October 2002 Travelogue


10/1/02 Auckland NZ
Donna: Kia Ora!! (That's "greetings" in Maori, the native language of New Zealand.)

Whew! We have finally made it! Kirk and I are, sending simultaneous, but different (each from our own point of view) emails to the list! So much planning has gone into this trip...months and months. We thought we were going to go in April, but when Kirk broke his wrist (on our honeymoon) we were delayed (which was for the best, we both now believe). But even with ALL that planning, it's now hard to believe we are finally here!! For those of you on the west coast trying to figure out what time it is out here, here's an easy way...subtract five hours, and that's the time here...but TOMORROW. So, it's 11:45AM Tues as I write this (but that is 4:45PM Monday your time).

So far, we haven't done much. The flight was fine, but in traditional United Airlines fashion the seats were tiny... you know how American Airlines has ADDED leg room to their flights? I think they took it AWAY from the United planes. I'm only 5'7", but my knees were hitting the metal of the armrest of the chair in front of me. Needless to say, when you combine that with the fact that there is no way to get your feet up off the ground, it's hard to sleep. BUT, we are doing pretty well and plan to stay up as late as possible tonight and get a very very good night sleep tonight.

We landed without a problem, and breezed through customs (well, mostly breezed through...in NZ, you have to also clear an agricultural inspection, where they inspected our boots, tents and anything else we had that had been in the great out of doors or might have included or carried food stuffs. We actually had no problems, but it does slow things down a wee bit.

Once through immigration, we arranged a hostel through the tourist office. We got quite lucky I think, as we booked the last double in a hostel that picks you up at the aeroport!! This is an unheard-of amenity!! In fact, it saved us approximately NZ$52 (RT) (which is about US$26). And the hostel owner, an American-turned-Aussie-turned-Kiwi haggled with us on the price, so we are in for under US$20/night. We won't be spending this much every night, thank goodness (we'll be doing a lot of camping soon) but we figure we need a good night sleep for the first night or two. And as it turns out the hostel is actually a climbing center, and so we can climb for free!

So, we are now clean, changed, and oh...yes...Tim-Tammed! Kirk picked up a pack of Tim Tams at the aeroport, which we have (I'm embarrassed to say) already finished. But it was a wonderful indulgence!! Next I'm going to introduce him to Hundreds & Thousands, which are MY favorites!! So, we are updating you briefly on how we are, that we are safe and about to head out to begin our first bit of exploration. Soon, we should have more to report.

In the meantime, thanks to all of you who made it out to our going away party! It was such a pleasure to be able to spend time with each of you! And to know that we are so loved! And thanks to all that have helped us in so many ways along the way! We love you! We miss you! We look forward to MANY emails from you!

Kirk:Well after flying 6700 miles for over 12 hours, we have finally arrived in our first location on our round-the-world trip! Hooray! Since saturday we were very busy with last minute packing, saying good bye to friends and getting everything into the storage unit. We got it all in the unit and only went over their closing time by 10 minutes. I will say that that unit is STUFFED! The car is and motorcycles are in there with stuff all around them and even inside the car. It will take a while to get all that stuff out! We had a wonderful dinner yesterday with my Mom (Thank's Mom!) at the Big Wok. I figured we weren't going to make it to Mongolia, so lets have some before we leave!

At LAX the security and stuff went well, but since I insisted that they not X-ray my film, they proceeded to open each and every film canister and do the chemical swipe on every tenth one. I now know that I have 73 rolls of film! Thoroughly inspected film! The flight was smooth, just long and cramped seats. Food wasn't bad. I just needed a tad more leg room. We got to Auckland and they had to inspect our tent in the agricultural inspection station, but that didn't take very long. We booked our hostel for the first night right at the airport using the free phones at the tourist counter. The hostel is pretty good. It is called the Rock-Naisium. They are primarily an indoor rock climbing place, (several rock walls you can climb with safety ropes to make it safe) but they have recently started a hostel as a side business. It is a good deal as they have included free rock climbing and transport to and from the airport which alone saves us $26 NZ. The double room we booked is $40 NZ which works out to about $19.02 US. It includes sheets, but no towels (we brought our own) bathroom down the hall, shared kitchen and it is right on the main drag into Auckland. We will probably stay here for a few days while we explore auckland.

We found an internet cafe right downstairs that has DSL access and only charges $2 NZ/hour. Thats where we are sending these messages from.

Well, that's all for now. It's time to go explore Auckland. Hopefully we can get some pictures developed and on the web in a week or so.

10/3/02 Auckland NZ
Donna: It's...It's...It's...a CAR!!!
Well, should I even START with that story?! Noooo.... I'll let you stew a while!

