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New Zealand Foods

One of the pleasures of visiting New Zealand was trying new foods. Here are some of our favorites.

Favorite dinners: fish & chips and meat pies

When we didn't feel like cooking, we liked to order fish & chips at a takeaway store. We would place an order for two pieces of battered fish and share a scoop of chips (french fries). The takeaway stores offered a few varieties of fish, and since we had no idea what they were, we would just order the catch of the day.

We tried meat pies for quick and easy meals. We found them ready made in the deli section of the grocery store. Varieties included bacon and egg, steak and cheese, and mince and cheese.

Favorite beverage: L&P soda

L & P

We were introduced to L&P when we were offered a drink on the shuttle bus ride back from our Tongario Alpine Crossing hike. L&P is an abbreviation for “Lemon & Paeroa.” It tastes like Sprite, but has a more lemony and sweet flavor. We had wanted to buy bottled ice tea, which we found on the first day in Thames, but we never found it after that first day.

Favorite snacks: Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slices and Whittaker's Chocolate

Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slices are snack bars that come in a variety of flavors. We liked the following (descriptions are copied from the website):

  • Afghan Baked Oaty Slice: A soft, baked bar with the goodness of oats combined with yummy dark chocolate, cornflakes and walnuts
  • Chocolate Orange Baked Oaty Slice: A soft, baked bar with the goodness of oats combined with real dark chocolate pieces and delicious orange pieces
  • Chocolate Chip Baked Oaty Slice: A soft, baked bar with the goodness of oats combined chunks of real dark chocolate

Whittaker's Chocolate comes in 250 gram slabs and a chunk or two was a great treat to snack on in the evening or in the car after coming back from a hike. Heinrich liked the Dark Chocolate and I liked the Rum and Raisin flavor.

Favorite desserts: steamy puds and ice cream

We found Aunt Betty's Steamy Puds in the grocery store on our first day in New Zealand and continued to buy them throughout the trip. They are ready to eat after just 30 seconds in the microwave. They are soft sponge cakes topped with a sweet sauce. We tried the following flavors (descriptions copied from the website):

  • Chocolate: a light sponge made from premium cocoa and smothered in a thick chocolate flavored sauce
  • Golden Syrup: a light sponge smothered in a rich golden syrup sauce
  • Strawberry Vanilla: a light vanilla sponge topped with real strawberry sauce
Orange Chocolate Ice Cream

We tried the Tip Top orange chocolate chip ice cream at a food booth in Hahei, after we had visited Cathedral Cove on the hike back to our car. We bought it at the grocery store on a few occasions afterwards.

Worst food: Marmite


We got the pleasure of trying Marmite at one of the B & B places where it was served for breakfast. The taste is very strong and reminded us of dehydrated soy sauce. It is a food paste made of yeast extract combined with herbs and spices. It is usually eaten with bread or crackers and is supposed to be spread thinly and then layered with butter. It must be an acquired taste because we both found it to be inedible.

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New Zealand English

Although the primary language of New Zealand is English, it definitely has a different flavor (or flavour as it is spelled there) than in the United States. So to keep you from scratching your head and saying "huh?" if you go there to visit, I have compiled a list of some of the local phrases we encountered and had to learn their meanings while in New Zealand.

  • A hike is a tramp.
  • A trail is a track.
  • The forest is the bush.
  • A flashlight is a torch.
  • Flip-flops are jandals.
  • Swimwear are togs.
  • Diapers are nappies.
  • A cooler is a chilly bin.
  • A shopping cart is a trolley.
  • A shopping cart return area is a trolley park.
  • Ketchup is tomato sauce.
  • But tomato sauce is also tomato sauce. Go figure!
  • A sweet potato is kumara.
  • A red pepper is capsicum.
  • Ground beef is minced.
  • You go to a takeaway store to order take out food.
  • A convenience store is a dairy.
  • A city park is a domain.
  • A parking lot is a car park.
  • To yield is to give way.
  • A turnout is a slow vehicle bay.
  • A paved road is a sealed road.
  • A gravel road is an unsealed road.
  • A graded gravel road can also be called a metaled road.
  • Gasoline is petrol.
  • 91 petrol (unleaded) is dispensed from the green pump. Diesel is black. Don't confuse the two!

And my favorite:

  • Something that is cool or awesome is Sweet As!

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Day 36 The Long Way Home

February 21, 2019

We got up at 6 AM, ate some of the remaining food for breakfast, and packed the rest of our luggage. The weather was mostly clear, and Heinrich told me to look outside. The just past full moon was in the center of a block of pink fluffy clouds. It was really pretty.

