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.

Lobster krill anyone? E-Ko tours part 2.

We leave the Hectors dolphin’s behind and continue the search for other dolphin species that we can swim with. While searching all the bays and inlets of Marlborough sounds, 2 notable things happen. First – someone spots a shark. I didn’t see it, apparently it was just a baby but in that moment I was quite pleased we were not out in the water. I have a huge fear about being attacked by sharks!

We also pass large patches of red sea water moving with the swell of the ocean.  Our skipper explains that is it thousands of lobster krill. Tiny little crustaceans. We are then asked ‘Does anyone want to eat one?’  and Daniel pipes up with ‘yip, I’ll try one’.

Hundreds of tiny krill turning the ocean red

The skipper puts one in Daniels hand – a little bright red crustacean with long slender nippers. Not the sort of thing I would want to put in my mouth! Then it looks at me. Right in the eyes and we have a moment (can you tell I am an animal lover?) and I can’t let this little creature be eaten. I beg Daniel to put it back. Fortunately for this little critter, lobster krill is off the menu today and he is returned to the big ocean to do whatever it is that lobster krill do.

This lucky little guy was taken off the menu

As we are nearing the end of the tour, it looks more and more likely that we won’t be swimming with dolphins today. E-Ko tours have an 80% success rate of getting clients in the water with dolphins but it just wasn’t for us today. But seeing as we are all kitted out in wetsuits and masks, it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to go for a little swim. We dock in a quiet bay and hop into the water. The wet suit keeps me surprisingly warm and buoyant. Fish food is then thrown out around us and in moments we are surround by schools of fish darting left and right, picking up the food as it lands in the water. The visibility is excellent – there are just so many fish!

We then pile back into the boat and make our way back to shore. Although I didn’t get to swim with dolphins, it was still an excellent tour. Part of the thrill of having encounters with wild animals is that it is never guaranteed, but when it does happen, oh, how special it is!

I know I will be back for another go at this bucket list item.

Picton Harbour

It’s time to board the Interislander Ferry, our trip has nearly come to an end. This time, motorbikes are the first to load which is excellent as we are booked into the Plus Lounge.

Um, wow!

We will definitely be doing this again when we take the ferry. Big comfy seats, magazines, wifi, huge windows with great views (tinted so passengers outside can’t see in.) It is also fully catered; all food and beverages are included in the price. We head straight to the bar where the staff pour us some wines to taste before we make our selection.

There is so much food, hot, cold, savoury and sweet. What I am most excited about is the large plate of colourful macarons. I may or may not have sampled one of every colour.

Motorcycling is such an unforgettable way to travel the country, but it is tiring and at times uncomfortable. It is such a treat being able to sit back and relax in the plus lounge for the last leg of the journey.

It is a great end to our trip.

As we pull into our driveway I’m filled with excitement and can’t wait to get off the motorbike. Our dogs, Frank and Ed are there waiting for us. I have missed them so much.

Anywhere with these two is the place I call home.

1 Motorbike. 11 days. 1935km.

What an adventure.

Discovering Lake Pukaki

The start of our trip was a bit touch and go for rain, but really, we have been so lucky with the weather. (Especially since we didn’t pack the rain gear) It’s yet again, another beautiful day.

We don’t have much planned for today, we are starting to make our way back up country towards home. But we are only half way through our trip; we still have a few stops to make first.

Today, our destination is Timaru to catch up with some friends and family. To get there, we ride over Lindis Pass in the MacKenzie Basin.

Encompassed by mountains, the landscape is vast, wild, and covered in tussock. We stop at a couple of lookouts and and my attention is drawn to how quiet it is.

I think living in the city, I am so used to a constant hum of cars and trains and planes that I don’t really notice it.

Until it’s not there, and then I am captivated by the stillness, the silence.

It is so energizing.

Further on, I insist on stopping at another scenic spot, next to a lake that is perfectly framing Mt. Cook. Quite often the peak of Mt. Cook is hidden,  surrounded in cloud or fog, but not today.

And wow!

