New Zealand

I had the good fortune to travel to New Zealand for a month (Dec 1999 to Jan 2000), my trip spanning the turn of the millenium.  As I travelled, I sent these email updates to my friends (essentially a travelogue):

Tuesday, December 28, 1999 9:42 PM (PT):


Hello, from down under, in Greymouth, New Zealand!

We are having a fabulous time down here and are cycling our little tails off! We have put in over 260 miles so far (in 4 days of cycling)...

The seven of us successfully completed a full century - the last one of the year. It was my first time riding a century in a single shot.

I did my first century yesterday! Luckily, there was a lot of downhill! Today, on the otherhand, was mostly always seems to work that way, doesn't it?

The people are great, both on the tour and leading it! And despite the hard work, I'm having a great time... The scenery is spectacular! I'll have lots of stories to tell when I'm back and perhaps even a few pictures to share.

In two days, we will be at Franz Joseph Glacier, where we will stay for New Years', attending the local community dance, and doing a helihike on the glacier! WOW!

Have a fabulous New Year and I'll see you when I get back!

Love, D

Friday, December 31, 1999 6:41 PM (PT):


Well, Happy New Year from down under! We celebrated the new millenium about 14 1/2 hours ago and are now watching the rest of the world as it catches up!

A bunch of us went for a heli-hike on Franz Joseph Glacier (and others went for a ride over Franz Joseph, Fox Glacier and Mt. Cook). We're waiting in line here for the copters.

I spent New Years Eve (and New Years Day) in Franz Joseph (where I am writing from). In fact, I and 6 others in my group were the last people on Franz Joseph Glacier in 1999! We did a fabulous heli-hike shortly after cycling into town! I can't wait to see how the pictures turn out!

The last four days have been rough (we put almost 270 miles behind us in that time...with a LOT of hills) without a break, but we are resting today and enjoying the wonderful views of the glacier. So far, we have come over 370 miles and have a little under 300 left (with only 3 cycling days to go). But we have a rest day after each cycling day for the rest of the trip!

I will be staying in New Zealand until January 22nd and plan to head up the east coast when the cycling trip is finished.

We are really enjoying the views, the guides and the other people on the trip! We've also been hearing some of the stories from the other two trips (they are two and four days ahead of us). On the first trip, of 22 people, 8 have quit and flown on to Queenstown (where we end up). Many of the others are "shuttlers"...they are averaging only about 17 km per day and taking the shuttle van for the rest...that's a LOT of shuttling...and a lot of work for the guides, who have to put the bikes up on racks on the van for each person who shuttles.

So far, I've ridden every mile and am hoping to continue with that.

During a pre-ride briefing, one of our guides shows us a map she's drawn of the next day's course - the hardest of the trip (113 miles, most of it climbing).

It is possible that I will have some trouble on Day 12 (and that's the most likely day for me to have trouble) since it is by far the longest (113 miles) with the most climbing (5800' of elevation). Our longest day so far was the third day of riding... 100.1 miles and only about 1500' elevation. The most climbing we've done was on the second day...3800', but only 48 get the picture!

Well, enough from me! ENJOY your new year and I hope it is the beginning to a truly fabulous year!

Cheers from down under,


Tuesday, January 04, 2000 7:25 PM (PT):


Well, for those of you who have been waiting...


Yesterday, we rode the longest and toughest day of our trip! 113 miles (181.4 km) and 5700' elevation climb. It was a LONG, TOUGH day, particularly since the wind picked up and we were riding into a headwind starting at about 15 to 20km into the day. It was a tough, gusty wind and stayed with us, even as we climbed over Haast Pass (1700' climb).

But, it's over, I'm resting today and have only one day left of cycling (then on to other things...more on that another time). By the end of the trip (January 7th, here), we will have cycled 632 miles and climbed 25,000'! Yikes!

While in Milford Sound, which we took a tiny airplane to reach, a bunch of us took a cruise of the sound. It was beautiful.

Today, we took a flight to Milford Sound (really a fjord) in the Fjordland area. Then, a cruise down Milford Sound! It was beautiful. On the way back, we saw Southland Waterfall, the 4th longest falls in the world (about 590 meters, I think he said).

