Abel Tasman National Park

February, it’s generally the most reliable month in the country for warm, sunny weather. That’s why Daniel and I take our Summer Holiday in February. The weather is great, schools have gone back and it’s getting towards the end of peak tourist season. It’s the perfect time to travel.

And Abel Tasman, it’s in the sunny Tasman region, well know for it’s hours and hours of glorious sunshine.

A multi day kayak through Abel Tasman National Park has been on my bucket list since long before I even knew what a bucket list was. And now I can tick it off the list. And, we did this through some of the worst February weather we have had in a long time, while the country was experiencing a tropical cyclone…..

Day 1.

Actually, I will rewind and start this story on the morning before day 1. Daniel and I are in the dining room of our hostel, quietly eating our breakfast. At the other end of the dining hall is a table of 8 senior citizen women who are making quite a racket. Excitedly chattering away, it looks like they are having a great time. I overhear them talking about going on a kayak tour.

Day 1. Daniel and I step outside the hostel at 6.55am in the drizzling rain, waiting to be collected by Abel Tasman Kayaks. There is a father and son also waiting outside. We get talking and find we are on the same tour. And then, who should also step outside , I know you know where this story is going, the women from the breakfast yesterday. Already their banter has me laughing. They are such a hoot. They will be entertaining companions on this tour that’s for sure!

We are collected by Abel Tasman Kayaks in a shuttle and driven out to Marahau. It takes a bit over an hour but it’s very scenic. We drive along the coastal route. It’s still and the colours of the sky and sea are soft and blended. It looks like a water colour painting. The day is still waking up.

Further into the drive, the rain starts pelting down. This is going to be a very wet trip. It’s pretty disappointing, but what can you do other than roll with it and make the most of the situation?

We arrive at the base and are introduced to our guide Mitchell, but everyone calls him Red. With the assistance of Red, for the next 3 days, we will be exploring Abel Tasman Park with the father and son from this morning and a couple who self drove to the base. The senior citizens are in their own group accompanied by their incredibly patient guide, Kyle.

We pack the clothes we will need into dry bags, and then put everything into the kayaks. We get provided with a tent and sleeping bag and all the food and cooking equipment needed has already been loaded into the kayaks. We are then given spray skirts, spray jackets and life jackets. The rain is heavy and persistent. We are trying to keep dry, sticking to the shelter, but soon there will be no avoiding it.

With the kayaks loaded onto the truck, we head down to the beach. Normally this trip starts with a water taxi ride up to Awaroa in the northern end of the park and then you kayak back down to Marahau over the 3 days. Because of the weather, our tour will be different. We are jumping straight in with a 5 hour kayak to Bark Bay where our guides have managed to secure us a hut for the night (rather than being in a tent.)

After a safety briefing and some instructions on how to paddle, we launch our kayaks. Instantly I notice how quiet it is on the water. It is calm and peaceful with the soft pitter patter of rain on the ocean. It is more like a lake than the sea, it’s so flat.

The bush on the hills is like what I fell in love with on the West Coast. Dense, lush and vibrant. It is every shade of green you can imagine and full of textures. The sea looks green too, reflecting its vibrant colours.

It’s simply stunning.

It doesn’t take long before I start to find the kayaking challenging. I am using muscles that haven’t been used in a while and they are not that happy about being woken up. But I push through it. 1, 2. 1, 2. Finding my rhythm and focusing on the beauty around me. At one point we are accompanied by a school of small fish that skim across the water, their bodies flashing sliver in the light.

We pass gorgeous, sandy bays. Even in the rain on this grey and gloomy day, the sand glows golden. We rest for a while, in our kayaks with the golden beach as our back drop and Red tells us how the area became a national park. It was first opened on the 16th December, 1942, 300 years after Abel Tasman had first sailed these waters. The government had plans to build a coastal road through the area but Nelson resident and environmentalist Perrine Moncrieff collected 1000 signatures and petitioned the government to turn it into a National Park. This was declined, so she wrote a letter to the Queen of The Netherlands, inviting her to attend the opening of the park, signed from the government. The Queen agreed to attend and the NZ government then decided they’d better follow through, not wanting to admit ‘government documents’ had been forged, especially during a World War. I couldn’t find this version of the story on the internet, but that’s what we got told and I very much like this version.

We then head out to Adele Island, named after the wife of French explorer Dumont D’Urville, who mapped the area with incredible accuracy in the early 19th century. Adele Island is home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals (which apparently are actually sea lions) and we were able to watch them on the rocks for a while. At this time of year there were also pups which were very cute. They are too young to know how to swim, but in a month or 2, Red explains that they will be more confident with swimming and are very curious. They will swim right up to you and Red has even had one jump onto his kayak.

It’s time for lunch so we paddle over to Te Pukatea Bay. It’s a perfect little crescent bay, filled with golden sand. Its a shame about the weather. Red puts up a fly and we eat our lunch under the shelter. Despite the persistent rain and being soaked through, I hadn’t felt cold, until now. Once we stopped paddling, everyone in the group started to cool down so we didn’t wait long before jumping back into the kayaks.

The next bit of paddling is hard. It’s called The Mad Mile. This body of water is more exposed. Its choppy and a rather challenging paddle, but we make it through. Before long, we arrive at another beautiful bay, a crescent moon shape and it draws us in.

We have arrived at Bark Bay.

After unpacking all the gear and moving it up to the hut, I decide it’s time for a swim. It’s not great weather, but when am I going to be here again? I am going to make the most of my time in Abel Tasman National Park, whatever the weather. I am joined by 2 others and we head down to the beach for a dip. The water is surprising warm, but also very shallow. We go out so far but it doesn’t get deeper than my thigh. Still, that’s enough water to float around for a while.

We head back to the hut to get warm and dry and find platters of cheese, crackers, dips, chips, wine and beer! This is not camping like I’ve know it, we are far from ‘roughing it’. We gather around the table and spend time getting to know our fellow travelers better, including the ladies in the other tour group. (They took a water taxi to Bark Bay and then did a little kayak in the area) They are such a laugh. They are a group of women, brought together by a shared love of travelling. One of them put an ad in the local paper looking for travel companions 12 years ago and have since done trips all over the world together.

The rain eases off for a bit so Daniel and I head out on a recommended walk to a waterfall. The bush is beautiful. It is so lovely in the rain, all glistening and dewy. There is a bridge by the waterfall which makes for a good viewing point. The water is so clear. It’s not the most impressive waterfall, but it’s certainly nice to get out for a walk and enjoy a rare moment of the day when it is not raining.

