A Travellerspoint blog

December 2011

Telegraph Message from Mandalay

To all our family and friends (stop)

Myanmar trip going well (stop)

Left Bagan at 0600 and arrived in Mandalay at 1800 (stop)

Will update further from Bangkok or Bali (stop)

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year!!!! (stop)

Love , Patty and Jim (...no stopping that)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne* ?

For auld lang syne, my jo (or my dear),
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Posted by pjburke 19:14 Archived in Myanmar Comments (7)

New Zealand Wrap Up

all seasons in one day
View On the Road Again ...2011 on pjburke's travel map.

As I write this, I’ve just heard that there has been another earthquake in Christchurch. Mother Nature is definitely not in the holiday spirit. Our thoughts and prayers for your safety go out to our friends and all those that made our stay so memorable.

What can I say about our seven weeks in New Zealand??? It was wonderful!? That just doesn’t seem to sum it up very well.

The sights, the people, the nature, the food – all wrap up into a very special package.

From the time we touched down in Auckland and shortly afterwards where I had my first flat white through the next 51 days, New Zealand revealed to us her many different facets.

No offense (or offence as the Kiwis would write) to the North Island, but the South Island will always hold a special place in our hearts. There are less people, less crazy drivers (though the South Island has its share) but it’s not really what the South Island has less of – it’s what it has more of. There is more of openness, both literally and figuratively. It’s really very hard to describe. Hopefully from what I’ve written and the photos that are posted you’ve been able to get a little of that “Kiwi feeling” that made this part of our journey so special to us.

We’ve listed some (but by no stretch all) of our favorites:

Drinks: Flat white, L and P, NZ wines (especially Chard Farms and Moana Park)

Food from the sea: Green Lipped Mussels, whitebait, salmon, blue cod and just about anything that swims in the waters off NZ

Biggest Surprises: WIND!! , the price of gas and food but especially gas!!

New (to us) foods: Lisa’s Dips!! (hummus with kumara and pumpkins seeds), Dukkah, kumara, yams

NZ Lamb: shoulder, sausage with mint, roast and especially the three hour old lamb in Lorneville

Markets – Dunedin, Wellington, Nelson Biggest Surprises: WIND!! , the price of gas and food but especially gas

People: Colin and Courtney,Judy and Owen, Alison and Vaughn (sorry we never got up to Keri Keri), Ryan and the group at Haka Lodge, the girl at 4Square Market who filled us in on her Xmas shopping problems for her two year old niece, our wine server at Brancott (outside of Blenheim) who we found out is also the wife of a police officer, the crew at Southland Civil Defence, the docent at the Mariners Museum in Bluff who called over (without being asked) to find Jim Bluff oysters, the owners of the West End Café in Milton, Stephan in Nelson who has given me a new hobby to pursue, all the holiday park owners and employees (a special shout out to Karen and Gary and Pat and Paul) and all the wonderful “travelers” we met: some traveling in pairs, with children and also solo– Ireland, Estonia, England, Australia, Holland, Germany, New Zealand, America, Canada, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Italy

Special memories: dolphins and orcas and Hobbits, glaciers, icebergs, Doubtful and Milford Sounds, penguins, seals, empty beaches, Mt Cook, Lake Tekapo.

Seeing how big the “people” section of our memories is, really puts into perspective the fact that, you can have the most beautiful landscape in the world and the most wonderful food but without the wonderful people …might as well be the moon!!!

Thank you New Zealand!!!!!!

Posted by pjburke 20:37 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

New Zealand's North Island


11 December 2011

Strange but we slept pretty well in the parking lot. Te Papa (Wellington’s Museum) was recommended multiple times in the course of our trip. It seemed like a good day to give it a try. There was also a Sunday Market right next door that we checked out before heading to the museum. With the exception of Motueka’s market (which we saw out of season, in the pouring rain), all of New Zealand’s Markets have been great – Wellington was no exception. If we knew we were staying in Wellington, we would have waited on veggies instead of buying at the grocery store in Blenheim. There was also an area that was just food trucks and stalls. After spending about 2 hours in Te Papa, we headed back to the market for lunch (me: venison sausage sandwich and some dumplings – Jim: bratwurst and an empanada) and then back to Te Papa to catch a few more exhibits. It’s a wonderful museum – I would now be one of those definitely recommending it as a stop.

From Te Papa, we headed over to St Paul’s Church and then we caught the last tour of the day at the Capital (aka The Beehive). Very interesting – I would recommend both!!

