Monday, March 30, 2009

Retirement Works

Almost into my 3rd month here and feeling the pressure as I only have a month left in NZ! Poor me eh? Have been doing so much and loving it all - so here I am already almost in the middle of the north island having been to Wellington and Napier and Taupo - where I'm sending this from -in the last week!
Wellington was a shock after the south island - a big city although it has much less than 1million people - (just checked and its 164,000 in the city and 424,000 in the region) I had a very rough ferry ride across Cook Strait but thanks to gravol managed to survive - Wellington has a wonderful water front/ harbour with its highlight being the TePapa museum - the Monet exhibition was there so not only did I get amazing NZ history art and culture but a look at some great impressionist art - -I visited the mueseum 3 times int he 4 days I was there it was so great - lots of interactive computer driven displays - really loved it! Also0 loved the botanical gardens and the fact that the city is surrounded by hills so the views are great - the botanical gardens were up the hill of course! Also visited the Kaori Sanctuary which is a place in the city where they have put a rodent/psssum/cat proof fence aound the 9km perimeter and now have all these birds and the Tuatara which is a lizzard from prehistoric times native to NZ - actually saw them mating so that was super cool - saw brown teal which is one of the most rare ducks in the world with its 5 little ducklings - unfortunately while we were standing there a black backed gull descended and scooped up one of the babies - endangered indeed - guess the fence doesn't keep seagulls out! It was sickening.
I was the only one on the 2 hour tour and it was great - there are more of these sanctuaries being developed using this special fencing - there are lots of kiwi there but I didn't see them because it was still daylight - lots of Tui, Kea the native parrot, heard the grey warbler and the saddleback. Also went for a wonder bike ride - about 40 km around the waterfront - past surfing beaches and little waterfront communities - I had been told about this ride by the owner Adrienne at Miners Bay, one of the places I stayed on the Queen Chalotte track - it was really a highlight too.
I stayed at the Cambridge Hotel in Wellington - thought that was approprite - it actually is a backpacker place - $23 a night in a dorm room - can't beat that in the middle of a big city with kitchen facilities -
Left there to take the bus to Napier which is the art deco town - It was hit with a bad earthquake in 1931 and all the brick buildings downtown were levelled so it was rebuilt at the time of art deco - this has now become their great tourist attraction - The other thing to see around there is a huge gannet colony - so cyled back to Clive and out to where the road ends and then walked along the beach to Cape Kidnappers which is where the birds are - the beach walk was tide dependent byut fortunately fit with my schedule! It was about 25km ride each way and must have been at least 8km walk each way as I was really striding it out to get back to Napier in time for the art deco tour! Made it in time! Not a moment of that day wasted either and I did get the idea that this retirement thing is work! I love it!
So since then I arrived here in Taupo which has the largest lake in NZ - the former crater of one of the volcanoes - of which there are lots around here - in fact yesterday I did the Tongararo Alpine crossing - Bus picked me up from the hostel at 6.15 - started on the trail about 8.15 - its a 20km walk with 850m elevation over old volcanic craters and past still active volcanoes - smoking vents and tourquoise sulphur pools - quite challenging but not as bad as I had been led to believe - not a wilderness experience though - there must have been more than 500 people walking the track - a steady stream of people - like they were on their way to Mecca! Super neat coming down and seeing the vegetation go from virtually nothing, getting taller and taller and then literally walking through a "gate" into the native bush - and beside a bubbling stream -
Lovely day -
Today I met up with Lottie who I went to Norwich High School with - she lives in Taupo and we both marvelled that we had grown to be well functioning adults in spite of Bartho! She has lived here since 1974. We had quite a bit in common so that was a good visit.

So I have missed the bit out between Golden Bay and Wellington and it was lovely too - I loved Nelson as a city - again on the water with hills all around - nice downtown area, lovely market and one of the things they are famous for is the WOW display - Wearable Art - a crazy fashion show that was established there and now happens each year in Wellington - much to the displeasure of the local Nelson people. Inspiring costumes of all sorts - I loved it!
Actaully went to Circu Oz which was in town - thinking of Laura and the circus in Vancouver and of course Cirque de Soliel - was not quite that! in fact costumes and presentation were a bit disapointing - have been spoiled in the circus department I fear - it was nice to be out with the locals though! Also stopped for a recommended pub the "Sprig and Fern" - best beer ever and next door is a pizza and fish and chip shop which will bring your order over to the pub! what a neat idea! Unfortunately I didn't have time to do tht as I was going to the show but I did have a great chat with a local guy who was a cyclist etc - people are so friendly and the place seems full of "my sort of men"!
Headed down to Nelson Lakes the next day and stayed there - hiked up Mount Roberts and had wonderful views and a great alpine experience - would have liked longer up there - anyway it was lovely - the only thing that did make it a bit different was that the jet boat competions were there so the town wasn't quite as quiet as usual! Another element of NZ all together with lots of motor bikes and big 4wd trucks!
Back to Picton to regroup and organize to head over to Wellington - Stayed at Dee's again whcih was great and got invited to a real NZ barbie - including white bait - not bbq'd though - quite delicious little skinny things which you eat eyes an all - lovely hospitality from Joan and Scott -
Left the next moring on the rough ferry!
So think I'm up to date - a brief version of course - not going to bother proof reading so excuse the misteaks!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NW corner of South Island

