Abel Tasman National Park – Day 3

Today is off to a great start. I wake up to no rain and French toast! French Toast! Yum!

I sit down by the beach. The sun is out and warming me up. Finally! It’s so nice to see you sunshine, you have been a stranger these last 2 days. The water is so clear, and still. There are no big waves. It’s a very sheltered bay and so peaceful. It’s just like in the Islands, minus the palm trees. Finally I am basking in the sunshine. This is more like what I had imagined.

Slowly I move down to the water. My body is very stiff and sore from yesterday’s adventure. I am glad we are kayaking today, I don’t think I could manage a walk. The sand is soft and powdery, the water cool and inviting. The sea is so clear, I can see little fish swimming around and their shadows cast on the ocean floor.

Again, we are given 2 choices for the day. We can leave soon, take our gear and paddle back up to Bark Bay and get collected from there. Or, we can have a cruisy day, leave a bit later and explore the lagoon at high tide in the kayaks and be collected from where we currently are. Today I am pleased that our group chooses the cruisy option!

We leisurely pack up the tents, our gear and our campsite. All we need today is our small dry bags with water, togs and a camera. We get into the kayaks and head off. Today is about exploring in the sunshine! It ends up being a bit of a nature tour. We see shags, a stingray, oyster catches and sea stars. Red is really knowledgeable and is able to share lots of information about them with us. It’s nice paddling in the lagoon. Everything about today feels relaxed and leisurely. It’s amazing what a difference a bit of sun can make.

We stop for lunch in a small bay and while Red is preparing it, we all go for a swim. It’s really cold today, despite the sun being out. I think it’s gotten colder each day! While we are in the water, the ladies from the other group arrive in their kayak. They have paddled down from Bark Bay and will head down to Anchorage to join us for pick up.

We spend a while at this bay, having lunch and enjoying the amazing sunshine. But all good things must come to an end and it’s time to start the journey home. We jump in the kayaks and begin the paddle back. Daniel wants to be near the rocks as it’s ‘more interesting’ so we are constantly having to try and maneuver around them and avoid the ones that appear suddenly just below the surface. It’s not really very relaxing. The water gets choppy in a few places and the swell pushes us into the rocks. I get nervous that it’s going to roll us over, but nothing like that happens.

We land in Anchorage and unload the gear, then the ladies come sailing in. Yes, sailing! They have made a makeshift sail boat by linking their kayaks and using a fly and their paddles as a sail. It’s pretty cool to watch. They cruise into shore with a big hooray, shouting and cheering at their achievements. They have done so well. What an awesome group of women! I hope that I am as adventurous and well connected with friends when I am their age.

We board our water taxi and head back to Marahau. It’s not until we do this trip that I realise how far we actually paddled on that first day. In the rain. I feel pretty proud of myself. We have all done exceptionally well!

Back at the base we unpack our gear, change into clean clothes and enjoy sitting in the sun. Today’s weather has been glorious. It has soaked away any remaining dampness from my body. This trip was far from my expectations, mostly because of the weather, but with some positivity and a ‘just got to roll with it’ attitude, it turned out to be an amazing adventure.

Our kayaking and camping tour ended up being a kayaking, walking, camping, DOC hut, river crossing, nature cruising adventure. We got to see the park from sea and from land. At its best and at its worst. Best of all, I got to enjoy this experience with my best friend.

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.

Kayaking with Herons

The mist is hugging the hills. The lush green forest flowing out from beneath it. Once again, I feel like I am on the set of Jurassic Park.

There is no rain today. There is even a patch of sun breaking through the clouds, beaming down on a snowy mountain.

Surely I live in the most beautiful place in the world.

A short, 30 minute drive and we are at our next stop.

Okarito.

I have wanted to come here for a long time. Finally we are here. Today, we will be kayaking on the lagoon, which is home to the Kotuku (White Heron)

We are warmly greeted by our hosts. Again, it is just the two of us on the tour. They have kindly allowed Daniel and I to have single kayaks! Whenever we have been on kayak tours we get put in a double kayak, it’s so nice being able to have our own for a change. I have never seen kayaks like this before though. They have a small rudder at the back with pedals in the front that you control with your toes. I’m potentially going to be going round in circles. It might take me a while to get the hang of this!

Before long we are out on the lake, with a million sand flies. They are everywhere and feasting on my ankles for breakfast! Our guide, Gemma, assures us that they only hang out at the lake shore and will leave us fairly soon. Thankfully they do!

Once we are free from the hungry mouths of sandflies, I am able to start enjoying the perfect conditions. There is not a breath of wind. It’s a bit misty and drizzley, but really, this just adds to the atmosphere. The lake is so flat. It’s like a mirror, beautifully reflecting the land.

Absolute magic!

Not far into our expedition, we spot our first heron. It is magnificent standing there on it’s long, slender legs. It launches into the air and flies right past us, so silently, so elegant and graceful, until it open’s it’s beak. The honking, squawking sound it makes does not match the gracefulness of this bird!

The lake is so silent, the stillness is unreal. I am so used to city noise, but here, there is nothing. Peacefulness washes over me.

We continue our journey up river. It’s very green here. The native forest is filled with rimu, kahikatea, vine rata, wild orchids, flax, manuka. Gemma is very knowledgeable, pointing out all the different trees and answering my many questions about native flora and fauna. I love learning about my country, it’s history, wildlife and plants. This is why I often opt for guided tours over self guided. It costs more, but the experience is so enriched with the knowledge of a local guide.

Paddling further up river I spot little fish hanging out among the river plants. There are kereru (wood pigeon) and the gorgeous, cheeky little piwakawaka (fantail) that flitter about in the low tree branches. This is so incredibly peaceful and I delight in just floating along, listening to all the birds. In the distance I can hear the roar of the ocean.

While paddling back, we spot 2 more herons. They aren’t bothered by kayaks so you can get quite close. Gemma takes us on a different route so we can get closer, but warns us that the water here gets pretty shallow and we might get stuck. Worth the risk I say. The water does get shallow and in the end it is far easier to push yourself along using your hands against the mud bed rather than the paddle. We then run aground and have to get out and drag them. It’s kayaking at it’s finest!

We do manage to get pretty close to the herons though. They are not bothered by us so we enjoy watching them for a while. Totally worth getting wet feet!

Okarito is a very small settlement, a place probably not many people have heard of. I imagine so many would just drive straight by and not even know it was there. They are missing out. This kayak trip was all I had hoped it would be; peaceful, magical and so very special. If you are in the area, make sure you check out Okarito Kayaks.

It’s a breathtaking experience.

We have begun making our way back up country now. Tonight we are staying in Hokitika. It’s 2 hours away so we saddle up and carry on, driving through some splendid rainforest.

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Lunch is in a small rural settlement called Harihari at the local cafe. For such a remote place, I am pleasantly surprised to see they have a vegan kumera and cashew pie on the menu. I also couldn’t resist sampling one of their homemade yoyos. I have to say, it was all pretty delicious.

We arrive in Hokitika, check into our accommodation and then I am straight out to explore the town. There are a lot of art and craft shops, particullary ones selling New Zealand Jade which is quite abundant in the area. I then head down to the beach – I want to see the Hokitika Drift Wood Sign.

A stroll along the beach is next on the agenda. Its a long beach, the sand seems to stretch on for ages. The sand is dotted with many fascinating stones. I collect a few to take home. You can even find pounamu (greenstone) right here on the beach. I pass quite a lot of time, fossicking about, looking for anything that might be greenstone.

I make sure I am on the beach for sunset. It’s not as spectacular as images I have seen of this beach, but it is a bit overcast today. Regardless, it is still lovely to sit on the beach and watch the fading sun as I reflect on the awesome day I have had.

Exploring Kuratau

I love watching the mornings here. We have a fantastic view out across the lake from the living room and deck. The days always start out with a blanket of soft coloured clouds hanging in the bays. The water is still and the bird song echos around. Our tree house accommodation really is in the most perfect location. As the day unfolds, the clouds move away, revealing a brilliant blue sky.

It is our last day here and we still have exploring to do. We head to Kuratau, a couple of bays over and take a walk at Whiowhio Park, a track that leads alongside the river. This is my favourite walk I have done on this trip. The path leds through shady trees, a welcome relief to the heat from the midday sun.

For a lot of the walk, you don’t see the river, and then there will be a clearing and in the words of Lachie

‘Wow Auntie Lani, this view is so beautiful’

Yes, it really is.

Bullrushes dance in the breeze, their long slender stems swaying so elegantly. The tall white cliffs contrast against the lush green forest and the clear, cool water that looks so inviting. The bird song is beautiful and again we are able to pick wild blackberries along the way.

And just when we are starting to feel hungry, thinking we must turn around and go back to get some lunch, we pass some people who tell us that Floating Rock Cafe is at the end of the track.

Perfect.

Set amid a small vineyard, the alfresco lunch is so good. Normally they serve wood fired pizzas but as it is a public holiday, they only have the snack menu available. Disappointing as I love a good wood fired pizza, but in the end, our big selection of snack food that we order for the table is all we need. We sit, eating, chatting and enjoying our surroundings.

Although we are doing a walk alongside the river, we didn’t come across anywhere suitable for a swim so once we get back to the car, we drive 1 minute down the road to arrive at a lovely little bay (sandy this time, thank goodness!) There are lots of people in kayaks, I have been wanting to do this all weekend. After making an inquiry with a kayaker, we find out they are for hire nearby. So Dad and I are straight down there and pick up a kayak and a paddleboard.

The paddleboard was probably the wrong decision for today, its a bit choppy out on the lake making the board rather unstable. I manage to paddle it up the lake to where the rest of the family are and then need a break – it was hard work! Later I get a go in the kayak and it is so much easier! They handle the waves a lot better! We spend a bit over an hour at the bay, swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding and enjoying the sun. The river feeding into the lake is quite calm and it is much easier to paddleboard there.

While heading back to the rental place a wave catches the board and tips me in. Unfortunately the waves have been pushing me closer and closer to shore so when I fall in, there is only a foot of water below me and I manage to scratch up my leg. I was filming on my gopro at the time –

This has been such an amazing few days. The weather has been perfect, the location has been perfect, it’s been a real summer holiday. If you love to be busy, enjoy shopping, and lots of attractions, then Taupo center is probably the place for you. If on the other hand, you want to experience quiet, peaceful bays, surrounded by trees, where the way of life is slow paced and relaxed, head to Pukawa or Kuratau or Hatepe or Omori. These places are little gems waiting to be discovered. And once you have found them, you wont ever want to leave.

2021!

I don’t know about you, but I have been enjoying dreaming up all the places I want to see this year, adventures I want to go on and experiences I want to have. There is so much to see and do here and everyday I am so grateful that I get to call this place home.

I am very fortunate to work for a company that gives us 6 weeks of annual leave, but even with all those days, I think I might be pushing it to do all these things. (And I am sure the credit card will have something to say about it too!)

So, without further ado, here are my travel ambitions for this year:

Explore the West Coast of the South Island. Its a pretty rugged place. Untamed, natural and gorgeous. Mirror lakes, glaciers and rainforest. Its also the wettest place in New Zealand. We drove through the West Coast about 8 years ago when we explored the South Island on our Motorbike. It rained the whole time we were there. When driving through Arthur’s Pass, we reached the sign that said ‘Welcome to the West Coast’ and right on cue, it began to rain. The itinerary is planned, our leave is organised and the pet sitters are locked in, I just need to actually book it all! This time I am hoping we will get to experience some sunshine. I have some pretty awesome activities planned out for this one. And of course, we will be on a Motorbike!