12 December 2011

Leaving Wellington and off to Napier we encountered the most traffic we’ve seen in six weeks. The north island is definitely different than the south. No offence, but right now, we’re both missing the south island.

The trip to Napier was about four and a half hours. Long trip for us!! Strange how travel times seem so much longer in NZ than in the states. We decided to stay at the Kennedy Park Top 10 Holiday Park. Nice place, really pretty big with good facilities.

Dinner and played some cards – that’s it…

13 December 2011

We headed into downtown Napier just about the same time that the cruise ship pulled into port. There were people everywhere. We did a short walking tour of some the Historic Art Deco buildings but decided to head out and do a wine tasting (or two) and then head back to the downtown area later.

Our first stop was Mission Winery (established in 1851 – the first winery of NZ) for a quick tasting before a large bus load of people pulled up. We asked for a recommendation for one more stop and we were directed to Moana Park Winery– great recommendation!! Moana Park is a little outside of Napier but well worth the drive. They are small but select on the wines they produce. If you’re in the area….go!!

Back to Kennedy Park, dinner in (we never made it back to the historic district). I worked on the website and Jim found a small grocery and the location of a post office. Rather than carry extra stuff that our friend Priscilla had brought over for us, we decided to mail a box home. We’ll take care of that in the morning before we head out.

14 December 2011

Breakfast, Post Office (with the help of some wonderful Postal employees) and we’re on our way to Taupo. Another four hour ride, we arrive to grey skies and the smell of sulfur. Our stay at the All Seasons Holiday Park was nice. The HP is just far enough outside of town, with the rain, we need to drive back in to look around. One of our favorite rainy day activities is catching a movie and we’re lucky that there is a cinema in Taupo. It was a good night for a little romantic comedy. We saw Midnight in Paris, sorry Owen, not Academy Award level but fun none the less….and the rain continued on and off for the rest of the evening.

15 December 2011

Rain continued all night – pretty heavy at times. Out of Taupo about 10am, heading towards Rotorua, got there and decided to keep going up to Papamao (on the Bay of Plenty), just outside Tauranga. No special reason for going here – “just because”.

On our drive up, the weather was terrible: pouring rain and strong winds. But also of concern were news reports we were catching on the radio of flooding and landslides in the Nelson and Abel Tasman area. We had just been there a week ago!! We have wonderful memories of people and places from that part of our trip. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all (locals and travelers) in that area – hoping they remain safe.

As I wrote this portion, we were in our van at the Papamao Beach Top 10 – the wind was howling, raining sideways and sea was churning a shade of light brown.

We drifted off to sleep with the surf pounding the shoreline and the wind rocking our van - not in a good way!

16 December 2011

SUN!!!!!!! Glorious, beautiful sun with the beautiful blue Tasman Sea as its foreground!!! We had no clue but there really is a beautiful beach just in front of us.

Good day for a little walk….with Hobbits!!!!! We’re off to Matamata for our tour of Hobbiton. Being a fan (not a fanatic) of LOTR…I thought the tour was just great. The rain held off for our whole trip. The movie set was mostly dismantled after LOTR back around 2002ish but has been reconstructed for the current filming of The Hobbit. It was very cool – but unfortunately, the real cool part is visual and I signed my life away (read: confidentiality agreement) – sooooo ….no photos. Sorry!! But it was really cool!!!

From there, we headed to Auckland. Again the weather gods were unkind – it just poured until we got right into Auckland proper. We’re staying at the Avondale Motor Camp, doing laundry and cleaning out the van to hand it back in tomorrow.

Can’t believe our time in NZ is over!! Jim and I both agreed, as we were driving today, that our time here has gone so fast. Must mean we had a really good time – but that really goes without saying. I can’t speak for Jim but for me, NZ has been so much more than I could have ever imagined: sights, colors, food, and people!! I’m really quite sad to be leaving.

17 December 2011

The NZ weather gods didn’t disappoint us – as a final good-bye it rained most of last night.

We cleaned out the van, put a bag of warm clothes together for the Salvation Army and packed our backpacks, surprisingly with some room to spare.

The motor camp wasn’t too far from our van drop off and being Saturday morning, traffic was pretty light. Dropping off the van, was an easy in and out and their shuttle dropped us off at out last accommodation in New Zealand, the Skyway Lodge. It’s a backpacker guesthouse close to the airport, with shuttle service, inexpensive Wi-Fi and a real bed!!!! It has rained most of the afternoon, Jim is taking a nap and I’m getting out last minute travel plans done.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, we’ll be in Singapore tomorrow afternoon!!!

