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Last Night in New Zealand

Geotag Icon Show on map Saturday, July 25th, 2009 by Lisa

Nelson New Zealand Our final week in New Zealand went by much faster than we were hoping. With bikes as our main method of transportation, we made any excuse to head into town everyday . . . whether to work from the library, go out for an afternoon coffee or run an errand. It wasn’t until we actually had to ride our bikes into the local bike shop, to get boxed up to take on the plane, that it decided to downpour all day. We waited until the last minute before putting on our rain jackets and going for it. If you’ve ever ridden in a downpour you’ll know that it rains from the ground up. Needless to say, we were soaked to the bone and excited for a warm shower.

Today was our last official day in New Zealand, as we fly out at 5am tomorrow for Australia. We will be in four different countries over the next four days. New Zealand to Australia for a day to Malaysia for a night to Thailand for two weeks.  With the amount of clothing I am currently wearing, it is hard to believe just how hot we are going to be in a couple of days.

Auckland NZ Airport - Our Hotel We spend our final night in New Zealand in the Auckland airport, with a gourmet meal at the noodle house, luxurious beds on a carpeted lounge floor, and spectacular views over the tarmack. I don’t feel like we gave New Zealand a proper goodbye but we are grateful for the time we have spent here. New Zealand has definitely been good to us.


Back to Nelson

Geotag Icon Show on map Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 by Lisa

stomach Ali and Tyler in Punakaiki” href=”http://riverecho.com/photos/photo/3768094063/steve-ali-and-tyler-in-punakaiki.html”>Steve, <a href=pill Ali and Tyler in Punakaiki” width=”240″ height=”180″ /> We were so excited when Ali, treatment Steve and baby Tyler, our roommates from Queenstown, decided to come visit us during our last week in Punakaiki. I can’t believe how much Tyler has grown in just two months. At four months old he is playful, giggly and smiles all the time, getting really embarrassed and blushing every time. It’s pretty cute and we couldn’t get enough of him. It was, of course, wonderful to see Ali and Steve as well!

Just as they left Punakaiki, BJ and I began cleaning the house and packing up. We enjoyed a final walk down to the beach before we left. The wind was howling and the waves were crashing further out than we had ever seen. We came to the conclusion that the Tasman Sea was just really upset that we were leaving.

Morning Rainbows Once we returned to the house, we picked up our backpacks, two carry-ons, and two bikes to head to the bus stop and it immediately started raining. We had already given the keys to the neighbor so we took cover on the porch as it poured down. As it started to let up we quickly made our way down the road. We were a pretty funny site . . . each carrying a full backpack, BJ with his computer bag and my rolly bag and I with both bikes. It was only a few kilometers but we got lots of stares from passing cars along the way. We stopped at the half way point at the local Tavern for a final Puni Burger, the most delicious burger in New Zealand, and a beer, and then continued on to the “town center” to catch a bus to Nelson.

Nelson New Zealand After what seemed to be a very short 5 hour bus ride we arrived in Nelson for a week in the “big city.” We are staying in a family’s home about a 20 minute bike ride from downtown Nelson. Since their 21-year-old son is away at university, we get his room for the week. It’s decked out with old records nailed to the ceiling, a keyboard and amp in the corner, and a small shrine that his parents put together of his photos, but totally comfortable and perfect for what we need for a week. We spent all day yesterday in town, running a few big city errands and gearing up for Thailand and China with a few essentials . . . like climbing shoes, a bikini for me and some new surf shorts for BJ. Our method of transport has been our bikes and it has been so fun to cruise around and be so mobile in the middle of winter.

It was back to work today but we are venturing out for a movie tonight and hopefully a not-too-cold-or-wet bike ride home. For those of you I haven’t shared this with, I am going to start working full time for Vertical Media next month as their Content Manager. I am super excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to officially join the team.


