New Zealand, beautiful weather, friendly people and overwhelming landscapesTuesday March 27th, 2007 by Daniëlle
The 15th of March we set foot on New Zealand. Our flight through Singapore to Christchurch went well and we past customs quickly. Our hiking boots were given a quick cleaning and our wooden souvenir from Vietnam and our toy feather were inspected thouroughly, but did not cause us any problems. We were welcomed in such a friendly way the New Zealanders made us feel right at home in the land of the Kiwi.
The first two nights we booked a hostel in Christchurch to refuel before we would hit the road. The city tour of the Lonely planet through Christchurch was a nice walk through the town centre, city parks, the river and passing beautiful Englisch style houses ending up in the botanical gardens. Autumn has definitely set in in New Zealand, most flowers are gone and the trees are starting to show their first beautiful autumn colours. Chesnuts could be found in the botanical gardens, another sign of autumn.
The food is delicious, we really had to hold ourselves back not to buy the complete assortment of the supermarket. A lot can be bought in family size packages, but canned vegetables are hard to find. The prices are compared to Vietnam a lot higher, but relatively cheaper or the same compared to the Netherlands. A few times we prepared a lovely meal for ourselves.
Our rental car is a Toyota Corolla from 1999, colour white, license plate CFR756 and with almost 200k on the odo. When we picked up our car we only had to look for major damage, the already present dents were not an issue (renting costs only 25 NZD a day). Outside the main roads in New Zealand you can encounter many gravel roads, which probably explain the little dents. Our little car drives fine, we only miss some music, there is a radio present, but it is hard to fine tune on a good channel.
Until now we followed the Southern Scenic Route from Christchurch through Oamaru (yellow-eyed penguins at Bushy Beach), Dunedin, Otago Peninsula, Owaka, Nugget Point (nice view with sealions), Porpoise Bay (Hector Dolphins) through Invercargill to Manapouri. Overnight stays in Backpackers Hostels cost about 20 to 30 NZD per person per night.
In Oamaru one of the yellow-eyed penguins decided to pose for passphotos, made by photographer Edvar, really cool. The Otago Peninsula really was worth visiting, we saw: albatrosses, sealions, kingfishers, black swans and again yellow-eyed penguins. On Victoria Beach we were chased by a male sealion, although we were still the advised 30 metres away from him and not between him and the ocean. According to us this lumpy fellow liked to practice his territorial skills on passing tourists. These animals are definetely not afraid of you, luckily you can outrun them, but for the elderly we advise to bring a stick for selfdefence .
After this little adventure we headed back to our car in the dusk. Unluckily I stept in a hidden hole when I stepped down from a fence and sprained my ankle. Since I still was able to move it in all directions, I knew it was not broken. Without being able to cool it, we stumbled back to the car me using Edvar as a crudge. Again we used our first aid kit and I wobbled around with my ankle taped in my hiking boots for a few days, but now my ankle seems to be fine again.
One night we stayed at Falls Backpackers near the Purakaunui Falls. We were welcomed by the son of the house, a very nice guy. The hostel was run by his mother and she has the habbit to make pictures of all her guests and put them into albums for future people to look through. Scanning the pictures I found a picture of Danny my diving buddy in Vietnam. Edvar made a picture of it. A very nice hostel with very nice people where you instantly feel at home. The location is also near a lot of sights in the area (Nugget Point, Jack’s Blowhole (did not make it with my ankle), McLean Waterfalls). The Cathedral Caves were closed, because of a rough ocean, so we missed those.
In Manapouri we had our first acquaintance with the little vampires named Sandflies. Little black flies, which will land on every piece of uncovered skin and will try to suck the blood out of you. The little bumps they leave behind can itch like hell. Manapouri is very small, but you can have nice little picknicks at the lake and you have easy access to Doubtful Sound, one of the fiords of New Zealand.
The first day in Manapouri we walked the Circle Trail, first cross the river with a rowing boat at Pearl Harbour and after that a nice firm walking trail of three hours with a nice view. The second day we explored the road to Milford Sound with stops at the following sights: Mirror Lakes, Trail at Milford Sound, Trail at the Homer Tunnel (Kea), The Chasm Falls and the Marian Falls.