Posted by pjburke 18:21 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

North of the South....and South of the North

Heading to Wellington from the South Island

View On the Road Again ...2011 on pjburke's travel map.

Update: Today is actually the 17th of December and we're in Auckland. We've been out of email contact for a few days and I've just learned that our good friend and neighbor Mike is in the ICU in very serious condition. Our prayers and best wishes are with Diane and Mike at this very difficult time. Please keep them in your thoughts.

08 December 2011

Bye to Lynn (sorry I woke you up :-)) …. Southbound!!! At that point, we weren’t really sure where we’d end up. We were thinking Totaranui (part of AT) for a couple of days but as we got closer to the turn off – we decided to keep going -we just weren’t feeling it. We got into Takaka and headed to the i-Site. Decision time was here – when to go to the North Island? No big revelation, but we decided on Saturday the 10th.
Reservations are made –no changing our mind now.

It was a good day to drive, very little traffic, the roads dry and the sun was out for most of the trip. Last week, we had wanted to stop in Havelock (Green Lipped Mussel Capital) on our way north but being just 30 minutes outside of Renwick, it wasn’t really lunch time when we drove through. Havelock also being very close to the Queen Charlotte Track and about an hour from Picton, where we catch the ferry, we thought it would be a good place to spend a day or two.

We arrived about 2pm, found the Havelock Motor Camp and were checked in by Pic (aka Neville Pickering) one of the owners. He must have seen mussel hunger in our eyes; he gave us discount vouchers for mussels at the Slip Inn, nice little cafe on the harbor. The wind was picking up and the skies clouding over but the mussels and a glass of wine warmed the cockles of our hearts. (As I proof read this posting I was wondering….are there really cockles in our hearts…just sayin’)

After lunch, we wandered around Havelock – it was a pretty short stroll. We grabbed a pre-dinner beer at the newly opened, Clansman Pub, and got the scoop that LOTR was filming close by and some of the crew were in there the night before for dinner. The owner (Lenny-an American married to a Kiwi) told us they’d be back for dinner that night. Don’t know if they did or not, we had dinner in our “casa”. (It’s starting to worry me when I catch myself referring to our campervan as “home”. Only goes to prove – home is not really a place on land but in one’s heart.)

09 December 2011

Havelock turned out to be the perfect place to do….nothing. We both really needed a “recharge” day. It was a beautiful day. We had lunch back at the Slip Inn – this time sitting out on the deck enjoying the gentle breeze. Some “me time” entailed, a lounge chair and a good book. Jim took this time to wander – he likes to do that. Coming back, he enticed me for a walk up to the main street to Dellie’s for a fudge tasting and some ice cream. Dinner was “in” and we had a great conversation with some other travelers (Kiwi and Brits).

10 December 2011

Waking up early, we both felt that the “recharge” day had done the trick. Time to head to the North Island!! Our ferry departs from Picton at 1:10pm and we arrive in Wellington about 4:30pm.

We were going to drive to Picton via the Queen Charlotte Drive but after talking with some locals at dinner last night. We decided – maybe not the best idea. We went by way of Blenheim, stopping for gas and groceries. Our idea was that after the ferry arrived in Wellington, we’d head out of town and drive for a while. As with all our travels – plans are always subject to change.

We did stop in Picton for coffee before setting sail. It’s a cute little town – it would have been a nice place to stay if we hadn’t stayed in Havelock. We’ve found that throughout NZ – so many nice places, so little time!!

Driving into the belly of a ship is pretty interesting. And of course, now Jim’s tells me that this also counts as a “cruise”. If you’re not familiar with that story – ask me some time and I’ll explain over a glass of wine.

While on the ship, Jim got talking with Mark at the i-Site and a new plan was hatched. He called me down from my roof top perch and Mark laid out a new “possible” plan. He sent us away to have a glass of wine with a hand full of information to mull over.

New plan….Wellington for two nights and then to Napier, Taupo, Rotorua, with a stop in Matamata (those in the “know” will recognize Matamata as the home of Hobbiton) while making our way to Auckland to drop off the van on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how much of this plan actually happens.

Before we got off the ship, we had a booking for two nights at the Holiday Park in downtown Wellington and our “open” tickets for Hobbiton.
I questioned the $50NZ per night fee since Mark had warned us that the Holiday Park is really nothing more than a parking lot with showers and bathrooms, but it’s right downtown Wellington, on the harbor front, within walking distance of most of the sites.

