Archive for April, 2014

New Zealand, Punakaiki| photo travel journal

Monday, April 28th, 2014

We got to drive over Arthur’s Pass again to visit the west coast town of Punakaki. I like how all mountains that you have to cross are called passes. Echo said on a recent drive over some pass, “mom I can tell you are nervous because of how you grip the armrest”. Yup–and can you blame me with these things to pass over and through??

Almost all of the bridges are oneway , sometimes the bridge is right at the bottom of a really steep grade where you wonder if the brakes on the car heading for you will work, or sometimes it is a one way bridge that is also shared by a train like this one! And railway crossings here don’t have those nice arms that come down to make sure you stop–you just have to keep aware.



The clouds in this country are always right next to and on top of you.


And then there are parts of the road like this. It is a little blurry because I think I might have had my eyes closed. To be honest I actually like this part of this pass. At least here you can tell they are protecting you from the slips (what we call land slides). Usually you just see a lot of slips and thank goodness you timed your drive correctly.



Once we made it over the pass we were on the coast and it was sunset. I really should have insisted that we pull over so I could sit and enjoy this sunset, but instead I grabbed these photos out of the window of the car. We had hungry kids in the car and it was getting late.




This was what the sky looked like when we finally arrived.



The next morning we made our way out to the Pancake rocks trail–our first of three times on the trail because we loved it so much.




Here if the girls look a bit nervous it is because they are walking past the blow hole that occasionally makes a large noise and sprays water. We arrived right before a big storm so the ocean was wild and the waves were huge.–a really dramatic time. I think technically the pancake rocks are heavily eroded limestone . I loved it.


A small bit of stray from the blow hole.


And then there is this!


The girls waiting for a show.


Having fun with my plastic lens.


Exploring the beach.


We were met at Punakaki by Jason’s dad and step-mom in our first of two visits from back home. Sadie thought the ocean was a bit wild and preferred to stay up on the rock for safety. Also the sand was pretty hard to walk on–mostly pebbles.




See that canvas print above the girls head? I will have many of those.


When we went back to the pancake rocks the blow holes were even more dramatic.





See how my kids are wearing flip flops. This would be a good time to mention if you ever visit the west coast of the south island don’t let any skin show. We found out about the sandfly the hard way and in Punakaiki it was the worst. They just look like a gnat, but my poor kids will probably have scars for life on their feet from all the bites they got. I bet if you put a microscope to this image there feet would be covered in them.






Next up–some photographs of Christchurch, our home for the last few months when we are not off exploring.

As aways, thanks for following along.


New Zealand S. Island-Abel Tasman| travel journal

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Abel Tasman is a national park on the north side of the south island of New Zealand. We went for a weekend to hike part of the Abel Tasman track. Since we couldn’t fit in the whole 32 miles while we were there we took a water taxi up the coast and hiked about 16 miles back to our car–stopping half way to sleep on a house boat.

The north part of the south island is know as the sunny side and it lived up to it’s reputation while we were there.

Leaving on the water taxi was pretty fun. Since we left at low tide we were pulled out by a tractor. I was impressed.


Heading out on our hike.


This was the view for most of the hiking.






We did not time our hike to work with a low tide crossing of this section of the trail. If we were not carting sleeping gear we might have been able to walk across, but the water was cool and although it might not look like it, the water was pretty deep. Echo insisted on trying and ended up turning back once the water hit her shorts. Taking the high trail adds an additional 1.5 hours.


This was the ending spot for the first part of our hike. We relaxed a bit before getting picked up for the house boat we slept on. Looking at the beautiful water all day got me excited for some warm relaxing time on the beach. Unfortunatey this beach was were I was first introduced the worst pest on New Zealand –the sand fly. Relaxing on the sand was no longer an option, but in the water they were manageable.


We saw a few sting rays close to shore.


This view was the first thing in New Zealand to remind me of Hawaii.


In order to get space on the house boat we had to split up. The kids had a bunk down below while Jason and I had a double bed on the top of the boat. I guess we could have given the kids the double room, but we didn’t want to spoil them too much. 🙂

Here is a peek at the bunk room. My lens wasn’t really wide enough to show much, but there were at least 8 bunks on one side below and another 8 on the other side. It was not a place for anyone with claustrophobia.


The boat was full when we stayed and a solo traveler quickly decided to jump off the top of the boat when we got there. His jump inspired Sadie to do a jump off of the main deck, followed quickly by a warm shower.


The view from our room. We got the room all to ourselves until about midnight when Sadie made her way up there and slept at our feet.


The boat.


The second day of hiking was much like the first.




Making the 5 hour drive back to Christchurch we passed by many hop farms.

storyboard215 storyboard216If you are keeping track–we haven’t spent one weekend in Christchurch since arriving at our house. The kids have done a bit of complaining, but we only have 4 moths here and a lot to see!


New Zealand S. Island-Arthur’s Pass | travel journal

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Arthur’s Pass is about an 1.5 hour trip from Christchurch. Jason was anxious to get into the mountains so we went on our second weekend on the south island. The whole drive there is pretty stunning.




I have now driven on this road 3 or 4 times and the clouds are always amazing and low in the sky.


Heading out on a waterfall hike. Waterfalls are a dime a dozen here.


Another amazing well maintained trail with a beautiful payoff at the end.




The bog trail.



The Bealey Spur trail–amazing!