Then a little walk around Wanaka (pronounced to rhyme with "Hannukah"). Tomorrow, our last day of riding, we will go about 78 miles and climb our last 3000'!

I hope you are enjoying the new year! I certainly am!

Cheers from down under!


Thursday, January 06, 2000 4:57 PM (PT):


Kia Ora from Queenstown! (That means greetings, by the way!)...

Well, we have just officially finished the Backroads trip! Yesterday we cycled our last 78 miles (and 3000' of elevation). We are now at a grand total for the trip of 632 miles and 25000' of elevation (almost to the top of Mount Everest)!

It was a long tough day yesterday, mostly because I was so tired from the 113 mile day. But I am finished, we are taking a rest day today and then going whitewater rafting tomorrow!

Also, (Mom and Dad, make sure you're sitting down)...I went bungy jumping! Never done it I have. It was 43 meters (142 feet). Off the bridge where bungy jumping was invented! Pretty cool! I have pictures to prove it if anyone is interested!

Well, I'll spend a couple of days here and them am off into the wild again. I haven't planned my itinerary yet for the last two weeks, but I suspect there will be times that a terminal will be hard (if not impossible to find)!

I hope that you are all adjusting to life back at work okay!



Tuesday, January 11, 2000 12:44 AM (PT):


Hi again!

Well, a wee bit has happened since the last time I wrote. I bounced up to the North End of the South Island...Picton, this time. It was a beautiful journey, despite gloomy weather (I left the sunshine behind in Queenstown)!

In Picton, I experienced my first stay in a backpacker's lodge. It's cheap, functional, and has LOTS of interesting people. Also, I did the first portion of the Queen Charlotte Track (normally a 3 to 4 day tramp...that's backpacking to all you Americans). I would have loved to do the entire thing, but alas, I simply do not have the proper equipment with me (you know, sleeping bag, cooking gear, tent). Next time (and YES, there WILL be a next time)! I met a lovely couple from the US. They got married on July 31st, left on their honeymoon three days later and have been travelling ever since - mainly South America and the Pacific Rim.

Then, I caught a bus down to Kaikoura. In Kaikoura, I checked into another lodge (Dusky's was recommended by a Kiwi friend of mine). This morning, BEFORE dawn, I went swimming with the dolphins. They have many pods of Dusky Dolphins here...they tend to travel in large pods...often over 50 per pod (there were about 20-30 in the pods we were with) and are very playful. That was a FANTASTIC experience.

I did a circuit of the Kaikoura Peninsula. Along the way, I saw tons of seals and sea lions. They look really tame, but you have to be careful not to get too close!

In the afternoon, I walked the Peninsula walk around Kaikoura Peninsula. It took about 4 hours to do the whole thing, but I certainly got an eyeful of fur seals. The walk starts at a seal colony, but goes a long ways around and you see more seals outside the seal colony that you do in it!

Tomorrow, I head off to Christchurch where I will be for only a couple of days.

I'll keep you updated!

Have a fantastic day and remember to smile!!

God bless,


Thursday, January 13, 2000 8:44 PM (PT):


It's AMAZING...I'm silent for a couple of days and I get an email asking me to hurry up and relay what I'm up to!

So, Neil...just for YOU! Here it is:

I rode to Christchurch with a couple from Germany that I met while on the Dophin Swim. They were very sweet and kept offerring to stop for photo ops!

They dropped me off at my hostel in Christchurch, which was really nice. I had heard that the Frauenreisehaus was a great place to stay and decided to try it out. All women, and with ALL the amenities...stuff that you wouldn't expect to see except in a hotel!

I had a grand plan for the day that I completely pitched! I managed to find the long-searched for "New Zealand 2000" cycling jerseys and picked up a couple (one for me and one for my cycling buddy who had to go home to work, Joyce). Then, grabbed lunch! Fabulous..something called Tom Pad, I think. A spicy Thai soup with chicken. A little jaunt around town center...ran into some friends of mine from the cycling trip (Carla and Jim). They were wandering around the Cathedral before they went to catch their flight home.

