Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve - West Coast from Pancake Rocks to Franz Josef

Our campsite was great. After the we got rid of the dodgy kid, everything was nice. It was a bit sandfly infested, but that is to be expected on the South Island. In the morning we had a quick breakfast and then started our journey south along the West Coast.

More photos with GPS maps here.

Lexey at a random West Coast beach called Woodpecker Bay:

Along the way we came to Pancake Rocks so of course we stopped:

We made it to Greymouth for lunch. We tried to go to the Monteith's brewery for some food, but they don't serve food so we tried to go to the Kingsgate Hotel which the brewery recommends for their beers, but they don't serve lunch. We ended up at a Speight's Ale House in a cool old building. Kinda disappointing that finding a good place for a Monteith's in Greymouth for lunch is difficult. The brewery:

A few hours later we were in Franz Josef, at the foot of the Southern Alps:

Lexey made a great dinner with an incredible view, we relaxed a bit, and went out to see the glow-worms. The photos of the glow-worms didn't come out very well though.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 2 of sea kayaking in Abel Tasman

After a lovely night at Mosquito Bay Lexey and I started paddling towards Marahau. First things first, we hit up seal colony. After a few hours of paddling we stopped near Anchorage Bay at a tiny beach for a morning snack. From there we headed around the "Mad Mile" and then stopped for lunch at Apple Tree Bay. After a nice long lunch we headed the rest of the way in to Marahau to be picked up by the kayak rental people. While we were waiting there we realized that there were cockles all over the beach since it was low tide. Aided by a random beach dog, we started collecting some. I think we ended up with 3-4 dozen. Those ended up being dinner that night with a garlic and lemon sauce (lemons plucked from a tree) on fettuccine.

More photos with GPS maps here.

Fur seal having a good scratch:

Mid-morning break:

Lunch break:

After kayaking we took showers at the rental place and then started driving south. We came across a little brewery just outside Moteuka in Riwaka just right along the main road called Monkey Wizard so we stopped in for a tasting and ended up walking out with a 750 mL bottle of their limited edition Steampunk Ale.

That night we camped in the middle of nowhere. As we were setting up our campsite, some guy comes walking up to us and asks for some help. His car had died up the hill. I ended up driving him about 30 minutes towards Nelson in order to get mobile phone service. At that point I went back to a fully cooked meal of fettuccine in a fresh lemon & garlic sauce with cockles and a kinda freaked out Lexey. Weird night, but a great dinner with the Steampunk Ale from Monkey Wizard!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Golden Bay to Abel Tasman day 1

Unfortunately, because of our weather setback in Wellington we couldn't stay at Shambala in Golden Bay very long. We had a kayak rental booking and campsite reservation in Abel Tasman National Park!

More photos with GPS maps here.

We headed back over Takaka Hill and got some incredible morning views:

After a quick training on the kayaks and applying heaps of sunscreen the boat dropped us off at Onemana with our gear and no kayak about 1 pm. Nearly and hour later the boat showed up with our kayak:

After only a little paddling we arrived at our campsite desitnation, Mosquito Bay:

Since it was such a short paddle that day, we went over to Bark Bay to do a little more exploring before relaxing:

Lexey enjoying the afternoon with a book on the beach at Mosquito Bay:

Great sunset after dinner:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wellington to Golden Bay

Lexey and I were meant to leave Welly and head to Nelson and Golden Bay in the morning, but 100 mph winds and heavy rains caused our flight to be cancelled. No worries though. We rebooked on a flight at about 7:30p. So, we stored our luggage (yes, airports in other countries still allow it) and headed back into the city.

More photos with GPS maps here.

By the time we got back it had stopped raining so we decided to walk up Mount Victoria:

The winds at the top were some kind of insanity to we headed straight back down:

We spent most of the afternoon in a pub:

That night we did manage to get out of Wellington and over to Nelson. Arriving a little past 8p, we grabbed our rental car and took off over Takaka Hill for Golden Bay. It was late when we arrived, but the fellow at Shambala (Joe's suggestion) helped us find our room and then we went straight to the Mussel Inn. The Mussel Inn is a great little brewery with a Manuka beer:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Taupo to Wellington

After camping the night at Ben's parents' place in Taupo we packed up and headed to Craters of the Moon for a morning walk.

More photos with GPS maps here.

Lenny and Lexey at Craters of the Moon:

About mid-day we said goodbye to Ben and Mel and headed off to Wellington. First thing we did in Welly after dropping our bags off at the hostel was go to Te Papa!

Beautiful Maori arts:

We hit up the cable car:

Walking down from the Botanical Gardens at the top of the cable car, we came across a cat with a bell. The cat graciously showed us the way, running ahead and then stopping to wait for us. Cute little "Jingle Cat".

Ended the day having some good craft beers in a pub and walking around Cuba Street:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day - Coromandel to The Mount to Taupo

Boxing Day was a ridiculously busy day. Melanie's entire family took us surfing. Lexey and Mel's mom ended up staying on the beach since the water was pretty cold, but Ben, Kane, Mel, Mel's dad, and I all went for a morning surf before breakfast. Thankfully, Lexey took about 400 photos!

More photos with GPS maps here.

The waves were small, but I kicked it:

Kane shredded:

And Melanie couldn't stop smiling:

After surfing and a big waffle breakfast and snap peas from the garden we headed out for the beaches and volcano of Mount Manganui. We took a good (but really hot) hike up The Mount, ate a picnic lunch, and went for a good swim afterwards at the bottom. Lexey and I made sure to get some ice cream in freshly made waffle cones at the bottom of The Mount too.

Picnic lunch on The Mount:

Lexey and I at the top:

Next it was on to Rotorua. We basically just drove through. Our only real destination there was going to be Wai-o-tapu Thermal Pools, but we got there at 5:05pm and they closed at 5pm. So, we went directly to Kerosene Creek for a quick soak in the 105F temperature waters:

To finish out the day we headed to Taupo with a quick stop at Huka Falls before dinner with Ben's parents:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas on Coromandel Peninsula

Full photo set with GPS maps here.

Christmas Day we hopped up and took Ben & Mel's dog Charlie for a walk, had a quick breakfast from the BBQ then headed out to Ben's parents' farm to drop off the dog. Their farm is in the Scotsman Valley near Matamata (where Hobbiton is in The Shire) so things are really green with rolling hills. We took a quick walk up the hill on the farm then headed out. Of course Melanie was wearing her Santa hat.

The farm:

Next we headed out for the Coromandel. First stop there was Ben's family's get together at his grandparents' bach in Tairua. Wow! That house is amazing.

Lexey enjoying the view that smacks you in the face:

The bach from the beach (notice a hobbit upstairs):

We stayed long enough to eat lunch and do a little socializing then headed off to the north for Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove.

Hot Water Beach was ludicrously busy:

Cathedral Cove was near perfect:

We ended the day at Melanie's parents' place in Whangamata and had a great dinner.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve in NZ with Ben and Mel

Lexey and I arrived in New Zealand on Christmas Eve. Ben and Mel picked us up at the airport and we headed straight for Hamilton. Strangely, we ran into Reaghan along the way on the motorway towing his boat. At Ben and Mel's they cooked a great dinner then we went out to watch Matt Hantler and Joel play at the Cook. Crazy seeing all these old friends.

More photos with GPS maps here.

Melanie cooking away:

Ben crushing ice with a wine bottle for caipirinhas:

Ben in his classic pose by the BBQ: