Monday, 30 January 2012


I know I'm behind on my blog but for some reason its harder to keep up here.  I'll up date you on more recent events and try to post the rest of our South Island travels soon!

Jan 24 – Christchurch to Wellington
We took the morning to explore the little town of Akaroa. It's a cute town on the water. We didn't have too long since we had to drive the Christchurch to catch our flights. Once back in the Christchurch area we realized we were in the same area as where Beau and I house sat. We had come full circle and had lunch at the pub that we went to the day everyone arrived. After returning the camper we were shuttled to the airport and got checked in. Elaine and Shane's flight wasn't for several hours after ours. We said our goodbyes to Mom and Dad, who we won't be seeing for awhile and our see you soons to Elaine and Shane who we will. The flight was probably one of the shortest I've ever been on. We arrived in Wellington and had about an hour to kill before we got picked up by Dan and Gabrielle. We had arranged to stay with them through a program called Help Exchange. They hosted us in exchange for us  helping out with some work. In this case Gabrielle runs a charity program called CanBead which teaches cancer patients to make jewelry. We were to help her put together some of the beading kits. She also is an avid jewelry maker and makes her own glass beads. As you can imagine I was pretty excited to learn about bead making. After they picked us up we grabbed some groceries, we were alternating cooking nights. We had dinner and then Gabrielle showed me her bead room while Dan and Beau commiserated over being partnered to bead addicts.

Jan 25 – Wellington and Te Papa
It was nice to sleep in a full sized bed again! We slept well but not too late. Yesterday when we picked up groceries we forgot to get breakfast food so we ate a banana and hopped a bus down town. We walked along the Wellington water front which is an odd mix of shipping, sports and restaurants. We discovered a little take away restaurant that Gabrielle had told us about and had coffee and wild venison burgers for brunch! After eating we continued our walk along the water front and went in NZ national museum Te Papa. We wandered the second floor which was about the earth and animals as well as went outside to the museum gardens.  Then we went upstairs to the third floor which was about the animals of NZ including extinct ones too.   After museuming out for the day we walked over the Cuba Street which is a pedestrian only road. There were some interesting people about including two guys juggling. We got another coffee and muffin to snack on. We then went into a sports store and bought our selves some really cheap snorkels. We head back on the bus so we were back in time to start dinner. It's our turn to cook, we made curry. We then got to work on some HelpExing duties, I put together some bead kits and Beau tried to make up a new instruction sheet which didn't go very well since Windows kept thwarting him!
The national museum Te Papa

Jan 26 – Back to Te Papa
We had a pretty late start to the day even though I had set an alarm, we slept through it. After breakfast we took the bus down town. We started off doing some recon work at the Warehouse for camping things. We then went back to Te Papa and explored the 4th floor which had New Zealand history. There was information on the Maori, the native people of NZ, and the European settlers as well as present day immigrants. We got foot sore a lot faster today than yesterday and we ready to call it quits fairly early. On our walk to our bus we stopped into a few outdoor stores to check out more camping gear. We were pretty hungry at this point and split a small sub. We caught our bus back towards Dan and Gabrielle's but got off the bus at the mall to check out their nearby warehouse and pick up a couple of bits and pieces from the grocery store. When we arrived back at the house sushi dinner preparations were in full swing and we had yummy sushi for dinner, although it was missing the fish and seafood since Dan is allergic. We also got lucky with some chocolate lava cake for dessert. After all the delicious food Gabrielle said she'd show me how to make glass beads!! It was super cool. You use a blow torch and melt glass rods then carefully wrap the molten glass around a metal rod. It was awesome and there are all sorts of neat techniques to make unique patterns. I want a blow torch now!

