We made the drive from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch today. This drive was not all that spectacular. The landscape was pretty flat. The weather was very good and we made good time and were able to check into our hotel early.
We found some lunch and then went walking around the city center. I’d forgotten that Christchurch was hit by an earthquake in 2011. They are still restoring the Christchurch Cathedral and the repairs look like they will take another several years.
We fly home tomorrow and we’re looking forward to being home. We’re tired after logging well over 3,000 miles of driving. It has been an amazing trip.
All photos can be found on my Flickr page by clicking
We woke up to what looked like more rain, but as we drove on to our next destination, the weather turned fine and we had a glorious day.
Our first stop was to see the Moeraki Boulders, some unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the coast of Moeraki and Hampden.
I wanted to try some long exposure techniques so I brought out my tripod and filters and these are some of the results
I may have gotten a little wet in my efforts to get these shots
We continued up the coast and I spotted a sign pointing to something called Steampunk HQ in Oamaru so we stopped to have a look. It was pretty cool to see.
From there we turned inland and drive to Lake Pukaki and followed the coast to Mt. Cook. The scenery was just spectacular
Mt. Cook was covered in cloud and fog so we didn’t really get to see it. We turned around and drove on to Lake Tekapo and found our hotel.
Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki are the most amazing shade of turquoise blue I have ever seen. It’s due to the the glacier run off…something called glacial flour which is a term for the byproduct of the rocks being ground to powder by the glaciers.
The Lupins here are in full bloom and all over the place. It really is quite beautiful
Tomorrow we drive to Christchurch for our final day in New Zealand before flying home on Tuesday.
Today we drove south to Invercargill. This is the furthest south we are traveling on this trip. More fine weather and stunning scenery as we drove
When we were filling up with petrol before getting underway the gas station attendant asked about our journey. He indicated we should stop at two places along the way. The first was a place called Monkey Island
And the second was a tiny fishing village called Cozy Nook
Both of these locations were well worth a stop and we enjoyed them immensely.
We made good time and were in Invercargill just after lunchtime so we decided to drive onto Bluff. Bluff is pretty much as far south as you can get on the mainland. There’s not much there, but Stirling Point is quite pretty on a pretty day with its lighthouse, giant anchor chain sculpture and an amusing signpost.
We then drove back to Invercargill and checked into our hotel. Once that was complete it was off to E. Hayes & Sons Ltd which is like a cross between Academy and Ace Hardware. We wanted to see Burt Munro’s “World Fastest Indian” motorcycle which is on display in the store.
They had quite a collection of other unique motorcycles on display as well
I don’t think I ever knew the Chevrolet made a motorcycle
All in all, a great day. Tomorrow we drive to Lake Tekapo
Sadly, The Fanz Josef and even the Fox Glacier were a bust. Rain was coming down pretty steady and it was just not conducive to making the trek out to see them. Even the helicopters were grounded. We had a long drive ahead of us and decided to make our way to our next destination which was Queenstown.
Despite the rain and gloom, there was still some amazing sites to see, especially the clouds and mist as it came over the mountains.
The rain did begin to subside as we moved on and we made a few stops along the way, like this one to see the Thunder Creek Falls
As we drove down the Haast River we had our first Lupin sighting
Our midpoint on this leg of the journey was Wanaka where I wanted to see the most photographed tree in New Zealand
We also saw some purple lupins, Cynthia’s favorite.
We then made our way up New Zealand’s highest sealed road, Crown Range Road which rises up to 3530 ft above sea level
We then descended into Queenstown just as the sky began to clear.
Also, today is Cynthia’s birthday. To celebrate we had dinner at an amazing restaurant called the Blue Kanu which serves food that mixes both Pacifica and Asian style, and blending the two cultures it aims to create a style and feel that they call “Polynasia”. Simply put, it was fantastic.
Tomorrow we explore Queenstown.
We were not holding out much hope for today as it the forecast called for rain and possibly hail. But when we woke up there was some sunshine and a patches of blue sky. We decided we would go for it and make the drive some 60 miles to Abel Tasman where we had a cruise and hike booked for the day.
We made our way to Kaiteriteri and checked in and quickly boarded our boat, a medium sized catamaran that would take us up the coast to a series of secluded bays.
We were scheduled to get of at Bark Bay and do some exploring, but the weather was still “iffy” so we opted to stay on the boat and just ride the route till we got back to the point of origin. We did see some nice things like a seal colony
And Split Apple Rock
We ended the cruise about mid-day and drove back to Nelson and explored a bit before having dinner.
Tomorrow we drive to Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks and the weather looks to be great.
Today we woke up early to return our rental and catch the Interislander Ferry from Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the South Island. The whole process was pretty straightforward and soon we were underway.
The sky was overcast and there was some rain, but the 3 hour voyage was pleasant and uneventful. We sat with group of elderly Kiwis that were on holiday and they were great fun to talk to and they shared a wealth of information about New Zealand with us and the ferry ride passed quickly as a result.
We picked up our second rental car and proceeded to make our way to the next stop, Picton. The drive was very windy and took us along the sound and well up into the mountains. And though the skies were overcast, the views were quite spectacular
On the way to Picton we stopped in Havelock for lunch. Havelock is the green tipped mussel capital of the world and we ate at a place called the Mussel Pot.
