Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mt Armstrong and clouds

This is where we were this morning.

Ginger beer on the beach

Now this is a beach picture  The kiteboarder from Spain didn't quite make it off the beach but he sure made a good effort. The wind has slight quiet times so it's kinda frustrating for him. Wish my clavicle wasn't broken cause I'd ask him to school me.

Back down to Boundary creek

It's nice here. We spent a couple of foggy days up at Brewster hut, then managed to get above the clouds this morning by climbing up to the top of Mt. Armstrong. We put our intentions form in the box outside the DoC infocenter so the police don't go looking for us.
Tomorrow maybe...Aspiring or French ridge hut? We'll see.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New album on picasa

I managed to upload Ciel's photos from Aoraki (along with three photos from the Catlins - consider them a preview).

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boundary creek

Today we got to the DOC campsite at Boundary Creek at the north end of Lake Wanaka. We debated going to the Aspiring hut west of Wanaka, but didn't want to drive the car through the creek crossings, especially with an unknown amount of rain coming. Tomorrow we'll do some more debating and head up to either Brewster hut near Haast pass, or Young hut and Siberia hut on the Gillespie pass track just west of there. We just have to wait and see what the weather does! It's pretty windy on the lake - luckily we found a good sheltered spot for the tent.
We probably won't be able to post on the blog or check email for a while. Telecom NZ coverage is good, but it's not perfect!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sacked out

All showered and changed after hiking down from the Mueller hut...notice the new shirt!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Telecom NZ coverage is great!

It sure is great to be able to blog from a mountaintop like this!

Merry Christmas

We got our white Christmas by climbing up to the Mueller hut at 1800m elevation. Great views of Aoraki and Mt. Sefton from here!
- mark.

Friday, December 23, 2011


The view from this side is better...and it's Christmas eve!
- mark.

Merry Christmas NZ style

Today for xmas eve we are staying in the heart of the gold country - the Otago. Beautiful old towns that are up and coming with “flash” houses and a prime holiday get-away for the locals. It's nice and hot here during the day, cool in the evenings and big open blue skies with little rain. They call it the “desert” of New Zealand I've seen on some signs. We are moving onward to Mt Cook for xmas eve and xmas day - hopefully a little more “out of the way”. Here this holiday park we are staying at will fill up to capacity on Boxing Day for the remainder of the week. We're hoping that we might be able to find a quiet campground closer to the mtns. Wish us luck!

In this album are some of the reminders for us North Americans that the holiday season is upon us. Here is the link to the photos

With it being close to 30C, it's hard to imagine with orchards selling all their produce. Wanaka has an interesting way of displaying Santa Claus - seemed like some of them would be pretty scary to the kids with Santa drinking beer and hanging by a noose off of some of the buildings. The best thing is to see kiwi camping spots all decorated up with the xmas tree and tinsel hanging with the campers hanging out in shorts and t-shirts wearing santa claus hats or reindeer horns. Pretty cute celebration.

Rush Hour

Coming back from Nugget Pt in the Catlins area = the quinessential experience.
The sheep were out of breath.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christchurch earthquake AGAIN...

A couple of earthquakes have hit Christchurch a few hours ago. They were something like 5.8-6.0 quakes, pretty big ones really. We didn't feel anything here (south of Wanaka). No deaths reported so far, but one injury. I'm sure the residents of the Christchurch area didn't need this!

Ice cream stop

We're in Clyde, and it's hot - perfect for an ice cream cone. One scoop of chocolate and one scoop of gold rush, because it's a gold rush town.
- mark.

No pics of last night

Last night we followed a recommedation to visit Tairoa Head where their is a Blue Penguin colony of about 150 pairs.  There was as much fun for me watching the volunteer guide get excited and talking with him. He said that he hadn't seen as pretty sunset nor as many penguins swim in together on a flat sea.  It looked like a arrow point of darkened rippling from a distance and as they kept swimming towards the beach we could see them porpoising gracefully. All of a sudden 50+ hit the beach and they were on their feet standing about 25cm tall and several cm's apart from each.  Over about an hour's time they made it up the beach and through the 40+ humanoids sitting in their way.  The sounds of them calling to their partners and also the sounds of chicks calling was kinda loud.  Mark had one step on his foot and I was hoping they might jump on our laps but I guess they suspected we were not rocks since our position changes nightly.

