Pppppppick up a Penguin….23/1/19

 

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If you aren’t over 35 and from the UK the above probably means nothing to you…. but there are two types of Penguin in my world, one is about two and a half inches long and comprises of two rectangle chocolate biscuits stuck together with chocolate cream and then covered in chocolate and the other are short and feathered and waddle a lot.  I was going to say that they are also black and white but that is not the case as the four that we have seen over here have all been Little Blue Penguins, one loner just as we were leaving Wellington contemplating what the ferry was doing in his waters, one chilling out in Doubtful Sounds mid afternoon and now two more coming back to their nests in the rocks at Timaru – well, to be fair one went to his nest and the other decided to hang around on the beach for a while having a little clean and waddle but I am sure he found his nest after we left!

We left Lake Tekapo and headed to Timaru with the hope that we would get to see Penguins but it is getting towards the end of their nesting season as the chicks are getting bigger and the parents are now getting into the period where they shed feathers and therefore don’t go out to sea.  We set out just before 9pm and sunset was at 9:22pm and the first penguin came in riding the waves just after 10pm.  We were really lucky as they were only a few feet away from us – very, very cute. The little blue penguins grow to a maximum height of 40cm and weigh less than 1kg but they can swim up to 25km at a time and go at up to 6kph underwater …. pretty cool little things!

We stayed one night in Timaru at the RSA club so we could catch up on washing, get our last shop in and of course ppppick up a penguin…. not really, although it was good to see them!

Leaving Timaru in the morning we did a slight detour via a small town called Geraldine as it is known for being a bit of a foodie area.  Very pretty, considering that pretty much everything from Timaru feels like an extension of Christchurch, built up all the way along the main highway.  We managed to buy some more cheese but held back on the Barkers jams and preserves – although they were delicious – as we just wouldn’t get through them in the next few days.

After rejoining the main highway again we continued to trawl through industrial areas until we were about 15km South of Christchurch when we arrived at the NZMCA.  We decided to use it as a quick stopover to check out the facilities (as we had heard there was a washing machine) as we were planning on spending the last night or two here before we hand Ava back.

Needless to say that the washing machine has disappeared…. although there is a dryer.  I am guessing that it broke and they have decided not to replace it – ah well.  It is a lovely site with all the other facilities and we had a lovely BBQ with homemade Burgers … so not going to complain.

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As it rained overnight it was very grey and overcast in the morning but we were still able to get on and do our normal routine before heading off to The Banks Peninsula and Akaroa.  As we drive towards the peninsula we did question our sanity as you could barely see it, thankfully however we continued and as the journey went on the sun came out and the cloud started to lift.  Akaroa was settled in by the French starting in 1840 and the French still have an influence on the shops and restaurants.  We had planned to have a walk round the town and bay before heading back to Little River for the night but as it is such a pretty little place and we found a lovely route to walk on Saturday, we decided to stay as they have a Freedom Camping area which amazingly had space.

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After a very warm night I had a run along past the lighthouse tussling with a few of the Cruise ship passengers who had arrived on the early boat whilst Keith did some exercise back at the van before heading in to Akaroa to have a look at the Saturday morning market.  It was small but very French and probably the best pastries we have seen in the last few weeks …. not including the Carrot cake at the top of Mount John!

Not in the market for additional food – really hard with only two nights left in the motorhome – we put on our walking shoes and headed up the big hill in the middle of the peninsula.  The route was called the ‘Around the Mountain Curry Route’ and I am sad to say that there wasn’t any curry in sight but it was a steep climb for a couple of hours to get to the summit where the views were fantastic.  A lovely 11km circular route taking in both sides of the peninsula although the legs were definitely feeling the 750m climb on the way back down… especially after this mornings run!

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Back at the motorhome we packed everything up and headed back to the NZMCA in Christchurch via the scenic route which was absolutely stunning.  The road was narrow and it worked its way along the ridge (where we had walked in the morning) and then back around the bottom of the inlet before winding back towards the mainland.  We arrived back at the site just after 5 and although it was pretty full we managed to find a space and settle in for the evening where we had a spectacular sunset disappearing behind the rest of the motorhomes.

