The Sunshine Took Us South

After a warm, dry night at the Last Resort in Karamea, we were on the road at 7:45 AM. The morning news reported that the storm we endured pretty much shut down the capital city of Wellington, with winds clocked at 120 kph!!!

But before too long patches of blue sky started to break through the clouds and we ended up having a mostly sunny day. We drove south to Greymouth with several stops. We hiked into a couple of gravelly beaches and once again enjoyed the crashing waves.

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We then stopped at Punakaiki to see the pancake rocks and blowholes. This place was amazing! Limestone towers built up like stacks of pancakes with the Tasman Sea crashing into them! Erosion has carved these towers and fins of rock into arches and all sorts of odd shapes. The Department of Conservation has constructed a circular walkway on the cliffs above all these mammoth rock formations so there are spectacular views. The sunshine and blue sky made it even more impressive. I was captivated by all the different places to see crashing waves and to hear the thunderous boom when a wave crashes into an undercut rock cliff!

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Okay, I’ll stop,with the crashing wave pictures and move onto glaciers! Yes, glaciers!

Because the sun was out we decided to continue going south as was our original plan instead of driving across the island today, which was Plan B last night.

Two and a half more hours on the road brought us to the town of Franz Josef, where the Franz Josef glacier is advancing right towards the town. Before going to see the glacier though we stopped to get a site at the Top Ten Holiday Park in FJ. And just as we pulled in, it started to rain and hail! The storm was very short and soon we were on our way to the glacier. From the car park at the end of the glacier road, it is a 30 minute walk to get within 500 meters of the face of this beautiful glacier! The clouds that were stuck in the mountains lifted enough so we could see the top of the glacier. As amazing as the glacier is, equally impressive are the dozen or more waterfalls, pouring off the steep mountain flanks on both sides of the glacially-carved valley! Between the waterfalls and the river flowing out from under the glacier, it was a noisy hike. We feel quite lucky to have seen the glacier, considering how bad the weather has been!

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It will be a cold night here, going down to 6 C., and we will need to throw our down sleeping bags on top of the Jucy Quilt to stay warm. Tomorrow the plan is to drive across the island to the east coast.

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Today’s Blog is Brought to You By the Letter W

That’s Waves, Wind, Waterfalls, and Wapids (rapids!).

I know that in last night’s blog I told you there wouldn’t be one tonight because we’d be camping at the end of the road where there were no services. Well, plans change! And we made a change because of the weather. In the middle of the night we awoke to winds just slamming into Jucy and the rain pounding down. This continued most of the day. I suggested we keep our hiking plans, but find a motel where we could dry off everything and maybe eat a meal in a restaurant. Jim agreed!

Our day started by heading south to see a seal colony. We knew that they would not mind the rain! We donned our rain coats and rain pants and took a windy, rainy walk along the cliffs above some rocks and saw a bunch of seals that were pretty inactive. The waves on the Tasman sea were rolling in and crashing over the rocks the seals were trying to hide in. It seemed like a very harsh environment.

We had planned to drive north to Kahurangi National Park, do some hiking and camp overnight there. Because of the ferocious winds we decided to try an inland hike and were not disappointed. The trail name was Charming Creek and it followed a raging river upstream on an old railroad bed. I thought there is nothing charming or creek-like about this river. It was a bully forcing its way downstream over boulders the size of houses! We walked up the trail for 45 minutes and it was non-stop Class 5 rapids all the way! Because of all the rain that was falling and had fallen there were numerous waterfalls plunging into the river on both sides. Two falls of note were on our side of the trail. The first one went right across the trail and we had to pull up our hoods and walk under this back massaging falls! Awesome! The second waterfall of note stopped our hike. The falls tumbled down a steep cliff and was supposed to drop beside a wooden bridge that traversed the gorge of the falls. Well, this falls was carrying so much water that it was pounding the bridge and huge winds were coming off the falls! There was no way we were going to try to cross that bridge! After taking some photos we turned around and enjoyed looking at the wild river as we hiked back to the car (and made one more trip through the smaller falls on the trail!). We need to look to see if this river is ever run in kayaks. To us, it looked unrunnable, but people are pushing the limits on what can and cannot be kayaked.