Full Moon in the Clouds

We walked over to the shared kitchen where there was a table for free items that people were leaving. We dropped off our chilly bin and ice blocks, remaining paper plates and silverware, pillows and condiments. Hopefully they will find a good home with someone. They served their purpose well for 35 days.

Free Stuff

We found a BP gas station to use for the final fill close to the airport. But on the drive over, the gas gauge suddenly indicated it was full! So we skipped stopping at the gas station and I drove directly to the Ace Rental Car return. It was an easy 10-minute drive from the holiday park, although traffic was a bit slow due to the morning commuters. We did not have to go into the city at all.

The rental car return was very fast. The lady at the counter didn’t check anything and just asked us to leave the keys in the car. We boarded the shuttle bus to the airport. We weighed our checked bags and found we were still under the 23 kg limit, so we transferred more of the books and heavy items from our backpacks into the suitcases. There was a self service check in station where we scanned our passports and got the luggage tags to check through all of the way back to Denver. We still will need to pick up our bags in San Francisco to go through customs.

We went through security without any issues and had about two hours waiting at the gate before boarding. The Air New Zealand flight to Auckland was delayed about a half hour due to some bad weather and the flight route needed to be changed. Heinrich and I both had window seats in the same row across from each other: we were lucky to get them since I did not figure out how to get the Air New Zealand seat assignment selection online until 2 days prior. (I had to go through the Air New Zealand website and give them the confirmation number corresponding to that segment of the flight.)

I was sitting on the left side of the plane, and from there I took a video of the first ten minutes of the flight starting at take off. The plane took off to the south, so I was able to see the city of Christchurch, and then when the plane turned north I saw the interior of the South Island until we encountered clouds. The clouds finally cleared as we approached the north shore of the South Island. I was able to see the city of Nelson, the Abel Tasman area, Golden Bay, and Farewell Spit. As we crossed the sound the clouds rolled in again, and I saw nothing further until shortly before we landed in Auckland.

Christchurch Takeoff
Nelson and Marlborough Regions

The weather in Auckland was gray and drizzly. As the plane descended below the cloud layer I was able to see the area just south of Auckland. The city came into view on the horizon and I briefly saw the sky tower.

Auckland Landing
Auckland Arrival

We deplaned at the domestic terminal, which meant we had to exit security and walk over to the International terminal. After going through security a second time and passing through the customs entry area, we walked over to the Strata Lounge where Heinrich had a free pass for himself and a guest with his Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. We spent the next hour there. There was a buffet of pasta dishes, salads and desserts. I had the lamb ragout and a couple of savory beef pies, and some fudge bars and a piece of cheesecake for dessert. I also tried some New Zealand pinot noir wine which was very tasty.

We walked over to the gate just as they were starting to board the plane. We had the same seats going back as we had coming out: two seats together at the back of the plane with the third seat missing so there was more room to spread out. I had the window seat and took a video of the first few minutes after take off. I was able to see the city of Auckland, but we ascended into the clouds quickly and lost the view.

Auckland Takeoff

We reached San Francisco on time and then had to go through customs. We both had global entry cards, but we got confused when an announcement was made on the plane that we could get through customs quickly by using the mobile passport program on our phones. So we entered all of the information into our smart phones, only to find out that was the wrong thing for us to do since it prevented us from using the global entry line which would have been faster. End result was we got in the wrong line and then had to get in the mobile passport line. Also annoying was that afterwards we had to go through security yet again to get to our flight to Denver. It was the full inspection since there was no TSA Precheck line. I had to wait for my backpack to get hand inspected since the bag of snacks brought from New Zealand did not pass the machine check.

The flight from San Francisco to Denver was on time. I had the window seat, and the first part of the flight was cloud free until we reached the middle of Nevada. I had great views of the Sierras and Mono Lake. There was a lot of snow in the mountains, more than I had ever seen before from the air.

San Francisco Takeoff
Sierra Nevada

The remainder of the flight was cloudy. We touched down in Denver to cold and drizzly weather. We claimed our baggage without incident and called my son Kevin, who was waiting for us in the cell phone lot. It was great to see Kevin and be able to relax while he drove us home.

Denver Arrival

What a wonderful trip. I can’t wait to go back, but it will be a couple of years before we can do so. It has been fun replaying all of the videos and photos from the trip. So many great memories.

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Day 35 Kaikoura to Christchurch

February 21, 2019

Map: Day 35

We woke up to cloudy skies. We took our time checking out of the room since I did not have much planned for the day other than get to Christchurch (estimated 2 hours 20 minutes drive time) and then get ready to leave for home.

We stopped at the Caltex station to fill up on gas, and then we drove to a lookout on the Kaikoura Peninsula. Low clouds over the mountains blocked most of the view. We’ll have to come back there again in the future.

