While my last holiday seemed to be all about the tent…this one is shaping up to be all about the time!

I was late for many things, so I bought a watch in Aukland, complete with an alarm that I had someone else set to be ensure it would be done right.  After a day up in the glacier I went to the hot pools where the watch met it’s demise.  A watch which was to be good to 100m depths of water, folded at less than a metre. 

Today I needed to be on the bus at 7:30 for my Milford Sound trip.  I borrowed a girl in the rooms alarm, which I didn’t set right I guess or it didn’t work.  Either way….7:28 I awoke…yes, I made the bus!  I was the last one on, with a missing sock and still in PJ top, but manged to find last nights pants in the frenzy.  I grabbed the back pack which luckily was fully loaded…

The Milford Sound really should be the Milford Fijord because it was formed by Glacier’s.  The whole region in the south west is part of the UNESCO heritage site–Fijordland National Park.  It is very similar to the the west coast line of  Newfoundland and regions of BC.  Makes one homesick for the mountains.  It is a park that is 136 hectares of uninhabitated land.  The waterfalls were spectacular, the tunnel was an impressive drive through the dark, and the snow capped peaks were something to think about skiing on.  The weather was not sunny, yet I was told it was a great day.  It was cloudy; however, no rain.  This region has the highest recorded amount of rainfall.  It rains here 2 out of 3 days a year.

We saw a rare bird that is endangered.  It is able to fly, yet it stayed close to us on the ground pecking at the stones.  There were two at one stop and a single one at another.  It is an olive coloured feather on the outside and when its’ wings are spread there is an orange, red and yellow underneath that shows through.

Tomorrow, I am sleeping in….with no where in particular to be….and no time schedule I will be held to…..

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I am in a warm hostel here!  Something that has been lacking in the last few evenings.  I am taking a full break and staying in a sanctuary room….bathroom with all the amenities right in the room!   AHHHHHH!  Luxury!  I haven’t had to hunt for a heater, figure out how to use a heater, or listen to the loud creaking of one.  Just toasty warm.  This afternoon I kicked back in a cinema that was full of couches!  And a car, just in case one felt like being part of the drive-in feeling.  Saw the new Batman….excellent!

Yesterday, I was up on the Franz Josef Glacier–took a helicopter ride up, landed and began exploring–crevices, caves, tunnels…the sun was shining and it was a gorgeous day to be on the mountain.  Hard to believe this is winter here….where is the snow and biting cold? Then a quick heli ride down and over to the hot pools after a hard earned Big Breakfast.  I have finally figured out the barista type of coffee I like–Flat White is my order.  Mom, you would love it here for your coffee fix.

Went on a hike this morning to the reflecting lake–on a clear day the highest mountain here in NZ can been seen reflected in the lake water.  Mt. Cook is the highest and the second highest is Tazman.  Both are named after the first explorers to this region.  Abel Tazman actually found NZ first; however, had a few of his crew members killed after being attacked, so he never landed.  James Cook then made the discovery by stepping foot on land.  The strait between the two islands is also named after Cook, and of course the Tazman Sea.  It was odd to see that the picture reflecting in the water was a clearer picture of the mountain then looking right at the actual mountains.  After the hike I was able to settle into a Flat White and a gluten-free brownie. 

Tomorrow I head further South to Queenstown for an exploration day of Milford Sound on Friday and the following day a day to scare myself….Canyon Swing…here’s hoping I can be brave and just do it!!!

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Heading South

Sharon Kelly and Nienhuis–I really got my ‘geek’ on!  I did the Lord of the Rings tour and really got to see places where actually footage was filmed AND recreated the scenes–once I get some free Wi-Fi I can upload the photos to Facebook.  You will have to guess just which scenes we were re-creating!  Then while stalking the studios we saw some actors dressed as Hobbits–it was dark, so my pics aren’t clear of those.

