Sunday, April 11, 2010

Southern Alps - Last Look

Today is our last full day in New Zealand. We met up with Katie's internet friend, Shona and took a nice drive into the Souther Alps. We drove west on National Highway 73 past Porter's Pass, Castle Hill, up to Arthur's Pass and just a little beyond. Now it is time to do a final pack of our luggage in preparation for the flight(s) home tomorrow.

This particular section of the Southern Alps is different from the other areas we saw during our trip. The formations are not as rocky for the most part. By that I mean there are not big jagged peaks of granit. It is pretty no matter how they are formed.

It has wide valleys and ribboned rivers on the east side.

At Castle Hill there is an outcropping of limestone that has been exposed. It was an interesting area with large rocks, and cliffs. It is a very popular area for rock climbers.

At the village of Arthur's Pass we looked at some of the history of the road across this section of the mountains. For many years the road was very steep and twisty. There also was a time period when the railroad did not go all the way through. In those days they used a carriage drawn by horses to carry passengers across the pass. It looks like a stage coach of the old US west. It could carry up to 14 passengers at a time.

The road was so twisty with tight turns that small semi's could not negotiate the turns without having to back-up in the middle. But the problems was solved with the construction of a long viaduct which has vastly improved the road.

There is even a section where they by passed a stream over the road and have built a roof over an adjacent section for protection from falling rocks.

This will be our next to last blog entry. After we get home, I'll make one more entry to let you all know we made it home OK and try to summarize our trip.

I do hope you all have enjoyed this as much as I have in writing it.

See you next in the US

Saturday, April 10, 2010


We had a fun time in Christchurch today. This is a really nice city with lots of fun things to do and see. We just didn't have enough time to do it all.

Since today was Saturday and it was a pleasant and sunny day, there were lots of people out enjoying the day. We saw at least three craft markets in different areas of the city. There are many parks through out the city.

The Avon river flows though many of the parks and sections of down town. One of the fun things you can do is to ride a punt along the river. We didn't try this but it looks like fun.

There are bronze statues and plaques throughout a lot of the parks. The next picture is an example and commorates the winning of New Zeland women's right to vote. It is interesting to note that New Zealand women got the vote before women in the US got the right.

Our main event was learning how to use and then touring parts of the city on a Segway. What fun that was. I can see why they are considered amazing machines. Being able to stand upright on two wheels with no effort is just awesome.

Our tour director took about 30 minutes to go through the operation and gave us some practice. Then we were off, viewing parks, housing areas, rose gardens and a fernery.

The two and a half tour went by very fast.

This evening was our last meal with my sister Sylvia and her husband Roy. They take off tomorrow for the North Island and a continuation of their trip. We have one more day here in Christchurch and New Zealand and then we are off for our long trip back home.

On the menu tonight was:

Lamb Rump

Rib Eye Steak

Pan Fried Gunard (fish)


For dessert we shared:

Three scoops of different flavored ice cream (lime, chocolate, vanilla)

Orange Flan (the orange at the bottom is actually a orange rind shell filled with Orange Sorbet)

Tomorrow we are going to get our last drive through the Southern Alps.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Warrington to Christchurch

When I enter todays subject I realize that our trip is nearing the end. This is the last city we will explore then it of off on four airplanes on Monday to head home. Not really looking forward to the trip for two reasons. One is we have had a really wonderful time here and hate to leave. We can recommend a trip to New Zealand to everyone. The second reason is the it is going to be a very long day............we actually leave on Sunday, US time and arrive in Omaha Monday night.

But we are not there yet. Todays drive was interesting, and probably the longest driving day we have had. We left Warrington shortly after 9:00 AM and got here at the hotel around 5:00 PM. But that included a late breakfast at River Stone Kitchen and a couple of sight seeing stops.

This morning we had our last look at the incoming tide at sun rise from our "batch". It has been really fun to watch the tide come in.

We stopped right after crossing the Waitaki River. At this point the rivers are very wide and often ribboned similar to the Platt. This crossing is about a kilometer from the mouth with the Pacific Ocean. We also got one of our last views of the Southern Alps.

Later we stopped at the Rakaia River where it just comes out of the Rakaia Gorge. As you will see from the pictures at this point the river changes from somewhat of a fast moving current, into the ribboned river of the Eastern flats around Christchurch.

On tonights menu was Sirloin steak, lamb shoulder, and stuffed chicken. Speaking of food, I discussed the presentation of many of the meals we ate. Here are some pictures we have taken. Needless to say we were most impressed not only with the quality of the food but with the presentation.

Lamb Shoulder with jelled mint (not mint jelly)

Pork Loin Roast with Cracklings

Ribeye steak with mushroom sauce

Handmade Licorice with five spice Ice Cream and Cherry and Almond bar.

Tomorrow, amoung other things we are going on a two hour Segway tour of the Avon River and Hagley park in downtown Christchurch.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Albatross, Yellow Eye, Beer & Cadberries

A very busy two days. We have been around to a lot of different places and saw some really interesting sites. Yesterday, was a commune with the animals day, and today was commune with civilization day.

Yesterday we went out to the entrance to the Dunedin harbor. There is a sanctuary there for the Royal Northern Albatross. It required some walking up a rather steep hill, but was well worth the climb to the viewing building. The Royal Northen Albatross has a wing span that is about double that of a persons height. They are very graceful in the air.