Kirk in Downtown Auckland
Tuesday, Kirk and I had a good time exploring a wee bit of Auckland. We took a bus into the City Center and walked about a bit. We found our way to the Sky Tower (not a hard thing to do, since it's the most recognizable piece of architecture in the entire city) and went up. It's got a beautiful, 360 degree view of Auckland and the Harbor. In addition, we managed to stay up there long enough that we saw the America's Cup competitors being towed in from the first day's competition (which the Prada won, by the way). It was quite a sight to see. We saw all three American crews come in, in addition to Team New Zealand, GBR, Prada, Areva, and many many more! Finally, we drug ourselves down the tower (we probably could have stayed up there all night) and started looking for the bus home. We were both feeling a bit jet-lagged, I think. Unfortunately, we seemed to have difficulty locating proper information on the right bus to take home and ended up walking in circles around the downtown area of Auckland until our feet were about ready to drop off! Finally, we ended up on a bus which left approximately 30 feet from where we started!! (Now we know better!)

Kirk at base of SkyTower

Donna amongst the flowers in the Winter Garden at the Auckland Domain
Yesterday, we decided to head to Auckland Domain and the Auckland Museum. In New Zealand, "domain" means "park" and the domains here are large. We spent the whole day exploring the Auckland Domain, which contains not only the museum, but also a winter garden, fernery and hothouse. The museum was quite interesting as it has everything from Maori artifacts (including an original Maori war canoe, which holds up to 100 warriors) to natural history (an entire section on the ecological impact of the introduction of non-indigenous mammals, which has been significant, considering there WERE no indigenous mammals to New Zealand other than three species of bats) to an entire floor dedicated to the wars in which New Zealand has been involved (whether as peacekeeping force or as the fought-over land in Maori tribe wars). If you are ever in Auckland, I highly recommend that you allocate a full day to this worthwhile museum. Afterward, Kirk and I had a cuppa in the cafe while we rested our feet. It was at this point that we made a crucial decision: we have a lot of ground to cover in New Zealand and decided to buy a car.

Donna and our Mazda Familia Wagon
So, for the last 24 hours or so, we have been completely embroiled in the car-buying process. There are many ways to go about this in New Zealand and we looked into just about all of them. We even were looking over the "for sale" boards at the Auckland University. However, that was not to be. Today, after about 5 bus transfers, we ended up about 20 miles away from our hostel in a little suburb called Manukau at a car auction (Turner Auctions, www.turners.co.nz). It was the second Turner Auctionhouse we had been to today, but was the last. AND we were 3 hours early (they didn't technically open until 3 and it was not even noon). BUT, they were all quite friendly and helpful (thanks Tania, Kim, Peter and everyone!). At the end of the night, after MUCH discussion, we walked (or shall I say drove) away with a white 1989 Mazda Familia station wagon, the name, phone number & address of a pastor (who happened to have been the auctioneer and head of the auctionhouse), and several new friends/acquaintenances. (Oh, did I mention that cars here are REALLY CHEAP?!)

So, that's been our last couple of days. Tomorrow, we will tie up a few loose ends and then head out of Auckland...hopefully up to Whangarei to visit a friend of my mom's for a couple of days. More later!

10/5/02 Whangarei NZ
Kirk: We petted a Kiwi!

Kirk, Donna, Sam, & Rodney

They also have fluffy chickens wandering around on the grounds.

Petting the Kiwi

Rob & the Kiwi

Whangarei, NZ As Donna left off in our story, we drove North from Auckland to Whangarei yesterday. Auckland is nice, but it is a city. The country side here is mainly farmland and forests. The farming is mostly sheep, and cattle It reminds me of the Porterville area in CA. We stopped at at Martin's Beach on the way and could see several islands out in the bay.

Then we went on up to Whangarei and met a friend of Donna's Mom, Sam and her husband Rodney. They put us up at there home where they live with Kevin and Pandora, Sam's parents. They are all very nice folks. Sam and Rodney run a desktop publishing business in Whangarei. Today Sam and Rodney showed us around and we visited the Kiwi house just outside of town. You can go there to see a live captive Kiwi. The kiwis were once very populous in NZ, but after the introduction of many mammals, they have dwindled to a very small population. Next door to the Kiwi house is a bird rescue organization that is helping in the effort to increase the Kiwi population. This is where we got to pet a live Kiwi. Rob Webb runs the rescue organization and has been at it for over 30 years. He is the one holding the Kiwi. We also went to Abbey Caves today a set of limestone caves just North East of Whangarei. We successfully found the caves and found one we could get into. I saw the glow-worms, but Donna wasn't able to get in and see them in that cave.

This evening we made dinner for our hosts. Donna made her mother's chicken with rice and mushrooms and I made a chinese salad Donna had the recipe for.

Tomorrow we head North from here to a destination yet to be found. God will be our guide. With Donna doing the navigating.