Back at the hut, Kyle gathers us all to tell us the story of Abel Tasman discovering Aotearoa and his encounter with the local iwi. It happened in what was called Murderers Bay (now renamed Golden Bay) Through misunderstandings and cultural differences, the encounter didn’t go well. Abel Tasman only spent 5 days in New Zealand waters and never once set foot on this land, yet the whole area was named after him. Kyle’s stories of this land were fascinating and passionate. He really brought the history to life.

We share more stories as a group over a lovely dinner of chickpea curry, followed by pavlova. Yes pavlova! On a kayaking trip. Who would have thought!

We all head off to bed early. It’s been a long and physically demanding day. We are all very grateful to be in the hut tonight and not in a tent! I don’t sleep well at all though, sharing a room with so many people, it’s hot, noisy and not particularly comfy. But I do wake in the morning, so I must have slept for some of it.

Discovering Nelson

Daniel and I wake up on a Thursday morning to our travel app telling us there are severe weather warnings, expect delays and a message saying you can change your flight free of charge if you want to. Not really what you want to hear on the first day of your summer holiday.

I am a bit confused, the current weather is alright for Wellington and it’s pretty still. We head to the airport anyway, have a 10 minute delay and after a short, pretty smooth, 30 minute flight, the wheels touch down to a very wet tarmac. Water sprays everywhere. The rain is pretty heavy here.

Welcome to Sunny Nelson! It gets that name because it receives some of the highest hours of sunshine annually. Not today.

All up, we had about 2.5 days in Nelson (with another little excursion in between that I will share in the next post) This gave us lots of time to explore. Here is what we got up to:

Eating

After wandering the streets of Nelson for a few minutes in search of lunch we come across Hardy Street Eatery. It’s bright, simple decor is inviting and being able to see some of the food being prepared in the open kitchen is pretty cool. It’s busy and humming and has attracted a range of people, mums, workers, friends, travelers, retirees. It feels like a popular place. I loved the choice of vegetarian food on the menu. Usually I find the vegetarian choices at places a bit limited. Not here. My meal is colourful, creamy and delicious.

Arden Bar & Kitchen. Wow! This is right up there with one of my favorite meals ever! Again, I was spoiled for choice with lots of vegetarian options. We sat outside under the rain canopy. Outdoor lights dotted around the place, music playing and plants give the space a lovely vibe to sit back, relax and enjoy a great meal.

I’m a sucker for fresh bread. I know I shouldn’t, it fills me up so much, but when I saw homemade sourdough with shallot butter on the menu, I couldn’t help myself.

Totally worth it.

It was sensational. The shallots gave the butter a sweet, rich, caramelized flavour. Paired with the warm sourdough, oh, I could eat that every day!

This was followed by gnocchi. (Another, I probably shouldn’t because it’s so filling and I really want dessert, but I just can’t resist) It was gorgeous. Not melt in the mouth like I had in Florence, but this was pan fried and the caramlisation on it was so good. It was accompanied by grilled zucchini, fresh beans and a little zing from some chili. Comfort food at it’s finest.

Much to Daniel’s dislike, I asked to share the dessert. Tonka bean creme brulee. Never heard of tonka beans? Me either. A quick google search told me they are a small black bean, a bit like an almond and are found in Central and Northern South America. Also, they are illegal in the US!

Again, another outstanding dish, smooth and creamy with a delicate vanilla flavour and a hint of spice. This was all washed down with a sweet cocktail. If you are ever in Nelson, be sure to check out this place. It was incredible.

Walks

I always like to try and get out for walks when I am away, even if it means leaving Daniel at our accommodation with YouTube and going exploring on my own.

I didn’t spend long here but Queen’s Garden’s is well worth checking out. It’s very beautiful with water features, bridges, tall trees and a rose garden. It’s a perfect place to amble slowly through, have a picnic and smell the roses.

My main walk while I was here was to the Centre of New Zealand. It’s actually not the true centre of New Zealand, but it was given that name as it was the central survey point in the 1800’s. Once Stewart Island and small inshore islands were taken into account, the actual center of New Zealand is about an hour’s drive South West in Spooners Range. But there is a monument at the top and it’s pretty cool to be able to say you have been to the center of New Zealand.

The walk begins in the Botanical reserve. I had read that the walk is steep and can take 20 – 60 minutes depending on your fitness. I decided to time myself.

As soon as I entered the forest, the noise of the cicadas was overwhelming. They drown out all traffic sounds and the birds of the forest. They were singing their little hearts out. But after 10 minutes of climbing a steep hill, the only thing I could hear was the huffing and puffing of one very unfit Wellingtonian. (who was rather embarrassed when she was overtaken by a child jogging up the hill!) When I make it to the top, I am rewarded with cuddles from 2 energetic little dogs.

Once I have caught my breath, I take time to soak up the view. It’s cloudy but I can still see out across Nelson, the township, the harbour and what looks like a sandbar out in the ocean. I get my photo with the centre of New Zealand monument and then start the descent.

Now that I am not timing myself, I take time to appreciate the forest, to close my eyes and listen to the birds and the cicadas. Life is so sweet when you take time to enjoy moments like this.

It’s a steep track, but well maintained, and signposted. I myself am astounded at how easily I get lost. My navigation skills are pretty poor, but even I manage this walk without getting lost. And just in case you are wondering, I got to the top in 15 minutes!

Activities

I am not a big wine drinker, but I do like going on wine tours. I enjoy the wine culture, the pretty vineyard settings and getting to hear local artisans passionately talking about their products. The Nelson wine region is known for it’s Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and something I didn’t know, Pinot Noir.

We get to explore this region with Nelson Tours & Travel. I was a little disappointed to find we were the only ones on the tour. It was great getting a private tour for the price of a regular one, but we do enjoy the opportunity to meet other people. I guess this is just how things are at the moment. Covid has wreaked havoc with the tourism industry so it’s nice to be able to support local businesses.

Our host CJ picks us up and he and Daniel hit it off, talking about music, motorbikes, travel and of course wine. We find out that CJ was in Italy at the same time as us and we spend time reminiscing about our time under the Tuscan sun.