Wine! Last year we made a trip to Martinborough and cycled around the vineyards. We are only an hours drive away from here and I am super keen to do this again. However, this time, I want to pre-plan it (more so than last time) so we can visit the boutique vineyards that are only open for tastings by appointment. I am really interested to see what some of these vineyards have on offer and to hear their stories.

Go on the much delayed, Covid interrupted trip. My mum and I are both April babies. Last year, we were meant to have a birthday weekend away in Greytown. This was cancelled due to Level 4 lockdown. I then rebooked it for August but we had another outbreak which saw Auckland go back into Level 4 and the rest of the country into level 2. I booked it a third time for December and the host cancelled it as she had international family staying in the Airbnb for the foreseeable future due to the covid situation in their country. So, I am really hoping that this year we will be able to get our birthday trip in. Maybe to Greytown, or maybe Whanganui. Perhaps we can do both!

Take the dogs on holiday. For so long I have wanted to take a little holiday with the whole family. I have been pondering the idea of camping but all the ‘dog friendly’ camp sites require the dogs to be on a lead at all times. And we don’t have a tent. I have looked at lots of properties that say they are dog friendly, but then I read the small print and in some cases, the dogs aren’t even allowed in the house. My dogs are small, non shedding and are allowed on the furniture at home and sleep in our bed (yes, I know, spoilt) so it wouldn’t really be a holiday if I had to spend the whole time keeping them off the furniture. But…I have recently found an Airbnb in Otaki Beach that not only allows small non shedding dogs in the house, they are also allowed on the furniture and the bed! I can’t wait to do this! I am hoping I will be able to find some more dog friendly places so we can have more adventures together.

An adventure trip. I would so love to Kayak Able Tasman in a guided tour but it is pretty pricey. Definitely one day, but for now I have my eye set on the 3 day self guided river canoe down the Whanganui river. Being self guided it is much cheaper. There are cabins along the way so you don’t need to take tents and you can stop at your leisure to enjoy the surroundings. I am trying to convince my dad that this is a trip he should do with me.

Family holiday part 2. Last Spring, I spent a weekend at Waitarere Beach with my mum, dad, brother, sister in law, nephew and niece. We had so much fun and decided there and then that we needed to make this a seasonal trip. We are now half way into Summer so need to get cracking on this one! Lake Taupo sounds like a possibility. I am really keen to get my nephew out on a kayak or paddle board! The plan is to also have an Autumn, Winter and Spring trip. Watch this space.

Anniversary Trip. Last year, Daniel and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary in Queenstown. I had no intention to mark this occasion annually with travel, but we had such a great time, so why not. This time I am thinking maybe the Northern Explorer train journey with a few stops on the way. Maybe the Chateau in Tongariro. Hubby doesn’t know about this yet and he would rather be at work than on holiday so this one might be a bit of a challenge!

My annual ‘holiday on my own’. I have done this twice now. At the end of the year. An opportunity to get away on my own for a couple of days and recharge my batteries. So far I have been to Waiheke Island and Marlborough Sounds. I have no plans of where for this year, but Akaroa has crossed my mind.

So that’s my list! I am sure there will be more dreams and travel inspiration that pop up during the year, as well as unexpected adventures that present themselves. Will just have to wait and see.

What are your travel aspirations for 2021? Where in Aotearoa are you hoping to visit?

http://www.backpack-newzealand.com/mapofnewzealand.html

Reflecting on 2020

Happy New Year!! and Happy 1st birthday to my blog! A whole year of blogging, it’s hard to believe really. Thanks for coming on the journey with me.

2020 is a year that I’m sure no one will be forgetting anytime soon. As the year came to an end, I began reflecting on the year that has been. I am so proud of my country, for the massive effort we all put in, our commitment to sticking to lock downs and supporting one another. Because of this, life here in Aotearoa has looked quite different to the majority of the world.