10/9/02 Kaitaia NZ
Donna: Whangarei to Kaitaia

Some Falls on the way up the coast

Kirk on Russell Ferry
Wow! It's been a great few days!! We have driven all over creation..well, all over the Northland, that is. We started in Whangarei, went to a little church called Calvary Baptist Church (thanks all of you for welcoming us so grandly!!) on Sunday. We happened to be there when the founding pastor (a missionary from Missouri -- Pastor Moody) was speaking, and they had a luncheon afterwards, so of course we stayed to sample some more Kiwi cuisine! It was all delicious and we made some great new acquaintances in Christ!

One family, the Ellises have even invited us to stay with them if we swing back through Whangarei. From Whangarei, we headed back up the coast toward Kawakawa, the Bay of Islands and Russell.
We took a short little ferry ride across the bay and took one of the many unsealed roads into Russell to investigate the little town there.

Rawhiti, NZ
From there, we took a very long drive out of our way (but well worth the views and the trip) to a motorcamp at Rawhiti, where we had hot showers and a beautiful campsite overlooking the Bay of Islands for NZ$8/pp (that's US$4/pp). We spent a great night there and certainly enjoyed the hot shower in the morning (it's the last hot shower I had...we're hoping to find one tonight).

The next day, Monday, we drove around the Bay of Islands a bit, up into Doubtless Bay and stayed at Matai Bay at a DOC campground on the end of Karikari peninsula. It was fabulous!

Donna at 90 Mile Beach
Then, yesterday, we drove up the coast along the Kauri forest line, 90 mile beach to the Cape Reinga area. We stayed at Taupatupotu Bay (I'll have to check the spelling on that later...I don't have my map here) last night at another DOC camp ground. It's right on a mud flat and looked really boring last night, but when the water started coming in the morning, it was positively gorgeous! After dinner last night, we went walking along the mud flat and ended up chatting with Mark, a guy from Wellington (hi, Mark!!). He is out on a week's holiday on motorcycle and was camping nearby. We had a great chat with him and are planning to stop and see him when we go through Wellington in a couple of weeks! He was great fun to talk to and quite an interesting fellow.

Cape Reinga Lighthouse

Kirk at the Cape Reinga Sign
Today, we swung by Cape Reinga and then headed back down the coast. From here, we plan to head down the west coast a bit and then begin cutting across to the Coromandel Peninsula. We will be on the North Island until the 19th of October, when we will catch our ferry over to the South Island. Well, we've got to be off! Write us! We love email!! :) K&D

10/14/02 Lake Rotorua NZ
Donna (and Kirk): Kaitaia to Lake Rotorua
Whoa!! We've been all over creation!! (Kaitaia-Rotorua)

In Kaitaia, we neglected to mention we actually stopped for our first HOT lunch in AGES (well, at least a hot lunch that someone ELSE cooked). We ate at a tiny little place called Pizza Time, run by a German guy. We had the Firebrand Pizza (and it was HOT!! Spicy and Temperature-wise). We were in heaven! US Dollars, it set us back about $6.

From Kaitaia, we headed down toward Opononi and Omapere. Opononi has a truly hilarious historical event/story about a dolphin that visited its waters in the mid-50s for less than a year...it started coming to its waters, and seemed to be quite intelligent...tame, almost. It learned tricks, played with people. The town essentially "adopted" the dolphin and named it "Opo". People turned out in hoards to see the dolphin and television crews even came from US and beyond to film it. Less than a year later, it turned up dead and the theories surrounding its death flew -- everything from accidental drowning to foul play to suicide! The town now (50 years later!) sports the dolphin's grave, a memorial, and an entire section in its museum (probably 1/2 of the very small museum, including a live video taken of the dolphin in the 50s) dedicated to the dolphin's memory. We, of course, HAD to go check it all out!

On the way into the twin towns, we checked into camping at the holiday park at Opononi (they wanted NZ$11/pp!), and decided to try for something better down the road. In Omapere, we pulled into Globetrekker's Backpackers. They advertised tent sites at NZ$9-10/pp. We pulled up the driveway and it was a very nice place. It turns out they were changing ownership and weren't really fully open yet. We got a double room (not tent...a ROOM) for NZ$10 TOTAL! This is less than a quarter what it normally cost! Praise God! We NEEDED a bed that night, I think! And we got to do our laundry, which we desperately needed to do too! The facility is beautiful and we would highly recommend it to anyone!