Off the ship and on to our temporary new location and Mark wasn’t kidding!! The Holiday Park is a parking lot but everyone had their own two spaces. Bathrooms and showers are secured with passcodes and were pretty clean and you get to wave at all the passengers walking towards the museum from the cruise ship.

Fortunately, the weather continued to hold and we had a beautiful evening taking the cable car up to the Botanical Gardens, a leisurely walk down towards the harbor and a stroll around Wellington before deciding on Indian for dinner. The Botanical Gardens are just beautiful. We followed the winding path from the top of the hill through a variety of gardens: flower, succulent and especially the beautiful Rose Garden. There were tons of people walking (locals and tourists) and unique playground areas with families enjoying the lovely evening.

Wellington is New Zealand’s Capital: vibrant, clean and beautifully compact.

Posted by pjburke 17:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

On to the end of the road

Takaka, Collingwood and Wharariki

05 December 2011

It must not have rained the whole night, because I slept pretty well. Living in a campervan is really just a big metal shed, so when it rains, we know it.

Misting might be a better word than rain for our conditions when we woke up. Jim gave a call to the Abel Tasman Sailing and we were told ¬it should clear up, a little, and that the sail was a go!!!

Breakfast and we packed up the van and headed down the road to “The Barn”, another campervan park that is just a five minute walk to the start of the Abel Tasman Track. We get the one and only powered site they have and we were off. We needed to be at Torrent Bay by 1:30pm, at the very latest to meet the sailboat. There will be others on the boat that sailed with it from Kaiteriteri. Some people would get off and hike back, others just sailed for the whole day.

Amid the misty rain, we started our hike. About 12km (about six miles) hike, a walk really – not very strenuous. The first hour was up and into the rainforest. As we hiked the sky got lighter and lighter until we actually saw sun!!! It turned out to be a glorious day. The sun stayed with us until we reached the bay and throughout the rest of the day. For us, with photo stops, the hike took about three to three and a half hours, the boat arrived at 12:30pm and departed 1:30pm in full, “put on the sunscreen”, sunshine.

The wind had picked up, a good sail was in the forecast, what happened after we started was just pure luck. Checking out the seal colony off the coast is built into the schedule for this sail. As we were looking at a couple of lazy seals, Mark, the captain, told us he had a surprise. We’re going off the scheduled tour because a pod of orcas (killer whales) had been spotted very close to our location. ….another OMG!!! For about an hour we followed the pod of four or five. At first they were a little evasive but then decided to play: jumping out of the water, spinning and finally swimming and playing in the wash of our sail boat’s propellers. I was lucky enough to get a few photos…check them out!!

With smiles (ok..big, huge grins) we continued our sail, with great wind, down and into port. I heard later that we were late getting in but no one really cared. Mark was as excited as the passengers. He told us that “maybe” he’ll see the orcas two or three times a year and he sails pretty much every day!!

Back to The Barn for dinner, chatted with Elka (sorry if the spelling is wrong) and Martin (from Holland), got eaten alive by sand flies but with our orcas photos in the bag all the sand flies were small stuff!!!

The rain came back over night but….we couldn’t care less!!

06 December 2011

Up early and we headed north from Marahau (pronunciation Ma da who) towards Takaka: it was raining and the mist had settled on the mountain tops. Mysterious and beautiful! Tight switchbacks on a two lane road, in the rain with huge, double tractor trailers jumping out from around the many curves, I was happy when we got over the hill into Takaka.

As it continued to rain (ok …pour), we stopped for breakfast at The Wholemeal Café. REALLY GOOD!! To hell with fruit and yogurt, today was an Eggs Benedict day and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. The coffee was hot and tasty and we could hear the heavy rain roar on the roof.

We stopped at the i-Site and picked up info on the different holiday parks in the area. Wharariki (fa da reeki) Beach Holiday Park would be our destination. Driving, literally, to the end of the road, west of Farewell Spit, we arrived. One of our guide books had recommended Wharariki and the author was spot on.

BUT WAIT….. while in the i-Site, Jim picked up a brochure for the Te Anaroa Caves. Good rainy day activity and I had overhead others booking for the 12:30 tour. The caves are just a little outside Collingwood, which is on our way. Sounds like fun – let’s do it!!!

We arrived and found our group was small – only seven of us and our leader. Jennifer and her husband are currently running the cave tours. The caves were found back in the late 1800’s and there have been tours on and off since 1904. With our hard hats secured, Coleman lanterns in hand (one from 1939) and/or torches (aka large flashlights) we headed out, across the gravel road and down a path into the woods. No turnstiles, no security, no hand rails, just us and the caves – it was very cool. (add photos). One of the couples had been to another cave (in the North Island) and said that this tour was better, less commercial and less expensive….and now I know what glow worms are!!! Check out our photo on FB!!

