A Travellerspoint blog

November 2011


20 November 2011

We arrived in Queenstown after a very windy ride. The mountains are totally clouded over and we’re both tired. First impressions: Queenstown isn’t hitting any buttons for us. It could be lack of sleep, mine not Jim’s. So we’ve decided to re-evaluate tomorrow but not before we walk into town (a very short walk), window shop and have a beer at Pog Mahone’s – cute little Irish pub.

21 November 2011

We woke up with a new lease on life – but Queenstown, though not a bad place will probably never be on our top 10 list. More laundry and website work (I got behind while in Te Anau), this time lunch at Pog Mahone’s. Their food smelled really great last night but we had already eaten so we decided to come back. The clouds are still hanging very low as we walk to the grocery store to pick up a few things. Chilly night and dinner was “at home” but we wandered down into town for an after dinner stroll and found this wonderful little wine bar – Bardeaux – dark lighting and a roaring fire were just what we needed.

22 November 2011

SUNSHINE!!! The first time in 3 days!! We decided since the weather had done a turnaround that before heading out of town, we’d do the Shotover Jetboat. Jim headed over and made reservations – we got in for the 11:00 trip. What was I thinking :-)!!!

Since we’d be leaving for Cromwell right afterwards, we packed up the van and made our way into town for the shuttle. All I have to say about our jet boat ride: “Corky, you drive as bad as my husband!!!” But really, it was way too much fun – 85km/hr through very narrow gorges, doing 360s and we were “lucky” enough to view it all from the FRONT seats. Afterwards, I asked Jim “who do you think I was thinking about while we were whipping around those corners?” and we both said in unison – Jay Maitland!!! Lololo

On the way to our luncheon destination is the world famous AJ Hackett Bungy Jump (NZ is the birthplace of bungy and AJ Hackett started it). I thought I really wanted to do it and Ron, I know you said I should do it but after I watched one girl flop around like a rag doll, my body just said “oh no you don’t!!” I’ll find another way to boost the NZ economy.

After making the decision not to bungy, lunch is on our menu. On a recommendation from our friends Rose and Ron, Gibbston Valley Winery is our destination for lunch. I know you all are probably sick of this but…OMG. I want to pick this place up and move it to Tucson. Simple and tastfully designed, having a familiar California wine country feel, we settled in for a late lunch. The specials were fresh lamb and venison, recommended by the server, but we were warned they would take at least 20 minutes to prepare. No worries – we said we would do a wine tasting…no worries – they’d bring it to our table. I thought “Well if we’re having wine, maybe just a little nosh to start”. Hmmm, smoked blue cod pate!! OMG x10!!!! And the lunch specials didn’t let us down either. Lucky me, while paying our check, I noticed they had the blue cod pate to go – the last one came home with us!!

One more stop before we head on to Cromwell, a little wine tasting at Chard Farm, another recommendation from Ron and Rose. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, you did not steer us wrong but you sure did cost us a little money. This little winery is not easy to get to but well worth the trip. When we pulled up outside, there was a wedding being held in the garden. We were hoping that didn’t mean the tasting room was closed – NOPE!!! Timing is everything; we got through about half of our “free” tasting before others showed up. When we left business was hoping. Remember Chard Farm - really nice Pinot Gris and marvelous Pinot Noir.

Heading north, Cromwell was our original destination but as we got nearer, we decided to keep going and headed into Wanaka: a very pretty little town right on Lake Wanaka. Our guide book shows some good hikes – it a plan for tomorrow.

Posted by pjburke 18:56 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Doubtful Sound

19 and 20 November 2011

Doubtful Sound was not on our original game plan but after two different Kiwis (thank you Judy and Alison), told us it was their favorite, we decided to go for it. We could have done Doubtful on a day trip but decided to treat ourselves with an overnight. In hindsight, it was a wonderful decision.

The cruise left out of Manapouri, which is about 20km south of Te Anau. There was a parking lot where we could leave our van overnight – no charge.

