November 2002 Travelogue


11/09/02 The Southland - When It Rains it Pours!
When we left off in the story we were hanging around Le Bon Bay, just outside Akaroa...

Well, we finished out the morning in Akaroa by finishing up our town history tour from the day before (there was so much, we just hadn't gotten around to doing it all the first day). From there, we swung through Christchurch to get our film and then headed down to Timaru, where we had an invitation to call in on some folks we had met in Picton (they were on the vintage car rally). Helen and Terry live in a beautiful home that they purchased less than 2 years ago in Timaru, which has just enough garage space to house the 3 vintage cars they have (one of which they just purchased on the road rally for US$250 -- a Morris Minor 1000 that is in great shape!) and the one "normal" car they have. Anything else has to park in the driveway. They also offered us free internet and scanner access, which is why you saw more pictures appear on the travelogue a week or so ago! Thanks again, Terry and Helen!

The Church of the Good Shepherd

Mt Cook way in the background
From there, we headed inland a bit to see Mount Cook. It was a fabulous drive. Our first stop was at Lake Tekapo to see the Church of the Good Shepherd. From there, we headed up towards Mt. Cook. Many people are never fortunate enough on tours to ever get a clear view of the summit of Mt. Cook, which is shaped like a tent, but we had a clear shot of her summit almost the entire day, going both in and out!

We had lunch in the cafe at the Hermitage, a rather famous hotel overlooking Mt.Cook.

Blurry Blue Penguins (It was at night!)
From there, we headed down and around several other lakes in the area, and out to Oamaru, which is famous for its Blue Penguin Colony. We were fortunate enough to arrive just in time to see the the Blue Penguins return from a day of fishing at sea. The Reserve has a fabulous website that even includes a webcam. The highlight of our viewing was when we watched on of the baby penguins, apparently impatient for its parents to come and feed it, cross the fence demarking the colony, partially cross the road, lean over and run into the group of gathering adult penguins like a bowling ball into pins (or as Kirk described, like a torpedo shot from a tube). It was absolutely HILARIOUS, and despite the admonition to remain as quiet as possibleto keep from spooking the penguins, we could barely contain the laughter!

Round Moeraki Rock

Round Moeraki Rocks
The next morning, we began our drive to Dunedin with a stop at the famous Moeraki Boulders. They are quite interesting and there are two different explanations (of course) of where they came from --the scientific explanation and the Maori explanation(the Maori explanation was much more interesting).

A yellow-eyed penguin
As we were pulling out of the car park, we saw a couple that we had seen sitting by the side of the road as we pulled in, so we asked them if they needed a ride. They seemed reluctant at first, but when we told them we were going to Dunedin, they got in. They were a young couple from Germany and very nice. We had an interesting conversation about language (the English language is very different depending on who is using it) and we tried to explain the various meanings of the word "stuff" and "staff". After dropping them at their backpackers, we headed out to the Otago Peninsula, where we got on a tour of the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Reserve. It's a pretty amazing place and it was a wonderful experience. Last time I was in New Zealand I got to see some Yellow-Eyed penguins, but not at this location. We also spent some time at the Albatross Colony, but unfortunately, it is breeding season, therefore, the viewing area was closed and in the low winds (which we had that day) they didn't fly that much. From there, we headed back to Dunedin, where we were fortunate enough to have an invitation to stay with Win, mother of Margaret (from Blenheim). Win was a wonderful woman and we truly enjoyed our stay with her! She was an interesting lady and we were truly blessed to have the chance to meet her!

The next morning, it was pouring madly. We had planned to head through the Catlins, although better weather would have been much more desireable. The day before, however, Kirk had made SUCH a big deal about one of the attractions in Dunedin, I didn't DARE leave without making a stop there. So, we didn't pass go, we didn't collect $200 (we NEVER do!)...we went STRAIGHT to... CADBURY WORLD! Yes, that DOES mean "chocolate"! We almost didn't get in, as they were booked solid until late in the afternoon, but the tour that was booked for the time that we arrived (a tour of 16) never showed and so, in we went! And they STUFFED our pockets with chocolate! I ate a bit at the beginning, but soon resorted to putting it in the many pockets of my jackets and pants and just couldn't even carry anymore. It's a good thing the tour ended when it did! Kirk was glad we went, because the tour was very different than the one he had been on before (in England).