Our first stop is Middle-Earth. (Not to be mistaken with Lord of the Rings) Of all the vineyards we visited, this was my favourite. While it had the known varieties of wine, they also produce wine from grape varieties I had never heard of. The very first one we tried, the albarino, was my favourite from the whole day. It had citrus notes finishing with a bit of saltiness. I have never tasted anything like this before and really loved it. Other varieties we tried that I had never heard of were, viognier, pinot meunier and petit verdot. It is here that we learn pinot noir (black) has unstable DNA and mutates into other varieties, pinot gris (grey) pinot blanc (white) and pinot meunier (miller)

We then move onto Heaphy Vineyard and Winery where we have some much needed lunch. Sourdough pizza and an incredible corn salad. At this vineyard we are able to choose our own sample selection from a list, including a bold flavour riesling made from grapes off the oldest vines in the South Island.

Our next 2 stops are Kina Cliffs and Kina Beach Vineyards which happen to be right next door to each other. As soon as I step out of the van, I can smell the ocean. We taste our wines while listening to it’s rhythmic sounds. I forget how lucky we are. No matter where you are in New Zealand, you are never more than 3 hours from the coast.

I am a little bit wined out at this point, but Daniel is still enjoying the tastings. All and all, it was a great day and we did a great job of supporting the local wine economy by having rather a few bottles shipped back home to us.

Even if you don’t like cars, if you can appreciate beautiful aesthetics and design, you should check out the Nelson Classic Car Museum. With vehicles dating back as far as the early 1900’s there is bound to be something for everyone. Daniel was like a kid in a candy store, delighting at some rare and forgotten models.

I loved the early 20th century cars. They are so beautifully designed with their back seat carriages, old wooden spoke wheels and oil lit headlights. I was also quite taken with the little red vintage Jaguar convertible and I can’t help but drool over the 1960’s/70’s Stingrays. They are a head turner! There is a great collection of cars here that are nicely displayed. It’s well worth a look.

So, there you have it, some suggestions of what to do next time you are in sunny Nelson. Hopefully you will get to experience the sunny part!

Cycling from Clyde to Cromwell

I am not a cyclist, by any means. The last time I rode a bike was in 2020, in short bursts between the Martinborough Vineyards. The time before that was in 2019 on an eBike day tour in Rome. And before that, it was probably back in 2012 at Ohope Beach.

Cycling is not my thing.

But I love the outdoors and being active. I also love the Central Otago Landscapes, so there was no way I was passing up the opportunity to explore this area by bike.

There are many cycle tracks and trails in Otago, including the Otago Rail Trail that connects Clyde to Middlemarch along a 152 Kilometre track. In May 2021, The Lake Dunstan Trail opened. My brother and I decided to tackle this 52km, track that connects Cromwell to Clyde.

We collect our e-bikes from Bike IT Now in Clyde and are given a short induction. We then do a quick test ride up and down the street to make sure we are comfortable and heights are set correctly. I am pretty rusty and wobble all over the place, but after a few minutes I get the hang of it. Your know the saying, ‘It’s just like riding a bike’.

We then set off to tackle the ride. I am excited for the day ahead and the sights we will see. After 10 or so minutes I test out the ebike, putting it onto eco. What a difference, it makes the pedalling so easy.

The path snakes alongside The Clutha River, which is a beautiful, vibrant, emerald green this morning. Throughout the day, the colours change to various shades of blues and turquoises. The lakes and rivers aren’t brilliant jewel colours in the North Island. South Island lakes are really quite special in this way.

It’s looking like it will be a hot day, but we have set off early and hope to avoid the fierce afternoon heat. The track starts out flat, then grows into a gradual climb. We cross Hugo bridge, an 85.5 metre suspension bridge. All I can say is, don’t look down! The track gets steeper and steeper, but with the eBike, it’s no problem, I just switch it onto boost and the bike practically pedals itself (and me) up the hills.

As we reach the peak, 342m high, there are some incredible views across the river and looking out to Cromwell. We stop for a while to soak in the view and see how far we have come.

We have gone up the hill, now it’s time to go down the other side. It’s pretty steep with some sharp turns and there are a few parts where I have to get off and walk the bike down. Cycling down steep hills is hard, but I do feel for the people we pass coming up it!

We reach the bottom and come across the newly launched Coffee Afloat. A boat serving coffee, ice creams, baking, cold drinks and snacks to the trail riders. In September, Burger Afloat was also launched. It’s pretty popular, there must have been at least 50 people there, resting on the nearby rocks and refueling.

We decide not to stop, so instead, carry onto the next section of the track, which is really quite impressive. Not impressive scenery, (although it is lovely) but the track itself. Up to this point, we have be cycling along tracks carved out of the hills, but this part is a path, suspended off the rocks, right above the river. Goodness knows how they were able to build such a structure, but it makes for some scenic riding.

By the time our tummies start to rumble, the perfectly positioned Carrick Vineyard comes into view. We refuel with pizza, olives and a cold drink. It’s an idyllic setting, but it’s also getting pretty hot so we don’t hang around for long after eating.

Cycling further along the river bank, over a bridge and through Cromwell Heritage Precinct we arrive at Bike IT Now to return the bikes. I am hot, yes, and my bum is rather sore (despite the double gel cushioned seat) but I’m not tired. The eBike was amazing, it made this trip possible for me. I don’t think I could have done this on a regular bike.

Apparently 70% of people doing this trail cycle from Cromwell to Clyde. We did it the other way and I am so glad we did. It’s a popular trail and with people heading in both directions, it does get pretty tight. Some parts of the track are especially narrow and I was always pleased to be on the side against the hill, rather than next to the edge!

I thoroughly enjoyed this trip, cycling through diverse landscape; dry, barren looking land, past huge rocks (and some pretty big drops) past pretty purple lupin flowers, through cool shady forests, over bridges and through historic precincts in a land that is rich in history.

All you need is a day and you too can discover some of the charm Central Otago has to offer.

Cromwell Delights

After the madness of Christmas passed (although I do love the Christmas madness) I packed my bags and headed down South on Boxing Day to spend some time with my brother and his family.

They were visiting his in-laws who are based in Cromwell. When I was invited to stay with them, I needed no convincing, Central Otago is one of my favourite parts of the country. And getting to spend a week with my nephew and niece was certainly a big draw card.