In Milford we saw a wounded penguin (the paw did not look good). Also saw the destroying big parrot the Kea, very funny as long it is not your car they are molesting, thanks to Edvar’s well chosen parking spot our Corolla was left alone. The road to Milford Sound is lovely with very nice stops and we would definitely recommend it.
Our overnight cruise to the Doubtful Sound was also a great success. Spotting Bottlenose Dolphins and Fur Seals and kayaking through the Fiord. Admired a marvelous sky filled with many stars at night and heard the Kiwi call out in the wild. The wildlife of the ocean in New Zealand is spectaculair, but we do miss the great mammals a little bit. The only native mammals are two species of bats, the long and short tailed bat. New Zealand is trying hard to reduce the damage caused by the many introduced species. On the hitlist are the following animals: Possums (The only good Possum is a dead Possum, Squashum), Stouts, Deer, Rabbits (in national parks you are being warned for poisoned carrots). Tourists are even advised to try and kill these animals with their rental car, when one af them is trying to cross the road. But don’t try this with deer …
New Zealand tries to get more and more Islands plague free, so the native animals get a chance to survive and will be protected against extinction. Examples are the following animals: Kiwi, Red and Yellow crested parakeet (Kakariki), Takahe, Tuatura (reptile), Kea and the Weka. The native animals never had to worry about natural enemies and do not have a good run and hide instinct. Birds are very curious and approach tourists up close. Examples of those are the Fantail and the Tomtit. Edvar’s parents have a nice experience with a Weka.
After Manapouri we drove on to Queenstown, where we met Edvar’s parents. Three days of chatting and exchanging experiences of New Zealand. Spoiled with lovely souvenirs which I will not reveal to keep it a secret to the people at home , thanks again. Nice little apartment, visited the botanical gardens and the Kiwi Birdlife Park. Spent a day in Arrowtown, and old city founded during the goldrush with a Chinese area and Wanaka where there was a nice exposition with pictures of the world viewed from above by the photographer Yann Arthus-Bertand. Really magnificent pictures.
Said goodbye to Edvar’s parents this morning, who will be heading South and we will be heading North. On Easter day Sunday 8th April, we will take the ferry to the Northern Island.
For more pictures, check the Photo Gallery.
6 Responses to “New Zealand, beautiful weather, friendly people and overwhelming landscapes”
Website problemsSaturday March 31st, 2007 by edvar
As most of you would have noticed, www.continenthopping.com was offline for a couple of days .
It took me lots and lots of hours ( ….) to solve the problems, but after trying to restore backups, to modify my PHP pages (and a lot more), I finally found the cause: my hosting provider was so nice to forget to tell me that they installed a newer version of PHP on the servers!!! And yes, my website don’t like this newer version!!!
Fortunately, it’s now solved (and I will soon write a cute email to my hosting provider! ), so I hope you can now enjoy our stories about New Zealand and don’t forget to check the 88 pictures in the Photo Gallery!
Stories and pictures of the last couple of days (including Fox Glacier and whale watching in Kaikoura) will follow soon, but I now have spent enough time on the internet …
Animal spotting and tramping in the bush….Thursday April 5th, 2007 by Daniëlle
After saying goodbye to Edvar’s parents we headed to the Westcoast. We spent our first night in Wanaka, in a simple cabin. We checked out Cinema Paradiso, but it was not really our thing. After that we had a pizza. Our internet update took a lot longer than we had expected so we were not able to travel a lot of kilometres this day.
Next moring we had a lovely bread with salmon at the Salmon Farm as a recommendation by Edvar’s parents. After that we headed towards Fox Glacier and tried to find a roof over our heads in Okarito. We almost felt like Jozef and Maria, because there were no more available sleeping spots, but in the end we could stay in an old schoolbuilding, which was rebuild as a hostel. Really one of our nicest overnight stays until now. Except for a Spanish guy we had the place all to ourselves!