Purakanui Falls

McLean Falls
After a wander about Dunedin and a brief tea/coffee at Arc Cafe, a local cafe(with FREE internet), we decided to disregard the still falling rain and head into the beautiful CatlinsCoast. We meandered along stopping at an old sawmill, and then at Nugget Point (famous as being a favorite placefor fur seals, hooker sea lions and even Elephant Seals). We located Jack's Blowhole, a huge hole 55 meters deep and 200 meters from the sea, in the middle of some farmer's sheep paddocks. We hiked in to the beautiful Purakaunui Falls. That night, we spent the night at a teeny campsite at Papatowai. It was pouring rain when we arrived and Kirk managed to get us into a cabin for only NZ$20!!

Slope Point
It was STILL raining when we got up! (Can it RAIN that much? Will we float away?) After breakfast, at the suggestion of the campsite proprietor, we headed to McLean Falls, which were absolutely beautiful. Even more so than Purakaunui Falls! We tried to do some wildlife spotting at Porpoise Bay but saw only some crazy surfers and a couple of sheep with day-old lambs. We went to the petrified forest at Curio Bay to see some fossils. The tide was still fairly high, but Kirk spotted a number of interesting petrified logs. We hiked out to Slope Point, the most southern point on the South was so incredibly windy and rainy, we felt as if we were on an Antarctic expedition! The weather just wasn't cooperating, so we headed into Invercargill, arriving just in time to book our ferry tickets to Stewart Island (only minutes before they closed for the night). Again, we managed to find a cheap cabin at a holiday park, so we were spared having to pitch the tent in the rain for another night. We packed for Stewart Island, opting to stay at a cheap hostel rather than camp (knowing it rains there more than on the South Island) and crammed everything into 1 backpack plus the camelback.

Kirk, Donna and John Leask on Stewart Island
The next morning, we arrived in Bluff (about 30 minutes south of Invercargill by car) in time to find some FREE parking and got the car situated. We were fairly lucky with the ferry crossing. Often the crossing of Fouveaux Strait is quite bad and is notorious for causing a good number of people to use the sick backs provided with every seat on the ferry. Although neither Kirk nor I generally get sea sick, the water was fairly flat and he slept and I read a book most of the way over. Arriving on Stewart Island was almost like coming home to hadn't changed a bit from what I remembered. We went straight up to Ann's Place, the hostel where we were staying (and, incidentally, where I stayed three years ago, as well) to drop the backpack off) and then wandered around a bit. We ran into two different people we had met on our travels (our tent neighbor in Kaikoura - Eimear, and a guy that was in our hostel in Auckland). Most of our day was spent relaxing and orienting. The weather wasn't too bad. It wasn't raining, although it looked like it could start without warning. We spent much of the day just walking up to the Fernery, a little shop at the top of the hill, walking around the Tourist Info Center, going on the Fuschia walk, reading the news papers at a cafe. We caught up with one of my old friends from 3 years ago, John Leask, who owns a fishing boat. We wanted to book a trip for the next day and caught up to him when he was dropping people off at the wharf. We spent the rest of the night enjoyably, at the hostel, chatting with Caroline, Dan, Malcolm and Penny and getting to know them.

The next morning, was pouring again. And if was harder than ever. But we were going fishing and that was that. So, we got up and dressed and headed down to the wharf to meet John. Another man was there when John pulled up and asked if John needed a deck hand...he told John it was too wet to work and John said sure, so he jumped aboard; his name was Phillip. He was 1/2 Maori and we had a wonderful time getting to know him better! The boat trip was wonderful although the fish just weren't cooperating. John, knowing that I love Paua (that's abalone to you Americans), took us out to a shelf since it was still low tide and Phillip offered to go in (YAY!! THANKS AGAIN, PHILLIP!!). Kirk and I went ashore and collected a bucketful of mussels while Phillip got Paua and Kinis (i.e., sea urchin). We ate a TON of them on the boat! It was wonderful. Kirk was skeptical about the kinis at first, but even he warmed up to them, I think. Then, we went looking for blue cod. I caught a few fish, including the largest, Phillip caught some too, but Kirk got none. The fish must have been hiding indoors out of the rain. We just didn't get the sheer numbers of my last trip. But we came away with more paua and mussels than we know what to do with (not really...we know to eat them!! :) ).

Anyway, I'm gonna do something unusual here... John is a really great guy. He's a fifth generation Stewart Islander and a fabulous seaman and fisherman. His wife, Airdry makes fresh bread for the trips and he cooks lunch for you on the boat plus you have tea onboard. Kirk and I had a wonderful time. If you are EVER on Stewart Island, we recommend calling John and booking a trip with him. His rates are VERY reasonable. PLUS you get to take the fish home with you (and he cleans 'em for you too). It's called Mareno Excursions (he doesn't advertise) and his number is (03) 219-1023.

We had mussels for dinner that night. They were delicious. Then, Caroline, Kirk and I walked down to the hotel to see the bonfire/fireworks for Guy Fawkes night (if they were still on, since it was STILL raining). Guy Fawkes was some guy who tried to blow up Parliament, but got caught, so they celebrate his capture, or something. It turned out that the bonfire/fireworks were cancelled due to the rain and wind.

The next morning, our last day on Stewart Island, wehadn't decided what to do yet. (Did I tell you it was sunny...raining...sunny...raining?) Ann came over to say John had called to say he'd be on the wharf to change his oil and we were invited to come over for tea if we wanted. Well, YES, we wanted! So, we packed everything up and headed over for tea. Tea turned into lunch and then more tea! John taught me how to make (burn?) scones! We had a great time. He even gave us the name of his sister, who lives in Winton, and suggested we call on her, if we drove through Winton on our way to Te Anau. Finally, after harassing him for several hours, we said our farewells and let him be!

We spent a little time looking around the little Stewart Island Museum and the beautiful Church on the Hill. Finally, we headed down to the little hotel/pub to hang out on the patio until the ferry left. We ran into Dan (from our hostel) and chatted with him for a bit. Hopefully, we will see him again in Australia or the UK. (Hi, Dan!!) Just as we were about to board the ferry, John Leask came running up to us. He had driven back around the island after sailing back home-- he had called his sister, told her we were coming. She was expecting us to drop in, had tea (dinner) waiting and was expecting us to spend the night! Wow!!

So, after another ferry crossing back to Bluff, off we were to Winton to meet John's sister, Marion! She was a lovely Christian woman with a beautiful home. She did, indeed, have tea waiting, since she had choir practice at 7pm and we arrived shortly before 6. But she was extremely hospitable and we were grateful for her and her kindness.

Manapouri Power Station
The next morning, we drove southwest to Clifden to pick up the Southern Scenic Highway again and onwards toward Lake Manapouri and Te Anau. We pulled into the wharf at Lake Manapouri just as the boat was leaving for the Lake Manapouri Underground Hydroelectric Power Station Tour. We actually missed the boat that we wanted to take, but Kirk managed to get us on a boat for an overnight tour that was going to the same place and they held the powerstation tour, waiting for us to arrive a few minutes later. On the underground powerstation tour we rode their bus in for 2 kilometers down a spiral tunnel into the base of the mountain where the machine room for the powerstation was. This power station is one of 3 in the world where the water from an inland lake is brought down through a mountain and expelled out through tunnels into the sea. When you get down to the machine room they take you out onto a platform with displays and where you can see the tops of all the generators. They recently increased the capacitity of this powerstation by adding an additional tailrace and are upgrading the generators to keep up so that their ultimate output will be over 700 MW. Most of the power (90% from this station is used at the Aluminum Smelting plant in Bluff)We also met a wonderful couple, Ross and Karen onthe ferry back. They are on their honeymoon. Have fun you two!