I left Wellington the next day for the South Island.  The 3 hour ferry crossing was smooth sailing with minimal rolls off the ocean.  We are making our way down the west coast stopping at scenic spots for hikes.  I was signed up for an activity the other day, but I was the only one wanting to go, so it was cancelled.

I was able to sketch the other evening at Kaiteriteri, at sun set and it was cold on my hands and hard to get it done well with gloves on.  The tide was out and a fish had gotten itself stranded in the pools.  Initially, I thought it was a shark I had found (it was on it’s back), so I called people over and we attempted a rescue because it’s gills were still moving.  It was not a shark.  It looked like a catfish was it was righted.  I will upload those pics as well.

Yesterday, we pulled into a town that on a Saturday had all the stores shut up tight.  There was a local rugby game going on, so I took it in and then found myself watching VHS movie in the common room–Zoolander, always good for a laugh.  Then I took in a local band–interesting.

Today we have spent it hiking and viewing the ocean.  Hopefully, the pictures turned out.  I am charging my phone now as it is out of juice….tomorrow we head down to Franz Josef Glacier where I will spend a few days–I plan to head to the glacier by helicopter and spend a few hours up there hiking and exploring.

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Wellington–the 3rd capital

I have been here a few nights now.  Yesterday I went to the Museum to learn more about the country and it’s people.  The Polynesians settled here and then treaty’s were put in place by the British and since then there has been much deforestation and consequently much of the areas lush forests have been depleted.  The ferns grow here to the heights of palm trees and their branches droop over forming an umbrella.  Now this leaves them all wondering about sustainability.  Like everywhere!

I then navigated through the streets with the help from James and Kate.  Up the cable car we went for the views over the city and a stroll through the Botanical gardens–it’s winter and not much in bloom.  The cable museum had some interesting videos playing–there are people living on the hillside that have their own private cable cars–they were reminising about their close calls–like when the car plummeted to the bottom with the dog and person both thrown! 

Tomorrow I leave Wellington, cross on the ferry to the South Island.  I am not sure of the stops that I make on the northern west coast first, but the ones I am looking forward to are Franz Joseph Glacier and Queenstown.  The glacier has receded so much that it is no longer safe for people to walk the bottom portion due to cracks and it is not there!  There is the opportunity to take the helicopter up to the top and walk around.  There is also another glacier in the area that is suppose to be good to see–Fox Glacier.  I will wait and see which one I go to.  The real highlight there for me will be Milford Sound–the pictures remind me of British Columbia.

Nienhuis–listen up…..we are getting our geek on….Lord of the Rings tour to filming sights around Wellington this afternoon.  I will upload photos to facebook later. I am not sure just what parts of the movies were filmed in these here parts….more on that later.

Hopefully, I can get some sketching in today as well.  I will take along the book and see what comes of it.  I guess it just depends on the amount of time that we stop at each spot.  The weather is cloudy/sunny and I don’t think there is a chance of rain.

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Taupe–pronounced toe–paw

The pace has slowed considerably here–an opportunity to chill.  We arrived yesterday and the sky dive was cancelled as it was again today.  There will be other chances along the way, but no other chance for the 8 hour trek through Mordor and Mt. Doom, that was also cancelled.  Did laundry and read, and shopped around a bit as it was raining out and foggy as well.

NZ is an interesting country–here are some little known facts.  There are more cows here than people.  The milking industry is now larger than the sheep industry.  Here they also grow Pine trees as a renewable resource.  It only takes a pine tree 25 years to grow here whereas it takes 75 in Canada.  Houses are made of wood and aren’t our cookie cutter style of suburbs.  They export their wood as well, which is mostly plywood style.

I have found more gluten free products here than anywhere.  I was in a cafe called the Crazee Cow and I asked about gluten free–I had a BLT on bread that was soooo delicious!  From there I took away–bacon & spinach muffin (surprisingly yummy), carrot cake, cookies and then in the same town the grocery store had a whole aisle of products!  This small town had only a couple of people that needed gluten free.  I am going to have to try and get some gluten-free recipes.  Tonight I enjoyed a peanut butter sandwich on the best bread ever for gluten free…I’m gaining weight, what with all this product.

