Friday Nov. 8, 2002
The flight to Auckland from LA is
brutal – 12hr 9min to go 6520 miles. It
seemed never ending. The line through
customs upon arrival was similar – very long, but it finally started moving
quickly – about 35 minutes to get through.
From the airport is a Super Shuttle, which is a compromise between a
taxi and a bus, but the fares are skewed toward people traveling together -
$20NZ for one, $25 for 2 and $30 for 3.
(It’s about $2NZ per US dollar).
So if you can find anyone traveling to the same general destination,
hook up with them and act as though you’re traveling together.
doesn’t seem like much. It has a nice
skyline with the tower, but at ground level I didn’t find it that
appealing. I went to Kelly Tarlton’s
Anarctic Museum and honestly was disappointed with it. I guess I’ve been to too many other
aquaria. If you’re going, buy your
ticket at the information center – you’ll save 10% on the entrance fee.
afternoon, I shopped for a rental car.
One of the companies offered me free ferry crossing at Wellington
because they needed cars down in Christchurch.
But these cars were pretty old.
I used this as a bargaining chip at another rental place and they
offered me a $10/day discount to drive up from Christchurch – they needed more
cars north. I considered and tried to
do this but the difference in airfare between a next day flight to Christchurch
and a flight from Christchurch to Auckland three weeks from now is greater than
the savings on the car. Plus, I’m not
as prepared for the South Island as I am for the North (knowing what I want to
see, etc.). But Omega rental cars
offered $49/day unlimited miles inclusive of all GST and the cars look
reasonably good. They have drop off
points all over, so I’ll drop one off at Wellington, cross over to Picton on
the ferry, then get another car in Picton and continue my journey on to
Christchurch. And I now have a flight
from Christchurch to Auckland for Nov. 26.
to find out which bus would take me to Kelly Tarlton’s Anarctic Museum, one
woman told me I might need the double “deeker” bus, “deeker” pronounced with
the long “e” sound. When I asked again,
I still wasn’t sure what this was until she mentioned the tourist bus. Although I still hadn’t seen a double decker
bus, I thought this must’ve been what she meant. Now this is exactly how the Queen’s English is being bastardized
– the Queen’s subjects taking liberties with proper pronunciation. (chuckle)
learned that this is the typical Kiwi pronunciation – that they even pronounce
“seven” with the first “e” having the long sound. And what’s the deal with the pronunciation of Whangarei? The “Wh” is pronounced like an “F”.
information centers are a great place for info on accommodations. Here in Tutakaha they found me a great
B&B for $50/night including breakfast.
The room – large and very nicely decorated, is actually a separate
structure attached to the house. The
name of this B&B is the Country Garden Teahouse. It sits on 4 acres and the surrounding gardens are absolutely
magnificent. Very beautiful.
morning diving (great!) I had lunch at the Schnappa Rock Café, which was really
excellent. I had a baked Kumera
dish. Kumera is a locally grown veggie
akin to a sweet potato. It was
Saturday was pretty good. It’s all a
matter of expectations and mine were high.
The first dive was incredible – with lots of mantas and stingrays. And these were enormous. We dove a place called the Magic Wall – so
called because the underwater cliff was covered with colorful “things”.
dive was a bit of a disappointment. I
think our break after the first dive lasted too long and by the time we moved
away the other good dive spots were taken.
We ended up at a place called Cave Bay.
Since I was diving with two guys that hadn’t dove this site before, we
didn’t know where to look to find the interesting things. And the site had lots of crevasses to
explore. The water was quite cold and
required a full wet suit. I hadn’t done
a dive in anything but a shorty in probably 20 years.
I stayed a
second night at the Country Gardens and then on Sunday drove North to Whaitangi
National Preserve to visit the treaty house and Marae. Afterward I drove west to the Kauri Forest,
where I saw the Lord of the Forest, the Father of the Forest, and the Four
Sisters. I spent the night at a place
called the Castle Court Motel just outside of Wellsford. And then this morning drove down through
Auckland to Otorohanga. I wanted to see
Waiteken just outside of Auckland, but I didn’t have an Auckland map and didn’t
find my way.