Then, we drove into Te Anau, which was only a few kilometers north and checked into a fairly new holiday park. The rain had finally stopped (for a wee while). We pitched our tent and had an early dinner (which we needed, since lunch had been long since forgotten) and then went walking around the town a bit.

Milford Sound

Falls in Milford Sound

Falls in Milford Sound

Milford Sound
Yesterday, we got up early and got on the road to Milford Sound. The weather looked iffy, but we were hopeful. The 119 km drive to Milford is decribed as one of the most beautiful in New Zealand. There is much to see. We made stops at the Mirror Lakes and several view points to take a few pictures. We also got to drive through the 1.2km Homer Tunnel which you may have heard about in the recent news, they had a bus fire there a few weeks ago. We decided to take a cruise on Milford Sound. It's really the only way to see the Sound, as there are no roads whatsoever, once you arrive at the sound. One of the highlights was seeing the Fiordland Crested Penguins, which are perhaps the rarest of all penguins species. Kirk also managed to get himself drenched by a waterfall or two! As we were heading back from the Tasman Sea into the Sound, the rain started again (up until thatpoint, we had managed to have a few sprinkles, but mainly just gusting winds). By the time we were back to the car, the rain had picked up a little. We got the car moving and were on our way. We had decided to try and drive all the way to Queenstown, capital of adrenaline sports. The drive was long, but uneventful. Upon arrival, we went straight to a wonderful pizza place that I remembered from my previous trips to Queenstown, "The Cow". It's a cozy little place where they'll seat you with people you don't know in order to maximize the use of the table space. The pizza was wonderful and we met a nice local couple. Then, we headed out to a DOC campsite to sleep. By now, the rain had started to fall pretty steadily again. We arrived at the camping area and as we were driving down the unsealed (gravel) road into the camping area, we came upon a campervan that was parked perpindicular accross the roadway. The back end of it was up against a slope and its rear wheels stuck in a ditch. Kirk got out to help and it turned out that the two girls driving it had been trying to turn it around and backed in to the ditch and had perfectly plugged up the exhaust pipe as it had plunged into the slope's clay soil. (The van would start but run only briefly) After digging out the tailpipe, and with a few shoves, Kirk was able to drive the van out of the ditch. The girls were very happy and thanked us and were on their way.

We went down to the camping area and found only mud and rocky sites, and with the increasing rain, we decided to drive back to the entrance of the site and join the other cars and vans there that were Freedom camping in the turnaround spot. So we threw everything in the front seats and slept in the back of our wagon. It is big enough for even 6 foot tall Kirk to stretch out!

This morning we came into Queenstown for breakfast and this Internet Update, and if it clears up we may go see a few sites around here, otherwise we will head on to Wanaka tonight. We have plans to go to thewonderful Cinema Paradiso they have there. A wonderful movie theater that we will tell you about next time.

11/24/02 Mixed Blessings

Cinema Paradiso

Donna in the low gravity room

Isn't Kirk Strong?

A Kawarau Gorge Bungy Jumper
We left you off in Queenstown. After Queenstown, we drove to the Kawarau Bridge where I got to see where Donna bungy jumped 3 years ago!! From there, we drove through Kawarau Gorge (which is beautiful and incredibly narrow) up to a small town called Wanaka, which has a wonderfull movie house called Cinema Paradiso. We got there early and bought tickets for the evening show of XXX (which for those of you who don't know, is not an XXX-rated film...that's the NAME of the film). We had seen it before, but the movie house is very special and we didn't mind seeing it again. We even convinced some other travelers at the Holiday Park to come to the movies too. They all loved it. They don't have regular seats in the theater. They have all sorts of chairs/couches, etc. Even a Morris Minor and Airline seats. They stop the movie halfway through and have intermission where they serve warm fresh cookies, milk, ice cream, coffee, etc. Yum!