Waking up to a lovely morning we set to our tasks after breakfast, it was always going to be a day of ‘chores’ so we headed out to give Ava a good scrub at the car wash before coming back to empty the cupboards and do the same inside.  It is fair to say that she was sparkly … or maybe that was just relative as she has been a bit dirty recently!  However as we settled down to a glass of wine and a beer just after 6pm we were pretty satisfied that 95% of things were packed and about 80% of Ava cleaned… the rest to be finished in the morning.

Our last supper in Ava was a butterfly shoulder of lamb with a mixed bean salad as well as a corgette salad…. not a bad way to end the trip!

Where did the last twelve weeks go?  It is difficult to believe that the time to give Ava back has come round so quickly but waking on Monday morning I set off for a run whilst Keith did his exercises, showered, breakfasted and finished off the last bit of packing and cleaning.  I haven’t ever worked out how things take so long, thinking that we had done most of the work yesterday it surprisingly took us another two hours to sort out the last bits before we were ready to go to the airport and pick up Tracey and Geoff and say our goodbyes to Ava.

With everything handed over we headed into our Airbnb and Geoff an Tracey to a campsite with a rendezvous at 18:30 at the Little High Eatery.

Our Airbnb is in a new apartment block which is fairly central and was probably built as a two bed apartment and split.  So we have a room and en-suite bathroom, all perfectly formed and clean and tidy … it possibly just would have been nicer to have a bigger window that let more air in as the temperature has just decided to take a hike and it was sweltering in the room.

We headed out for a quick look around so we could work out where we were and buy some bits before wondering over to our rendezvous.

The Little High Eatery is a group of 8 or so restaurants who share an old warehouse, all of which looked like they were decent quality and the clientele certainly thought it was worth a go as it was buzzing.  After a quick drink, Keith and I ended up with two enormous burgers with a variety of fillings (it is fair to say that there was a lot of bacon), accompanied by Deep Fried Cauliflower in maple syrup – yep, sounds very odd but it was actually very good – and chips. Geoff and Tracey opted for some Dumplings and deep fried squid – so a real variety, all of which was delicious.

It was lovely to catch up with Geoff and Tracey over dinner and it is good to see that they are ready to take on the South Island where we left off.  It’s going to be really interesting now watching from the other side and seeing where they go and what they do.  All we can hope is that they have as a fantastic time as we have had and find Ava as comfortable as we have …. as ironically we have actually spent more time in her than they have!

I’d like to say we woke, but I am not sure there was a lot of preceding sleep so, we got up and I went for a tired run along the river and round Hagley Park whilst Keith did some ‘hotel room’ exercise.  It is weird how you get used to things as whilst having a shower and running the taps in the bathroom I was waiting for the water pump to kick in ….. obviously been living in a motorhome too long now!

Dull as it is, as the room had a washing machine and dryer we decided to put a load on before heading out and exploring Christchurch a bit further than our quick walk yesterday afternoon.  I hadn’t really thought about what we were expecting although I had heard from my mum that it was still ‘work in progress’ following the horrific earthquake that they had in 2011, although we were pleasantly surprised by the feel of the place.  There are still a lot of buildings in ruins and even more under construction but those that are complete look fantastic and the city itself is doing its best to be modern and provide lots of green space for living.

Like Dunedin, there is a lot of street art which brightens up some of the derelict buildings, some of it is disappearing as they rebuild though.

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The main Cathedral below has been going through a court case which was only resolved in 2017.  The Anglican Church had decided that it wanted to destroy the building and start again rather than reconstruct on top of the bits that were still stable – something the government is highly opposed to and the insurers wouldn’t pay for ….. reconstruction has now started but looking at the site below, if this is where they have got to in 16 months,  it isn’t going to happen any time soon!

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The building below however is the ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ which was the ‘pop up’ replacement…. and yes, it really is made of cardboard underneath!  There are 86 Cardboard tubes, each weighing 500kg sitting on top of containers …. a common theme in Christchurch!

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Behind the Cardboard Cathedral you can find the memorial to the people who died in the earthquake – a chair for each person – nothing fancy but it delivers quite an impact when all the other buildings around have been raised to the ground.

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Whilst walking through the city and soaking up the history we felt it necessary to indulge in the up and coming businesses of Christchurch and go find the Gelato Cafe that we fell upon the day before – Rollickin’ Gelato Cafe, probably the best Gelato that we have had outside Italy – delicious!

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It is fair to say that we haven’t been disappointed by the food in New Zealand, despite it being more expensive over here, everything we have tried has been of high quality and full of flavour.

