Is it really News Years already??? - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Yes, sad as it may seem we realized around 5:30 or so that it was New Years Eve. It's pretty cool that we were so relaxed and not concerned with anything that we lost complete track of what day it was. So we hurried back to Stella at the hostel parking lot, took a shower and headed out for a night on the town. After a nice dinner and drinks we rang in the New Year with the locals at a fun bar.

Happy New Year everyone!

 Cross-Country Marathon - Monday, December 30, 2002

After overnighting in Greymouth, we continued over the beautiful Lewis pass to Christchurch (Chch), the largest city on the South Island (~330,000 people). We had planned on taking a few days to cross the pass and do a bit of hiking of the weather cooperated, but Stella lost her groove and needed some attention from the local mechanics. We decided to get our butts to Chch to see what the diagnosis was JUST IN CASE Stella needs some hospitalization. It was an incredibly long day with amazing scenery. We plan to take Stella to the car doctor after New Year's, finish up our travel shots, do some hiking along the coast, and catch a movie this week while thinking positive thoughts about Stella's health.

 West Coast Drive By - Friday, December 27, 2002

We drove west on our continued quest for fishable water along the Buller River. Bad luck prevailed and we decided to take a tourist stop at Buller River Gorge to cross the longest swing bridge in NZ and take a 2 hour hike. Finally, the weather cooperated, and we had an amazing day! We dropped by a seal colony and watched the newborn pups frollicking around on the shoreline. VERY CUTE!

Next day we drove down the west coast highway towards Greymouth and stopped at the Pancake Rocks- the limestone was formed by wind and wave action over millions of years to create these pancake-looking rocks. Pretty cool. Short tourist stop...

 The Farmer, the Pigs, and the Pups - Thursday, December 26, 2002

In search of better weather (our continuing mission), hiking, and fishing, we motored SE to the Nelson Lakes National Park area to the towns of St. Arnaud and Murchinson. We drove right into a massive rain storm-perhaps left over from Xmas Eve? Some folks have all the luck! Again another drive with AMAZING scenery- more alpine-like. We had hoped to complete our 2nd trek (4-day hike) in these mountains but the crappy weather (late spring snow) and residual soreness (M's inflamed ankle) from our 1st trek prevented this. Bummer! The rains raised the rivers too high which scuttled Dave's plan to fish in this world-renowned area.

We know that we are lucky to be travelling around the world, not working, without a care in the world, so complaining feels a bit trite. We'd just like to catch a break with the weather and reverse our bad karma!!!! We are still having a blast though...

After several hours of looking for fishable water on every creek and river over the 50 mile stretch between St. Arnaud and Murchison to no avail, we pulled into the Owen River tavern for a much needed break. After good beer and a surprisingly tasty Chinese dinner at this country tavern, we managed to pry ourselves away for the very drunk and talkative local farmers. We decided that this would be a good time to call around the area to see if any WWOOF hosts needed help. The reason for participating in WWWOOFing is to get a taste of the local culture and feel somewhat productive. The best part of the trip is chatting with the locals! It turned out that a farmer right around the corner from the tavern didn't have any work for us but offered a place for us to park the van for the night and wash up.

This large, gregarious farmer named Maurice (looked like a crusty old mountain man) was holding down the fort while his wife was on a covered wagon horse trek for a few days. They used to be milk cattle farmers outside Auckland before scaling down and moving to the South Island. They now have 2 horses, 27 milking cows, a goat, domestic pig (Gertrude), 3 adult dogs, and 19 puppies, as well as a rental cottage down by the Owen River. This would've been an ideal place to WWOOF for a week with many local hikes and good fishing access. It's pretty obvious that Maurice missed the companionship of his friends on the North Island, as he chatted us up with gruesome farm tales until 1am! After a quick breakfast and a tour of the farm, we headed west feeling all the better for hooking up with some colorful locals.

 X-mas Wind Storm - Tuesday, December 24, 2002

After climbing the mountain pass (thanks Stella) west of Abel Tasman National Park, we were rewarded with Lord of the Rings-like views of the Kahurangi National Park and Golden Bay. On this beautiful day/Christmas eve, we rolled into Takaka-a small hippie, organic, farming town. The place was bustling with activity as folks were buying last minute food and gifts. We chose a great camp spot under a huge tree by the beach, away from the family tent villages (adorned with Xmas lights, generators, and Charlie Brown Xmas trees).