The next day we went to a church in Wanaka at the Wanaka New Life Church. The singing was pretty good, but no one came up to us afterwards and we left without speaking to anyone.

Next we went to Puzzling World. A really neat place with a human-sized maze. We had a great time doing the maze and they have lots of other puzzles and illusions there, too.

Fox Glacier

Cheeky Kea!
Then it was off to Fox Glacier. We got to Fox by driving over Haast Pass. We stopped at Fantails Waterfalls and ThunderCreek Waterfalls along the way. We stayed at a holiday park at Fox, but it was raining so hard we didn't bother with putting up the tent. We slept in the back of the car again. This time it got so loud at night with the rain hitting the roof, I had to get up and put ear plugs in.

The next morning it was still raining, but we headed up to see the glacier anyway. It was gorgeous. You could walk up to the terminal face. You could see the blue of the ice. We got some good pictures there. They had Keas in the parking lot. Keas are alpine parrots and are locally known as "Cheeky Keas" because they get into everything and like to eat the rubber off of your cars. I parked between several other cars to minimize the chance of them selecting our car. We got away unscathed.

Franz Josef Glacier
On we went to Franz Joseph Glacier. When we got there we just did the Sentinel Walk, rather than hiking all the way up to the terminal face. Franz Joseph wasn't as impressive as Fox, but still it is a glacier.

Heading North we stopped at the "Bushman's Center" A weird little museum on the side of the road. They have captive Possums, a feral pig, eels, and all sorts of information on hunting and such. Lots of info about what the destruction done by the possums and why they should be removed. Apparently they have a Giant Sand Fly that normally hangs out front of the store, but it was taken in due to high winds.

Then it was on to Hokitika, where we spent a night and did some of our Christmas shopping. It is a great place to buy Greenstone (Jade), paua and bone jewelry.

Pancake Rocks Blowing
Further North, we got to Punakaki Rocks (Pancake Rocks), which are interesting pancake-like rock formations that also have wonderful blow-holes when you get there at mid- to high tide. We arrived at mid-tide.

Next, it was on up through Buller Gorge, past Hawks Crag (an amazing section that has been hacked out of the mountain side -- barely high enough for a bus to drive under) and into Nelson, where we saw an interesting movie, "The Hard Word" and stayed at a nice campground called Brooks Valley. The next day we booked our tramp on Abel Tasman Track. They didn't have hut space so we would have to carry our tent. We also finished up our Christmas shopping in Nelson. We drove up that evening to Pohara and prepared for the Abel Tasman track.

On the Beach on Abel Tasman Track

It is kinda small, but Kirk's hair is now SHORT!

Another one of Kirk
The next day we drove to Totaranui and parked our car. Then took a water taxi to Anchorage Bay to begin our tramp along the Abel Tasman track. We hiked back to Bark Bay. The track is coastal; a lot of time is spent in the bush but you still get many great views of the coves and beaches. The campsite at Bark Bay was great; it was right on the beach. We set up camp and for the first time in her life, Donna cut someone's hair --- mine! (Well, actually, she cut her own bangs once when she was 6, but she got in trouble for that one!) We met 7 other Americans there (which is the most Americans we've met in one spot so far) and played cards with them in the evening.

We hiked on the next day to Awaroa. The track is kind of interesting in that many sections can only be done at low tide because you are crossing tidal flats. Whenever we did that we switched from hiking boots to our sandals to walk through the water and sand. Pretty fun! There were billions of shells on some of the beaches and lots of neat driftwood too. That night, after we camped and had our dinner, it was getting a little cool, so we went into the hut and played games with some of the people there. We taught them Speed Scrabble, which is very fun with more than two people.

