Connie and Chris, a.k.a. Ladyandtramp, are retired school teachers and happy grandparents, who live 2/3 of the year in a cottage on beautiful Lake Belwood in Canada and the other 1/3 traveling to ‘off the beaten track’ places with beautiful nature.
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  • Day98

    Home Again, to a New World

    March 17 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ 2 °C

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We are home, a little tired but happy to be close to family during this unsettling time.

    Chris’ new St. Christopher pendant has done its job. Those who wear his medal are paying respect and hoping for his blessing on their travels. In addition to being the patron saint of travelers, Saint Christopher is believed to protect people from epilepsy, lightning, storms, pestilence, and floods.

    Within two weeks, the world has changed dramatically. We’re now in the face of massive closures and shutdowns, cancelled sports seasons, stock market declines and fistfights in the aisles of Costco over toilet paper. COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, has impacted everyone internationally in one way or another.

    Our trip home was better than expected. The airports were fairly empty of people and the time between flights was short. All of our flights were full. People were respectful, cautious and kept their distance as best as they could. Everyone had a story. The people working in the airports looked tired.

    December 16, 2020

    12:25 p.m. We boarded an Air NZ prop plane in Invercargill and flew to Christchurch. It took 1 hr 20 minutes.

    3:00 p.m. Air NZ jet from Christchurch to Auckland. 1 hour 25 minutes.

    7:50 p.m. Air NZ from Auckland to Los Angeles. 12 hours 5 minutes

    3:30 p.m. Air Canada from Los Angeles to Toronto. 4 hours 35 minutes

    11:15 p.m. Toronto

    We were able to get a Red Car from the airport to Guelph to pick up our car.

    Our car’s starter died yesterday, so Tim took our car to a mechanic to be fixed. As our car was not ready yet, Amy and Matt lent us their car and will pick up ours. Tim filled a cooler with basic food for us and left it in the car.

    We got home around 1. A neighbour had turned up the heat so it was comfortable when we got home. Our collected mail was on our table.

    Now it is time to self-isolate, or self-quarantine, for 2 weeks.

    It all turned out well. Thank you St. Christopher.
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  • Day96

    Plans for the Journey Home

    March 15 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    So, we are at the tiny Invercargill Airport, waiting for a delayed Air New Zealand plane (1/2 hour) to take us to Christchurch. We will miss our original plane at 2 p.m. but will catch one at 3 p.m. This works out for us as it cuts the wait time in Auckland by an hour.

    We decided to put our backpacks in the luggage compartment. They will go straight to L.A. We will have to pick them up there, go through security and then probably carry them on board to Toronto.

    The attendant was able to cancel our previous flight and sent a message to Air NZ so we can get reimbursed for that trip. They are announcing that they will be reimbursing.

    We returned our Apex rental car and will have to go through TD insurance to get our money for 2 weeks of car rental back. Same with health insurance. We paid top up insurance and have contacted OTIP/RAEO re a reimbursement. We got our money back for the ferry crossing though.

    All of our accommodation reservations are returning our money without question.

    From Auckland, we catch an Air NZ plane at 7:30 p.m. then the 12 hour flight to L.A. A four hour wait there and then a 4 1/2 hour flight to Toronto.

    Red car cab will pick us up and take us to Guelph where we will pick up our car with groceries that our kids put in it, and go home to Fergus. I imagine that we will get home just after midnight. New Zealand time will be around 5 p.m. so we should be okay.
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  • Day96

    High on a Bluff

    March 15 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

    During the past few days of our travels south, we have noticed restaurants advertising Bluff Oysters on their menus. Bluff Oysters? Well, as we were in Bluff, we decided to find a restaurant serving these giant oysters.

    Bluff oysters are reputed to be the best in the world and apparently New Zealand’s national treasure. These shellfish are dredged along the coastlines of Southland between March and August every year, so we are here just in time to get freshly harvested ones.

    I read that the oysters originate in the pristine, cool waters of the Foveaux Strait, one of the few natural oyster beds in the world. They are known for their “unique flavour that is loved around the globe”. Oh goody.

    Very close to the end of the road signpost in Bluff, there is a restaurant that has 180 degree views of the Foveaux Strait where oysters have been harvested for over 100 years. We went in and other customers recommended the Batter Fried Bluff Oyster lunch. We shared 6 giant oysters, french fries and a salad. So delicious!!! A last supper to remember - our trip memories, the view and the dinner. Wow!

    We left, but before that, we noticed several cyclists coming in and waiting people cheering and clapping. The cyclists had just completed riding 3000 km in 27 days from the top of NZ to the bottom. Pictures were taken at the signpost and champagne was being popped. What an accomplishment!

    We left the proud and healthy group and decided to drive to the top of the Bluff to see the views it offered. There are several trails in this area and we were disappointed that our time was running out so we couldn’t walk them. They looked beautiful.

    We drove up the steep hill and walked the rest of the way to a area with gorgeous 360 degree views. There was a circular relief “map” showing all the sights - Stewart island, Dog Island, the other islands, Oreti and Omaui beaches, mountains and the Catlins, as well as educational and very interesting signs. We could see the bottom of Fjordland right through to Invercargill. We could see why Bluff Hill had the role as the Southland’s main coastal defence during World War II.

    Okay, now we felt that our wonderful trip was over. We drove back into Invercargill and filled up the car with ‘cheap’ $1.99/l gas.

    We went into a hardware store to get a few postcards and guess what? We had another find.

    “Welcome to E Hayes and Sons Hardware Store - New Zealand's largest independent Hammer Hardware and TradeZone Industrial hardware and homeware store and home of Burt Munro's Authentic, Original and Legendary 'World's Fastest Indian' motorcycle. We’ve built a reputation for PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST serving the Invercargill and Southland region with an unmatched selection of quality goods, services and advice since 1932.”

    What a store it is and interspersed with hardware and things, the entire store was home to a unique Motorworks Collection! The owner has one of the finest private collections of 100 ‘FREE TO VIEW’ classic motorcycles, automobiles and engines in New Zealand. Now, what a great idea to entice people into his store. It even included the World’S Fastest Indian Welcome to E Hayes
    E Hayes and Sons, Invercargill - New Zealand's largest independent Hammer Hardware and TradeZone Industrial hardware and homeware store and home of Burt Munro's Authentic, Original and Legendary 'World's Fastest Indian' motorcycle. We’ve built a reputation for PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST serving the Invercargill and Southland region with an unmatched selection of quality goods, services and advice since 1932.

    At the same time, our entire store is home to the unique E Hayes Motorworks Collection representing one of the finest private collections of FREE TO VIEW classic motorcycles, automobiles and engines in New Zealand. The most famous machine was The World’s Fastest Indian (remember the movie?) that went 184.087 mph with unofficial top speed of 205.67 mph—when Munro raced his heavily modified 1920 Indian Scout Streamliner across the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, U.S.A. We saw the real deal! Impressive. We will have to watch the movie again. Burt Munro was from Invercargill.

    We went home and spent a nice evening with Jenny and Ian and their birds, in their little piece of paradise before leaving to head into a quickly changing world.
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  • Day96

    The End of the Road

    March 15 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    Yesterday, we were able to get everything we needed to get done in preparation for our travels. home. Today is Sunday and we planned on making it a special day as we are leaving NZ tomorrow.

    As we are almost at the very bottom of the South Island in Invercargill, we decided to head 27 kilometres further south to NZ’s southernmost town and port. We planned on visiting the 265 metre high Bluff Hill and eat some Bluff Oysters that we had been hearing so much about. Ian and Jenny also suggested a few other places to check out.

    The first spot we came to was the peaceful Omaui Scenic Reserve. We found and took a 1 hour 30 minute loop trail that goes through the native forest to a sheltered picnic area and a wonderful lookout. What great views we had of the beautiful Omaui Beach and sea.

    This area was originally occupied by Maori and later was used as a whaling base, pilot station and health camp by Europeans.

    We met a couple, who as kids, had come to the local YMCA camp located nearby and had many fond memories of scouring the beach looking for treasures - shells, fishing apparatus, cool stones, etc. The beach had two sections - a sandy beach and a rocky beach.

    When we got back into the car and got back on the main road, we looked for a sign pointing to a ship graveyard. And there is was - not the graveyard but the Green Point Walkway to the Ship Graveyard. It looked very interesting.

    The walkway and boardwalk meandered beside the shoreline to Greenpoint, where we had a panoramic view across Bluff Harbour. It wasn’t long walk but we enjoyed every minute of it - the seabirds, the rocks, the views and of course, the shipwrecks.

    Shipwreck Bay is known for its historic value. In the 13th Century stone tools were manufactured there by the early Maori people. In the 19th Century, the first European whaling and sealing boats used this area

    Over the years, 14 oyster and fishing ships have been scuttled in this bay, some dating back to the 1870's. Many of the wrecks are still visible today and at low tide these hulls can be clearly seen. The signs have the names of all the boats and the year they went to their watery graves. This was a sight that we have never seen before and it was neat that the township has made it a historical site.

    We just had to continue on and have our picture taken at a famous spot - the Sterling Point Signpost. Stirling Point marks the southern end of State Highway 1, which runs the length of New Zealand. The large signpost displays distances to major cities in the world and is a well-known endpoint for people who have cycled, walked, or driven the length of the country. Amazing that this is where our trip ends, due to the coronavirus that is sweeping the world.

    Of course, we had to have our photo taken here!
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  • Day95

    We are Heading Home

    March 14 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Fifteen days early but all is good. Flights cancelled and new ones made from Invercargill. Rental car can be returned at the airport here without any extra fees. Refunds from all remaining Air Bnb and Booking.com sites. Ferry to the North Island cancelled.