We set up our front porch for the 1st time (tarp, poles, stakes) in anticipation of a relaxing few days on the beach. We cooked an amazing Porterhouse steak dinner before the wind started to blow. Our new porch finally succumbed to the torrential rains and howling, 50mph winds by ~3am. What a crazy night!!! The next morning we found some parts that turned up missing during our 3am porch disassembly and cooked up a grand American-style breakfast complete with US-style bacon, eggs, and pancakes in a bottle (just add water & shake). YUMMY!!!!! For Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and Xmas we missed being with family, but it's great having a cell phone that works almost everywhere in NZ so we can keep in touch!

 Old Mc Donald's Farm - Sunday, December 22, 2002

We made it to Abel Tasman National Park, famous for it's beautiful, calm beaches, protected coves, abundant wildlife, and one of the eight "Great Walks" in New Zealand. All the huts for this four day hike were booked up last year! NZ has an extensive hiking/hut system. Huts are strewn along most of the major hiking trails at comfortable mileage intervals. Huts have drinking water, a basic cooking area, and a big bunk area that sleeps from 6- 100). However, we were able to enjoy the beaches, coves, and estuaries without having to spend the night in the park. We chose to camp at Old Mc Donald's farm, a family farm that has been partially converted to a camping, cabin, and cafe facility, complete with llamas, sheep, cows, pigs, peacocks, etc. We found a beautiful spot next to the creek running through the property and enjoyed the afternoon sun.

The next day in anticipation of continued sunshine, we booked a catamaran sailing trip through the park. During low tide how did we get to our boat anchored in the bay? Well, a tractor towed an elevated trailer (compensating for high tide) across the tidal flats to an area deep enough to where our sailboat dingy could pick us up. Passengers taking water taxis to spots on the hiking trail, as well as kayakers, all begin their voyages on the tractors. It's really quite a site to see tractors 1/2 submerged in water.

Since we have bad karma with the weather, we were not that shocked when the weather didn't turn out to be sunny and beautiful for our extravagant yachting excursion! We still had a lovely trip with PLENTY of wind. OK, we basically froze our butts off! After passing several islands, we pulled into a beautiful estuary (only accessible in high tide) for a fabulous lunch. The trip was well worth it despite the weather.

 Beer & Berries - Thursday, December 19, 2002

Since Nelson is one of the major hops-growing regions of NZ, it's not surprising that the brewer of one of our new favorite brands of beer (Mac's) is just outside Nelson. Of course, Dave required a stop for a free tasting where we discovered some more new favorites. The woman providing the samples and beer history was insistent that we know that beer is actually a very healthy drink containing much nutritional value. Apparently, it's all in the vitamin B!! Who knew??!! We'll be sure to find another brewery and check to confirm these findings. Report to follow.

Next stop: Berry picking. We ate more than we picked. Raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries were enjoyed obsessively for the next two days along with the best jam Marisa ever had! Dave doesn't believe that because he thinks his Mom's & Grandma's is of course the best.

 Back to Civilization (movie theaters) - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Too bad it was still raining on the drive from Havelock heading west toward Nelson. We crossed a mountain pass and carefully negotiated the windy road which would have afforded stunning views of the Tasman Bay had the weather been good. Bummer! Nelson is the 2nd largest city on the South Island and is known as the "Sunshine Capital" of NZ. Why we would stay in yet another big town when were are here to hike and camp? Well we needed to develop several rolls of film, pick up a crucial package that Jerry had shipped (waterproof hiking pants...didn't think it would be raining this much!!), and of course see Lord of the Rings (well worth it). We were a bit disappointed that our very amateur photo skills did not render the beauty of the Marlborough Sounds & Queen Charlotte area. We'll be sure to buy some postcards, so we don't forget.

 Mussel Boys - Monday, December 16, 2002

After throwing our soaking wet selves and packs into Stella, we decided to drive west to the quaint town of Havelock in an effort to outrun the stormy weather. We ended up spending the night in relative luxury in a hostel which was formerly the town school house (early 1900's). We had been sleeping in either a tent or the car for so long that we felt pretty fancy for staying in a real double bed. The hostel had a herb garden, and we cooked ourselves a splendid hot meal and had a restful sleep. Not that our room was much bigger than the car, but it was a relief to escape the confines of Stella in the continuing downpour.

Little did we know when we pulled into Havelock that it was the "Mussel Capital" of New Zealand. Of course we had to patronize the "world famous" restaurant Mussel Boys where you can get 'em any way you want 'em--fried, grilled, steamed, etc. Great lunch! Havelock is also a popular place with sea kayakers since it has easy access to the Marlborough Sounds. This would have been a fun option if it wasn't so stormy.