Then we drove to South Bay in hopes of seeing the dolphins again. Alas, they were not there. We drove back to the Kaikoura Peninsula to the Point Kean viewpoint. It was low tide, and we could see some fur seals lying on the rocks in the distance. The only good view of them was with binoculars. True to what the lady had told us at the I-site the day before, the seals were not very active. The viewpoint was better for looking at the mountains in the distance. At that time the clouds were beginning to clear and I was able to get some decent views. There was also a nice trail that went along the top of the peninsula and led to some great viewpoints of other bays. I walked it for a little way before turning around. Another hike to save for the future.

Kaikoura Peninsula Lookout
Kaikoura Peninsula Lookout
Point Kean

We left Kaikoura and headed south. Heinrich drove to Gore Bay, which is on a nice little detour road from SH 1. There we found a picnic table along the beach and had lunch. I walked along the beach for a little bit. The sand was dark brown with a lot of gravel, but it was a pretty spot with the Cathedral cliffs in the distance.

Gore Bay

I took over driving and drove up the steep road from the beach to the Cathedrals, which resembled the badlands in their formations. There was a nice view of Gore Bay and the beach in the background. There was no trail to walk around the cliffs, so this was just a short stop for the view.

The Cathedrals

I drove further south to the outskirts of Christchurch, where we checked into our room at the 219 On Johns Holiday Park. We had a chalet cabin with a private bathroom and kitchenette, and air conditioning! It had turned into a nice warm sunny afternoon, so the air conditioning was much appreciated. The cabin had a second bedroom that we used as a packing area to get ready for the plane flights home.

We pulled everything out of the car and repacked the luggage as best as we could. We may have to shuffle items around after we get to the airport and weigh the luggage.

After packing we had some free time and decided to visit The Groynes park that was only a couple of kilometers from the cabin. It was a nice place to walk around. We viewed some ducks on a lake and a river with a weir. There was a swinging bridge over the lake outlet. This was a final goodbye to swinging bridges, one way bridges, and the New Zealand forest.

Lake at The Groynes
The Groynes
Swinging Bridge at The Groynes

Afterwards we drove to the Z gas station for one last fill up. I paid part in cash and the rest by credit card to get rid of the remaining New Zealand money. Unfortunately after we left the gas station we discovered we did not get a good fill. We will need to visit a gas station one more time the next morning before turning in the car to top off the tank.

Back at the cabin we had ham and cheese sandwiches and salad for dinner, steamy puds and Whittier’s chocolate for dessert. We were hoping to finish off the remaining food items as much as possible to avoid having to throw things out.

219 On Johns Holiday Park Cabin

I spent the evening uploading pictures to Facebook and writing blog posts.

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Day 34 Kaikoura

February 20, 2019

Map: Day 34

The itinerary for today was to take a whale watch cruise in the morning and then explore Kaikoura and a few surrounding areas in the afternoon. We woke up to a cloudy day. We were able to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast since our whale watch cruise check in time did not start until 10:00.

We walked over to the I-site where I bought a magnet and asked the lady at the desk about road conditions to Ohau Point, which was a spot 25 km north of Kaikoura that contained a fur seal colony. She said there were a few areas of road construction, but nothing too bad and the drive would take about 25 minutes. She also said that Ohau Point was a much better place to view fur seals than the closer Point Kean since Ohau Point was a breeding colony with lots of pups. Point Kean was the equivalent of a retirement community where the adult seals came in to sleep on the rocks.

We took the 10-minute walk to the Whale Watch Kaikoura building. We were still early so we spent some time walking along the beach. This beach was pure gravel and there was not much interesting to view. We checked in for the boat cruise promptly at 10:00 and were told to wait another half hour before reporting to the safety briefing room at 10:30. I was not thrilled about the long drawn out check in process, and I think it was designed to maximize people’s time to view all of the overpriced souvenirs and buy things.

A passenger train arrived at the train station that was next door to the Whale Watch Kaikoura headquarters. The last car was open deck, and I was able to talk to a few of the passengers while they were waiting to move on. They said they were enjoying the ride, but the train went very slowly. I would think that is good for viewing all of the scenery. We took videos of the train as it left the station.

KiwiRail Leaving Kaikoura Station

We were in the briefing room promptly at 10:30. After the safety briefing we boarded a bus that took us to the South Bay where we got on the boat.
The weather for the boat cruise was partly cloudy with light winds. We had been warned that there was a south swell on the water, so there might be potential for getting sea sick. The waves did not bother me or Heinrich, but a few people on the boat did get sick, and I felt sorry for them because they looked utterly miserable.