We did drive to Kahurangi NP, but not before stopping in the town of Karamea for lunch at the Last Resort. While waiting for our lunch I inquired about available accommodations. We booked a room for the night before heading our for a coastal walk in the park. This was another wild walk because the Tasman Sea continued to be worked up into a frenzy! Weather reports now tell us that the wind was regularly gusting to over 100kph, or 60 mph. Add to that torrential downpours and you have the makings for a very memorable hike! I did love looking at the crashing waves of the sea, but I could have done without the stinging rain on my face!

After almost an hour of hiking, we met a young guy hiking towards the car park. He asked where we were going and when he heard we were just out for a short hike and were heading back to town he asked if he could have a lift. Because we weren’t quite done with our hike, we agreed to meet him back by the info shelter near where Jucy was parked. When we all re-grouped and moved things around so he could get into the middle of the van we learned that his name was Kyle and he was from Chicago! And then we learned that he plans to hike the AT starting in March, just like us!! We dropped him off at a hikers hostel here in town and wished him well!

The rain continues to fall and the wind blows. We were going to spend 2-3 more days on the west coast (wet coast), but have decided to drive south a ways tomorrow, checking out the coastline, but then head back to the east coast, where the sun may be shining!

Here are some of the photos from today! Cheers!

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Hiking and Driving!

After a good night’s sleep in a very quiet campground, we were up early enough to see the sunrise over the ocean and beach. There were no clouds in the sky which didn’t make for great sunrise photos, but gave us an optomistic outlook for the day.

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We started hiking just before 7:30 AM, when the shadows were long. Our plan was to do a loop hike-walk for a while on the Abel Tasman Coast Track and then take the Gibbs Hill Track back to our car at the campground. As you might imagine, the walk along the coast was spectacular! Sometimes we were up high on the cliffs above the water looking down on pristine beaches and rocky outcroppings. Other times the trail went down so we could walk on those beaches (3 all together). We had the first two beaches to ourselves and there was a family at the far end of the third beach. The two young boys in the family were trying to dam up a small creek that flowed into the ocean. It reminded me of the many hikes and canoe trips where Tucker and Corey would spend hours trying to do the same thing!

After turning away from the beaches, we had a steady climb up to the top of Gibbs Hill, enjoying the views off both sides of the hill top. The hike down the hill was quite steep, but slow and steady got us down. We rewarded ourselves by eating our PB&J’s on a picnic table in the sun overlooking the campground beach. All together we hiked 18.5k, or 11.5 miles- a good morning’s work!

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Then we started driving and we drove for the next 4.5 hours, with a stop for groceries and gas. We retraced our steps until we got to the town of Motueka, where we started to go west a bit. We drove clear to the west coast of the South Island, where only 1% of the NZ population lives. We are in the Westport Top Ten Holiday Park, enjoying their kitchen and Internet facilities. Here’s an interesting fact that may impact our time in this area: Westport has an annual rainfall average of 5 meters!!!! But it wasn’t raining when we arrived and we even saw a few peaks of the sun.

Before dinner we took a walk across the street to the beach where the waves of the Tasman Sea were rolling onto the beach. This beach has very fine back sand and when we walked, we were sinking into the sand an inch or two. It was very different. The beach is littered with very large trees that have washed up, demonstrating the power of the surf in this area. Also, the shore line was quite eroded away, with the root systems of the shoreline trees half washed away!

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To Abel Tasman National Park

Because we had no Internet last night, I am posting this a day late. I wrote it up in a timely fashion, but couldn’t post it until Oct. 13.

What a pleasant surprise to awaken and not hear the rain hitting Jucy’s roof! And better than that, there was blue sky and incredible views of the Seaward Kaikoura Range right behind our camp ground! The mountains rose steeply and were snow covered at the tops! Just what we came to see!

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Again, we did a fair amount of driving today. We headed north on Route 1 from Kaikoura and drove along the coast for a long ways. One of the highlights was stopping to see a breeding colony of seals. This meant that there were baby seals and they were all over the place. There was once set of rocks just into the surf that formed a bathtub and the baby seals were romping with each other in that! When a wave broke over the tub, the little seals jumped about with apparent joy! It was fun to watch.

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We continued north, to Picton, where the car ferry from Wellington on the North Island docks. We turned west and drove a very scenic, curvy, narrow road above many sounds and bays along Cooks Strait (the stretch of water between the north and south islands). It was a spectacular drive and Jim drove so I could enjoy the views.

We continued on to the town of Nelson where we stopped for some info from the Department of Conservation on Abel Tasman National Park, our ultimate destination today. Nelson was the biggest city we saw today and we stopped to visit a couple of galleries, one featuring pottery and the other featuring woolen crafts. Both were excellent. We got our info, bought some gas, used some free Internet to let the parents know that we would be out of touch for a couple of days and moved on.