It was a rather bumpy flight in with the plane rolling from side to side, the Queenstown basin is known for its strong winds. I’m not a great flier so my hands were tightly gripping the arm rests while I focused on controlling my breathing. I had an aisle seat so I couldn’t even distract myself with a scenic view. But soon after landing I am picked up from the airport and presented with a container of fresh cherries. I quickly forget all about the bumpy flight in. I am so looking forward to gorging on Central Otago stone fruit this week.

What I love most about this place is the landscape. It’s so dramatic. Black jagged rock faces, dry, grassy tussocks land and jewel coloured lakes. It’s very distinctive and striking.

I have 6 days to explore the area. Plenty of time to relax and unwind and get a taste for Central Otago life. Here are some of the things we got up to during my stay.

A walk around the lake. Cromwell is nestled in below Lake Dunstan and bordered by the Clutha River. There are plenty of scenic walks you can take around the lake. One afternoon we sat in the shade of a tree on the shore of the Clutha River watching ducks and enjoying the slower pace of life that you get when you leave the city. Another day we ambled along the shore of Lake Dunstan and I learnt how to skip stones along the flat still water. There is something very soothing about being near water. In Cromwell, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy it’s tranquility.

Wine Tasting. Your Central Otago trip wouldn’t be complete without a little (or a lot) of wine. I read somewhere that there are 25 wineries in Cromwell alone, so there are plenty of options. We went to Misha’s Vineyeard and Wooing Tree. These 2 make up part of the 4 Barrels Walking Wine Tour along with Scott Base and Aurum Wines. As the name suggests, you can visit them all by foot, with the total loop taking about 90 minutes plus stops. Sit in the sun or in the shade of a tree, and sip the Pinot Noir that makes Central Otago world famous. (There are also lots of other varieties to try. My favourite is always the dessert wines.) It’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon and if you finish at Misha’s Vineyard, head on over to The Stoker Room next door for dinner.

Dining. Another stop you must make in Cromwell is to The Stoker Room. Their food is steamed, baked, grilled and smoked in French Oak Pinot Noir barrel cookers and the results are exquisite. I’m not really a fan of smoked foods, but this was delicious. Their meals are heavily meat based, but there were still several vegetarian options and my brother and I enjoyed sharing several small plates. It is also home to Wild Earth Wines and I was given strict instructions from my husband to make sure I ordered several bottles to be shipped back home. Their Chelsea Riesling is amazing. I am looking forward to that order arriving next week!

Fruit Picking. If you are here during the summer, there are endless amounts of sweet, delicious stone fruit at your finger tips. Head to one of the many local orchards and go fruit picking. We went to Cheeki Cherries where we were able to pick, big, juicy, scrumptious cherries. I was heading home that day with only carry on luggage so I had to be restrained, but so good to take a little bit of Central Otago home with me. A week later and I have nearly finished the 2kg box I brought back! Cheeki Cherries also have PYO apricots, nectarines and peaches. You could just go to a store and buy some, but where’s the fun in that? And besides, how lovely is it to walk through an orchard on a beautiful summer’s day?

These next 3 activities are in Wanaka, but it’s only a 40 minute drive so you can easily do a day trip. When we headed out there, the Rhythm and Alps festival was on and traffic was manic, so we didn’t go right into the township to the lake, but on a different day, it’s well worth the visit. I was in Wanaka last year though, you can read about that in this post Chillin’ in Wanaka.

National Transport & Toy Museum. Take a walk down memory lane, looking at old toys from times gone by. There were certainly some I remember from my childhood. There is also a collection of cars, service vehicles, planes, bikes and motorbikes. It’s an unusual place. An eclectic collection of things. Yes it has toys and yes it has a variety of transport vehicles, but you will also find old cellphones, computers, sewing machines and an entire wall of antique teaspoons. Lets just say, it’s an interesting place. My favourite were the vintage fire trucks.

Puzzling World. A place filled with illusions and mind tricks. One of the spaces, the tilted house, really messed with my mind. With no windows and clever use of slopes and lines, it leaves your mind very confused. It threw me off balance so much that it made me feel sick. The room of following faces was interesting though, step into the room & watch 168 pairs of eyes follow you around, left and right, up and down. Puzzling World wasn’t for me, although I am sure there are people out there who would love it.

Wanaka Lavender Farm. Immerse yourself in a sea of vibrant purple lavender while listening to the gentle hum of the hard working honey bees. The fragrance of the flowers, along with the sights and sounds are a delight for the senses. There are also a variety of farm animals you can visit while strolling the grounds. Back at the shop, try a lavender ice cream. They had 3 different flavours, I tried the traditional lavender, honey combo. It was unusual, but in a good way. An unfamiliar flavour, but refreshing and moreish.

My 6 days in Cromwell were an absolute delight, the perfect mix of rest, relaxation and exploring. What a wonderful way to end 2021.

Travel Highlights of 2021

I want to start this post by acknowledging how fortunate I am to be able to write a post like this. The last 2 years have been exhausting, challenging and devastating for so many people. I write this with a thankful heart, very much aware of how lucky I am to be able to travel so freely.

I like to reflect, especally as 2021 draws to an end. Looking briefly back at all the photos I have uploaded this year, the locations, the activities, brings a smile to my face and I feel very grateful.

Initially I was going to do a recap on my favorite travel of 2021, but actually, I want to break that down a bit. My favourite moments, travel locations and activities.

Travel Moments

These are exactly that. Moments. They only last for a few minutes, or even seconds in some instances, but it’s enough to take my breath away and make time feel like it is standing still. These types of moments are what make life so sweet.

  1. Looking into the eyes of a wild tuatara. It was a very humbling experience, so much wisdom and years of time gone by lie behind their eyes. The fact that it was wild and not in captivity, made it all the more special. Exploring Matiu/Somes Island
  2. Sitting in a spa pool with a magnificent kereru perched on the other side. We get a lot of kereru in our garden, they are one of my favourite birds, but I have never been that close to one. To see it in so much detail was incredible, it’s iridescent feathers and pure white chest. Lake Swims, Wild Blackberries & a Kereru.
  3. Seeing a magnificent Kotuku (White Heron) fly silently and ever so gracefully across Okarito Lagoon. Kayaking with Herons.
  4. Looking into the eyes of a seal. We just stared at each other, underwater, taking each other in. That kind of thing doesn’t happen every day! Swimming with Seals.
  5. Looking up from beneath a waterfall. Who would have thought that falling water could be such a spiritual experience. Time just froze, while I looked up in awe at the water droplets slowly floating down on me. Doubtful Sound Tour – Day 2.
  6. Sitting outside, listening to the powerful rumbling thunder roll across the sky above me from left to right. Escape to the Country

Travel Locations

It wont come as any shock to you that I love New Zealand. I may be biased, but I think it is the most stunning place in the world (followed closely by Slovenia) Aotearoa, the Long White Cloud, is full of natural beauty and breathtaking scenery. There are many places to fall in love with, but here are some of my favourite.

