Phototrotter

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  • Day22

    Kaikoura Whale watching

    November 23, 2017 in New Zealand

    Today is highlight day...
    The weather is calm, around 20 degrees Celsius wind chill, blue skies and were off to the Whale Watch Center. We're a bit early, as we don't like being late, and they put us on an earlier boat because of that. So less waiting, which is good :-)

    From this point everything goes fast. Safety briefing, bus ride to the marina (which only opened a week ago (it was completely rebuilt from scratch, after last years earthquake)), getting aboard the ship and only 20 minutes later we caught our first (of three) Sperm Whales. Now this is the biggest 'Moby Dick' size whale you can find, although from the water surface it just doesn't feel that way. Sure, it seems like a big thing, but only to imagine that more than 95% of the whales body is still under water...

    So... It gave us some time to take foto's before it dove under again, showing it's magnificent tail (fluke), allowing us to take the famous fluke photos we have all been waiting for.
    On to the next. Only shortly after, #2 showed up.
    Same story.

    Then on our way back we saw some Dusky Dolphins. These are the dolphins everybody talks about when they 'just talk about dolphins', but people just don't know ;-)
    These are the 'Flipper' dolphins, that jump out of the water, doing stupendous acrobatics and speed along boats. Not easy to take photos of them though. But at least we tried.

    Last but not least, we saw Wandering Albatross. One was also seen and pictured close by. This compensated for the lack of big Albatross photo opportunities the other day. :-)

    Now the only 'downside' ... is that the Wandering Albatross is slightly smaller than the Royal Albatross which we saw nesting. Believing our guide however, the wingspan can be larger, with little over 3,5 meters.

    After our tour, we did our own 'wandering' around the Kaikoura Peninsula, and nearly stumbled upon a seal, that was sleeping under a rock and out of our sight. It was only until I was for about 2 meters away I noticed him... I immediately took a few steps back before starting to take photos. Which was good, because when the first 'click' was noticeable, the animal woke up and started growling at me. I took a few more steps back, and it closed its eyes and continued sleeping. All good.
    Around this walk, we found a Duck's nest with 4 eggs, walked by a nesting colony of Gulls and saw some other seals.

    So this morning was a good one. We finished off with fish & chips at the same toko we were last evening... just because...

    Tonight's gonna be something else, dinnerwise, but we don't yet know what.
    Tomorrow driving back to Christchurch, and then it's over... It's a shame we have to go back.
    We had a blast the last three weeks and they went by so fast. Although, it feels ages ago that we'd seen Hobbiton, or been at the North Island at all. On the other end, not really looking forward to the long flights ahead of us, we are looking forward to be back at home, with family, friends and our cats.
    Why am I writing this now, we still have another day. True that. But tomorrow we probably are not going to have much time to chat around on Find Penguins. We must be checking our baggage, make everything fit and ready for the journey homeward.

    Should you have read all of our blogs, and saw all our pictures: thanks very much for your interest. We hope you liked following us. Please be welcome within a couple of weeks to come and check out all the other photos of our wedding and this fantastic honeymoon!

    To end this all, thanks to all who have made all this possible (via wedding gifts and tips & advice on where to go and what to do around HK and NZ), and you'll know yourself if you've earned your share of thanks ;-)

    Obviously we are not going to name all of you, as we will probably forget some, but both our parents, who both supported our honeymoon in a substantial way, deserve to receive our sincerest gratitude in person!
    Very, very!! special thanks to you, Jan, Marja, Dick and Carla.
    And very much thanks to all the others who supported us.

    See you back in the Netherlands!
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  • Day21

    Christchurch to Kaikoura

    November 22, 2017 in New Zealand

    Not much going on in Christchurch. We asked the lady yesterday at the Air Force Museum and her answer: 'nah... not much... you better stay outside of the city center and enjoy the landscapes'
    Probably we will get back into the city center on Friday, when we get back to Christchurch...
    Speaking of which... Today is the third-to-last day. Tomorrow is (hopefully) a big bang of a highlight two days before we head back home. Friday we will be leaving Kaikoura again for Christchurch. We will finish there with some city centre sightseeing, grabbing the last souvenirs and stuff and pack our luggage properly. (Which is needed, our suitcases or big mess-boxes right now and everything that doesn't fit well in there, is scattered through our rental car...)

