May 20th, 2015

A Kiwi perspective of home New Zealand

Life here is so very good and I can’t wait to return home to the Tasman Region we love. But first, there’s a wedding to attend and we’re busy packing for this momentous event. Twelve years it’s taken Michael to replace his old suitcase. Twelve years! He’s driven shop assistants mad with his exacting specifications. Yet here he stands, as proud as ‘punch’.

Michael's new suitcase

Before we continue our travels for another couple of months, we’ve been resting up in an apartment located behind the City’s Cathedral in central Nelson. Each morning we’ve been treated to a beautiful view of trees, reluctantly dropping their Autumn leaves…

Nelson Apartment view

Every now and then the Cathedral bells call to the faithful (and the not-so-faithful). This always seems to happen when I’m about to watch the news. When I was a child, church bells were commonplace and no one would dare complain about something so trivial.

 

Yesterday we walked the Grampian trail from Collingwood Street. It was steep and it made me realise that yes, I am getter older. I’m greatly inspired by the woman in the apartment opposite. She’s my age group and has the physique of a ballerina. Every day she sprints up this track! Michael patiently waits for me until he catches sight of the top…..

Grampian Track michael2

…and then it’s every man for himself. The reward is the panoramic views from the resting platform.

Grampian viewing deck

We managed to fit in a short part of the Mt Arthur walk a couple of weeks ago. Beautiful area where the bush is mossy and the mountain air is crisp in the shade. Glad I dressed warmly.

Mt Arthur walk moss

This tree sure made a statement:

Mt Arthur Tree

When we made our first stop at the Flora Hut, just in from the Carpark, we met interesting people and chatted for a while.

Flora Hut2

That’s the great thing about the outdoors in New Zealand – the people you meet on the way. They’re loving the experience just as much as you.

Flora Hut3

People are so right when they refer to travelling as a ‘bug’. It gets under your skin and while I’m still challenged by living out suitcases, I’m discovering this amazing country in a way that many of my fellow Kiwis will never experience. The biggest reward is sharing it with Michael who loves this country so much. Quiet moments like these are priceless so I’ll retreat for a while and just let him enjoy.

Kina beach long view

Happy travelling.

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May 14th, 2015

Leisure cycling in New Zealand

Over the past 8 months we’ve travelled many regions in the New Zealand South & North Island. And we’ve taken our ‘Trusty Rusties’ with us. New Zealand is a perfect country for leisure biking and as an alternative form of transport. In the past 5 years, New Zealand has established wonderful new cycle trails. These are mainly packed gravel tracks through scenic spots in the countryside.

New Zealand Bike Trails2

For international visitors, New Zealand cycling is a popular way of staying active while travelling and using all senses to explore our beautiful countryside. No engine noise, just a symphony of birds, smelling the sea and a sense of joy at the freedom of it all.

Riverton Coastline

Most international travellers won’t arrive with their own bikes, but this can be a great advantage. Firstly, many hotels, lodges & B&B’s now have complimentary bikes available or for a minimal rental. They also provide helmets which are compulsory under New Zealand law. All you need is a good rain jacket, comfortable cycle pants and cycle shoes.

Cycle clothing

A second alternative is to rent a bike from a local bike shop or a dedicated cycle trail operator specialising in self-guide or fully guided biking. So what’s included? You’ll get your rental bikes, equipment, a location map, plus local advice. Wait, there’s more! You’ll also get a drop-off and pick-up service, either at the beginning or the end of your cycle day tour. How cool is that? There are a number of regions perfect for cycling in New Zealand (with not too many hills, unless you’re into serious mountain biking) Here’s five cycle region with a superb network of cycle trails:

 

Nelson/Tasman

Great Taste Cycle Trails. Travel from Nelson to the Abel Tasman National Park. There are some hills in between, as well as a short boat transfer. It all depends which area along the coast you wish to cycle. If you’re keen to cycle, staying in the Mapua region would work out best.

Kaiteriteri cycle2,jpg

West Coast Wilderness Trail

Some parts in the Lake Kaniere area are simply stunning and an absolute joy to explore with a bike. Imagine cycling along historical water races and thru lush rainforest.

Lake Kaniere Cycle Trail Pam2

Our friends Jan & Stephen at “The Breakers B&B” know all the trails in the region, so if you stay with them, you’re “sorted”!

