Kaikoura and the Seals

Our next destination was Kaikoura on the Pacific coast of the south island. We’d heard wonderful things about Kaikoura and were looking forward to the visit. Since we had a limited amount of time, we wanted to take advantage of every moment. Kaikoura means food (kai) and crayfish (koura) in the Maori language. Ken and Mary at Coleraine B & B made us feel right at home. Ken was in the middle of harvesting honey from his beehives when we arrived. I did enjoy some at breakfast the following morning. YUMMY!!

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Once again, we were hosted by the kindest and most friendly people. Spending time with them was a delight. I highly recommend a visit to Coleraine B & B. The large room we stayed in was on the first floor with the cutest patio. Mary and Ken’s primary living area is on the second floor with an incredible view off their large balcony.

Kaikoura landscape

We headed to the Pier Hotel for dinner a bit early so we could enjoy the views while the storm rolled in.

Kaikoura Pier

Kaikoura Skyline

The waves were crashing against the shore and up on the road in places. It was spectacular.

The next morning we had breakfast with Ken and Mary and discussed our itinerary. The first activity was whale watching and then, on our way out of town to Blenheim, Ken suggested visiting the seals and in particular, the seal pups. Sounded like a great plan.

Except…once we arrived to board our boat for whale watching, the caution was up on the screen.

EXTREME SEA SICKNESS WARNING!!!!

It’s me…not you. I have motion sickness issues and have been known to feed the fishes more than once. We waited to see if conditions would improve. NOT. So, reluctantly, we decided to cancel our boat trip. I was really disappointed. Delia was very understanding.

So, it was off to see the seals. Since we headed out earlier than planned, we had plenty of extra time. I’m so glad. It was another incredible New Zealand experience. We saw the seals off the shoreline and then moved further up the highway to Ohau Stream and the seal pups that swim in the pools while moms are relaxing near the ocean. Amazing!!

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I was able to sit just off the path and above the seals. Visitors are very respectful and keep their distance while the pups play.


The waterfall is not much further up the trail and I understand that pool can be filled with seals, but today there were only two and they quickly left the water to head back down the hill. Still, it’s a beautiful area and I’m glad we were able to see it. This little guy must have played hard. We found him resting on the rocks in the middle of a dense forest.

Seal pups of Ohau

Experiences like this are just one of the many reasons I travel. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity and wonderful hosts who make sure I stop to smell the roses, or pause to appreciate the antics of baby seals. Thanks Ken and Mary!

From Ice to Hot Springs Pool – Hanmer Springs

Denver snow

Here’s what it looked like in Denver while we were visiting Hanmer Springs on the South Island of New Zealand. (Thanks for the picture, Margie!)

Hamner Springs pools

We stayed at Rosie’s B and B which is a block from the center of town and the wonderful Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools. Each pool was a different temperature and it was so relaxing sitting in the heat of the water. They also had a therapy pool with jets that hit the perfect places on my back and shoulders. If it weren’t for my wrinkling fingers and toes, I might still be sitting there today. It was perfect timing. Delia and I were ready to be pampered and this is a wonderful place to slow down and take time to think about what a wonderful trip we’d had so far.

Breakfast included the most wonderful hot croissants along with our cereal and yogurts. After spending a few hours at the pools, it was time to move on to our next stay.

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Fox Glacier – From the Air

Late in the afternoon after our walk around Lake Matheson, we went into Fox Glacier and checked on helicopter flights for the following morning. We wanted to see the area from the air. The weather was supposed to be bad, so we were told not to expect a flight, but to show up anyway.

Luckily, while it was still overcast the next day, the bad weather held off and we loaded up on the helicopter. Delia and I were the only ones on the flight with the pilot, Dion. We’d seen the magnificence of the area from on the ground, now it was going to be from the air and we weren’t disappointed.

Fox Glacier

Our flight included Mount Cook and Fox Glacier. Mount Cook is 12,218 feet tall. Comparing that to Colorado, we have 53 14,000 foot peaks. The difference here is that this location is near the ocean, not already a mile high.

Mount Cook

The day before, we’d visited the beach at the Tasman Sea. So we had literally gone from sea level to over 12,000 feet.

Tasman Sea

And yes, I managed to get my feet into the water between bites from sand flies.

Tasman Sea

Now back to the flight. It was incredible. Early on, we were being buffeted around a bit and I was getting nervous, but once we made it around Mount Cook, the air settled down and I was too busy looking at views and taking photos to pay attention to anything else.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier Helicopter

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We were able to set down and walk out on the glacier. It was amazing. The pictures tell part of the story, but can’t capture how beautiful it really was. There are a number of different companies that provide flights to the glaciers and they all cost about the same. It was worth every penny.

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The sun tried to break through but ended up being unsuccessful. The crevices added such wonderful textures across the snowy landscapes. The flight was over quickly. I’ll never forget how humbling it was to land on the glacier. A very small person in a very big ice field.

