Archive for April 27th, 2019

As mentioned in a previous post, we were using a few of our stops to prepare for our final big adventure … plus all of this “preparation” gave us the opportunity to explore more of the South Island.  Having felt very rewarded on both the West Coast Wilderness Trail and on the trails around Hanmer Springs, we were excited to spend some time on the Central Otago Rail Trail.  

We ended up staying in two places to cover as much of the trail as possible … our plan was to do four out-and-back rides … two from Ranfurly, New Zealand and two from Ophir. Ranfurly was an interesting town … it was a little “Wild West” in our opinion … the town bar was in our hotel … it really was small town New Zealand.  The hotel was comfortable and it was a nice central location to hop right on the trail.  We arrived the first day and went for a ride.  It was down a long gradient (since it was an old railway) … however, that meant the ride back was UP the long gradient and, making it more difficult, right into a head wind!  There were some very long, straight segments on this ride.


It was a fun first day — Deb was a little under the weather so it made the ride even longer.  We woke up the next day, decided we didn’t want another long uphill grind in the other direction and decided to hit the mountain bike trails in nearby Naseby.  It is a small town known for its exotic trees.  We stopped and toured the tree area and then went for a bike ride on the trails … a really nice stop on our way to Ophir.

Yes, some really cool trees.IMG_20190219_095618119Yes, this is a giant sequoia …IMG_20190219_095902861_HDRYou always need a picture of the map when riding!  Very cool trail system …IMG_20190219_104753474Part of the trail followed this “Water Race” — a channel built in the late 1800s to bring water from the mountains to use in Gold Mining … a very nice locale.IMG_20190219_113332708_HDRThere were some challenging sections through this whole area.IMG_20190219_113339749Fun for me and for Deb …IMG_20190219_121052314IMG_20190219_121055565_HDRWe even got to ride on the Muppet Motorway!  haha.IMG_20190219_123131243It was a nice relaxing day and we finished it up with a nice drive over to our next stop.  In Ophir, we stayed in an Historic Building … the old Anglican Church Nave.  Here’s a couple of pictures of it …

Yes, we got some groceries for the next 3 days … because why not use this kitchen?!IMG_20190219_145119501IMG_20190219_145130965IMG_20190219_145226345_HDRIMG_20190221_204118337_HDR

It was quite the cool “apartment” in a neat little village.  Most of the buildings in this town were preserved from when it was a Gold Mining Center.  There are quaint cottages and places to visit … but we came to ride!  haha.  We did our two out and back rides here and really enjoyed the stay …. here are a couple of photos of these rides.

It was just a beautiful trail and the weather was awesome.

IMG_20190220_130739092IMG_20190220_130750319There were several bridges and a couple of tunnels…IMG_20190220_134026434_HDRIMG_20190220_145517247_HDRActually, we got in trouble in one of the tunnels …IMG_20190221_145933561_HDRYou were supposed to dismount your bicycle and walk through … but I’m a cyclist!  I don’t dismount unless it’s life or death … and sometimes not even then!  We rode through a tunnel (and got chewed out … well … Deb got chewed out … I escaped! haha).  In this next video, you can hear me say at the first that you Have to Dismount!  but I still rode … sorry … not.

Another couple of interesting things on this part of the journey.  This area of New Zealand is known for its Dark Sky … we took the opportunity to do a little stargazing and were rewarded with great views.  Here’s a picture of the Southern Cross …can you see it?


Oh, and we also saw a hedgehog.  haha.


The second interesting thing was the display of all the planets on the trail.  They had a scale model of the Solar System plotted on the trail so you could ride by all the planets.  The actual planet displays were all to Scale as well.  The only one not finished was the artwork for the Sun.  We missed one planet — Saturn, but hit all the others!   (not counting Pluto).  Check them out here …

I did a panorama to show the size of the sun … 360 degree photo …

IMG_20190218_162103792In order, but not how we saw them on the rides because of our out-and-backs, there is Mercury … the hole is the planet (to “scale”).IMG_20190218_161538886_HDRThe next one is Venus …IMG_20190218_161301572Then they had the Earth … and across the trail (scale distance) ….IMG_20190218_160957334_HDRwas the Moon.  Cool.IMG_20190218_161000626Then came Mars … again … the hole in the sign …IMG_20190218_160648015And this big one was Jupiter!IMG_20190218_142143277_HDRThen we saw Uranus … yes, I typed it.  haha.IMG_20190220_141150638Followed by Neptune … I know, it’s spelled backwards, but I wanted the picture from that side!  The only one we really missed was Saturn (and maybe Pluto … I wouldn’t say I missed it).  IMG_20190221_150003973We had a great time on this trail system (and in Naseby).  We knew we were ready after these days of riding for our Alps2Ocean tour … On to our final adventure …

Stumbling Piper

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We drove to Oamaru with two thoughts in mind … to see the Blue (Little) Penguin again (having seen it already on Stewart Island) and to see the Yellow-eyed Penguin.

