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Archive for the ‘SouthernSwing18-19’ Category

Well, what can I say … we made it safely to the end of our trip!  We finished up our six-day Alps2Ocean cycling tour and arrived back in Christchurch.  Lo and behold, Engelbert Humperdinck was playing in concert!  We thought that would be a fantastic way to wrap up the trip.  He played a brilliant concert (still quite the dancer for an 82 year old man)!

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With time to reflect on our final day before flying, we wanted to take a moment to thank all the people who helped make this tour incredibly special.  All of our guides, drivers, tour operators, and friendly folks we met in all of these locations.  Even the unfriendly ones added to the experience.

As we began our journey four months previously, we discussed what we wanted to do, how we wanted to approach it, and what we thought we would learn.  Who knew we would learn so many different ways to say “Please” and “Thank You.”  That we would learn to count to at least five in five different languages,  Or that we would learn to say “Where’s the bathroom?” in each of those languages.

Who knew we would learn the conversion rate for the following currencies: Hong Kong Dollar (0.13 USD), Viet Nam Dong (0.00043 USD … great name for money!), Cambodian Riel (0.00025 USD), Laotian Kip (0.00011 USD), Thai Baht (0.032 USD), Singapore Dollar (0.73 USD), Malaysian Ringgit (0.24 USD), Australian Dollar (0.69 USD), or New Zealand Dollar (0.65 USD).   I was able to bring home a few bills and coins from each country as a souvenir, continuing to add to my collection.

The other challenge was trying to remember all the names of our drivers and guides.  To name a few: Tung, Ky, Phue, Trong, Happy, Tam, Quyet, Bo, Tien, Amon, Keelee, Best, Deley, Ping, Palm, Skin, Sinath, and Eh.  Right?  I’m still not sure that we pronounced any of them correctly.

Finally, I also learned how to both ride and drive on the left side of the road!  We cycled many miles in Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia always having to remember that we needed to ride on the left and that the rear brake (for the bikes) was on the left!  (That was a tough one)  I drove over 2, 960 kilometers in New Zealand (on the south island alone), not to mention driving in Australia and the north island of New Zealand.

We juggled time changes, new beds, small spaces, crazy food choices, weird bathrooms, and so many different customs.

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Our approach to all this was as we discussed before we left … to have a smile on our face, a positive approach to all situations, and a willingness to learn all these new things.  And learn we did … those are the main things we brought home — that life is a journey and what really makes it enjoyable is learning new skills, meeting new friends, and experiencing new cultures.  It was an absolute blast!

Finally, even through all this, it was good to be going home and seeing where the future will be taking us next…

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Stumblingpiper

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This is the final birdwatching entry from our Southern Swing 2018-2019.  A few previous posts discussed the North Island, Stewart Island, and our Pelagic bird-watching.  The focus of this trip on the South Island wasn’t really about the birds but just experiencing everything the island had to offer.  We did take every opportunity to view the birds when we were at different locations.   I also mentioned earlier that it was ‘possible’ for us to see around 150 birds … but I thought 75 was the more realistic goal, so that’s what we went after!   At the end of our trip we counted up and had 80 birds on our New Zealand list.  Wow.  A great number considering it wasn’t our primary focus.  Of those 80, 59 were brand new birds.  We finagled a few new ones on the South Island but the majority really came from the previous three trips.

There were only two or three native birds we didn’t see that I thought we had a chance: 1) Kea, 2) Shining Cuckoo, and 3) Fernbird.  Otherwise, we saw all the other common native birds.  The Moorpork (Owl), Kiwi, and Takahae were in captivity but cool to see anyway.  Here are a few pictures of birds from the South Island not in previous posts.

First off is this little guy: the Rifleman.  This bird is about the size of my thumb … just a tiny fellow!  We felt very fortunate to be able to call them in and get these photos.  They are almost as active as a hummingbird so never sitting still.  Enjoyed seeing them on Stewart Island and on the South Island.

This is a set of birds that were “imported” from Europe.  The European Goldfinch, the Green Finch, and the Yellowhammer.  We saw several others to include Starlings, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, etc.  Pretty birds nonetheless … just not native.