We decided to organise our own nightspotting adventure. In other words: scare the hell out of nightcreatures with big lights, in this case the headlights of our Corolla. Trying to find Kiwi’s, but although you hear them somehow you do not seem to be able to see them…. grrrr. Although we did see a wonderful owl and a lot of crossing possums and no worries you animal lovers, we let them walk in peace.
In the morning we decided to walk in the area around Okarito and again saw some new birds the Silvereye and the Tui. The Tui is really cute with its lovely little white feathers under its chin and it can make a lot of noice. Since my ankle seemed to be fine again, I decided to try driving on the left side of the road myself. I really felt like I was having driving lessons again, I had blushes on my cheeks from driving on the left side of the road. Everything went fine and soon I converted into the little race monster I normally am.
Regrettably I really am a woman (excuse me for ladies that do have a good spatial insight), but somehow I managed to hit the sidewalk while I was trying to park the car, which the rim did not really enjoy. After that I had my part with driving on the left for that day so I returned the wheel to Edvar. We drove on to Hanmer Springs for an overnight stay and on the way over there spotted a few Wekas, although they did not seem to be as nosy as the one Edvar’s parents encountered, so no picture.
The next day to Kaikoura for some Whale watching. Spermwhale watching to be exact, try and find their blowing water at the horizon. We could hop on board straightaway on a little bit a rocky sea, but were able to keep our intestines down . Saw two Spermwhales, a large group of Dusky dolphins and Fur seals. Very nice tour which we can certainly recommend.
The Lazy Shag, the place where we were staying was run by a hardworking asian lady, really a lovely person. When we noticed the mess some of our fellow backpackers had made of the kitchen we helped her with the dishes. She really appreciated the gesture and as a reward we were offered a delicious piece of carrot pie, really very nice. We strawled along the cliff and the coastline. A little bit of rock climbing and carefully passing by three Fur Seals, but these are the nice ones.
Then the big day for Edvar arrived, really true he saw three Ferraris !!! Excited as a little child . On Highway 1 between Kaikoura and Blenheim, a red 430 Spider (to far away), a red 308 GTB (plates 4RRRRE) and a yellow 550 Maranello (plates I550I). Thanks to a detour trying to find the Big Lagoon, which somehow we were not able to reach, we pulled up the road exactly between the Ferraris.
In St. Arnaud we stayed in a hostel “The Yellow House” where we had a whole apartment all by our selves really great! This is the place where we did our three day tramping tour. Sleeping bags were hired at Rotiti Lodge, cookery and pans at the hostel, huttickets and the weather forecast were retrieved at the local Doc station. The track started at the Mt. Robert Carpark, via the Ridge to Angelus Hut for an overnight stay, next day coming down to Lakehead hut for another overnight stay and after that we returned via the lake back to Mt. Robert Carpark.
The first day was pretty heavy, beautiful views, but also lots of stones. The track sometimes somehow seemed to vanish and you could figure out your own track. I really would not have been to thrilled to be up there with bad weather conditions, like low hanging clouds or heavy winds. Luckily neither of us is afraid of hights otherwise we surely would have tumbled down. At the end of my day I could feel all my joints, because of all the wobbeling rocks and I was a very happy woman when the hut came in sight.
The hut itself was fine, quite a lot of people and we were just able to cook our meal before it turned dark. Cold water is not great for doing the dishes, but it does feel like some kind of magic being there in the middle of nowhere. The next day we started happy after a good nights rest. Climbing down the waterfall was really cool and it made me think about Tarka (our dog), she would have really loved this. My hikingboots, who carried me for many kilometres are starting to give up on me, at least the right one. But with a lot of ducktape they seem to hang on for now.
The second day was supposed to last as the first day about six hours. After seven hours I started to get a little grumpy, because it did not seem we would be getting closer to the end soon. Specially since the kilometres of the previous day had taken their toll on my leg muscles. At the end the track worsened, got very muddy and with all kind of obstacles. In the end we did make it safely to the hut. Luckily somehow we never seem to have a bad moment at the same time, so we can really boost the other with some additional energy if necessary.