    Better safe than sorry. We have had an amazing trip and have no regrets.
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  • Day94

    On to the Bottom of the South Island

    March 13 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    Today the news about the Coronavirus was not good. Prime Minister Trudeau is self-isolating as his wife is being tested for the virus; President Trump announced that he was shutting U.S.A. borders to European countries; and schools in Ontario will be shut down for 3 weeks. We are becoming a little concerned about our travel plans and if we will have any troubles. From Auckland, we fly into Houston before changing planes and flying into Toronto. In 17 days, we will see. New Zealand hasn’t really been affected ...yet...

    This morning, we left Te Anau in Fiordland and headed further south to Invercargill. It had been suggested that we take the scenic road which would take us a little longer but was a pleasant road.

    The drive usually takes about 2 hours but we happily stretched it to 5 hours. Haha. The road was great - fairly straight for a change, few cars, undulating pastures with sheep, cows, deer and wapiti, a type of elk. It was so different (calm) than what we have been through for the past 2 weeks. I loved it.

    Our first stop was to see a historic suspension bridge in Clifden. Built in 1899, it spans the Waiau River and is 111.5 m long. It is sometimes called the "Iron Bridge." The bridge has been accessible to pedestrians only since 1978.

    Then we pulled over to check out Mc Cracken’s Lookout with hopes that we would see whales or Hector’s dolphins. We didn’t but the sun shone and the water sparkled.

    The trees in this area are all bent away from the ocean. There was hardly any wind when we were there but it would be easy to imagine what kind of winds would bend the trees into their present shapes.

    The former timber-milling town of Tuatapere was next. In 1988, it won a sausage making contest so we stopped at theTui Base Camp and bought some frozen sausages for breakfast. The town is known to be the sausage capital of NZ.

    On we went to Gemstone Beach and had fun looking at all the wonderfully coloured stones on the beach. We spent an hour bent over and looking for a gem.

    Lunchtime was nearing and I had read about a restaurant in Riverton called the Beach House, that served a creamy seafood chowder ‘studded with juicy mussels and hunks of salmon”. Oh, the Lonely Planet was right on. It was delicious!

    Finally we arrived at our destination, Bushy Point Fernbirds BnB, in Invercargill. Another great find! More about this place later.
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  • Day93

    Doubtful Sound

    March 12 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 7 °C

    Fiordland National Park is New Zealand’s largest national park, covering almost 13,000 square kilometres in the southwest corner of the South Island. Pretty much every visitor to New Zealand’ South Island will visit here during their travels. As a place of such extraordinary beauty, it’s not hard to understand why!

    Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are the two fiords (NZ spelling) that are the easiest to access. But the road to MIlford Sound has been washed out from recent flooding so the choice of which fiord to visit was an easy choice.

    Anyways, several travellers we have met have recommended Doubtful as it very beautiful and three times longer in length than Milford. The mountains aren’t quite as high in this area but the less sheer cliff faces mean we would have far more opportunities to spot native wildlife. It is definitely more off the beaten track than Milford so less people and boats are in the fiord which is what we like.

    To get to Doubtful Sound you have to go as part of an organized tour. We chose Go Orange and it proved to be a good choice. The 7 hour tour started at the Manapouri wharf, which is 25 km south of where we are in Te Anau. We left at 6 a.m. in order to join the 44 others for a 7:15 a.m. start.

    First, we boarded a fast boat from the wharf on Lake Manapouri and crossed to the West Arm, which takes an hour. This is where the Manapouri Hydroelectric Power Station is located, which discharges water through two 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) tailrace tunnels to Doubtful Sound and the sea.

    From there, we boarded a bus and took a drive over the Wilmot Pass into the Doubtful Sound wharf area. Our tour guide, Tony, is a retired firefighter who obviously loves his new job. He has been doing it for 2 years now and loves every day that he can share this area with his groups. He has the gift!

    At the wharf, a coastal sailing ship was waiting for our cruise into the fjord and out to the Tasman Sea. Within the first 10 minutes, we spotted several bottle-nosed dolphins. A good way to start our trip.

    We were out for a good 2 hours, and then returned the same way back via the Wilmot Pass and the West Arm to Manapouri. Tony stopped the bus several times to give us little lessons about the plants, animals and geology of the area. He was funny and informative.

    We started out in the dark but returned in the full sun - a glorious day to be in a beautiful and quiet fiord in New Zealand.

    Post trip note - When we returned to Te Anau, we had time to take a walk around a small bird sanctuary at the edge of town. We saw some rare endemic birds, including the takahe, the world’s largest rail, of which there are only around 300 birds left. Also in aviaries there were forest parrots called a Kakas and several parakeets. Some of the captive birds were found wounded and will never be released, but others are kept for breeding purposes.
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