Iceland! The Golden Circle and Points East!

Breakfast Spot (1)

We got an almost early start our third day in Iceland, having to stop briefly for fresh croissants to eat in the car. The intention was to begin the drive around the ring road and hit the sites that  are highlighted along The Golden Circle. If you go for a tour, the buses do a loop out and back to Reykjavik that covers about 190 miles. We just went out and kept going.

Our first stop was premature, but we did finally locate Pingvellir National Park. The mass of cars and tour busses in the parking lot giving it away. This beautiful spot is where you can see a clear boundary between the North American and Eurasian Tectonic plates. Literally! There is a nice walking path but prior research had informed us that it’s also possible to skindive and see the break between the plates from underneath the very cold, very clear water. We chose the hike option. Lol.

PingvillierPlates

The path is directly between the plates

It wasn’t too far to the next stop but before we got to the Geysers, we had to stop so I could pet some horses. We saw so many horses in our travels around Iceland and it’s hard to believe that most of them are for riding. One of our homestays, has a hand in the industry and they educated us that it’s just the foals that are eaten, and the rest are used for riding. The horse I met seemed unsocialized, and I  well believed it could end up on a plate somewhere. No judgements here. About 10% of me wanted to try it but the majority said no and we didn’t actually see it on too many menu’s anyway.

Horses

Sorry, I have nothing to feed you. Let’s just say we’re even!

The next spot featured two geysers. One of which, Geysir, seems to have stopped erupting after an earthquake years ago. The other one though, is quite active. Stokkur erupts every 5-10 minutes and it was fun to stand outside the rope barrier along with 100 other people all going, “oh! oh!” every time the water would heave upwards. It always seemed to fake us out too, which led to much laughter.

After enjoying the show, we ended up climbing the small mountain behind the geysers for a little exercise and a different perspective. Quite beautiful from up there and you could seriously see for miles. TopOThe World

Our last interest point of the day was Gullfoss waterfall. This natural wonder is just an amazing site for tourists and even from a good half miles away, you cold feel the power from the rushing water and a definite drop in temperature from the spray hanging in the air. I understand that Iceland considered using if to generate power, but settled on just maintaining in as a tourist attraction instead.

Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss

Marc and I found our accommodations for the night pretty easily, but had a bit more trouble figuring out what to buy at the local grocery store for dinner. It’s hard to do when everything is in Icelandic and pictures can sometimes be misleading. We ended up with some pork ribs (they may have been heavily preserved, tasted like it) and some potato salad. Our digs had a hot tub so we had a great lazy evening of soaking, reading, having cocktails and dinner. The best part of the day, I cannot show you though. Marc woke me up and hurried me outside to see the Aurora Borealis. I had read that the earliest it could be seen was August 20th and so I wasn’t trying to get my hopes up, but there it was! A faint green glimmer in the sky that moved very fast and was gone in less than 10 minutes. How cool is that??!!

I’d like to say we got an early start the next day, but who am I kidding? After a breakfast of leftover croissant, bread and tea, we gathered up the trash, packed the car and took off. The sun was brilliant and the roads were sparsely traveled. We got gas and then found our first interest point of the day. Seljalandsfoss waterfall was beautiful and  is the location for a lot of wedding pictures. You can also hike up behind the falls and with our rain coats on, we were up to the challenge!Waterfall

Does anyone remember that volcano that erupted in Iceland back in 2010? It disrupted air travel for weeks and really brought attention to the whole country as newscasters tried (and mostly failed) to pronounce Eyjafjallajokull. We found it! Seems the buildings at the base all needed to be rebuilt, but a truck rumbling over the cattle gate and scaring the hell out of me seemed to mean that life was pretty much back to normal there.

eyjafjallajokull

How’d you like to live here? The offending volcano in the background.

We motored on and stopped when I saw this cute little house in the side of a mountain. Turns out, this is one of about 200 man-made caves that can only be found in the south of Iceland. This one is pretty deep and was used to store hay. It’s so deep, that another cave runs perpendicular to it and was used as a forge. We didn’t go in, having too many miles to go, but it’s really picturesque, eh?

Rutshellir

Tour buses led us to our next destination. The black sand beach  called Reynisfjara  is close to the southernmost tip of Iceland  and we were totally surprised to round a corner on the beach to see the basalt sea stacks  under the mountain. A small cave undercut the mountain and little sea birds called Puffins were constantly flying from the cliffs above out to the ocean.

BlackBeach1

BlackBeach2

Near the mouth of the cave. Good geological formations everywhere!

A word about food…. by now, we had a goodly supply of interesting potato chip flavors and we were trying to stay stocked up on apples, but we hadn’t quite clued in yet to the whole you can drive for miles and hours and never see a restaurant or a gas station. So we had a lot of lunches featuring paprika or Mexican peppers and cream chips or Doritos cool American  (read ranch flavor) chips. Dinners were usually much better! We were aiming for dinner in Hofn that night, as they are known as the best place for langoustines in the country. We just had to get there first.

Stream

A beautiful stream in the middle of nowhere.

After that pretty stream, we drove through some of the most monotonous countryside I’ve ever seen. Take rocks, cover them with moss, and then put that on both sides of the road for a couple of hours. Relieve the monotony by spotting the occasional big black bird perched on a rock but otherwise, that’s all there is. They even warn you somewhat on the maps. There is a big swath of green from the black sand beach all the way up to the Vatnajokull glacier. This is what it looks like in person:

Nothing

I never want to see this again and I’m pretty sure Marc feels the same way.

We did finally drive out of it and our attention was distracted by the massive glacier that loomed ever closer. We got out to stretch our legs and take a closer look at the first turn off we came to.  There are warnings posted to be careful and a plaque honoring two young Germans who went missing years ago and were never found. We picked our way over a rough path besides the glacier for some cool pictures.