I count myself very fortunate to be in the position I have been in. While international travel has been off the cards, I have been able to do a lot of travel around my own backyard this year. (And lets be honest, New Zealand is a pretty spectacular country to have as your travel playground)

I wanted to do a post on my top 5 experiences. Those WOW moments. The ones that stop you in your tracks, make time stand still and take your breath away.

It’s hard to choose, I have had many incredible experiences this last year, but I am making myself pick.

So here it is.

My top 5 WOW moments.

1 – Glamping on Waiheke Island. This was my first time glamping and I absolutely loved it. Falling asleep to the soft pitter patter sound of rain on the canopy of the tent and waking to the sounds of the birds, absolutely magical. Stripping back the busyness of life and getting back to nature, it certainly recharges the batteries. You can read about my full glamping experience here.

2 – The drive to Glenorchy. We did this road twice in 2020. Once on our motorbike, the second time in a hired Mercedes-Benz CLS 55 AMG. Maybe it’s because it was the first time, but I way preferred the trip on 2 wheels. We had bright blue skies, a dusting of snow on the mountains and instagramable moments around EVERY corner. Around every bend I would find myself gasping at the beauty before me. Not only does this rate in my top 5 moments of 2020, it also rates in my top 5 motorbike rides. Ever. The road to Glenorchy.

3 – Trust the Chef Meal at No. 5 Church Lane. It was a spontaneous dining decision. I found them on line, they had some good reviews, so we decided to give it a go. When we saw a 7 course, Trust the Chef option on the menu, well, we just had to try it. It surprised and delighted me far beyond what I was expecting. Every serving was creative, delicious and left me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would be next. This was a culinary journey that left me wanting more. Dining in Queenstown.

4 – Kayaking in Wanaka. Kayaking (and now also paddle boarding) will always end up as a top experience for me, I just love it so much. The stillness, the quiet and being surrounded by all that water, it’s so rejuvenating and refreshing. Throw in crystal clear water and views of mountain peaks covered in snow and you have one very happy kayaker. Lake Wanaka is the perfect place to get out on the lake and experience some stunning New Zealand scenery. Chillin’ in Wanaka.

5 – Playing in the waves at Waitarere with my 4 year old nephew. Sometimes, it is the simplest of things that bring us the most pleasure. This was one of those experiences. It had been so long since I walked bare foot in the sand and felt the waves tickle my ankles. My nephew’s delight in jumping over waves and playing in the sand, so carefree, was contagious. We spent ages having childish fun and it was brilliant. A weekend at the beach

So there you have it. What was your favorite travel moments of 2020? Drop me a message, I would love to hear from you.

Walking Queen Charlotte Track

New Zealand has many amazing walks all across the country. There is even one called Te Araroa that goes from Cape Reinga at the very top of the North Island where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea collide, all the way down to Bluff at the very bottom of the South Island. Queen Charlotte Track is a multi day walk that can be accessed from Lochmara lodge, so today I go on a walking adventure.

But before my walking adventure begins, the day starts with some kayaking. Another early start, but I like it that way. The water is so still first thing in the morning and I have the inlet to myself. I don’t see any seals or dolphins but there is other marine life to spot. The Marlborough Sounds are rich in wildlife. I spot a nesting seagull perched in the rocks. She keeps a beady eye on me. The water is incredibly clear, there are lots of shell fish including the biggest mussels I have ever seen. Some of them are the size of my forearm! I also spot some moon jellyfish. I find jellyfish mesmerising, they way they dance through the water, my eyes are fixed on them. I follow the coastline back and get to hear all the birds singing away.

Back on land I have a quick breakfast, pack my bag, lather on the sunscreen and by 8:45am I am on the track. From the lodge, it’s about an hour’s walk to get to Queen Charlotte Track. I am heading to Onehau Lookout. A couple of sections of the track are quite steep, but for the most part it is reasonably flat and easy walking. I make it to the lookout, 360 degree views of gorgeous turquoise water, golden sandy bays and forest. I didn’t realise just how much coastline there is in The Marlborough Sounds. So many little coves, bays and inlets to be explored.

