Category: New Zealand

New Zealand: South Island Favorites

By , January 20, 2011 8:31 am
Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

Once we passed the half way mark of our road trip around the South Island, we realized we were ahead of schedule so it was time to wind things down. The next couple of stops we made are the most memorable for me because there is nothing more beautiful than seeing animals in their natural environment.

Otago Peninsula

Otago Peninsula

Road Trip

Road Trip

When we arrived in the Petrified Forest, we were bummed out that we missed the sunset. As we walked down onto the rocks, a sudden silence came upon us and people were frozen in front of their cameras. As I walked around to see what was going on, I was told to move out of the way by this old man. I was kind of upset as he could have asked in a nicer manner. Then I saw this little fat figure wobbling side to side and then hopping over the rocks. OMG, it was a Yellow-Eyed penguin and I was standing on his path home. I moved right away and for the next 5 minutes, I was back in high school looking at my first crush and my heart was beating so fast I was sure everyone could hear it.

Yellow-Eyed Penguin

Yellow-Eyed Penguin

I later learned Yellow-Eyed penguins like to nest in the forest or in shrubs. In the month of November, the chicks start to hatch. The parents will take turns foraging at the ocean and return usually at noon and in the evening, while the other stays, caring their helpless chicks. Upon their way home onshore, if frighten, they would go back into the waters which is dangerous for them because of the strong currents. It is vital that we were are always at least 5 meters away from them and if you see a penguin standing still near you, you need to move out of the way.

Basking In The Glorious Sun

Basking In The Glorious Sun

That night, we parked at a campsite for the first time. It was great since we had power for the first time. We charged all our electronics and I caught up on my Twilight series. In the morning, we did laundry, lunched right outside our caravan, and enjoyed the cliff views overlooking the vast ocean. We didn’t see any dolphins but when we returned back to the Petrified Forest at noon, we were once again very lucky to spot an endangered Yellow-Eyed penguin sunbathing on the rocks. Yellow-eyed penguins are very territorial and like to be spread out. This penguin had not been accepted by the clan yet, therefore had no home at this point in time.

Doing Laundry @ Campsite

Doing Laundry @ Campsite

Curio Bay

Curio Bay

For our next rare animal encounter, we headed to the Royal Albatross Centre in Otago Peninsula. While we were standing outside debating on the hefty entrance fee, there were many birds flying around. Someone once told me if I ever saw an Albatross, I would know right away. At that exact moment, I knew I was looking at an albatross as it soared right above us. With its friendly face smiling down at us and its magnificent wingspan breaking all records, I was feeling that high school crush again but this time, I was screaming, “It’s an albatross.”

Albatross Sighting For Free

Albatross Sighting For Free

Oh Magnificent Albatross

Oh Magnificent Albatross

Nearby, there was a group of people, growing in numbers, looking out onto the beach. As I made my way towards the crowd, I bumped into a friendly park ranger. He informed me the Little Blue Penguins were going to make their way home around 7pm. I walked to the sand to see what everyone was excited about. In front of me, behind a fence, was a blue penguin in its burrow. Ever so often, it would pop out as if it was anxiously waiting for someone. We waited until dark and then the most unbelievable thing happened. In the water, there was a group of torpedoes making its way closer to the shore. Then these tiny things hopped onto the beach and wobbled their way towards us. It was the world’s smallest blue penguin after another. When they made their way back home, the sounds they made were the joyous sounds I have ever heard. I felt bliss, hope, and love for these little creatures that take risks all the time when they leave their homes to feed.

Little Blue Penguin

Little Blue Penguin

Now that I was satisfied with my penguin sightings, I had no expectations of SandFly Beach. After 2 hours of walking in the hot sand dunes, we finally made it to the beach. We later realized there was a road that would have brought us directly to the beach without all that hiking. I just wanted to jump into that freezing cold water and lay on the beach. While I tried to embrace the sun, I saw large mounts of sand randomly across the beach. I went for a walk and as I got closer to one of the large mounts, it started to move. When I saw what it was, my face stood frozen and I was suddenly unable to talk or move. It was a remarkable moment and it felt as if I went exploring on the wild beaches of New Zealand and found a new subspecie. It turned out to be a sea lion, a male Hooker’s Sea Lion to be exact.

