak. We were listening to Sam tell us a story of Abel Tasman and how he discovered this beautiful corner of the world back in the 1600's. Sam is an amazing young Kiwi man who, like many others New Zealanders, loves the outdoors. In the winter he is a ski patroller on one of the South Island ski hills. During the summer you'll find him leading kayak and hiking tours in Abel Tasman National Park. I was so impressed with his knowledge of the local flora and fauna. There wasn't a bird that he did not know or a tree he could not name. We learned so much from this 23 year old!

I spotted a Pied Shag, a bird that looks like a penguin from a distance because of its white chest. Fur seal pups were frolicking on Pinnacle Rock with their moms. Most of the males had headed out to sea to fish but the adolescent males were already assuming the assertive pose with their heads tossed back, very typical of the males.

We paddle around a point and yet another beautiful beach comes into view. The water is clear and turquoise in colour. Some people are swimming but it feels cool to us who have just spent 6 months in warm tropical waters. Sam is telling us another story, about a local fellow who once owned a piece of this park but reluctantly gave it up to the government. There are very few privately owned homes in the park. It consists mostly of well kept trails and deserted beaches.

Abel Tasman National Park - a real gem. If you go kayaking there, ask for Sam. He's amazing!

The Best One Day Walk in NZ!
Beth
02/10/2012

The NZ Metservice weather report said that tomorrow would be "fine". In NZ that is supposed to mean sunshine. Well we woke up in our holiday park (campground) in the Tongariro National Park, looked outside our campervan to see only clouds and drizzle. AND it was cold - 8 degrees C, due to the high altitude. That didn't look very "fine" to us for walking what the guide book described as "The Best One Day Walk in NZ". Norm & I decided to wait another day as the forecast for the next day was "fine". Maybe the forecast would be right this time.

The next day was more of the same - clouds, fog and drizzle. Well we decided we couldn't wait forever so off we went in our layered clothing, toques and waterproof jackets. The "Tongariro Alpine Crossing" is a challenging one day 6-8 hour, 19 km hike rising up to 1886 m. You pass volcanos, climb lava flows, witness emerald lakes and experience stunning views. Well we couldn't see 10 feet in front of our face with the fog, let alone see mountains or the emerald lakes!

Mt. Ngauruhoe is called "Mt. Doom" from the movie "Lord of the Rings" that was filmed here. It's a very large, black, almost perfect dome shape mountain that we did finally see the following morning when the weather cleared. An impressive sight.

The hike was memorable despite the weather. We certainly felt like we had accomplished something significant and we hiked alongside many friendly Kiwis. The sun actually did shine in the afternoon with the fog lifting eerily to reveal the mountains in a scene that looked like it was from "Lord of the Rings".

The fatigue we felt at the end of the day was definitely worth it, but left us thinking "I wonder, where is the second best day hike in NZ?"

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
Norm
02/10/2012

Waitomo is the home of the famous Glow Worm Caves. Waitomo is the Maori word for "where water disappears into the earth" and that is exactly what happens around here. Small rivers flow down into cracks in the rocks which are mainly limestone. Over the years a huge system of caves has developed in the area, carved out by the flowing rivers. The cave we visited yesterday has an immense chamber with a vaulted ceiling over 50 feet high. It is called "The Cathedral" and is the site of concerts that accommodate up to 200 people. Performers have included the Vienna Boys Choir!

The most interesting feature of the cave is the glow worm population. These tiny larvae, about the size of a match stick, live on the roof of the caves. They glow continuously, emitting a bright blue light that attracts small flying insects that become trapped in sticky threads that hang below the worms. In the lower depths of the cave there is a large chamber through which the river stills flows. We climbed into a boat and in total silence floated down the river through the inky black chamber. The ceiling was illuminated with thousands of little bright points of light - glow worms waiting for some dinner to come along. It was really quite beautiful and reminded us of sailing under the stars in the South Pacific on a clear and moonless night.

Wonderful Waiheke Island, NZ
Beth
02/10/2012

Waiheke Island is a weekend getaway destination for New Zealanders living in Auckland. The island is a 45 minute ferry ride off the east coast of Auckland and is full of vineyards with wine tastings, beautiful beaches and ocean views. Norm & I spent a lovely couple of days here at the beginning of our road trip of New Zealand.

Our niece April said it was her favorite place in NZ, so of course we had to go and see it for ourselves. For those of you living in Vancouver, picture an upscale Saltspring Island. Waiheke has both million dollar homes with fabulous views and cottages with a bohemian flare.

We browsed the art studios, walked the hillside tracks, tasted the local wines in the vineyards and sat on sun-kissed Onetangi Beach feeling the warm NZ summer sun on our skin (wearing sunscreen of course!).

Our stay at the Waiheke Island Resort was a pre-birthday treat for me and it was totally worth it. What could be better than sitting on the porch of our cottage overlooking Palm Beach and the Pacific Ocean sipping wine from Waiheke?

Tip: Check out www.hotels.com or Expedia for some great last minute deals on hotels on Waiheke or throughout the world!

Merry Christmas!
Beth & Norm
12/24/2011, Mayne Island, BC

Wishing all our cruising friends and blog followers a very Merry Christmas!

We are now back in Vancouver, BC where we will spend the next 4 weeks enjoying Christmas with family and visiting friends in the area.

On the way home we flew through Sydney, Australia where we spent a few days. In the old Victoria Shopping Mall in the downtown area we came upon this spectacular, giant Christmas tree. The photo shows only the part you can see from the third floor! The tree goes all the way to the ground floor, completely filling the round open space in the middle of the building. It must have taken weeks to put up and decorate. Very cool!

Enjoy the holiday season. See you in the New Year for more adventures!

Beth & Norm

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