I'm  very impressed with the volunteers and the DOC to keep these penguins safe and still be accessible to the public.  Most of the ecotourism on the Otago is expensive tour's to help offset costs of preserving habitat and predator control while making a profit to live.  I think if we all pitched in $5 donation, the DOC would be able to do the job better especially since conservation funding is not adaquately funded by the NZ government.

And no, we didn't visit the castle.  We are giving our $ to the penguin trust.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Penguins galore

Mark loves to look at yellow eyed penguins so he is willing to traverse this to get to them.  We saw bunches of them at Curio Beach, I woke up this am to their distinctive calls. As i write this, the road sign reads "16km to yellow eyed penguins".  We saw dolphins spin in the air this am too. Too cold to swim I thought so we didn't try to see if they would think us interesting, or stupid to jump in their bay.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

My arm is fixed!

Visited Milford Sound yesterday. It was very picturesque, just like the calendars. We also hiked to the first hut on the Routeburn track, just as a day hike - the hut must have been built for protection from the sandflies!
The weather has been great the past few days. Definitely summertime! We saw parakeets above our campsite at Cascade Creek this morning.  Lots of sunshine is anticipated today. We checked into a private medical clinic and for no charge advice was given to perservere. Their isn't a reason to xray again if their is no pain. Merry Christmas they said.  We are going to the mtns again (maybe Brewster Hut) while Mark has to be the sherpa.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wanaka Christmas card writing

Ciel wants to send out Christmas cards, but we've put it off until now. It just doesn't feel like Christmas with the hot sun beating down on us!

Lake Hawea

We bought some cherries at a roadside stop, but I ate too many...

Ciel ate some too.

We hiked above the campground at Kidd's Bush on Lake Hawea near Wanaka.

We didn't get all the way to the cabin, but we did see some good scenery anyway.

We're thinking of heading down to Milford Sound next, as the weather is supposed to be good for the next couple of days. I hope the forecast is right!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

West Coast Retrospective

After a heavy rainfall warning the day before, we had a beautiful day yesterday to take a closer look at the Fox Glacier. It was pretty cool to walk up to this point, where the glacier had been straight down below in the 1930s - it has retreated quite a bit. 14,000 years ago the glaciers went all the way to the ocean. We met a nice couple at the lookout and one of them happened to be in Orthopedic nursing and she suggested we go to the doctor soon and get another xray, just to make sure the clavicle is repairing itself the way it should. Despite what the MD suggested at the emergency room two weeks ago. Anyway - they are on a world trip for a year and I thought it wasn't a coincidence to meet them and be told what I already knew. Denial isn't a river in egypt.We did however before the heavy rainfall warning get to spend a luscious day on the beach watching the banded godwits and their chicks - the locals had outlined with survey tape their nests - so I don't think they got too much privacy, but at least people knew where the nests were so I didn't step on them!This place is for sale for a million and half - it's got property and a cute business that has a huge sandfly on it - And the day before that we were back in the rain next to a glaciated river...
Like the man said, if you don't want rain then go visit the Sahara!

Monday, December 12, 2011


This is our first (and perhaps only) glimpse of Aoraki (Mt. Cook) from the trig point above Okarito. The weather today has been great, mostly sunny all day. We had a great time walking on the beach and lazing around in the sun at the community-run campground here. The weather is supposed to turn bad again tomorrow though.

Hokitika beach

Who is this man? Ciel wants to know....
I finally decided to use some of the razors I've been carrying around all over New Zealand.
And we get a bit of fine weather for now!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kea camping

We drove up to Arthur's pass last night and found one of the DOC campgrounds. When we got there, there were a couple of guys camping in their van, and one of them came up and asked us if we had jumper cables to boost his van. We pulled the car up beside his van, got the booster cables out of the trunk, hooked things up, and tried to start the van - nothing. I was suspicious of the cables because there were no sparks when I hooked them up, so I had a good look at the connections. One of them had come loose, so I used my leatherman tool to connect it back up. We tried again, this time successfully. James and his Czech friend were quite grateful, and insisted on giving us a Grateful Dead CD for our troubles.
After we got the tent set up, he warned us not to leave anything out, or the Keas would turn our camp into "white trash" camping. We saw a couple of these mountain parrots fly over,  but this morning we woke up undisturbed by marauding Keas. We were careful not to leave anything out for them of course!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Post accident update - meditation on a rose

Mark has gone out for a bike ride, while I continue to lay in bed to remain comfortable. Yesterday's trip to Akoroa was illuminating. Not only does Mark not like to drive in general, it's additionally stressful driving with other drivers who are much more comfortable at travelling over the speed limit. So we aren't sure how it's going to work out.