During this time of the year they are raising chicks. They are still relatively small, but are growing every day. The chicks are basically bid balls of fuzz, and stick very close to the nest. Mom and Dad are also very busy flying out to sea catching mostly squid that they bring back to the nest to feed their chick. It was fun to watch the process while we were at the viewing site.

The next event for yesterday fulfilled one of my goals for this trip. That was to see penguins in the wild. We went to "The Penguin Place" where we were able to walk around into tunnels, and blinds and view the Yellow Eyed Penguin. We were luck in that there were a number of them around. In one case we were able to approach within 20 feet of a pair.

These penguins are a little smaller than the Emperor that was featured in the movie "March of the Penguins", but are still quite large. They are the third largest penguins. They are solitary and are not communial like all other penguins. As you can see they were beautiful animals.

Today we went into Dunedin and spent the day poking around the center of town.

We took in a tour of the Speight's brewery which included some samples of beer at the end of the tour.

From there we spent some time looking around the Chinese Gardens. Dunedin's sister city is Shanghai. The garden was provided by the people of Shanghai. It is small but very beautiful, and serene.

We ended the day with a tour of the Dunedin Cadberi factory. No pictures from inside the plant, but it was very interesting and resulted in a bagfull of samples. YUM.

Tomorrow we are off for Christchurch and the last few days of our trip. We are looking forward to spending a few days exploring the area.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Invercargill to Dunedin and Train

Well, it has been a couple of days since I undated my blog. The place we are staying in Warrington (just north of Dunedin) doesn't have internet available. It is Wednesday morning as I write this and I am using the internet connection of Sylvia & Roy's friend Chuck here in Warrington. So I have two days of travels to update in this blog.

The weather has been lovely but on the cool to cold side. Monday morning in Invercargill it was cold enough to frost up the car. Of course the rental care did not have any kind if scraper, but we were able to melt it off with the read window defroster and the heater without any major delay. It hasn't been that cold here in the Dunedin area but I sure am glad I brought a sweatshirt along on the trip.

On leaving Invercargill, we drove south into the Catlins area. This is a drive along the southern coast. Most of the sights we off even the local paved road down gravel roads but the sights were beautiful. I guess my statement about being as far south as we would go on the trip wasn't totally true, as we drove down to Slope Point which is the southern most point of the South Island (46 degrees South). There are more southern places, but they are islands that are part of New Zealand, so I guess Slope Point will have to do.

From there we went to Curio Bay and the petrified trees. They are only visible during low tide. We were lucky in that it was low tide when were there.

Then we stopped and took a short walk to view McLean Falls. They are the most spactacular falls in the Catlin area. It was worth the 45 minute walk through forest to see the falls. There are actually two falls. Because it had been raining recently, there was lots of water flowing.

We stopped for lunch at the Whistling Frog. A nice cafe with very good food. I had the sole, and Katie had the fish stew. The owner and his wife were fun to talk to. He is a New Zealander but she is originally from Colorado and we were able to discuss Colorado vs Nebraska rivalry. They had lived in the US for 20 years and decided to move back to New Zealand 10 years ago.

From there we drove past Tahakopa Bay and a beautiful view of the beach enroute to Nugget Point. We were hoping to see penguins here but were there at the wrong time of day. In this season, the penguins are out to sea during the day and only come in during the late afternoon and evening.

It was interesting to look at how the bushes and trees were impacted by the prevailing winds as it came up the hill side. Yes, that is my hand but I needed to block the sun from the lens.

One of the things we have noticed along the way are the hedge rows that often divide fields and are used as wind breaks. At Chuck's, he had cut an opening in the hedge row so I went in and took a picture inside. It is my understanding that you can litterly walk across the tops of the hedges, they are so thick and dense.

On the menu for Monday night was a home cooked meal. I was asked to make a meat loaf (I'm pretty good at it). It was delicious and good to have home cooking after all the resturant meals.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was a full and fun day. We clear weather and a beautiful view from the house we are renting. Then we drove into Dunedin to the train station.

There is an excursion train that you can take. In fact there are two different trains and it is possible to do a connection between them, which involves a bus tour of a working gold mine. What a fun and beautiful day.

We started the day on the Seasider, which follows the East Coast 66 km (41 miles) north to Palmerston. It climbs in places so you get really nice views of the various bays and the Pacific Ocean from the train.

At Palmerston, we got on a bus and drove inland and climed to about 600 meters (1800 feet) and toured the gold mine. The mine is a combination of strip mining and underground mining. As expected there were deep holes in the ground and "ginormous" trucks carrying tons of rock. The amount of gold in the rock is very low.....something on the order of 1 gram of gold per ton of rock, but with the price of gold, it is makes the company a nice profit.

We also went past one of the early processing plants when free (placer) gold could be extracted from the quartz rock simply by crushing the rock.

After the tour we had tea and cake at Stanley's Hotel.

On the drive to catch the Taieri Gorge train back to Dunedin, we came upon a flock of sheep in the road. It was fun to watch the dogs clear the road for us to pass.

The Tairi Gorge train pass through the gorge with the same name. What a wonderfully scenic spot. Every bend in the track and spactacular views. I included just a couple of the 160 pictures I took yesterday.

On the menu last night was Tarikihi (a fish similar to cod), Pueau (a type of Abiloni), and Blue Cod. I need to take my camera to dinner one of these evenings because to presentation of the meals we have is scenic just by itself.

Today, we are off to see some of Dunedit, Albetross, and will continue the quest to see penguins in the wild. Because of the availability of the internet, it may be a couple more days before I get a chance to update the blog again. Keep checking.......I will be back.