Just Wow, what a sight it is. Then I realise, the stunning lake that we are next to, I have no idea what it’s called. Google Maps inform me that it’s Lake Pukaki. I have heard of its neighbours before, Lake Tekapo and Lake Hawera but never Lake Pukaki, which is bigger, how have I never heard of this place?

Up behind us is LakeStone lodge. Before we had even left, I was looking up the lodge. Quite a big price ticket, but it is definitely a place that has gone straight onto the bucket list.

Here, you feel a world away from everything, I can only imagine the beauty you would see, staying here for a few nights.

It’s time to stop day dreaming about staying in luxury lodges and carry on with our journey.

On our way to Timaru, we make a stop in Fairlie – we have heard they are famous for their pies so decide to check it out for ourselves at the Fairlie Bakehouse. Bacon and salmon, pork belly and apple, venison and cranberry, are just a few of the flavours on offer. 

We have arrived mid-afternoon so unfortunately there were no vegetarian pies. I had to settle for a custard filled cronut instead. What a shame.

Buttery, flaky goodness with a rich creamy filling. Oh so good. (Daniel said his pie was pretty good too.)

And then we arrive in Timaru.

One of the many things I love about New Zealand are all the little hidden gems you stumble across on your journey. It does mean that a 4 hour trip can end up taking the most part of a day.

But really, the journey is all part of the adventure.

The Ride to Christchurch

Today we are heading south to Christchurch. Our focus for this trip is to spend most of our time in Central Otago and South Canterbury, visiting family. Picton to Alexandra (Central Otago) is a long ride, almost 10 hours and while we could do it in one day, we decided to break up the trip with an overnight stop half way, allowing 6 days with family.

I choose where our overnight stays will be and book accommodation but I always leave it Daniel to decide the routes we will take. Each morning I tell him what city or town we will be staying in that evening (he has no interest in the details prior, unnecessary information he calls it.) He will then take a quick look at Google maps and decide how he wants to get from A to B. Most of the time, he is looking for the back roads; the twistier the better. 

Lucky I don’t really get motion sickness.

For the first part of the ride we are heading towards Kaikoura, through Marlborough and towards the coast. It is almost a cloudless day, perfect for a ride. Heading through Marlborough region we pass a lot of vineyards. Marlborough is known as a wine region and it reminds me a lot of the Wairarapa, another well know wine region. There are hardly any cars on the road making it a really nice ride. As we approach the coast the landscape changes. We move away from grape vines and flat plains to rugged rocks, flax and tussocks.

And then we see the ocean.

Beautiful turquoise water in one bay and then in the next, stunning aquamarine water.

Even from the motorbike, I can spot seals out enjoying the surf and sunning themselves on the rocks. Kaikoura is known for its marine life.

Whales, dolphins and seals oh my.

Along the coastal route we have to make a few stops for road works. There was a big earthquake in Kaikoura in 2016 causing major damage to roads, including SH1 and also caused the seabed to rise quite substantially in some areas. Work to repair SH1 is still underway, so if you are traveling on this route, be prepared to travel slowly and be stopped for roadworks.

On the bike, stopped at road works

We reach Kaikoura, a very popular town with the tourists – it’s pretty crowded, but we decide to stop anyway for a rest. We head to a funky little cafe call Bean Me Up Coffee and sit out front in some old car seats!

We depart Kaikoura and Daniel, AKA super navigator (honestly I am in awe at his sense of direction, he can get us anywhere with minimal effort) decides that we will move away from the coast and take the inland route for the next part.

The Inland Route

We pass deer drinking at a river, hillsides that are every shade of green and gold and have long stretches of glorious twisting road all to ourselves. The scenery today has been awesome. I can’t understand why the roads weren’t busier (although I am pleased they weren’t!)

The Inland Route

As we approach Christchurch, we also approach grey clouds and notice a change in temperature. I begin to regret my decision to leave the rain gear at home. It’s quite bulky and to have taken it, would have meant leaving quite a lot of other items behind. But it’s summer and we are heading for Central Otago so we felt confident we could leave it behind.

And so we got wet.

And nearly ran out of fuel.

