Man may turn which way he please, and undertake anything whatsoever, he will always return to the path which nature has prescribed for him.
And now we are in a covid time and winter is upon us here in Alaska. Thus far it is a wonderful winter. With the changing climate Alaska has really noticed the increasing warmth and problems associated with that. I say normal ski season use to begin the first of October. People laugh and questioned that, and the last time that happened was 1995. (I define skiing as open the garage door, put on skiis and go.) I have for the last years defined winter as being cold, snowy, and dark. The last years the cold and snow has often been missing or inconsistent, which leaves the dark. Biking or skiing in the rain at above freezing temperatures is not a huge amount of fun. But this year is proving great. We have had snow on the ground for nearly 3 weeks now. Anchorage has some of the best ski and bike trails anywhere, and they are groomed exquisitely, primarily volunteer effort and volunteer contributions. Makes for a very fine community.
As for the covid thing well yes we are not socializing as much, not traveling, not getting together. But life is constantly changing and I am finding the new challenges can be exciting. Whereas we would often have a trip planned somewhere exotic or not, it was somewhere, but then I think, people spend a lot of time and money to come to Alaska to vacation, visit or whatever. There are some great things here. And we are enjoying them now, not that we did not before, but in a new light local stuff can brighten up.
Hence for the past 3 weeks, actually for the past 249 days since we went on “lock down” (not a true lockdown) I have been outside everyday. The past weeks exploring the trails has been delightful. Anchorage over the past 4 years, since I last really went mountain biking has developed some awesome single track trails. They have been building them for the past 10 years, but the past 4 years have really taken off. As I volunteer at the ski jumps I hear the near constant whooping of bikers on the trails below going through the woods. A trail called Jeff’s whoop whoop seems to create a lot of noise, and I now know why.
But we are in full blown winter and delightful as the sun is low reaching a peak altitude of about 9 degrees above the horizon. One is required to stop whenever there is an opening amongst the tree which will allow you to stop and just stare at the sun. Sure feels good this time of year.
With temperatures a very pleasant -10 C (14F) the world is quiet and serene. Anchorage has a large variety of micro climates sometimes ranging over 29 degrees C (50 F) over a 16 kilometer radius (10 miles). Most of the riding I find is in the colder areas. From our house it will be -10 C (14F) and we drop down a hill a couple kilometers and the temperature is -17C (4F). But as the saying goes “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear”.
Life is a daring adventure or nothing. Helen Keller
Interesting past months. Have not been on my bicycle since October riding into Washington D.C. in the mud. Not that I have not done some sort of exercise, but biking has not happened. Numerous excuses. Pick one.
Hence it is time, and I began working on bikes. First the fat tire bike which I loaned to a friend to ride but in getting it ready had a hard time adjusting the front derailleur. Just could not get it to shift right. Ok ignore it fix it when it came back. Thus I started there. Oh my gosh. Embarassing!
Took the crank out and oh my! Seems I did not clean it thoroughly after riding the beach a few years ago. Some friend and I had ridden 70 miles (about 100K) from clam gulch to Homer over two days. Sand and salt water. Plus there were several creek crossings, which one I thought was 6″ deep (about 15 cm) but it was 6 feet (about 2 mete). Fat bikes float, but I and the bike got drug along the gravel for a bit.
I would say it had not been cleaned enough and has been well used. New crank chain rings, cluster, chain and basically a new drive train. Going 1x 10 getting rid of front derailleur.
Then the karate monkey a 29er I have for cruising about town. Just some cleaning adjusting and making it shine. Then Jeanne’s El Mariachi also a 29er which she took back east last fall. Needed put back together, bearings cleaned, brakes needed clear of air and gunk in the hydraulic lines. New cassette, chain, chain rings clean the derailleur.
Then the past weekend it was time to get out of Anchorage, as have either been visiting, or had visitors and been going hard, so we took a day and drove to Talkeetna, a quaint Alaska town overrun by tourists.
We took the two 29er bikes and rode out of town on a delightful bike path. Oh my gosh. I forgot how much fun biking is, especially when the bikes are purring. Everything just flowed (well the motor was a bit off) what a treat!
“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt”
Continuing on our whirlwind tour we made our way into the town center of Christchurch, to see what makes it a city where people want to live. It lies on the Canterbury plains and generally I have a problem with flat, again my bias comes out. We had heard it was and is having a hard time rebuilding after the devastating earthquakes of 2010 & 2011.
