Archive for: ‘January 2016’

Mt. Cook

January 31, 2016 Posted by Deb

We missed Mt. Cook on the way south to hop over the mountains and hike the glaciers. We definitely picked a great day to catch it on the way north. 

The lake and the mountain started getting our attention from about 30 kilometers out and the morning haze was great but didn’t come out on the shots too well. We picked the Hooker Valley four hour hike that took us to the upper lake where the glacier was calving. Very cool stuff.IMG_20160201_112124-700x518IMG_20160201_105945-700x522IMG_20160201_121730-700x945IMG_20160201_112558-700x529IMG_20160201_115414-700x518IMG_20160201_130943-700x518~2IMG_20160201_125822-700x520~2IMG_20160201_133025-700x525IMG_20160201_114849_crop_1123x729-700x454~2IMG_20160201_160448~3-700x453IMG_20160201_153931~2-700x269

Queenstown 2

January 30, 2016 Posted by Deb

We returned to Queenstown in the rain but at least the downpour wasn’t trying to wash the world away as we moved to the back side of the mountains.

Our travelling companions, Ron and Barb, were flying home and we were all staring at a weather forecast with sun. Unfortunate timing for their New Zealand exit, but Deb and I were really looking for some sun. Ron and Barb had fresh powder and sun waiting in Frisco, CO, so we didn’t feel too bad.

Lord of the Rings Bridge in the Queenstown Gardens

Lord of the Rings Bridge in the Queenstown Gardens


Queenstown Beach front When the Sun Came Out

Queenstown Beach Front When the Sun Came Out

We also turned in our campervan so we were homeless in a booked up town. Deb worked her magic and found a wonderful AIRBNB on the lake within walking distance of Queenstown. We became good friends with the owners Mike and Petrel from Shanghai, China. They even made a couple of Chinese teas for us.

Mike & Petrel's AIRBNB

Mike & Petrel’s AIRBNB

The rest of our three-day Queenstown stay involved taking advantage of the sunny weather. We booked the days full with paragliding, whitewater rafting, and restaurants including the famous Fergburgers.IMG_20160128_150805-700x945

Coronet Peak Paragliding

We’ve done hangliding so I thought I’d try paragliding. Both involve jumping off something high, in this case the 4,000-plus-foot Coronet Peak outside Queenstown about 20 minutes. I got to take the controls and we popped a huge thermal so the pilot just let me keep flying as long as we were still going up. Paragliding is very civilized and comfortable compared to hangliding until the pilot says its time for some aerobatics. We got upside down and pulled some serious G’s. The funny look on my face is me trying to hold down my breakfast.

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Queenstown Whitewater Rafting

Category 3 whitewater is a walk in the park, right. We do that in canoes, and we’re Category 5 veterans in the really cold water in Alaska. The famous Dogleg Rapids were running a bit big with all the previous rain; and we hit a monster wall that stopped us dead, stood us on our side, and ejected Deb and another woman. Deb got swept away while the other woman got taken under our raft, popping up behind us and her freaking out husband.IMG_7975-700x466IMG_7995-700x466Screenshot_20160205-084508_crop_703x465-700x463IMG_8005-700x466IMG_8011-700x466

From the Bottom of the World: Invercargill

January 25, 2016 Posted by Deb

OK, another reason to go to New Zealand was to see the legendary 1920 953cc Indian Scout motorcycle modified by Burt Munro over the course of his life to go from a factory speed of 55 mph to a still standing record (set in 1967) for two runs of over 184 mph at Bonneville. It was 183+ but his son discovered a mistake in the original calculations and the headlines down here were that Burt broke his own record 36 years after his death.

The Real Burt Munro

The Real Burt Munro

Anthony Hopkins as Burt Munro in World's Fastest Indian

Anthony Hopkins as Burt Munro in World’s Fastest Indian

Chuck Eldridge as Burt Munro

Chuck Eldridge as Burt Munro

Burt's Test Track Outside Invercargill, NZ

Burt’s Test Track Outside Invercargill, NZ

Milford Sound

January 23, 2016 Posted by Deb

It was a must see but the weather forecast went from partly sunny to 100% rain at around 2.5 inches per hour. We toyed with heading east to drier areas but they were all 60-100% rain as well. Barb held tight to the Milford trip, rain or no rain, so we headed west in an increasing downpour. What we saw that day was … well, check out the shots.

Note from Deb: Waterfalls have always been a passion of mine. I once had a goal of skinny dipping under all the waterfalls in the world. Here in Milford Sound there were really thousands of incredible, mind-blowing waterfalls. It made me cry!! In the Caribbean we would often hike all day to see a tiny one of these. They are all so astonishing. I don’t think the photos can capture the emotion.

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View from Our Campervan

View from Our Campervan

The New Zealand Silver Fern Flag, A Powerful and Emotional Symbol of Inspiration. My Hot Chocolate Has Been Blessed.

The New Zealand Silver Fern Flag, A Powerful and Emotional Symbol of Inspiration. My Hot Chocolate Has Been Blessed.