I sat by the Avon river awhile and read my book (it was hard to put down...I've finished it now..."Angela's Ashes" -- Marie, you were right, I LOVED it!). Then, I took a stroll around the Botanical Gardens. They are immense! 500 acres!

Finally, it was getting cold and I was still in walking shorts, so I headed back to the hostel for some dinner. Sat around with some of the girls (did I say it was an all-women's hostel...the only one I've run into) and chatted, watched a movie and went to sleep.

The next morning, I got up and caught a bus to Akaroa, a small village that was settled by the French 150 years ago (they were trying to beat the British to claim the South Island...they missed it by 4 days). I stayed at the Onuku Farm Hostel, which was out from the village a bit. Ran into a girl (Sabine) that had been in the same hostel the night before, so we hung out for the day. The bus to Akaroa stopped at a little craft center, a tavern with a GREAT view of the harbor (just for pictures, Dad), and a cheese factory...yummy!

Hiking near Akaroa with Sabine and Yuko

Sabine (from Berlin) and Yuko (from Osaka) and I did a hike that afternoon to a beach (really a bunch of rocks) where there are tons of mussels! Yuko collected a bunch in her hat and cooked them for dinner. It was a really nice walk, but I got up close and personal with something called a "stinging nettle"...they have them all over Europe...I suggest if you have the chance, DON'T get too close. They sting for a couple of DAYS afterwards. I'll get over it! Had a nice dinner of sushi, lamb and muffins (hey, we had an international group at the hostel...the sushi was WONDERFUL).

This morning, some folks got up and went kayaking to see the Hector's dolphins. I will be spending two full days in a kayak soon enough and would have been cutting it too close to catch my bus back to Christchurch. I'm now sitting in a internet shop in Christchurch, about to miss my bus to Dunedin!

More later!

Cheers and all that!


Sunday, January 16, 2000 5:26 PM (PT):


Kia Ora from Steward Island! Although it has just started to rain here a little, it's GREAT!

Let's catch you up first on what's been going on...

From Akaroa, I headed down to Dunedin (pronounced Done-ee-den, a good Scottish name), where I wandered around the city center for a's an interestingly shaped place. The city center is in the shape of a hexagon and everything extends out from there. I took some time to hit the Otago Museum. My favorites there were the wildlife photography exhibit (FANTASTIC...if it shows up anywhere near you, go see it!) and the Tibetan Monks...I have now forgotten the name of what they were doing, but as part of the Buddhist tradition, they make the most amazing art out of sand...the exhibit I saw (a work in progress) had taken almost two weeks and was truly unbelievable.

From there, I headed out on a wildlife tour of the Otago Peninsula (right next to Dunedin). There we saw all sorts of birds, but of particular note were the albatross (went to the albatross colony and saw albatross nesting), the yellow-eyed penguin (extremely rare -- they only exist in New Zealand) and the blue penguin. In addition, we saw hooker sealions (rare), fur seals and hector dolphins (also unique to New Zealand).

The next day (yesterday), I did a bus tour from Dunedin to Invercargil through and area simply known as the Catlins. There we again saw lots of wildlife, bush and various geological formations (including a petrified forest).

Now, I'm in Stewart Island...home of the brown kiwi and lots of species of bird. There are great bush walks here, too.

Well, gotta go...the sun's coming back out!

Hope you are having a happy and safe New Year...send me news if you get a chance!!



Sunday, January 23, 2000 10:45 PM (PT):


Let's see... a lot has happened since I last wrote....

First, went on a pretty long hike on Stewart Island after the short rain I last wrote about (Monday, NZ time). I went with a couple of people I had met in Invercargill (Mary and Stephan). Stephan and I walked Mary as far as Maori Beach (about 10 to 12 km from Oban, where we started). Then, we all hung out a bit on the beach, checking it out. The sandflies decided we were pretty good lunch, so we didn't stay too long. Then, Mary headed out to the hut (about an hour and a half further than we had gone) and Stephan and I headed back towards town. Met up with some friends that evening in town for a chat.