Breakers with Jan

Central Otago

Lake Wanaka, Queenstown and Central Otago – this area has LOTS of outstanding cycle trail options to offer… in the Wanaka region 750 km alone!

Lake Wanaka Michael2

Most people know about the Central Otago Rail Trail, plus in the Arrowtown + Gibbston Valley, superb trails have now been build.

Otago Central Rail Trail 2

Taranaki/New Plymouth

In and around New Plymouth there is a superb cycle and walking network along the coastline. Be sure to spend more time to include this beautiful, yet less travelled part of New Zealand.

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway

Hawkes Bay

We recently stayed in the Cape Kidnappers region and were totally impressed by how well built and maintained the trails around Hastings and Havelock North were. Combined with some outstanding vineyards, it’s the perfect combo!

Hawkes Bay Cycle Trail

Hopefully this brief overview will provide you with some idea on how you can leisurely cycle New Zealand during your vacation and travel New Zealand by immersing yourself in it’s environment.

Happy Travelling.

 

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May 11th, 2015

Travelling between Rotorua and Taupo

It’s only about 90 kms between the central cities of Rotorua and Taupo in the North Island of New Zealand, but believe me, there’s so much to see and do here. A key attraction is the geo-thermal activity, resulting from the tectonic movement of the Pacific and Indian earth plates. In the far north lies the “White Island” volcano in the Bay of Plenty. To the south, lies the Tongariro National Park with Mt. Ruapehu, Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Tongariro.

Map of Taupo Rotorua route
Travellers to these regions will get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a close encounter with mother earth’s youngest earth developments and movements. So here are some of the key sites between Rotorua and Taupo:

Whakarewarewa or Te Puia:

Whakarewara/ Te Puia is located just outside the central Rotorua township and is one of the early settlement locations for local Maori. The first fortification (Te Puia Pa) was erected around 1325 AD. Whakarewarewa has approx. 500 pools and at least 65 geyser vents. Seven geysers are currently active. Pohutu Geyser erupts nearly hourly (pending on water levels) to heights of up to 30 metres!

Pohutu Geyser2
Waiotapu + Lady Knox Geyser:

Waiotapu is located about 30 minutes drive (and 27 kilometres) south of Rotorua. Many of the hot springs in this area have a striking colourful appearance.

Waiotapu Photo

This geothermal area covers 18 square kilometres. This area has a long history as a tourist attraction and while it has been protected as a scenic reserve since 1931, a tourist operation occupies part of the reserve under a concession. It operates under the name “Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland”.

Lady Knox Geyser

At 10.15 am daily the Lady Knox Geyser is activated by natural soap and depending on the rainfall, erupts 10-20 metres in height. Visitors can view this spectacular sight and learn more about it in the natural amphitheatre. Note: if you’re not interested in this “show” then head to the nearby “Champagne Pool”. You’ll often get this one all to yourself, as most tourists go to the Lady Knox show.

Champagne Pool2
Waimangu Thermal Valley:

Waimangu means ‘black water’ in Māori. It encompasses Lake Rotomahana, the former site of the Pink and White Terraces, as well as the location of the Waimangu Geyser. The area contains Frying Pan Lake, the largest hot spring in the world, plus the steaming and usually pale blue Inferno Crater Lake, the largest geyser-like feature in the world.

Orakei Korako:

This is a highly active geothermal area known for its series of fault-stepped terraces and is located in a valley north of Taupo on the banks of the Waikato River. It’s also known as “The Hidden Valley”.

Orakei Korako

The lowest terrace at Orakei Korako is the jade-green Emerald Terrace, the largest of its kind in New Zealand since the destruction of the famed Pink and White Terraces in the Mount Tarawera eruption of 1886. Orakei Korako remains the largest geyser field in New Zealand, with up to 35 active geysers. The most famous of these is the Diamond Geyser, whose random eruptions can last from a few minutes to many hours, ejecting boiling water as high as nine metres.

White Island:

Sitting 48 km offshore, White Island (Whakāri) is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano. About 70 percent of the volcano is under the sea, making this massive volcanic structure the largest in New Zealand.White Island became a private scenic reserve in 1953, and daily tours allow more than 10,000 people to visit every year. Take a flight ex Rotorua and do the return journey in 3 hours. GeoNet monitors volcanic activity and visits the island around 10 times a year.