I loved this braided river. storyboard195The town itself is great for a weekend–with a few restaurants and cafe’s. We stayed in a great little motel where we could cook our own dinner and ended up watching the extended Lord of the Rings on TV in our New Zealand filmed movie bing (it doesn’t take long).

It was a bit cold for camping when we were there, but it would have been a nice camping area. The kea bird can be a pest I’ve heard, but it was great to see it. The kea is the only alpine parrot and man is it funny, and they are easy to see in Arthur’s Pass.  I saw it harassing quite a few people who were eating outside. It has also been known to eat the rubber off tires and destroy packs and bike seats so I guess you need to know some tricks to keep it from ruining your vacation.

Next up–hiking the Abel Tasman track.


New Zealand S. Island-Akaroa | photo travel journal

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

It is time to show off some of the amazing south island of New Zealand. I have been living here for four months and despite my best intentions to do witty daily blogs I am now just going to cram a ton of pretty pictures into a few posts. I think I have learned that I could never make my way as a career blogger and hats off to those who do.

If you read guides books about New Zealand they usually say that the South island is the most beautiful of the two island and if you can only visit one island in New Zealand you should go there. After having just spend a week exploring the places on the south island that I couldn’t get to on weekend trips from Christchurch I have to agree with the hype. Let me show you what I am talking about.

Our first weekend in Christchurch (when it was still summer here) we drove about 1.5 hours away to the little town of Akaroa. During the winter the population is about 500-600, but during the summer there are closer to 2,000 people who stay here, and since the 2011 Christchurch earthquake cruise ships also dock here with an additional 2-3,000 visitors on cruise days.

On our Saturday visit it was busy, but not crazy.

I grabbed this shot out of the car wind as we drove to Akaroa. The ride there is pretty curvy and I was feeling a tad car sick as usual here.


Crowded for New Zealand. 😉 I really have yet to experience true crowds here. The choice outdoor tables at the restaurants were full and parking wasn’t great, but you still had plenty of space to spread out.




We came to Akaroa on a whim and also booked a nature cruise on a whim. It turned out to be such a beautiful and fun cruise. Our only other nature cruise was when we went on our Hawaii whale watch. This one did give us a glass of wine, but there was no unlimited drinks and snacks like in Hawaii–which was a good thing since we needed to drive the windy road back.


Looking out to the Tasman sea from the protected bay.




We got to see the rarest dolphin of all–the Hector’s dolphin.



We went out for a bit to the Tasman sea to see a seal colony.



If you look closely you can see seals playing.



Akaroa is a perfect day trip from Christchurch and such a world away.

Here are a few looks at the streets around us in Christchurch–not quite as exotic as Akaroa.




Thirty minutes from us is the town of Lytellton, a major port town. On one of the few hot summer days we explored one of the beaches there.



The town was still in recovery mode from the 2011 earthquake so there was lots of construction.


Next up–the mountain town of Arthur’s Pass.


Farwell to the North Island| New Zealand travel journal

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

I am finally caught up on editing my New Zealand photos and I now have time to work on years and years worth of family photos that I never had time to look at. Yeah! However with blogging I am very behind. Are you still curious about New Zealand?

Funny–these photos are from Feb., right in the middle of summer in New Zealand. Today, the weather for the week is much cooler–we are in the middle of Autumn and the days are getting shorter and colder. I’ve heard the worst winter here is one where it rains everyday and unfortunately the weather next week looks like all blah.

So–let’s look at some summer in New Zealand photos.

Here Echo is taking a little break from one of our many hikes. This park reminded me of Green Lakes State Park back home in Fayetteville. This was a DOC natural area called Lake Rotopounamu near Lake Taupo.


We love dragging our kids along to wine tastings. I wonder if they enjoy the view as much as we do. This is the view from the Esk Valley Estate Winery in Napier.  We sat outside for a picnic until rain came in. I pretended that this was the view from my front yard.




We set up camp at another holiday park type place right on the ocean in Napier.

Here I am looking down on our site.


And this is the view the other way towards the ocean.


More winery photos. The birds are especially bad here for the grapes so they have them all covered.


Napier was deserted when we went. It is known for it’s art deco style.


More of the Napier coastline.



Look–another little rainbow, and I’m not even in Hawaii anymore.




I have a very large collection of wave photos. I just can’t get enough of this view.


We spent our last week on the North Island in the beautiful city of Wellington. Our first night was spent learning about Maori culture and we spent a night at a marae. A Marae is like the center for Maori community life. The one we stayed at had a large sleeping room/meeting room and a separate kitchen/eating area. The building serves as a ceremonially center, a place to welcome guests, have parties, meetings, etc. We learned some traditions such as the greeting of touching noses called the hongi, and we were were welcomed to the marae with ceremony and songs and speeches.




We were even treated to a haka performance–which is sort of like a war dance with chanting and music. In both Echo and Sadie’s school here learning this type of performance is an optional after school activity.



It really was amazing to have one of our first introductions to the country of New Zealand to be all about the native Maori people.  It was a highlight of our time in Wellington for sure.


Wellington is a really cool and vibrant city. It was actually the only city we have visited in New Zealand that really felt active and busy.




The Wellington museum has the largest squid ever know on display. This museum was also free–an amazing thing to find here in New Zealand. storyboard158

My next blog post will be all about the wild South Island. Thanks again for following along.