Here are the Takahes.  There are about 300 of these birds alive — captive or otherwise.  They were originally considered extinct but were discovered in a remote area of the island and are now being bred back to a sustainable level.  A beautiful, big flightless bird.

Another couple of native birds.  The Tomtit … just a wee fellow.  About the same size as the Robin.  We saw him in the mountains in New Zealand.  We also saw this Blue Duck, a rare native as well.  A strange looking duck.  We saw this native Stilt: a Pied Stilt; also known as a Black-winged Stilt.

This is an Australasian Crested Grebe.  I felt fortunate to see it — twice!  Hard to photograph, but cool!

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As with most things, when you are seriously always looking for birds you’ll see what you want to see!  I saw these two “ducks” below — and still photographed them.  I think I need to get my prescription updated …

 

Well, that wraps up the birdwatching portion of our Southern Swing.  Eight countries, six guided trips, and a whole lot of leg work, photography, and sorting in four months.  We saw over 410 new birds.  It was just an incredible trip and a fantastic birdwatching adventure.  Until next time!

Stumbling Piper

 

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Our final big adventure in New Zealand was a fully-supported six-day cycling trip from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean.  It covered over 300 kilometers with the majority of the riding on gravel paths and country roads.  It was guided by the good folks from Adventure South NZ–Rachel and Howie were fantastic tour guides and kept the tour flowing from beginning to end.

We were picked up in Christchurch and began our journey in the van with the other 12 people on our trip — there were New Zealanders, Australians, English, and Americans with us … a good group … and we think we were the youngest!  Six of the participants rode electric-bikes — the rest of us were just pedaling along.

Day 1 … Christchurch to Tekapo.  We drove along the same route we had driven the previous day … all the way back to Geraldine … this part of the journey was interesting because our tour bus was having a few “issues.”  However, we made it to the first ride destination and toured our way into Fairlie.  While we were getting this “warm up ride” out of the way, the tour bus was fixed and we drove to Tekapo, our first overnight stop.  The food was quite pleasant all the way through–I made it a point of having a big breakfast every day to prep for the next day’s ride!  Each day we would have a sheet come around and you would sign up for your dinner and breakfast options.  More on that later … “French Toast” (below) for breakfast!

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Day 2 … Tekapo to Twizel.  The second day of our tour ended up being a long one!  With the bus problems, we postponed part of the first day’s ride and added it to this day … for a total of about 50 kilometers … that’s a big start to the tour.  However, the imagery was stunning and the riding was good.  For the most part, there was flat, easy riding past salmon farms to the edge of Lake Pukaki.

We then jumped on the lakeside cycle trail with spectacular mountain vistas.

Here I am (above) practicing my Tai Chi to keep myself loose for this ride!

Typically on this ride they stop at Lake Pukaki for lunch, drive up to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, then continue the ride to the next stop (Twizel). We decided to finish the ride after lunch (all the way to Twizel across the Pukaki Flats) and then drive up to the Alpine Center.

This was the best way to do this, I think … none of us would have wanted to ride after that trip.  There are stunning views of the 26 km long Tasman Glacier and Mt Cook–but you have to hike up about 200 feet!  In the sequence below, you can see the glacier in the distance (dirty section at the front of the dirty lake).  You can see the scale when you look for the boat in the picture below.  Just beautiful views in every direction you looked!

So we finished up with an easy dinner to ourselves and relaxed into our “motel.”  Ready for what the next day would bring!  There was a disc golf course in this town … too bad I didn’t have any discs.  While we were checking out the course, Deb noticed this cool cloud and funny statue … the combination made for an interesting effect!

Day 3 … Twizel to Omarama

After a great big breakfast, we started out in the cool morning air for a ride past Lakes Ruataniwha and Ohau, mostly on cycle trail, to Lake Ohau Lodge for lunch.

Pretty good distance already and, after a couple of beers, we decided to take on the challenge for the day — ascending to the Tambrae Saddle.  At 900m (2,700ish feet) this is the highpoint of the whole Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail.  Deb and I (plus two more and the tour guide) were the only brave souls to continue on this section.  Of course, one of those brave souls was 72 years old (the dude in the yellow jersey below)!  Wow.