Forest is reminiscent of Sequoia National Park in the US. The trees aren’t quite as large but are very
large, short, and stout – not as tall as one would expect for a tree with such
a large diameter. In that regard,
they’re similar to the Sequoias.
I stayed at the Waitomo Guest Lodge, run by Andrea and Peter. She seems to do the registrations and he
takes care of breakfast. They’re quite
an elderly couple, but both sharp as tacks.
Peter is a very amiable character.
Waitomo I walked to the Natural Bridge (Mangapohue) which was adjacent to a
sheep pasture. From there I continued
west to the piripiri Cave and briefly explored it. It goes fairly steeply down with poor footing so I didn’t go very
for in. From there I went on to
Marokopa Falls – very photogenic. I was
a bit disappointed that there didn’t seem to be a tavern at Te Anga as the
Lonely Planet said. I didn’t go on all
the way to Marokopa, instead heading south to National Park.
the last two nights at Howard’s Lodge in National Park. Yesterday I did the Tongariro Crossing.
say a couple of things about Howard’s.
As a motel, I wouldn’t recommend it.
And yet, potentially it’s a nice place to stay. The problems – first, no alarm clock in the
room. Also, the breakfast is at a fixed
time – 7:15. On the morning I was doing
the crossing the transportation to the drop point was at 7:30-7:45. This left virtually no time after breakfast
to prepare for the hike. Also, even
though they will prepare breakfast, they will not prepare a lunch. This means a quick run up to the BP gas
station to buy pre-prepared junk food out of a cooler. And since the BP doesn’t open till about
7:30, this has to be done after breakfast – making the morning a constant
crossing itself was very harsh weather-wise.
The wind was blowing so hard it at times almost knocked me off my
feet. And very cold at the top. It had snowed on the mountain the previous
day or two so I think some people had waited to do the crossing. But the guy that runs the lodge (Peter) said
the crowd was small compared to the busy season. And yet, I was constantly in a pack of people. This detracted from the hike
tremendously. Anyone that thinks the
Inca Trail is the Inca highway should try the Tongariro traffic jam. And this is reputedly the “best one-day
tramp in New Zealand” – with only the brief joy of first seeing the Emerald
Lakes. The entire hike is worth the
moment when one comes over the ridge near Red Crater to see Emerald Lake
I stayed at
the Kohinoor B&B in Ohakune last night.
It was a strange situation. The
owners had a houseful of guests coming for the evening but they made a place
for me. There was a Sri Lankan couple
(the guy is a doctor) and a Japanese man and three Japanese women. And then there was a New Zealand guy that
runs a forestry farm and a woman whose husband couldn’t come. Also, there was a married couple that knew
the owners from their grade school days.
That couple spent the night but the others just came for dinner – a pol
luck kind of thing with lots of variety.
looks out over Mt Ruapehu – a beautiful view.
Bruce and Nita own Kohinoor.
Bruce is the town’s pharmacist.
and Nita were leaving for a fishing weekend.
Despite that, Bruce took me for a tour to Mt. Ruapehu – which was nice,
but took longer than I wanted to spend.
Okahune I drove the Wanganui River Rd. to Tanganui. The drive was a bit disappointing – much of it was very narrow
and gravel and next to a cliff on the right so it seemed dangerous – often not
enough room for 2 cars to pass easily.
Despite what Lonely Planet said, there wasn’t much of interest on this
road. Ironically I enjoyed most of what
I thought I would like least – the Catholic church in Jurusalem. It had a Maori carved xxx and Maori
paintings on the wall which were very interesting and beautifully done.
radio is limited to the 76-90MHz band in FM.
Island is the country of single lane bridges.
It’s reminiscent of the drive to Hana on Hawaii. But the drive to Hana would only give a
taste of single lane bridges compared to the North Island of New Zealand.
started in an awful way. Because of the
rain I decided it wasn’t worth trying to see Wellington. So I changed ferry crossing times from 2:30
in the afternoon to 9:30 in the morning.
This also meant switching from the Lynx to the Interislander – ferries
at different docks. I thought the
rental car office was near the Interislander and so the drop off would be
easy. When I arrived at the ferry
terminal, there wasn’t an Omega dropoff.