We arrived and found a beautiful park next to the Avon river with easy parking, although it took a bit to figure out how to pay via the computerized meter. Soon though I was showing the locals.
We began walking and came across what was a boarded up church hoping to be rebuilt. Apparently it suffered major damage and was built in the late 1800’s. We found the earthquake museum and headed there, again leery of tourist attractions.
This museum was great not only explaining the stories and their earthquake but why it was so bad. Again my prejudice showed and I was thinking anchorage just had a 7.0 earthquake 30 November) which is what theirs was. Christchurch earthquake was in November of 2010. It shook for 45 seconds with some damage and some injuries. But they congratulated themselves and felt ok, but the aftershocks continued. In March 2011 a 6.0 aftershock hit and numerous buildings collapsed resulting in 135 people dying and thousands injured.
the museum continued with great explanations not only of plate tectonics but the process of liquifaction. Christchurch is built on unstable soils, as is anchorage, and that led to a collapse of numerous buildings weakened unknowingly in first big quake.
Since then thousands of people are working on how to mitigate damages. It is an ongoing process, not only with building codes, but soil and geology work. We had heard some of the damages areas were condemned and people had to move out, but then real estate developers came in and said it was better now and charged exorbitant prices for the old land. The museum did not mention this, but it did cover how work is ongoing on mitigating the soil problems.
As per usual I may have some of the facts misconstrued but I tried to remember and learn.
Then on to city center a block away where the “world buskers festival” was taking places.
great food trucks, great street entertainment, and time to move on.
Half way between Christchurch and Picton, where we catch the ferry Friday morning, is a peninsula Kaikoura with a town. Seemed perfect and what a surprise. Great beach incredible views and a very tourist town, but not obnoxious. Stayed at. Holiday 10 as the other camper parks had really bad reviews. We have found holiday 10’s ok but definite McDonald’s like in that you know what you are getting each time generally. This one was not as crowded and felt good.
This Thursday morning went for a hike out on the point and wonderful to just see the ocean. Departing found the world famous Kaikoura BBQ and opted for the blue cod dinner and chowder although the crayfish looked great(lobster)
And so we arrived picton completing our circumnavigation of the South Island. Time is way too short.
Paradise is not where you go but how you feel for one moment of your life.
alas, we are again feeling the pinch of time. Six weeks seemed like a long time, but now discussions cover what to miss or skip. New Zealand seems to be like Alaska; the longer you stay the longer the list of things to do grows longer. Thus far, would have been nice to spend more time at Cape Reinga, way up north, we skipped doubtful sound, and are going to skip Mt cook national park.
But on the good side, still time and just because we are skipping things does not mean we are not doing stuff.
Arrived Dunedin where a friend we had not seen in 5-6 years had gotten a job as an engineer. And Zak & Natasha were to meet us again here, as Jacob had brought some things from Alaska for them, replacing some of the items stolen earlier with their van breakin.
Arrived and discovered a royal albatross colony. Drove a delightful over the top tiny narrow road, overlooking ocean and found the colony. First sight is of the hundreds of red legged sea gulls.
Signed up for a tour, which again proved awesome. Sam, our guide was passionate about his work, and giving us information. One of the first things was the red legged sea gull is threatened as the krill they eat is being forced deeper than the birds can go, due to climate change and warming oceans.
Then on to the albatrosses where we saw several nesting. Approximately day 65 of 70 days incubating. These are huge birds weighing at about 8 kilos with a wing span over 3 meters. When not spending their year on land raising a chick they cruise the southern ocean circling the globe never stepping on land for a year and for new birds 5-6 years; just cruising the winds. But again threatened, the krill, squid and food sources they eat puts out a chemical called DMS (short for some chemical name) albatrosses are hunters by smell, and when this chemical emits a plume the birds key in on it. Unfortunately plastic uses DMS and after a month of degradation also emits a chemical plume. The birds eat the plastic and eventually die.
After the birds Jeanne and I walked the Otago university campus which was delightful. At appointed time met our friends and had a wonderful meal. Met Zak & Natasha in am to get a bag to take home for them. (Aw the joys of traveling, trying to take the exact right thing) we were in a camper park and they were in a “freedom camp”. Dunedin had turned the carpark used during the day into a camper park at night.