Bay of Islands

Geotag Icon Show on map Monday, July 13th, 2009 by Lisa

there New Zealand” href=”http://riverecho.com/photos/photo/3716187274/russell-new-zealand.html”>Russell, <a href=more about New Zealand” width=”240″ height=”180″ /> I spent the latter half of last week in the Bay of Islands with Tara and Will, who were enjoying a week-long tour of the north island and probably the last international trip they’ll go on for a little while, being that Tara is five months pregnant. BJ wasn’t able to join us but I am so glad I made the effort to get up there and meet up with them. They picked me up from the airport at noon on Thursday and we immediately started driving north to the small town of Russell. Most people would recognize Pahia as the hub for the Bay of Islands, but after a little research Tara found out that Russell, located just a ten minute ferry ride from Pahia, has a lot more character. We especially enjoyed the car ferry to Russell, which started to pull away from the dock just as Will was driving on board – it gave us a little scare but seemed to be pretty normal practice. We stayed in a hotel right on the beach and despite a bit of cold and wet weather, it was a beautiful place.

Bay of Islands Boat Tour Bay of Islands is in fact a huge bay of islands and the water, even in the shade, is bright green. The best way to see the islands is via some sort of boat tour and after a couple hours of reviewing the brochures for the various boat companies, Will finally took the initiative and decided he didn’t like the yellow boat just because it was yellow. So the following morning we jumped on the white boat and hugged the coastline as we made our way out to the very end of the peninsula of the bay to a place called Hole in the Rock, which is quite literally a big hole in a rock. On calmer days sometimes the boats will pass slowly through the hole, but huge waves were pounding the cavern when we got there. We were quite content with not going through the hole as it was an amazing sight to see regardless.

Russell Tannery Once back in Russell, we spontaneously decided to check out a historic tannery just down the road from our hotel. We thought we’d spend about five or ten minutes checking it out but were nicely surprised after an hour long tour of the place. Russell was in fact the main port in New Zealand for many years before Auckland, and although many of the original buildings are no longer there, the tannery still exists. The tannery was started by a French Protestant missionary who used a printing press to create and distribute stories from the bible and turned cow hides into leather to bind the books. Shortly after the arrival of many Europeans, the Maori actually sent two of their head chiefs to England to make the Maori language a written language. The printing press and tannery actually only printed books in the Maori language and as these shortened bibles were spread throughout New Zealand, more and more of the Maori people became literate. There is, obviously, so much more to the story but I’ll hold off on writing it all. If you ever end up in Russell, make sure to pop in for a tour in the tannery.

Russell Drag Race As we were leaving the tannery, one of the women on the tour said she was in a hurry to watch a drag queen race taking place on the dock. This, not surprisingly, caught our attention. It turned out that we were in town for the annual Russell Birdman Festival, which all started a couple years back when a local dressed up as a kiwi bird and rode a bike off the dock, trying to catch a bit of flight. It’s now a weekend long festival complete with a drag queen race as a kick-off event. We watched the lovely lady men strut their stuff through town, stopping at various check points where they had to drink a cocktail or put on fish net stockings before moving on. It was quite entertaining.

Kauri Trees We woke up to rain the following morning which put a bit of a damper on watching the birdman competition and although we were sad to miss out we decided to head west to the Kauri forests instead of stand in the rain and wait to see if they would cancel the event. The Kauri trees were amazing and definitely worth seeing. Standing in a grove of much smaller trees the presence of a kauri tree, which can be as old as 2000 years old, is overwhelming. They are huge and we had trouble fitting the entire tree into a single photograph. If you can make the three of us out at the bottom of the photo, we are standing in front of a Kauri tree to give a little perspective.

It felt like an action packed weekend and went by way to fast, but on Saturday night we made our way back to Auckland before the three of us would fly out the following day . . . me heading back to Punakaiki and Tara and Will back to Boulder, Colorado. During our endless conversation, we had to continually remind ourselves that we were actually hanging out in New Zealand . . . it was so great to see them.