Back enroute to Wharariki: it was still raining when we arrived. We got set up, checkout the amenities (aka kitchen, bathrooms and showers) and slowly the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds. Lynn, a Canadian woofer (look that term up), told us it would be a great time to get to the beach (about a 15 minute walk). We did and it was so beautiful. I think it was us and maybe two other people on this huge, rocky beach.

Dinner was late due to our hike but just as well. We met a couple from Holland (who really wanted to see our orca photos – so I got the chance to show them off) and Jay and Jo from Auckland. We all ended up eating, laughing and talking until almost 10pm.

07 December 2011

Up early to the caw of the peacocks that are in residence at the holiday park! Our first hike was to Pillar’s Point. For this hike, it’s really the destination not the journey. The journey is 30 minutes, pretty much straight up the side of a hill, one or two switchbacks thrown in for good measure but the view from the top is incredible: 360 degrees, Farewell Spit, beautiful lush green valleys, long rocks strewn beaches and finally the Tasman Sea.

Back to the holiday park, coffee and a blueberry brownie from the Archway Café (just outside the car park for the hikes and run by the holiday park) and off we went. The wind was blowing a bit as we headed the back way which was recommended by Lynn and the Holiday Park owner, Dion. This trail winds around the back of green hills dotted with sheep and passs by two small lakes. We took the second turn off to Green Hills Beach. At this beach, we ran into Check couple and saw a couple of seals. To over to the next beach north, we climbed up the side of the hill, found an old sheep trail, came out on to great beach (Stone Bridge Beach) and then walked in and around the mammoth rocks – back to Wharariki Beach!!

Chatted with Lynn overf a glass of wine. Jim made dinner and it was really good. we had extra and I went to see if Lynn wanted it. Walking down the grass hill (and not the marked gravel path, as Jim keeps telling me) I slipped and fell on my butt – multi colored pasta and veggies went flying in the air. While picking it up, Hawkeye (another woofer) came by, asked if I was ok. I laughed and told him what happened – his thought after trying a little – "a little grass never hurt anyone" and it really was just a little grass with a yummy pasta dish – I just love the NZ – nothing really phases them. They weren’t’ going to waste a good meal – and I think the 10 second rule might have applied!!!

Posted by pjburke 12:35 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

North of the South

30 November 2011

Kaikoura to Renwick

Bright blue skies but cool as we start out. Ciao Mirko, Jessica and Diego….we’re headed north.

WINDY!!! As soon as we started north we realized the clear skies brought the wind. Beautiful east coast with black vacant black sand beaches, scattered with large driftwood tree trunks hugging the turquoise blue waters of the Pacific. Incredible!

We made it into Blenheim about noonish – not sure what I was expecting but Blenheim is a small city - most buildings not much over 2-3 stories – sort of Invercargillish. We made our way out to Renwick, about 8k west of Blenheim. Small and cute and Watson’s Way Lodge was very easy to find. Paul (of Paul and Pat) showed us to our “spot”. They advertise 2 campervan spots – I think there are three or four of us in residence today–but no worries – wonderful little place with gracious hosts.

Wine tasting is on our “to do” list for today. Leftovers from yesterday for lunch and we decided to walk instead of renting bikes for just two hours when we can rent them for the whole day tomorrow – same price $15NZ.

Starting about 1430hrs, we made it to three wineries that were within a VERY easy walk from Watson’s. Forrest, Mahi and Gibson’s Bridge: all three small wineries and some REALLY good wines....and no charge!!! Visually, this area is very much like a Napa/Temecula mix: lovely valley with rolling hills in the distance. At all three wineries, we were the only people for a short bit. People trickled in and out at Forrest and Gibson but very much like mid-winter rather than spring in our winery regions. Deb at Mahi shared their wonderful wines with us and gave us some recommendations for our trip tomorrow.

Our last stop before heading back to Watson’s to make dinner is the “Cork and Keg” Country Pub for a beer. Hey, we’re walking!!!

01 December 2011

Renwick and Marlborough Wineries

Can’t believe it’s the first of December – we’re just about half way through our trip with only a little over two weeks left in New Zealand – we could have easily done another month here – but not sure how our budget would have handled that.