The first leg of our journey left Manapouri about 12noon and was a boat trip that crossed Lake Manapouri to the West Arm port. The sun was out and though it was chilly on the top level, I couldn’t go below and miss a single view. This is also the location of the Manapouri Power Station. Some tours include the power station (ours did not) but since we’ve been to Hoover Dam, it wasn’t a deal breaker for us.

From there we were transferred to buses for the 30 minute ride over the mountain to Deep Cove with a couple photo stops. From the sights of these first few stops, I knew we were in for a treat.

We arrived into Deep Cove and waiting for us is the Fiordland Navigator. From first contact with Real Journeys (the tour company), we found nothing but a very high level of professionalism that is not only good, but relaxed and fun!!

The ship sleeps 70 and I think we were at about 66. Safety first (of course), which meant we all met in the Main Salon for a quick briefing and we were then directed to our cabins. Since this was just one night, we opted for the quad share (four to a cabin). Kinda like being back in Vietnam…only better! We went below and found our cabin and met our “mates” – Americans…imagine that: Wainani and Lucas from Hawaii – we really lucked out. We hit it off right away and spent a lot of the cruise time together.

After getting settled, first things first, warm chocolate chip muffins in the main salon along with coffee and tea.

There was so much packed into 20 hours, it’s hard to describe. Decisions – tender ride with a naturalist or kayaking and/or swimming…or not. The weather was nice for our first afternoon but we’re told it was supposed to rain over night. Even better, that means on our 2nd day it will be a Waterfall Wonderland.

After leaving our safe harbor, the ship headed out Malaspina Reach, into Doubtful Sound and out to open water. We were able to see white crested penguins, fur seals and, for about 30 minutes, continued to head out into the Tasman Sea after a hump back whale was sighted. We were able to get fairly close and got a brief glimpse of it diving but unfortunately it didn’t breach again after its first sighting.

Dinner was a little late starting due to our whale adventure but no one cared. We grabbed a corner seat with Wainani and Lucas for the “soup” course. OMG – yummy veggies soup and even yummier (if that is even a word) tomato pumpkin soup. Good start!!

Dinner was wonderful: 4 or 5 different types of salad, rice, a couple different types of potatoes, a veggies dish, green lipped mussels, salmon, lamb, chicken, beef – I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. And if that wasn’t enough: five different kinds of dessert.

After dinner there was a photo presentation by another of the naturalist crew member. Jim and I skipped it and headed to the cabin. Beds were comfortable and all went pretty well until Jim’s snoring took over. That was the end of sleep for me that night (and some others since there were only curtains – not doors on the cabins.)

All was forgiven after a wonderful breakfast and the first sighting of the gazillion waterfalls. We found out from the captain that we had over 6” of rain overnight.

The morning was spent in awe gazing at the water wonderland.

Sadly, we departed the Navigator, boarded the buses enroute back to Manapouri. Good byes to Wainani, Lucas, Don and Roz!!!

Right on time, the boat pulls in about 11:30am and we’re off to Queenstown thankful that we made the decision to “do Doubtful”.

Posted by pjburke 20:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Heading up the West Coast

17 November 2011

Te Anau

It all has to do with the weather. We knew that this would be a work day: laundry etc. At breakfast, we watched the rain come down so hard it looked like hail but then within an hour later the sun was trying to peak through so we decided to try and do an afternoon hike. After a stop at the Fiordland National Park office, we made our way to the Rainbow Reach entrance to the Kepler Track. It’s about half way between Te Anau and Manapouri (about 5 miles outside Te Anau).

Things are going our way. The sun isn’t exactly coming out …but it’s not raining: off we go. We had a really good hike. It’s about 90 minutes to the Shallow Bay Hut one way. The hike is fairly flat and very “fairylandish” with all the moss. Check out the photos! For those LOTR (Lord of the Rings) fans, some of the filming was done in this area and I could pick out spots that were familiar. Pretty cool!!

