A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand


Milford Sound and unexpected trip to the east coast

sunny 20 °C
View Gary & Vicki Ponder-Payne tour 2008 on GPonder76's travel map.

After leaving Queenstown we took the (relatively) short drive to Te Anau. There is not much here but it is a good base from which to get to Milford Sound. While we were in Te Anau we did take a boat trip across the lake to the glow worm caves.

The next day we drove up to Milford Sound passing some stunning scenery and a tunnel where the traffic lights only change every 15 minutes, unfortutunately we caught it on red. As we waited some very large & cheeky parrots (Kea) attacked the cars that were waiting.

We had heard a lot about Milford Sound and it did not disappoint. It was slightly wet and misty but we could still see it's beauty, it is very rare to get the clear sunny day that appears on all of the postcards. This was our first penguin viewing, we also saw seals and some spectacular waterfalls coming off the high cliffs that rise up from the waters edge.

After Milford Sound we had reached the end of our planned itinerary a whole two days ahead of schedule, so we decided to freestyle and head east over to Dunedin.

While here we saw wild albatross landing and nesting at the edge of the Otago Peninsula and then took a walk up Baldwin Street, according to the Guiness Book of Records is the steepest street in the world at 1 in 1.266.

On our second day we took a scenic train ride along the Taieri Gorge Railway through tunnels and over many viaducts and gorges.

That afternoon we headed towards Christchurch but stopped on the way at Oamaru where we saw the Moeraki Boulders. These are huge perfectly spherical rocks on the beach. There are no guides or information points to explain how the boulders got there, we thought of a number of theories from alien eggs to volcanic lava hardening in zero gravity as they fell. We did find the real explanation but it is not as much fun.

Oamaru was a very small town but is a great place to view colonies of Yellow Eyed & Blue penguins coming out of the water and nesting on the beaches. We could not take any photos as this would scare them away, so we have 'borrowed' some images from wikipedia.

Once we arrived in Christchrch we had a walk around the city centre, had a lovely lunch in a place called Sticky Fingers and then had a few drinks by the river in the sun. Nice city and a very chilled out afternoon.

Posted by GPonder76 18:21 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Vicki Payne - Adrenalin Junkie


sunny 31 °C
View Gary & Vicki Ponder-Payne tour 2008 on GPonder76's travel map.

Queenstown is great!! We spent a couple of days here and got into the spirit of things by drinking the local brew Montieths and jumping off mountains - but not in that order!
The first thing we did when we arrived in Queenstown was ride the cable car to the top of mountain overlooking the city and the lake. The weather was stunning, with clear blue skies and warm sunshine, we were very glad of this after the last few days heavy rain.

At the top of the mountain there was a viewing point, a Luge (go kart / tabogan), bungy jump and paragliding. The luge was a lot of fun and Gary enjoyed pretending to be Lewis Hamilton and taking the racing line, he'd been practising in the camper van on the roads of New Zealand, and directed Vicki's camera work.

When Gary saw the Paragliders jumping from the top of the mountain and jokingly suggested we had a go, he was completely surprised when Vicki agreed! It was amazing and something that both of us have named within our top moments in New Zealand.

Look for Gary in the top right of this picture

We also have some video footage which we'll share with you when we're back.

Posted by GPonder76 15:59 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Glaciers are cool!

Franz Joseph & Fox Glaciers

semi-overcast 6 °C
View Gary & Vicki Ponder-Payne tour 2008 on GPonder76's travel map.

We apologise for the whinging in the last blog entry and hope that you are still reading.

As soon as we had posted the last blog we walked out of the internet cafe to see that it had stopped raining, Yey! :)
So we drove to the bottom of the Franz Joseph glacier and had a stunning view. All the rain had washed away the icy white frost from the surface to leave a stunning glacier of very blue ice.

All helicopter flights up to the Franz Joseph glacier were booked up so we headed for the Fox glacier where we managed to get on a flight. Our flight was at 12:00 and it was a tense morning hoping that the cloud would not decend. Shotly before 12:00 we go the all clear from the pilot and we hopped in the chopper and had a short but amazing ride past the glacier terminal and half way up the 13km length. Also managed to get the front seats in the chopper which was excellent.
Once on the ice our guide took us through ice cave and tunnels and streams.
As we were up there the cloud did roll in and all flights for the rest of the day were cancelled, but they did send another helicopter up to get us although they did have to move the helipad. If the weather had been too bad they said they have emegency supplies stored in some barrells on the glacier in case of having to spend the night up there (but I think they were full of beer).

We were so happy to have done this helihike in the short window of opportunity which the weather allowed. On our flight back down we realised how lucky we had been once we saw the damage caused by the heavy rain. We could see the car park at the glacier terminal had been flooded and four cars (including the van that belonged to the guides) had been trapped, also the access road to the car park had been completely washed away.

From here we headed to Queenstown for more adrenalin action.

Posted by GPonder76 15:21 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Not so happy campers

New Zealand South Island

rain 20 °C
View Gary & Vicki Ponder-Payne tour 2008 on GPonder76's travel map.

We don't want to sound like whinging Pomms or anything but the excitement of camping is wearing thin on the soggy South Island. It has been raining continuously for the last four days. I have never seen it rain so hard for so long!