The boat stopped at an area where we were able to see a few dozen dusky dolphins from the boat deck. We could see their backs arcing in and out of the water as they swam around the boat. Just as we were instructed to go back inside to take our seats for the next part of the trip, the dolphins started jumping and twirling out of the water! I was not able to get any pictures, but it was great seeing them up close.

Dusky Dolphins From Boat in South Bay

The boat stopped for our first sighting of a sperm whale. It stayed on the surface of the water for about 10 minutes before diving back down, when we were able to see its beautiful tail. I did manage to capture its tail on video. I had my sunglasses on which made it harder for me to see what I was filming on the cell phone screen. Many times I just pointed the camera and hoped I was capturing something.

First Sperm Whale

The boat moved to another position where we hoped to see a whale, but it did not surface. Later in the tour we got to see one more sperm whale. This one stayed on the surface for about 15 minutes before diving down, and I got better videos since I remembered to remove my sunglasses.

Second Sperm Whale

The tour had advertised one or two whale sightings per trip, and we got two so I was happy. Considering the whales are on the surface for only about 10 minutes followed by 45 minutes to an hour when they are down, I thought that the boat crew did a great job locating the whales for us to see.

The return trip to the dock was uneventful. On the bus ride I looked out the window and saw another group of dusky dolphins jumping and twirling offshore! We noted the location, walked back to our car and drove out to the South Bay where we had several minutes of fun watching the jumping dolphins. I was able to get videos of them using the camera zoom.

Dusky Dolphins From South Bay Shore

Afterwards Heinrich drove us north to Ohau Point to see the fur seals. The drive was a bit slow due to the road construction and took about 30 minutes. There were indeed many fur seals and their pups playing in the water and sunning themselves on the rocks, and they were close enough to watch and get good videos.

Seals at Ohau Point

We drove back to Kaikoura and walked back into town to the Coopers Catch restaurant to order some fish and chips, coleslaw and drinks for dinner. We had planned to eat at the table at the restaurant but did not realize we were getting takeaway food that came in a big paper wrap with no plates. So we walked back to the lodge and ate outside on the picnic table.

After dinner I took a walk along the wharf to a city park and spent time there viewing some whale bone sculptures. Later in the evening there was a full moon, and after it rose above a low cloud bank it made a beautiful reflection in the sea water.

Full Moon Over Kaikoura From Dolphin Lodge

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Day 33 Otira to Kaikoura

February 19, 2019

Map: Day 33
Map: Day 33

We wanted to get a very early start since it was a 5-hour drive to Kaikoura. But we woke up to gray skies. The clouds were very low and threatening rain. So we took more time to check out and left at about 7:15 AM.

Heinrich drove to Lake Brunner. We wanted to hike to Carew Creek Falls, but there was a 4 km dirt road to get to the trail head and it was raining, so we decided to skip the hike. Instead we drove to the town of Moana along the lakeshore. We stopped at a park and hoped the weather would clear. The clouds were so low that we were only able to see the bottom of the lakeshore and none of the surrounding mountains. This was supposed to be a good viewing spot for the Southern Alps. Not today.

Rained Out Lake Brunner

We stayed in the park to eat breakfast. We checked the weather forecast, and it was predicted to stay rainy all day there. Since the forecast for Kaikoura was much better (partly cloudy) we decided to move on.

We stopped in the town of Reefton to fill up on gas at the Mobil station. There the attendant gave me a free Mobil card that was good for a 6 cent per liter discount when spending at least $40. I wish I had known about this card earlier in the trip.

I took over driving. Next stop was a waterfall hike near the Maruia Hot Springs resort. I had found this hike listed in Roadtrippers and in the Campermate app. I did not know the name of the waterfall but later found out that the locals referred to it as Five Mile Creek Falls. There was no sign for it along the road, and there was a small area to pull off the road and park the car. There was a blue arrow on a tree that pointed to the trail head. It was a wonderful 15-minute hike through a lush forest to reach a 50-meter high waterfall. Impressive! The trail was a bit narrow and overgrown, and there were two stream crossings due to bridges being washed out, but it was no big deal since we were able to hop rocks. The hike was definitely worth the time.

Five Mile Creek Falls Near Maruia River

The road up and down Lewis Pass was a much gentler grade than Arthur’s Pass. The scenery was not as rugged, but I thought it was very pretty with forests dotting the hills. We stopped at the summit to take the 20-minute alpine nature loop hike. The summit was only 864 meters altitude (2,835 feet) and we were still below tree line. The summit vegetation consisted of beech trees, mosses, and grasses. By this time the weather was clearing and only partly cloudy, so we had some nice views of the surrounding mountains.

