Sunday, June 17, 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Yesterdays lunch spot was next to the most easterly lighthouse in the world!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Swapna and Ryan, Part I

Back in November, we got a much anticipated visit from our wonderful friends Swapna and Ryan. All up, I think they were away for two weeks, including travel time. It was great to finally get them down to this part of the world, and great to get to travel around a bit with them. We got to see a lot of new stuff while they were here!

Since somehow we had five sets of visitors in 2011 (!), we couldn't take the full time off with them. So, on the North Island, we did a couple days trips together, and Swapna and Ryan did a couple day trips on their own.

We joined up for a trip to the Coromandel Peninsula to go to Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. HWB was a new stop for us. The deal is that if you go an hour or so ahead of low tide, you can dig a pool, and the hot springs under the beach fill into your pool, and you can regulate the temperature with ocean water. It's a really popular spot on the backpacker circuit, so real estate is at a bit of a premium.

It's pretty sweet though - you go lie in hot spring water, and let a little more in when you get too cool. Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday (I think).

From there we shot over to Cathedral Cove, which is worth a look if you're already over. We had been before, but I think it was a hit with our guests.

After a little interlude back in the office, we rejoined Swapna and Ryan in Wellington. Shannon and I hadn't been at this stage, but it had been majorly hyped, as the word on the street was that Welly is just like San Francisco. It is.

It's got cable cars, nice gardens, and funny shaped buildings. It's got a slower pace of life, friendly people, and a vastly improved beer culture - more selection than anywhere else we had seen in New Zealand.

It's got the waterfront and mountains in the background. It's got more cultural events and arts going on. It really is just like SF.

We loved Wellington. Being there for only a day was the real shame, but, we had to move on to the South Island, from here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tongariro Crossing, Winter Style

The Tongariro Crossing is one of the premier single day walks on the North Island. It's about 19k, and it's a point to point event, going between active volcanoes, across craters, and past strangely colored sulfur lakes before dropping back onto the central plateau. In the summer, it can attract about 800 people per day.

Back in August, Shannon and I decided that we wanted to do it in the winter, which is widely done, but it's high enough that it's buried in snow and ice. It's a bit out of our depth, so we opted to go with a guide company. Bonus - they loan you crampons and ice axes.

We booked the day before, for some reason hell bent on going on a Saturday, and knowing there was a risk of weather, but we went for it anyway. It wound up being rainy at lower elevations and sleeting at the peak with winds in the 45kph range. It was a pretty epic way to slog across the crossing on the ice. On a sunny day, you can see for miles. We got this.

We never saw the volcanoes (including Ngaurahoe, which features as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies), never saw the lakes, only knew we were in craters when it was flat. And yet, it was still a hell of a good time. Totally different than we expected, but sweet.

And about 5k from the end, we descend out of the clouds and gets some views to the north. You can kind of tell that some people were pretty shattered by the whole thing...

Naturally, Sunday was the day that postcards are made of. You may recall a previous stop in the central plateau where we didn't see the mountains either. Sunday was the opposite.

Ruapehu is the wide one, Mt. Doom is the classic cone. Tongariro isn't pictured because it's surprisingly hard to photograph from the Desert Road.

Obviously, and with foreshadowing, this means we have to return...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

South Island Road Trip

Way back in July of 2011, my mom and Fred came for a visit to NZ. The vast majority of the visit was a road trip on the South Island.

We flew into Dunedin and drove south through the Catlins, past the southernmost end of the South Island, and into Bluff.

Day two was a drive from Bluff through Invercargill, and up into Fiordland (Fjordland, elsewhere). Some noteworthy coasts before getting into the edge of the fiords. It's rather amazing how fast out of nowhere the mountains appear that make up the fiords. Fun fact - they are all named as sounds, because the Euros that got there first misnamed them, due to what they were familiar with in the UK.

Day three was dedicated entirely to a cruise on Milford Sound, and the drive to and from Te Anau to get there. Some say it's the best drive in NZ. It's certainly not bad, and Shannon loved it because it has a one way tunnel with no stop lights in the winter. Strange one.

Take a look at the little boat by the waterfall. That's not a little boat.

Amazing cruise in the mist. Dolphins, seals, waterfalls, and blue-green water with cliffs that shoot straight up. Well worth the hype, especially since there was almost nobody on our boat. I hear it can be a mess in the summer. Be hardcore - go winter.

Day four was a quick trip from Te Anau to Queenstown. Queenstown itself is a lot like Vail in the village/upitty/take your money sense. Pretty enough town, nice being on the water, but not the best spot. Amazing stuff around it though. That bridge is where bungy jumping was invented.

Day five took us onward to the Wild West Coast, by way of Wanaka, which is just over the Crown Range Pass. I think I could lifestyle it in Wanaka. To be 40 minutes away, it's an entirely different world from Queenstown, and just as pretty. It was snowing/sleeting over the pass, so not a lot of photos. Past Wanaka, over the Haast Pass and up to Glacier Country, where we snuck in in a dusk visit to Fox Glacier. By the way, that one lane bridge is about 2k long, and on a major highway.

Day five was a much shorter day, as we all needed a break, and the weather was horrible, as it is wont to do on the west coast. We did swing through Franz Josef Glacier after navigating a traffic jam, where we got caught in a torrential thunderstorm about a 30 minute walk from the car. But we got really close to it. Sweet. Wound up in Hokitika for the night.

Day six, and the final day, ending in Christchurch via Arthurs Pass. We had concerns over snow, but it never became and issue - just some dust. Made for a pretty trip across, with a quick stop at Hokitika Gorge on the way out of town.

A great road trip, and great exposure to new parts of the country. If only there had been more time...