Archive for November, 2013


Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Christchurch to AuklandBack in Christchurch it was interesting to see how much the spring flowers had progressed in the week and a half since we were there before. The rose garden in particular was now in full bloom! We also visited Mona Vale, another beautiful garden full of flowers and flowering trees.

Our flight to Auckland took us over several places that were now familiar to us. Auckland itself is a very busy city and a bit of a shock after spending so much time in the quiet wilderness. But we found a quiet  place to eat our lunch, watch school children, and feed a few pigeons.

During our last full day in New Zealand we took a ferry across the channel from Auckland to the small quiet town of Devonport. It is a historic naval port and fortification and contains many beautiful old houses.  There we walked along the water, climbed to the top of two small hills for great views of the city and the waterways and to see the old battlements.

Back in the city we had a rendezvous with Goshen friends Paul and Kathy for dinner. They have been in this country for a few months on a short sabbatical from Goshen College. It was fun to do our first debriefing of our trip with them!

Rain Forests and Glaciers

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

glaciers mapFrom Wanaka we headed across the mountains to the west coast where the vegetation changes dramatically to rain forest and where there are several glaciers. We stopped several times to walk through the forest and observe glacial streams and waterfalls. The rainfall in this area is measured in meters – 6 to 7 meters annually!

We spent 2 nights in Franz Joseph nestled under beautiful snowy mountains. During our day there we took a 5-hour hike up one of the small peaks to observe the Frans Joseph Glacier from above. The previous day we also visited the bottom of near-by Fox Glacier. Both are amazing geological features that have carved steep canyon walls at their bases.

From Frans Joseph we went to Hokitika before crossing Arthur’s Pass back to Christchurch. Hokitika was our last encounter with the west coast, and we enjoyed walking along the beach in the evening. We also visited Hokitika Gorge and its swing bridge over striking turquoise water. Crossing Arthur’s Pass we experienced amazing road engineering and wonderful alpine scenery. At the top we met the famous Kea,  a beautiful but annoying mountain parrot.

After the Pass we stopped to hike and have lunch among huge limestone boulders at Kura Tawhiti where “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”  was filmed. Following that it was time for an ice cream break before driving on!

Queenstown and Wanaka

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

map to Queenstown and Wanaka

Leaving Te Anau we traveled to Queenstown where we boarded a “turn of the century” steamboat to cross a large lake to tour a working sheep farm. There we got to pet the animals, view the beautiful old buildings and flowers, enjoy an afternoon cream tea, and watch a sheep being “fleeced.” In the evening we enjoyed Queenstown which offered opportunities for a quiet walk by the lake as well as a gourmet pizza dinner.

The next day we headed to Wanaka. Along the way we observed bungee jumpers leaping from an old bridge high above a deep gorge. We also visited an old gold mine and tried our hands at panning for gold but came up dry! We again had a nice evening walk along Lake Wanaka.


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Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Dunedin to Te AnauLeaving Dunedin, we passed dairy farms, sheep farms, and deer farms on our way to Te Anau, a gateway to Fiordland and Fiordland National Park. In Te Anau we enjoyed lunch beside peaceful Lake Te Anau, dinner at a lively pub, a bit of fun “taming a trout,” and a beautiful sunset.

The next morning we headed to Manapouri where we departed on an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound. We first crossed Lake Manapouri in a large boat with about 100 other tourists; then were taken with 3 other passengers in a small van over a high mountain pass to our “small” boat  in Doubtful Sound. The boat had cabin space for 12 passengers and 2 crew. Our cabin had a double bed and was “en suite” with its own toilet and hot shower. 

Our crew/hosts, Maria and Shawn, treated us royally, preparing wonderful meals and relating to us as friends. They went out of their way to track down special natural plants and wildlife and helped us get a glimpse into the wonders of the area. In addition to the spectacular scenery, including hundreds of waterfalls, we saw several bottle-nosed dolphins at the bow of the boat and several small yellow-crested penguins trying to hide in the rocks. While some of the water could be quite rough and choppy, a quiet area was found where we could spend a little time kayaking.