The third day was much better, we crossed the river and had soken socks and shoes, but we really did not intend to go all the way back to the stupid bridge. Accompanied by black swans, bellbirds, tuis, fantails and robins it was a very nice day. We did have some starting problems because of muscle aches.
After returning our sleeping bags and signing out at the Doc station, we noticed that the weather gods were at our side, because a hail storm past over us when we were at the Doc station. After a good night sleep at the Yellow house we left this morning to head to Motueka where we booked a Kayaking tour for tomorrow alongside the Abel Tasman Track. Enjoy the pictures and see you at the next update!
9 Responses to “Animal spotting and tramping in the bush….”
Blub, blub, kayaking and black water raftingSaturday April 14th, 2007 by Daniëlle
My oh my, time flies when your having fun! Only a few days and we will be leaving for Canada. But first another update about our adventures in New Zealand and our plans before we leave.
Like already mentioned in our previous article, we went kayaking alongside the Abel Tasman Track. With four Americans (Sara, Julius, Mike and Linda) and our Maorian guide K.P., we were dropped of in the area of Onetahuti Beach after a cold ride in a watertaxi. First we visited the Fur Seals at Tonga Island. Very funny, since they tend to come quite close to the kayak. Although taking pictures of these lovely ocean acrobats is quite difficult in a wobbeling kayak.
Kayakking was not Mike’s favorite occupation, so Julius really had to use his muscles to keep up with us, which was a pitty since it quite lowered down our speed. Ahh well, we just made the best of it by kayakking the distance twice by going back and forth. This way we did get enough excercise, but were able to stay nicely close to the group. Sara and Julius were also on a trip around the world (check their website) and Mom and Dad were paying a visit.
At lunch we received a lovely sandwich on a snowy white beach served with a delicious muffin and a cup of coffee or tea. At the end we rafted up with our four kayaks and sailed the last part of the tour, which was something we had never done before and which was a nice experience. A little tired but very satisfied we returned to Motueka by watertaxi and bus.
The next morning we tried to see some of the Queen Charlotte Track by taking the road between Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound. Many trees blocked the view and the turns in the road were quite sharp, so halfway we decided, also because of the time, to turn back and head for Picton. On a parkingspot we were happily surprised by a curious Weka and this time we were able to get a picture of it!
In Picton we played a deck of cards with two New Zealanders. Ally, originally Japanese, tried to teach us how to play “Euka”. Only she did not really know the rules herself, so the rules kept changing during the game. Another guy tought us the the real rules of Euka. To tease Ally we named the game, we played all evening, “Allies game”. But I sincerely believe that if we want to make sure we know how to play Euka, we should google it on the internet haha .
The next morning we got up early to catch the ferry to Wellington. In Wellington we quickly did our laundry and walked around town to the botanical gardens and came back with the cable car.
After Wellington we went in one day all the way to Taupo. Searching all day for new hiking boots, which I would need, if we wanted to do the Tongariro Crossing. We were not able to find hiking boots for me, but did find a real pair of Teva Slippers for Edvar, yes indeed he is turning into a real Backpacker . The next morning in Taupo we finally succeeded to get my hiking boots.
Since we would not be able to do the Tongariro Crossing that day, we decided to drive to Rotorua to visit the thermal area and took the Waimangu Round Trip. Starting with a hike and after that a boat tour over the lake of Rotomahana. Edvar’s parents took the same tour. Frying Pan Lake and the Mysterious Inferno Crater were very impressive.
In the evening we returned to Turangi hoping we might be able to hike the Tongariro Crossing afterall, but the weather was not on our side and we had to skip it. In the area we were able, despite of the rain, to see some nice little waterfalls and a Maori Ruin. In the same area we found some dead deer, that were dropped like carbage. We mentioned this to our hostel owner who would report it to DOC (Department of Conservation). And at the hostel I totally fell in love with the housedog Mogwai
In Taupo we managed to buy some nice things, real Dutch “stroopwafels” (waffles with syrup) and “ontbijtkoek” (honey cake) made by Bolletje in Almelo (Edvar’s hometown)! It’s a small world .