18 November 2011

Milford Sound

Set the alarm for “early”: the bus arrived at 0800 to pick us up for our Milford Sound Tour. Normally, we don’t take tours of this type but we’ve heard that the sights are great but the road pretty winding. That would mean that the person driving saw the road while the other saw the sights – not fair. Go Milford is a new company that was recommended by Karen in Lorneville, who work in conjunction with Southern Discoveries Cruises. We’ve found sometimes the “new guy” tries a bit harder. Don’t know if that was the case, but we were really happy with Go Milford. Our bus was small (good), our driver Reece was funny and very knowledgeable (good) and the weather was fantastic. What more could we ask for?
We’ve been told that Milford Sound is a “must do” and I have to agree. The natural beauty of the Sound is incredible. I’m going to let the photos stand on their own. Also, we got really lucky and the sandflies weren’t too bad!!!

Milford Sound Waterfall

Milford Sound Waterfall

Posted by pjburke 20:21 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

The Southern Scenic Route

Surat Bay, Lorneville and Te Anua

14 November 2011

Leaving Portobello, we can see Arlene and Don’s (friends from Saddlebrooke) ship across the bay – we waved… (Arlene and Don did you see us???)

We headed up Highcliff Road into Anderson’s Bay and back to the cemetery.

I spoke with a lovely lady in the Cemetery Office who gave me information regarding who was buried in the two plots we visited yesterday.

Regarding my “search for dead relatives: Correction of previous info: Ebenezer Jackson. He did emigrate in 1862 with his wife and son (not brother) William. John and Frank were also sons (not brothers) who were born in NZ. Ebenezer did have a brother Robert, who also emigrated to NZ and died in Oamaru in 1917. I was able to get some information on William, Frank and John. Not sure if it’s new information though, I have to wait until I get back to the US to check my notes. The woman at the Cemetery Office also provided me with some other sources in New Zealand where I might find information, it was a good stop.

As a side note, Anderson’s Bay Cemetery has a very beautiful view of the coast south of Dunedin.

Onward, we traveled the Southern Scenic Route that lead us out of Dunedin towards our next stop (in the search for more dead relatives) Waitahuna. Waitahuna is not really a town more of a crossroads, but it’s very close to Milton. We stopped at the Milton Visitor’s Center which also has a museum. They were able to tell me right where I could locate the cemetery.

Before heading off, a coffee stop was in order. Across from the visitor center/museum is the West Side Café, run by Lorraine and her husband (I didn’t catch his name). With our coffee and homemade date scones, we chatted with them for about 45 minutes. We talked about NZ, US politics, all sorts of thing. Very nice couple and the scones were yummy.

Off to Waitahuna, off Route 1, just past Milton and up Route 8 about 20km, Garmin led us to the cemetery. I’m not sure we would have found it on our own. It’s a small plot of land, down a side road, set among a few sheep farms. I was able to find Ebenezer Jackson’s grave. In the Jackson family plot were Ebenezer, Robert (? son), William (?grandson), Laurintine (? daughter in law) and Catherine (? wife). It was a nice side trip but I’m not sure if it will lead to any further discoveries. Ebenezer, are you my great, great, great uncle???

Completing my genealogy task, we forged onward towards our next destination: the New Haven Holiday Park on Surat Bay (on recommendation from Alex at Moeraki Boulders). Traffic was light and it was a beautiful day to follow the southern coast.

We arrived midafternoon and were lucky to get our pick of the camping sites. When we asked Lynden (the owner) which one he would pick, he suggested #1. OMG!!! We pulled over to the site and we had a full view of Suret Bay out to the ocean. Over wine at sunset, we tried to think of reasons to delay our next day departure. But alas, we decided there was so much more of NZ to see.

15 November 2011

Our project this morning, before continuing on our trip was to replace the small space heater that died the night before. Having turned into “Arizona wimps”, this was a priority. We stopped at the local hardware store in Owaka just on the off chance that they would sell them. Lucky stop! They didn’t sell them, but the woman who worked there directed us across the street to the Four Square Grocery store: she had seen them on sale just a few days before. Four Square is bigger than 7-11 but smaller than a full sized grocery. They remind me of the White Star Market, which was a small neighborhood market down the street where I grew up but I digress. We got the last one- yeah!!