Pukawa. Nestled into the southern shore of Lake Taupo, it’s the perfect place to have a quintessential kiwi summer holiday. Lake swims, BBQs and days spent soaking up the sun. I loved everything about this place and it was one of my favourite holidays of the year. Lake Swims, Wild Blackberries & a Kereru.

Hokitika. A small town on the West Coast of the South Island. We didn’t go with much expectation, it was just a convenient place to stop and break our traveling days. What we discovered was a delightful town full of crafts, amazing sunsets and fun activities. Discovering Hokitika

Westcoast Glacial Rainforest. Not one particular place as such, but I had to include it. I fell in love with the rainforest. It’s incredibly unique, there aren’t a lot of places in the world where rainforest meets glaciers and it’s something everyone should experience. It has an ancient feel to it and is the most vivid shades of green. It made my heart swoon.

Kingston. Located at the bottom of Lake Wakatipu is Kingston. I have never stayed here, only visited for half an hour or so, and passed by it a few times on our motorbike. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown, it has a still, sleepiness about it which has me captivated.

Travel Activities

I love being a tourist in my own country and there is something for everyone. Here are my favourites from this year.

Caving in Charlestown Charlestown is a tiny little town, just south of Westport and home to some exceptional caves. The stalactites and stalagmites create some gorgeous formations. The cave is also very untouched. You won’t find handrails, lighting and walking platforms here, just a gorgeous cave in its natural beauty. Also home to the largest glowworm population I have ever seen. Think of the most magnificent starry night sky you have ever seen and that’s getting close to how it looks. Check out Underworld Adventures

Kayaking in Okarito Lagoon. This is an activity that has been on my bucket list for some time and it didn’t disappoint. The lake is incredibly still allowing some beautiful mirroring of the mountain on the flat water. There is also stunning forest and bird life to view. You could hire a kayak and do an independent trip, but I recommend a guided tour. Gemma was amazing and her in-depth knowledge made the experience so much richer. Check out Okarito Kayaks

Greenstone Carving in Hokitika. I often wear my hand carved pounamu. I love it. It was a really fun workshop and a unique experience. The tutors are also exceptionally talented. Check out Bonz ‘n’ Stonz

Swimming with Seals in Kaikoura. It’s rated Lonely Planet’s Top 10 best marine encounters and I can totally understand why. They are fun, playful, curious and so graceful, completely the opposite to the awkward masses I am used to seeing sitting on the rocks. Check out Seal Swim Kaikoura

Doubtful Sound Tour. Doubtful Sound is less well known than the very popular Milford Sound. And that is partly what makes it so special. You feel like you have the place to yourself. Kayak beside huge fiords, look for penguins, seals and dolphins, watch the sun come up and immerse yourself in a pretty remote, untouched part of the country. You can do a day tour, but an overnight tour is well worth the extra money. Check out Real NZ

So there you have it. What an exceptional year it has been. I hope you have enjoyed this recap of Exploring the Long White Cloud. What have been your favourite travel moments of 2021?

And just in case you are wondering, all the words I share are my own. I don’t get paid or earn any commissions. I share my stories with you because it’s something I love to do.

Escape to the Country

When our 4th round of IVF ended in November 2018, I knew it was time to close the door on the dream of having children and time to start re-dreaming a new future. I made a promise to myself, that I would make time for the things that I love and that life would be an adventure.

Travel is one of those loves.

Self care looks different to everyone; for some, it might be a bubble bath or a manicure. For me, it’s immersing myself in nature, creating time to be with my thoughts and slowing the pace of life right down.

So, for the last 3 years, I have gone on what I call my ‘annual solo retreat’. 2-3 nights, holidaying on my own, at a destination of my choosing. I do as much or as little as I like, when I like and it is bliss.

The first year I went to Waiheke Island for zip lining, wine tasting and glamping. Last year it was paddle boarding, kayaking and exploring in the Marlborough Sounds.

This year, it was a little cabin in Carrington in the Wairarapa. 3 days of solitude, rest, nature and recharging my batteries.

It’s a grey, rainy day, the first of my solo trips not to be bathed in sunshine, but I am not bothered. I arrive at my accommodation, step out of the car and am greeted with the snorting of 3 ugly / cute kunekune pigs.

My little cabin is idyllic. Set on a hill, surrounded by trees, looking out across the hills. The first thing on my agenda is a cup of tea, which I drink, sitting on the porch, soaking in the stillness, birdsong and the soft pitter-patter of rain on the roof.

The birds are abundant and I enjoy just sitting there watching them flying around. In the space of about 15 minutes I see tui, a hawk, goldfinches, magpies and a bright green parrot.

My afternoon is spent reading a magazine, watching TED talks with cups of tea and chocolate, snuggled up on the sofa beside a warm flickering fire.

Dinner is simple. A ravioli in pasta sauce and fresh bread. This trip is about making space to reflect on the year and delighting in the simple.

It’s starting to get dark, it’s still raining and there is an outdoor bath that I just can’t resist. I fill it and then settle in for a soak. I watch the change in the clouds as night draws near and the birds making their final flight as they find somewhere to rest for the night.

There are no city noises, just the whoosh of wings above me, rain and the gurgling sound of the nearby stream. This is food for the soul.

As it gets darker, the insects and bugs of the night come out. There are large buzzing noises near my ear and a very large silhouetted moth against the fading sky. I don’t have an issue with insects and really, there is nothing here that can hurt me. We don’t have super poisonous critters or dangerous mammals. New Zealand is a pretty safe place.

It’s a shame that the stars aren’t out, but I still leave my bath feeling warm and relaxed, ready to settle in for the night.

I wake in the morning to more rain on the roof, but again, I don’t mind. It’s not going to stop me from doing what I want to do. And besides, who doesn’t love the sound of rain on the roof. It is so soothing. It’s one of my favorite sounds, along with bird song.