BJ at the Bayhouse in Westport BJ picked me up in Westport on Sunday and we immediately drove out to The Bayhouse, a restaurant on Cape Foulwind (it doesn’t actually smell) that came highly recommended from our friend Brendan back in Queenstown. We sat down for a long lunch overlooking the Tasman Sea on a beautiful West Coast afternoon. As much fun as I had up on the North Island, it was so good to come back “home” to BJ and the West Coast. We returned to Punakaiki to spend the evening doing another dry run to see if we could fit all of our stuff. This time I was way more willing to purge and we enthusiastically got all our stuff into a backpack and carry-on . . . oh, and a bike each. Not very motivated to cook, we went down to the local Punakaiki Tavern for dinner and a beer. And finally, today, we are carless. We drove down to Greymouth with Phil to transfer ownership, stock up on a final week of groceries, go to lunch, and teach Phil how to drive a standard car. Phil also took us to the local polytech, where he had taken a jade carving class about ten years ago, so that we could see all of the tools that he used to carve jade. Turns out it is the only place in New Zealand that offers a certificate in jade carving . . . any artists out there should consider signing up.

I can’t believe our time is coming to an end down here. As we plan out the flights, campgrounds, hotels, rental cars, etc for the weeks ahead, we are feeling both excited about our upcoming travels as well as sad to leave a place we have become so attached to. We’ve seen and done so much but we still feel like there is so much more to see and do. We’ll make the most of the next two weeks but I am sure we’ll be back again someday.

P.S. I experienced firsthand the new safety video presented on all Air New Zealand flights this weekend. Pretty funny . . . this would never fly in the states. Take a look.


Possum Phil

Geotag Icon Show on map Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Lisa

We learned a little bit more about Phil, the local that we are selling our car to, who is apparently a bit of a West Coast legend. Known as Possum Phil (we haven’t asked why yet), he has been riding his bike around the West Coast over the last 15 years and our buddy Brendan was surprised to hear he is actually buying a car. We went to Phil’s house last night to make plans for transferring ownership because, as he has no phone, we couldn’t just call him up. He invited us in and we chatted about business for a few minutes before he busted out his entire collection of jade, mostly pieces that he has found along the beaches around Punakaiki. He also took a jade carving class a few years back and decided to focus his final project on Native Americans. So, he has a handful of pieces that are carved profiles of legendary Native Americans . . . they are actually really good. Needless to say he was really excited when we told him we lived in Wyoming and he immediately asked if we see many Indians where we live . . . well that led into another big discussion. In the end he forced two small pieces of jade into our hands, finally convincing us to accept them by telling us it would bring good luck to him to give them away. We will be spending next Monday with Phil to drive down to Greymouth to transfer the car, get groceries, and, as he requested, give him some driving lessons. He is so genuine and modest that you wouldn’t guess he is so legendary. I can’t wait to spend more time with our new friend, Possum Phil.


Abel Tasman National Park

Geotag Icon Show on map Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 by Lisa

Abel Tasman National Park With an extra day off this weekend, information pills we planned a trip to Abel Tasman National Park, web a beautiful jungle lined with bright yellow sandy beaches along the northern coast of the South Island. BJ spent some time here twelve years ago, touring the park via sea kayak and was excited to bring me back. Visiting the park in the middle of winter was much different than BJ’s experience in the heart of summer. Although the temperatures were quite a bit colder and the daylight hours much shorter, there was practically no one there. Apparently in the summer months the bays become stocked full with yachts, sail boats, kayaks, water skiers and bathing beauties. We didn’t test the waters this time but we thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful trails and beaches, as well as the playful seals and chatter-box birds. Abel Tasman National Park We started out in a water taxi which took us up the coast and dropped us off on Onetahuti Beach, where we began our walk south, staying the first night in the Bark Bay hut and the second at Anchorage Hut. Our forecast wasn’t superb and it drizzled consistently on us the first two days, but on the third day as we walked back to our car the sun came out, lit up the bright green ocean water and warmed our faces. Sections of the trail can only be crossed at low tide as water quickly fills in each lagoon that separates the next headland. We came upon the crossing at Torrent Bay a little before low tide and had to make a decision to go ahead and cross the tidal flat or to walk 2 hours around it. As BJ put it . . . “it’s just how you do it here” so we opted for the crossing and although it was raining, took off our shoes and tied them to our packs. Abel Tasman National Park The sand and water were chilly and we had to place our feet carefully in sections to avoid crushing tons of clams and sea snails, which when we did crush them we’d yell out “ouch!” and “sorry!” After arriving at each hut, we quickly tossed our packs down and, in order to soak up as much daylight as possible, ventured out again to explore the beaches or whatever shorter trails were nearby. Our handy dandy ponchos which we nicknamed our “turtle shells” were our life savers . . . which we wore pretty much all weekend. The hut life in the winter months was something new for us too as there is so much time spent without light. We ended up eating dinner, visiting with fellow trampers, reading our books by candle light until our butts grew sore of the hard benches and went to bed each night no later than 8pm! Our legs might be a little sore after the weekend but we are definitely well rested up.