Then off we went for our longest day of driving yet 350 kilometers to Christchurch. 5 1/2 hours.
we had heard about the southern alps train going from Greymouth to Christchurch. We went through Greymouth on the west coast almost two weeks ago, but discovered you could only go to Christchurch then return. To stop in Arthur’s pass would require an overnight. From Christchurch one can go to Arthur’s pass, spend 6 hours, then return Christchurch all in one day.
Somewhere along the way we read it is one of the top 5 train rides in the world. Ok I was skeptical and immediately began comparing to Alaska railroad and the scenery in Alaska. Again I was wrong. Within a few minutes of departure I realized this was a modern train, not high speed but we were cruising at 100 kph. Takes a 4 hours to cross the country here 250 kilometer. (Ok it is the narrowest point) Through the mountains, some 25 tunnels, bridges, and an elevation gain of a thousand meters. We were impressed. Cars were comfortable, with huge windows, and an outside viewing platform car.
Six hours at Arthur’s pass and lots of hiking trails. We managed to exhaust ourselves trying to begin to cover them. With the walk to train station maybenanother 15 k day.
Another delightful walk through the incredible silver beech forest hoping to see the mountain parrot (Kea) without success. back on the train to return Christ church after a remarkable day. Do not try and compare to other places, rides or experiences. This is its own incredible experience.
“Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.”
If anyone out there wants to study extinction and invasive species. This is the place. New Zealand has lost 32% of its native birds in the last 800-900 years since the original Polynesians came across the pacific to the last island area in the world to be inhabited by humans. (Incidentally Europeans were just then taking their first tenuous voyages offshore) within 300 years the Moa was gone. (A 2 meter tall flightless bird)
As I understand it New Zealand broke off Gondwanaland about 80 million years ago, and having no connection close by did not have any mammals, only birds were the large creatures which developed and having no predators became flightless and unafraid.
Humans came in, became Maori and survived quite well, although the birds did not.
Then came captain cook and numerous others to follow. They said you are not using this land like we think it should, and it resembles home sort of, so we will come in, buy the parts we like and make it look like home. Along came rats, pigs, dogs, cats, stoats, possums and the attachments thereof. Different trees were introduced- pine trees began to take over laying down needles which kept the local plants from growing and the seeds spread. I admit lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, and Monterey pine are pretty but the previous forests are amazing, although perhaps not as commercial. Ok I have simplified things but hopefully the story is told.
New Zealand has been a bit of a leader in the environmental movement it seems to me. They fought the French over the sinking of the “rainbow warrior” in the 70’s and eventually that fight led to the demise of nuclear testing. Now they are trying to return their land to an area it once was or a little bit. Ok again I admit I am simplifying.
But I am impressed with New Zealand. They are trying to keep rats and such to a minimum and dogs which are a big bird killer are restricted, cats are rare, and all the parks we hiked have traps for rats, stoats, and possums.
commercial use is still very present- logging in a big way is occurring above the hills where I write this. And fishing and farming and the sheep and cows. We have to survive, but we cannot live in a world by ourselves alone.
Tourism is big here and everyone tells me it has become very big in last years. From our perspective it is big, but still seems ok. But unlike Alaska where tourism is big cruise ships, here it is trekking, tramping hiking, and the natural wonders to experience.
everywhere we have gone have been these great hikes with incredible trails. Well it turns out New Zealand found people like to walk? Hence they have the great walks and a bazillion trails beside that. People want to see the natural wonders.
Ok enough rambling there, and on to the story. Drove through the southlands of rolling hills along the coast. Delightful I found. Went through Invercargill, which Keith Richards apparently described as the arshole of New Zealand, but then he knows music and maybe not so much about tourist stuff. We drove straight through to bluff which the lonely planet guide book describes as an industrial town used as a stopover for Stewart island. We found it delightful with this big hill behind and an incredible view out to the vast southern ocean and to the north – New Zealand.
Made the Morning ferry leaving car in car park without a ticket as apparently paper ran out. The ride over had about 10% of the folks tossing their breakfasts. I could only think of days at sea and how it is never the same and always something new. Wonderful trip for an hour talking with a lady on holiday to go fishing as has a vacation home there.
Arrived at Oban and a very laid back community. Picnic tables along the beach waterfront, a grocery store, hotel, a few tour agencies, the environmental center, and electric bike rental. Not a single junk store as most tourist towns are in Alaska.
And lots of backpackers with varying sizes and loads. Tracks vary in the park from a few meters to the longest at 34 kilometers with huts along the way. We walked to our accommodation 2 kilometer from town to meet the character running it. Hard of hearing but yells out he only does it to keep him busy, and does not want bad reviews. Back into town and walk about to observation area at top of town where we watched the waves and boats going to Ulva island. The local fish farm dropped off a tote of salmon and numerous locals came by to pick their free salmon.
Dinner at pub and blue cod is now my favorite fish. Then back to our lodging where a danish fellow was excitedly telling us about his stay. He had seen a kiwi the nite before and wanted to see it again as well as penguins. Unfortunately these birds are nocturnal, which reeks havoc with my sleep habits. Kiwis are like northern lights in that indoor plumbing makes them hard to see. Luckily here, no indoor plumbing so the chances of seeing are much higher with my nightly forays. Aw the advantages of aging. It has increased my nightly wanderings.
But I was lucky in that the danish fellow was just returning at midnight from hiking into town to see the penguins arrive on beach for the night. He came and knocked on our cabin door to notify us there was a kiwi just outside on the lawn. We went out and wandered the edge of grass, Jeanne finally giving up, and returning to bed. The Dane, his girlfriend and myself continued to search and finally this basketball on legs with a huge proboscis comes out of woods looks at me from about a meter away and wanders off, back into woods never to be seen or heard again. Amazing how silent it was. We then turned our heads to the incredible night sky with the Milky Way and southern cross out in glory. Amazing.
Next day into town for breakfast and a tour to Ulva island, which seemed mandatory but seemed touristy. Boarded a catamaran thinking we were headed to Ulva island on a 2 hour tour. Cruised the coast seeing little blue penguins swimming along, fur seals lounging about on rocks, and then the albatrosses came in. Oh can they fly. Never a wingbeat and they go and go and go.
then onto Ulva island with an hour long guided hike. First clean the shoes then if taking a pack it must be checked for rats. Jump on it and if it squeaks does not pass. They for the most part have kept Ulva island mammal free and the birds are somewhat natural. Amazing life histories and with someone who loves the outdoors and shares their knowledge and passion. She did say “New Zealand being. Small country, it is easier to convince people that saving the environment is the right thing, and most get on board.”
then back to oban to await ferry ride back to mainland. Turns out same catamaran and crew who just did the tour.
Showers, wash, sleep and off again.
now heading east along southern coast, again delightful winding road with views.
Stopped at cathedral caves as tide just right to go in
You can say as I have in the past. “I may be an idiot but I was a successful one – at least once.”
Departed Wanaka on a better note than arrival. We had gone to the grocery store and I felt like a fish swimming upstream. The headquarters for my aspiring national park is here and gave a much better feel. Obviously a tourist town but some good stuff about. Skiing, biking, mountains.
Drove to Queenstown the self described adrenaline capital of New Zealand. Oh my oh my. Adrenaline for the sake of adrenaline. River boat rides (95kph) bungy jumping, biking, skiing, year round stuff.
Slot River cruise
Then a drive through devils staircase, a winding road along lake Wakapipu, huge lake of which we only did about 30 k.
Arrived at our designated site for the night in Lumsden. A quiet campground of grass and land back caretakers. Good shower and washed clothes for the usual $4 wash and $4 dry, but the difference was a regular washer paying the caretakers who were just sitting out in the sun enjoying life. Clothes were done when the clothes were dry not when the time was up. Delightful place. Zak and Natasha stayed at free site which was parking lot next to city park, nice toilets, and Decent WiFi. I am using my sky roam hotspot for WiFi as most campgrounds only have a 250MB limit. The sky roam gives me 24 hours.
Then on to Manapouri, where we stayed and the town of TeAnau, which is headquarters for Fiordland national park. Nice towns, with TeAnau being more developed and bigger. I bought a good raincoat as weather not predicting sunshine, and J. R. In his wisdom only brought a nylon semi waterproof 15 year old jacket, ok I am not the smartest around, but who knew it rained in New Zealand, all the pictures are beautiful sunshine.
The a bit of hike on the Kepler track, one of the great treks in New Zealand. This one is supposedly 3-4 days with huts along the way. One does not just stop and camp, but reserve a hut. New Zealand has built 10 “great treks” and has numerous others (like the queen Charlotte trek we did earlier). They are scattered all over New Zealand and have become major tourist attractions for good reason. The popular ones require way advance planning something I am not overly good at. How do I know where I will be in six months or what I will feel like. As my aunt Shirley says I do even buy green bananas horse days
But the 3 hours we spent on Kepler track was amazing. The forest of dozens of species of trees mostly these huge silver beeches. The forest of eastern u.s. are good but this is amazing.
Views of upper Waiau river near more sites of lord of rings filming
Camper park at Manipuri was great with showers better than most houses. It is the little things in life. The big hedges separated powered units from tent sites from campervans etc. made us feel like we were living in a maze.
Again southward through the great south lands. Beautiful countryside with sheep cows and hills slowly flattening until the southern ocean. Definitely cooler and windy.
I have noticed gas prices are cheaper the further from big city we are. We paid $2.34/liter in Auckland, $$1.85/liter by Cape Reinga way north and $1.98 today at Manipuri. Must be a better way to help rural folks. ( US exchange rate is about $0.77 to the NZ dollar)
A thought on expectations- I am surprised at how developed New Zealand is. I guess I am jaded coming from Alaska but it is all developed here. One does not just take off but get a permit and reservation etc. it is not crowded but it is developed. I find it interesting how different areas of the world approach wilderness, wildness, camping.
And another regret on this trip is not having time for doubtful sound. Apparently an amazing fiord one takes a boat out of Manipuri, and spending night on boat in the fiord. Alas too much to do and too little time. I just have to enjoy what I can.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
Martin Luther King Jr
Continuing south along the west coast. Some very interesting country. Beautiful beaches. Some crowded some deserted. Paparoa national park with some great hikes through the forests. Forest very different than boreal forests I am used to. Tree ferns, ferns, dozens of species of trees unidentified by me. Spectacular! Zak and I commented given the choice- bushwhacking in Alaska, even in the worst alders would be easier than cutting through the slack jacks and ferns and undergrowth here.
Hiked Cape Foulwind to watch fur seals. Wanted to see more glowworms but worried about getting sucked into touristy stuff. Tours were NZ$180 which seemed extreme and hoaky. I made arrangements at camper park nearby, and he was very helpful listing other activities and potential cheaper options. We arrived and checked out the tour, quickly agreeing to try it. Great decision 4 hour tour turned into 5 when someone was having trouble inside the cave. Started with Bus ride, train ride through forest, hike through forest and stairs up to cave entry. Great cave as they described it as natural with no lights or asphalt walkway. They provided helmet with headlamp as well as full wet suit for water.
Caves were great, although I am not a caver. But near the end ran into water and began floating through the dark with only the glowworms for light. Amazing galaxies of spectacular light. Apparently this is largest glowworm congregation in world. Spectacular! Then floated on inner tubes down the river back to train.
The worms are larvae of a fly which attracts mosquitos and sandflies to the light, catching them in a sticky string like substance they create. The larvae live about 9 months then turn into flies and live about 2 days breeding then dieing.
More hiking and went to pancake rocks, an interesting limestone formation with blow holes. High tide and managed to get wet.
Cruising on south staying in camper parks. People are great but one incident yesterday. Arrived in mountains and towns reminded us of talkeetna, helicopters flying constantly on flightseeing tours. We wanted to go hiking so arrived early at Fox glacier camper park. Got two spaces and put our tables and chairs in spots hopefully to reserve while hiking to Fox glacier (the glacier as opposed to the town). Great hike although glacier reversing a long way up valley. Wondered about the rock (metamorphic) but all info signs about climate change.
Returned to camper park and a big RV (by New Zealand standards) was in our spot. Our table and one chair were moved to our other spot. One chair remained behind his RV. Jeanne mentioned something about taking our spot and he just ignored her. I said I was getting our chair and he ignored me. We backed into the one spot and Zak & Natasha moved down the row.
That evening when we went to bed listened to the RV family argue and state this place was awful as their parking was just a mud hole. The kids were about throughout the afternoon and evening just swearing at each other. They were in trouble for tracking mud in RV. Tears and yelling.
In the morning more complaints and they left. It was a bit of mud as it rained most of night. Karma I guess is real.
Ok one not so nice kiwi, everyone else has been outstandingly pleasant.
then today we thought it rained last night but that was just mist. As we entered mt aspiring national park it began to rain- hard. Apparently they get about 4500 mm of rain a year (about 13 feet). Waterfalls were falling onto the road and rivers raging. The front windscreen was fogging up constantly and blowers could not keep up with moisture. Interesting driving.
And dozens of one way bridges, requiring one to know the rules of the road.
Driving was fun and I seem to be still learning. Have only twice turned onto right lane going wrong way, both times catching myself and quickly correcting. Rarely turn on windshield wipers to signal a turn anymore. (Turn signals are on right side of steering column, opposite of home) and almost always go to right side of car to drive.
Roads are good although narrower. I believe most lanes are 3 meters instead of the 12 feet at home and almost no shoulder. And winding- today was 116 kilometers direct, but road was 260 kilometers which took 5 hours. Speed limit is 100 Kph but you do the math. Would have been more fun with a stick shift, instead of automatic.
Arrived Wanaka, a tourist resort town summer and winter. Zak and Natasha looking for jobs about here as a recreation area. The camper park is yet another fully loaded 250 space area, packed in. I confess I am getting tired of camper parks. Would like to just freedom camp, but illegal here.
“real generosity to the future lies in giving all to the present.”
Ok our one thing scheduled for this New Zealand trip is now finished. Numerous ideas but see what comes along.
Back at Picton and took Jeanne out for her birthday. Seems the whole world was celebrating and the restaurant was crowded. Waiters wanted to know if we could share a table. Of course we were delighted. A couple who had immigrated to New Zealand from South Africa joined us. They had left shortly after apartheid and we thoroughly enjoyed their conversation.
We were going to meet our friends Zak & Natasha again when they came over from the north island. But their ferry was not until the 31, the next day, so we had a day to kill. Friends in anchorage told us about some wine tours here so research showed wine valley just 40 kilometer down the road. Highlight wine tours showed up on web and we arranged an afternoon tour to begin at 11:20.
David showed up at our camper park at appointed time and we went off to pick up second couple at their camper park. Jutta and Alexis were on their honeymoon from Finland and proved delightful company.
David was a wealth of information about the area and wine and a great storyteller. When he delivered us back to our camper park we had visited 5-6 wineries, with 4-5 tastings at each, had a great lunch, visited a chocolate factory and saw Eddie the eel at the camper park of Jutta & Alexi. Turns out eels are somewhat common here. These guys were almost a meter long and maybe 10 cm thick.
I tried desperately to not let my ignorance show through by swirling the wine, smelling and tasting, but I confess I still cannot detect the chestnuts, and Turkish delight, and cinnamon and whatever else taste is supposedly there. To me it tasted white, but good. Turns out David is s beer drinker and we got along great.
One thing I remember him saying was New Zealand is great because not in a hurry. One will be lined up for cashier at grocery with 3-4 in queue and cashier will be carrying on pleasant conversation with whoever is checking out, even after finished checking groceries. No one cares as when you get there you have your conversation. I have found this very true. Cashiers seem to always ask where we are from, where we are going, and giving us ideas.
Back at camp we had a wondrous evening sitting at riverside, especially after David and his boss and their wives dropped off the wine which had bought during the day we had left in their van.
The 31st arrived and we were to meet Zak & Natasha in Nelson about 60 k away but not til afternoon. More research and discovered the aeronautical museum of world war 1 & 2. Peter Jackson, of lord of rings fame, had done a lot of work with the museum. One of the best aeronautical museums I have ever been to. The diaramas were spectacular, life size and included amazing history of the planes but their development, use and function.
As per usual the museum showed the futility and desires of people to demonstrate their superiority over others. Millions killed predominantly civilians. No one has explained a decent rational yet, at least to me. Funny species these humans.
Onward to Nelson meeting our friends at the camper park. A delightful park with over 800 sites. A sardine can of campers, but we were on the beach and a great ocean swim.
That evening the camper park had a band Route 66 Nelson and we rocked until 12:30.
So on to Nelson lakes park where campground listed as wonderful but every review listed sand flies as extreme. All true.
Must be learning the area as went looking for glowworms and managed to find some. They fascinate me.
“Have we fully understood that the respect for oneself is never gained by the contempt for others?” Joseph Monod
Finally stopped raining after Christmas and beautiful on morning of Boxing Day. Very rude awakening by alarm clock at 6 am. I do not do alarm clocks as usually up by that time anyway. But this is our one scheduled event in our entire New Zealand trip, so do not want to miss the boat.