The New Zealanders are a proud group that support their teams–especially the All Black.  There is much around about the Olympics as well.  We are back on the bus tomorrow to head further south, but not all the way to Wellington.  We arrive in Wellington mid-week and I leave again I think this Friday.  Hoping to take in a Rugby game…would be great to see the All Blacks play.

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Trying on the I-phone

Have been busy hiking twice, once where the gold mining use to occur. Felt like singing , hi hoe like the dwarfs from Snow White through tunnels and darkness. Then this morning over the caves I rafted through yesterday.

Those of you who know me well, won’t believe this, but I went bare foot to sea kayak–freezing by the end! And hold on–black water rafting. On a winter day outside, I stepped into a wet, cold wet suit! Then spent 3 hours making my way through the caves, complete with water falls, glow worms ( fancy name for maggots), and surprises. I even took my glasses off! Could hardly see the next turn. At night we dug into the beach at low tide to expose hot water (7:00) pm.  I only was brave enough to dip my feet…others were all in!

Today we headed over to Rotarua to luge. Now am finding free wi-fi before heading to the Polynesian Spa to finally warm up in the hot pools.  Rotarua is a hot bed of thermal activity.  It has been two weeks of travel now–and I have been a little frightened each day by something, usually the activities. I am learning more about living the life of hostel living–always something new to carve out and gaining an understanding of the Kiwi language and so far it has all been….”sweet as”

Nienhuis, perk up…I was to be doing an 8 hour hike in a couple of days along the route to Mordor and Mt. Doom.  This activity has already been cancelled because it is expected to rain in two days time.  Unfortunately, we will miss out on this leg of the “Rings” tour.  However, the caves I was in the other day were where part of the filming of the upcoming Hobbit was filmed.

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Back in Aukland

Well , the bus took me North to Bay of Islands.  Really a gorgeous couple of days.  I had planned to sail today; however, I was the only one wanting to. They need two people to allow the boat to sail.  A huge disappointment since it has been so long snce I have sailed.  And the weather would have been condusive to great sailing.

Yesterday I went out on a boat tour and saw the many islands.  Some privately owned and others uninhabited.  I saw the black rock islands that have formed in columns of which there are only three like these in the world–here, Galapogus Islands and Ireland.  Impressive!

We actually road the boat through a Hole in a Rock.  It was really more like a ride than a straight drive through.  It took three tries to get the right rhythme of the waves and currents and it seems as though we just squeezed through.  They weren’t kidding when they said hang on.  Only rock like it in the world.

We hung with a pod of dolphins and later Lena and I headed over to Russell Island.  Which isn’t even an island, it is part of the main land.  Go figure!  It was the first place settled in NZ by the Europeans.  They were at war with the Mauri’s and settled and thus began the debauchery which later allowed the capital of NZ to be known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific.  It has been cleaned up and is a quaint place now.  It boasts the first church of the NZ and is still functioning as part of the community.  They welcome all in and are a trusting community to have their doors wide open all day long.  The capital of NZ then moved further south to Aukland and even further south to Wellington, which continues to be the capital.

Today since my sailing was cancelled I re-booked my trip back to Aukland and spent the morning lazing around with Julia–I sketched and lay in the sun reading my Kobo.  I noticed that Julia had her Kobo out–I asked her what she did when her pages kept returning to previous pages and she said they don’t.  I explained that my did and showed her how I was “turning” pages.  Apparently, I just need to touch the edges on the side of the direction I want to go.  Duh!