Volcanic Air Safari White Island

The best way to explore these natural wonders is to have your own vehicle and start from Rotorua in the morning and work your way through to Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Don’t forget to visit Huka Falls, which feeds New Zealand largest river – Waikato River.

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May 5th, 2015

Travelling New Zealand in Autumn

You’d think this photo was taken in January, February or March. Wrong. The only indication you can tell we’re in the shoulder season of Autumn, is by the extra layer of clothes I’m wearing. And yet it was another beautiful day in the Nelson/ Tasman Region.

Autumn Kaiteriteri

So why are people still being told that the best time to travel New Zealand is between November and February? Why is no mention made of a self-driving holiday in the Autumn months of March, April and May. Although slightly colder, the weather is quite settled and the sight of golden and blood-red leafy trees makes driving such a pleasure.

Autumn foliage

We like to travel in the Autumn months when the roads are empty and the weather is at it’s calmest! The Nelson Abel Tasman area is fantastic at this time of year to ride on it’s “Great Taste” cycle trail – beautiful climate and compared to other tourist areas, quite underpopulated.  Yesterday we rode the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park from Motueka.

Kaiterteri Mountin Bike Park

Ok I did find it physically challenging (there’s a lot of hill work) but stopping for a ‘breather’ was such a pleasure because of these views:

Kaiteriteri Cycle Ride

It took me a while to huff and puff my way to this point and I was grateful for that it was the ‘shoulder’ season, as we didn’t meet any cyclist on the way – yet another reason to travel at this time of year.

Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park Pam

I admit, towards the end it was starting to get heavy going. My aerobic fitness has suffered in the last few months and my hips were threatening to go on strike. What bliss on the way down! Yeah, it’s all smiles now.

Kaiterteri Mount Bike downhill

In the summer season, the golden beaches of Kaiteriteri are packed with travellers. Nature is now withdrawing her favours but not before a last warm embrace to one it’s citizens.

Kaiteriteri cycle ride return

The next day, another perfect day exploring the Kahurangi National Park. More about that later.

Happy Travelling.

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April 23rd, 2015

The Kapiti Island nature reserve

Not many travellers get to experience one of New Zealand’s most precious predator-free nature reserves, yet Kapiti Island is only a 20 minute boat ride from the main land on the Kapiti Coast of the North Island. For us, having our own personal space is not an optional extra. It’s essential. Although we shared the boat with 8 other people going across, we explored the northern end of the Island with only the birdlife for company.

Kapiti Island Nature Tour boat

Here’s one of the locals unloading those all important supplies.

Kapiti Island supplies

The owner/operators of Kapiti Island Nature Tours live on the Island and run the only commercial operation at Waiorua, at the northern end. We chose their day tour which included a one-hour guided nature walk with guide, Andi and lunch. Really impressed with Andi. She loves her job and is a great presenter. Here we are at the shelter for an orientation before commencing our 3-hour loop walk.

Kapiti Island shelter M and A

Think I’ll take a moment or two to absorb this scene.

Kapiti Island shelter

After the orientation Andi walked with us for the first part and we hiked the rest of the way by ourselves. As you can see the track is well defined and maintained.

Kapiti Island Pam on track

It’s hard to believe that only 50 years ago, this newer part of the island was cleared farmland. How quickly nature reasserts her dominance. Here’s a plant that even the knowledgeable Michael could not identify.

Kapiti Island fruit

I was amazed at how fat and prosperous these Kereru were and so completely unafraid of us.

Kapiti Island Kereru

Part of the loop walk included climbing to the cliff face and although the sun stayed hidden, the moody coastline was stunning.

Kapiti Island Cliff face

On the way back we paid our respects to the hardworking DOC workers. Cheerful bunch.

Kapiti Island DOC staff

Back at the lodge it was a surprise to be served a very good cooked lunch (we were expecting filled buns). We sat down with other travellers that had stayed overnight. Kapiti Island Nature Tours also offer cute little rustic cabins or for a different level of comfort, a ‘Glamping’ experience:

Kapiti Island Glamping

After lunch we took a wander down the beach so Michael could catch a few Zen moments.

Kapiti Island Zen

And here’s mine:

Kapiti Island Zen2

This nature experience forced us to slow down and beat to a different drum. The Island welcomed us, as did the locals and we’d love to visit again. Time to say goodbye to those Kereru.

Kapiti Island goodbyes

Happy Travelling.

 

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