This is Thursday it must be Picton

“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”

Anthony Bourdain

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.

Christchurch earthquake damage 2010-2011

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.

Christchurch city center damaged church background and lots of construction all over
World buskers festival

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)

Kaikoura peninsula
Chili is out there somewhere
Beach walk
Limestone flats
Barbecue oh yes it was great
World famous Kaikoura bbq

And so we arrived picton completing our circumnavigation of the South Island. Time is way too short.

Beginnings of the east side

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.

Greeting committee
Red legged seagulls
Greeting committee

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.

Albatross nests over Otago peninsula. Day 65 of 70 sitting

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.

One birds stomach content 52 items of plastic

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.

Entering northern part southern alps
TranzAlpine rail
Viewing car
Train station

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.

Devils Punchbowl falls 131 meters
Avalanche peak

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.

Stewart island &Rakiura nation park

“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.”

Chief Seattle

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.

Information sign along trail at Bluff viewpoint

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.

View to bluff from observation point southern ocean to left, Bluff, aluminum plant and ocean

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.

Track about Stewart island
Oban New Zealand

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.

White crowned mollymawk 2 1/2 meter wingspan
Albatross hoping for a handout

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.”

Southern robin. Scrape the dirt and they come in and eat the grubs kicked up
Raja tree debarked by kaka parrots which then come and eat insects feeding on tree does not kill tree but hollows it out

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

Enough rambling.


You can say as I have in the past. “I may be an idiot but I was a successful one – at least once.”

Shirley Meagher

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.

Coming into Queenstown
Queenstown harbor

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.

Lumsden campground

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.

Kepler track

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.

Manipuri camper park

Again southward through the great south lands. Beautiful countryside with sheep cows and hills slowly flattening until the southern ocean. Definitely cooler and windy.

New Zealand has sheep ( and cows)
Lower Waiau river and 1899 suspension bridge

Grand beach

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.

Great forest trail Punakaiki
Pine tree over camp

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.

Nile River train
Stalagmites & stalagtites
Crew after cave
Cave exit
Begin river float in cave
J. R.
Inner tubing

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.

Fox glacier and friends

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.

Waterfall traffic
Thunder falls 24 meters tall and raging river
Glendhu campground Wanaka

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.

A new beginning

“real generosity to the future lies in giving all to the present.”

Albert Camus

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.

Blenheim holiday 10 park

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.

Depiction of World War I flyer who lost controls but could steer by feet outside
Replica of Red Baron plane
Russian women were equal under communists under lady did some amazing flying

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.

Nelson beach
Great swimming a bit of current
New Year’s Eve celebration

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.

Fern fields
Lake rotoroa
Celebrating Alaska new year 22 hours after ours
Sand fly with coffee

On to discover glow worms