For our dinner, Maria went deep sea diving and returned with more than enough New Zealand crayfish, a type of lobster. They were delicious! The next morning we had a huge English style breakfast that included some lobster on top of the eggs and bacon.

Fiordland is actually a very rainy place with 6 to 7 meters (or yards) of rain a year! This is why there are so many waterfalls. But we were blessed with beautiful weather and had an experience that cannot be beat.

After returning to Te Anau we also took an afternoon drive to Milford Sound in another section of Fiordland. Along the way we enjoyed lunch beside clear glacial waters and a short walk through a forest to see a deep gorge cut through the rock by gushing water.

East Coast

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

 Blenheim to DunedinLeaving Blenheim and the Marlborough wine country, we traveled south to Kaikoura. It is a spectacular route between the sea and high snow-capped mountains. Along the way we had more opportunities to observe fur seals. We spent a night in Kaikoura, giving us the chance to do a long (approx 11 km) walk along the coast and over high cliffs.

The next day we drove on to Christchurch and observed the massive destruction that resulted from a series of earthquakes in 2010/11. Most of the buildings in the city center were destroyed or are condemned and will need to come down. Some of the historic architecture, as in the Art Center, is being restored, but most is not salvageable. The old cathedral, a centerpiece of the city, will be replaced. Still, we enjoyed attending Evensong at the temporary “ cardboard cathedral. We also enjoyed a fabulous lunch of eggs Benedict at a funky café as well as a stroll through the beautiful botanical gardens where the azaleas were in bloom. In addition we saw students walking to school in their uniforms, an indication that life goes on.

From Christchurch we continued south to Dunedin, a large city with a strong Scottish heritage. Along the way we stopped to have lunch by the sea and walk a few hundred yards to see the Moureki boulders, naturally formed spheres. We stayed with a host family south of Dunedin in the town of Taieri Mouth. They enjoyed showing us their hundreds of irises which they raise and sell. With them we also walked across a sandbar at low tide to a nearby island where we observed black-backed seagulls as well as a colony of nesting royal spoonbills.


South Island – North Side

Friday, November 1st, 2013

south island north sideLeaving Wellington, we took a ferry to Picton on the South Island, a 3-hour crossing. We had a beautiful day and calm waters which made for a pleasant journey. From Picton we drove to Takaka, stopping along the way for a great lunch of mussels. Near Takaka we were hosted for two nights by a father and son. From there we were able to enjoy walks along the beach near Farewell Spit, a long thin strip of land separating Golden Bay from the ocean.

From Takaka we drove to Blenheim, stopping for lunch with friends of friends in Nelson. They treated us to a wonderful meal at the Sigfried Winery. We spent 2 nights in Blenheim located in the large Marlborough wine area. We enjoyed a morning hike up some nearby hills and another fine lunch at the Wither Hills Winery. We had a self-catering unit in Blenheim; so our other meals were more mundane and not worthy of photos! One evening we were treated to a beautiful rainbow and sunset.


Friday, November 1st, 2013

Turangi to WellingtonThe day after our cancelled alpine crossing was a travel day, and it was a cloudless beautiful day! As we left Turangi we enjoyed seeing the mountains where we had wanted to hike , including several thermal vents that were steaming strongly. We also stopped for a brief hike in a rain forest that included many giant tree ferns.

 In Wellington we stayed 3 nights with parents of a friend we had made in Indonesia. They took us to their church that serves a multicultural community, and afterwards we enjoyed a Sunday dinner with their extended family. With them we also visited a reserve that exists to preserve native plants. On another day we visited the Te Papa museum that houses a lot of Maori items among other things. We also had a tour of Parliament and the historic St Paul’s Cathedral, a unique wooden Gothic structure, that has been replaced by a larger and more modern cathedral.