New Zealand, through the eyes of my Grandmother – Part 2

Continuing on from last week, if you haven’t read it yet, you can check out last week’s post here.

Tell me about some memorable holidays you have had in New Zealand

3 sons and 4 grandchildren later….

In 1989 your Granddad and I packed up the car and headed away on a trip around the South Island.

It was a trip that took us down The West Coast and back up The East Coast, visiting many beautiful New Zealand places; Picton, The Buller Gorge, Greymouth, The Glaciers at Franz and Fox, Punakaiki and Hokitika.

We stopped in Okarito to look for white herons but only found wasps!

Lake Matheson, a Mirror Lake, near Fox Glacier on the West Coast

We then headed onto Queenstown. There we took a ride on the gondola and had a meal at the top with million dollar views. We also took a cruise on The Earnslaw (which is notorious for its black smoke) to Walter Peak Station. We did a trip out to Arrowtown and Glenorchy and even did a day trip by bus to Milford Sound.

I have always thought this photo was so funny.  Taken on the Earnslaw, which is notorious for its black smoke.  It looks like Granddad has the smoke is coming out of his ears!

We then made our way back up the country travelling through Lake Tekapo and Fairlie with a side trip to Akaroa. We stayed a couple of nights in Christchurch. The night before we left there was quite a big storm. It turned very cold and we woke the next morning to see the Southern Alps covered in snow. 

A sight to behold! 

We headed back to Picton, spending a night in Kaikoura on the way. The Kaikoura Ranges were also covered in snow – a perfect finish to our South Island Odyssey.

I remembered thinking back to the trip we had done to Canada the year before when we went to Banff and I thought Queenstown and surroundings were much prettier.

In 2010 we did another trip around the South Island. This time on a group trip. It included a trip to Doubtful Sounds which was lovely – crossing Lake Manapouri then over a pass to the Sound – in the rain! When we got onto the boat though, the sun came out. We got right out to the Tasman in beautiful calm weather. On the way back they beached the boat on the shore, turned the engines off and told us not to talk.  Nothing to hear but the lapping of the water on the shore. 

Magical! 

That’s what they call the Sound of Silence. 

On the way back to Te Anau we stopped at the Manapouri Power Station and got on a bus that took us 2 kilometres under ground.  I HATED it and couldn’t wait to get back up into daylight. It was so dark and damp and surrounded by solid rock. The power station was impressive but I couldn’t imagine how people (some girls doing clerical work as well) could bear to spend their days under ground.  I remember my mum did a trip there in the 70’s and she loved it! 

Not for me. 

From Queenstown we went to Cromwell and the Clyde Dam and then crossed the Maniototo Plain. It’s unusual, scrubby, rocky country. The wind was so strong our poor lady driver had trouble keeping the little bus on the road and she had sore arms for days. 

One of the best things about that trip was we got very friendly with the couple running it and kept in touch with them for quite a long time after. 

You have now lived in Aotearoa for over 70 years. Is there anywhere you haven’t been that you would love to see?

I have just been listening to a chap being interviewed about Great Barrier Island. It sounds like somewhere really different and I would like to see it, though I guess I never will.  A half hour flight or a 4 1/2 hour ferry trip from Auckland. It’s a semi tropical place with a very laid back life style. 

Maybe you could do the trip on my behalf?

Do you have any travel tips or advise for kiwi’s or foreigners who are wanting to explore ‘The Long White Cloud?”

The best way to see the West Coast is in the rain! It makes the scenery mystical!

Next week I will begin my Queenstown Series. My husband and I have just recently returned from a 6 day trip in this stunning place where we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary.

The Bucket List

2020 started over 5 months ago, but in someways it feels like it is just beginning. As with all new starts, its time to start dreaming (and planning) those adventures that will leave you with lifetime memories.

Not sure where to start? I thought I would share my top 5 New Zealand bucket list items. (In no particular order)

Doubtful Sounds Overnight Cruise

I have been fortunate enough to have done an overnight cruise in Milford Sounds. To this day, it remains one of the most magical and memorable travel experiences I have ever had.

There is something about the fiords that makes you marvel at creation. They make you feel so small, in a good way, where you are reminded of just how awesome mother nature is. Combine that with the stillness and silence of the place and your are in for a real treat.

Doubtful Sounds is less visited by tourists, much larger and very quiet. I want to kayak next to huge fiords again, count shooting stars at night and watch the sun rise in the sounds.

Who could imagine anything better?

Star Gazing in a Dark Sky Reserve

I have always had a fascination with stars. They are so mysterious and magical. We live in a world with so much light pollution that our night sky is very different to what our ancestors would have looked upon. Fortunately there are still areas in the world where the magic of the milky way and shooting stars that make you gasp can be seen.

New Zealand has 2 official dark sky reserves, including the world’s biggest – the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve in Canterbury. At Lake Tekapo you will find Mt. John Observatory where you can partake in a variety of star gazing experiences (currently closed due to Covid-19).

The star gazing experience that’s on my bucket list though is Lake Tekapo’s Soak in the Stars experience at Tekapo Springs. Imagine floating in a natural hot pool, gazing up at the milky way. I am sure it would leave me breathless.

Stewart Island

Following on from my fascination with stars and the night sky, I would love to see the Aurora Polaris. I am sure many of you have heard of the Northern lights, but you don’t have to head all the way to Alaska or Scandinavia. The Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights, can be seen from parts of New Zealand, including Stewart Island. I don’t know about you, but for me, all those colours dancing about in the sky and witnessing this natural phenomena is most definitely a bucket list item.

Stewart Island is 80% national park, making it an excellent place for bush walks and seeing some of our native wildlife including the kiwi. I can’t wait for the opportunity to explore this place.

Swim with Dolphins

This experience has been on my bucket list for the last few years. I have made 2 attempts at this so far. The first one I had lined up was in Tauranga but I had to cancel that last minute as my husband had a small motorbike accident a week before we were due to depart. I then made a second attempt earlier in the year on our south island trip, you can read about that here and here.

As with any wild animal encounter, there is always an element of chance and luck. This is part of what makes the occurrence so special. On this trip, we didn’t get to swim with dolphins, but we did get to observe the little, rare Hector’s dolphin in it’s natural habitat which was pretty special.

I am not sure when, but I will definitely be making another stop at E-Ko Tours in Picton for another chance at swimming with dolphins. I really love the care and commitment this company has for protecting our environment.

Multi Day Able Tasman Kayak

In 2000 I tramped Able Tasman on a school trip. I then went straight onto a family holiday in Rarotonga. I remember thinking that the beaches at Able Tasman were more amazing. And that’s saying something because the beaches in Raro are beautiful.

In 2012, I did a half day Able Tasman Kayak with my husband. Clear water, blue sunny skies and stunning beaches. I can’t get enough. I have my eye on this 5 day kayak trip with Able Tasman Kayaks. Bring it on!

What’s on your bucket list?