Jan 27 – Parliament and Botanical Gardens
We awoke to some hideous weather this morning it was rainy and windy. We decided to wait out the weather in hopes it would change. Beau worked on his website while I made a necklace. Low and behold it got nice and sunny. We took advantage of the change in weather and headed into town to the Parliament buildings and the Botanical Gardens. We arrived at Parliament shortly after one of it's many free tours had departed so we decided to head to the botanical gardens first and hoped to catch one of the tours later on. We wandered through the gardens and while they were nice, we thought Christchurch's were much better although Wellington did have a lovely tropical green house. In the green house there was a tropical pond with guppies, platties and swordtails. We had enough time to get back to Parliament before the 4pm tour departed. We got a tour of the three main buildings, two of which had undergone severe reconstruction over the years due to some major fires. They also had to redo the foundations to be able to with stand earthquakes as Wellington straddles a fault line. Our tour was informative and relatively interesting, I now know more about the NZ parliament buildings than I do about the Canadian ones! We headed back to the house and during one of our bus changes we ran into Gabrielle on her way home from work and so got picked up by Dan. For dinner we made a really good baked bean burrito dish. The rest of the evening I made some pendants out of the beads I had made and talked beads with Gabrielle. Then we had the unhappy job of getting packed up again.
Looking down on the Wellington harbour from the gardens

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Queenstown and the Routeburn

Jan 15 – Wanaka to Queens town
After packing up at the campsite we headed into the town of Wanaka. There was a little craft fair/market in the park which was a little underwhelming. We wandered around town and walked by a nice restaurant which we decided on for lunch. After lunch we had a twisty drive to Queenstown. Before arriving in Queenstown we stopped into little Arrowtown. The town itself was quite pretty and quaint. The guys found a bar to watch the football game in and us girls had a wander of the shops and bought ourselves a goody from the bakery. Once in Queenstown we made a grocery run and then found a camp site. The campsite was interesting, it had reused shipping containers for the kitchen and bathrooms.
The view from Wanaka
Jan 16 – Queenstown
Back home it's football Sunday so Beau hunted out a place to watch his Packers game. Mom, Dad and I went off to find some sleeping bags and other bits and pieces for the Routeburn. Afterwards Dad joined Beau to watch the game and Mom and I headed for some lunch and internet. After lunch and internet we all met back up together and walked along the board walk. We got some really nice fresh made ice cream. We later drove to a Department of Conservation (DOC) camp site right near the start of the Routeburn. It was a lovely spot right on a river but the sandflies were brutal. We got quite a few bites that night.
Outside Queenstown
Jan 17 – Routeburn
The weather gods were with us still this morning and we woke to a gorgeous day. We were setting off on our 3 day hike and took this as a good omen. We got started on the trek around 10am. The first portion had some ups and downs but was all in the cover of the trees, Red Beech were the most common. The forest had a very BC, red woods forest feel to it. We saw a few birds but NZ doesn't have any indigenous animals so the forest was relatively quiet. We stopped for lunch in an area called the Routeburn Flats. We parked it on a log in the grass and enjoyed our sandwiches in the sun. This part of the hike was 6.5km and was relatively flat. The next section took us up to the Routeburn Falls Hut where we were staying the night and it was straight up for 2.3km. We arrived at the hut around 3:30pm and started the process of finding some bunks and getting checked in. To our dismay there were no sleeping platforms which we had been counting on since Beau and I had planned on sharing a sleeping bag as had Mom and Dad. We also had trouble finding bunks together since people had not checked in properly but we got it sorted in the end. After getting our bunks we (excluding Mom) went for a walk up to a nearby lake and to see a really nice look out. It was a two hour round trip but very worth it. We stuck our feet in the freezing cold lake and got an awesome group shot from the top of the view point. Once back down at the hut we had dinner and played some cards. Everyone in the bunk house was going to bed around 9:30pm so we figured we should too even though it was still light out. Beau and Dad doubled up on sleep sheets and slept in there clothes, assuring us they would be warm enough.
Our lunch stop
The Routeburn Falls

