Took some time to try my hand at some astrophotography. The Milky Way was setting soon after the sunset so it was low on the horizon. Not perfect, but I am happy for my first attempt.
Today the weather was as good as it gets. Cool temperatures and blazing blue skies. We drive from Nelson to Punakaiki via Westport and Cape Foulwind.
Heading west we drove along Buller Gorge which is a very scenic drive where we had the opportunity to stop by the longest swing bridge in New Zealand. Oddly enough, Cynthia was terrified of the bridge. Still, she managed to work up her courage and made the crossing and was very proud of herself.
From there we drove to Cape Foulwind, which was not as foul as the name might imply.
From there we drive a short distance to see the Seal Colony at Tauranga Bay
After enjoying these sites we continued down the coast to our final destination of the day, The Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki.
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.
We woke up to some gray skies and fog up in the mountains for our drive to Wellington. It was a long drive ahead of us and was more of a functional day to position ourselves for our ferry ride to the south island tomorrow rather than a sightseeing tour. Frankly, there’s not much to see on the way and the weather wasn’t helping.
When we arrived in Wellington we checked in to the hotel and then went to see the Gallipoli: The scale of our war exhibit at the Museum of New Zealand. The exhibit is simply staggering. To mark the World War 1 centenary, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa joined forces with Weta Workshop to create this exhibit. The central focus of the exhibit is the six rooms holding expertly crafted human figures at 2.4 times human scale. The lifelike recreations and the attention to detail are just mind boggling.
We also got to see the colossal squid, captured alive by the crew of the San Aspiring in 2007
Tomorrow we take the Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton. For now, we enjoy the city affectionatly known as Windy Welly
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.
We got up early and found breakfast at a place called Jandals Cafe. In New Zealand, jandals are how they refer to sandals or flip-flops. It was a casual, local space and the menu was AMAZING!
We opted for the Handle The Jandal Breaky (breaky means breakfast) and it was SOOO good. The tomato was sweet, the eggs were fluffy and you can’t see it in the photo, but there was toasted homemade bread under that pile of yum.
We got on our way early and again, the weather was great and the scenery was just unbelievable.
We stopped a few times for some photos
But we kept things moving today so we could get to the Hobbiton Movie Set.
This is the place where they filmed the Shire scenes for the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. The tour is pricey. And it’s a little on the long side at 2 hours. But it has to be this way because it’s a guided tour on private property. Frankly, I could have taken the whole thing in in about 30 minutes. But it was still fun to do.
The tour ends at the Green Dragon Inn where you can sit and have a beer or a cider before departing the movie set
From Hobbiton it was on to Rotorua where we will be staying for a few days. The area is known for its geothermal activity and there’s steam coming up out of the ground all over the place. And it smells like sulfer here.
Tomorrow we take a helicopter to White Island, an active volcano.
Today was a long day of driving. Over 250 mile all told. And not 250 miles over straight, level roads. Oh no, it was up and down mountains via twisty curvy roads. There was also slow, stop and go traffic getting through Auckland heading south.
The scenery was spectacular, but there were few options to stop and photograph it. Still, we managed some good shots.
The jet lag has not worn off, so we’re still waking up very early. Since we were up an hour before sunrise we decided to go to the beach which is down the road about a block to capture this
When we checked out of the hotel and started our journey we decided to stop in and see the Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa. This public toilet was designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who lived in Kawakawa from 1975 until his death in 2000.
From there it was scenic spot after the other.
We arrived in Whitianga in the late afternoon very tired, but went out for dinner where Cynthia had Coromandel mussels. These things are huge! And green! And delicious.
We’re beat. Tomorrow we drive to Rotorua.
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.