Abel Tasman National Park Overall it was a great way to spend what we realized is our last “weekend” in New Zealand. The next few weeks will cruise by faster than we know. I fly up to Auckland this coming weekend to see Tara, a good college friend of mine, and her husband Will who are in town for a week. Then, the day after BJ picks me up from the airport, we will officially be saying goodbye to the family wagon which we sold last Friday to a local who has lived here in Punakaiki for 30 years and hasn’t had a car for the last 15. He rides his bike everywhere, including a weekly three hour trip to Greymouth to get groceries, and recently decided he might be getting a little too old to have to bike through another winter. We’ll spend next week in Punakaiki before bussing up to Nelson for our final week in New Zealand, the same place we began our tour of the South Island. I feel like we have turned into professional travel agents over the last couple of days, booking bus tickets here, plane tickets there, and actually doing a practice pack to see if we can fit all of the crap we’ve acquired down here. It turns out I need to take a few things to the local thrift store but there are some things I just can’t let myself give up . . . for example my duct taped puffy jacket which BJ has been trying to convince me to ditch since it got its first big hole three years ago. Our friends Tim and Mary Lynn are currently “purging” back in Jackson as they get ready for a huge year long road trip and thanks to their latest blog, I may find the courage to purge a few more items.


To the North of the West of the South

Geotag Icon Show on map Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 by Lisa

Denniston Mountain Biking On Sunday, our early morning pack up and go turned into a second cup of coffee and stroll, but we were still on the road plenty early for our weekend plans. We drove north, through the town of Westport, to an area that we had read about in our NZ Mountain Biking book called Denniston, located high up on a plateau that overlooks the Tasman Sea. The sun was barely shining through the clouds and the air had a very wintry smell to it, but we ramped up our courage, picked a trail (known as the local’s favorite), tossed on our puffy jackets AND beanies, and hopped on our bikes. The first part of the trail wound along the plateau on a mixture of red rock and tacky dirt, reminding us a lot of the mountain biking trails we have come to love in Southern Utah. The big difference being the temperature and we stopped a couple of times to warm up our hands. The Incline - Denniston The trail then dropped into a canyon where we discovered a historic coal mining camp. Our bike ride quickly turned into a history lesson. We learned that the big debacle after discovering coal up on the plateau in the early 1900s was how exactly they would get it down to the coast. There was no road up to the plateau at the time, so they engineered a system known as The Incline, which consisted of two tracks that led straight up from the coast to the top of the plateau. Carts would run down the track full of coal, acting as a counter weight to pull the empty carts back up. If you were working and living up on the plateau the only way to town was to ride on the outside of a cart on the way down and jump in an empty cart on the way back up. After the ride, we drove to the top of the incline. The track has since crumbled away but just looking over the edge from the top of the plateau made us appreciate the engineer’s skill who designed it.

Oparara Valley After our ride and unexpected history lesson, we continued north to the small town of Karamea, which is basically the end of the road for the northern West Coast of the South Island (that’s a lot of directions). We spent the night in the sleepy little town, where I am pretty sure everybody who lived there knew about us 10 minutes after we arrived, and spent most of the next day exploring a few different trails in the Oparara Basin. We had no idea what we were in for when we read about the two limestone arches that we could hike to. As we came upon the first arch, the larger and more impressive of the two, we were blown away by its size, 43 meters tall, 79 meters wide, and 219 meters LONG . . . as in length . . . as in the distance you can walk through it while it’s towering 43 meters overhead! It was so long that we actually had to use our head lamps to make our way through it. So how was it formed you ask? Well the river is to blame. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that a river runs through the arch too? The river slowly carved out a layer of granite below the tough limestone rock, leaving behind the limestone arch and tons of stalactites. Once again, we’ve discovered another beautiful piece of nature in New Zealand.