Kirk and a big Kauri
From there, we headed out the next morning to the Kauri forest to see the amazing Kauri trees. If you don't know nothing about Kauri trees...well, you should!! Go look at Kauris are indigenous to New Zealand and are a hardwood tree that grow here for thousands of years. We have seen some that are at least two thousand years old. We specifically went to see two in the Waipoua Forest, Tane Mahuta ("God of the Forest") and Te Matua Ngahere ("Father of the Forest"). Tane Mahuta is technically the largest by volume and height - it's over 51 meters tall and over 2000 years old. But Te Matua Ngahere is broadest -- 5.22 meters wide. This was also the first day of our trip that I (Donna) drove the car. It wasn't too much of an adjustment except for that darned turn signal, which is on the wrong hand. I kept turning on the windshield wiper instead of the turn signal. It's funny for about the first 4 or 5 times. After that it gets embarrassing. Then downright annoying. After we saw the Kauri trees, we decided to make a run for the Pacific coast. We had spent a long time exploring the Northland and really wanted to make it over to the Coromandel Peninsula. So we spend the afternoon getting there. We drove down through Dargaville, across through Auckland (during rush hour - argh!) and finally, across to the Thames, on the Peninsula. Just before we reached Thames, we hit another unsealed road (which is a nice name for what we Americans crassly call a "gravel" road) and managed to get a rock in the disc brake between the disc and the inner shield. I (Donna) thought the entire car was going to explode or something, it was making such a shrieking noise, but Kirk calmly told me to pull over and back up. I did and the noise stopped. For about a mile. Then, it started again. And we repeated the process. Over and over. (Kirk fixed the problem by removing the tire and the rock the next morning).

Kirk at WW1 Memorial in Thames
In Thames, we stayed at a really nice little hostel (the Brian Boru Backpackers Hostel...almost a hotel, really) owned by Barbara Doyle) right in town. She is a really interesting lady who has been running murder mystery weekends at her hotels and other interesting locations for years. There wasn't one while we were there, but we did have a nice chat with her over tea and coffee the next morning, nonetheless.

While in Thames, we took the opportunity to tour a little gold mine. The Thames Golden Crown Mines have been closed since the 1950s, and in fact, it looked like the tours were closed, too, but Kirk was bold and hunted someone down to take us around. And we ended up with a personalized tour for his efforts. The tour guy, Elved, was very nice and even took us down a mine shaft that wasn't open to the general public yet. It was really an interesting process although, seemingly, quite outdated.

Trestle View Campground

Kirk crossing a stream on the way to Pinnacles

Pinnacles Hut

On the way down
After our mine tour (this was Friday afternoon, October 11th our time) we headed into the Kauaeranga Forest to camp and to start our tramp up to the Pinnacles Hut. The Pinnacles is a rather famous climb in the area. We camped that night at the Trestles View Campsite at the base camp area, and started our hike up to the hut the next day (actually around noon since we weren't able to acquire our hut tickets on Friday...the DOC office closed (4:00PM!!!) before we arrived). The hike up to the hut was steep and full of stairs hewn into the rocks. It was definitely a challenge for my new knees but it was a good way to test them out! (They work!) We had a good time, and the views were fantastic! The hut was HUGE! It sleeps 80 people, 40 people each in two separate bunk rooms! Not like the 10th Mountain Division Hut I visited with Kati-O in 1996! We met all sorts of interesting people on the way up and in the hut as well! Interestingly, we ran into some student-teaching Americans (Michael, Erin and Dan) on the way up...this was interesting, since we have run mostly into everything EXCEPT Americans on our trip. We also met a German guy who won the award for most interesting/unusual job...he studies flu in penguin poo! Sleeping in a hut with 79 other people was an interesting experience... enough said!

The next day, hiking down was in some ways more challenging than up! (I find that down hill is tougher on the knees). We were pretty exhausted when we got to the car! The trip was definitely worth the experience though. We got back to the car in mid-afternoon. We jump (crawled?) in and headed across the peninsula for warmer waters! (REALLY!) We headed for Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove area. Last night, we pulled our car into Hahei Holiday Park and got ourselves a little cabin where we could get a hot shower, do laundry (a desperate necessity by this time) and get some shut eye).

Our other decision was to splurge on a meal out. We had decided to take the ferry across to Whitianga, but when we got to the ferry, there wasn't another one for an hour, so we went back toward Cook's Beach. Nothing there either. We had passed a cute little place with an attractive sign and decided to drive in. It was called "Eggscentric". What an incredible find! God was SO looking out for us when he steered us there!! The food was FANTASTIC! The atmosphere was somehow quaint and hip at the same time (HOW did he do that?)! I sat there thinking of my many friends who would love to be there at that moment (Will L...you would love this place! And Kirk thought Jim H. would like it, too.) It was comfortable and romantic and well, what can I say? If you're EVER anywhere near Cook's Beach, Whitianga and the Ferry Landing there, I would HIGHLY recommend this place. ESPECIALLY the Crunchy Mussels! Which apparently they once tried to take off the menu and there was almost a mutiny from the locals! They also have a number of local wines on the menu. I (Donna) tried one that was quite good (it was a Chardonnay Reserve, but I neglected to write down the details).