Lewis Pass

At the pass we also took the Tarn Walk which was a 1-minute stroll to an alpine tarn with lovely views.

Alpine Tarn at Lewis Pass
Panorama From Alpine Nature Loop

To get to Kaikoura we decided to take the inland route 70 through the town of Waiau. There were many one lane bridges on that road, and a really long one just before reaching Waiau that had 2 passing bays. I ended up having to use the first passing bay on the bridge to avoid oncoming traffic (a truck). A car and a campervan were following me, and the car behind me was able to pull into the passing bay, but the campervan had nowhere to go so he stopped parallel to me on the far right side of the lane. The truck was just barely able to squeeze by both of us. It was a little scary. I don’t understand why these long one-lane bridges were built when they don’t have clear sight lines all the way to the other side. It seems like a ripe spot for lots of accidents.

After passing through Waiau we took a shortcut road to get back to the main state highway 1. There was a twisty section of paved road that climbed to the top of a hill where there was a nice view. We stopped there for lunch.

View From Lunch Stop

Heinrich took over driving the rest of the way to Kaikoura. After we reached state highway 1 we encountered road construction and small delays. This was the part of the country where much road rebuilding was needed after the earthquake in 2016. Fortunately all of the roads are open now, but they go down to one lane where the repair work continues.

Near Kaikoura the road passed by close to the ocean where we saw many pretty bay areas but no wildlife. We checked in at the Dolphin Lodge which was located at the top of the hill overlooking the town and the ocean. We had reserved a room for two nights. It had a private bathroom, and there was a shared kitchen down the hallway.

Backyard From the Dolphin Lodge

After getting settled we decided to drive to the New World supermarket at the end of town to pick up some dinner food and a few lunch supplies for our final few days. We prepared a spaghetti dinner and salad in the kitchen. We ate dinner outside on the picnic table where there was a nice view of the ocean and surrounding mountains. The resident cat came to investigate. It was very friendly. I had to keep it from climbing onto the table.

After dinner we strolled down the hill and looked at the shops and restaurants in town. We found a fish and chips place that had reasonable prices, and we made a note of it for tomorrow. We found the Whale Watch Kaikoura building and browsed the gift shop, but I found nothing of interest. We walked back to our room, and I spent the evening reading and posting photos to Facebook.

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Day 32 Twizel to Otira via Arthur's Pass

February 18, 2019

Map: Day 32

Today was one of the longer driving days. Our itinerary was to drive northeast to Otira via Arthur's Pass National Park (estimated 4-1/2 hours drive time).

We woke up to clear skies and were out early shortly before 7 AM. First stop was the Lake Pukaki Lookout, the same one that we went to 2 days earlier. This time we got to see Mount Cook in the early morning light with very few clouds. I drove to a second viewpoint at the Pukaki Kettle Hole Track. This was up a short and steep gravel road, the end of which I don’t think I was supposed to drive up since the road suddenly got very rough. But the car made it up and down okay. It was a gorgeous view from there, with the morning sun on the golden hills. I drove to one final lookout of Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook, and then it was time to say goodbye to that area.

Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki in Morning Light
Lake Pukaki View From Kettle Hole Track
Final View of Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook

Next stop was Lake Tekapo. We stopped at the town park and got some nice photos of the lake with reflections from the surrounding hills. The water was very still. We stopped at the Church of the Good Shepherd, which is a famous tourist spot. The church did not open until 9 AM, so we were too early. But I got some good pictures of the outside with the lake in the background. It was also nice seeing it with very few other people, before the tour buses arrived.

Lake Tekapo View From Town Park
Church of the Good Shepherd and Lake Tekapo

We drove onward to the town of Methven where we filled up on gas and went to the grocery store to buy food for dinner. Then we headed for Rakaia River Gorge, or at least I thought that was where we were going. It turns out that the GPS coordinates in the Roadtrippers app for the gorge were incorrect. It routed us onto some farm road in the middle of nowhere. By the time I figured out what was wrong, we had driven about 10 km out of the way. Moral of the story: double check the directions with a second source whenever possible.

We finally reached the gorge, and it was beautiful. The water was the turquoise blue color that I had expected to see at Hokitika Gorge. We took a hike up the river toward the lower gorge viewpoint. The first 10 minutes of the hike were great, with many scenic vistas of the river. Then the trail started climbing... and climbing... with no views. After 15 total minutes on the trail, we got a good view of the river and the highway bridges in the background, and we decided that was far enough to go. According to the sign at the trailhead, we still had another 15 minutes or so of hiking uphill before we would have reached the viewpoint.