I found that, often, I had a sunscreen mustache … lol.  I had to wear a lot and my whiskers made it stand out.  Fortunately, Deb wouldn’t let me suffer too long without telling me I needed to fix my makeup.

At the top, we were rewarded with stunning views across the Mackenzie Basin.

From the saddle, we bombed downed the backside to mee the rest of the crew out in the middle of nowhere.  We had some crazy speed on some of these descents … really a cool section — The older gentleman was just as crazy, bombing down (first time, really, mountain biking).  Deb had to stop and pick up his saddle bag, a banana, a water bottle, and a few other items that bounced off his bike on the way down.  We almost had to pick him up but he just bounced way up in the air and landed back on his seat.

We arrived all in one piece and one group and those who were still riding (about 9 of us) finished out the “descent” to our next destination: Omarama.

Omarama is called “Place of Light” in Maori terminology, a reference to its extraordinarily pure and clear sky.  Halfway through and it has been awesome.  Longest ride to date, but the next day was even longer!

Day 4 … Omarama to Kurow

Check it out — another great breakfast on the trip!

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We set off today following the trail to Sailors Cutting, along the shores of Lake
Benmore.  There was a lot more on-road or near-the-road riding for this section.  Not really our favorite but still great views!  We made our way (on the road) up to the Otematata saddle and roared down the other side towards Aviemore Dam (my top speed was 44.1 MPH / 71 KMH).  We stopped for a photo op and allowed everyone else to regroup.

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Then we climbed UP to the dam (you can see the dam in the picture above) and down the other side.  We cycled to a campground somewhere for lunch.  All on-road riding again.  This was the only time we were rained on during the ride … but it was a short rain and the rest of the time was beautiful!

After lunch, we made it to a new section of the trail (still near the road) and finished out cruising to Kurow.

Day 5 … Kurow to Burnside

We had a great stay in Kurow, started with a hearty breakfast and then rode off on the trail.  We cycled along the banks of the Waitaki River and through the Kurow vineyards.  Yes, we stopped for a wine tasting!

We passed by a Maori rock art site–we couldn’t really see the art.  We kept going to Duntroon and then began cycling across the countryside through a mixture of trails and quiet rural roads.  We stopped at an unusual rock formation known locally as Elephant Rocks for lunch.

The port-a-john … hilarious … out here in the middle of nowhere.  We had a love-hate relationship with New Zealand rest-stops.  There usually weren’t enough toilets for us (yes, we stop a lot!)  But when there was a toilet, it was typically in fantastic condition and well-stocked.  Just like this one …

From here, we climbed up the road (again!) and made our way over to a short section of old branch railway line and through Raki’s tunnel before a downhill ride into the settlement of Windsor.  Interestingly, Deb and I were the only ones with a headlight to see where we were going.  I ended up escorting two groups through the tunnel.

We spent our last evening together at the historic Victorian Burnside Homestead (enjoying a celebratory dinner at the local pub)–we finished with an awesome breakfast in the homestead dining room, the host and hostess dressed in period costumes.

Day 6 … Windsor to Christchurch, via Oamaru

After a well-stocked breakfast (from the garden of the owners), we rode the last 13 kilometers to the city of Oamaru.  We had been here before but this time we took the tour of the Steampunk Museum and finished out our trip with lunch at the local brewpub.

We loaded up and made the drive after lunch back to Christchurch satisfied that we completed this journey of over 300 kilometers.

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As we traveled around Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand we had great success with all of our rental equipment.  We rented often in different countries (from the MoBikes in Thailand to Mountain Bikes in New Zealand … Uber and Lyft … rented cars in Australia and New Zealand).   Thank goodness no accidents driving and riding on the left … no accidents riding over rocks, roots, ruts, and whatever else we rode over.

However, with all good things, our time was coming to an end and we had to drop off both our bikes, the bike rack, and then the rental car.  Unfortunately, that was in two different cities on different sides of the south island!