But the woman at the car park said to just park the car there and drop
off the keys at the ferry ticket counter, which I did. It all seemed quite normal, as if this was a
regular occurrence. Before going to the
ferry I had called Omega and told them I was changing ferry crossing and they
said no problem. But since I didn’t see
anyone from Omega at the ferry, I called them again at the terminal, just to
make sure all was well. The person at
Omega insisted I bring the car to the other terminal. However, by this time the ferry was already boarding and I didn’t
know where the other terminal was. They
insisted it would only take me 3 minutes to get the car and drive it to the
other terminal and that they’d bring me right back. After going back out to the car park before realizing I no longer
had the keys, I went back to the terminal and called Omega and told them I
couldn’t get the keys back. At that
point, they relented and said it would be alright, that they’d pick up the
crossing from Wellington to Picton takes 3 hours by ferry. It should be a beautiful ride – the gap
between the islands is full of bays and coves and islands – all steeply rising
from the sea and covered with trees – very beautiful.
they gave me in Picton to drive is a Hyundai Elantra – a nice looking car, but
it has a manual transmission, which will take some getting used to on the hills
and mountains here on the South Island – particularly since the driver’s seat
and shifter are on the wrong side of the car in this beautiful, funny
tonight in a beautiful B&B called the Lincoln House, run by Laurel and
Bruce. An older retired American couple
are also staying here – Ken and Eleanor.
I like them very much – very nice people. I spent much of the afternoon talking with them. Toward evening Laurel joined us, then an
Australian couple. We shared a couple
bottles of wine and had a nice time.
I had no
intention of staying at B&B’s on this trip, but came to like them after my
stay in Tutukaha.
noticed that many of the gas stations here have LPG, but I haven’t yet learned
what kind of vehicles are using it.
from Picton to Karamea yesterday.
Karamea was on the advice of an Info office woman that recommended the
scenery. North of Karamea is where the
Heaphy trek begins. There’s only one
road in and it ends a bit further north so it takes backtracking to get back
out. Once thw woman at the Info office
knew what I was interested in doing she said she wished she could come
along. I told her to come. She said something about having to pack her
little baby and I didn’t think she would seriously consider it so we said a few
more words and I left. But I think she
might’ve come. And after getting about
an hour away I regretted not telling her to pack her baby and come along.
Today was a
bit more interesting. At Operara I did
the beginning of the Heaphy trek. Then
drove south to Westport and visited the seal colony. I continued further south to xxx and hiked the Niles River white
cliffs. Also a short loop on the
coast. While back near the White Cliffs
I met an American couple. I’d noticed
the girl at the café while I was having lunch – a fox. We talked awhile at the cliffs. It turns out she’s spent some time in the
Amazon and is an Environmental Scientist.
Zealander’s seem to be a hardy lot.
Every room I get has open windows despite some cool days. And in the morning when it’s quite cool, the
windows are open again. This while a
typical American would have the heat on.
This is the
only place I’ve ever seen where there are miles and miles of pasture next to
beach. The road along the ocean looks
out to surf over a strip of pasture, fenced both along the road and also at a
hedgerow that separates the pasture from the beach.
In bars and
coffee shops waiters and waitresses won’t take your order. Instead you order your food and drinks, then
sit down and the order is brought to your table.
Today I did
the heli-hike up Franz Josef glacier. A
bit over half way through the hike the Nikon digital camera died. Completely. The weather at the top was excellent – I had a ¾ length sleeve
shirt on and was comfortable, despite hiking with crampons on ice. We hiked along crevasses – some making a few
people a bit nervous – me included at times, I suppose. At the end of the hike we did find one
beautiful blue ice cave.
hike I drove south to Haas. But the
motels were full so I had the World Heritage Hotel call the Okura Beach B&B
where I spent the night for $60. I was
welcomed into the Okura Beach B&B with a couple of cups of tea and I think
the caffeine’s kept me from easily falling asleep.
in Queenstown last night. Queenstown
seems to be the Ann Arbor of New Zealand.
A trendy place. And in a
magnificent setting surrounded by the mountains named The Remarkables.
