Daily Archives: December 16, 2009

Day 26: Vegging in Oputerie

Yesterday we hung out in the Oputerie area all day. In the AM we totally relaxed by hanging out in the van until after noon, watching movies and reading. Then we drove up to a marine reserve about an hour north. It had the most gorgeous ocean/cove views I’ve ever seen. We drove by lots of stunning beach scenery to the top of the bluff, which overlooked about 180° of beautiful scenery. I’m going to try to stitch a bunch of the pictures together to get one good panorama later. There was a little cove called Gemstone Cove that has a great snorkling course laid out in it and some fantastic wildlife. After hiking town there (127 steps and a big hill), we decided it’s not the best idea while we’re both still recovering to actually snorkle there, but we hung out for a few minutes and checked it out from the surface.

Then we hiked back up the hill (deciding all the way that snorkling down there tomorrow was not a good idea), and sat on the hill and admired the view awhile.

Then we drove back to Oputerie and the lovely hostel workers there let us stay on their premises for the night and use their facilities (including their internet). We hung out in the common room awhile, worked on a puzzle (which they cleaned up on us before we could finish!), and chatted with a lovely group of four ladies here with their families. They were having a craft night, and one of them (Debbie) gave me a lovely ball of NZ yarn 🙂  Everyone here thinks we have lovely American accents! We think the same of them.  We stayed up way too late, and went to bed around 12; which was probably not the best idea, since the ideal kayaking time is 7-11 in the morning tomorrow!

Day 25: Mel’s Sleepy Day II

So I had another sleepy day on the 15th here, and spent a good part of the day snoozing in the passenger seat while Eli drove north. We got up in the AM and made a quick drive to Taupo, so Eli could catch the noon jetboat trip. He had a blast; “stupid fun on the water”.  (more pics of Eli and jetboat on website)

Before, we stopped off at Lava Glass, a glass blowing place that had amazing pieces, with color and texture nicer than I’ve seen before. We didn’t have time for a tour, but we did stop at the cafe. I had a delicious egg/bacon/feta on a Turkish bread, and Eli had a yummy spinach and chicken fritata and another piece of tasty carrot cake.

Then we hopped in the car, and drove up to Oputerie, a small town that reminded me a lot of the Cape. Folks come here from Auckland (about 1.5-2hr drive) to come to a slightly nicer climate, hang out on the beach, and veg away from the touristy areas. It’s quite lovely here, with beautiful views and a relaxing atmosphere.  On the way, however, we did a lot of looking at this…

There is a LOT of logging on the way to this area. The GPS also got us lost by trying to take us down a gravel, steep, logging road (which was closed), so we did some backtracking through beautiful country.  We found a cute little campground right in Oputerie, and parked our van to take a walk through the forest to the beach.

where we wandered for a while, sat for a while, and collected shells. It was lovely and peaceful, and we got to watch some oystercatchers standing one-legged on the beach, hanging out, and an Australasian Gannet fishing in the shallows.  It was a lovely evening, followed by dinner at a tasty small place in the next town over (I just had the leftovers now, which were TASTY. Since I couldn’t taste when we were first there, I think we’re going again tonight!)

Day 24: Mel’s sleepy day

This morning, Eli made another new friend; the quietest duck we’ve ever met. He barely quacked at all while begging for scraps (the duck, not Eli!), which Eli gave him from our old bread. Eli was trying to teach him to jump… apparently ducks don’t jump, but if enticed with bread, they’ll flap upwards a bit.

After packing up camp, we drove a short ways (Eli drove, Mel snoozed) to the Pukaka Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre, where they work hard to protect and increase populations of native birds. In particular, they take kiwi eggs from the wild, and hatch them with a much higher success rate, and then re-introduce the birds to the wild.  They also work with other species, like Kokako (pic below), Kaka, and Stitchbird. Human-introduced pest species have severely reduced bird populations all over the island, and they’re trying to help ward off extinction.

Then we (Eli) drove north farther to Napier. We drove around and looked at the art deco architecture, then stopped at the ocean spa and tried to get a really affordable massage. But as with all good things, you need a reservation, so we had a lovely soak in the spa, then hopped back in the car to find a campsite and call it an early night.

In Napier, we also stopped for our second Turkish Kabob evening, which was quite tasty.  Oh! And earlier in the day we made a short stop at Norsewool in the town of Norsewood. We checked out their seconds sock offerings, bought a few, and stopped for a snack. I had the most delicious-looking scone I’ve ever been served, but my sense of taste was distressingly gone at this point, so at least the texture was delicious!  Eli had his first carrot cake of the trip, very good. Apparently, carrot cake is a big thing here; most of the cafes have it, it’s usually homemade, and always a little different. I’m sure we’ll try it again before we leave!

Day 23: Drive to the Ferry

So we could sleep in this morning, since we didn’t need to make the Ferry until 5pm, and the drive was only 5 hours. So we had a bit of a soak (as they call it here) in the hot tub at the holiday park, trying to work out the kinks in our tired muscles. Then we packed up and were on our way.

We drove most of the way straight through (or rather, Eli drove and I napped), and had plenty of time, so stopped for a late lunch at a winery near Blenheim. Unfortunately, we’re still not used to New Zealand time, so they were done serving lunch, but we had a lovely cheese and fruit board, and sampled some of their wine. They had a lovely Sauvignon Blanc, and a very nice riesling (quite mild compared to the Finger Lakes ones I’m used to).