And as Forrest Gump would say, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

Fox Glacier – From the Ground Up

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier was another area of New Zealand that was high on our list. We arrived in the late afternoon and checked in to our B & B. It had been another long, but very beautiful drive, and we were tired. So we heated up our dinner and settled in. As usual, I was up in the middle of the night for a bathroom visit. The only issue? I couldn’t remember which door in the hallway led to the shared bathroom. All the doors were shut and I knew there were other guests. The hallway was really dark. I must have gone back and forth several times before my need to go forced me to select a door. I opened one door and felt the wall for the light switch. Nothing. Crap! Maybe it was a bedroom and I quickly shut the door as quietly as I could.

Then, out of desperation, I decided to head to an area of the house I knew was safe, the kitchen. I turned the light on and it lit up part of the hallway. I opened the door to the room I had guessed earlier and discovered a small bathroom that I never knew existed. Thank goodness. After I finished, I counted the doors, committed the location to memory and went back to bed.

The next morning, Delia asked me why I hadn’t used the flash light on my cell phone. Hmmm…good question.

Kirsty, our host, recommended we visit several places and we started with a walk around Lake Matheson. The walk is about 4.4K through an incredible rain forest. It was one of my favorite places on the whole trip, at least so far. As the helicopters flew people to the glacier and around the top of the mountains, we were walking through an area where the smallest detail was exquisite. It was very peaceful with few visitors.

Fox Glacier

Rainforest

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Occasionally the trees would part and a view of the lake would appear.

Lake Matheson

It was an overcast day, but still lovely.

Then it was back into the dense forest with roots that wove themselves into curves and crannies that cemented trees to the ground.

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New Zealand Rain Forest

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I was just waiting for the creatures of a fantasy world to peek out of the forest.

Then I stepped over the bridge and was back in the open places. The walk, with all my stops and starts, took about an hour and a half and was over too soon. But I just couldn’t resist a photo of the huge tree that provided the final period on a wonderful journey.

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Harriet and the Perfect Glass of Iced Tea

I settled in on the stool at the Public Kitchen and Bar in Queenstown, New Zealand. Twenty four hours earlier, I’d been eating at Moo’s Gourmet Burgers watching the surfers and walking along the incredible beach in Manly, Australia, 1200 miles away.

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Richard, our Sydney host, was kind enough to take us to the airport. We were flying Virgin Australian Airlines and wouldn’t you know it, they weighed our carry ons. Mine contained my backpack with all my camera gear, so it weighed double what it was supposed to. In the middle of the check-in area, we are reworking the contents of our bags. I pulled out my backpack and set it aside. The woman didn’t require that my backpack get weighed, or I would have been in big trouble. And…thank goodness, no underwear came flying out as we frantically tried to get our bags to compliance. The flight itself was uneventful.

We picked up our rental car and while I was focused on staying on the left, driving on the other side of the road, I had forgotten to disengage the emergency brake. Now, in my defense, there was no indicator anywhere that it was on until I looked out my side mirror and saw the car smoking. Delia figured it out quickly and we were back on track. Knowing that we are going to be driving thousands of miles on this trip, we added a GPS to the car rental. Several miles later, the GPS is telling me to turn left to our location.

Left? There isn’t a road to the left. So now, I’m cussing the GPS and calling her defective. We continue driving for another 5 miles looking for a road to the left. We finally spoke to some construction workers who redirected us back to where we were originally. Well, the GPS was right and the Remarkables Lodge had a tiny hidden driveway. Phew! Our GPS was working and it was only me that was defective.

Oops! The Remarkable Lodge showed us arriving the next day so they had to take about twenty minutes to get the room ready. Did I screw up the arrangements and was it for just this night or more nights to come? I was a bit panicky, but it looked like my lodging was scheduled for the right days. Still, our room was a welcome sight once we finally were checked in.

Okay, I know you are wondering about Harriet already, but I wanted to give you a bit of back story so there is a clear understanding about how our day went.

We headed to Queenstown for dinner and only had a few hours to spend. Queenstown is beautiful and while it is a resort style community, it is not as crowded as the resorts in Colorado and not as elite. And…the views are spectacular!

Queenstown Lakeshore

We stepped into the Public Kitchen and Bar and were welcomed by Harriet and the rest of the staff. Harriet is from England and asked for our drink order. Knowing I was still learning how to drive the New Zealand way, I decided not to have a glass of wine and instead ordered an iced tea. I am an iced tea addict and it sounded like the perfect dinner drink.

Harriet was very confused. An iced tea? She looked at Ruby, her coworker who paused, and then said it’s going to take us a minute to do it right. Then Harriet was all over it. An iced tea?

It was the prettiest and most perfect ice tea I’ve ever had.

iced tea

And…on top of all that, dinner was amazing. What a fabulous end to what had been a difficult day. We were in New Zealand where the iced tea was delicious and the scenery so pretty it doesn’t translate in pictures. 

Thank you Harriet!