It’s only 10:30am, I am not ready to head back so I decide to walk on further to Mistletoe Bay. The tracks leads me down, then further down and down some more. It makes sense, I was at the top of a lookout and now I am heading to a bay, so I need to go down, but all I can think about is how I am going to have to come back up!

The track opens up and I am wowed with a beautiful outlook over the sounds. I think this view is even more striking than from the lookout. I get out my phone to take some photos and notice that I have wifi reception. For some reason, the network connection with my provider is almost non existent at the lodge, but from here, in the middle of nowhere, I have great reception. So I video call my parents, my husband and grandmother from Queen Charlotte track and show them all the views.

I keep making my way down and after what feels like a really long time I make it to Mistletoe bay. I find a nice grassy area to eat my picnic lunch which I had prepared for me at Lochmara. I take my time to enjoy the view, refuel and take some pictures of a duck.

As I make my way back, I find the uphill isn’t as bad as I was expecting. I manage it fairly well. Sometimes the down hill is actually harder. I start looking for reference points that I recognize, places that I remember, to try and gauge how much further I have to go. I’ll confess, the last hour I was definitely feeling it in my hips and legs and all I can say is that I hobbled back to my room, very much aware of the blisters that had formed on my feet. I was out for 6 hours. I am pretty pleased with how far I managed to walk. I am also feeling rather pleased with myself for thinking to pre-book a massage for this evening.

If you are needing time away, time to escape and relax, come to Lochmara. Get lost, and there, amongst the bird calls, the stillness and the peace, you will find yourself.

Chillin’ in Wanaka

We still have the Mercedes, so we take it for a spin. Over The Crown Range to Wanaka.

Twisting, turning roads, hair pin bends, gorgeous scenery. It’s a road that’s definitely worth a drive. We stop at a lookout to check out the view and take some photos. We only last a couple of minutes. We are at pretty high altitude and it is freezing! Back into our warm car with it’s heated seats.

This view point is as far as we came back in summer, but today we are carrying on over to Wanaka. Along the way we pass through Cardrona township, past the iconic Cardrona hotel and a gorgeous little church. I’m regretting not insisting we stop to take some photos and have a look around, it was just gorgeous.

We then make it to Wanaka. I have done quite a bit of travel in New Zealand, but this is a place I have never been before. I am instantly wowed by how clear the water is. The South Island lakes are always stunning. They are brilliant jewel colours, quite often framed by snow capped mountains.

It’s a perfect winters day, bright blue sky, not a breath of wind and snow on the mountains. It’s the sort of place I could sit for hours, enjoying the scenery, watching the birds and thinking about life.

But then we spot some kayaks for hire and can’t resist.

I love kayaking.

Previously when we have been in kayaks, it has been on a tour and we always get put in a double kayak. I always get put in the front, (apparently it is good practice to have the lightest person in the front) I will be paddling away, thinking it’s a bit hard, only to look back and see that Daniel is busy taking photos, not doing any paddling! And Daniel thinks that I don’t now how to steer. I can see why double kayaks get called marriage breakers.

So we opt for 2 single kayaks. A much better idea! We can each go at our own pace. And yes, I do know how to steer a kayak! The lake is beautiful from above the water (it’s beautiful from the shore too) but being surrounded by the lake is very tranquil.

We paddle out, following the shore line, spotting birds and paddling past boats bobbing up and down. I think this is my favorite experience on this trip. There is just something so magical, so peaceful, about being out on the water. The sound the water makes against the paddle, the stillness, the scenery. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life. A chance to slow down and take it all in.