Our plan for today is a hearty breakfast, grab the bikes and head out to the one of the farther wineries and work our way back. Most tourist maps are not usually to scale but the local winery map here is actually pretty good. We head out of town and make our way about 8-9km to Drylands Winery. It was early (about 1130) but you can actually starting tastings at 1030 so I guess we really weren’t too early. We learned a bit about Drylands wine and the wonderful woman serving us gave us great information about places to go on the next leg of our trip (Abel Tasman area). Again, tastings are free at most places and there is no pressure to buy. Being on bikes, we decided to take photos (another suggestion from our tasting lady) of the wines we like and then we’ll come back tomorrow when we have the van and pick up our favorites. It’s much better that way as we have less of a chance of breakage along the way. From Drylands, we headed to Rock Ferry (also on recommendation of our Drylands lady). Great suggestions – nice wines.

We headed back to the main road and the wind had picked up – really picked up. We stopped at the Vine Villages: a grouping of small shops. There is a fudge shop, café with olive oils, quilting shop (oh yes I did buy just a little), wine tasting at Bouldevines (of course) and little gourmet food shop where I was tempted to buy from but I had to remember our motto, “you buy it – you carry it”. We did find out that this stop was also on the tourist bus route although we only saw two or three buses all day long.

Our next stop was No 1 Family Estates: a cute little boutique winery that only does “Bubbles” – aka sparkling wine. From there we decided it was time for lunch and Georges Michel had been recommended. Good choice!! The winery looks like a French cottage. It was a bit windy but our outside table was blocked from the wind by clear glass, letting us enjoy the beautiful vineyard setting. A tasting in the cellar door was complimentary but we chose one with lunch – about the same price as a glass of wine but more substantial and complimented our charcuterie and fromage platters – it felt very decadent ….and we loved it!!

One last stop on the way back to Watson’s was just down the road at Lake Chalice. Fun little place with good wines! We also learned that they will soon be selling in the states – keep your eyes peeled!!

02 December 2011


Onward!!! We left Renwick pretty early. The only stop we made was back at the Vine Villages at the olive oil shop (we had a 20% off coupon) and we had just finished the olive oil we bought at Robinson’s Bay. Unfortunately, the wineries weren’t open that early.

Nelson was our next stop on our way to Abel Tasman National Park. Everyone we’ve talked with has highly recommended that we make it up to AT.
We checked into the Tahauna Motor Camp just outside Nelson proper. We’re still trying to see what Mother Nature has in store for the next week.
By happen chance; we ended up for lunch on the waterfront at a place called “Relish”. A little dear for lunch but absolutely wonderful food. I had the salmon with a crispy skin, fresh corn and a potato soufflé and Jim had Arancini (deep fried risotto balls) with asparagus and fresh veggies. I am constantly impressed with the innovative culinary skills of the New Zealand chefs. Lunch was a masterpiece.

A walk on the beach and we found another site to watch kite surfers. We watched about a half dozen surfers twist and turn with their kites. It wasn’t until we saw one coming into shore that we realized they were mostly kids – good deal!!

Having eaten out for lunch we had every intention of “eating in” for dinner. But after a walk on the beach and a beer at happy hour, neither of us really wanted to cook.

I have to back up just a bit – when we picked up the van we noticed a sticker (or what we thought was a sticker) just above the driver’s door, The Hot Rock Gourmet Pizza Pasta Bar, but it didn’t note where it was located. As we were driving towards our camping site in Nelson – there it was right in front of us and within walking distance!!!!

Back to dinner – pizza just seemed like the right thing to do …and it was. We ended up having the Spring Nelson Lamb Pizza: marinated lamb, dry-roasted kumara, spinach and tomato drizzled with rosemary infused olive oil…OMG!!!! When the owner asked us how we’d heard of the place, we told him the sticker story – but it’s not a sticker – it’s a magnet and now we’ll have one of our very own for AZ!!!

03 December 2011

Marahau and Abel Tasman

First decision, after our activities today, do we stay one more night in Nelson or move on?? Not sure what the weather is going to do!! But after sleeping on it, we decide to move north towards Abel Tasman or Marahau to be more specific.

But first, off to the Nelson Market!! If you’re in Nelson on a Saturday, make this a priority. We wish we had known more about it, we would have bought our olive oil there. They also had food, veggies, clothes and jewelry (greenstone at very good prices), some really yummy smoked fish pate and beautiful, delicious cherries. Our trip here was pretty quick because I had an appointment.