I start to get hungry so I decide to leave my warm, cosy bed and venture out to a nearby town called Claireville. I have heard many good things about The Claireville Bakery. It does not disappoint! I am presented with a beautiful selection of fresh breads and pastries and it takes me a really long time to decide. I settle on an apricot danish and also get an almond croissant for tomorrow.

My danish is amazing and I wash it down with a cup of tea while I sit on the porch, watching the rain again. It may be wet, but it’s not cold. There is a nearby flax bush that is attracting the tuis and I watch them feed for a while before picking up my book to read. I will head out later in the afternoon for a walk before the forecast thunder and lightning arrive.

My walk is at the nearby Fensham Reserve. It has stopped raining finally, but the forest is still damp and wet. Forest is still pretty magical when it is like this. There is a large chorus of birds singing. The track is narrow but easy to follow and is surrounded by tall trees. The air is warm and cool, refreshing drops of water drip on me from the canopy above. Halfway into the walk it gets very humid and I reach a part of the track that is mostly underwater. The walk takes me a bit over an hour. I arrive back at the car park with very wet feet, but energised from the nature and fresh air.

Back at my cabin, I spend a couple of hours on the porch again, reading my book and watching the weather. I am waiting for the thunderstorm to arrive. It does, and it is awesome, I hear the deep rumbling noise, rolling across the sky above me. Night closes in and my second day comes to an end.

I wake to chickens this morning and open the skylight windows ever so slightly so I can hear the rain on the roof. This morning I am heading back to Wellington, but I leave feeling refreshed. This weekend has been a soak session. Soaking in nature and recharge my batteries.

The Cabin has been food for the soul.

Searching for Stars in Tekapo

We have one more night of our holiday but instead of spending it in Geraldine, we pick up Daniel’s Grandmother and head to Lake Tekapo. Tekapo is one of Aotearoa’s Dark Sky Reserves. I am hoping that tonight I will be witnessing a twinkling starry sky and a dazzling milky way.

It is grey clouds and rain as we head towards our destination. Not a good start! Our tour isn’t until 8pm though so there is plenty of time for the sky to clear. I am feeling hopeful.

We make a stop in Fairlie. You have to stop in Fairlie, the Bake House is famous for their pies. Everyone else on the road seems to have had the same idea, the queue is out the door. Fortunately it moves quickly. I am delighted to see that this time, they have vegetarian pies. Oh yum! It was so delicious. Chunks of vegetables in a creamy sauce and loaded with cheese. Perfect for a cold, stormy day.

We continue on with our journey. There is fresh snow on the hills. No wonder it is feeling so cold. We arrive in Tekapo and are greeted by the sight of the vibrant, turquoise lake. It is the most stunning colour. It gets it’s colour from what is called ‘rock flour’, a fine powder made from the heavy glaciers moving down the mountains and grinding rocks on the way. The powder remains in the lake, giving it the most vivid colour. It is quite the sight to see.

We stop down at the lakefront and get a photo of the famous sheep dog statue. My grandmother gave me some old travel guides from the 80’s. I was flicking through them a while back and was interested to learn that the statue is there to pay tribute to the sheepdogs that made grazing sheep in the mountainous region possible. They were known as Boundary Dogs. Reading about them was quite sad, they had such a hard life. They are the unsung heroes of the High Country.

I then head to The Church of the Good Shepherd. It’s probably the most photographed church in all of New Zealand. It’s only small but has beautiful, grey stone walls. It is perched on the shores of Lake Tekapo and framed by the snowy mountains. It’s a real place of beauty. I was hoping the surrounding lands would be covered in lupins, like in the photos I have seen, but apparently they don’t bloom until December. This will have to wait for another time.

We still have a few hours before our star gazing tour so Daniel and I head out for a walk around the lake. I take photos of the brilliant blue waters and marvel at their beauty. Daniel stops to take photos of the power station.

Dinner is at The Dark Sky Diner. The restaurant has huge windows that look out at the lake, it’s the perfect place to watch the moody sky and the day fade into night. The food was excellent too. A cocktail and buttery, rich empanadas for me, Daniel manages to select a meal so big they bring it out on 2 plates. We had such a lovely time with Grandma, talking over food and wine with stunning views as our backdrop, sharing travel stories and enjoying each other’s company.

At 8pm we check in with Dark Sky Project for our Mt. John Observatory tour. The sky is still looking pretty ominous as we wait for our guide to give us an update. We are informed that there is snow on Mt. John and the peak is engulfed in clouds so the tour won’t be running.

We are given the option of doing an alternate indoor experience which we decide to do. It’s pretty scientific, but certainly interesting. In the first room we see a huge Victorian telescope. It’s the only one in the world that is in a dark sky reserve. It is massive and really impressive.

In the next room we are show images of the night sky in moving images on the floor. I learnt that 70% of people have never seen the milky way. That is so sad. I remember seeing it at Waipatiki Beach last year and it took my breath away. It was absolutely mesmerizing.

The 3rd room was about the planets and sun with models set out about the room. The last part of the tour was from the comfort of beanbags, looking up at a screen giving us a little bit more history.

On the way home, a few stars appear so I grab my camera and head out to try and get some photos. They are quickly covered up by clouds though and the best photo I get is one where I accidentally pointed my camera at a street light.

While it was disappointing not to see the starry night in a dark sky reserve, any experience when nature is involved isn’t guaranteed. But it’s the unpredictability and mystery of it that makes it so rewarding when it does happen. There will be another opportunity I’m sure!

A Little Olde Country Town Called Geraldine

It’s perfect weather for flying and I am excited to be heading away on this trip with the extended family. My in-laws, sister in-laws, brother in-laws and nieces and nephews. All 13 of us on the same flight. We are heading to Geraldine in South Canterbury for a wedding.

We weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to attend the wedding, but fortunately the Covid restrictions were lifted to gathering of 100 people allowed only 3 days before the wedding.

Wellington and the South Island have put on a spectacular day, the views from the plane are outstanding. Snow on the distant ranges and not a cloud in sight.

We land in Timaru and after a few dramas with the rental car we are on our way. (our booking had mysteriously been canceled the day before, not by us and the car we booked was no longer available) The company was really good though and upgraded us to a beast of a car, a huge truck-like Ute that was so much bigger than we needed, but will be fun for the next couple of days.