Hot Water Beach...what a wonderful place! This is a beach located where there is a lot of thermal activity. Apparently pools of hot water bubble up at low tide, allowing one to dig in the sand, essentially, creating your own private spa. So, after dinner, we headed out to Hot Water Beach to dig ourselves a little spa but we just couldn't locate the right spot in the dark, so we decided to come back in the morning.

This morning, we got up early, had some toast and headed out to Hot Water Beach (we were DETERMINED to get some spa action after two days of hiking up and down the Pinnacles!). And we got out there, it was very easy to find in the daytime since you can see the steam coming off the sand. We dug our holes in the sand, and voila, Jacuzzi! (Well, not exactly, maybe really shallow dirty jacuzzi!) What a wonderful thing!! It was also great entertainment to sit in our shallow hole while we watched other people come out with the huge shovels (we had used a spade and a dustpan to dig our shallow holes) to dig these giant pits that were quickly filled by the incoming tide almost by the time they were finished! Or they were too hot or too cold and just not in the right place. On the other hand, we got to sit in our shallow holes from about the 3 minutes it took us to dig them until the tide overtook us (30 minutes later).

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove Trail
After we tired of that fun, we dried off and headed to the other side of Hahei to Cathedral Cove and hiked down to another attraction in the area. Cathedral Cove is only accessible and visible during low tide and is a Cathedral ceilinged cave and a marine reserve. It's a fabulous area and we enjoyed our short little hike (and the opportunity to try and loosen our legs a little).

Finally, we headed back to the holiday park to pack the car, shower and hit the road for our current location, Rotorua, another thermal area.

Well, that's quite a lot to swallow for one message!!

Hope you enjoyed it!!


Kirk and Donna

10/17/02 Lake Taupo, NZ
Kirk (and Donna):Lake Rotorua to Lake Taupo
Thar's steam in them thar hills!

Lawn Bowling in Rotorua
We spent 3 nights in Lake Rotorua, NZ at Lakeside Thermal Holiday park. It is a nice commercial campground right near the Rotorua town centre (that's how they spell it here). "Thermal" is a good word for the area. The central area of the North Island has lots of Geo-Thermal activity. In our campground they even had a geothermally-heated mineral pool and several spas that you could use. They were included in the campground fees. Donna and I used both the mineral pool and spa. The water was very warm, and felt a little slippery due to the high mineral content. They even had a steam cooker that uses the underground steam to cook your meals if you like. We took it easy in Rotorua, and updated the website, and walked around the town looking at the local sites. Visited the local Anglican church that had great Maori carvings inside and a wonderful stained glass window. They don't let you take pictures inside, but I did get some of the outside of it. We also walked over to the Government Gardens and watched lawn bowling. It was fun and educational. Donna asked the ladies about all the rules and tactics. It was a wonderfull afternoon.

Tamaki Village Concert
Yesterday we went to a Maori Hangi and Concert. It was wonderful. It was put on by Tamaki Maori Village. We HIGHLY recommend it if you come through Rotorua. They pick you up from where you are staying, take you out of town to the forest where they have a Maori village set up. They treat you as a visiting tribe and the bus driver appoints a chief for your tribe. There is a formal greeting and then you go in and see many aspects of Maori life (pre-European) demonstrated in a village setting. Then you go into the "Big House" and they have a concert and demonstrate the weapons and other aspects about their culture. After that you go into the banquet hall and have a Hangi. This is a traditional feast cooked the Maori way. They heat stones over a fire, put them in a pit, then put the food in baskets over the stones and lay wet cloths over that, and then bury it all for 3-4 hours. It cooks via steam on the hot rocks. The dinner was great. And we had a great time visiting with other travelers. We even got an invitation to visit some folks who were there from Germany at their home if we come through there town on the German leg of our trip.

Donna & the Geyser

One of the thermal pools

Kirk at another pool

Gurgling Mud
Today we went to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland "New Zealands Most Colorful Volcanic Area". It, too, was fabulous. They have a Geyser that they coax into erupting every morning at 10:15 AM by placing 1.5kgs of Soap Powder down its throat. It was an impressive display. I don't think it is as big as Old Faithful but very nice. Then we walked through their wonderland of bubbling and gurgling thermal pools. Very beautiful colors but mostly pretty smelly. They, too, have a website at: http://www.geyserland.co.nz/

Huka Falls
After that we went down the road toward Lake Taupo. We stopped and viewed Huka Falls. Nice falls, while there we met two couples, one from Brisbane and one from Canberra, Australia. Very nice folks and they invited us to have dinner with them when we come through their respective cities.

Next stop was the Wairakei Geothermal Power Plant. Pretty impressive. Lots of pipes taking steam from under the ground to run the power plant. New Zealand gets 5% of their power from Geothermal. They were the 2nd country to generate power from it.

