Saturday, May 7, 2016

Day 97 - A South Island Farewell

This past week has been a bit of a whirlwind, but mostly in New Zealand style, still chill and relaxed. In the past week we traveled the longest distance in the shortest amount of time. Since my friend was leaving New Zealand behind for new adventures we had to get up to Auckland in a week. Along the way we decided that he had to see the eastern coast of the North Island before he left. He had seen a part of the rest of the country so we had to complete the trip with experiencing the east coast of the North Island. From Dunedin to Blenheim (846km), Blenheim to Wellington by ferry (131km), Wellington to Napier (322km), Napier to Gisborne (214km), Gisborne to the East Cape Lighthouse (190km), East Cape Lighthouse to Matamata (377km)m Matamata to Thames (107km), and from Thames to Auckland (103km), our final destination together. This whole trip was a good 2,290km for our old station wagon but left a multitude of memories to add to our New Zealand adventure.

Everything started with our morning departure from Dunedin. We stopped at Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach along the Otago coast not too far from the city. The boulders randomly laying out along this beach were fascinating. These boulders are uncovered concretions. Now I definitely had to look up what a "concretion" was as I had never heard of such a thing. I am going to let you take the opportunity to look it up for yourself. It is a rather interesting process, which if I try to explain I will do it now justice. Before looking all this up it was actually quite fun to imagine how on earth these boulders ended up on the shore of this beach.

From here is was time on the road in the wagon, listening to our staple playlists, talking about anything and everything, and sitting in silence taking in the never ending incredible scenery. We arrived in Christchurch in the late afternoon. We stocked up on food/snacks and went on a hunt for for coptic drawing pens for my dear friend since he would not be able to find them in SE Asia. We were thankfully successful. This was the most we saw of Christchurch as it became dark as we drove out of the city. We could see some remnants of the earthquake as we drove through the city but because we didn't stray from the main roads. If I ever make it back I would like to explore more of this area for sure. Our drive continued on until we made it to our campsite for the night, Blarich Campsite right near the ferry. We had stayed here where we first crossed over to the south island. We enjoyed a very healthy road dinner of chips and the best coconut oat cookies this night as it was so late when we arrived neither of us wanted to put in the effort to cook anything. Once again the night sky of New Zealand did not disappoint. So many beautiful stars, all the time. We woke up and made our way to the ferry. On the way through the valleys and orchards we found some heavy laden apple trees on the side of the road that we were very happy to help ourselves to.

And one last trip on the ferry for us to end our South Island adventures. There were certainly places that we did not have time to see but that was okay. There is sooo much to see and we had seen so many places that it was impossible to see everything in the time we had. North Island here we come.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Day 95 - Dunedin Neverending

A late night drive from Invercargill brought us back to Dunedin where we stayed a few more nights. We ventured to St. Claires Beach and my goodness what a beautiful spot it was. 
Another breath taking spot. 

I convinced my dear travel mate that venturing out to Larnach Castle on the ridge of Otago Peninsula. Larnach Castle was built by an Australian man with a dream to build a castle as a private residence. On our wandering of the grounds, we learned that this man had 3 wives die and in the end he took his own life. A tragic story with a lovely little castle left behind. The grounds were beautiful with so many interesting plants. Succulents everywhere!

Our next destination was Sandfly Bay to hopefully get a glimpse of more penguins. 15 km outside of Dunedin and yet another gorgeous place to see. Really, when there is a beach, there is beauty. Despite the normalcy of sandflies attacking you here, this is not where this particular beach got its name. Thankfully there were very few pesky sandflies here. With the large sand dunes and the windy nature of this coast, the sand flies off the dunes surrounding the bay. We also discovered that this beach is a popular location for Sea Lion's to bathe in the sun. 


The sandstone coastline of south of Dunedin is gorgeous with its high rocky cliffs and at this particular beach, a hand carved tunnel, built in the 1870's, which at low tide leads you to a secluded beach at the base of the cliffs. This was one of our last stops on our last night in Dunedin. The sound of the waves crashing into the cliffs was mesmerizing. 

Once we left the beach we headed back into town for a farewell dinner with our gracious host at the Dog with Two Tails for some eats and live Jazz. It was a wonderful last evening spent in the wonderful city of Dunedin. 
Since my German friend decided it was getting too cold in New Zealand and needed some warmer weather booked a flight to Vietnam. It too nearly all of my willpower to resist purchasing a ticket for myself. This meant the we had to gear up to get back on the road North to get to the airport in Auckland in a weeks time. 

