Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Farewell New Zealand

Tomorrow we leave New Zealand and head back home. The last few months have been very special. We have seen many wonders. Every time I have felt sad to be leaving a place the next place has been equally as good but in a different way. This is a beautiful country with friendly people and a common sense and relaxed approach to life.
Our thanks to all who have made our adventures happy and easy. Those we have met, who have rented out their homes to us. Those with whom we have enjoyed hospitality, stayed and enjoyed meals, especially our cousins.
We will miss the glorious warm and sunny weather, the seasonality and freshness of the local fruit, vegetables and fish; the uncrowdedness and the long sandy beaches and hidden bays.
My thanks to everyone who has emailed me and kept me in touch with reality and to all who have been reading the blog and encouraged me to keep going. It has been a learning experience!

Throughout the last few months the words of this hymn have often been in my mind:
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Our thanks to God who has provided for us and looked after us on our travels, and without whom none of this would be possible.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Back to North Island

We crossed from South Island to North Island early on the morning of 2nd March, a lovely crossing in the morning light, which begins by travelling through the Marlborough Sounds then heads out into the Cook Strait.

Having explored the eastern coast of North Island earlier on our trip we headed up the west coast, breaking our journey for a few days in the Mount Taranaki area.
Mount Taranaki is a dormant volcano and stands strangely tall and alone in an otherwise flat landscape of pasture land. In fine weather you can't miss it! It last erupted in 1775 and scientists say another eruption is overdue. Simon managed the stiff climb to the summit with a lot of determination. no mean feat at 2518 metres.

Now we are north of Auckland at the tiny coastal resort of Langs Beach. There isn't a shop for several miles in either direction, but this was the view one evening! We have spent the last few days bringing the trip to a close. We have sold the car and been to the charity shop with things we can't bring home. And still we have too much to bring!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Christchurch and Akaroa

Arriving in Christchurch after weeks in rural New Zealand took a bit of adjustment and it came as rather a surprise and slightly annoying when we found ourselves stuck in a traffic jam - a gentle reminder of things to come when we get back to England!
Christchurch is the largest city on South Island and very English. It was founded as an outpost of Anglicanism and named after Christchurch College, Oxford. The road names take on English towns like Gloucester Street, Hereford Street, Oxford Terrace and Lichfield Street. And there's even the River Avon where we watched punters happily punting. We could have been back in the home country!

From Christchurch we enjoyed a very scenic drive to Akaroa. If Christchurch is English then Akaroa is New Zealand's French settlement. Many of the street names are French and there are lots of French visitors. Being here feels like a dream. It is picture-postcard perfect and attracts many artists. There's not a great deal to do except enjoy it! As we've had a heat-wave this week we haven't wanted to do much! The temperature has been in the upper 20's low 30's. Glorious but hot!
Artist at work, Akaroa

Monday, 22 February 2010

Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo

Last week we had some good walks in the Mount Cook National Park and around Lake Tekapo, enjoying the mountain splendour and great views.

Mount Cook, also known by its Maori name, Aoraki meaning 'Cloud Piercer' is the highest point of New Zealand at 3754 metres. The mountain is snow capped and it was very special to watch
sunrise and sunset over it. We stayed at the Alpine Lodge which has fantastic views over Mount Cook and the area. The lodge reminded us of university accommodation, (the smart kind!), with a shared kitchen and lounge. It was a great place to stay. This photo shows Mt Cook in the distance.

Approximately 100 kms from Mount Cook is Lake Tekapo. The lake is the most amazing turquoise colour in the sunlight - caused by particles of rock which have been ground down by the glacier and are suspended in the water.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Milford Sound and The Catlins

The guide books tried their best to put me off visiting Milford Sound! 'The most touristy place in New Zealand; up to 7 metres of rainfall a year; beware of the sandflies!'
The boat trip up the sound, (which is actually a fiord) is spectacular and one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.
It didn't rain, there weren't many other tourists there the day we went and we didn't see any sandflies!
Milford Sound is only one of about 40 fiords that make up this remote and inaccesable part of New Zealand known as Fiordland.

This week we have been in The Catlins, the very south of the country, and stood on the most southerly tip of New Zealand which is probably the closest I'll ever get to the Antarctic! The Catlins are rugged, remote and wild with rocky coastline, sandy coves, windswept trees and where the wind feels like it's blowing fresh from the Antarctic at times. It takes some getting used to that a south wind is cold and a north wind is warm! The light is very bright with brilliant blue skies. One of the attractions of The Catlins is the wildlife. We have seen lots of seals, some Royal Spoonbills and watched rare Yellow-eyed Penguins coming out of the water and waddling slowly up the beach to their nests from a distance. If you click on the very small penguin picture you can just about see it's yellow crown! Went for a walk along a remote beach and I almost tripped over a sea-lion half-buried and asleep in the sand (not a good idea!).

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

From the warm and sunny Abel Tasman we travelled south down the beautiful scenic west coast to the cool and wet Southern Alps of Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. In the sunshine the snow clad mountains are picturesque, but as we discovered, sunshine is a rare thing here!

Then inland to very hot and sunny Wanaka, a small town on the very lovely Lake Wanaka which each year hosts the world's most scenic triathlon. And it was taking place the weekend we were there! No wonder it was so difficult to find a place to stay! A carnival atmosphere reigned in town and the competitors sweltered in the heat, so did the onlookers!

A few kms down the road is Mount Aspiring National Park where a drive down an unpaved road, crossing several hair-raising fords, and with hitch-hiker in the car, led us to a walk with a marvellous view point over Rob Roy glacier and waterfalls.

Today we drove to Arrowtown and whilst sitting eating our lunch along came churchwarden Jane from home - what an amazing coincidence! We spent a good hour together chatting and catching up with news from home!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman is New Zealand's youngest National Park and is named after Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman who was the first European to come to New Zealand, but he was driven away by the natives. Shame he never got to set foot on this beautiful spot, he missed a lot!
There are no roads going through the park but there is a coastal path and water taxis run backwards and forwards to take you to the beginning of your walk and pick you up at your destination. A great way to travel! Although called water taxis, they're large and more like ferries. It was fun to walk along the path and amazingly beautiful. The colours are vibrant and quite different to anywhere else I've been. Not surprisingly the area attracts lots of artists who are keen to share their work and I've enjoyed visiting art galleries and admiring the creativity!