View of the valley where we came from

Jan 18 – Routeburn Falls to Mackenzie Lake
We awoke to another beautiful day. We had tea and oatmeal for breakfast. After packing up we got on our way around 9am. Mom and Dad headed back down to the Routeburn Shelter and we were headed to Mackenzie Lake. Mom and Dad were taking the RV around to the other side to pick us up. This part of the hike was completely out of the tree line and very exposed to the elements. Fortunately it wasn't too windy and the sun kept us warm. It was a pretty steep hike to the Harris Saddle which is the highest point on the main Routeburn track at 1255m. It also is where the park changes from Mt Aspiring National Park to Fiordland National Park. At this point we took a side track up to Conical Hill. This was a very difficult straight uphill track but the views from the top were spectacular. It took us around 1.5hr round trip. Back at Harris Saddle we stopped for lunch and sat outside in the sunshine to enjoy our cheese and crackers. We continued on our way and were rewarded with some breath taking views of the mountains across the valley. The path stayed relatively flat but hugged the mountain side. It was a little intimidating to look down into the valley. Mackenzie Lake and hut finally came into view but we had quite a ways down to go. The track switched back a forth down until we re-entered the trees. The forest on this side of the mountains was completely different. Everything was covered with moss and there were trees growing on top of rocks. It looked like a fairy forest. We made it to the hut around 3:30-4pm. We got checked in and then headed down to Lake Mackenzie to soak up some of the sunshine. Beau, Elaine and Shane went for a swim in the freezing cold lake. After they got dry and warm we made a surprisingly delicious dinner of Indian rice, red Thai tuna, and Mexican chilli beans. Most people went to bed around 9:30 but we stayed up playing Euker a little longer.
A lake along our hike

On top of Conical Hill

Beau hiking

The fairy forest

The mountains seen from Lake Mackenzie

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


Jan 13 – Franz Josef to Fox Glacier
It was raining again this morning. Apparently the west coast is known for it's rain. The windows in the RV don't have an weather seal left so they drip. We drove from Franz Josef to Fox Glacier which is only about 30km. We stopped at Lake Matheson which is supposed to have beautiful views of the mountain reflected in the lake... when it's not raining. We walked a little ways along the path with hopes we might see something but we mostly just got wet. We went into the little town of Fox and had lunch at a pub. After lunch we checked out the campsites in town, both were grossly overpriced. Feeling a little disgusted Dad wanted to go up to see the Glacier. We drove up to the parking lot and it was a torrential down pour. We couldn't see the glacier. Dad got out to “check a map” and got pretty wet in the process. We then headed back into town and checked in to one of the camp sites. Later that evening Beau and I hoped to get some coffee and dessert but everything was closing at 9pm. I guess that's what happens in little towns. One placed stayed open to serve us coffee and Mom and Dad joined us with ab beer. Dad and Beau did take advantage of the pool table.

Jan 14 – Fox Glacier to Wanaka
The rain had let up this morning so we were able to take the short walk out to the Fox Glacier view point. It was a nice view. There was a short walk that lead across the river on to the chalet walk. Elaine, Shane and Beau started on that hike while the rest of us went to drive the RV around. Unfortunately we couldn't make the drive, there was a road sign and height barrier that only allowed vehicles under 3.2m up the road and our RV was 3.3m. We didn't want to risk it! We headed back and walked to meet back up with the rest of the team. Mom and I decided not to do the chalet walk which turned out for the best since there were several rivers to jump across. The other 4 had to remove their shoes to cross some of the streams and throw them across. Elaine throws like me and missed her mark with her shoe and had to run down the river to retrieve it. They did get some lovely photos. After they returned to the camper we drove to Wanaka. We took a gravely back road and found a really nice motor camp. It had a great view of Wanaka Lake. We borrowed a bbq and had burgers for dinner. It was quite chilly tonight!

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

Lake Wanaka

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Camper Van Travels!