With our precious heater tucked away, we headed southwest. We knew it would be a leisurely travel day with a few stops. Our first stop was Purakanui Falls which was recommended by our friend Judy, in Little Akaloa. Short walk in; it was a nice stop with pretty falls. Next stop, McLean Falls, about 3km in on a gravel road and then about a 20 minute walk to the falls: also a nice diversion on a day trip. We decided to check out Curio Bay because we had read that there was a nice little camp ground right near the water. By the time we got there, the wind had really picked up and it was starting to rain. The site was nice but after New Haven (we’d been spoiled), we decided to move on to Invercargill.

I’d read about a little park, just outside Invercargill in Lorneville. Well, we just had to stay there!!! Having a friend named Lorne, at home, turned out to be lucky for us.

Lorneville Holiday Park is a great little place. We were greeted by Karen Bellow, one of the owners. She is extremely friendly, a wealth of knowledge and made us feel right at home. We were invited (as all guests are) out to feed the lambs at 6pm but a really good (or bad) storm came through and squashed those plans.

16 November 2011

We woke to beautiful blue skies and decided to take Karen’s recommendation to head down to Bluff, the “almost” most southern point on continental New Zealand. Slope Point is actually the most southern point but we would have hit it right in the middle of the storm we traveled through the previous day. The idea of 32km on a gravel road was not appealing at all.

Karen came into the kitchen as we were having breakfast and told us that a lamb had been born just a few hours earlier and we were invited to come take a look. Also, Gary Tong is Karen’s partner, in life and business. She and I had exchanged some personal info the day before and she had told him that I used to work in emergency services. He currently works as one of the coordinators, for New Zealand’s Southern District Civil Defense Office and they have recently opened a new center. I was invited to come take a look, if I was interested. We decided we would try and make it on our way back from Bluff.

It’s about a 30 minute ride from Lorneville to Bluff. We couldn’t believe how lucky we got, it’s a beautiful day. Our first stop was Lookout Point, almost the most southern point in NZ. There is a nice little park and a walk way to a small lighthouse. There is also a very unique bathroom facility along the small trail. It made me laugh, so I just have to share. Note: I took a video and am trying to download it but in case I can’t – here is the description. It’s all push button: to open the door, to close the door, to get toilet paper (you get a pre-measured amount) and to flush. The washing facility is all motion activated: the soap, the water and the air dry, all the while you have music playing in the background, “What the world needs now is love”. It just made me smile.

From Lookout Point we headed up a “very” steep hill to a wonderful view point. In nasty weather, it would not be very unpleasant up there, but we were able to see almost the whole southern coast, Stewart Island to the south and just a glimpse of the Southern Alps to the north.

Our next stop, the Maritime Museum: though small, has a great amount of information about the Bluff area. Jim was chatting with the curator while I was taking my time in the museum and the subject of Bluff oysters came up. Bluff oysters are supposed to be THE BEST oysters but to Jim’s disappointment it was just after the season. His disappointment turned to delight when the curator made a few calls and found some up in Invercargill at King’s Fish Market. At that point, we both knew where lunch would be.

We made it to Kings in record time and “yes” they had oysters. They batter them and todays special came with chips and cold slaw: a bit dear at $16.00 but a price well paid. I opted for Blue Cod fish and chips and I would say they rivaled Lockies in Hampden. Jim also noticed something called “Smoked Salmon Nibblers” in their fish case. We got “a couple of hand fulls”. Oh my…they just about melted in your mouth. Wish we had got a few more “hand fulls”. We took our takeaway over to a park just down the street, found an empty bench and enjoyed the lovely sunny, warm afternoon.