The next day the low tide wasn't until after 12 noon, so we waited around the hut again in the morning playing more Speed Scrabble. The crossing was pretty fun, you have to wade about knee deep in the water to cross the tidal flats. Some of the early birds left too early and the water was too deep and they fell in. This day had many more fabulous views and a few sections where you just walk along the beach. When we got back to our car, there were some guys that Donna had talked to earlier who they needed a ride since there is no bus service to Totoranui. We piled them in the car and were off to Takaka. When we got there, we realized that their final destination (the Heaphy Track) was along the same direction as our destination, so we offered to take them directly to their track. After a visit to the grocery store we were off.

It was a nice drive out to the track and we got to drive through several stream fordings. Pretty good for a car with about 3 inches of clearance! We dropped them off at the track and were off to Pakawau. This is in the extreme north west end of the South Island. We had a nice campsite in a holiday park right on the beach.

Cape Farewell

Cape Farewell

Cape Farewell Caves

Donna at Cape Farewell with the Farewell Spit in the background
The next day we drove up to Cape Farewell and the Farewell Spit area. The northernmost section of the South Island. We walked out to Cape Farewell and the views were fabulous.

After Cape Farewell, we headed back towards Nelson. When we drove through Takaka we saw some hitchikers getting soaked in the rain and offered them a ride. They were heading to Motueka (there were actually two more that had been picked up by a car just ahead of us). We brought them to Motueka and when we stopped there I heard the unmistakeable sound of metal-on-metal when I applied the brakes. I pulled over into a parking lot and removed one of the front wheels to confirm my suspicions and it was true. Our disk brake pads were completeley worn out. I put the tire back on and we walked to the only place in Motueka that would have the parts. Unfortunately, they didn't have them. It was 3:40 PM on a Sunday afternoon, and they said the nearest place was in Richmond (next to Nelson)about 20 km away. I drove on to Richmond, this time not touching the brake pedal at all. (Thank goodness for the hand brake). Donna was a bit nervous and I gave the cars ahead an extra long following distance. She was calling out every turn and or possible slow down point way ahead. We did make it to the car parts place in Richmond and they in fact had replacement brake pads. I changed them right there in the parking lot.

After the new brakes were on, we pushed on all the way to Picton, driving over the very curvy Queen Charlotte Drive, to try to stay at Lochmara Lodge (a place we had discovered when we were on the Queen Charlotte Track). Unfortunately, we arrived there around 6:15 PM and the last water taxi to Lochmara left at 4:30 PM. We decided to try going to another lodge that we could drive to, and turned around, drove back over the very curvy Queen Charlotte Drive. As we were about to head out the Peninsula, we checked the gas gauge and realized we didn't have the gas!! So, I had to drive over that curvy road a THIRD time!!

We called our friends the Pettigrews who we were planning to stay with on the next day anyway (Nov 18) and asked if we could come by a day early. They were very gracious and invited us over. We had a wonderful evening with them and the next day spent a lazy day in Picton, and shipped off our Christmas presents and had the car looked at. If you remember, the car had been leaking Automatic Transmission fluid. It turns out we believe the leak is coming from the transmission seal on the input shaft to the transmission inside the Torque Converter housing. Not an easy fix. We decided to just keep putting fluid in it (21 liters so far).

On the 19th, we took the ferry from Picton back to the North Island into Wellington. It turned out our scheduled ferry was cancelled due to bad weather (it was a smaller one) but we were able to get on the larger ferry on stand-by. The crossing was pretty rough, but neither of us got sick. Some other passengers did, though. When the ship hit some of the swells, it put up some fantastic sprays from the side. It was pretty cool!

We arrived in Wellington and met up with our friend Mark, who we had originally met in Cape Reinga. We followed him to his flat and stayed with him the next several days. That night he made us a wonderful fettuccini bolognese dinner. Thanks Mark!