    So, another driving day... Since the earthquake last year in Kaikoura, which damaged the highway very much, the highway has been shutdown for almost a year. Only recently the highway has been reopened partially and only for the weekends. Today, not being a weekend, we had to take the inland route to Kaikoura, which takes us over windy roads, through hilly and mountainous areas again. That's not a problem, because the scenery again is breathtaking.

    Halfway we took a small (other) detour to a place called Gore Bay. This place really is nothing worth mentioning at all, but just before you get there, there are these mountain ridges, in the form of gothic style architecture. They are called the Cathedral Cliffs.

    When we arrived at Kaikoura, we enjoyed half an hour in the hot tub, here at our holiday park, the best fish & chips of New Zealand and enjoyed the view of Alpine mountains, snow covered mountain tops, right next to the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Bizarre...
    Now, off to bed. Tomorrow is gonna be early.
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  • Day20

    Twizel to Christchurch

    November 21, 2017 in New Zealand

    Let's start with the starry sky photo of yesterday. I told you yesterday but didn't add a photo...

    New day, new chances... However the day ended pretty well yesterday, today was a new day... Starting positive. Rineke was pleasantly surprised with the photos I made yesterday night.
    We took off to Lake Pukaki for some blue water photos with Mt Cook in the background...
    Now... Mt.Cook was gone...
    Covered in clouds...
    Not again !!!!!!!
    Ok wait... let's wait for another 10 minutes and drive a bit more in easterly direction, maybe the clouds will take off...

    Today is going to be a better day :-)

    Not very much happening though... a driving day, visiting two lakes, Pukaki and Tekapo, going into Christchurch. At lunch we just saw a helicopter departing from the grass field right next to the cafe... It seemed it was a farmer, just taking off after a cup of coffee. This guy has so much land, he needs a helicopter to efficiently travel and scout over his lands...

    We visited the Air Force museum and tomorrow we go for Kaikoura.

    Oh, and my laptops harddrive is full... So only the 2x 64GB memory cards left to fill up ;-)
    We should be OK... only three days left, and some whale watching... hmm...
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  • Day19

    Dunedin to Twizel

    November 20, 2017 in New Zealand

    This morning started with a negative experience. There is one place in this world where I can do a CrossFit workout, further from home than anywhere else... I'll spare the details, but it ended up being a total disappointment. The guy at the box had a policy and didn't want to negotiate about making an exception. Not really community minded, as my fellow CrossFitters would probably agree, but a drop-in could only be arranged by phone or via the website. Via Facebook they didn't respond, because marketing purposes only, blabla... so he just sent me back to where I came from... Dammit...

    Coming back at the motel, Rineke pointed out that there were some FindPenguins blogs missing... Something must've gone wrong... Dammit #2. Have to make them again...

    OK, so leaving Dunedin for Cape Saunders... which ended up being another gravel road, leading into a gate for private property and a scenery of...... fog. Negative #3.

    Then up to the Albatross experience. I went in alone, Rineke doesn't like birds that much so didn't want to spend money on it. Fair enough. I got the introduction and a short film, and we went up the hill to the observatory. Bummer #4 in the making...
    Darkened glass in the observatory, windows needed to stay closed... There where 4 albatross nests, actually with adults breeding on them, but too far away from the observatory to do any good photography wise...
    I ended up with only a few pictures, on which an albatross can be seen in full, but not giving a proper idea of how big these animals are. Let alone I saw one flying. And if we had, through the darkened glass, it probably would've ended in blurry pics, or rubbish quality.
    Look on the bright side: I have a picture of a living live Royal Albatross.......

    So today looks promising... Hope the lunch is better then.
    Think again. I'll spare the details... #5

    Onwards, through some specific places in Dunedin:
    the steepest street in the world, which was actually quite nice and the experience is similar to Lombard Street in San Francisco.
    and we went to a place where a good friend of ours was 6 years ago. He made a great photo of that place and has it showing in his living room on a alu-dibond. Wanted to see that place for real. OK, Bugger #6... today is a bad day... again the place is covered in clouds, the plants grew for 6 years without anyone cutting it back down and the place where our friends bus was parked back then was now taken because of road works... Nothing good over here again.

    Probably it's the coastal area not doing anything good, so better be going on to our destination, 3 hours driving inland.