Our route out of town, took us right by Gary’s office, so we decided to stop in. Gary graciously shows us around. Their Emergency Management Center is small but state of the art and was just opened last year. They use the SIMS system which is pretty much the way I remember Rochester and Carlsbad. Jim thought we were going to their dispatch center (I knew we weren’t) and we’re told there are only three centers in New Zealand: Christchurch for the whole South Island and Wellington and Auckland in the North Island but with their National Police Force and Fire Department – it works well.

Our thanks to Gary for the tour and we continued on the Scenic Southern Route towards Te Anau.

Te Anau is a pretty little town which sits at the southern end of Lake Te Anau, the South Island’s largest lake. We stayed at the Te Anau Great Lakes Holiday Park. Another great find: the park is a two minute walk to town, huge kitchen and lounge area. We checked in, got information about the Milford Sound and the Doubtful Sound and went for a beer to mull over our possibilities. It wasn’t what we had originally planned but we booked a day trip on Milford Sound for the 18th and an overnight cruise on the Doubtful Sound for the 19th and 20th.

Posted by pjburke 21:21 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

....and my search for "dead relatives"

10 November 2011

We said our good-byes to Alex (owner of Moeraki Boulders) and his adorable son Sven and we head south towards Dunedin. Our day trip took us to the Moeraki Boulders, the Katiki Point Lighthouse and Shag Point before we get into Dunedin. The boulders are an interesting phenomenon. More orbs than boulders, they appear to be half hidden in the sand and can only be reached three hours either side of low tide. A couple of these unique rocks were older, broken open and were hollow. Not being able to really explain “why” these boulders occur, walking along the beach, back to the van, Jim and I made up our own story – it was something along the line of aliens. On such a long trip together, we do what we can to amuse ourselves.

Dunedin is a pretty little city set along the Otago Harbour. We found a parking spot (not too difficult) and head to the i-Site (aka Visitor’s Center). We’ve really found NZ’s Visitor’s Centers to be very valuable: this one in Dunedin, especially so. We were helped by a wonderful woman named Jane. Her enthusiasm was infectious and her recommendations changed our plans, just a little, but I’m sure for the better. With info in hand, we headed off to Speight’s (brewery) for a late lunch. We could have done the tour, but Jim was hungry “now”. Good beer, good food and now off to find our home for the next two night – Aaron’s Lodge Top 10 Holiday Park. It’s about a ten minute drive from the city center.

The wind really picked up this afternoon, so much so that the van shook with each blast – about every ten minutes. Given the weather, we set up the van, I checked on the internet and it was a quiet evening for P and J.

11 November 2011

The wind continued to blow heavily throughout the night, maybe that was why I woke up a little grumpy today. The skies were about as grey as my mood, so it was a good museum day.

On the recommendation of our camp site host, we find the car park (after a few tries down one way streets) at the Railway Station - $5NZ for the whole day – good deal. The Rail Station is a beautiful building and we take some time walking through a small gallery on the second floor.

Food, never being far from our minds, leads us up to the Octagon area and to George St. I think I failed to mention that Dunedin is a university city and being so compact means good, inexpensive food is readily available. Jim found an Indian restaurant in LP (Lonely Planet) but when we find it – it was closed. We decided to head towards the museum (which is located right next to the university) and see what else was available. Our luck, another Indian restaurant – Taj Mahal! $10NZ lunch special – main/rice/naan/mango lassi or Coke – good deal!!! I chose the Dhansak Chicken (I actually got lamb but that was OK). Jim had the Fenugreek Chicken and an order of Ajwain parantha (a naan type bread with Ajwain spices inside) and we shared Lamb Samosas. All I can say is “YUM”. My mood is lightening up already!!

Off to the Otago Museum and with the rain starting, it was an excellent way to spend the afternoon. Nice museum, if you’re in town. Check it out!!