Driving through Timaru, I fall in love with all the blossoms. It’s lovely to travel in the Springtime. We have a family lunch before making our way to Geraldine. I am keen to get a walk in, so Daniel and I head off to Peel Forest. It is such a clear day that Daniel is able to point out Small Mount Peel, Medium Mount Peel and Big Mount Peel as we head towards the park. Apparently the climb to the top of Small Mount Peel is a day walk, the walk to the summit of Medium and Big Mount Peel requires a much higher level of fitness and a good sense of direction (that rules me out) as a lot of that track is unmarked.

There are a lot of walks you can do in this park, I pick out one called Dennistoun Bush Track. It is meant to be a flat, easy walking loop track that takes about an hour. Flat – yes, easy – yes, an hour – not even. We did this walk in about 20 minutes and I was quite disappointed it was over so quickly. The track was a bit overgrown / branches over the track in places, perhaps from a recent storm. Despite the length of this walk, it was still great to be outdoors in the fresh air, amongst the trees. It’s a perfect, still day for a walk and I admire the large old trees with twisted branches, supporting so much life.

Located in Peel Forest is The Church of the Holy Innocents. It was built in 1869 and is a gorgeous little stone church. It was damaged a few yeas back in an earthquake, but has been restored and open once again. If you like old churches, it is well worth a look.

We make our way back into Geraldine town center, encountering a typical New Zealand country road along the way.

Even though I have never lived here, visiting this place I always feel a little bit like I am coming home. With Daniel having grown up here, several visits and family in the area, the place is familiar with great memories. So it does in a way, feel like home.

We check into our accommodation, a B&B called Hewling’s Manor. It’s such a delightful place in a beautiful garden setting and sun drenched porch. There are lots of interesting antiques and details around the place, and the host, Julie, is so attentive, friendly and accommodating. She even left us some afternoon tea for our arrival. Julie also has a gorgeous rescue greyhound who we get to give lots of pats and cuddles. I am only disappointed that we didn’t get to spend more time here. The rest of the day is spent with family.

My morning begins with the yummy breakfast Julie provided, enjoyed on the sun soaked porch. It’s wedding day, Daniel is busy setting up the sound system so I spend some time at the park with my nieces and nephews. It’s funny to think this is where Daniel would have played when he was a child. After making myself feel ill from spinning on some of the playground equipment (just can’t handle it like I used to when I was a kid) I trade in the playground for the local shops. It’s nice to spend some time wandering around and doing a bit of window shopping.

My mother-in-law and I head over to Verde Cafe. I really like this place, it has great food and a good selection of Vegetarian / Vegan / Gluten free options, but what I like most is the pretty outdoor garden setting. It’s even better in the Spring when all the blossoms are out.

Next door, a local band is paying in the park so we head over and watch them for a while. Then it’s time to get ready for the Wedding. I really like Geraldine and it’s small town country vibes and slower paced lifestyle. It speaks to my soul a lot more than living in the city. I think someday, I would love to live in a place where everybody knows your name.

Doubtful Sound Tour – Day 3

My alarm goes off at 6:30am. I’m trying to decide if this was a good idea. I don’t think it’s raining, it’s starting to get light outside, but I don’t think I have missed the sun coming over the mountains just yet.

Yep, I’m going to do it. I get out of bed, throw on several layers of clothes, grab my camera and head out on deck to see who else has decided this is a good idea. Who knows when or if I will be here again, I want to see the day in.

The boat is still anchored, the morning is still and quiet. It is of course cold and fresh, but the lighting is simply stunning.

What a magical morning.

I stay outside for ages, a few people join me and we all wear a secret smile. Those of us who have been willing to endure the inconvenience of getting up early and face the cold have seen a perfect morning come into being. It’s a shame so many others missed out on this in favour of a warm bed and sleep in, something they can have on so many other mornings.

I watch the anchor be drawn up out of the black water. The sun is now tinting the clouds gold and the sea is mirroring the snow dusted mountains. Over the speakers, the Captain starts playing “Here comes the sun”. What a way to start the day.

I remain outside for as long as I can before heading back inside to defrost. It’s not long though before I am back out on deck. There are more people here now and we are joined by our nature guide. As we approach a small island, she points out a penguin. It’s another Fiordland Crested Penguin. I feel quite privileged to have seen 2 on this trip. I don’t have my zoom lens on me, so instead of rushing back inside to grab it, I take memory photos and enjoy the moment.

It is sitting on the rocks, just under the tree line. We get to watch it for quite some time, dipping its webbed feet into the water, looks around, sussing out the environment. With a quick graceful manoeuvre it slips into the water. I see it just below the surface of the water for a couple of seconds, then it’s gone.

Breakfast is next on the agenda. After a hot meal and a cup of tea, I have regained the feelings in my fingers. The Milford Mariner has taken us into Hall Arm this morning and we are surrounded by huge snow covered peaks. We learn that the rounded peaks would have been under the glacier. Most are rounded, very few are jagged. Looking around you get a sense of how massive the glaciers here were. Some of the rounded peaks are 1400m high!

We explore all the way up into the arm and then the Milford Marina parks up in the cove. The crew turn off the engine and the generator and we sit there in silence. Birds, waterfalls, that’s it. No other sounds. How rare and special it is to experience so much remoteness.

As the Milford Mariner slowly drifts around, the sun comes out. I can feel it on my face. Complete stillness and peacefulness, I even start to feel warm.

We begin making our way back to Deep Cover, the tour is nearly complete.On the way back, the crew raise the sails. There is barely any wind, they are just for show, but it’s still great to see. We dock and depart the vessel that has been home for the last 22 hours. The crew were amazing, so friendly, knowledgeable and went out of their way to make it a memorable experience. Despite the trip being cut short due to the weather, we still had a really rich experience. I feel like we have journeyed to the end of the earth.

Back in Te Anau, we have lunch at Sandfly Cafe. We sit outside in the sun, reflecting on the epic adventure we just had. It’s another scenic drive back to Queenstown through green pastures, snow capped mountains and vast lands of dry tussocks. We have some time before our flight, so we make a detour to Kingston. It’s a small town, right at the bottom of Lake Wakatipu. We have never been here before, but have driven past a few times. It always seems to be drenched in sunshine. We take a look at the Kingston Flyer, a vintage steam train that used to connect Kingston and Invercargill, before heading down to the lake for a short walk.

A woman is coming off the lake with her dog and paddle board. The water is so still, and there are just the sounds of nature. I quickly slip into fantasy mode dreaming about living here. What would it be like to live in this little slice of paradise with it’s relaxed lifestyle and space for our dogs to roam.