We finished up our time in the Church Nave in Ophir and made our way over to Queenstown to drop off our bikes at Bikeaholics … they also took the bike rack off our hands and the miscellaneous pieces and parts we had accumulated during our 4 months.

It was a scenic drive to Queenstown and then back towards Geraldine (our overnight stop on our way to Christchurch).   The imagery was stunning as usual.

We passed this locale twice on our out and back to Queenstown–we stopped for a quick peak because of the name.

IMG_20190222_103850848_HDRIt wasn’t really “roaring” too much but it was still a lovely locale.IMG_20190222_104108404_HDRWe found ourselves driving by several lakes … this was just one of them.  Always with an eye towards seeing those last few birds before departing!IMG_20190222_133452935We made it over the mountains on our way to Geraldine.  As we did we passed by this lake with views to Mt Cook in the distance.  We knew we would be coming back this way on our Alps to Ocean bike ride but we couldn’t pass up stopping for a photo op!IMG_4969IMG_4966IMG_4964

We stayed at a very nice B&B in Geraldine and found a local brewery to enjoy a great meal.  It was strange not having our bikes with us … we knew we wanted to ride the area … but we knew we’d be riding here as well so we were just passing through for the view!

Valley Brewing has been around Geraldine for over 10 years … excellent beers.

IMG_20190222_175644783_HDRIMG_20190222_175800700IMG_20190222_180605092In our opinion, you don’t go to New Zealand for the food.  While we did have some wonderful Lamb shanks on the North Island, my staple on the South Island was usually the Fish and Chips.  An easy meal and one I knew was difficult to mess up! IMG_20190222_183415350

The next morning we were off again to Christchurch to drop off the rental car!  We had picked our hotel in the center of town … Hotel 115.  It was built over the Trolley Tracks.

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Two nice things about this hotel … 1) it was within walking distance to the rental car drop off and 2) it was where the pickup point was for our Alps to Ocean tour.  Brilliant.

We dropped off the rental car … walked back to the room to relax before our next big adventure.  We were going through our bags cleaning things up and realized we didn’t have Deb’s binoculars.  She had left them in the Rental Car!  Twenty minutes before they were closing and it was a ten minute walk — off we went!  We made it just in time and found them under the seat.  The funny thing about this — the under cavity of the seats in this car are so deep that you would never check under there; I knew the binoculars would still be there.  “How did I know this?” you ask.  Well … when we first rented the car, one of my cycling shoes ended up under the front seat — I reached under there and found a half-full bottle of coffee-flavored Patron Tequila. haha.  The rental company obviously didn’t reach under there before — I knew they wouldn’t afterwards.

The next morning we were off on our big six-day Alps to Ocean adventure–successfully dropping off the rental equipment … and without a care in the world other than riding 300 kilometers over the next six days.

Stumbling Piper

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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.

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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?

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Oh, and we also saw a hedgehog.  haha.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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

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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!

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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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While we were in Hokitika (and earlier) a fire broke out in Pigeon Valley (near Nelson, New Zealand).  We had originally planned to spend time in Methvin (NZ) but realized we didn’t want to do any road riding in NZ so we had changed our plans to spend a week Mountain Biking in Nelson.  We monitored the fire while in Hokitika and finally had to make the call to change our plans (the road we would have travelled was closed and the smoke density in the area was unhealthy).  We were sorry to have to adjust — especially when we didn’t have any follow-on or back up plans!   We quickly went to work–we checked out websites for good riding locations and settled on Hanmer Springs!  Boy were we glad we did.  This place rocked!  So scenic, excellent riding, hot springs, and we found an outstanding massage therapist.

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We wound up staying in Hanmer Springs for six nights at a great lodge (Alpine Springs Motel).  The host and hostess were a great couple, very welcoming, and full of good advice for places to visit in town.  The population in Hanmer Springs is only 800 people … it’s a definite vacation locale but, during the week we were there, it was a very quiet, pleasant locale.

Look at all the trails above — all for riding and hiking!  This week afforded us an opportunity to rest and catch our breath as well as continue to train for our upcoming Alps to Ocean (A2O) tour.

We settled into our accommodations and went for a short ride into the forest.