With the rain still falling, we headed back to the holiday park, both thinking a walk out for a beer might be a good idea. As we walked out the holiday park we noticed, “Sports Bar and Bistro” across the street. Note: sports bars in NZ are not exactly like sports bars in the US. We watch sports – the New Zealanders bet on them. It’s more like OTB with beer and food. Quirky little place with interesting people – fun for a beer and as we head back to the holiday park – it’s not raining…..it’s pouring!! Huddled in our little hovel, we find sleep with the sound of rain on our rooftop.

12 November 2011

Happy Birthday to Terry Conner (#50) and Scott Kuffer (older than 50) lololo!!!!

With the recommendation from Jane at the i-Site, we decide to spend a couple of days out on the Otago Peninsula. All accounts say it’s beautiful with some good, short walks.

We head out of our holiday park and into Dunedin. (It’s raining at our campground but not 5 minutes down the road, it looks like it hasn’t rained at all….NZ!!)

Our first stop was the Otago Settler’s Museum. I thought it would be pretty interesting. But it is closed for renovations – boo!! Our next stop is the Saturday Farmer’s Market at the Railway Station. If you’re in Dunedin on a Saturday – make it a priority to get here. It’s not huge (like Rochester’s or Boston’s Public Markets) but it’s quality over quantity. We picked up some great veggies, fruits, lamb, bread and Jim’s new favorite, dukkah.

Off to the Otago Peninsula and our next home, the Portobello Tourist Campground. We checked in and check out our site. This campground is compact and nicely situated down a quiet street within walking distance to Portobello Harbour and a couple of taverns, restaurants, take aways, etc.
The sun has come out and it’s a perfect day for the Sandymount track (aka hike). It was an interesting drive but I’ll let the photos tell the story. At one point, Jim looked up and said, “I think I can see the Shire!!”

Dinner this night was the lamb and veggies from the Farmers Market – so good!!!

A little wine and Jim kicked my butt in cards – I’m getting used to it :-)

13 November 2011

Today is “catch up” day. It’s kind of grey, so we decide it’s a good day to do laundry (with such rainy weather – we go through our warmer clothes more than usual) and as I type this I’m actually up to date on the website (when I get a chance to post – hopefully tomorrow).

This afternoon we’re going to the Anderson’s Bay Cemetery. I guess this would be a good time to explain, as Jim refers to it, my “search for dead relatives”.
For about the last year, I’ve gotten into family genealogy (both mine and Jim’s). Some lines have been traced before (Thank You Aunt Eileen) with great success. Others, not so much!! Anyone who is doing or has done genealogy research knows that sometimes to find info, you just have to follow any path possible; some things you actually have documented facts, some things are process of elimination, some guessing. This side trip right now, here in NZ, is based on a guess. I’m hoping to find information, that might lead me to more information, that would tell me that the person I’m research is actually a family member or to help me disprove my theory.

Fact: my grandfather on my Dad’s side (Harry Arthur Gregory – whose actual name was Thomas – but that’s another story) was born in Liverpool England in 1884. His father was Henry Gregory, his mother Janet Dickson Gregory. Janet Dickson’s father was John Dickson and she was born in Scotland about 1950. This I know to be true.

Theory: Through process of elimination of many Janet Dickson’s (whose father was John). I found one person that I “think” “might” be my great, great grandmother. She would be Janet Jackson Dickson – Kinross Scotland. Janet Jackson had many brothers and sister, four of which (Ebenezer, John, William and Frank) immigrated to NZ in the 1860’s. William and Frank are buried in the Anderson’s Bay Cemetery. John in Southern Cemetery in Dunedin. Ebenezer is buried in the Waithuna Cemetery where there is a family plot (we’ll visit that tomorrow – on our way to the Catlins).

…back at the campground and we did find the graves of Frank and John but unfortunately nothing more than that. I was hoping there might be other Jackson’s. On our way out of Dunedin tomorrow we’re going to stop back at the cemetery to check with their office to see if there is any further info. It will be interesting (for me) to see what they might have.

More to follow…….

Posted by pjburke 20:29 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Oamaru, Hampden and Moeraki

Makiing out way down the east coast

08 November 2011

We’re off towards the east coast – warm in Twizel but getting colder and greyer as we get close to Oamaru. Our first stop was the Whitestone Creamery. Their cheese is really good and we do a “cheese tasting” with our coffee and take some of our favorites away with us. A stop at the grocery store and since it was starting to rain we headed south (about 12km) to the campsite that was recommended at the Visitors Site in Kurow – Moeraki Boulders Holiday Park (formerly Hampden Beach Motor Camp)- a nice little find.

Hampden is a “very little” town just north of Moeraki. The holiday park is right next to the beach. (From our van we could hear the waves crashing on the beach). After catching up on the website and making reservations for Fleur’s Place for tomorrow, we walked to the beach and up into town for dinner. We thought we’d have dinner at The Tavern but after a beer, it was more of a “drinkin’ ” place than “eatin” place. Lockies, just across the street, had also been recommended for fish and chips take away. Good recommendation – we ordered Blue Cod (battered and crumbed) with chips for $15NZ and it was back to the van: food, wine and cards.

09 November 2011

It was raining when we left Hampden enroute to Oamaru for the day. Fortunately for us, as we head north the rain stopped. It seems Hampden has its own little “wet” microclimate.

Oamaru (about 12,000 people), has a nicely preserved historic area with little shops tucked into old storefronts. It was fun to wander in and out chatting with the store keepers.

Later in the afternoon we headed back to the campground: it’s still raining in Hampden. Jim decided to hunker down in the van for little reading. There is an old cemetery just beyond our campground that I wanted to have a look at. I have this thing about cemeteries. They tell such a story about an area, especially the smaller ones. Usually, cemeteries are pretty quiet but I share my quiet time with a man mowing the grass in the rain.

Fleur’s Place is on our agenda for dinner this. This little restaurant was featured on a PBS show we had watched last year some time. It was one of those – “when we get to NZ – someday – we’ll have to go there”. Well, we are and we did and it was wonderful. Sitting on the harbor front in Moeraki, Fleur’s looks more like a large fisherman’s building from the outside. Don’t let that fool you. Fleur (yes, she’s a real person) and her staff serve up some the freshest seafood we’ve ever eaten. The interior is inviting with it’s dark wood and candlelight. There are two floors with about 12 tables total (there is more seating outside but not for a day like today), our table (when making reservations, I was asked where I’d like to sit) looked out on to the beautiful harbor. Jim had the Blue Cod special and I had the Seafood Hotpot. Jim’s was really good….mine was great!!! The hotpot was served with a saffron broth, fish and a ton of seafood. There were a couple of shellfish I had to ask for help identifying. Welt is not very common in Arizona. Thanks to Fleur’s for a very special culinary delight!!

Posted by pjburke 20:16 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and Twizel

06 November 2011

Out of Tekapo and onward. Our next destination was Twizel about 30km southwest. Pronounced, not like the licorice –but Tw –eye- zel, (I was corrected by the lady at the Visitor’s center). We checked in at the Twizel Holiday Park (formerly the Parkland Alpine Tourists Park). We were greeted by one of the new owners, Jane (very pleasant lady) who helped us pick out our spot, we paid and off we went to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. The weather is beautiful: a little cool (maybe high 50’s low 60’s) but the sun is shining. It’s about 56km up to Mt Cook (highest mountain peak in NZ); with photo stops along the way it took us about an hour. Jim had decided that he would like to do a tour with Glacier Explorers that would take us out on to the lake at the base of the Tasman Glacier. We signed up for the 2:00pm tour, but first….lunch.

The Hermitage is the large hotel at the center of the Mt Cook Village. The original building was actually built about 2km away in the Hooker Valley in 1887. It survived until 1913 when it was victim to a flood. Rebuilt in its current location, again not so lucky, it burnt down in 1957. Rebuilt, again, the building is unlike many of the main National Park hotels in the US. It’s very nice and seems to be built to blend into the beauty of the surrounding mountain region. Inside is the tour desk, a large restaurant, a café and the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center (which has a museum, planetarium and 3D movie theater-which might have been our destination if the weather hadn’t been so nice).