Then we made our way to Picton and hung out for a few minutes before boarding our ferry to Wellington. We used our ferry time to read the guidebooks and try to figure out what we wanted to do… and Eli watched cricket with some locals. He’s still not entirely sure how it works, but was fun to watch with people who cared!

Day 22: Fox Glacier

We woke up today to the sound of rain on the campervan roof. Not just sprinkles, but on and off downpours interspersed with mist or no rain at all. It didn’t bode well for our glacier hike. So we decided to wait it out, and see if the weather improved, since there was an afternoon hike option we could take advantage of.  This was wishful thinking, since the west coast of the South Island is the rainiest place in New Zealand; the town at the base of the glacier gets 5,100mm of rain a year (over 16 feet!), with even more as you gain altitude. Much much more than home (Boston gets ~1,000mm a year).

So it looked like it was letting up in the morning, so we decided to have a hike in the rainforest. There was this neat forest hike, which involved a lot of downhill and uphill treking, with wonderful dense plant life on both sides of the trail, and a really long, bouncy suspension bridge over a glacial river at the end. It did start to rain again while we were hiking, but what do you expect in the rainforest?

We were somewhat moist after our hike, but feeling generally fit and up for a half-day glacier hike. Eli was feeling better by this point (if still a little tired), and I wasn’t feeling sick yet, so we thought we’d do it.  We drove to the bottom of the glacier before the tour to check it out, and so Eli could collect some glacier pieces to fill his Nalgene with.  He’s thinking he’ll bring them back to the States with him (in liquid form, of course).

So we had a quick bite of lunch, packed our pack (with rain-resistant cover, thank goodness), and got outfitted for the trek at the tour headquarters.  Leather boots, rain pants, rain coats, wool socks, wool mittens, and a spare pack.  Plus, Eli broke down and bought himself a new cap so I could have mine back 🙂  The tour company bussed us the short distance to the base of the glacier, and it was time for our hike.  It was about an hour hike to the glacier, an hour on the ice, and an hour hike back, in theory.

In my defense, they said that this trip was for people in moderate health, and was the easiest trip they offered.  The rest were for people in good or excellent health.  Even though I was starting to feel a bit under the weather, I felt I was still in moderate health by my American standards. Apparently New Zealanders have different standards of health.

We started the trip with a nice, relatively flat hike to the base of the glacier. We got to see the streams running into the creek, and they explained a lot about the history of the glacier, how it retreated and advanced, how the surrounding valley was evolving, etc. They had just had 150mm of rain a few days prior, which had completely changed the valley and glacier. There had been lots of rockslides, and the whole cave at the foot of the glacier had closed off and the water pressure had blown an entirely new cave open next to it, much much larger than the original! Our guides told us that this is the most extreme the glacier has looked in recent history, and is a really great time to see it!  We were stoked!!  Here’s a pic of the cave, with some people standing really far away from it; probably at least a quarter mile closer to me than the ice.

So after we got some history and viewed the glacier from below, we were ready to hike up, up, up, to a point away from the face of the glacier to venture onto it. (The face is very active, and dangerous to walk on). So we went up… 800 stairs plus lots of steep path. Our guide kept saying we were picking up the pace so we could have more time on the ice… I wasn’t sure I was even going to make it to the ice.  Just about when I was ready to give up and just sit my butt down on the path, it leveled out.  Then we walked along a fairly narrow ledge with a long drop, and a safety chain to be sure we’d make it safely, and a few more steps and we were there!  I made it to the glacier!!

So we put on our crampons, picked up our alpenstocks (rods with metal spike on the end), and walked out onto the ice. It was much easier than I anticipated to walk on, since they had made nice paths for us of rough, flat ice, and the crampons made our boots stick to the surface pretty well.  We hiked past crevaces, holes, streams, and got to see the layering from processes up at the mountaintop where the ice formed.  We had a nice snack of melted ice, and filled our water bottle, since the ice is very clean, and posed for photos 🙂

We took a bunch of photos of the glacier, lots more on my photo site: www.wildsprite.com/gallery/v/honeymoon/NZ/south

Then after an hour on the ice, and a lot more information from our guides, we trekked back, downhill and down the stairs, and back to the flat plain at the base of the glacier.  The sun was lower in the sky, and aimed directly at the ice cave, which heated the ice, so we hung around there for a while, watching pieces of the cave (some car sized, and some larger!) fall from the roof and make huge splashes in the stream.  We also got to chat with some nice folks and the guides.  Eli mentioned that he worked at sites where humans had buggered everything up… which is the truth, and the British/NZ vocabulary is a much nicer way of putting it than we use back home!

After this, Eli had apparently not had enough punishment for the day, so we took a 15 minute uphill hike to see the other local glacier, the Franz Josef (we hiked on the Fox glacier).

After this, I finally put my foot down, and refused to walk farther than a few feet as a time. So we drove down the city to find a holiday park.  However, they were ridiculously overpriced, so we decided to just drive all the way to Greymouth (well, Eli decided he could do the driving, I was bushed).  We made it there by 10, got a spot at a holiday park, and got a good night’s sleep. It was a great day, but I’m still not sure how we fit so much in!