Now at the end of our 12.5 weeks it is great to see our little map of where we have been …. including a few loop the loops!  We have had a fantastic time and we have even left a few bits to come back and do next time!

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Now, with 24 hours of flight ahead of us and temperatures falling below zero in the UK we are ready to get back to Hattie and start thinking about our next trip…..

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Feeling humbled…. 15/1/19

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With blues skies and sunshine we set off towards Mount Cook, although it seemed to want to hide behind the clouds – it felt like the closer we got, the cloudier and greyer it became.

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On arriving at Mount Cook Village, we parked up at the White Horse Hill DOC Campground ($13 pppn) and looked up towards the glaciers and mountains around us! After lunch and loaded up with energy we set off on the walk to Hooker Valley Lake.  It is a fairly easy walk of 5km each way on a good path which unfortunately meant that it was fairly busy.

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Despite the greyness and Gale force winds, the views were beautiful leading us to an unexpected sight….

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Mount Cook Glacier comes all the way down to the end of the lake.  It is difficult to see in the photos as the ice is black but the large lumps in the lake are bits of glacier that have broken away – an absolutely incredible sight.

Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, not sure which would have been best – we didn’t see any movement whilst we were there, although they do say that there are avalanches pretty much all the time you just have to listen out for them.

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A sight I could have looked at all day but without all the other people, so we didn’t stay too long, heading back down to Ava.  We timed it perfectly as no sooner had we arrived back to the campsite, the skies opened, leaving us to settle into the evening with Gale Force winds and spurts of rain…. but you still couldn’t deny that the views out the back of the motorhome were pretty impressive.

We woke to strong winds and rain again but bit the bullet and I went out for a run whilst Keith did his exercises inside!  Probably one of the hardest runs I have had in a while possibly due to the altitude or maybe just the Gale Force winds against me on the last 2km stretch…. I felt like I wasn’t moving!!

The rain and wind were pretty localised around the campsite so after a short walk to the Kea lookout point – the views yesterday were far better – we headed a little way down the road to find the sunshine and ‘The Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier walk’.

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Once again, we were blown away by the views.  A mixture of the Mount Cook lower peak (on the left) and the Tasman Glacier, which again came all the way down to join the lake and the parts that had broken off.  This time we were also able to walk out to where the river joined the lake and we had it pretty much to ourselves.

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Feeling a little humble, we ate our lunch and then headed back towards the bottom of Lake Tasman where we parked up for the night in another spot with spectacular views looking back up at Mount Cook.

We chose this spot to be the base for some more walking so after a quick cup of tea, we headed up the hill to the Pukaki Kettle Hole Track, a short walk (5km circuit) but very beautiful.

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As the evening set in the area we were parked up in got busier and busier with campervans, cars (which pretend to be self contained) and tents squeezing into every available space.  I guess it is of no surprise really as the views were incredible and it was free, thankfully no-one blocked our views and the night was peaceful even though the van that parked immediately behind us had a very young baby in it.

We woke to a cloudy morning and a nice temperature (around 11 degrees) for a run and exercise.  Both were enjoyable despite being watched by surrounding neighbours who obviously thought we were very strange and possibly slightly mad… we are used to it now.

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By the time we were showered and breakfasted the clouds had started to lift and the sun had come out as we set off Northwards on the Te Araroa path, another lovely 12.5km each way with yet another beautiful spot for our lunch.

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Conscious that you are probably bored of beautiful photos of Mt Cook we hit the road again, moving all of 40km further North East to Lake Tekapo to empty and refill the tanks before finding a little spot at the NZMCA which is in the forest right on the lake ….. not too bad if we don’t say so ourselves….

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Lake Tekapo – or more specifically, the 430,000 Hectares of the skies above Lake Tekapo  – are defined as the Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, one of only four of its kind in the world and on Saturday night we were lucky enough to have beautiful clear skies which were alight with a mass of stars – absolutely amazing.

After a good nights sleep we set off into Lake Tekapo village for a look around and an interim stock up of the food cupboards.  The village is tiny with only around 400 inhabitants, although there are a lot of new houses being built mostly populated by tourists as the village offers access to ski-ing in the winter and water sports and hiking in the summer.  It does however have the compulsary five cafe’s, a Chinese restaurant and a reasonable four square supermarket…. we passed on the Chinese restaurant but along with the supermarket, found a cafe to suit our needs!