As we were originally planning our this trip, I looked online for classes in bone carving. There are a couple different artists in NZ that give classes but I decided on Stephan Gilberg’s class (www.carvingbone.co.nz). Jim dropped me off at 0930 and then had a leisurely day to himself before picking me up about 3pm. It was a great class with two other people (husband and wife from Dallas). With Stephan’s help and guidance we each created a really lovely piece (if I do say so myself). I think I may have found a new hobby.

Onward north and we headed to Marahau, a very small village, on the Tasman Bay, just south of the entrance to the Abel Tasman Track. We settled in our camping site, took a walk on the beach and enjoyed this beautiful seaside site.

04 December 2011

We were expecting rain and we were not disappointed. It started raining overnight and has not stopped but it has given me the opportunity to update the web site.

We’re hoping that the rain gives way to beautiful sunshine tomorrow…or maybe just lighter rain. We’re supposed to hike in about 10k and then sail back….hummmm!!!

Posted by pjburke 21:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

East by Northeast!!

27 November 2011

Arthur's Pass and on to Kaikoura

Woke up really earlier this am, checked out side – totally socked in. Guess it’s a good time to go back to sleep.

Woke up a few hours later – bright sunshine. Oh Mr. Sun where were you yesterday when we wanted to fly to the glacier???

Off through Arthurs Pass and back to the east coast. The views from Hokitika through Arthur’s Pass were nothing short of incredible. There were a few times when I thought that I’d love to take a photo but it just would not have done the scenery justice: so much more of an experience, than a photo shoot.

It was a long travel day. We stopped by Courtney and Colin’s to drop off some items we weren’t taking back with us and then headed up the coast towards Kaikoura. The sun is out and it’s starting to get warmer. We’re totally ready for some warm weather.

Checked in at the Alpine Pacific Holiday Park. It’s close to town and has a pool and hot tubs – ahhh, they felt good.

We also called the Dolphin Encounter to see if they had openings for tomorrow. They did (yes!!!!) but they also booked us for the next day just in case the weather didn’t cooperate.

28 November 2011


Weather looks good!!!! We made it to Dolphin Encounters and found that the trip was a go. They were reporting small to moderate seas but that wasn’t a problem. We got to swim with dolphins ….awesome!! The whole trip was wonderful. Three different swims, lots of dusky dolphin – really – a dream come true!!!

The later part of the afternoon was spent in the van working on the website and munching on the new crop of NZ cherries. YUM!!!! But I started to nod off ….Naptime….didn’t know swimming could be so tiring.

Dinner again “at home” but before we ate we made our way to Tuti’s for a glass of wine and who did we run into but Elizabeth and Jeremy (great couple from Chicago that were on our dolphin swim with us). We could have talked all night but Jeremy is like Jim – if he’s hungry –he must eat!! They headed in to eat and we headed back to the HP for dinner. All and all – a great day!!!!

29 November 2011


Woke to clouds and a chill in the air. We’re so glad we did the dolphin swim the day before. Today will be laundry day and I’m trying to weed through all our photos, oh and there are tons!!!

We made our way just beyond town for a short hike and then back into town to check out the Kaikoura itself. Strange, but Jim and I were totally on the same wavelength at about the same moment. There was a hair salon. He needed a cut and so did I – but it’s always a little nerve racking for me – Jim just doesn’t care but both cuts turned out really well. Mine is pretty short but I’ve got three months before I get home so it really doesn’t matter.

Dinner out at the Indian place down the road – food really good and we even had leftovers.

We strolled back to our HP and we noticed that a large motor home was parked next to us. Jim started chatting with the occupants and come to find out they are from Italy (just north of Venice). Mirko and Jessica are traveling with Diego their 16 month old. What started as a quick exchange turned into a wonderful long conversation. Diego and I wandered about for a bit and Jim and Mirko figured out how the screen door on the motorhome worked. Mirko is learning English and practiced on us and we used our “very little” Italian with him. Knowing that we’ll be going to Italy next year, Mirko told us to get in touch with him if we need any information. It’s always great to have “local” contacts.

Posted by pjburke 12:42 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

More Westcoast New Zealand

23 November 2011


The weather was fairly nice but there were reports of rain for the afternoon. Our hiking destination was the Rob Roy Glacier hike. According to our travel guides (we’ve been using LP and Frenzy NZ); it was one of the best in the area. Northbound through Glendhu, the road is winding and the views beautiful. We traveled to the end of the macadam and then on to gravel for what was supposed to be about 32km (about 15 miles). We had traveled for what seemed to be a long time. I was thinking we must almost be there – then stop!! There are a couple of vehicles pulled over - the road is flooded. Damn!! We get out to take a look and as we do another car comes through and decides to give it a try. They made it through but the flooded area seemed to be a bit deeper than it originally looked. Do we….or don’t we!!! It may have been ok, but with the possibility of rain, who knew what it would be like coming back out and with no four wheel drive – we decided not to chance it. We did rock hop over the flooded area to the other side and walked for about an hour in and then back for some photo ops.

