Monday, February 3, 2014

To New Zealand and back...way to ring in 2014!

Well hello!!
We left for New Zealand on January 12th and we returned on the 28th, so much to say!! I am really just far too verbose so I have notes I am working from, and then I have to shorten those down too!!!! It's still VERY LONG - so I don't blame you if you don't feel like reading, I know my family will want to though, so I'm putting it up anyhow!

Us on a hike, or "tramping" as they say

When we first arrived in Christchurch we took the bus into the city and then walked to our hotel, most people we had talked to told us there wasn't much to see in Christchurch and to get out asap. I had a good feeling about the city pretty quickly, it's called the "Garden City" and I was definitely digging that vibe! While we were there we wandered through Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens. It was beautiful, really large, and it was very interesting how all around the park they had these "fitness areas" where there were areas for stretching, balancing, jumping etc. We played on most of those as well as the lengthy walk and taking some time to smell the flowers and check out the ducks! We hopped on the red double decker bus and toured around the city. Saw so many major "sights" and "sites", a lot of devastation from the earthquakes, as well as things they are doing in the interim to fill the spaces and bring smiles to the city. It was very interesting and inspiring to see all the plans that they have for the city. After that we wandered a bit around the places we had wanted to take a closer look at: Cathedral Square, the container mall, a few of the Gap Fillers, the New Regent Street...and then we called our friend's mum! I had wanted to ask her about her hairstylist and then she wanted to take us out "tiki touring" around! It was fun! We went out to a couple of lookout spots and around to Lyttlton to see the area. Right away we could see how hilly it is, and how very blue the water is too!! After that full day we went to her place and had dinner with her, then we went to bed at a decent time because we were picking up the car the following morning!

A pond in the Christchurch Botanical Gardens

What's left of the Catholic Cathedral

Destruction from the quakes

The Christchurch Cathedral as it is now

The views from the lookout area that we went while "tiki touring"

It was a bit of a journey to get the car, but we did get there - and once we did we hit the road! We saw a Denny's, which seemed crazy, and on the way out of town we saw a Wendy's. Not the ice cream place that they have here - but the red headed freckled girl selling burgers that they sell back home! We didn't go in though! We were on the road to Dunedin...with big plans to meet up with a wonderful gal I buy yarn from on Etsy, as well as to see the penguins and albatross! On the road to Dunedin we saw the Ashford main shop in Ashburton, we stopped at a grocery store for food and to compare prices, enjoyed the views of hilly New Zealand and stopped to dip our toes in the blue water. We arrived in Dunedin around dinner time and went to visit my friend in her new shop. Dunedin is arranged really cool with the city centre 2 octagons, her shop is on the octagon! We talked yarn, saw what she is planning, had some tea and found an area to look for a hotel. After our visit & yarn we figured out dinner and what we wanted to see!

All the sheep!

Rolling green hills...reminded me a bit of England & Ireland
I think of all the places we went to in New Zealand Dunedin was our favourite! We liked the town, we liked the very cool architecture...there were plenty of old buildings, there was a lot of trails and the whole Otago peninsula was beautiful and full of sea life and trails, amazing sushi. We saw far too many seagulls - I know some people love them but we think of them as flying rats. We saw seals lounging on the beach, shags sitting on the cliffs, and albatross flying in the air. I couldn't get the best photos, but it was crazy to watch. Sometimes they got pretty close to us and they were so huge! We didn't go see the penguins, which is the only thing we planned to do that we skipped out on, we drove around the peninsula and the town instead. We went up to the lookout which was cool because they had these two statues: a male & a female, and the female had a ball of yarn in her lap! We found a yarn shop called Knit World, so I got some New Zealand yarn.

The statue at the Dunedin lookout

The train station at Dunedin

The oldest church in Dunedin

The best shot I got of an albatross

Having done road trips in BC & Alberta where there are deer, bear, squirrels, moose, etc. that you have to watch for on the road, and then also having done a road trip here in Australia where there were kangaroos and wallabys all over the roads - it was quite strange to drive around a country where there didn't seem to be much for wildlife. Little tiny birds everywhere and if we drove early in the morning there were bunnies on the roads...but that was it! We didn't have to worry much about hitting animals while driving, and kept thinking it was the perfect place to camp because there are no predators! The largest they have are falcons, stoats (weasel things), and possums, which are of no concern to humans. So strange for this Canadian gal!

Oh look! Just like home!

Just a little beach we stopped at along the way

After Dunedin we headed to Te Anau, everyone told us we had to get there to check out Milford Sound the roads got winding and the air got cooler as we headed up the mountains. We settled into a cute little motel and hit the info booth to figure out how we wanted to see Milford Sound and what things we wanted to see. We booked a glow worm cave tour, and a boat out into Milford Sound (which is actually a fjord and not a sound) for the following day. The caves were cool...relatively young caves so there wasn't much in the way of stalactites or stalagmites however there were lots of green glowing dots! Being as it was young...they didn't stress the importance of keeping your hands to yourself and not touching the walls like most caves I've been in. Strange. The end was a ride in a "punt" in the pitch black looking up at all the glow worms. It was really cool to see, they said to keep your hands in, and once we were out there it seemed a bit 3D like if you reached out you could touch the stars, so I can see why they warn you! After the tour we watched a video on the lifespan and learned a lot. To bed early because our Milford tour was really early the next morning! The tour was nice - it was COLD. When we woke up it was 2 degrees, and only heated up to 15 during the day. I know everyone makes cracks about how cold it is in Canada, but in the middle of the summer it's warmer than that!! We saw more seals, waterfalls that the boat drove underneath to collect water for people to drink, it was pretty, but it was a bit less of a "WOW" factor for me than some people because I've seen similar sights in Canada and in Switzerland. It was beautiful, but we were glad to have chosen the cheapest boat tour! After that we headed for Queenstown.

