January 16, 2019 Christchurch to Waikoura

Christchurch was struck by a series of violent earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Having recently been in the 7.0 in Anchorage, the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake intrigued me. We went to a quake exhibit and they did a great job at this place.

They explained liquefaction quite well; a phenomenon that affected Anchorage in the 1964 earthquake. Christchurch looks like a brand new city; it is. They had to rebuild a lot of it. A lot of science and research had gone into the rebuilding that I hope we can all learn from.

We then drove up the coast to Waikoura, stopping to see a lone sea lion bull basking on the rocks.

January 14, 15, 2019 Dunedin to Christchurch

We pretty much drove directly to Christchurch, around 200+ miles. We had been planning on taking a scenic train ride up into the mountains at Arthur’s Pass since the start of the trip. However, it cost $500 for the 2 of us and we did not want to spend the money if the weather was bad. We had a 6 hour layover with a multitude of hikes to do and bad weather wasn’t something we wanted to have for the 6 hour layover. As luck would have it, the weather was awesome and we had a spectacular time. We arrived at Arthur’s Pass ( the Pass name and the town name).

We did a 4 hour vigorous hike. We went past waterfalls, streams and great woods. Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall, the Beasley trail and the Arthur Pass trail were all part of the day with a grand finale at a pub for a good dark beer and pizza.

The train ride home was unsurpassed! The reason we had a 6 hour layover was because the train travels from the east coast across the South Island to the west coast at the town of Greymouth. There were very few people on the return trip. We had the open air cars to ourselves with magnificent vistas. I eventually ended up in the diners car, by myself, with large unobstructed views to both sides. I was in heaven! We were tired pups as we walked the 1.5 miles back to our camper park. What a great day!!!!!

January 12, 13, 2019. Bluff to Dunedin

I am combining days because the internet is so slow, I cannot load pictures or publish at most campsites. Not sure how they exist here; hard to do much with the slow speed. Spoiled, we are.

Bluff does not get good reviews but we really liked it. There was a great overlook with a panoramic view to the south of the South Island.

We were driving to Dunedin in a day along the coast. Cathedral Caves were on the way; there is only a two hour window at low tide where you can get to the caves and we hit it perfectly, so we hiked down to the caves and walked around inside these limestone caves.

The beaches go on forever and like most of the beaches on the east coast so far, not a soul in sight.

Dunedin has a population if 118,000 and is a college town. It has a very large protected bay that is formed by the Otago Peninsula. We drove out there to an albatross visitor center. What a gorgeous drive!

The albatross center was awesome! We did a guided tour with a guide who was so passionate and knowledgeable about these birds. 46 pairs they are monitoring currently with very few survivors.They are huge birds with 9 foot+ wingspans.

The albatross are quite endangered by all the plastics in the ocean. Plastics, after about a month in the ocean, emit a gas that is the same gas emitted by the krill that they eat. They eat huge amounts and then come back and regurgitate the food into the young chicks. See the picture below- 52 pieces of plastic, to include an entire toothbrush, was found in the stomach of a dead bird!

JR and I found the college campus and walked around. Beautiful architecture!They are known for their clock tower.

Dunedin was overcast, windy and damp.

We had a grand finale to the day. We met a young friend we knew in Anchorage (he grew up there) and took a 2 year job stint in Dunedin. Zak and Natasha rendezvoused with us and we all had a great dinner. It was really great to see and visit with Jacob Wahry, catch up on his life and get an inside story into life in Dunedin.

We spent the night at a campervan park right inside the city.

January 9, 10, 11, 2019. Manapouri to Bluff via Stewart Island

We exited the fjordlands and mountainous area and drove South to the coast. We have had spectacular weather and the views were stupendous. We drove the “Highway 1” of the southern coast, along winding roads with various little turnouts and points of interest. A beautiful coast.

We went to Gemstone Caves, short little side trips from the “Highway 1” route.

We spent the night in Bluff, the industrial town where the ferry embarks to Stewart Island. We expected not much…. the campground was great, the view was great, the facilities were great. Sone of the literature and comments painted it pretty badly because there is an aluminum plant in view, it was easy to ignore amidst the panorama we had from the town campsite.

We got on the ferry to Stewart Island on a rough and windy day. Many pewkers; glad I was not one of them.

Stewart Island was really cool; so glad we came. We stayed at a place about 2.2. Km out of town. JR thought it was great. I refused to stay a second night despite paying for 2 nights. I can put up with a lot, but this was way too much. Dirty, no power in the cabin, our cabin was on rusted out jacks. There were no windows that could be opened for air flow, just double doors. The owner was so proud. The water supply was rain water, filtered but we were told to boil the water. The filter looked decrepit. But JR saw a Kiwi that night so he was happy. We decided to leave that morning and did not bother getting a refund. The owner was quite old, nearly deaf, missing all of his upper teeth and most of his lower teeth, a character, and we felt he could use the money.