I think I need to "buck-up" and just deal with the discomfort, but my body is telling me different, especially this morning when I awoke.

I like the tile that Wendy has in our bedroom window that reminds me to

"Enjoy the simple things in life
as they are normally the most beautiful."

The good news is that I'm surrounded by roses! To see other pics try this link

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Oil change

Our first oil change in New Zealand. Ciel gets her first big outing since the accident and see how sitting in a car feels for  more than 10km.  This is one beautiful and exciting day travelling to the french village Akaroa.  The oil change feels GREAT!  Let's  be tourists.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My rebuttal - how to help (not me) but someone in NZ

Where we were going to Lake Sumner- the land of no cars and few tourists! Never expected to fall off my bike, I thought for sure if I were to get hurt here cycle touring it would be due to a passing car, truck, motorhome or car passing in the opposite direction. I'm SO grateful that I didn't involve a car cause I'm sure that would have been much more difficult outcome. Ironic that Mark had to wait 45 minutes until someone came along... it's just how this place is - beautiful and remote - just the way we like it.
As it is, we are being hosted by lovely family friends of Mark's parents outside of Christchurch and I get to look at a beautiful rose garden out the bedroom window. I don't think we are much of a nuisance cause I spend most time in bed sleeping! I am not in tremendous pain and I'll be back to good as new as soon as the clavicle starts to stitch itself back up again.

I can't believe Mark didn't post my cute bum now that I'm able to see what he reported to all of you, that's the best part of my body! Now it's only going to get big again from not being able to ride - I'm sure I'll want to still eat like a cyclist - I'm good at downing a half packet of spaggetti and eating more than my fair share of pineapple lumps. So instead of looking at gross bruises of the body, I'll give you a more interesting subject - pictures of creative mailboxes we've admired from the slow road - south island mailboxes

Three days post accident, I'm feeling much better. Poor Mark had to deal with the immediate emergency, my body didn't give me the option at the time to acknowledge what was happening. I don't remember crying, asking him to take my sunglasses off to check my pupils or how he got a sleeping pad underneath me, he told me later I was asking the same question over and over again "I just don't understand what happened, I don't understand where we are..." Mark is my hero for keeping me safe and getting everything organized to evacuate me back to town.

Now laying in this bed, I think it was just a moment of inattention, lack of defensive driving, and maybe some cockiness (and tiredness) on my part that allowed me to veer into some loose gravel for those desperate few moments trying to keep it upright. Gravity prevailed. I'm not as invincible as I thought I was.

If you're really be interested in helping someone out in NZ, the residents of Christchurch and surrounding areas continue to need outside help after the earthquakes of last year. Check out this link for info and to donate Christchurch Earthquake Appeal We'll be making a donation because the ambulance service, ER visit, staff help and x-ray are paid for by the ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) under NZ law. So don't worry about me, if you are going to have an accident do it in NZ! (I joke) I hope we'll be able to get our travel insurance to pay them as well.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Never Underestimate a Gravel Road

Yeah, she hit pretty hard.

I was reading something by Sir Edmund Hillary the other day - he was talking about "Adventure", and how the original meaning was to go out and risk life and limb, but more recently it was being applied to do anything out of the ordinary. I think I can say that our adventures fit both definitions!


Friday, December 2, 2011


We got most of the way up Lake Sumner road when Ciel hit some loose gravel and wiped out. She was pretty out of it when I got to her a minute or so later, so I got her stable with a pad under her and jacket and sleeping bag on top. She kept repeating questions for 20 or 30 minutes, so I was pretty worried. No cars came by for a long time and I didn't have a signal on my phone - not good. Eventually a truck came along and Lester loaded our stuff up and took us out to Waikari where we called an ambulance. Three different doctors and two ambulances showed up - now we're in the hospital in Christchurch. Ciel has a broken collarbone and a concussion.
- mark.