Rakaia River Gorge
Rakaia River Gorge Bridge
View From Rakaia River Gorge Bridge

Next stop was a fun one: the town of Springfield where a giant doughnut sculpture had been placed in the city park. D’oh! We ate lunch at a picnic table, and afterwards I asked Heinrich to take some pictures of me next to the doughnut. What a great place for some stupid selfie poses!

The Springfield Doughnut

Heinrich took over driving, and we went to Castle Hill. This was an area similar to Elephant Hill with very large limestone rock formations. We walked around and found a few small arches! Of course we had to take pictures of all of them. The area was quite extensive and we only saw a small portion of it. On a cool day I could see easily spending a half day or so exploring all of the nooks and crannies. When we were there it was blazing hot and uncomfortable to be out in the sun for very long.

Castle Hill
Rock Formations at Castle Hill
Arches at Castle Hill

Next stop was Arthur’s Pass National Park. The scenery gradually changed from dry grasses to trees as we got closer to the pass. We took the hike to Devils Punchbowl Falls. There was a nice view of the waterfall at the bridge across the river, and then we hiked up many steps to reach the base of the falls. The hike was worth it! This was one of the nicest waterfalls I have seen.

Highway to Arthur's Pass
Devils Punchbowl Falls
Devils Punchbowl Waterfall

Back at the car park we were entertained by a bevy of kea birds, at least 8. Two were playing with some black thing that might have been a camera case. One decided to jump onto the roof of our car, and another jumped onto the front and peered at us through the windshield. Crazy!

Kea on Our Car
Arthur's Pass Kea

We continued on to reach the actual pass on the road. Just beyond the pass was the Otira Viaduct which replaced a very nasty set of switchbacks and landslides. We stopped at an overlook to the viaduct and watched more kea birds. The viaduct was steep with a 16% grade at the bottom and avalanche sheds. It was time to put the low gear of the car in action!

Otira Viaduct
Kea at Otira Viaduct
Otira Viaduct Overlook Kea

We arrived at the Rata Lodge Backpackers in Otira. We had reserved a small room with a private bath. Down the hall was a shared kitchen.

The host told us there was a spot very close to the rear of the property that led to a small area where glowworms could be seen at night, so after we unpacked the car we took a walk to find the start of the trail and where the glowworms should be. Then we went back and used the shared kitchen to cook our dinner: chicken with honey mustard sauce, red pepper, carrots and onion over rice.

After it got dark, we returned to the trail and spotted a few glowworms that appeared shortly after 10 PM in the area we expected to find them.

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Day 31 Mount Cook

February 17, 2019

Map: Day 31

At 6 AM Heinrich reported it was overcast outside, so we slept in for another hour. By 7 AM it was partially clear. We were up and out by 7:30. It was cold outside, the coldest I have been since the Tongariro Crossing hike.

We planned to spend the entire day exploring Mount Cook National Park. It was about a 45-minute drive from our motel room in Twizel to Mount Cook Village where the visitor center was located. I drove up the west shore of Lake Pukaki and stopped at an overlook. There was a low band of clouds surrounding Mount Cook, but the mountain top was clear. The sun was too low to give the lake its usual intense blue color.

Lake Pukaki Overlook

I drove into Mount Cook National Park and we stopped near the entrance to take some photos. The mountains were gorgeous in the morning light with wisps of fog as the clouds were starting to clear. At the visitor center I bought a day walk guide for $2. We decided to hike the Hooker Valley Track. The NZ Frenzy book recommended to take this hike if the weather was clear. The forecast at the visitor center was partly cloudy until noon, then increasing clouds followed by rain in the afternoon. Since it was a 3-hour return hike, we had time to do it before the conditions deteriorated.

Road to Mount Cook
Mount Cook National Park Entrance

It turned out to be a great hike! The views of Mount Cook were stunning. The weather actually improved until it was partly cloudy. The trail was easy and wide with a very gradual ascent. Along the way there were three long swinging bridges to cross. There were several ribbon waterfalls cascading down from the mountain glaciers. The view of the glaciers was much better than at Franz Josef. We could see patches of blue ice, and some of the snow was tinged pink.

Valley View From Start of Hooker Track
Start of Hooker Track
Small Lake on Hooker Track
Blue and Pink Tinged Glaciers on Hooker Track

Near the beginning of the hike we heard a distant booming noise. It sounded a bit like thunder but we knew it was not due to the nice weather. I think we heard a rock fall or maybe a small avalanche. A few minutes later there appeared to be a small cloud hanging over the mountain. It dissipated quickly. This may have been a dust cloud resulting from the fallout.

Hooker Track
Chicken Wired Boardwalk on Hooker Track

The trail ended at Lake Hooker. Across the lake we could see the glacier moraine, and in the lake there were a few icebergs. We stopped near the lakeshore for snacks and then went down to the lakeshore for pictures.