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So nice and cool … just a great experience.  The next 2 days we went for longer rides out a couple of dirt roads … very little traffic and scenic!  We actually split up this day — I did a nice MTB track while Deb cruised out another road … so beautiful.

IMG_20190211_150705986Since we were down in a valley the views all the way around were incredible.  IMG_20190211_150958259We had excellent weather the whole time we were there.  Actually, the bigger problem was it was too hot so the risk of fire was high …IMG_20190212_181720087Just a beautiful area to cycle.IMG_20190212_181724569I made my way into the forest for some up and down riding …IMG_20190213_132919559Yeah … haha.  pretty fun!IMG_20190212_181833108See how dry the grasses were?IMG_20190212_181813182_HDR

The following day we took a break from the bikes and went for hike … it was like we were all alone on the trail!  We figured out why after we were finished hiking … the trails were closed due to high fire danger.  haha.  Oh well …we had a very pleasant and quiet hike.  The New Zealanders imported several “exotic” tree species and had planted many different kinds in this area to see which ones would grow well.  The Hanmer Forest is still a privately owned property where there is logging … they’ve worked with the city to build trails through the forest while it matures.  Some of the trees they had here were California Coastal Redwoods … pretty impressive, as usual.

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As with the other places we’ve hiked in NZ, the trails were very well maintained.IMG_20190214_112609606We gained a little elevation on our hike, too!IMG_20190214_111215737A close up view … looking up the valley.IMG_20190214_111207101

Our final ride was a big one–not distance-wise but elevation!  We climbed out of Hanmer Springs to Jack’s Pass and then down the backside a short way to Molesworth Station … and it was a sustained climb … it seemed to go on forever (2000 feet of climbing) … this was my standard view–trying to keep up with Deb as she motored up the mountain!

IMG_20190215_134609989I kept at it … no stopping here!IMG_20190215_131917007The view back down to the valley was incredible …IMG_20190215_141522280Our final destination up top.  IMG_20190215_134938164We wanted to press on but we had a late start that day and didn’t want to get stuck up there!  Here’s a couple more images from that ride.

IMG_20190215_135156321IMG_20190215_135310831IMG_20190215_141527802There was so much more riding we could have done up there!  If we ever decide to go back to NZ this will be a place to spend a couple of weeks …IMG_20190215_135045216

One of the reasons we enjoyed it so much was also a lucky find.  We were out for a short drive around town the first day and saw this sign …

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Although I didn’t go in for the Hypnosis I definitely came back for the massage! The owner has been trained all over in so many different styles and types of Massage.  Deb and I both found the place thoroughly relaxing and were quite refreshed when it was time to press on.  Having completely enjoyed our time (and wanting to have stayed longer) we packed up the car and drove away happily towards the next stage of the adventure!

Stumblingpiper

 

 

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When we left the glaciers behind we drove up the west coast to Hokitika.  We chose this town because it is centrally located on the West Coast Wilderness Trail.  The town has a very interesting vibe and some very cool driftwood sculptures on the beach.

IMG_20190206_154442280They ranged from the obvious, to the very large …IMG_3855all varieties and styles …IMG_20190206_153452002to the very small … with eyeballs included.  The eyes were rocks from the beach.IMG_3854

We had a really nice stay in Hokitika (to include our accommodations) …

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We did two big bike rides separated by a brewery tour. Duh.   … The first day we did an out and back to the south.  The trail is a mix of quiet roads and old rail trails.  Here’s an opening shot (looking for eels again).

IMG_20190207_104558745From there the trail entered this forest.  This was a narrow-gauge railway for transporting lumber to the coast.IMG_20190207_105013776There were definitely a few cycling challenges on this trail — don’t fall off!IMG_20190207_110411282It was beautiful in the trees … nice and cool and lovely riding.IMG_20190207_111552606We eventually made it back to the coast …IMG_20190207_132951697We were really enjoying having these full-suspension bikes.IMG_20190207_133018924Of course, then you get the added benefit of watching the sunset …IMG_20190207_204712120_HDR

The following day, we toured Monteith’s brewery in Greymouth.  Check out my beermentor.me blog for that entry.  Oh, we saw this sign on the trail … that’s why we scheduled it.  haha.