I know it feels like I've been neglecting my blog but the problem has been finding free internet. None of the campsites have it free! It sucks but we've found a nice pub in Queenstown for lunch with free Wifi. I'm a little disgusted that we could get free wifi all over Asia and here they care $5 for an hour. Pfft not paying that thank you very much! Ahh well who would have thought we'd be less connected in a Western country.
The camper van has been going pretty well. We've been a little cooped up lately because the weather has been brutal. It's been rainy and cold. I'm a little upset thats I've had pants and polar fleece on. There was even snow in the mountains one day! We are going on a massive three day hike tomorrow so cross your fingers we have good weather :S
Jan 4 – The Beach
Today, after a very leisurely start to the day, we hoped on the bus and headed to an area called Sumner to go to the beach. It was lovely and sunny out but unfortunately windy as well. There are some houses built on cliffs above the beach but you can see where the cliff has fallen away due to the earthquakes and actually taken part of a house with it. We also saw some of the concrete pads overhanging the cliff too. At the bottom of the these cliffs there were big shipping containers, I think to hold back any falling rock and debris. We walked along the beach, the sand was very hot but the wind kept things quite cool. The water was pretty cold too. People were sun bathing and swimming despite the wind. I think our blood has thinned because it did not seem warm enough to go swimming. We had a nice walk along the beach and on the promenade. There was a beach side restaurant and Beau's and my eyes almost fell out of our heads at the prices and they weren't necessarily out of line. We just are used to $1 beer and $2 meals. We had a coffee and a mixed appy plate. After digesting we saw a sign with some walking trails near by so we headed off in that direction but the trail was fenced off most likely due to earthquake damage. We headed back into town and stopped in at a store called The Warehouse, it's like Zellers. We did some recon on soft sided coolers and portable BBQs for when Mom and Dad come down. The rest of our evening progressed the same as most nights with dinner, walking the dogs and watching whatever movie is on TV, tonight was the Green Mile.

At the Sumner Beach
Jan 6 – Hiking in Christchurch

Beau has been bugging me to go hiking so we finally figured out how to get to the mountains. The day started off not so nice but once the afternoon rolled around the skis cleared. We took the bus down to the Halswell Quarry to start our hike. We hiked the Quarry and then turned east towards the mountains and the ocean. We hiked through some sheep farms and cow pastures while also hiking upwards. It was quite a ways but we finally made it to the coast. It was beautiful and windy. There were clouds forming as they came up over the mountains and us. It was really cool. We hiked along the mountains towards where we were catching the bus. We hiked for a total of 4.5hrs and had about 1.5hrs transit time. It was really enjoyable but we've been so lazy lately that I felt out of shape.
The view from the top of our hike over a bay

Jan 8 – Mom and Dad Arrive
Today Mom, Dad, Elaine and Shane arrive this afternoon. Beau and I spent the morning organizing ourselves. Cleaning and getting things organized to get packed up. Everyone arrived around 1pm and were starving. They hadn't had a chance to eat anything between their flight and picking up the RV. We went out for lunch at a pub around the corner from the house. We then went grocery shopping and
picked up some things for camping. The rest of the day consisted of getting the camper organized. Beau and I made dinner and we watched some of Die Hard 3.

Jan 9 – Drive to Abel Tasmin
After a hearty breakfast we finished cleaning and packing we were ready to go. We left the house around 10am, we had been aiming for 9. We headed north through Christchurch towards the north coast. It was a very pretty albeit windy drive. Two of the seats in the camper face backwards so are condusive to car sickness. I had no problems with all those windy bus rides in Asia but this one made me a little green around the gills. We stopped in Kaikoura for lunch and to check out a supposed seal colony there. There weren't too many seals but we saw a few and the view was super nice. We continued on our way with more twists and turns. We stopped in a town called Havelock and had some amazing steamed green lipped muscle from the Muscle Pot. It was really good. We ended up in Marahau. We arrived at our campsite and just had some salad for a late dinner. The campsite had a nice location near the beach but was very full.
A seal in Kaikoura