For lunch we had the sampler plate for two that included mussels served in a variety of ways. It was all quite delicious.
While we were there we noticed there were a number of soldiers moving about. Turns out there was a joint military training exercise happening this week.
We made it to our hotel and got checked in. The weather is a bit gloomy, and we are not overly optimistic about tomorrow when we are scheduled to visit Abel Tasman National Park. We’ll see how it goes.
Today we bid farewell to Rotorua and all of its burbling, steaming oddness and made our way to Tongariro. Fortunately, I had my trusty co-pilots and navigators with me.
As you can imagine, the drive was amazing. We were blessed with more sunshine so everything looked fantastic.
We stopped and Huka Falls which is easily accessible from the main road. These falls are a spectacular blue color and very fast moving.
After only a few hours we reached our accommodations at Tongariro National Park. We arrived a bit early so we were unable to check in right away. This afforded us the opportunity to go see the Tawhai Falls which were only a 20 minute trek off the highway. I carried my tripod and filters to take some long exposure shots of the falls.
We got ourselves checked into the hotel and found we had the most spectacular view of Mount Ngauruhoe, the mountain that was used for Mount Doom in the Lord Of The Rings movies.
Tonight we had dinner and are taking it easy as we prepare to drive to Wellington and on from there to the south island.
We woke up to a glorious sunny day which was good, because our plan was to fly by helicopter to White Island, an active volcano off the coast of Rotorua.
We got up and had some breakfast and found our way to the lake shore and the offices of Volcanic Air Safaris, the company that we had bookd for our adventure.
Besides Cynthia and myself, there were two other people who had booked the tour so that meant a small group headed to the island. And, as luck would have it, they were also photographers so they would not be impatient while I took my time photographing the island.
We took off a little before 9:00a am for our 35 minute flight to White Island and the view was simply spectacular.
We circled the island and then landed in an open area, not far from the crater lake
We spent the next hour and half hiking around while our guide told us the history of the island.
Cynthia was very pleased with herself for overcoming her fears of flying in a helicopter and of walking on an active volcano. Truth be told, we both agree that this was the most amazing thing we’ve done on any of our travels.
When we returned to the city we went back to the hotel and quickly went back out to visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Mostly I wanted to see the Champagne Pool…the rest I was not so enthusiastic about which was a good thing, too, because we were fairly tired after the previous adventure.
The Champagne Pool, named for the tiny bubbles the fizzle and pop on the surface, did not disappoint.
Tomorrow we’re headed to the Tongariro National Park and hoping for more good weather.
Today was our day to explore the Bay OF Islands region. Our first stop was to go see the Haruru Falls which are about 10 minutes from our hotel.
When we arrived at the falls we pulled into the small car park and were immediately accosted by hungry, free range chickens.
From the car park it was a very short walk to the falls.
After visiting the falls and laughing as the chickens accosted new arrivals we set off to go to Russell. We needed to find our way to Opua to catch the ferry and as I went to enter the destination into the GPS the GPS just died. I used my recently repaired iPhone to get directions back to the hotel to see if I could sort out the GPS. After fidgeting with it for awhile I decided it needed to be reset. To reset the device required a small pin to push the tiny reset button. In these situations I tend to use a paperclip, but I didn’t have one with me.
Cynthia loaned me an earring which I used to push the reset button and, sure enough, it started working again. Cynthia’s jewelry saved the day.
With our GPS back up and running we set course for Opua where we could catch the ferry over to Okiato. From Okiato it’s only a 10 minute drive to Russell.
It should be mentioned that Cynthia hates boats
Cynthia is a trooper and the ferry ride is less than 10 minutes long so she managed it just fine.
Russell is a wonderful little town. Very scenic and laid back. And it’s quite easy to walk around and take in the sites.
Did I mention is was very laid back?
After exploring Russell we drove north up to Rawhiti. The drive was spectacular and passed through forests and up and down mountains and past various bays and inlets. Unfortunately, there were not many places to stop and take photos as the road just doesn’t have many options for pulling over.
We ended up on some pretty rough, unpaved roads and eventually decided it would be prudent to drive back to Russell and then back to our hotel in Paihia.
When we got back to Russell we had lunch at a place called The Duke Of Marlborough. The back of the menu had the history of the restaurant and we were amused to learn that the Duke of Marlborough began its life in 1827 as “Johnny Johnston’s Grog Shop”. A superior name, to be sure.
After lunch we had a short walk in Russell to see Christ Church before catching the ferry back to Okiato so we could drive back to the hotel in Paihia.
It has been a great day. Tomorrow we drive to Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula. This will be the longest day of driving on this trip at 256 miles.
The Cutlass has been sitting up in the garage for the last 6 or 7 years. Unstarted, with a dead battery and two flat tires. I finally worked up the energy to have it removed from the garage and towed to a mechanic. All fluids flushed, new tires, new intake manifold, new carburetor, new brakes, rebuilt transmission, new top, new air cleaner. A lot of work over a long period of time, but she’s running. There’s more to do, but I don’t have the money right now. She does run real good, though. Need some cooler temps to enjoy it.