Our motorbike doesn’t have a fuel gage, so there is always bit of guess work required in knowing how far we can get before we need to fill up. Luckily we make it to the petrol station just in time! Note to self, we can get approximately 180km out of a tank of petrol.

We check in at our Christchurch accommodation, All Stars Inn and collapse onto the bed after a long but fun day of riding.

The Details

I was really impressed with All Stars Inn, the rooms felt more like a hotel. The bed was huge, the room modern and quite spacious and the backpacker location is really central. There is also a nice pub on site. A double room with shared bathroom starts from $70.

Cruising on the Interislander

In February, my husband and I packed up the motorbike and headed out a road trip adventure around the South Island. I have been really looking forward to writing about this, but at the same time, putting it off a bit because I just don’t know where to start. It was such an epic trip, in such a beautiful part of the country; I want to make sure I do it justice!

Our trip began on the eve of Waitangi day, we were on a 5pm sailing and at 1pm, I still hadn’t packed. Packing for a motorbike trip can be quite quick, you don’t have a lot of luggage space so there isn’t actually that much to pack. On the other hand, it can be quite a challenge deciding what is really essential and deserves a space in the small side pannier.

Between us we have 1 set of panniers, a small backpack and a tank pack. Somehow, I managed to fit all of this:

Into this:

Packing completed. Time to head to the ferry.

While waiting to board, we got chatting to another motorcyclist. One of the things I love about travelling on a motorbike is that you are instantly in a club. When out on the road, other riders will give you a nod or a wave, and when you’re parked up, they will just start chatting to you, sharing stories of the adventures they have had on their bike.

Wellington had put on some nice weather for us, thankfully. I don’t really have an issue with motion sickness, but the cook straight can get pretty rough. I have been on one of those rough sailings and I don’t wish to do it again!

Beautiful day to set sail

The ferry ride is around 3.5 hours, about an hour of which is through the picturesque Marlborough sounds. We had a pretty smooth sailing, apart from a rough 30 minute patch after we left the shelter of Wellington harbour.  It was a full sailing and the motorbikers were last to board, so all the inside seats and the outside seats at the front were taken by the time we got on board. We ended up in the only available seats we could find, which happened to be outside in the smokers area, but also in the centre of the boat. Now here is a tip from my mum to you – ‘Stay in the centre of the boat, it’s more stable there’. Yes the boat was rocking and we watched the horizon going up and down, but neither of us had any sea sickness. When I went inside to get some food, I passed a lot of very ill looking passengers. Excellent advice mum!

It’s near impossible to get a photo of Daniel smiling. He pulls a face every time the camera comes out (unless he is standing next to a Super Car, then he will smile!)

We then entered the calm waters of the Marlborough sounds. It is so picturesque and beautiful. A flock of birds effortlessly glide through the air, following alongside the boat. The water is so still and the setting sun casts a golden glow across the hills. I watch as birds feed on schools of fish that have risen to the surface.

What a way to start our holiday.

We arrived in Picton, a quiet, peaceful town and drove a couple of minutes down the road to our accommodation. Tonight we are staying at Sequoia Lodge Backpackers,  a pretty place, with tropical looking plants, a spa pool and giant chess set. The rooms were simple but clean. All we needed.

We then decided to head across the road to a local pub, Crow Tavern, to grab some dinner and a wine. The pub has a bit of a kitch, kiwiana feel to it, the staff are friendly and there is a really chilled out atmosphere.  This  place feels  like it is a bit of a community hub, reading the notices on the board I learn that Kerri-oke is cancelled this Saturday as Kerri is away.  

That made me smile. 

But now it’s time to get some rest. We have a decent ride a head of us tomorrow we want to be feeling fresh for the next leg of the journey.

The Details

There are 2 ferry companies that operate between Wellington and Picton, The Interislander (which we traveled on) and Blue Bridge. Both companies have multiple sailing times during the day.

Our return trip for 2 adults and a motorbike cost us $336. (You need to take your own tie downs for the motorbike)

Sequoia Lodge Backpackers is in a convenient location and only a couple of minutes drive from the ferry terminal. Linen, towels and breakfast is included in the price. There are a variety of room types to suit all budgets. We stayed in a double room with shared bathroom for $76.