We checked into our hotel and asked the owner about these two penguins.   In Oamaru you can pay to see the Blue Penguin … we weren’t interested in that.  He told us where we might see it for free.  He also told us we missed the time the Yellow-eyed penguin comes back to shore … we discussed getting up early to see it depart.  He said we’d have to be there by 0600 to see it.  The adventure continues!

First, we went down to the dock to see if we could see the Little Penguin again.  No luck … However, we saw about 1,000 “Shags” all sitting on this dock … Check it out.


Oamaru is also known for its Steampunk Museum.  We knew we would be visiting it again on our Alps2Ocean bike ride (that’s a later post), but we stopped by to see it at night after trying to see the Little Penguin.  Check out the cool pictures and this video.


The whole place was pretty neat!

The next morning was an early start!  We made it down to where the Yellow-eyed Penguin resides and were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise.

Here’s a shot where the sun isn’t even up yet!IMG_20190218_061302075This next picture gives you an idea of where we were scanning for these penguins … way down on the beach.IMG_20190218_063118719Here’s Deb scanning the distance …IMG_20190218_065706050It was really dark to begin with … my phone lightened up these images.  However, the sunrise was spectacular!IMG_20190218_070056235_HDRIMG_20190218_070153149

We also had the great fortune of seeing one of the Yellow-eyed Penguins make its way to the ocean for an early start.   The pictures below are quite dark, but he’s in there.

It looks like he’s down there …IMG_4723Zooming in with the camera … some white!LND_91F9AAD2-5F4C-49A3-B25A-310276AED3D8Even closer … that’s got to be him!LND_D93DAC27-7776-4D43-B3D1-734C7A75539A

Yes! Success!  You can see his shape here.


As we were making our way back to the car we had a bonus surprise of seeing this Golden Pheasant walking around the area.  So cool …

It was time to head back to the hotel, pack up the car, and head out for the next stage of the adventure!

Stumbling Piper


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Sorry for the delayed posting … once we got back to Canada it’s been non-stop action. haha.  Picking up where I left off … we had just been enjoying ourselves in Hanmer Springs and needed to make our way south to the Central Otago Rail Trail (more on that in a later post).  It was a long drive to get there so we decided to break it up over a couple of days.  The first stop was actually a tiny bit further north to a seaside town named Kaikoura.  As those of you who have been following know, we’ve been birding along the way … we decided we were going to do one more organized birding trip — this time something called a Pelagic Birding tour … you take a boat out on the ocean to see the different sea birds local to that area.  We drove over on a Saturday and spent the afternoon walking along the beach enjoying the sights.

Here are a few pictures from that part of the journey.  Yep, we saw some seals!  :0)


Check out this little guy ….IMG_3594

… and then all the people who thought it was a good idea to get closer.  haha.  Guess they can’t read the signs that say stay back.IMG_3596

We also saw a few nice birds on shore before heading out the next day for our boat trip.

As far as I could tell, this is a variation on a Starling.IMG_3443This was a Dunnock … kind of strange but a new bird for me.IMG_3477This is a European Bird … a Chaffinch.IMG_3562These birds are called “Shags.”  We in the Canada / U.S.A. know them as Cormorants.IMG_3585Then you have the Plovers hanging around …IMG_3634

We got up (relatively) early the next day for our adventure on the high seas.  We were going out with Albatross Encounters!  A nice business that really caters to your bird-watching desires.


Check out the pictures we’ve got from this trip!  We had a nice fast boat …


We not only saw birds, we saw some other wildlife as well!IMG_4777

Here’s Deb checking out the momma seal … and her babies!


IMG_4764We also caught glimpses here and there of two kinds of dolphins.   IMG_4754

But the real stars of this trip were the birds!  Here’s only a few of the highlight photos.  Even as we were leaving shore we saw nice birds … the white-faced heron.

IMG_4296However, the most amazing birds were the Albatrosses … so large … and so close! haha.IMG_4325IMG_4354They were right by the boat all the time.  The Wandering Albatross below … Salvin’s Albatross above here.IMG_4414IMG_4423They kept sneaking into my photos.IMG_4431But we also saw several different kinds of birds because they were “chumming” for them.IMG_4451It made it very easy to see them … here’s a Giant Petrel.IMG_4489The Wandering Albatross up close and personal.IMG_4497Oh, we also saw a few hundred seagulls.  haha.IMG_4528IMG_4576

All in all a fantastic birding adventure … we made it back safely to shore and headed south on the island … down to Oamaru for the next leg of this adventure!

Stumbling Piper


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