We opted for lunch in the café. For anyone traveling in this area, if you’re there on a Sunday, in the café, they do a Lamb Dinner every Sunday. Don’t let the cafeteria style dining put you off - $15NZ for lamb, potatoes, roasted veggies and a roll, it was delicious and as I told the manager – so far, the best dining deal in NZ. As a little added bonus, the view was magnificent!!!

2pm and we met the bus and our guides, off for our glacier boat ride. It’s about a 20 minute ride to the Tasman Glacier site, we’re suited up in our life vests and we head out onto the lake in our bright yellow boats. Good tour!! The sites are impressive as we float in and around the icebergs. It was much more educational that I thought it would be. Jerry (from Ireland) filled us in on iceberg “info”: where they came from, where they’re going. We also met a young British couple, who we found out later, he was starting work for Glacier Explorers in a few days. For him training is about five weeks long and they will live, work and eat at the Village for the summer. They also plan on coming back next summer. Unfortunately, they don’t want old American couples!!!

07 November 2011

Website work in the morning and then back to Mt Cook for a couple of small hikes – Beautiful day!!!!!!!! Started out with long pants and polartecs and ended up with shorts and t-shirts.

At the view point of our second hike we talked with some students from China. I was wearing my HUST t-shirt and they asked if we were teachers. They knew of HUST, were from different parts of China and were all currently working in Singapore. As we were about to leave, who came walking up but the British couple from yesterday – check out their photo. (Note to the British couple - if you read this: We never got your names!!)

Trip back to Twizel was pretty windy but by the time we got back to the holiday park it had calmed down and I noticed some different cloud formations. It’s strange but clouds here seem “different”. Can’t explain it – they just do. After dinner and chatting with a very nice couple from Holland (he is an MD and will be in Tucson in December for a conference – small world), I noticed the sunset and the clouds combined were especially beautiful. So unusual that many of our fellow campers were out just staring at the sky. Probably some of the most beautiful clouds I’ve ever seen. WOW!!

Posted by pjburke 20:08 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Lake Tekapo

04 Nov 2011

We had a wonderful night sleep. Even though we had only been in the campervan a few nights, it was still a welcome break. Breakfast, a quick look at the upcoming weather and we were off. Many, many thanks to Judy and Owen for their incredible hospitality, our visit with you will always be one of the highlights of our NZ trip.

Westbound over the Summit Road again and the wind started to pick up and continued steadily rising as we traveled. Jim was driving but I was glad he was as we traveled up and over the winding roads. Our original destination for the day was Geraldine but it was still early when we got there so we continued on to Lake Tekapo. After checking with the Visitor’s Center and finding that there is only one campground with powered sites – we headed to Lake Tekapo Holiday Park. It’s a nice park with awesome views of Lake Tekapo.

05 Nov 2011

During the night, I woke up and glanced outside to check on the weather. I wasn’t expecting to see such a huge number of stars – it was like being back in AZ only x2!!! And right in my line of sight was the Southern Cross – bright and brilliant!!!

The weather is holding so we decided to make the hike to St John’s Observatory. It’s very close – about a 45 minute hike from the camp ground with most of it being a steep uphill climb. We made it and were rewarded with some of the best views I’ve ever seen. The sky was cobalt blue with the snow draped NZ Alps all around. Again, words escape me – check out the photos!!

Stopping at the top and getting out of the wind in the St John’s Observatory Café, we warmed ourselves (inside and out) with a hot drink and homemade muffins and scones, before heading back down the mountain. We opted for a longer but gentler route which we made most of the way without seeing any other people.

The Observatory has an evening program which we checked out, but the earliest time is 2145 with a more extensive program starting at 2315, which is just beyond out bedtime. Also, having Kit Peak in our backyard at home – we’ll save that experience for when we get home.

Posted by pjburke 19:33 Archived in New Zealand Comments (4)

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