Lake Hooker Icebergs and Glacier Moraine

This was a crowded trail, not as bad as the Tongariro Crossing but there were no periods of solitude. On the way back the numbers of people increased due to the time of day. Shortly after we left the lake just before noon, clouds started rolling in over the mountain tops, partially obscuring the view. We timed that well.

Hooker Track View on Return From Lake
Hooker Track Midway Suspension Bridge

We took a second hike to the Tasman Valley Glacier view. It was a short steep walk up many steps to a viewpoint of the Tasman Glacier and its terminal moraine. The lake in front was gray colored from all of the silt and littered with icebergs. It was well worth the hike. We skipped the walk to the lakeshore and boat jetty. Later we found out this was a good hike as well since it got closer to the icebergs. We will save this for our next visit to New Zealand.

Tasman Glacier Terminal Moraine
Tasman Glacier Lake Icebergs
South End of Tasman Glacier Lake

Heinrich drove us back to the hotel. On the way we stopped again at the Lake Pukaki Lookout, and the water was much more blue. Time for more pictures!

Lake Pukaki Afternoon Panorama

Back at the hotel we used the laundry facilities. This should be our last load before we reach home.

The hotel had a grill, so we stopped at the Four Square grocery and bought some porterhouse steaks, a couple of potatoes and coleslaw. The dinner was delicious, and it was still much cheaper than dining out. We chatted for a while with a couple from Canada that had been touring for four weeks, and we compared our experiences.

We spent the rest of the evening planning for the next day and making blog updates. We saw nice pink cloud colors of the sunset outside the room.

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Day 30 Dunedin to Twizel

February 16, 2019

Map: Day 30

The itinerary for today was to spend the morning visiting some areas near Dunedin and then drive north and inland to the town of Twizel, near Mount Cook National Park (estimated 3.5 hours drive time).

We woke up to partly cloudy skies. We had the heat turned on in the room, which was a good thing since it was very chilly when we opened the door. It appeared that a cold front had come through the night before.

Morning View of Otago Harbour From Piringa B & B

Heinrich drove us back through Dunedin to see Tunnel Beach. There was a very steep walk down the hillside. It was clear, cold and windy. For the first time since the Tongariro Crossing hike I put on my hat, gloves and rain pants to stay warm.

We had a great view of the sea arch during the descent. The final drop to the beach went through a tunnel, hence the name. This was a beach accessible at low tide, and we were there at the right time. There were stunning cliffs and alcoves surrounding the beach, and they looked very pretty in the morning light.

Tunnel Beach Arch
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach Panorama

Heinrich drove back through Dunedin and north to the next spot: Doctors Point. This was another area accessible only at mid or low tide. There was a 10-minute walk down the beach to a natural cave. There were two sea arches that we were able to walk through, and a third very small arch on the side. It was a nice peaceful place. There was a sign at the beach saying that penguins were in the area, but we did not see any.

Doctors Point Beach
Doctors Point
Arch at Doctors Point

Next on the agenda was to take a detour from the main highway: the scenic coastal route. This was several miles of somewhat narrow and twisty road that climbed to a viewpoint at Puketeraki Lookout. When we arrived at the lookout, it started to rain lightly: just some localized weather. The view out to the sea was nice, but I did not think it was worth the time needed for the detour.

Puketeraki Lookout

The road rejoined the main highway and we continued on to Shag Point. At the end of the road was a short walk to see fur seals. There were many of them on the rocks, some napping and others diving into the water. There was a pair that were continually playing together in and out of the water. It was a lot of fun to watch them, and I had a very good view.

Shag Point Fur Seals

As we were getting ready to leave, a guy told me there was a little blue penguin in the cove near the car park! We found it easily. It was standing quite still near a large rock and did not move while we were watching. I wondered if it was asleep or maybe it was sitting on a nest, but it was in a wide open area and not an ideal place for a nest.

Little Blue Penguin Near Shag Point

Further north was the Moeraki Boulders. This place was more touristy with a cafe and gift shop, and tour buses in the car park. We were asked to pay $2 per person to access the path to the beach and the boulders. There were many boulders scattered along the edge of a narrow beach, and some were partially covered by the waves due to the rising tide. They were really weird looking: they reminded me of bowling balls. Heinrich commented they looked like huge geodes.

Moeraki Boulders

I took over driving and we headed inland and west on the road to Twizel. It was an easy road to drive, nice and wide with many straight sections. There was not much interesting to see as we drove through sheep pastures and grasslands. The surrounding hills became golden as we entered a drier region.