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Passing briefly by the ‘Church of the Good Shepherd’ (above), which probably is one of the most picturesque churches I have ever seen, we headed back to the motorhome before the skies opened, enabling us to have a few quiet hours of catch up.  By 4:30pm it was all clear though, so we set off around the Cowan’s Hill Walkway which is a lovely 4km circuit along the lake shore and up above the village, providing beautiful views…. you would never have guessed that it was tipping it down half an hour beforehand.

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The cloud came back in later in the evening and it absolutely chucked it down overnight with the temperature also dropping to 8 degrees leaving us with a grey, cloudy, cooler start to the day.  Instead of going up high, we opted to do a lower level walk along the eastern shoreline which was also part of the Te Araroa track, a lovely peaceful 25km walk there and back…. with a few Merino sheep for company along the way.

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The sun eventually pushed its way through the cloud and by about 5pm we were properly warmed, enough to leave the door open for a bit…. we shouldn’t complain, we are at 710m altitude.

Last night was another clear night with an amazing sky, when you are blessed with something as beautiful as that you don’t mind the temperature dropping dramatically overnight and to be fair, this morning it was sunny and about 10 degrees by 8am, so not too bad really!

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After a nice run (Me) and a bit of exercise (Keith), we headed round the shoreline to walk up Mt John.  Mt John is a hill which sits at just over 1000m on the edge of Lake Tekapo.  It hosts the Observatory and also has a lovely cafe at the top with beautiful views.

We walked up the short steep route, around the summit and then came back down along the shoreline – a lovely walk, taking in some fantastic views over the whole area.

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With less than a week until we give the motorhome back, tomorrow we leave the mountains and head back to the coast.  For me, this last week has probably been the most diverse and stunning so far, although each and every week has brought different scenary and experiences – all of which have been fantastic….. hopefully the next – and last – week in New Zealand will have its own surprises!

 

Clocking up the miles – by foot… 9/1/19

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As expected, it was a quiet New Year’s Eve.  If there were fireworks at mid-night in Dunedin we didn’t hear them from where we were …. all we heard was the most amazing birdsong when we woke in the morning – very peaceful.

We set off into Dunedin staying on the coastal road this time and the skies were blue and mostly clear so we could actually see where we were going which helped!

We headed to the NZMCA site which was on the North side of the city, stopping briefly to do some washing and empty/refill the tanks as the facilities at the site were unfortunately out of order.  As the sun was shining we thought we would head into town to stretch our and find the tourist office to get some more information on the next part we are about to travel. Whilst looking through the information on Dunedin we came across a walking tour for the ‘Town Belt’ which contained three routes mostly in the parks that ran along the edge of the city ontop of the hill.  With nothing else planned we headed off to join two of them together as between them, they took us up and around and then quite conveniently back to the motorhome…. a lovely ‘skyline’ walk taking in a lot of sites and parks that we wouldn’t have normally seen.

After a hot and humid night and with most things still closed we headed back into Dunedin to do a bit of shopping and follow the ‘Street Art Trail’.

The ‘Street Art’ was incredible with pieces distributed all over the city both large and small. Our favourite was hard to select but I think we both agreed on the eagle above which unfortunately was being slightly hidden by a lorry.  It looks like it is made of metal and when you are up close, it appears to be coming out of the wall at you.

The Street Art was very varied with talented artists from around the world contributing, something that I think most cities should think about doing as not only is it interesting, it also stops the nasty graffiti on the side of buildings.  I think it is fair to say that we liked Dunedin, although I can’t see the relationship with Edinburgh personally ….

After our normal morning routine we hit the road again and headed North up the coast aiming to get to Moeraki to see the Boulders before the tide was fully in and covered them up completely.  They are natural concretions formed over millions of years underneath the sea, slowly being revealed by uplift and then subsequent erosion of the sandstone – strange that they are only visible in one small spot here though….

Unfortunately, as the Moeraki Boulders were only just off Highway 1 the place was really busy so after some quick photos, we jumped back into Ava working our way just a little further up the coast to Oamaru.

Oamaru is an odd town but we were pleasantly surprised.  I had added it to the list of places to stop because of the Penguins – no surprise there then – although I have given up on trying to see any more as the only way it looks like I would get to see them would be at dusk (currently around 21:45 here) in an artificial environment set up for tourists which isn’t really the same…. may as well go to the Zoo!

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However, having parked up at the A&P Showground (another NZMCA site), we wondered into town via the Whitestone Cheese Co…. lots of lovely cheese (both Goat’s and Cow’s milk) including Blue, Cheddar, Brie, Camembert and Haloumi. We bought some Windsor Blue, which was melt in the mouth and some Brie, coming away from there deciding that other Cheese manufacturers should have a similar set up where you can do tastings, buy cheese boards with wine or just have a Cheese Roll or two with a coffee.  Unfortunately it was the wrong time of day or we would have given the Cheese Rolls – which are apparently a delicacy over here – a go.  For those of you like us who think of a Cheese Roll as a Bread Roll with a slab of Cheddar in the middle – think again.  Each recipe is I am sure different, however the concept is a mixture of cream and strong cheddar melted together to make a warm paste which is then spread on a slice of bread and then in this case, covered in fried onions.  The bread is then rolled and toasted to make it slightly crispy.  We haven’t seen anyone eating one either but will let you know if we come accross one or actually get to try one!  Cheese rolls aside, we had a nice walk round town and out past the steam train and the Steam Punk museum to the Penguin sanctuary.

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We both headed out for a run in the morning before setting off inland once again towards the mountains.  The route we had decided to take was up through the Waitaki valley with our first stop being the Elephant Rocks just outside Duntroon.

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The Elephant Rocks were formed in the same way as the Moeraki Boulders but in addition to the rock formations, the area is also known for its preservation of fossils. It is just unfortunate that there isn’t anything else left in the village of Duntroon to attract people though as the hotel and cafe are long gone and the Vanished World Heritage Center looks like it may be at the point of no return.

Back in Ava and we continued on our route for another 20km or so until we got to Kurow, where we stopped for lunch and headed up the hill to get some great views over the valley.

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It was a steep walk up but well worth it and someone had even carried arm chairs up the path to provide a breather along the way should we have needed one!

On the road again and another 25km up the road we pulled off at Lake Benmore to do the circular peninsular walk – well worth the little detour!

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The route was only 4km and it started by the dam, heading up into the Pine and Eucalyptus forest without any views, however roughly half way round and the trees parted to give way to beautiful views out towards Mount Cook.

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Feeling satisfied with a good couple of walks we headed on to find a place to stop for the night, settling on a DOC nestled between Lake Middleton and Lake Ohau.  The DOC site ($8 pppn) was really busy with lots of families who looked like they were staying the whole summer and a handful of walkers who were doing a one night stop before they continued on the Te Araroa (The long pathway walk that goes from the Northern most tip to the Southern most tip of New Zealand) as well as lots of people water ski-ing and Kayaaking.

We had come here to walk part of the Te Araroa track, so after a shorter run with stunning views of a snow capped Mt Cook at the end of the Turquoise Ohau lake, we headed South East on the trail completing a good 25km walk.  Unfortunately the clouds came in late morning and consumed the mountains so views were limited, hence no photos.

With the forecast showing a day of rain on Sunday we decided to move into Twizel on Saturday afternoon, heading to the Combined Serviceman’s club where we could settle for a few days walking and get some blue cod and chips for dinner…. note to selves that even ‘we’ don’t need 2 scoops of chips between us …..that’s a lot of potato!

We managed to get out before the weather broke on Sunday morning and walked out to the Salmon farm on the edge of town where we bought both some fresh salmon for dinner and smoked salmon for a few lunches – they even prepare Sashimi which was really impressive – my nephew would have had a field day, well worth a visit if passing by.

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Sunday’s rain cleared some of the mugginess and we woke to low cloud and fresh air, both of which disappeared pretty quickly leaving us with 25+ degrees and sunshine for a lovely walk down Twizel River  ….. just over 24km there and back, once again not particularly good for photos but the views of Mount Cook on the return leg were pretty impressive.

After fighting off the morning sandflies we hit the Te Araroa trail again heading towards Lake Pukaki and we were pleasantly surprised by the views from our half way picnic point… another lovely 24km round trip – we could have stayed sitting looking at that view for ages!

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With one last day in Twizel, today we set off on the Te Araroa Trail in the other direction – back towards Lake Ohau where we were last Friday/Saturday.   Another lovely days walking mostly by a lake …. It is difficult to believe that we will be on the plane home in two weeks time – time is flying by!