Heading back to where the “road ended” there is the entrance to Treble Cone Ski field. Tight turns and a gravel road lead us to the ski lodge area. No snow and a deserted lodge but the views from the road going up and down were fantastic. From there we headed to a hike on part of the Minaret Burn Track. Nice short hike and again like many of our hikes – we were the only people.

24 November 2011

Fox Glacier

Leaving Wanaka, we made our way along Route 6 towards the west coast and Haast. We were trying to decide whether to stay in Haast or make our way up to Fox Glacier area. The weather took care of that decision for us. When we hit the coast it was so windy Jim could barely keep the van on the road. Haast would not be our stop that night but one stop we were looking for was a whitebait patties place that had been recommended by Don (who we met on the Doubtful Sound trip). We saw a sign coming into Haast but we never found the restaurant and we feared that we had missed our chance. About 5k outside of Haast, I saw a tiny little sign that said “whitebait 1km ahead”, then I saw the name “Curly Tree”….THAT’S IT!! I remembered the name and we turned off the highway, drove down a gravel road and found the Curly Tree Whitebait. “Honk the horn twice” is what the sign read – we did and were greeted by Tony (the owner). We were soon treated with the most simple, tasty whitebait patties in the world: served on a slice of white bread with a little smoke garlic sprinkle, we were in whitebait heaven.

Our palates satisfied, we moved on towards Fox. The wind didn’t abate until we started inland. We got to Fox and settled into the Fox Glacier Holiday Park, for what would be our home for the next two days. Nice place, with good facilities and was within a ten minute walk to the very small town (a couple of stores, a couple of restaurant/bar and a few glacier hike services).

25 November 2011

Fox Glacier/Franz Joseph Glacier

As we got things together for our daytime activities, Jim headed off to the park office to check on glacier hikes. He came back with a silly grin on his face. Oh no, what has he done? He hadn’t done it yet but he told me he’d really like to do a heli-hike which means helicopter way up on the glacier, landing, hiking and then taking the helicopter back. Shaking my head, I told him – go right ahead. He came back ten minutes later and let me know that we’d be going at 0830 tomorrow…..I have to remember…..”Adventure is out there”.

But for this day, up and out to check out the glaciers from a lower level. We headed to FJ (about ten miles north of Fox) to do the hikes out to the glacier. Our first walk was about 30 minutes, to what was supposed to have spectacular views. They were ok but my suggestion is go right to the glacier. It was raining lightly but the views were incredible. At first the walk seemed very “Hawaii caldera” ish – without the steam coming from the molten lava. The glacier seemed so far off but grew larger and larger much sooner that I thought it would.

After the Franz Joseph walk, we decided to head back to Fox and do the glacier walk there. Neither walks were difficult at all – really walks much more than hikes. The Fox walk ended up being even more impressive than the FJ walk: we were able to walk even closer to the glacier. Just very cool!!!

26 November 2011

Fox to Hokitika


We set the alarm. We decided to get up early, have a hardy breakfast in town before our trip out to the glacier. Waking and peering outside we weren’t very encouraged….heavy cloud cover over the mountains. Not a good sign. If the weather isn’t good – the helicopters don’t fly.
Breakfast was really great but the news regarding our heli trip was not….NO GO!!!

Instead of walking on glaciers, we drove north to Hokitika. I kept thinking, it must mean – there is something better ahead for us.
Being up so early, we made it into Hokitika about lunch time. Lunch was at Stumpies! Jim had whitebait patties and I had a lamb pita sandwich – when in Rome!!!. Fully satisfied, Jim and I wandered around the small town of Hokitika.

Hokitika is a funky little town that is known for its pounamu (aka greenstone/jade). We wandered in and out of some of the jade shops. As we’ve been traveling I’ve been looking at jade pieces but I decided that this was the place to buy a piece. Each piece, depending on its shape and stone type has a special meaning. I’ve read that the piece will choose the person and mine did: it’s a rainbow jade hoka. I had looked at a lot of pieces on but this was “the one”.

We’re staying at the Hokitika Holiday Park and it’s as funky as the town. Dinner by Chef Jimmy and we’ll be heading out in the am.

Posted by pjburke 12:31 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 7 of 7) Page [1]