After that we went to Craters of the Moon, another Geo Thermal area, this time it was FREE (nice) but not nearly as impressive as Wai-O-Tapu. They had an eruption 2 weeks ago at Craters of the Moon and thus over half of the walking paths are now closed because they are unstable.

Tonight we will stay here in Lake Taupo and then tomorrow it is off to Wellington to catch our ferry to the South Island at 1:30 AM on Saturday morning!

10/23/02 Blenheim NZ Can you say WALK?
Donna: Lake Taupo to Blenheim

Well, we did it!! We FREEDOM CAMPED! What does THAT mean, you ask? Well, it essentially is camping in a location where there is no "official" campsite and you don't pay anything for the privilege. A girl we met (thanks for the advice, Michael) on the Pinnacles trip told us of a place on Huka Falls Road (between Reid Farm and Huka Lodge) where people do this on a regular basis. So, we tried it. It was actually a beautiful spot.

The next morning, we got up EARLY, cleaned up the site (actually took away a bunch of trash someone ELSE had left behind) and were on our way to Wellington. We took the Desert Road, which runs along Tongariro National Park, and three recently active volcanoes, including Mt. Ruapehu which erupted as recently as 1995. The drive to Wellington was fairly uneventful and we got there in early afternoon.

Wellington & Cable Car
We rang our friend Mark (remember the Kiwi who couldn't find the Southern Cross in Cape Reinga) who agreed to meet us after work. Then, we went up the Cable Car to the top of the city and the botanical gardens. Kirk wanted to look around the cable car museum for a bit. The Wellington cable cars were originally built as a commuting tool. Technically, they form a funicular (the two cars are tied directly to each other balancing the weight). Then, despite the chilly wind (okay, you Chicagoans...Wellington is truly trying to replace your city as THE Windy City), we walked around the Botanical Gardens for a bit before we headed back down to our car and to meet Mark.

We met him at a little bar on Blair Street called Amba. We were certainly not dressed for it...we had on colors. Everyone else around was in black. But it was early -- only around 5:15. Mark met us a few minutes later. We sat and talked for a bit and then went for a walk trying to decide where to eat. Mark gave us a little tour of the area (he's a great tour guide) and we ended up at a delicious little Malaysian restaurant called Cimba. The food was wonderful, as was the conversation. Kirk and I enjoyed getting to know Mark better and I think we all enjoyed the opportunity to learn a little more about one another's culture.

Afterwards, we walked around for a bit, and ended up in a little Internet cafe playing a group game together, (Battlefield 1942, VERY FUN! -Kirk) killing time before our 1:30 AM ferry (THAT'S something I've never done before! -Donna). But we had a good time.

Picton Overlook
We took the ferry from Wellington to Picton. Picton is a cute little town in the Marlborough sounds. We arrived in Picton at around 3:45AM, which is not a civil hour for ANYTHING, so we drove up to a look out point on Queen Charlotte Road, parked the station wagon, threw all our gear into the front seat and test drove the back for sleeping! It worked like a charm! We got some more sleep (until about 7).

Saturday (the 20th), we spent running some errands around town and preparing for our next "adventure", which was to hike the Queen Charlotte Track. We decided to put in at Furneaux Lodge on Sunday and then we ended up coming out at Lochmara Lodge on Tuesday afternoon.

One of the Participants

Kirk likes Minis

Donna likes Bug-Eyed Sprites
While we were in Picton, we noticed quite a few vintage cars about. There were two in our Holiday Park, in fact, and we took some time to talk to the guys driving them. One was a Healey (NOT an Austin-Healey...this was a PREDECESSOR). The other was a 1951 Bentley. Apparently, there was a vintage car rally starting the next day from Picton and continuing for eight days on the South Island. We decided to go down and see the start of it before church. One of the fellows we chatted with turned out to be a retired Presbyterian minister from Masterson. Another couple, from Timaru, invited us to visit if we were in the area. We DID go down the next morning to see all the cars and there were more Triumphs than you could imagine! Plus Bentleys, Morgans, Austin-Healeys, and all kinds of other vintage vehicles! I thought Kirk was gonna go through a week's worth of film in one hour!! (Just kidding!)

Afterwards, we found ourselves a little church to attend... the Baptist Church in Picton. It was a cute little church with a brand new pastor, Kingsley. He's a young pastor, much in a similar position as Chris Cannon was when he took over King's Harbor Church almost 6 years ago now. It was interesting to see the parallels. We met a number of very nice people at the church there, including a wonderful family, the Pettigrews.

A typical view on the Queen Charlotte Track

Kirk trying to hit a repeater on the Queen Charlotte Track

Kirk trying out the swing at Lochmara Lodge
Finally, we headed off to catch our boat to the start of the Queen Charlotte Track. We took a later ferry so that we could attend church that morning. We were dropped off at Furneaux Lodge and started tramping towards Camp Bay, about a 3-4 hour walk away. As it turned out, the recent rains had made it VERY muddy. It made for some interesting tramping, though!