After two nights in Turangi we headed to the Waitomo Caves. The first day we saw a wonderful waterfall (Marokopa Waterfall), a cave, a natural bridge and giant fossils of oysters. Waitoma is also the area where you can do some Black Water Rafting. This means no more than floating in the filled innertube of a car tire through the dark in a cave.
But the abseil into the cave, the rockclimbing through and out of the cave, squeezing through claustrofobic small holes and the glowworms really makes this trip worthwhile. Also our enthousiastic guide Simon and our group of only six, us and four very nice Canadians really made it great.
This morning we drove from Waitomo to Auckland where we booked our last two nights in a hostel close to the centre of town and the harbour. We said goodbye to our loyal travel companion, our Toyota Corolla. Tomorrow we will visit the island of Tiritiri Matangi, where we hopefully will spot a lot of native birds. Monday we will wander around in Auckland and will catch our plane in the evening to Vancouver!
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Last two days of New Zealand and flight to CanadaFriday April 20th, 2007 by Daniëlle
Our visit to Tiritiri Matangi was really worthwhile. You can spot birds on this island really upclose. The birds are not afraid at all and do not fly away immediately, so you have the opportunity to study them. On the ferry we already discovered a new species, the Australasian Gannet, this bird comes down into the water with a speed of 100 km/hour to catch fish.
First of all we were welcomed on the Island by two Takahes. These birds are very big and come up to your knee. They look a little like the smaller species the Pukeko. These birds pair up and have their own territoriy. Funny sassy birds and there are many on the island wandering around especially close to the lighthouse.
Walking around the island we encountered more species, that do not or hardly live on the mainland anymore, because they are threatened by the introduced animals, due to the fact that they are eaten by them or that they are competitive for the same kind of food. Examples of spotted birds are: Takahe, Kakariki, Saddleback, Stitchbird, White Head and the native Quail.
The guide was very professional and knew a lot of nice stories about the island and the animals living there. The only thing that was a pitty, was that the group was too large and therefore you would not be able to spot all the birds and were not able to hear everything she told us. All the guides are volunteers and the money you pay for a guided tour is well spent for the conservation of the island.
At lunchtime we went spotting ourselves and were able to see all the birds we spotted before and a two new ones, the Kokako and the blue penguin. We thought the penguin might be ill, because it was spending the daytime in it’s burrow (to be seen by lifting the wooden lit). Only we were told that with stormy weather the penguins like to take a day off fishing and take a days rest and they can come in during the day.
The last day we spent wandering around in Auckland and got a little rain. Which was quite nice, because it made us think about the Netherlands where we tend to get a lot of rain. Spotted a Ferrari again.
Finally we took the bus to the airport. Payed the airport tax, threw away the bottles of water, since you are not allowed to take fluids anymore. Even our lighter and matches safely tucked away in our big bagpack had the be thrown away in the bin, since it was not allowed. Why, because our flight would have a transfer in San Francisco, US …… Do you believe me, if I told you that eyes have glanced at my lens fluid with a frown on their faces on every airport since the little bottle is 120 ml, a little above the allowed 100 ml, except in the US. It seems like all countries apply in some kind of state of panic the new rules of America even more stringent than America itself.
Of course, the date line we passed on this flight made our flight extra special. In other words we had a very long 16th of April (around 45 hours). In addition we went from fall in New Zealand to spring in Canada. Maybe we are getting a little old, because we arrived in Canada a little broken?
About New ZealandWednesday May 23rd, 2007 by edvar
Although we are already in Brazil, we thought that it might be useful to write a bit more about New Zealand, mainly focussed on those of you who are planning to visit this country in the near future. Who knows, maybe our experiences can be of use to you…
New Zealand is a beautiful country with nice people and a gorgeous nature (see below). It is easy to travel around, but you will need a rental car or camper. Our choice was a rental car from Ace Rentals. They have used cars (several years old) with lots of kilometers on the odo, some minor flaws (our windscreen sprinkler didn’t work and our radio was crap), but it’s cheap and we liked it. Most rental companies offer standard insurance, less complex as in the US or Canada, and you can lower your excess if you want.