Day 95 - Dunedin

The weather transitioning out of summer and into fall. You can feel the chill in the air....I think Dunedin is a beautiful place to experience this transition of weather. We arrived in Dunedin after spending the weekend with new found friends in Balclutha who graciously let us stay with them all weekend after they found us on the side of the road in the rain, taking pictures of deer. 
Thanks to a lovely friend, I had an acquaintance in Dunedin who offered his abode for us to stay at. An intelligent man doing incredible research on suicide and preventative measure in the country. An incredible house, built in 1882, whom he shared with multiple roommates, which made the experience a little bit interesting, but seriously what can you expect when you are crashing on a couch. The house used to be the home of one of the pioneers of plastic surgery in New Zealand. Every common room was bare but grand. We took over the grand living room with 15 ft ceilings and two comfy couches that we sunk into after days of wandering the area. Beats a campsite for sure this time around. Spending a week in Dunedin was wonderful....this was a New Zealand city that I could stay in for a prolonged period of time. 

The people...the landscape...the history...the beauty...the Scottish influence...and basically the feel of this beautiful stone and historic city...It made me feel at home. 
In theprevious photos shows that my friend and I went on a hike of Mt. Cargill. It was not a hike at all since due to my misdirection, we ended up driving basically all the way to the top of this mountain. Which was epically annoying since I had my hiking hating friend all geared up to walk up this hill to get to this beautiful look out. It was a very disappointing realization that we had accidentally driven to the top. Who even makes a hike that you can drive to the top of?!? Silly Kiwi's. 
Dunedin is where I had "The Best Ice Cream In Dunedin" yet another of New Zealand's claims. It honestly was delicious ice cream but this is the only place I had ice cream from so I cannot attest to the grand claim of "the best". It was good ice cream but you can get the same stuff all over the country. Dunedin is very much so a college/university student town. You can feel it. Not a bad thing at all. It actually gives the city a great dynamic. We spent a lot of time at the local library whic spiked my interest in their Nook and Cranny Music Festival. It was honestly one of the most interesting festivals I have been present for. I discovered an artist just by listening and wandering around the library for a few minutes until I found her....Abby Wolfe...stole my heart. There was something so magical about hearing her incredible voice bounce off of the stacks of books surrounding her mini stage. It was amazing. In contrast, the next day we got on the road and drove to Invercargill for a rugby game. We even drove over 200km to see the game...thankfully having seats under the shelter which meant we did not get rained on at all once the clouds opened up after we sat down to watch the game. Sitting out of the rain but watching the men on the field running through the downpour was awesome. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Day 82: The Incredible Catlin Coast Continued

Nugget Point turned out to make it on my list of most favourite places in New Zealand. There was something so beautiful about the lighthouse, the cliffs, the roar of the waves of the ocean crashing up against the surrounding rocks and the distant sounds of the seals calling out.

After tumbling rather painfully to the muddy ground when I only had about three feet of hillside to descend after doing some off trail exploring (pictured above). The fall just made for a good story and startled a kind couple (thankfully they were the only other people around in that moment). 
We then waited a half hour to see these two Yellow-eyed Penguins waddle up on shore.

These little creatures are easily scared off. We stood waiting in the shelter huts built to keep us "hidden" and well away from the shore where the penguins return to after a long day of fishing. The two hour wait after seeing these two and one other in hope of seeing more penguins was not quite worth it due to all the wind and number of other people crowding around to see out the limited windows. 

We abandoned post and headed back out on the road to try to find a place to sleep the night. And so began the adventure of being offered clean sheets, proper toilets and a warm house to enjoy by a kind local passing by our vehicle as we had stopped to photograph some deer. We were treated to the wonderful hospitality of a local family living in Balclutha for the weekend. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Day 80: The Incredible Catlin Coast

The first night on the Catlin Coast started out with a night at a randomly discovered free roadside campsite in the small town of Fortrose and it was a beautiful experience with a gorgeous sunset. 
Then waking up at the crack of dawn to find an incredible moon set happening where the sun had set the night before. Never have I seen such a moon set. We were absolutely mesmerized by its beauty. 
And to make the moon set experience even more incredible, the sun began rising in the east as the moon was setting in the west. Absolutely amazing experience. 
The Catlins Coastline is a very dangerous coastline for boats and has a history of many shipwrecks.   The first stop was at Waipapa Point Lighthouse, which began operating in 1884 in response to a tragic ship wreck that killed 130 people. Along with all the other lighthouses seen up to this point it was a beautiful piece of coast, with a gorgeous beach to enjoy. 

Slope Point was next on the list of stops. Being the most southerly point of New Zealand's South Island. Surrounded by fields of sheep, wind swept trees and incredible views of the rocky coastline and cliffs. Slope Point was not all that exciting but still a beautiful part of the Catlin Coast.

Curio Bay ended up being more interesting than I thought it would be with the fossil forest there which is said to be 180 million or so years old. It was actually quite fascinating to see the petrified logs look one with the rocks surrounding them.

And then we found the Niagra Falls of New Zealand. It was spectacularly underwhelming, riduculous and the "falls" were non-existent...the laughs were definitely worth the stop. 

Dinner time at Florence Hill Lookout followed by a gorgeous sunset.