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We had another spectacular drive just east of the mountains of Kahurangi NP and then an exciting drive on a gravel road into Abel Tasman NP. This park is on the western edge of the Tasman Sea and the campground is next to the beach. Because it is not the high tourist season, the campground is not very crowded. However, in the summer months, over 800 people camp here every night! It is hard to imagine! There are a number of popular hiking trails here and tomorrow we will do a 15k loop before heading out on that gravel road again.

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So today has been glorious, so much different than what was forecasted! Is it too much to hope that we don’t have to hike in the rain tomorrow?

For those of you that are curious, here is what we ate for meals today, which is pretty typical camping grub. Breakfast: cold cereal with milk or yogurt, fruit and juice for Jim and tea for me. Lunch: PB&J sandwiches, fruit and chips. Dinner: Bangers (sausages) with cheese on bread, baked beans, Mac and cheese, salad and wine. Our dinners will change, but breakfasts and lunches are pretty much the same.

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If we don’t have a nice kitchen or Internet room where I can work, the picnic table becomes my office!

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G’Day Mates!

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South Island

This entry for Oct. 11 is being posted on Oct. 13, but it was written on the 11th. We had very poor Internet services our first night on the South Island, so, I am catching up now.

A short one and a half hour flight brought us to Christchurch from Auckland. We arrived to find a high cloud cover, which over the course of the afternoon, became a heavy low cloud cover and some rain started. Unfortunately, that is the forecast for the next few days.

We picked up Jucy II and were on our way north by the early afternoon. We stopped for groceries, lunch and wine tasting. The guy I sat next to on the plane recommended the area of Waipara for wine and we were sold when he mentioned that Rieslings were one of the types of grapes that grew there. We ended up buying a bottle of Waipara Hills Riesling and it is yummy!

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We continued on route 1 and soon the road hit the coast and there was the South Pacific Ocean! We are in the town of Kaikoura, right on the coast and we are once again in a Top Ten Holiday Park. After getting our site we drove to the end of the Kaikoura Peninsula where there is a seal colony and there were seals all over the place, mostly sleeping! It was quite a sight!

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We are hoping the clouds lift some because this area has very high mountains that come down right to the sea. We got a couple of glimpses of these snowy mountains through the clouds but would like a better view! The road from the south into Kaikoura was spectacular as it twisted and turned, following the coastline. There were also several narrow tunnels to pass through when there was no room for the road to traverse.

And now about the sheep~they are everywhere! I thought there were a lot on the North Island, but they dominate the landscape down here! To show what an important role they play in the South Island’s economy, when we got off the airplane in Christchurch and were walking up the jet way, huge murals decorated the walls of sheep farms. Sounds of baaing sheep and barking sheep dogs were piped in for the full experience! It made me laugh!

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Tomorrow we will continue north, and may end up in Abel Tasman National Park. We hope to hike there.

See Ya!

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Black-Water Rafting!

Yes, black-water rafting, well really, black-water tubing and it was wild.

I think I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that the landscape is now made up of limestone that has been eroded away by water. Rivers have carved their way through it and rain water has seeped through to create erosion from above. And there are these glow worms that live in the caves and along the damp walls of the gorges, which are a huge attraction. You can take a leisurely boat ride through some of the caves to see the glow worms-a very popular activity. Or you can put on a wetsuit and ride through the caves on a different river to see the glow worms, which is what we signed up to do.

Now I was a bit apprehensive about this activity too because I don’t like to be cold and I have trouble regulating my body temperature, but being the good sport that I am I agreed to go. At 9 AM I was wiggling into a cold, wet wetsuit, along with 4 other crazy folks (one being Jim). We were issued helmets with lights on the front and then we were off for the short drive to the river and cave system where we embarked on this adventure.

WOW, amazing, unbelievable, scary, exhilarating, awesome are all words we used to describe our trip through the caves. Sometimes we were walking through a foot of rushing water and other times we sat in the inner tubes and floated along with the current. Twice we had to stand at the brink of a waterfall, put our tube on our butt and jump backward over the falls? One jump was about 2 feet high but the second one was 6 feet! That was the scary part! Sometimes we floated along with our lights out so we could see the thousands of glow worms on the ceiling of the caves. Other times we used our lights to illuminate the walls or to see where we were going. It was one of the most amazing things we have ever done! I tried not to think a out the fact that we were 65 meters below the surface of the land!