In New Zealand they drive on the left side of the road, which takes some time to get used to. Try renting a car with an automatic gearbox, so you don’t have to worry about shifting gear. Traffic rules are simple. Once in a while you will encouter one-lane bridges and certain rules regarding turning traffic is different than in Europe, so check that out.
The choice between a car (in combination with hostels, hotels or camp sites) or a camper (much more expensive than a car and don’t forget that it´s advised to stay on campsites, for which you also have to pay) is quite personal. It depends on the number of persons you are with (with more persons the costs of a camper might be less expensive), where and how you want to sleep and if you feel comfortable driving the size of a camper.
We chose for a rental car, in combination with hostels. Hostels are very nice and also quite cheap (especially for single travellers). We liked the BBH-hostels, good price and good quality. With two persons, it’s cheaper than hotels/motels or B&B, while you can save even more money by cooking your own meals (always possible in hostels), instead of eating in restaurants all the time.
New Zealand is certainly not cheap. Count on something like 4000 euro per month, for two persons, excluding the flight, but including the rental car, gasoline, hostels, food, personal gifts and excursions like the Doubtful Sound cruise and Black-Water Rafting in Waitomo.
Changing to one of our favourite subjects: nature. The flora is very beautiful, with lots of flowers, also above the tree line. We visited New Zealand in the fall, although we thought that spring or summer might be better, because of more flowers and more water in the rivers and waterfalls. Although fall brings all kinds of fungus, present in many shapes and colors. The forests are beautiful too, with many different kind of trees (like berch), often with mosses, tinted in dozens of shades of green. The ground has ferns and ferntrees, also present in many shapes.
Mammals are hard to find in New Zealand. We often looked for deer, bears, cougars or other big mammals, but for those we had to visit Canada! In New Zealand, there are only two species of native mammals, both bats, which we haven’t been able to see during our trip.
Because of the arrival of the Europeans, there currently are several species of mammals, all introduced. New Zealand now makes an effort to get rid off those animals, as they are a big threat for the native birds. It all started when the Europeans wanted to start a fur trade, so rabbits and possums (fluffy animals from Australia) were introduced. Numbers exploded while they competed for food with the native birds. Humans decided to introduce ferrets, weasels and marters to kill the rabbits, but those hunters just preferred the easy-to-catch native birds. So, the problem became bigger and bigger. They also introduced deer and chamois for hunting, but those numbers increased rapidly aswell. And now the people in New Zealand try to correct the mistakes by simply killing as many of the introduced animals as possible …
What about birds? Yes, there are plenty of birds, we saw at least 75 species. Surprisingly (not!), this included plenty of introduced species, including birds which are very common in Europe, like blackbirds and sparrows.
Also some good news? Yes, of course. Like the Fantail, a playful bird with a beautiful tail which follows you around(sometimes within a meter!) to catch flies. Or the New Zealand Robin, so curious that it sometimes lands on your shoes. Birds like the Bellbird and the Tui make fantastic sounds. And we can go on about the greedy New Zealand Pigeon, the curious Weka and the criminal Kea, or rare species like the colourful Saddleback, the walking Kakapo and the mega-fat Takahe, which only live in specific reserves. For birders: try the island Tiritiri Matangi near Auckland. Check our story about this island. Would you still like to know a bit more about the birds of New Zealand? Check NZBirds or just use Google …
Places to visit? We think that we visited most of the for us interesting highlights: Christchurch, the Catlins, Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Queenstown, Fox Glacier, Kaikoura, Wellington, Tongariro, Rotorua, Waitomo caves, Tiritiri Matangi Island and Auckland. For more info on those places, just read our old messages and check the Photo Gallery for pictures.
If you have any questions or if you have information on New Zealand that you want to share with us (always welcome!), don’t hesitate to add a comment to this article!