    And, actually it does seem to be coast related...
    We found a gas station, after the first two seemed to not exist... and our fuel gauge pointed empty for some time already... was nearly a big shite #7 :-P This gas station was more inland than the first two...

    From here on, the skies were clearing, the sun came through and the great scenery landscapes returned in a golden blanket of softened sunrays because of it was getting later in the afternoon.
    We drove by a couple of dams, took a break for a coffee and got at our destination in time for our check-in deadline.

    Around midnight, another highlight on this negative day compensated and I could go for a nice sleep after I made some great photos of the starry skies.
    (Twizel, our sleep-over town, is situated in the middle of the McKenzie district. This district is an official International Dark Sky Reserve. When you go out of the town limits, you immediately have NO light pollution AT ALL. Apart from some clouds blocking my views, I have never seen so many stars in my life till now. And I was able to capture them with the camera as well. Happy camper. Rineke was sleeping, she didn't want to come... Probably she expected it would end in misery like the rest of the day ;-))
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  • Day18

    Invercargill to Dunedin

    November 19, 2017 in New Zealand

    Today was a day we needed to get up a little earlier, because we needed to drive a longer way than what was average till now.
    The distance between our hotel in Invercargill and Dunedin wasn't a big issue, but we wanted to stop along the way at several waterfalls and viewpoints.

    Before we were arriving at our first point, we were distracted by a little sign, telling us to go to an easy to reach viewpoint nearby our starting point... OK, check...
    We walked a little bit on the beach, and ran into some Sea Lions... (from a distance they looked like big rocks, as they were lying still, sleeping...) so I nearly stumbled upon them when I didn't pay attention as we were closing in on them. Man, they're huge! :-O

    So this took some time, but then it was time to leave them be and go on..
    Starting at our first point, Slope Point, this began nicely... Road Closed, only after we had to drive for about 30km over unsealed gravel roads... Nice!
    Slope Point, is the furthest south you can get on the South Island. We managed to get 1.6km
    away from the point, when we ran into the road closure...
    Knowing that we also had to walk another 20min from the point, to the very coast where the sign was planted, we decided not to park the car and walk on but to go onto our next planned destination (not knowing why the road was closed, and what we would find on our way...).

    So, going on to Curio Bay, we found out there was another road closure... One we weren't very happy with, as this one would let us take a detour of 60+ km...(!) and we were only off our destination by 2km... So... since it was Sunday, we took the gamble, moved the pilon, and drove on...
    We found that they were cleaning the road sides with big machines, and there probably was some kind of danger that trees from higher up the slope were coming down, but no one was working right now, so we proceeded with caution, came at the other end, again moved around some pilons, and there we were, at Curio Bay ;-)

    Now at Curio Bay there is a petrified forest. A forest that was covered with ashes from volcanoe eruptions in the Jurassic age, some 170-190 million years ago, was petrified (like what happened at Pompeii) and then hidden by the sea and other landmass over the years...
    Now, only quite recently, the bashing of the tide of the sea on this now coastal area, uncovered this fossilised forest and it is now both being investigated, as open to the public as long as you don't take fossils away from the area.

    From here we went on to our next stop, McLean Falls. A nice staircased waterfall, ideal for photographers (with tripods) ;-) Lucky me I had Rineke, who could carry the tripod for me...

    After the McLean Falls we had lunch at..........
    The Niagara Falls Café, and we also visited the actual Niagara Falls here in NZ.
    After all, it is our honeymoon... so this place is a must-do for us.

    Final stop after Niagara was Purakaunui Falls.
    After this short walk, and some photos we finished our tour along the South coast with a 2 hour stretch to Dunedin. Here we checked out the Railway Station and went to our overnight resting place.

    We had dinner at the Dunedin Brewery... this was actually a very good place to eat. The NZ lamb was great. You can't go to NZ and not eating lamb...
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  • Day17

    Te Anau to Invercargill via Bluff

    November 18, 2017 in New Zealand

    After a scenery like Milford Sound, you're actually done... We can go home now... it's finished, we've seen it all...

    Nope... Well yes, we've seen the best scenery, that may very well be, but we're not going home yet.
    Nevertheless, apart from being a bit touristic and see the 'must-see' things in Bluff (the southernmost town of New Zealand) and Invercargill, we didn't do much today, but driving to our next sleep-over stop.Read more

  • Day16

    Milford Sound

    November 17, 2017 in New Zealand

    See the photos... No words can describe what Milford Sound is like... I'm just sticking to words like beautiful, great, superb, majestic, dramatic and repeating those words all the time... Definitely, scenery wise, the very best experience of our NZ trip. Together with Tongariro, which is totally different, so comparing them would not be fair.