Our first couple of days on the South Island were brilliant. Our first stop was the Marlborough wine region where we did a full day of wine tasting with a small fun group. The Sauvignon Blancs went down very well indeed.

It was a warm and sunny day and in the evening we found the only restaurant in town where we had a great fish meal and still had room for desert.

After Marlborough we drove up to Nelson, this is when it started to rain :( In Nelson we walked to a point which is the exact center of New Zealand which is very conveniently located at the very top of a hill which has a great view over the town. A playing field at the bottom is also where the first game of rugby was played in New Zealand.

From here we moved on to Abel Tasman National Park (so did the rain!). We took a water taxi around the coastline and hiked for four hours back to camp. We got absolutely drenched but still enjoyed the views of mountains, sandy bays and waterfalls.

The next day was a monster ten hour drive down to the Franz Joseph Glacier. On the way we stopped at Buller Gorge to cross the longest swing bridge in NZ at 110 meters long. The river below was raging with all the recent rainfall and I didn't think that Vicki would want to cross the bridge, so I was very suprised when she suggested the flying fox return!

The rest of the drive was quite a challenge as the rain was comming down so hard and many of the roads were flooded, and there were even some land slides that bloked some roads. But the upside is that due to the heavy rain there were plenty of waterfalls to see.

We are currently in Franz Joseph but are unable to visit the glacier because it is closed due to the bad weather. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the weather is better tomorrow and we'll be happy campers again :)

Posted by GPonder76 18:11 Archived in New Zealand Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

Happy Campers

New Zealand North Island

semi-overcast 26 °C
View Gary & Vicki Ponder-Payne tour 2008 on GPonder76's travel map.

After a long flight from Hawaii to Auckland we arrived at midnight and checked into the airport hotel. Not particularly exciting but it is notable as this would be the last time we would sleep in a nice big bed and have an en suite bathroom for quite a while.

The next day we picked up or campervan and headed north to the Bay of Islands. Driving in NZ is great! Most roads are just one lane each way with lots of twists and turns through mountains with stunning views of forests and so many rivers and waterfalls - and sheep!

Our first campsite was right next to a river looking out on to Haruru Falls where we kayaked up to the waterfalls and then along the river. Along the river we saw lots of fish, jellyfish and cormorants. There is also a bird in NZ that sounds exactly like R2-D2.

From the nearby town of Paihia we took a boat tour around the bay to see all of the islands and a stop off at Urupukapuka island where we walked up to the lookout point. It was a sunny hot day and the water was very blue, and we felt very lucky to see this beautiful area, and we can see why New Zealanders holiday here.

As soon as we got out into the bay a large pod of dolphins swam up to our boat. It was great to see and we were very lucky as another Dolphin tour boat had been out for about an hour looking for some dolphins. Our boat took us out to the Hole in the Rock which is a former cave which has eroded through to the other side of the island, the skipper drove us through wich was quite exciting. It was a narrow fit and on the other side was the Pacific Ocean so it was quite bumpy too.

The following day we got back in our campervan and did the 8hr drive to Rotorua. As we arrived a strange smell began to waft around the van but this time it was not Gary. The source of the offending odour was the sulphur from the thermal geysers and mud pools. We held our noses and went into town for some Fush & Chups!

Our tour of Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao park (know locally as Whaka) got us up close to the impressive active geysers (Price of Wales Feathers and Pohutu), mud pools and boiling pots, but by this time we had grown used to the smell.

Back in the campervan again and ahead warp factor six to Lake Taupo where we watched the hydro-electic dam open for 30 minutes and send 90,000 litres of water per second thundering down a gorge and creating some awesome rapids and waterfalls.

A few drops of rain began to fall in Taupo so we got back aboard the van, engaged thrusters and drove to Tongariro National Park (where much of The Lord of the Rings was filmed) but when we arrived the rain was so hard and it was so foggy that we could not see much past the front of our van. The forecast for the next few days was much more of the same, so unfortunately we didn't get to see 'Mount Doom' so we decided to move on down to Wellington.

Vicki's map reading had been "fairly good" up to this stage of the trip, but her navigation onto a short cut which appeared to be fairly straight on the map turned out to be a wrong move. We drove 50km along Akatarawa Road, a seriously twisty and narrow road over a mountain where passing points were rare and sheer drops plentiful! There was no where to turn around so on we went, it all added to the adventure and at the end we were still friends. But after this Gary employed a new navigator.

In windy Wellington we met some Payne relatives, my grandad Bill's brother Arthur's grandson David and his wife Sarah and 3 children Hannah, Samuel and new born Katy. And 5 rabbits, 3 cats, 2 dogs, 2 chickens and frogs - quite a collection. We had a wonderful evening getting to know each other, sharing stories about family and a lovely meal. We would have liked to have spent more time with David, Sarah and family but our schedule is too packed, so hopefully our paths will cross again, maybe in sunny Sittingbourne.

The last morning in the North Island we hiked along a disused railway track and through a long railway tunnel, before taking the interisland ferry over to Picton on the South Island.

We throroughly enjoyed our time in the North Island and hope the South Island is as good.

Posted by GPonder76 14:22 Archived in New Zealand Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

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