The office building next to Parliament, known for obvious reasons as, the Beehive.
The next day (11/20) We went down to Wellington and took a tour of the Parliament building. Very neat, and the first building in New Zealand to use Base Isolators to protect it from earthquakes. We sat in on the Parliament activity after the tour. It was interesting to listen to them argue, especially since it was about a point of order, rather than an actual issue!

After lunch we went to the Te Papa museum in Wellington and toured their many exhibits. That is when my stomach started to feel bad. The museum is very large and has wonderful exhibits especially on the birds and animal life of New Zealand.

That evening we played some games at an Internet cafe until late and didn't get back to Mark's until 11:45 PM.

The next morning it was raining and we had some bad news. During the night, someone broke into our car while it sat on the street across from Mark's flat and stole some of our camping gear. They broke the quarter light window of the rear passenger door (the one that doesn't move). They stole our sleeping bags, Therma-Rest mattresses, rain pants, 54 rolls of unused film and other assorted stuff. I think they were probably looking for money or drugs, neither of which they got. We called the police and had the car fingerprinted and filled out the police report. Then we canvassed the local pawn shops with our list of stolen items; one shop was nice enough to fax our list to all the other shops in the area. We have also contacted our insurance company and faxed on the list and replacement costs for everything we lost. It is a pain, but we hope to be able to replace most everything they stole though we will be out our deductible. The big problem for us now though is since they stole our sleeping bags, we can't tent-camp again until we get replacements. We looked all over Wellington the next day for replacement bags, but no one here makes a design that we want. So we ordered replacements from REI that will be shipped to our first destination in Australia. All this time I (Kirk) was pretty sick with some sort of intestinal virus (I had the runs).

Tunnel to the base of the Durie Hill Elevator

Elevator control building at the top of the hill

War Memorial Tower at the top of Durie Hill

Us at the top of the tower
On the 22nd, we left Wellington and drove up to Wanganui and stayed in a nice cabin that even had cooking facilities in it (this is a RARE treat for backpackers!). The next morning we got up and went to Durie Hill which is one of two earthbound elevators in the world. It was pretty neat, you walk into this tunnel at the base of the hill and in the middle is an elevator that takes you straight up through the hill to the top. At the top of the hill is the local war memorial tower that you can then climb to the top of and get a spectacular view of the entire area, which, of course, we did!

Mt Taranaki, aka Mt Egmont

Marakopa Falls

Cows blocking the road on the way to Waitomo

Donna in the Piripiri Caves

Kirk in the Piripiri Caves
We drove North from there, bypassing Mt Egmont, and on up to the Waitomo area to try our hand at spelunking in Piripiri Cave. It was very muddy, and dark, but had no glow worms in it that we could see. Glowworms are common in caves in the area. We also saw Marokopa Falls and the Mangapohue Natural Bridge in the area. We spent the night in another cabin at a holiday park in Waitomo Caves. (the name for the town)

The next morning, THIS morning (11/24), we got up and just made it onto a tour of the Waitomo Glowworm caves just before a big tour group got there. The caves are very large, and much cleaner than the ones the night before. Near the end of the tour they put you on a boat and you float through the Glowworm Grotto. Fabulous! They look like tiny little blue stars in the sky. There were over 20,000 of them. Very impressive!

Us and all the Sheep at the Agrodome

Donna feeding the sheep at the Agrodome
After Waitomo, we drove on to the Rotorua region (we've been here before, remember?) and stopped at the Agrodome and attended the farm tour and sheep show. I had wanted to see this on our first time through the area but now had a second chance. The tour and show were great! We got to feed sheep, Alpacas, Emus, and see a sheep shearing. Very fun and informative!

After that we drove on to Rotorua and found another holiday park cabin to stay in. Tonight after we send off this update we will probably go to a movie.

11/30/02 We're Outta Here! Rotorua->Auckland
On Monday November 25, 2002, we were in Rotorua, NZ. We spent some time in town updating the web site with pictures and text, doing some errands, etc.