Te Anau: Jetboat & Kepler Tramp

January 20, 2016 Posted by Deb

We were moving into real backpacker country and Te Anau is a jumping off point for the ledgendary Milford Sound. Our plan was to hole up there and wait for a break in the rain to make our move on Milford Sound.IMG_20160120_135730-700x933

The backpacker crowd in southern NZ has to rank among the toughest on the planet. Some say Milford is the second wettest place on earth with 252 inches per year on average. We had a campervan and access to laundry and we could barely stay ahead of wet gear. They have tents, huts, and, new to us, drying rooms. Oh … the huts are nice with lots of stoves but the sleeping dorms are a combination of flat racks and tightly spaced bunks.IMG_20160119_192045-700x525

Back to the drying room … imagine a room about motel size with pegs on the walls and clothesline ropes strung every few feet running the length of the room. Now try to visualize that every possible space on a peg or a rope is draped with wet backpacking clothes that have been out for who knows how long. Now add heat from the drier and breathe in through your nose. When you regain consciousness, you’ll be happy to know the have great medical care.images (4)-700x519

To survive backpacking you have to see through all the wet and nasty stuff for those days or moments that are incredible. Still, our hearts went out to the fairly old couple who said they were out for days where they could barely see the trail in front of them.Lake Te Anua with palms-700x393Little Hobbit Hole-700x393Ron, Deb, Chuck @ picnic table-700x393

We clicked off another Lord of the Rings filming location with a jet boat tour of the Upper Waiau River to down to what some call the prettiest lake in NZ, Lake Manapouri. A little over a minute of the Lord of the Rings exit by boat from the Woodland Elves was filmed on that river. It took 3,000 people and three months for that 90 seconds and our Maori driver had the “feed everybody” contract. He’s never seen the movie.

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The Glaciers

January 17, 2016 Posted by Deb

Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are on the west coast and we hiked both. They are the only remaining glaciers that extend into a sub-tropical rainforest. We toyed with the helicopter rides but visibility sucked and the sticker price screamed sunny day.

Franz Joseph Glacier Entrance. What??

Franz Josef Glacier Entrance. What??

Rockslide Danger ... Where?

Rockslide Danger … Where?


At that point we hadn’t quite realized that if you don’t do things in the rain in the south, you might as well stay home. Good rain coats were not in our bags and we went shopping at Fox Glacier. They definitely knew how to charge with some in the $200 NZ range. We stopped by a helicopter shop and asked if they sold raincoats that were cycled off the bottom. They checked with management and hauled out a great set of coats and if we had told them we were jumping on a plane in a few days, they would have been ours. When they found out they were not souvenirs and we were going to use them for weeks, they balked because if we got hurt in NZ with their logo … it’s a lawyer/insurance thing. They hauled out a “Logoless” set and we were off. That was the day the rains began in earnest.IMG_20160118_145648-700x933

We stayed in the town of Fox Glacier, and Deb and I hiked Lake Matheson while Ron and Barb watched the Broncos in a sports bar that happened to have a waiter from Denver who was an NFL fan.IMG_20160118_114349-700x525IMG_20160118_114426~2-700x367

Lake Matheson's Famous Reflection View

Lake Matheson’s Famous Reflection View

Where's My Reflection?

Where’s My Reflection?

Jacksons Rainforest Hike

January 17, 2016 Posted by Deb

Christchurch got nuked by a nasty earthquake in 2012. We’ve been running into folks who bailed out of there scattered all over NZ. Google Maps hasn’t quite caught up with some of the relocatons. Thankfully, we took a cab and didn’t haul our bags for the 10-minute walk that was more like a 15-minute cab ride.
Christchurch was the pickup point for our new home, a 7.3 meter campervan. After a 10-minute orientation, we were handed the keys and off we went driving an even bigger vehicle on the left.IMG_20160117_165422~2-700x525-700x525

We headed straight up into the mountains to Jacksons, rain, one-lane bridges, and great scenery.IMG_20160115_150230-700x525IMG_20160116_143906-700x933IMG_20160116_135502-700x933IMG_20160116_134446-700x933

Out of the Rainforest Heading for the Jackson Tavern at the Bottom of the Hill

Out of the Rainforest Heading for the Jackson Tavern at the Bottom of the Hill

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

January 15, 2016 Posted by Deb

We thought we’d  take a short drive to Wellington, grab a ferry, jump on a train for a jaunt down to Christchurch, and pick up the campervan by early afternoon. Oops. When we ran the numbers on when we’d have to get up, we were already late and we were still at supper.

Wellington was 4 hours away, the ferry was a bunch of hours and the train took a good part of the day. On top of that, we read the rental agreement and our pickup time was 8:30 am. So … we took our time and punted on a day of our campervan rental.

We had sunshine for every leg of the trip from Tongariro to Christchurch. In fact, some areas looked like desert. That would prove to be the end of our sunshine for a long time, give or take a few small breaks.FB_IMG_1454225665454-700x394FB_IMG_1454225657288-700x1244interislander-700x464IMG_20160114_124657-700x525images-700x240IMG_20160114_171727-700x525FB_IMG_1454225672296-700x394

Chateau Tongariro

January 14, 2016 Posted by Deb

FB_IMG_1454226836928-700x525We drove south to the Tongariro National Park and were a little hesitant to check into the Chateau. Anything called Chateau usually means you pay a lot more, sometimes for less. It turned out to be expensive but pretty nice and the hiking was good. Oh … they had Mt Doom in the background. They also had pickleball courts.IMG_20160113_120418-700x933

Chuck's Yellow Shirt Behind the Waterfall

Chuck’s Yellow Shirt Behind the Waterfall


My. Doom

Mt. Doom

North Island: Hobbiton

January 12, 2016 Posted by Deb

I have to admit that the Lord of the Rings sites were a major reason for coming here at all. We had Australia on our bucket list for years but NZ aced it out.

Ron and I were in Shire heaven when we visited the now rebuilt Shire topping the tour off at the Green Dragon with free beer only made there. The guide pulled out Trivia questions and our group did well. I know Elvish a little and got him on one question which is actually pretty easy. What is Elvish for “Farewell”?IMG_20160111_144446-700x525 IMG_20160111_144132-700x525 IMG_20160111_150653-700x525 IMG_20160111_152220-700x525 IMG_20160111_154039-700x525 Inside Dragon Pub-700x393 IMG_20160111_150311-700x525 IMG_20160111_152637-700x525

We would eventually see more Rings sites but Hobbiton has been the best. There are lots more out there.