 Throwing In the Towel - Sunday, December 15, 2002

After sleeping off the affects of the wine, we headed north back to Picton and geared up for our 1st multi-day hike on the Queen Charlotte Track rewarding hikers with amazing views of the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. Hikers take a 1.5 hour water taxi ride to the start of the 67km track. Some playful dolphins followed the taxi part of the way to Ship's Cove, the start of the 3-4 day hike. Captain James Cook often stopped at Ship's Cove on his travels through the South Pacific for a little R&R. The QC Track follows the shoreline through many hidden coves and waterways allowing hikers to stay in one of the historic lodges or camp in their own tents at various points along the track. We travelled as light as possible, carrying sleeping bags, tents, rain gear, three days worth of food, etc. (~20 lbs each) since we elected to camp out. We were rewarded with perfect weather conditions for day one of the hike allowing us to soak up some sun and take in the great views.

The forecast for great weather was not to be as our bad weather karma met up with Mother Nature's fickle marine conditions. Day two hiking began with just a few clouds and ended a short three hours later in the pouring rain! With tired, inflamed legs, and packs that seemed like lead weights, we made our way home to Stella after the water taxi dropped us off in Picton in the pouring rain. We would've loved to have finished the 3-day Queen Charlotte Track hike, but there was no point since our camp spot that night was on the edge of a ridge. No tent is fully waterproof and it would have made for a pretty long night!

 Wine Tasting.... - Saturday, December 14, 2002

...sounds good doesn't it? We can assure you it was. to get to the famous wine region of Blenheim on the South Island we had to take a three hour ferry ride with Stella across the Cook Strait on the car ferry. It just so happened the wind was pushing close to 100 kph (about 67 mph) making the ride a little bit rough. The small cruise ship went across the Straits with a list to the left due to the fierce North wind that was hammering us the hold ride.

Once the boat made it across we entered the idyllic Marlborough Sound for the rest of the journey into the harbor at Picton. Picton is a quaint little town which is the starting point for adventures throught the South Island. First priority, head 20 minutes south to wine tasting territory for a 1/2 day tour. Our well-informed tour guide Ray had been living in the region his entire life and insured we had a great time along with our new buddies and fellow tour mates. After eight vineyards and tons of vino, Ray dropped us off at our campsite for a good, long nap. Fun day!! A bottle of VERY GOOD wine is only ~ $15-20 here...amazing..

 Wellington - Friday, December 06, 2002

We've been hanging out in Wellington dodging the raindrops and getting our travel shots for the other parts of our trip. The day we arrived in Wellington was gorgeous and it's easy to compare this city with Seattle and San Francisco. The weather has been shitty since we arrived. Rain, Rain, Rain.....

Of course sleeping in Stella has been challenging with the rain. Not like we have a door mat to wipe our feet off with. We have the van parked in a pay lot next to the very huge and very new "Te Papa" museum on the Wellington waterfront. It's $25 US a week, and we walk less than 100 yards to the local YHA Hostel where, as card carrying members, we get to use their facilities for free (showers, laundry, kitchen, TV, etc). How's that for budget accomodations?

It's been so wet here, that Stella is actually raining inside. Not too much, but there is so much condensation in the van in the mornings because we can't sleep with the windows open due to pouring overnight rains. We've managed to keep everything pretty dry and have been sleeping comfortably on the queen size futon. The decision to save money here in the city was so we would have extra money for a few nights of nice accomodations on the scenic South Island.

 Waitomo Cave Exploring - Sunday, December 01, 2002

We pulled up to the town of Waitomo late Sunday night to visit the infamous glow worm caves. These little insects live in dark places like caves and emit light. We took a 45 minute easy hike in the rain to check out the glow worms and were not let down. In many spots, we didn't even need our torch (Kiwi for flashlight) to light the way! When walking into a cave it felt as if we were looking into the sky at the stars. We don't have any pics b/c we couldn't figure out how to turn our flash off. Too bad..

The following day we went on a 5 hour caving, abseling (Kiwi for rapelling), climbing, zip lining, and floating on an inner tube and swimming through a unique underground river system. Yes, we did all this in 5 hours and froze our butts off but had one hell of an adventure that we'll never forget. It was truly fun and challenging. Hey, every day you don't get to go abseiling and zip lining! Here are some pics of what we did--more to follow.

Previous Posts: 

Monthly Archives: 

Copyright © 2002- www.theharalsons.com