When I find a free Wi Fi situation I am going to try to upload? download? my photos from my phone to Facebook because apparently that is the way I will need to do it until I am back on my own computer.  Look for this sometime……

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Aukland at a Glance

Wish I were more techie and able to load some photos for you.  There is clearly much I need to learn about travelling and much I have learned already.  Being that I am still on Figi time I was awoken this morning at the Nomads Hostel by Housekeeping.  It was 10:00 am.  Check out time 10:00am.  I bought a watch in order to correct this problem, hopefully.

I began the day with breakfast.  What I thought I ordered and what arrived were three entirely different things.  Thank goodness for understanding as I was unable to eat any of the two meals that arrived for me.  Breakfast was scaled back and it was great to have real coffee again.

My stomach is still churning from something in Figi.  Leave it to me to get sick when there is no gluten involved.  There was something in the dish that just didn’t agree.  I have started taking in a bit more food, however I eat smaller and less often.  I wish I were able to handle any and all food and drink.

I headed up to the waterfront and was struck by the common sense approach involved with the planning.  There is a huge shipping industry that does not stand out because the surrounding buildings, sculpture, restaurants and shops stand out.  AS do the sailboats and harbours.  The shipping containers have been used in different forms–ATM machines, stacked with TVs at the top to view, kids hang out areas.  Toronto planners should be spending a bit of time here.

I took the ferry over to the island of vinyards–Waiheke.  I toured around the island that is home to many people that had places build and have never lived in them.  Imagine being able to dispose of that kind of income!  The beaches are long and sandy, the scenary breathtaking, and the feeling one could live there is ever present.

The weather today was perfect.  More like our warm fall days or early springs.  It usually rains this time of year–none today.  I believe I am getting my sea legs as I have spent more time on water than land this past week.  In Figi,  days 1, 3 and 5, found me spending hours shuttling (on the Cheetah) from one island to another for hours at a time.  Then small boats for excursions and to and from the Cheetah. 

Mom, I brought along the small afgan you crocheted for me and it has come in seriously handy.  On all the flights, last night as it was cold and when I was waiting for my luggage to arrive in Figi it doubled as my towel and blanket.  Super size and ever practical!  Thanks.

Tomorrow I head out on the Kiwi Experience. I have no idea whether I am heading North or South.  I will be on a bus provided I have set my alarm correctly on this new watch.  Chances being as they are I have had someone else set it for me, just to be sure…..

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I arrived in Aukland

Today I flew to Aukland and have already got a house mate…some sort of bug, which I have a photo of for those of you who are interested.

On the flight I sat beside a couple who are from China and studying in Aukland.  After the flight, we ran into each other again on the bus ride in.  Moe, you had your picture taken at this point and some how in your excitement you broke your left arm!  I am spending tonight and tomorrow here seeing the sights and I get the Kiwi bus on Monday morning at 7:15, so I best be off Figi time by then.  I will miss Bachlorette again!  Thanks for the updates, Alex.  Chris was my pick so I am out of the money.

I am at Nomads on Fort Street, one of the larger hostiles. There seems to be much to do around the city, including ferrying across to smaller islands.  I have already walked the main street–Queen.  There is much shopping, restaurants and general interest stores.  I had a gluten free bun (that was the largest and best tasting I’ve ever had) filled with bacon, lettuce and tomatoe.  Meat is back on the menu!

The weather has cooled of considerably since Figi.  I am stubbornly sticking to my shorts as I only have a small supply of pants, so I am holding out for the real cold of the south.  Tonight is actually cold, I think hovering around the zero mark.  I’m glad I went to warm up first before heading here. 


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Welcome in Figi…I tried to upload the sketches that I have from Figi, but no luck.  I am not so computer savy!  I had put myself on Figi time, so life has slowed considerably, so I was able to sketch at length a couple of times.  The sketches are of the rocks meeting the water with the mountains in the background.

Amanda, to answer your question about “wildlife”…..I spider about the size of the palm of my hand was a room mate of mine at Nabua Lodge.  Again, the photo I can’t seem to bring up because I am using the i-phone, which I have never used before.

Posted in Figi | 4 Comments