Ross, Karen, Donna, Kirk
In the afternoon, we headed up to Mt. Manganui, in the Bay of Plenty region, Northeast of Rotorua. We went there to meet with our friends, Ross and Karen, who we had met on the boat back from the Manapouri Power Station tour. They are fantastic folks! We realized on the way there that we had to have our car in the auction in Auckland by noon the next day, and we still hadn't cleaned it up. Ross helped me clean up the car while Donna did our laundry and visited with Karen, who was cooking dinner. We had a great time with them, chatted, ate a fabulous dinner, and even got to play speed-scrabble. The next morning, we got up early, packed our stuff into the car and headed off to Auckland.

A humourous sign we saw on the way to Auckland.
On Tuesday (11/26), it only took us 2.5 hours to get to Auckland, so we went straight to our hostel (The Rocknazium). We were fortunate that one of the 2 double rooms became available as we walked in. In fact, it was the same room we stayed in when we arrived in Auckland 2 months earlier! We dropped off the stuff from the car, and headed down to Turners Auctions to enter the car. We set the reserve price at NZ$1500, intending to lower it if it didn't sell in the auctions on Wednesday.

That afternoon, we went back to our hostel, had lunch, and then went on into city center to pick up our Round-the-world tickets from Air New Zealand. We got the tickets without a problem. We did a little browsing, got a photo album for our pictures, and picked up a used copy of the Bill Bryson book, Down Under. It is a very funny book, and good reading if you are heading to Australia. We then went to the cinema and saw "Bend it Like Beckham", which is a very good and funny movie. My niece, Meghan, Donna's cousin, Katie, and anyone else who likes women's soccer would like it. After that, we went back to the hostel and put the pictures in our new album.

On Wednesday (11/27), we stayed around the hostel and caught up on our scrapbook, diary and labeled everything in the album. Our car didn't sell in the noon auction, which was a bit disappointing, but we entered it in the 6:00 PM auction hoping that it would sell. We tried to call after the evening auction, but they were closed and we would have to wait till the next day for our news.

On Thursday (11/28) we called the auction house in the morning, and HOORAY, the car sold! In fact, it sold for NZ$1750! That is $50 more than we bought it for 2 months ago! So, that really minimized our car costs. It only cost us the auction fees, repair costs, and gas. That evening we had a Thanksgiving dinner in our hostel with several other of the residents. The hostel owner had bought some chickens and fixings, (the only turkey was frozen and we didn't have time to let it thaw), and we had a professional chef on the premises (Lars, from Germany, but who normally works in Australia), so we had a good feast.

On Friday (11/29), we did some errands: picked up our newly sharpened knife, got some photos back from the developer (you will see the good ones of those soon) and mailed a box of our stuff back home to the US that we won't be needing anymore. We went back to the hostel and did a little rock-climbing on their indoor rock-climbing walls. Pretty fun! That afternoon I went back to the auction house and picked up our check for the car, and walked around and looked at all the beautiful cars that were getting ready for the Classic Car auction the next day. Very nice. They had an Aston Martin DB2 Sports car, a 1960's Daimler Sports car I had never seen before, several Morris Minor's, a hot rodded 1930's Ford coupe, a few Triumphs, and many more.

Kirk and the Amerigo Vespucci
Today, Saturday (11/30), is our last full day in New Zealand. We leave tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM for Australia! Today, we went down to the city center and walked around and got to see a wonderful brass band at the Aotea Center. I think they were called Brassoul. We walked on down Queen Street all the way to the wharf and saw a Tall Ship there. We walked on down to it, and found that they had free public tours of it opening in 15 minutes. The ship is the Amerigo Vespucci. They sailed it here all the way from Italy. It took them seven months! It is a very beautiful ship. I think they use it in training of the Italian Navy. The ship will be here through the end of the America's Cup. After viewing the rest of the America's Cup village, we headed back to the hostel, to get ready for our trip to Australia.

That's it from New Zealand, the next update will be from our next country in line, Australia!

Good bye from the "Land of the Long White Cloud."

If you are reading chronologically, click here to go to Australia.