Back on shore, we grab some lunch before going to take that iconic photo. You know the one I am talking about. #Thatwanakatree. A twisted, lone willow growing out of the lake. It’s probably one of New Zealand’s most photographed trees. With the Southern Alps in the background, it’s certainly instagram worthy.

The Bucket List – North Island Edition

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called The Bucket List, my 5 top New Zealand experience I want to have. After writing it, I realised that every item on that list was in the South Island. Correction, I mean the South Island and Stewart Island.

What I am getting at is that there were no North Island experiences on my list, and it’s the Island I live on. Shame on me!

Te Ika a Maui, aka, The North Island, has some stunning beaches, natural hot springs and some interesting Geo thermal areas. It is certainly a place worth exploring.

So, without furthur ado, here is my top 5 North Island Bucker List items:

Staying a night at Wharekauhau Lodge

This one has been on the bucket list for 11.5 years! An Edwardian style lodge, set up on a hill, it looks out towards stunning views of Palliser Bay and farm land in the Wairarapa. I first came here in 2009. It is where Daniel and I got engaged and has always held a special place in my heart. We visited again late last year, again just for lunch. When Daniel proposed, he had looked into staying a night, but at over $3000 a night, it was off the cards. A bucket list item for sure, but perhaps more of a dream.

Not anymore. In September we are making this dream a reality. I managed to grab a bargain when they were offering a ‘Back your backyard – NZ residents special’. It was too good to pass up.

Wharekauhau is luxury at it’s finest. The food is exceptional, the location stunning and the staff are so warm and welcoming. To say I am excited about staying here is an understatement.

Tongariro Crossing

I actually had plans to do this walk in March with my sister-in-law. The trip was all booked and then Covid-19 happened. The first weekend we spent in lockdown was the weekend we were meant to be hiking this trail.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing is in the Tongariro National Park, located in central North Island in the Manawatu-Wanganui region. The walk is just under 20km and is often described as being NZ’s best day walk. The walk is said to be challenging but incredibly rewarding. The trail takes you past craters, lakes and landscapes like no other.

I am yet to rebook this one but will need to do some fitness prepping first. I will confess that I didn’t do much exercise during lockdown and took up the hobby of baking. Needless to say, I have put on a bit of lockdown weight.

Northern Explorer

One of New Zealand’s great train rides. This journey goes between Auckland and Wellington, stopping at some great locations along the way. The journey takes around 10 hours, but I would take the opportunity to get off at some stops along the way to further explore.

Fancy staying in a Chateau or visiting Hobbiton? Black water rafting at Waitomo or a trip to Kapiti Island? These are all locations that are accessible from the stops it makes along the way.

The Northern Explorer is not currently operating, I am waiting for that email it’s back up and running and then (if I haven’t already spent all my money on other trips) I will make a booking.

Camping with the pups

I have wanted to do this for a while now, what’s stopping me I hear you ask? Well the main thing, I don’t own a tent. An essential piece of equipment for this adventure.

I have always loved camping but haven’t done it in ages. I would love to take Frankie and Eddie camping with me too. There are a few campgrounds around that allow dogs.

The other issue stopping me is that Frankie and Eddie, AKA The FrEddies, although small and cute, are very vocal. The love to alert us of people arriving, birds on the porch and neighbors turning on their lights. We would need to trial the camping somewhere close, like Wainuiomata, so if The FrEddies felt the need to alert us to everything going on at the camp site and we needed to make a quick exit in the middle of the night, we wouldn’t need to drive too far.

First thing I need to do is locate a tent I can borrow. I don’t want to invest in one if it’s going to be a disastrous family outing.

Wanganui River Kayak

I have a thing for kayaking, I am certainly no pro and I don’t do it very often, but given the chance I love to jump in a kayak and go exploring.

This Wanganui River tour is a multi day tour, I think actually in canoes, rather than kayaks. I haven’t done too much research into this, so I don’t have a tour company picked out, yet.

This would be a tour with stunning scenery and informative local history in a area that I am not too familiar with.

What’s on your bucket list?