Queenstown I was lucky in a particular way for the second time on this
trip. After checking the map and travel
times last night I decided I would try to book a cruise of Milford Sound in
Queenstown rather than driving myself to Te Anau. I figured I’d have to schedule the tour for tomorrow. So I leisurely got up this morning, had
coffee and cereal, read the paper then showered. Just before 9 AM, I went to reception and inquired about Milford
Sound tours. From Te Anou the cheapest
she knew was $99. From Queenstown it’s
$135 (NZ dollars).
from Queenstown include stops for short walks, a coffee break in Te Anau,
lunch, the cruise, a dinner break in Te Anau (price of dinner not included) and
the drive back to Queenstown. It makes
for a long day – about 12.5 hours.
Another nice aspect of this tour is that it’s a small outfit and uses a
minibus – so there is not a big crowd involved.
As it turns
out, today’s tour hadn’t left yet – it was scheduled for 9 and was still only
8:50. And since today is a beautifully
sunny day after yesterdays dreary drive through the rain, I scheduled the tour
for today instead of tomorrow. My
timing was perfect. I had enough time
to go back to my room and grab my backpack and camera and return just a couple
of minutes before the minibus arrived.
the same thing happened when I drove into Taupo. I went to the boat docks and a boat trip with only 5 other people
was about to depart for a Lake Taupo tour to the Maori rock carvings. And this boat was the rapid tour – which was
the one I preferred.
however hasn’t always been good. I
arrived in Okunu too late to go out and see the Penguins. Also the next morning – yesterday – I then
drove down to Jackson’s Bay and arrived probably about the time of high tide so
couldn’t make my way very far up the coast in either direction and only caught
a very brief glimpse of some dolphins going by.
hotels have a quaint little habit. When
you check in they give you a little carton of milf for your tea or coffee. It seems all of the rooms have a little
refrigerator and an electric kettle for heating water for tea or instant
coffee. Many, but not all, also have
Sound – what a spectacular place. It’s
approached on one of the most exhilarating and scenic roads you’ll drive
anywhere! The cliffs rise dramatically
about 1500 meters on either side with waterfalls sprinkled frequently along the
way. The road is steep and windy and
sometimes along the edge. There are
intermittent views of snow capped peaks interspersed with rainforest. On the road about every hundred meters is a
waterfall that cascades down the sheer cliff hundreds of meters, sometimes
straight down, sometimes zig-zagging, sometimes falling a hundred meters or so
before hitting another part of the rock face.
Truly beautiful scenery.
Once on the
sound the views are equally dramatic.
These are true fiords with cliffs rising sharply to heights of1500
meters from water’s edge and plunging down under the surface for another 100
meters. On the cruise we saw the rare
Fiordlands Crested Penguins and fur seals.
Oamaru seemed like a quiet little
town. I got in around 6:30 and went
straight to where the Blue Penguins come ashore, thinking they did this around
6 PM. As it turns out, these Penguins
come ashore only after dark. Around 8:30 they opened a viewing area and sold
tickets. The Blue Penguins are only
about 10 inches tall at most. According
to the guide, some of the penguins have had radio transmitters attached which
have shown that they travel up to 54 km per day and dive to a maximum depth of 9
meters. These are pretty long distances
considering their small size.
I stayed in a Bella Vista
motel. I like these – they’re clean and
modern and reasonably priced.
The next day I drove down to Shag
point – a nice scenic little spot on a cliff overlooking some large rocks
offshore which are used by the birds to nest and the seals to sun
themselves. Along the way down on the
coastal road I also saw the Maerocki Rocks.
These are almost perfectly spherically shaped rocks and so are
interesting for that reason.
I had lunch in Maerocki – a quaint,
quiet fishing village on a blue-green bay.
I had a delicious seafood chowder with some dark bread. The NZ’ers sure can make delicious seafood
That night I went on Jim Chalmer’s
Yellow-eyed Penguin tour. He took 10 of
us along the cliff line where we visited three Penguin nests each with baby
Penguins inside – one with two chicks that were very very small. In that nest, the mother repeatedly laid
down on top of the chicks. I noticed t
hat as we moved away from the nest, this behavior ceased. I’m convinced that she was not keeping the
chicks warm (as the guide stated) but instead, was protecting them from
us. The Yellow-eyed Penguins grow to a
height of 30 inches or so and these chicks were 6 inches tall. This tour is worth taking – it offers the
possibility of getting close enough to the penguins to get excellent pictures
of them in their nests.