But the dreaming must come to an end, so we head to the airport to wait for our flight. Our flight is delayed, so we treat ourselves to an ice cream (and some sneaky chocolates I don’t tell Daniel about) from Patagonia Chocolates.

An overnight tour in Doubtful Sound has been plastered to my fridge on my bucket list for a number of years. It was such an incredible experience and was all I had hoped it would be. I think this tour should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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Doubtful Sound Tour – Day 2

Today I wake up to patches of blue sky and no rain or wind. I am disappointed I am not waking up onboard the Milford Marina but today is Doubtful Sound tour take 2 and so far it is looking promising.

Aside from getting a discount on the price, Real Journeys are also starting the tour a couple of hours earlier so we can get out on the water sooner. From what I saw yesterday, I know this tour is going to be great!

Today is such a a different day. The lake is still. The day is peaceful. We are ready for the adventure to begin. We check in and I take a few minutes to look around at the other passengers, there are a lot here I recognise from yesterday. (I later learn that 30 of the original 36 people took up the 1 night offer, it’s great to see so many people here.)

We board the boat to take us across Lake Manapouri. We all started bonding yesterday so today as the tour begins we can pick up where we left off. Its pretty cool again outside on deck but the views are much clearer. Snow is on the mountains and I can see channels twisting down the sides of the mountains, scars from yesterday’s plentiful waterfalls, I imagine. Fiordland has a changeable climate. There are only 3 or 4 permanent waterfalls in Doubtful Sound, all the rest come and go with the weather, sometimes appearing as little as 30 minutes after rainfall and drying up just as quickly when it stops raining.

The coach ride over is just as beautiful as yesterday and this time when we stop for the views, we can actually see them! Including our first glimpse of Doubtful Sound.

We arrive in Deep Cove and prepare to board the Milford Marina. It’s such a great feeling to stepping onto the boat after yesterday’s drama.

We are warmly welcomed by the crew and seated in the dining room to go over house keeping, Covid rules and then get shown to our cabins. The rooms are small, but they are tidy, comfortable and have everything we need, including a private bathroom. We have a small, high, window, we are quite low in the boat and look out about 0.5 meters above sea level.

Once unpacked (and welcome chocolate eaten) we head back to the dining room for lunch and to get acquainted with our table companions. The Captain wastes no time setting sail and before long we are full steam ahead, venturing out into the Sound. After a delicious lunch, I head outside to take some photos. The first thing I notice is how quiet it is. I love real silence, I find it so energizing. In our busy city life there are few opportunities for it.

Our journey takes us all the way up to the end of Crooked Arm. It’s the perfect spot for some water sports. We have the option of going out in kayaks or a tender craft. Daniel and I choose the kayaks (We are happy to see all the kayaks are single, no double kayak for us today.) We have perfect weather for paddling too. The rain is holding off, there is no wind and the water is so flat and still. In one of the wettest places in the world, I can’t believe our luck! Kayaking in this stillness is food for the soul. I am at the back of the pack because I keep stopping to just look around and soak it all in.

I paddle up to a waterfall and look up. The sheer size of the mountains is captivating, but what takes my breath away is watching the water droplets falling. Its like everything else around me has stopped as I watch each individual drop falling towards me in slow motion. It was such a spiritual experience. A simple moment that was so peaceful. One that I will remember for a long time.

We continue paddling around the edge next to the mountains. The rock is black and looks so solid, it amazes me how plants can grow here. But grow they do. There is such a variety of plants, trees, shrubs and mosses. Layers and layers of textures and shades of green. I also note how black the water appears to be. I later learn that this is from all the tannin that runs off the mountains straight into the sea. So much rain water runs down the mountain in fact, there is always a layer of fresh water sitting on top of the salt water. Our guide reckons there is currently about 4-5 meters of fresh water sitting on top. How incredible is that? I have never heard of anything like that before. And because of this unique layering, deep sea creatures and plants can be found much closer to the surface because it tricks them into thinking they are much deeper than they are.

As usual, when I am out in nature, I get lost in my thoughts and in awe at how marvelous creation is. So I am in that state when I hear our guide say ‘Lets just keep our distance from the seal’ “hmm, what seal?” Then I notice a little head popping out of the water only a couple of meters away. It looks around for a bit and then slips gracefully into the water.

How wonderful.

Our time for kayaking has ended and we all make our way back to the boat. For those who are brave, it’s now time for the ‘polar swim.’ Am I one of those brave ones? You bet I am. I know it will be cold, but when am I going to get another chance at this? There are 5 of us that take up the challenge. The only way to do it is to jump.

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I plunge into the water. My first thought is, ‘this isn’t as cold as I was expecting’ and this water is really brown!’ Then I surface and try to take my first breath and that is when the cold hits. Even swimming the couple of meters back to the boat was a real effort. And just because I am a bit of a nutter, I jumped back in a second time, just to make sure I got it on camera! I can now officially say I have swum in Doubtful Sound, I reckon that’s pretty cool!

I then head straight to the shower to warm up. For the first few minutes I can’t even tell if the shower water is hot or cold. I am that numb! But the feelings slowly return and after a hot drink in the dining room I am back at human temperature. I wrap up warm and head back outside. The Milford Marina is heading out to the Tasman Sea, I don;t want to miss this. We make a couple of stops along the way to see the seal colony and are lucky enough to spot a Fiordland Crested Penguin.

As we get closer to the Tasman Sea, the swell gets bigger. One of the crew members tells us they haven’t been out here in a while as the weather hasn’t been good enough so we are pretty lucky! The boat is rocking up and down, side to side. I almost feel like I am on a ride in an amusement park! We are all holding on tight. I feel the boat rise, then pause for a second while I wait for the fall and the feeling of leaving my stomach up in the sky as the boat crashes down into the waves. Then it repeats again and again. I am lucky to be pretty tolerant of motion sickness! But also, this is pretty awesome. We even see an albatross, gliding above the ocean.

Daylight is fading and the lighting is beautiful. As we make our way back into the Sound, we watch the sun slip behind an island. We find a quiet place to dock for the night in a sheltered cove. After enjoying another delicious meal and table chats with the other passengers, we head to the saloon with a generous helping of dessert to watch a presentation from the onboard nature guide. This is quite a spectacular place with an amazing and unique eco system. I fall asleep listening the the gentle hum of the generator, thankful for all the amazing experiences of the day.