Arrived at assigned location but could not figure out how to pay for long term parking so went and parked on street. Made the boat by 9 and a great trip down Marlborough sound to ship cove. What is not to like about a boat trip, even if the speakers explaining whatever, were bad. But saw some king shags enroute, these shags residing only around here and only about 400 left. Fun trying to identify seabirds but pretty bad at it without someone to direct.
But arrived at ship cove where captain cook and the endeavour spent time, and the endeavour replica spent time here.
Then we hiked uphill and a bit of mud remaining from Christmas rains. But all good and sunshine. Wonderful forest of tree ferns, native beech, Kamari, and the giant rimu.
Made around resolution bay and into endeavour inlet looking for our lodge. Had once again no idea what we were into. We wanted a track in New Zealand because I guess that is what one does. There are 10 official great tracks, but when we were looking in August very difficult to arrange. As most were fully booked, crowded and require permits reservations, etc years ahead. But Marlborough sound also fit the bill and we found a guide service. We chose independent travel, but they make the arrangements (boats, water taxis, lodging, carry our gear between lodges, and provide lunch every day.) beyond that we had no idea although eventually I checked the route and needed equipment. Our route followed a ridge between Queen Charlotte sound and Kenepuru sound.
But our first day we began to ponder lodging. Bunk beds, a backpackers hostel, ???? There were about 10 of us signed up for trek. Kids, families a variety mostly from Europe and a couple from Australia.
The guide service gave us a briefing before departure put us on boat and said have a good time. “call if you need us” we could buy breakfast and dinners at the lodge.
We arrived about 3 pm at Furneaux lodge, 20 meters off trail, and it was very nice. Big porch large yard, but reception attendant was away so we went to bar for a needed beer.
Our lodging was cabin number 6 with 4 rooms a kitchen, deck and wondrously luxurious. I could live with it. Dinner we scheduled for 7:30. Our bags were waiting in our room.
Day 2 was an dry one with very little elevation gain walking the edge of endeavour bay and big bay. Supposedly 12 kilometer. As most places in the world the land goes right down to the water where tide goes in and out so this route cannot continuously go along a beach, but this day a short bit inland. Again awesome forest.
Departed late about 10 lounging in the luxury. We knew in August reservations had been difficult and some friends had said punga lodge was wonderful, but it was booked solid so we were 500 meters farther down the trail, which had been washed out in rains. Again were we to be in some bunkhouse with cans of beans for dinner and breakfast. We had to go through the lawn area of punga lodge and people are out lounging on bean bags soaking up sunshine. Jealous, Jeanne wanted to stop for a beer, I wanted to get to our lodge, stop for the day and put down my 3 kg day pack.
We managed through the track arriving at Mahana and walked to reception. A delightful character introduced himself as Dave and said he would take care of registration later after we sat and had a cold one first.
eventually David took us to the lodge and showed us our room the captain cook suite.
again our bags were sitting in our room.
Then off to the beach. Jeanne discovered the kayaks and was in heaven. I said I wanted a picture but she was gone delightfully paddling along. I went for a swim. We laid out a bit and reflected on our good fortune.
Dinner was at 6:30 and served family style. David was the cook while the French couple Ben and millie served us. There we 10 of us and a delightful 2 1/2 hour 4 course meal. Salad picked from garden that day, whitefish (a New Zealand fish) and lamb. A bit of effort but managed to stay up until dark at 9 pm for a walk to view the glow worms. Again awesome. Would have a picture but all it would show is a cutback next to a stream. But in the dark it was a veritable city of lights.
Then day 3 the supposed “big day”. 23 kilometers and we were on the trail before recommended 8 am again climbing to high spot on trail of 475 meters descending again and climbing again. Wondrous views but the day drug on. Whose idea was this anyway? What made us think a couple of old farts could do this. By the end of day we were beat. I have done longer but this one got me. Why was this doing me in.
Ok my theory goes along with the Big Bang theory and an expanding universe. When I was about 22 years old (which I cannot figure out how long ago that was) I did a 30 mile hike (about 50 kilometer). Now a 25 kilometer is kicking my butt. The only explanation I can come up with is an expanding universe. As the universe expands relative distances will stay the same- that is a kilometer is still a kilometer as it is relative to everything around it which has also expanded. Hence the 30 miles I did some 48 years ago was actually much shorter than the 25 kilometers which was killing me. Any astronomy nerds out there could use this I am sure to measure time and the expansion of the universe. I explained this to Jeanne and she rolled her eyes. Ok you try and live inside my head and come up with an explanation for being tired.