Reporting from Punakaiki

Geotag Icon Show on map Saturday, June 27th, 2009 by Lisa

Sunrise from the Kitchen Window I’ll keep it short and sweet, just like our week. It flew by somehow and now we find ourselves just four weeks away from flying out of the country! Despite what seemed like endless hours at work this week we had a few exciting moments. BJ finished his book and I finished a puzzle. We cleaned the car and put it up for sale. We watched an incredible sunrise through our kitchen window followed by another amazing night on the beach watching waves crash higher than we’ve ever seen them. BJ is working with a little video software so that we can share it. Tomorrow we are loading the car and heading out early for the small town of Denniston, just north of Westport, which has a huge network of biking trails . . . we are looking forward to getting back on our bikes and rolling around.

BJ:
More of these to come. This one is a bit rough as I’ve ever used the software before. The first part gives some perspective to the size of the Tasman Sea as it meets the coastline.


Defeated by Winter

Geotag Icon Show on map Monday, June 22nd, 2009 by Lisa

Fox River Hike After a week of beautiful, buy more about yet cold, seek weather we decided to head up Fox Creek Canyon to explore a “tourist cave” and hike further along the Inland Pack Track that we had started from the opposite end the weekend before. The cave is located a little over an hour from the road and has been a tourist attraction since the early 1900s. It used to have a gate that blocked off the entrance to the cave so that you had to hire and pay a guide to enter. It’s no longer that regulated, order but it definitely shows the signs of some good usage. It’s easily navigable for 200 meters and just high enough that you can stand up and walk normally through the entire thing, dodging tons of stalactites and stalagmites the entire way. We didn’t see a soul on the trail until we started to enter the cave and a young woman, who also happened to be a geology major, came up behind us. We all agreed that we were much happier to meet before entering the cave than meeting suddenly inside it.

Fox River HikeAs we left the cave our new friend turned right to head back to the trailhead and we turned left to continue on up the trail. The trail was mostly shaded because it ran along the north side of the canyon and being the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere, our luck for seeing the sun in the deep canyon was pretty slim. Frost was stuck to everything and although it was a crystal clear day it seemed to be raining under the forest canopy as the frost melted. A number of sections crossed dry river beds, but the rocks were covered with a solid centimeter of frost made some maneuvers very slippery. Our first official obstacle was a shallow but very wide river crossing. Being the very prepared trampers that we are, we took off our shoes and socks and walked across bare footed! Our feet quickly cramped up so we moved as quickly as possible, even though the rocks seemed to get sharper the further across we got. As I put on my shoes on the opposite side I noticed a small pool of frozen river water . . . I could actually pick up a chunk of ice. We continued on up the canyon until we reached a junction with Dilemma Creek. Despite the rainforest and limestone rock, Dilemma Creek reminded me of cayoneering in the Southwest. Its walls were slightly rounded out and the only way to continue on was basically through the river bed . . . brrrr. Our other option was to cross Fox Creek another handful of times before reaching a campsite called the ballroom, which apparently is covered by a huge overhanging rock. I’m sure it’s pretty cool, but we wouldn’t know. As we slip n’ slided our way over the frosty rocks to the river’s edge we decided our hands were already full enough with the river we had to cross on the way back. We let winter claim its victory, enjoyed the views up each scenic and narrow canyon for a few minutes, and then turned back down the canyon. Good decision ‘cause I’m pretty sure the water was colder the second time we crossed it.