We got into Camp Bay rather late, and had a wonderful trek. We didn't see a single person once we had left Furneaux Lodge! We spent the night at Camp Bay and prepared for a long, arduous day on Monday. Monday, due to a number of reasons, we were going to have to trek 20.5 kilometers, all hills. It was actually a fabulous day! But it was very long! The weather was, what they call here, "very fine" (i.e., very beautiful). We did run into one couple around mid-day when we stopped for lunch, but saw no one else for the rest of the day. About an hour or so before we reached the Portage Hotel, which was 15 minutes from our campsite, Kirk tried to hit a local repeater with his ham radio (he'd been trying off and on to hit the local repeater) and someone actually responded this time! He'd made his first Kiwi contact! It turns out the Picton repeater is linked with a repeater south of it which is linked to one in Blenheim, which is linked to another and so on and so on, all the way to Kaikoura...so he was getting quite a bit of coverage with his little hand-held radio. He beamed all the way to the campsite after that! We met a nice Dutch lady in our campsite at Cowshed Bay, who invited us to visit when we are in Europe next summer.

The next morning, we awoke to the very LOUD (can you say "almost deafening"?) sound of birds overhead. It was such an interesting sound because there were clearly many different types of birds and different songs. We couldn't sleep much longer though, as they just were too loud. It reminded me of a story I had heard when I was here three years ago: When the settlers first came to New Zealand, there were no mammals here, just birds. The bird population was truly enormous. And the sound of the birds on the island WAS deafening. They couldn't hear one another speak the birds were so loud!

We packed our packs for the last time on this trek, delivered them to the hotel for transport back to the boat, and were on our way to Lochmara Lodge. Although it was a shorter day -- only about 10 km -- the first hour or so was almost all uphill. We climbed from sea-level up to the very top of a ridge from the get-go. It was certainly an eye-opener, if you weren't fully awake yet! But again, the weather was fine, and we were in no rush! We arrived at Lochmara with plenty of time to spare (more than 2 hours before our boat was due) and hung out, relaxing at the resort. Played backgammon, played with the dog, watched some ducks, talked with a German tourist from a small town near Hannover (hi, Stefan...thanks for the tea!), and just generally relaxed.

When we arrived back in Picton, we drove by the house of a couple we had met at church. They had told us generally where they lived and said to "stop by" when we got back to town. We weren't really sure if that was appropriate and if they'd even be home or even if we could find their house, but figured we'd try. Sure enough, we found the house, they were home and we were welcome. BOY were we welcome!! WE were welcomed into the garden (there was a meeting going on inside) when we first got there) for coke and cakes. Then, INTO the house for tea (that's "dinner" for you Americans). Then, to shower, do our laundry AND stay the night!! All I can say is THANK YOU, Bill and Mary! You two are simply WONDERFUL and we are very very thankful!! God blessed us immensely through you!

This morning, clean, happy, well-rested (we slept on SHEETS!!), well-fed, we reluctantly said our good-byes (I still think they could use some adopted 38-year-old children)...and headed to Blenheim. We took a tour of Montana Vineyard this afternoon and drove around the wine country a bit.

And now...you've been updated!!

10/25/02 We Swam with Dolphins! (Blenheim to Kaikoura, New Zealand)
Kirk: As Donna left our story off, we were in Blenheim NZ, and had visited some winery's in the afternoon.

To add a little bit more about the wineries, we visited the Te Whare Ra winery first. It was a very small winery, but the wine was good and Donna bought a bottle. We asked them about wine tours, and they told us about an interesting "Underground" wine tour at Cellier Le Brun winery just down the road. That sounded good so we went there. We got to the cellar door and asked about the "Underground" wine tour. The clerk got a big smile on her face and said "Yes, we have an underground tour, right this way" we followed her into the back room, past some wine barrels to some big doors. She opened the doors, and said "Here you go, our Underground wine tour!" The doors opened to a room cut into the hillside that they stored their wine bottles in. One room. It held several thousand wine bottles. That was the tour.

After that we went on to the largest winery in NZ. Montana Brancott Estate. In the US they market under the Brancott name. Elsewhere it is Montana. There we did a real winery tour. Very nice. It costs money but was worth it. You get to see the whole process at their site, and have wine tasting at the end. Donna bought another bottle from them.

After the winery tours, we went in to Blenheim and stopped by Margaret's house. Margaret attends the church we went to on Sunday, but we didn't meet her there. When we were at the Pettigrews' house on Tuesday, she happened to be there and had asked us where we were headed next. Donna mentioned Blenheim and she immediately offered for us to stay with her! We were supposed to call that night and let her know, but we had all forgotten to pick up the phone. Well, we knocked and she was home and had "Tea" (dinner to Americans) waiting for us. We had a wonderful dinner with Margaret and her friend Lorraine. After dinner we went out to a movie. It was " Rabbit-Proof Fence" a wonderful movie about an Aboriginal girl in the 1930's. We both highly recommend this movie to anyone that can find it!