Family Photo
Jan 10 – Kayaking in Tasman Bay
Today we are going kayaking in Tasman Bay. We were up pretty early and had cereal for breakfast. We were supposed to be at the kayaking place for 8:30 but as usual we were running late. We had tried to contact the company the day before but for some reason the call wasn't going through. They had started the safety demonstration without us but fortunately we have all kayaked before although never with skirts. We had to demonstrate that we knew how to recover from a capsized kayak. We got through the safety course and were fortunately on schedule. We loaded the kayaks onto a trailer and hopped in a van to be taken the short distance to the beach. We got out in the kayaks and had a little more instructions from the guide and then we were on our way. We kayaked along the coast and then headed towards Stuart Island. We were hoping to see some seals, penguins or other marine lift. We didn't see much around this island but it was pretty none the less. We went around the island and north towards Adele Island. We pulled up on a little bit of sand and eat our sandwiches standing. It was high tide so there wasn't any beach to speak of. It was also quite windy. We got back on the water and went around the top of Adele Island. We saw some seals and seal pups! They were very cute but we still didn't see any penguins. We headed back towards the mainland and took a little break on a beach there. We then followed the coastline back towards our kayak pick up spot. The pick up point was tricky since the tide goes out very far so essentially the area is a big sandbar. We ran ground and had to pull the kayak in part of the way. We kayaked for about 5hrs and were very sore in the shoulders by the end of it. We got the kayaks back and got showered and warm. Then we tackled the task of trying to cook dinner on our little BBQ. The charcoal briquettes were slow to get going and never really got going well. Dinner cooked up okay with the help of the microwave. Beau made marshmallows over the tail end of the coals. We enjoyed some nice coffee and Baileys before bed.

Elaine and Shane in their Kayak

Mom and Dad in their Kayak

Kayaking in Tasman Bay
Jan 11 – Drive to Greymouth and wine tasting
It looked like it would be a lovely day when we woke up this morning. We had breakfast then left the camp ground. We stopped to buy a few groceries and got some directions for wine tasting. We went to three very nice wineries. The first was Neudorf Vineyards which was a very nice old looking wooden building. They had some lovely grounds and tasty wines. Our next stop was Kahurangi Estate, they had a lovely Merlot which is actually made from grapes from the North Island. Apparently merlot grapes don't grow well down here. Our last winery Woollaston Estates, it was a very snazzy winery. There was a little art gallery and some interesting sculptures outside. They too had some very nice wines and we splurged and bought a more expensive Pinot Noir. We finished with wine tasting and headed towards Greymouth. It was a relatively uninteresting drive. The scenery was nice enough and fortunately it was too twisty turny. We arrived in Greymouth and found a motor park to stay at. Beau and I made skewers for dinner and mashed potatoes. Our motor park was right by the beach so we had a little walk along there before jumping in the hot tub. It was nice on our sore kayaking muscles. It had started to rain when we went to bed. Some very loud thunder woke us up in the middle of the night too.

Jan 12 – Franz Josef Glacier
The rain didn't stop from last night, it was pouring when we woke up. We had breakfast then packed up again to hit the road. We had to do a big grocery shop again, 6 people go through food very quickly. After groceries we were headed towards the Franz Josef Glacier. We arrived at the glacier and had some lunch in the RV. Then we set off to do the glacier walk. It was pretty nice out at this time, but we made sure to pack sweaters and rain coats. As we walked towards the glacier, the view was quite nice but there were some clouds closing in on the top. Pretty soon the glacier was obscured and it was pouring rain. We got soaked. Mom headed back to the RV but the rest of us ducked under the rope and continued closer to the glacier for a better view, we were also hopeful the rain would let up. It did stop a bit and we were able to get some good pictures although the clouds never fully lifted from the top of the glacier. We headed back to the RV and were almost dried out when it started to pour again. We were only 5 minutes from the RV but we were absolutely drenched. Once back in the RV we got into some drier clothes and struggled to find space to hang all of our wet things up. We headed into the Franz Josef Village and checked into a motor camp. It was Elaine and Shane's turn to cook and Beau and mine to do dishes. After dinner and dishes we went out to a pub for a little bit to us the internet. The internet was free but the drinks were kind of expensive. It had stopped raining for a little while but it started up again when we went to bed.
The Franz Josef Glacier


The top of the glacier