Made it to portage lodge, barely able to descend the last kilometer of paved road and the gruesome 6 step entry to lodge. The printed guide gives distances on trail not the kilometer distance for lodge off trail. We had done it in 9 hours which actually felt ok as stated time was 8 hours plus breaks. We arrived at 5.
Jeanne got the beers and I dealt with Tee who was the most pleasant receptionist I think I have ever met. She was dealing with some folks who were having Expedia problems. Never go with a third party booking. She dealt with them and checked us in. We hobbled to room and a delightful shower. Wanted to go to beach but alas legs declined the opportunity. We made it to a wondrous seafood and lamb barbecue dinner, after which we managed the 50 meters to beach, then room and sleep. The next day was an allotted 21 kilometer to the finish at Anakiwa and scheduled water taxi at 3:30.
gone by 8 worried about making water taxi at 3:30 thinking of day before. But somehow overnight we had gotten in shape and cruised along through delightful forests, accompanied by sounds of bell birds, numerous other unidentified birds and crickets. Views out over Marlborough sound and people boating all over
Made Anakiwa by 2 an hour shorter than stated time and felt great. Went for a swim and made the 30 minute boat ride back to Picton.
A delightful dinner in town joined by a couple who had immigrated here from South Africa 15 years ago. A wondrous time
A few thoughts on New Zealand. A good feeling to have the indigenous people maori part of culture. Most information signs are in both English and local language and history includes the locals. Definitely the mauri had to fight to maintain their rights as original inhabitants, but they were accepted. Not the usual, you are not doing what we think should be done with the land, so we are taking it.
And no tipping in New Zealand. A welcome relief. A friend from australia told me it is management job to provide a living decent wage to workers, not the customer. What a concept.
and interesting the attempts to stop invasive. Here on this track it is the pine tree which they poison and cut down. Invasive are a problem here as little defense. Birds are friendly coming right up to you. Interesting
Remember that you are never alone in your pain, and that everything is temporary. Pain, joy, elation, panic, anxiety, it is all temporary. Be grateful for the experiences that continue to build character, and make you who you are.
After a delightful visit with Zak & Natasha, and a short wondrous visit to Rotorua we began the 450 kilometer drive to Wellington. Definitely not a high speed divided freeway autobahn. Did the drive in about 7 1/2 hours enjoying some desert scenery, winding roads, snowy mountains and views of sheep on pastoral green hills.
As per usual with our travels we have troubles establishing a reservation for a nights stay as leaves the options open. New Zealand, and I believe Australia too, have an app called CamperMate which shows campgrounds for selfcontained and not self contained as well as gas stations, information, points of interest. You can even put in “lord of the rings” and sites will show. We use that and on arrival discovered a few sites, opting once again for the top10 holiday park. Our third one and have all been good. One cannot just “free camp” unless it says so. (A self contained camper van is certified and must be self support for a minimum of three days, toilet, water, etc)
Again we went to the camper park kitchen as most people do for meals. Stove, electricity, water cleanup provided. One just brings utinsils, food, and smiles. Very civilized. Sometimes one eats there, or sometimes take your food and such back to van.
A wondrous beautiful sunset and sleep.
We awoke Christmas Eve with time to kill before the ferry to South Island at 1:30 pm so drove about for a view and walked the beach.
A walk about the town of Picton and decided on a Christmas meal out. A couple of good looking restaurants and opted for one. Great meal of Calamari appetizers and a prawns and salmon pizza. Oh my gosh with ice cream and cake for desert.
A friend from Australia told me her Xmas tradition was to be with family. They take the lawn chairs go out and sit in the creek and drink beer. Temp is usually around 40 (104F) so sounded good to me. Sound like something to emulate. During the night Jeanne awoke me to say the wind was blowing, I replied it was not wind only turbulence from Santa’s sleigh. We awoke in the morn to pouring rain and wind, which has continued all day.
Laundry, cleanup, organize and prep for the one scheduled event we have this entire trip. A 4 day trek of 72 kilometers along Marlborough sound.
Thus far a great Christmas although no creek to sit in. (Also temp is 18 (about 65))
and the rain continues although forecast says decreasing this evening.