    Our tour guide Jonathan, did a great job. He had a good dose of humor and knows a lot about the place. The tour took from 0800 in the morning, till 1800 so it was a great day with lots of impressions.Read more

  • Day15

    Queenstown to Te Anau

    November 16, 2017 in New Zealand

    Another 'normal' driving day, bringing us to Te Anau this time in about 2,5 hours.
    The morning was an easy one, checking out around 10am (which is ultimate checkout time around here). Apart from the jaw-dropping view on route (as is common everywhere around NZ), nothing spectaculair happening today.
    Once in Te Anau we visited the Te Anau Park... which wasn't much larger than our own back garden... so that ended up being a quickie. We went into a souvenir shop, to buy some stuff for some people at home.

    The only highlights of today were a departing sea plane... (didn't have those in my collection yet) and the place we are staying at these coming two nights. Jaw-dropping view from a cosy barnyard cottage. We like!
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  • Day14

    Queenstown

    November 15, 2017 in New Zealand

    Like most days, we start by getting up, cleaning our mess, filling our suitcases and loading the car. We then go on with our route, up to the next stop. Today our next lodge is in Queenstown.
    Pretty close this time. Most days contain about 2-3 hours driving, today it's only 1. That means longer time in Q-town.

    When in the neighbourhood of Queenstown we started with driving up the Remarkables. This is a mountain ridge that overlooks the valley where Frankton and Q-town airport are situated in. The views are so good, many people advise to go up this scenic drive, rather than go into the money pulling touristic attraction that Q-town is.
    what I honestly didn't realise earlier, is that from above, you also have great views on Q-town airport. It's just not so much is going on there... it's not Schiphol with movements every 2-3 minutes... Over here it's more every 20-30 minutes, if lucky...

    The road brings you to a whopping 1300 meter above the valley in no time... the views are indeed superb. But a part of this road is gravel... so our car took some of the gravel back down... ;-)

    After our mountain trip, we went into Queenstown. We wanted to go up another mountain for a scenic view and Dutchies as we are, we tried to do this by car, instead of taking the cable car... Unfortunately, the commercial guys of Q-town had foreseen this, so they closed the road... We had to take the cable car. No big issues here, but we'd rather spent the money on something else. The view on top was again, superb!

    We thought a moment about going paragliding, but we concluded that this mountain wasn't high enough so the ride would be too short. ;-) Not being picky at all...

    In Queenstown, my brother Daniël and his gf Mariska did a bungeejump from the most historic bungeejump bridge existent on the planet. This is where they invented this crazy thing... I didn't jump, nor did Rineke, but I just wanted to see where my brother was one year ago, as he told me the gorge it was situated in is too beautiful to just drive by...
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  • Day13

    Lake Hawea

    November 14, 2017 in New Zealand

    Still today... we are driving from Fox Glacier to Lake Hawea. The route takes about 3,5 hours driving. Again it goes over windy(!) roads and it eventually brings us to the other side of the mountain range.
    The views continue to be terrific, around every corner, every 5 minutes, every 5 kilometers... It doesn't stop fascinating us (yet).
    Attached are some photo from along the route and Lake Hawea.
    Right now we are in Lake Hawea, in a holiday park. We have a full 'house'... A cottage, bigger than your usual Center Parcs cottage in the Netherlands.
    We just cooked our own dinner, fish sticks with corn. Man, it is still surprising how expensive groceries are... 10euro for 15 fish sticks... It's nearly cheaper to eat at a restaurant.
    But, with the groceries we also got ourselves some hokey pokey ice cream. A friend of us told us we had to try it and at the supermarkets they only had 2L boxes, and we don't have a fridge in our car.... But now we got two scoops of this icecream, and yes, it's yummie. :-) (By the way on the photo, it's the yellow scoop, down under ;-) )

    Tomorrow is not so much driving, so we can rest a little :-) (Heavy stuff, holidays...) We're off to Queenstown tomorrow. Doing some scenic driving around Q-town, and probably stop for an early dinner in some nice steakhouse or so, maybe find ourselves a proper tasting of the renowned New Zealand lamb.
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