Our funky little motel

Milford Sound

The west coast drive took us into the mountains and the scenery changed a bit. Instead of ocean we started seeing glacial lakes, we saw waterfalls, and we entered into a temperate rainforest so it was very green! At this point is when it really started to remind me of home. I've lived all over BC and driven all over Alberta and we drive along the rockies and get much the same type of scenery. As much as there is some different flora and fauna it's more like home than Australia, and the southern portion of BC also has a large temperate rainforest!

Just a bit of crazy blue streams we found along a hike
We lucked out as it was a Saturday and we happened upon 2 local markets! One was fresh food mostly, so we ate breakfast in Frankton, and then in Queenstown there was a maker's market where I found a lovely lady with handspun yarn, and handknit items from her handspun! Most of the "things to do" in Queenstown were adventure things, we thought about some of them...but the vibe in Queenstown was very touristy. Some good food, but we didn't feel like spending a bunch of money on water tours that would make us more cold! We had a laundry and wandering around town day - planning a cycling day, but we got rained out - so we went to the shops & I got a much needed haircut (over 5 inches and no one has noticed!).

Lake Wakatipu at Queenstown

Cool old tree in the Queenstown - planted by Girl Guides in 1937
We happily moved along to check out Arrowntown - tiny little gold panning town! Cute, found yarn, and a lot like BC & Alberta as we had a lot of gold panning too! There was an astronomer in the park with his telescope set up for solar watching, we got to check out the sun and hear a bunch of info from him, it was fun! Wanaka was next and it was nice, set on a lake, we decided to stretch our legs and went for a 12km walk along the shore and back up through town! After that we went for dinner and to bed! There was a really cool tile "history" display along the "boardwalk", and we had amazing naan at the Indian place where we had dinner. While there we stopped in at Puzzling World and we did the maze, finished it by finding each tower and the way out, then we went inside to check out all the cool stuff - it was a neat place.

Spyros is too tall for the houses in the Chinese settlement

The cool tile project in Wanaka
On the way to Franz Josef it got really "rainforest-y". We checked in and our concierge told us the best time to hike the glacier was in the evening once the helicopters had stopped flying people up to climb on them. The only way to touch the glacier is to take a chopper, otherwise you can do the hike we did and you only get to within 500 metres of it. So we settled in, grabbed some dinner and then did the hike. We did it  a lot more quickly than they was interesting! I've seen (and touched) glaciers in Canada, but it was a really interesting walk down the riverbed. Impressive to see where it's been and where it is now. We did another smaller hike to a tiny glacial pool where the glacier used to go all the way to hundreds of years ago! The final thing we did in Franz Josef was was to go to the Westcoast Wildlife Centre and see some kiwi birds! They are nocturnal so we were in a darkened room while they ran around their habitats...but it was very cool to see those silly little birds that can't fly and are endangered! Big feet on little birds!!

Glacial pool where the glacier once was
The glacier now!

More blue on a hike
We zipped to Greymouth (as zippy as one can be on very windy roads that you have to slow to 25km half the time!).  We stopped in Hokititika for lunch - it's called "the cool little town" with a jade factory, a sock museum, a nice beach, and a couple of other places we didn't check out. I did check out the sock museum, so many sock machines! I also bought some yarn!! After that Greymouth was a bit, meh, so we decided to keep on driving to Christchurch since we knew there were plenty of things we still wanted to check out there!


We went up to Kaikoura and it was lovely, we went to the seal colony that was on some cool rock formations and there were plenty of showy seals, gulls & herons, we checked out the lookout, and we drove north out of town and we went to a place I had heard of called Nin's Bin. It was a little shed on the side of the road that was selling fresh crayfish/rock lobster, so we bought one and we ate the hell out of it! hahaha We ended the day up at Hanmer, I really wanted to get to some hot springs, so we went and booked in a private pool before finding a hotel room. A quick dinner and over to the pools, the private pool was like a hot tub with a view, and after half an hour we were able to head out and use all the public pools we wanted to. We went to a few, it was nice in the cooling air to sit in the hot pools, there were many pools, different temperatures, one set was natural sulfur pools, another was a set of aqua therapy pools with jets all over.

Kaikoura from the lookout
The showoff seal
Rock lobster!

All gone!
Private pool

Back to  Christchurch to see a few last sights, buy a bit more yarn, check out a few was like a car boot sale in England, and one was an artisan's market, where I met a lady who was selling handspun from her own sheep! Yep - bought some! We also relaxed a bit to get some down time before heading home!

Cardboard Cathedral, temporary until the Christchurch Cathedral is rebuilt

Inside the Cardboard Cathedral

185 Chairs...a memorial to the people lost in the quakes

We learned a lot about Christchurch after the quakes, we saw A LOT of sheep, gorgeous blue water, I met some fibre loving kindred was a good trip, and it got our travel bug itching us bigtime!

I think that's more than enough for now! I will add more later if there are questions, and also to update you on my knitting stuff!

If you managed to slog through it - Thank You! Sorry I am such a blabbermouth!