Tuesday, I got up early and went fishing. Some girls in Invercargill had told me about a guy who does fishing trips and highly recommended I try it, even if I'm not really into fishing. It sounded fun, so I went. It was GREAT!! We fished all morning, and caught TONS -- trumpeter, brown and orange rass, blue cod... We stopped for tea early on, and then John, our captain, cooked lunch...some of the fish we had caught. The rass made great sushi! It was all very tasty. We were tied up at the wharf at Ulva Island (a fairly large Island at the mouth of Paterson Inslet) so I went and walked around looking at the wildlife (there are a TON of birds there). In addition, we saw Molly Mawks (an albatross that is slightly smaller than the Royal Albatross).

When we headed back to shore to end the trip, and pick up the people going out for the afternoon, John invited me to stay on and fish that afternoon as well. I took him up on it and didn't regret it! We caught tons more fish, and went diving for Paua...well, actually, Andy, one of the new guests, went diving for Paua...there was only one wetsuit and it was cold! For those of you who don't know what Paua's a type of Abalone. Often, jewelry is made from the paua shell. At the end of the trip, we did some swapping of catches and I went back with some paua as well as all the fish I caught (I caught so much, I left a bunch behind and gave some to the woman who runs the backpacker's I was staying in). There were a bunch of people at the backpacker's cooking guy had bought some paua, so he showed me how to cook it! It was GREAT!!!

That evening, I got together with people I had met over the last few days since I was leaving the next day.

Then...the trouble begins. I had borrowed an alarm since mine wasn't working. I had to catch the 8am ferry out the next morning in order to make it to Te Anau ("Tea Ann-O") on time for my kayaking trip. Well, the one I borrowed never went off. I was woken up my someone else's at 8:20! I was packed and out the door by 8:30, but there isn't another ferry until 3:30 and I missed the morning flight (left at 8:30). Unfortunately, the backpacker's where I was staying was a bit out of town and I couldn't access a phone. Luckily, I found out about a couple of guys who were flying in a little 3 seater over to Invercargill and I caught a ride with them (they didn't even charge me!!). I made it just in time to catch my shuttle to Te Anau (picked me up at 12:30).

The kayaking trip was FABULOUS! I did a two-day trip into an area called Doubtful Sound... It is inaccessible by car and is VERY beautiful! There were 7 others on the trip (plus the guide) and we all got along really well. We kayaked out of Deep Cove (the deepest part of the fiord), around Rolla Island and into the Hall Arm. It rained most of the day, which we were happy for! The West Coast had been experiencing a draught for almost a month and most of the waterfalls had dried up (normally it rains 2 out of every 3 days's a rainforest)! The waterfalls started up again when we were there and kept growing the entire time! We spent the night with the sandflies in Hall Arm(originally Doubtful Sound was going to be called Bloodsucker Sound because the sandflies were worse there than any other fiord) and were the first to christen a new toilet facility they built there (a hole on a piece of wood, enclosed by plywood about 10 feet above ground level). We had a little christening party! It was very silly! The trip out was beautiful...the sun came out for a while. The wind kicked up a bit when we got out of Hall Arm and when we paddled around Elizabeth Island I we saw water cyclones (areas where the winds coming from two different directions caused the water to spin up off the ocean surface).

That evening, back in Te Anau, we all got together for dinner. It was my LAST dinner in New Zealand (sniff, sniff)...

Saturday, I took a morning shuttle back to Queenstown, walked around the town a bit and had lunch. There was an area right by the restaurant where I had lunch where a building had been torn down while I was gone! When I walked by, I saw that not only had the building been torn down, but a bunch of archeologists were there excavating. It was interesting to watch.

Beyond that, nothing more exciting to tell...I caught my plane from Queenstown to Christchurch, then Christchurch to Auckland and then home. Oh, and when I got home, I couldn't find my keys, so I had to climb a ladder to break into my bedroom neighbor, Cara, was kind enough to hold the ladder for me to make sure I didn't fall!

I'm back in LA now, trying to get all sorts of stuff my bills, unpack, do laundry...and of course, I need to go have all my pictures developed!

Well, I will sign off for now....

After the pictures are back, I may have to send out another little update with photos to accompany, but that's a ways off, I suspect!

Have a GREAT week and feel free to drop me a note!