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Our final full day we did an out and back to “Cowboy Paradise” on the West Coast Wilderness Trail … this was about 72 kilometers round trip–longest ride to date for Deb!  Great trails and scenery both days–check out this video from that ride … yes, some challenging parts too …

 

You may ask, “What did you do when you weren’t riding?”  Here’s one activity … yes, you can skip rocks at the beach.

 

We had a great time in Hokitika … another place we could have stayed a little longer.  Oh, if you remember from one of my previous posts we were told about the large eels in NZ.  We had a chance to see them at the National Kiwi Centre in Hokitika.  They had some in an aquarium.  See the pics below — Deb actually was able to feed them (and touch them).  They can grow to over 6 feet in length and live over 100 years!  These eels (in the pictures) were females trapped in a lake and not able to go spawn in the ocean.  They reabsorbed the eggs in their bodies and continued to live.  Pretty creepy if you ask me.

(oh yes, we saw a Kiwi as well … more about that in the bird recap post).IMG_20190210_103844600Here is Deb “petting” the eel. She also fed them.IMG_20190209_100529535Here they are floating in their tank.IMG_20190210_103522556Pretty interesting … lol.IMG_20190210_103612645

On to the next adventure!

Stumblingpiper

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Leaving Wanaka, which is the southern end of the Southern Alps we drove up and through a small pass to get over to the Wild West Coast.  It was a pleasant drive and we, again, were passing through amazing scenery.  We arrived at our next destination: the town of Fox Glacier.   We arrived early afternoon and decided to do one of the many tourist things in the area … hike around Lake Matheson.  This is a famous Mirror Lake and, with the right conditions, you can take spectacular pictures.  The owner of the hotel also told us to drive past the lake about 5 kilometers and you will have a great view back to the glacier for which the town is named: Fox.

The hike was really nice around the lake.  Although the weather wasn’t perfect for photos, it still made for an excellent evening.  Here’s a couple of photos of that hike.

IMG_20190204_151153805You can see that it was overcast this day … it blocked some of the mountains.IMG_20190204_155423533Here’s one of those fern trees I mentioned in one of the previous posts … so cool.IMG_20190204_155624715IMG_20190204_160327102_HDR

We then took the owner’s recommendation and drove out to take a gander back at the glacier.  Because it was overcast (low-lying clouds) the view of the glacier is somewhat obscured.  Here’s the photo from this day.

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We decided on our last day (before leaving town) to drive back out since the sky was clear.  Look at the difference!  You can see so many more peaks and a lot more of the glacier!

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We actually hiked up the gorge to see the glacier “up close.”  Well … as close as you could get.  The drive was pretty challenging to begin with …check out this road!

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Come to find out, just recently, this section of road washed out — about 900 feet of road.  It is closed now for a few months I believe.

When we got up to the parking lot we hiked up about a mile in the gorge to see the glacier.  All of it kind of sketchy … and when you get up to the glacier  you’re like “Wow. That’s it? That dirty thing over there?”  I kind of like the view from earlier.  You can decided here …

As you can see … some places you shouldn’t stop!

IMG_3909Can you see the small group of people down below?  They were stopped right under this sign.   Good thing they had a tour guide! IMG_3915Looking back down the valley from the glacier … all of this was carved out by the ice.IMG_3916Here’s a look at the face of the glacier … IMG_3920A really close up on the ice!IMG_3921Here it is from a distance … kind of (un)awe-inspiring–until you realize how large it truly is.  This particular glacier is 3 kilometers deep.IMG_3926I don’t know … I like the view from far away where you see grass, mountains, and the glacier together.  IMG_3927

We enjoyed getting up close and seeing this glacier (a first for Deb!) and exploring the area.  We only spent two nights here … that was enough.  We left the final morning, had our sighting as mentioned above, and then drove by the Franz Josef Glacier on our way to Hokitika.  We saw both of the glaciers and were looking forward to the next part of the adventure — riding some of the west coast wilderness trail!  Stand by for that post.

Stumblingpiper

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