Hike Into Sandfly Beach

Hike Into Sandfly Beach

Fattest Sea Lion Ever

Fattest Sea Lion Ever

Frontal View Of A Hooker's Sea Lion

Frontal View Of A Hooker's Sea Lion

HUGE

HUGE

Which One Is The Sea Lion Again?

Which One Is The Sea Lion Again?

Now this was something I could not find back home. If time is limited on your visit to the South Island, head straight for the Otago Peninsula.

Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders

The Silly Four

The Silly Four (photo by Damien)

Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

Wonderful Reststop

Wonderful Reststop

Sunset

Sunset

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

New Zealand South: From The Lush Green To Cold Ice

By , January 18, 2011 1:32 am
Panoramic View Of Fox Glacier

Panoramic View Of Fox Glacier

It’s funny to hear when Boris and I say we don’t have enough time. Whatever the circumstances are, if you are planning a holiday or a world tour, time seems to confine us all. But I have grown to think it is a good thing; it makes me realize the cup is half-full or else I could honestly be a permanent drifter (aka traveler) for the rest of this life.

Wild Lupin Flowers

Wild Lupin Flowers

To make up for not having enough time and missing out on the glaciers in South America, we made it a must-do in New Zealand. The idea of walking in crampons on the ice was scary for me at first (I know, I find everything scary). My mind likes to visualize things and I can just see myself walking on the ice and then suddenly falling through into the freezing water. Don’t worry, that did not happen to me, or anyone in our group. Our tour to Fox Glaciers was a very cool first-timer experience. We began our hike in hiking boots through a lush, young rainforest. When we got close to the valley, there was the un-intimidating, but dangerous, terminal face of the glacier. We put on our crampons and on the glaciers we went. It turns out, ice is a nice texture to experience walking on.

Welcome To Fox Glacier

Welcome To Fox Glacier

Hikers Making Their Way Up

Hikers Making Their Way Up

Oh Mighty Boris

Oh Mighty Boris

We were predestined to complete the south island in this one trip. Our fellow caravaners, Coralie and Damien, had the entire island mapped out for us, which was great. We saw a lot, but it was more tiring for the drivers. Luckily, I can not drive stick shift. :) Along our route, whenever there was something scenic to see, like a waterfall or bed of flowers, we just pulled over and parked our home. I liked our caravan so much, I asked Boris why we couldn’t we just live in a caravan permanently. He looked at me and said only if there is a pool.

Sunset On The Beach

Sunset On The Beach

Blue River

Blue River

Waterfall

Waterfall

If you have ever watched Lord Of The Rings, you can only guess what our next stop is. We were going to see lush steep valleys that were going to knock us off our seats. From a large boat, we toured Milford Sound. It was wonderful to see, but I was more captivated by the crested penguins. I assume since the Fiordlands are so huge, the amazing parts are more difficult to access.

The Fiordlands

The Fiordlands

Larger Of The Many Waterfalls

Larger Of The Many Waterfalls

Steep Valleys All Around Us

Steep Valleys All Around Us

Crested Penguin!

Crested Penguin!

After seeing half of the South Island (I should say the coast) so far, it seems like we are on this forever long scenic drive, but I haven’t found one thing amazing. I know I sound like a monster and a demanding person, but New Zealand was high on my list of places to see. After days of staring at rolling green hills and sheep, I yearn for the sight of people. Overall, the landscapes remind me of parts of France and California, but a shrunken version. It would be a nice trip if I was coming from Australia, but for our American travelers, it is a long way to come to see a clean, quiet version of Home.

Surge Pool @ Pancake Rocks

Surge Pool @ Pancake Rocks

Limestone Formations @ Pancake Rocks

Limestone Formations @ Pancake Rocks

Before you NZ lovers want to shout at me, my understanding and appreciation of New Zealand will come when I see the North Island so please be patient.

In our next post, I will share my favorite spots in the South Island.

Me & The Frenchies

Me & The Frenchies

Water Effect

Water Effect

Watch Out For The Hungry Kea Parrots

Watch Out For The Hungry Kea Parrots

Fern Making Its Way Out

Fern Making Its Way Out

A Face Or A Sign?

A Face Or A Sign?