The Blackball Hilton Today we made a run to the big city of Greymouth to stock up on groceries and get BJ’s bike fixed (he apparently blew out the bearings in the rear cassette making his bike not very useful when going anything but downhill). While his bike was in the shop, BJ and I drove out to the little town of Blackball to hike a portion of the Croesus Track, which connects Blackball back out to the coast. We made it a little ways in before turning back at a swing bridge that was under repair and decided we weren’t really up for another river crossing. We headed back down to Blackball and rewarded ourselves for our very rigorous day with a beer at the Blackball Hilton, a historic hotel, restaurant and bar. We were the only two patrons and the bartender, chef and assistant all joined us as we basked in the sun and drank our beer on the front porch. It felt very “west coast” and the bartender shared a bit of the mining history of the town with us while we sat. Although it used to be a booming mining town of 1200, it is now only home to about 350 and mines coal for the sole purpose of shipping it straight to Belgium. Before we left town we were instructed to buy the best salami in New Zealand from the local butcher, but he had already closed up shop for the day at 2pm, and to check out the community center, which apparently is the most haunted house on the South Island. It wasn’t open either so we walked around the grounds unsuccessfully looking for ghosts instead.


The Best Sunset

Geotag Icon Show on map Saturday, June 20th, 2009 by Lisa

Power in Punakaiki Tonight, we watched one of the most amazing sunsets we’ve seen since we’ve been here. We’ve been listening to the waves crash and rumble from our house over the last couple days and couldn’t tell if we just thought they sounded louder or if in fact they were louder. When we reached the beach, decease we agreed that they were definitely bigger, starting to crash way off shore when they normally crash right as they reach the rocks. The sun glowed brilliant orange through a strange haze in the sky. Not a single cloud but the waves reflected bright pink and the off shore breeze created a band of sea spray that rolled off the wave and into the sun. It was spectacular.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowhole In between way to many hours staring at our laptops this week we were able to venture out a few times. The Pancake Rocks and Blowholes are the main attraction in Punakaiki and usually the only piece of the town that anyone exploring New Zealand will ever see. A 10 minute walk leads you down to a series of layered rocks, which sort of look like stacked pancakes. The rock has been carved out by the ocean in a way that at high tide, and especially when there is a big swell, sea water crashes under the rock and shoots water and spray high into the air through a number of large holes. We scheduled this outing for a time when high tide was happening right around sunset.

Our most entertaining moments of the week:

Beach just North of Punakaiki Yesterday, during another sunset outing, we drove a little north to the next series of beaches. We walked as far as we could, peaking in little caves and watching the big yellow ball drop over the ocean. On the way back, we had to jump back across a tiny stream coming out from the forest and carving a little canyon in the sand until it flowed into the ocean. It was about as wide as I could jump, so when we crossed it on the way in we had no problem. On the way back, we crossed it a little up “river” where the rocks were more pebble than sand size. I got a running start and leapt out over the running water. As my right foot came down on the other side it instantly sank a couple feet and my momentum carried the rest of my body flat on my face. No injuries, just a very wet foot, a very sandy everything else, and plenty of laughs.

Another exciting moment in our quite life on the beach occurred in the middle of the night. We were both sound asleep and woke to a strange sound that we initially thought was our electric blanket (yes, it’s friggin’ cold here) shorting out. We quickly figured out that the noise was coming from outside and upon further investigation found a possum perched in a branch just outside our window. He was staring straight at us and hissing, if you could call it a hiss. Like I said we thought it was something electrical shorting out. We closed the curtains but he persisted. It was either frequent enough that it became a sort of white noise or we decided we just didn’t care, because we fell back asleep shortly thereafter. It’s the scariest creature we’ve encountered in New Zealand thus far, which overall and compared to what we’ve been reading about Australia, ain’t too bad.


Congratulations to the Newly Weds!

Geotag Icon Show on map Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 by Lisa

We missed two weddings this weekend back in the states that we were very sad to miss. Clay and Steph got married up in Big Sky, cialis 40mg Montana and Andy and Claudia got married in the Tetons. Since we couldn’t be there to celebrate with them in person, we decided to have our own celebration and built them a giant driftwood heart on the beach in front of our house. We hope the four of you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it for you. Congratulations and Happy Marriage!

Wedding Wishes