Visiting Farewell Spit and the Golden Bay area - there are masses of interesting birds - including godwits getting ready to migrate - gathering along the vast sand spit that extends out from here - got here yesterday and walked as far as one is allowed out onto the spit along the bay area and across huge sandunes and back along the outer beach - weather was good until the end when a storm blew in and heavy rain - was lucky to time in just right!
Am staying at a lovely backpackers and will stay tonight too and then head back to Nelson and back to Picton on Sunday and then Wellington and the north island next week -
Discovered that it was way too far to cycle out here and to take a bus would limit me in where I could explore so rented a car at a very reasonable price in Picton and got here safely - the roads are amazing - so many twisty and super steep hills - the Takaka hill was memorable in a car even - can't imagine that one on a bicycle!
So since I last blogged I've taken the bus to Chrstchurch from Dunedin, visited the Antartic Centre which was really interesting - lots to see and they have a room that simulated -18c - eveyone gets dressed up in parka and stands there waiting for the artic winds and cold to arrive - reminded me of a bunch of penguins - I must say that being a true Canadian who has experienced much colder temperatures - esp memorable waiting for the bus in Edmonton - I wasn't as wowed as most of the participants who obviously hadn't even seen frost or snow before! Thre were lots of very interesting facts and videos to watch - I thought it was very worthwhile -
I called Peter and Katy's friends Sue and Brian Storey - he is a researcher in the arctic when he is not teaching at university in Christchurch - had a nice chat with them both.
Stayed at a backpacker "The Jail" that was a jail until 1990's! It was a neat place! Did I mention I stayed in an "Assylum" ealier - poor people who had to live there but as a backpacker it was good! I could leave whenever I wanted!
So on from Christchurch on the best train ride I've been on - along the coast and up to Picton - spectacular -
Friend Rrobert met me in Picton and I camped at his friend Dee's home. Went out exploring and had a lovely lunch and glass of famous Sauvignon Blanc - so many winderies around this Marlborough region.
Next dayy took of on the Queen Charlotte Track - getting a water taxi to Ships cove - where Captain Cook moored 5 times - then 71 km to Anakiwa to another water taxi - stayed at 2different and delightful "huts" that I had all to myself and another "Treetops" backpacker that was surrounded by tree ferns - Fabulous vegetation and lovely views although one day was socked in with cloud - overall the weather was pretty good - and the last day the sun was shining which made the water even more tourquoise.
Back to Picton last Sunday and then rented a car and have driven out here. Planning to stop in Nelson for a day+ to explore - it looks like a lovely city.
I stopped and hiked on the famous Abel Tasman tramp for a day - just going in from the southern entrance and walking up to Anchorage Bay - beautiful day and wonderful white/yellow sand beaches and vivid tourquise water - I even went swimming! it was a good 25+km walk but fairly flat and very doable and I totally loved it. Aren't I the lucky one when I hear there has been snow again in Vancouver.
Thinking about all my family and friends feeling extra lucky to have this opportunity to escape from the daily newspaper and TV news but also sending extra thoughts and love to those of you who are having health challenges and not such an easy time of it right now. It makes me appreciate even more all that I have to be thankful for.
hugs - Angela

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Albatross and Penguins

Back in Dunedin after the 4 days on the Central Otaga Rail Trail. Left from here last Sunday taking the old railway across the Taieri (sp?) Gorge to Middlemarch and the start of the 150 km rail trail - there was a race ending there - people who had cycled and run the whole trail in the previous 2 days - so it was fun cycling along beside the end ones and encouraging them as I started my trip! My journey was much more relaxed and great - There are interesting information boards all along the trail about the railway - which was for gold mining originally - stayed in various backpacker hostels I met really interesting people along the way - including Kristina and Sammy - a German woman 28 and her 5 yo son - she has been cycling around NZ for the past 4 months pulling Sammy in a child carrier behind her as well as all their gear including tent etc. The hills here are amazing and I can't imagine how she has managed to do it! Makes me feel like such a wimp complaining about the hills! Anyway they had borrowed a little bike for Sammy for the rail trail and he did everybit of it - cycling 35-40+k each day - I enjoyed meeting up with them along the way - Met Jean, who is from England and has been nursing here for the past 7 years and she is in Dunedin so we went off to the Otago Peninsular yesterday and had a great day seeing the albatross, shag, turns, sooty shearwaters and numerous other interesting things out at the tip - we actually went out on the boat and it was SO rough and I did feel everso sic!
At dusk we walked down to one of the more remote beaches and were thrilled to have our own private showing of about 8 or more yellow eyed penguins - they are the rarest of the penguins and we watched them coming ashore in the surf and then walking across the big sandy beach up into the sand dunes and to their nest presumably. It was so thrilling and wonderful to watch this - I shall never forget that experience. There were also huge Hookers Seal Lions lying on that beach - looking like big lumps of kelp - watched one of them hump itself down into the water -
Had a lovely visit at the end of the rail trail with some people, Judy and Tony, who Cindy had stayed with and helped on their Peony farm about 13 years ago! Anyway they were everso gracious and lovely intersting people and I had a lovely evening with them for "tea".
I'm still just the most fortunate person! On Friday morning before catching the buys back to Dunedin I cycled along the river path to Clyde and figured I had lots of time - except that the cable on my derailed snapped and I was stuck with 3 gears - anyway I made it back in time for the bus and there was a cycle shop as soon as I got to Dunedin - it could have been way worse! I am the lucky one and give thanks everyday for my amazing life.
Am off the Christchurch tomorrow and plan to go to the Antartic Centre and then have a train ticket to Picton - the top of the south island on Tuesday morning. So much more I would like to do down here so am already planning my next visit.