We stopped to see the Elephant Rocks. This was a series of limestone outcroppings in various weird shapes. It did not take too much imagination to see animals in the shapes: definitely an elephant was there! Heinrich could see one with a small hole in it: a mini arch!

Elephant Rocks
Mini Arch at Elephant Rocks

Next stop was a limestone cliff at the Waipata / Earthquakes Scenic Reserve where partial fossilized remains of a whale had been found and were on display. Access was via a long and narrow gravel road. Nobody else was there. It was somewhat interesting but I did not think worth the time and effort needed to get there.

Waipata Earthquakes Scenic Reserve

I drove to Twizel and we checked into our room at the High Country Lodge and Backpackers. It had a private bath, small refrigerator and a sink. There was a shared kitchen on the property that was being used by several people when we got there. Neither of us felt like cooking, so we walked over to the town mall and went to a restaurant to order a pizza, salad and beer for dinner.

The weather was completely clear and we had great views of Mount Cook while driving into Twizel. I checked the weather forecast for the next day, and it was cloudy for Mount Cook, not at all what I wanted to hear. So after dinner we filled up on gas and then drove to the southern edge of Lake Pukaki where there was a great sunset view of Mount Cook and the surrounding mountains across the lake. I snapped several photos. No matter what tomorrow may bring, at least I finally have a few shots of the Southern Alps with no clouds.

Lake Pukaki Sunset View
Mt. Cook at Sunset

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Day 29 Curio Bay to Dunedin

February 15, 2019

Map: Day 29
Map: Day 29

We woke up to a clear day. I watched the sunrise over Porpoise Bay from the upstairs kitchen at the Lazy Dolphin Lodge. It was beautiful!

Sunrise From Lazy Dolphin Lodge

I wanted to spend a little more time in the area since the weather was so nice. Back at Porpoise Bay I saw several more Hector’s Dolphins playing in the waves. They were out in the center of the bay since the water was calmer there than yesterday.

Porpoise Bay
Curio Bay Overlook

The objective for the day was to see the Catlins area and then drive to Dunedin (2 hours 50 minutes estimated drive time). First stop was McLean Falls. It was a 40-minute round trip hike through the Catlins Forest Park to reach the falls, which were impressive.

McLean Falls

Next stops were at Florence Hill Lookout (great view of a golden sand beach below) and at Purakaunui Falls. This was one of the most photographed waterfalls in New Zealand, and there was a tour bus already there when we arrived. It was an easy 10-minute walk to the falls through a nice rain forest.

Florence Hill Lookout
Bird Songs on Trail to Purakaunui Falls
Purakaunui Falls

Then we drove on to Cannibal Bay. There was a long and narrow twisty dirt road to get to it. The wind was very strong there, and the surf was up. We walked along the beach and counted seven sea lions in the area. Most of them were sleeping. Two of them were rolling around in the sand.

Sea Lions and Cannibal Bay

We drove to Nugget Point. This was another popular tourist stop. We hiked to the lighthouse. At the point there were great views of the ocean all around. On the way out we spotted several fur seals sunning themselves on the rocks at the bottom of a cliff.

Trail to Nugget Point

View From Nugget Point
View From Nugget Point

View From Nugget Point
View Near Nugget Point

Next we stopped at Roaring Bay, which was only a few kilometers down the road from Nugget Point. We were hoping for a chance to see penguins which frequented the area. A display sign said the most likely time was after 4 PM. Since it was shortly after 3 PM, we waited for a while and ate sandwiches in the parking lot. Then I realized we really would not have time to wait longer, since the bed and breakfast place we were staying in Dunedin wanted us to check in before 6:30, and it was almost a two-hour drive to get there.

I sent a message to the property with an estimated checkin time of 5:45. Heinrich took over driving. We arrived in Dunedin early, so we filled up on gas at a Z station and then found a Countdown supermarket next door. This was our first time in a Countdown store. I picked up discount card, but their gas discount worked differently: there was a minimum spend of $40 in order to get the gas discount. We went to the deli and bought ready made meat lasagna, coleslaw and potato salad for dinner.

Heinrich drove to the Piringa Bed and Breakfast, which was past Dunedin and on the Otago Peninsula. We had to drive up some very steep hills to reach it. There were great views of the peninsula from the front of the B and B.

Piringa was a self contained cottage with a refrigerator and microwave, and continental breakfast fixings were included. It was very nice and spacious.

Piringa Bed and Breakfast

After dinner I wanted to go to Sandfly Beach for a chance to see more penguins, but we found out we had to navigate a twisty road to reach the beach and we would have to drive back in the dark. Then I read some reviews of Sandfly Beach in the CamperMate app. The penguins came out earlier there based on recent sightings, between 4:30 and 6:30, so we were already too late.