When the river finally spit us out of the cave system we were all in awe of what we just did and saw. And yes, I was getting cold! For most of the 1.5 hours we were in the cave and on the water, I wasn’t too cold, adrenalin and anxiety provided some heat! But once we were done, and floating down a tranquil section of the river, in the sunshine, back to the company van, the cold set in. Even after a mostly warm shower, dry clothes and hot soup and a bagel, I was still cold. I had the inner cold and it took almost 2 hours for me to thaw out and start peeling some of my multiple layers off!

We have no photos from our adventure because you couldn’t take a camera with you and the photos the guide took and were for sale weren’t great. But click HERE to go to the website for the company we traveled with. We did the Black Labyrinth tour.

After all this excitement we had kilometers to drive to get near Auckland. Tomorrow we fly to the South Island in the morning, so we are at another Top Ten (brand name) Holiday Park, right near the airport.

We needed some steps so we drove to the Auckland Botanical Gardens and walked around for an hour. It is a lovely place and we enjoyed some of the sculptures as well as the plants and trees that were in bloom. Here is a sample of what we saw.

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I am exhausted, shivering and anxiety sapped all my energy so I hope this all makes sense. We are looking forward to going to the South Island and doing some hiking.

G’Day Mates!

Rain and Sheep

And more rain and more sheep and finally the sun broke through and there were more sheep. That about sums up our day, but I can add a few details.

As we were leaving the town Okahune, we saw a Big Carrot in a park so we had to stop and get a photo. Because it was raining we didn’t get out of the car to take the photo, but Jim estimates that it was about 20 feet tall. They grow a lot of carrots in this area!

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Today was a driving day (mostly) because I wanted to visit a small sheep farm/woolen mill that a was a ways south. We left the campground in the rain and drove through low clouds and rain, heavy at times, until we got to The Little Wool Shop, north of Feilding, NZ. This farm and mill is owned (since 1976) by Anna Gratton and I learned about her from a knitting website called Ravelry. This woman has 200 Corriedale sheep and processes the fleece into a variety of yarns which she then dyes into a rainbow of colors and combinations. She doesn’t let visitors into the processing plant so I enjoyed making several laps around her shop touching all the yarn and fibre choices before making a decision!

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All day we drove through a landscape that once had been the site of violent volcano eruptions. There are steep angular hills and mountains with the roads curving over and around them. It was interesting driving! Also, this is the really green part of NZ (according to the Lonely Planet Guidebook) and we would certainly agree. All shades of green were represented from the dark greens of the pine forests to the spring green of the trees that were budding out. The slopes and fields were a lush green and well manicured by the thousands of sheep we saw. It was hard to get good sheep photos because when we would stop the car to take a picture, the sheep would get scared and run away, hence some photos of the backsides of sheep!

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Before going to our campground, we drove past it to a beautiful waterfall called Marokopa Falls! We had the place to ourselves and were thrilled to find this thundering falls. On our drive back to the campground we stopped at a sign that said there was a short walk to a natural bridge over river that became the waterfall. But much to our surprise when we got to the bridge, we discovered it really was a mammoth double bridge over the river! It may be hard to see in my photo, because it was hard to photograph, but trust me on the double bridge part!

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Tonight we are staying in another Top Ten Holiday Park, this one in the town of Waitomo. We cooked our dinner in their kitchen and now are sitting in the dining area, using our $5 Internet.

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1 hour later. . . I took a short break from writing to take a night hike in a nearby river gorge. We are now in limestone country and there are all kinds of cave, tunnels and arches that this river runs through. One of the amazing things about this place is that it is home to glow worms-tiny living creatures that emit a glowing light at night! As we hiked along and turned off our torches (flashlights) the walls would glow like stars in the night sky! Mother Nature at her best! The trail wound its way level,with and above the river which was tumbling over rocks and pouring out of caves. We may try to go back tomorrow in the daylight just to see the river!

Speaking of tomorrow, we are going black water rafting-stay tuned!

Here are a couple more fun photos from today. We are camped right next to another Jucy tonight!

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Tonight for dinner we tried NZ Baked Beans and I liked the can they came in. Jim says he likes these better than any we tried in AU.

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And just to make you laugh, here is a photo that Jim took yesterday when I took off my raincoat hood! Bad hair day! Cheers!

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