We hiked around the island; it was very windy, a storm was rolling in. I almost got blown off my feet. Nice local feel and a good tavern with bar food.

The next day we had a long, great French crepe breakfast with lots of coffee in town. We then visited the museum and took a 2 hour tour to Ulva Island. This was a preserve where they have almost irradicated rats and possums. They have introduced birds that were once present. We had a delightful guide and thoroughly enjoyed this walk. We left Stewart Island very glad we had gone and with fond memories.

The ride back to Bluff was very calm compared to the ride over. We stayed at the same campground, had great showers, did laundry and had take out food. We were happy!

January 7 / 8 Wanaka to Lumsden and Manapouri

We stopped in Queenstown. Over the top tourist area and not somewhere we wanted to stay for long.

The drive to Lumsden was really quite nice. I am still wrapping my head around the fact that all of New Zealand was basically cleared either for timber or for grazing and the immigrants planted their home country’s plants and trees. This process totally upset the ecological balance of the New Zealand flora and fauna. They are now trying to restore, with great effort, the great damage done by this ecological upset.

One of the great walks of New Zealand is the Kepler track. We walked a part of it and it was really quite nice. All trails have traps; they are trying to get rid of all weasels, stoats and rats. I do believe they are making progress. New Zealand originally had no mammals; they were all introduced.

We are finding really great small campgrounds. The larger cities are mega campgrounds and they are OK, but the small town campgrounds are a varietal delight!

This is Lumsden, just a large field with the amenities; shower, toilette, kitchen, laundry. A delightful stay.

In Manapouri, the small sidekick to Te Anau, we stayed at a place that had large hedges subdividing the different areas. It was a nice place and the showers were the best on the entire trip! What a claim to fame.

We visited Te Anau. It had great appeal to me. Bike trails, lakeside and low key tourism.

December6, 2019 Fox Glacier to Wanaka

What a great day tone in the car! It was outing all day as we drive south along the coast and then up into the mountains. It was POURING! The waterfalls and rivers were engorged with water and quite a sight,

Looked like Yosemite in a high snow year in the Spring.

We ended up in the touristy town of Wanaka. We hear it is less touristy than Queenstown.

It was a tourist trap but not extremis. Grocery store was bonkers.

We stayed at a campground on the large glacial Wanaka Lake. Many campers but we got a spot on the lake. Wood cooked some chicken kebabs and had a great morning coffee.

January 5, 2019 Hokatita to Fox Glacier

Spent a bit of time in the van making our way down the coast. We are now into the mountains with glaciers to our east. Seems funny to have palms and ferns so near to the mountains.

We drove into the Franz Josef Glacier area; helicopters buzzing around and very commercial. We stopped for lunch and then moved on to the smaller Fox Glacier area.

We hiked up to Fox Glacier and just as we arrived back at the car, the rains began.Glaciers never bore me. Even though we have seen many in Alaska, Antarctica, Argentina, and Nepal, they still are beautiful to me.

Not sure if it is the rain, the fact that someone took the campsite we marked with a chair and tent, the dead cockroach on the bathroom counter, the masses or day 22 in the campervan, but I was glad to leave and get on the road in the morning….,

January 4, 2019 Punakaiki to Hokatita

We have been having really good weather. Yes, we get rain but it has not been much of a hindrance.

We were camped on the beach at Punakaiki and the beach walks were grand; morning and night.

We went to a Pancake Rocks, a few miles from our camp. These rocks are compressed limestone layers that surfaced and created blow holes. They were fun to walk around and we were that at the perfect time for the tides.

We then went down the street and walked up this river gorge. Water is very low right now. The walls of the gorge are structurally limestone and lined with palms, ferns, and a vast array of plants unfamiliar to me.

Nice 3 hour walk. We camped down the road and need to pick up our pace! We are getting low on time. So much to see and so little time.

January 3, 2019 Charleston to Punakaiki

What a great day! We stayed in Charleston because the glow worm tours were right there. We thought it would be a “touristy” thing and it was, because some things are so great you want to share them with tourists. We we went to Underground Adventures and did a 4+ hour tour of the glow worm caves.

We were fitted for wet suits, booties and a hard had helmet/torch and proceeded by bus for a short way to a National Park train. We rode this slowly moving train for 2 km where we walked maybe a km to a cave opening. We carried inner tubes to float.

We walked through these limestone caves full of stalagmites and stalagtites.we then floated on our tubes through these marvelous glow worm caves, hooked together by our feet on the inner tubes.

The glow worms were fabulous, as were our guide.

If that wasn’t enough fun, we then tubed down the river once we exited the cave.We had a great time and would recommend this to anyone heading to New Zealand!