After the movie we had a wonderful chat with Margaret and got to sleep a second night in a row in a bed on sheets, wonderful sheets!

Kaikoura Seal
The next day, yesterday, we drove down the coast from Blenheim to Kaikoura. The weather was great; the area is a rocky coast. We stopped and saw a seal colony on the way into Kaikoura. At Kaikoura, we stopped at a holiday park and set the tent up for the night. And of course we met more people, Hi Jerney and Johann! They invited us to visit them when we come through Holland.

This morning we got up at 5:00 AM put on our swimsuits had some toast and hot tea, and went to the Kaikoura Dolphin Encounter and got on a boat to go swim with dolphins! It was a great time! They provided wetsuits and all the snorkle gear. They brought us out to the pods of dolphins and we swam around with them. It was incredible! You are supposed to make as much noise and movement as possible to attract the dolphins. At one time I had about five of them circling me. I would circle around and around with them, keeping eye contact (they like that). We both saw lots of dolphins up close and personal. I think they were all Dusky Dolphins. We did two swims in two different locations, and then we all got in the boat and they toured around a bit with the dolphins following and leaping out of the water. I had an underwater camera and took some pics of them out of the water, too. I hope the photos come out. As we came into shore, the weather started getting rough (don't sing the song!) We were on the larger of two boats, it turned out that all the women on the smaller boat got seasick on the way back in! Later we found that they had to cancel the 8:30 boat and those following due to bad weather. Praise God we picked the dawn boat!

This afternoon, we rested and drove around Kaikoura to the seal colony and lookouts. It is VERY windy this afternoon, I'd estimate about 30 knot winds.

Tomorrow we head down to Christchurch, NZ.

10/30/02 Rain, Hail, & Fire. (Christchurch & Akaroa, New Zealand)

Christchurch Cathedral
with Firetrucks.

Evening Shot of the Cathedral

Part of the Toughest-Fireman-Alive contest

The hail falling in the tent

Christchurch Botanical Garden
We drove down from Kaikoura to Christchurch last Saturday amongst lots of wind and light rain. That was just the start. I overheard on my HAM radio that the winds in Kaikoura on Friday had gusts past the 50 knot mark.

Saturday afternoon we walked around Christchurch and walked into Cathedral square during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 World Firefighter Games. This is a bi-annual event where firefighters from around the world get together in friendly sport competition. This year was a memorial games dedicated to the FDNY.

Later we pulled in to a holiday park in Christchurch and set up our tent. We stayed there for three nights. On Sunday, we found a wonderful church called City New Life Church. It was in an old movie theater. Very large with a balcony and everything. They had a band just like at King's Harbor and some of the worship songs were ones that we sing at King's Harbor! It was great worship and sermon, and afterwards we chatted with some of the wonderful folk there. On Sunday and Monday, we toured around Christchurch amongst the rain and hail. We watched a portion of one event from the firefighters games -- Toughest Firefighter Alive. A very interesting event where the firemen have to do many ordinary firefighting tasks in quick succession during 4 fifteen minute periods. Fastest is declared toughest. A few of the tasks included dragging a weighted (80 kilo) dummy , climbing a 20 story building and pulling and rolling up hoses. Later in the afternoon we were visiting the main tent for the games and the sky just let loose with hail for quite a while. So much so that people were pushing up the roofs to get the collected hail off and prevent the roof from collapse. Monday was more rain, and we viewed the museum that had a very nice 9/11 photo exhibit, as well as photo exhibits from New Zealand Geographic and a special photo exhibit of Ghandi. Later, when the rain had quit, we toured the Botanical Gardens which were beautiful (but the flowers had taken quite a beating from the hail).

One of the Beautiful buildings in Akaroa

Crayfish for dinner tonight!

Saving the sheep
Under clearing skies we left Christchurch for Akaroa on Tuesday. Akaroa is a small French Settlement on the Banks Peninsula east of ChristChurch. It is a nice quaint little town. We followed their historical building tour and learned a lot about the little village. We spent the night last night at the Le Bon's Bay Backpackers outside of Akaroa and had a wonderful dinner that they prepared for us. We got to stay in our own little cabin overlooking the bay. Very beautiful! This morning we went on a boat trip to hopefully see Hector's Dolphins, but no luck. Saw many birds and seals and even two blue penguins, but no dolphins. And the owner caught two big crayfish (Lobsters to Americans) in his traps. On the way back we saw a sheep and its lamb trapped down too low on the cliff, so we pulled the boat up close and two of the passengers got off and urged/pushed/carried/prodded the sheep back up the cliff/hillside to a safer location.

One Month and counting!!!

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