Sunset Along Coast

Sunset Along Coast

Blue Pools @ Fox Glacier

Blue Pools @ Fox Glacier

What We Paid: New Zealand Dollars USD Euro
– Fox Glacier Tour [4-hours] 198/pp 152 114
– Mitre Milford Sound Cruise [2-hours] 136/pp 105 78

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

New Zealand South: Our Arrival In Sheep Country

By , January 13, 2011 5:00 am
Panoramic View Of Queen Charlotte Sound

Panoramic View Of Queen Charlotte Sound

New Zealand was high on my list of places to see before I die. Every photograph I have seen promised raw and grand landscapes. Boris and I were both very excited to finally set foot on New Zealand. Our first stop was the Southern Island where our friends, Coralie and Damien, from France, were meeting us.

Our Home On Wheels

Our Home On Wheels

We got lucky with our caravan, as it was quite roomy for 4 people with separate sleeping and eating areas. It was a different lifestyle for us as the only things we had to pay for, on top of our rental, was food and gas, which alone was still pretty pricey. We cooked most of our meals and tried to hit the larger supermarkets, which had a larger selection and lower prices. At night, whenever we started to feel tired, we would try to find a good spot to rest, preferably right next to the beach. The mornings were the best part as we were awoken by the sounds of the waves, birds, fur seals, and sometimes ongoing traffic.

Kaikoura Coast

Kaikoura Coast

I'm Trying To Get Some Sleep

I'm Trying To Get Some Sleep

Having two boys onboard definitely calls for attention. Their instinctive behavior truly came out whenever we were parked by the beach. It began with a manhunt for wood and then building a fire. I admit it was lots of fun as we got to toast marshmallows by the fire. However, I definitely advise against cooking on the beach as we always ended up with sand in our food.

Our Friends, Damien & Coralie

Our Friends, Damien & Coralie

One of my favorite activities up north was the Puponga hilltop walk. As we stood on a wooden platform, close to the edge of the cliff, staring out into the sea and the spectacular Cape Farewell Arch, I just didn’t understand how the views were going to get any better. As we ascended up to the hilltops, the trail consisted of mostly grassy fields covered with grazing sheep just staring at us. In New Zealand, it was definitely the sheep that have the best views. It makes sense, as there is more than 20 sheep for every human!

Cape Farewell Arch

Cape Farewell Arch

Start Of Puponga Hilltop Walk

Start Of Puponga Hilltop Walk

Gazing Sheep

Gazing Sheep

Time To Relax

Time To Relax

The grass trail suddenly ended and then it felt like déjà vu and I was back in Mui Ne, Vietnam. In front of us was large sand dunes and Whariki Beach. I let the three Frenchies have some alone time. As they were sliding down the sand dunes, I found a nice spot on the soft sand to rest. While watching them from afar, it dawned on me that I was traveling the world, something I always wanted to do. Yes, I forget sometimes and when I’m reminded of it, it does shock me still.

Whariki Beach

Whariki Beach

Go Boris!

Go Boris!

I was soon awoken from my nap when it started to sprinkle. We all ran inside one of the large caves and waited for the rain to stop. Luckily, there were no sea lions hiding inside.

Be Careful Of Sea Lions In The Caves

Be Careful Of Sea Lions In The Caves

1, 2, 3 ... Freeze

1, 2, 3 ... Freeze

More to share on our next post of the South Island.

A Cuddly Teddy Bear

A Cuddly Teddy Bear

Oyster Catcher

Oyster Catcher

Heron

Heron

Golden Kiwi

Golden Kiwi

Super Yummy NZ Meat Pie

Super Yummy NZ Meat Pie

Foxglove Flowers, Beautiful But Poisonous

Foxglove Flowers, Beautiful But Poisonous

Queen Charlotte Sound

Queen Charlotte Sound

Me & The Frenchies

Me & The Frenchies

Short Walk At Te Waikoropupu Springs

Short Walk At Te Waikoropupu Springs

Te Waikoropupu Springs

Te Waikoropupu Springs

Farewell Split

Farewell Split

Amazing Views That Keep Coming

Amazing Views That Keep Coming

What We Paid: New Zealand
Dollars
USD Euro
– Caravan Rental + Mileage + Insurance (shared among 4 people) 214/day 163 126
– Fuel 46/day 35 27
– Groceries 16/pp day 12 10

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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