Glacier

From there, it was another good hour or so to Hofn and that wonderful dinner. Then, another two hours or so to get to our stopping place for the evening. Thank goodness it doesn’t get dark until 10:30 or so at night. We were able to check out the mountains and the scenery almost until we arrived. Marc had booked a unique/ nostalgic spot for us and our host was this wonderful 65+ woman who seems to make her living as a homestay. Anna was great and so were the digs! Especially after the drive we had that day!

Hofn dinner

Langoustines with salad and potato. Marc chose the ‘Duck & Dive’ which included duck confit.

Camper:Eidur

Feeling great after a good nights sleep. Kind of like being in NZ again. Thank you Marc!

Cunningham Falls, MD

ThePath CF

Path To The Falls

 

Last weekend was perfect weather for a tramp outdoors. Balmy, a bit of a breeze and mid 70’s  meant there was no way I was going to stay indoors. My girlfriend Jessica and I had made plans to go to Cunningham Falls State park and after a quick breakfast and an hours drive to Thurmont, Md (outside of Fredrick), we made it.

My Friend Jessica

My Friend Jessica

The sun was shining, the air was clean and the path was dry, although occasionally crowded with other hikers. The waterfall  itself (supposedly the longest in Maryland) is fed by Hunting Creek Lake and  features a catch and release trout stream for all you fishermen out there. I did not see any trout though. Just green, green trees, awesome old boulders and some of the oldest exposed greenstone rock outcroppings on the world. The park is part of the Catoctin Mountains which lie inside the Blue Ridge. A truly beautiful place.

Nice

TopofFalls

We took the slightly sloping path up the  end of the boardwalk and had a look around. Everywhere, folks were rock climbing to the top, or watching their children play downstream. What could we do? Of course we climbed to the top of the waterfall and found a place to sit in the sun. I think we both may have drifted for a bit, soothed by the sonorous sound of rushing water and soon leaning back against the rocks to soak up the heat. Occasionally awakened by enthusiastic children hiking past into the mysteries above the falls.

View From The Top

View From The Top

Ready To Swing Out Over The Rocks

Ready To Swing Out Over The Rocks

All too soon it was time to go. We were meeting a friend for a BBQ dinner and didn’t want to be late. It was good to catch up with my friends and  eat some massive grilled steaks with all the fix-in’s. I got to cook too, which was an experience. I seemed to have the smoke following me around every time I opened the grill… oh, and then there was the part where we had to rinse off all the vegetables and our friend Denny’s steak cause the grill  cover slipped out of my hand and flakes of black stuff got all over everything. They forgave me though and it turned out to be a great dinner.

JessicaFalls

 

Taupo to Rotorua

 It Cought Our Eyes

It Caught Our Eyes

We headed inland after Napier, intent on checking out the warmer climate in Taupo and Rotorua.  More specifically, the many hot springs and geothermal areas operating there. Our introduction was  Tarawera Springs. This is a hot springs spot with a couple of old tubs in the side of the mountain. There used to be more till the landslide covered a couple more. The site is behind a gate and plenty of signs try to warn you off. The story we heard was someone tried to make a go of the place commercially over a hundred years ago but the locals wouldn’t allow it.  The DOC would like to get rid of it but they can’t because it’s considered  historic. So now it’s just a private, picturesque spot for those in the know. The water was a bit too cold for us though.

Tarawera Springs Source

Tarawera Springs Source

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Jim and Marie. Owners of The Tarawera Cafe. Go See Em For A Bite and Some History

Jim and Marie. Owners of The Tarawera Cafe. Go See Em For A Bite and Some History

Just down the road was the Waipunga Waterfall. So we stopped for a look.

WaipungaFalls

WaipungaFalls

After  a rather bizarre overnight at the National Equestrian Center which we spent  camped across from the power plant with huge clouds of steam billowing from the ground, we hit four cool spots in one day. Aratiatia Rapids used to be all natural, now there is a dam that is opened three times a day to the delight of tourists and the occasional local. What an awesome spectacle.

It Goes From This...

It Goes From This…

To This In About Ten Minutes

To This In About Ten Minutes

Continuing on, we hit up Craters of the Moon next. This is a geothermal walking path along a wooden walkway that takes you past craters, fumaroles and boiling mud pits. It’s kind of wild to be walking along and suddenly be enveloped in a cloud of sulphurous steam and actually hear steam hissing from vents in the ground. What’s even more amazing is that none of this was here before 1950 or so.

Craters1

Craters2

We met fellow NZMCA members Alan and Yumi on our way in to the park. Later, Alan rescued my sunglasses when they fell into a hole.

We met fellow NZMCA members Alan and Yumi on our way in to the park. Later, Alan rescued my sunglasses when they fell into a hole.

Huka Falls was another amazing stop that day. These falls guide the Waikato river into the damned lake behind Aratiatia Rapids. The noise is deafening and the energy  amazing as enough water to fill five Olympic sized swimming pools  flows over the falls every second.

Heading For The Falls

Heading For The Falls

View From Further Back

View From Further Back

Just before the sun set we found our next  to last destination. Spa Park Hot Springs is a natural hot springs in a neighborhood of Taupo. Really neat to walk through a park like the one in my moms backyard, go over a bridge and look down to see people enjoying the warm  water. If it had been a little earlier, I might have had a really good time!

Four diffierent nationalities in the pool.

Four different nationalities in the pool.

We ended up with a good soak that night anyway as Marc drove us to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools for the night. I think they have one of THE best deals going for folks in camper vans. Pay the price for parking up and entrance to the pools are free. They also have a check out time of noon which means you can even soak after breakfast. I think we closed them down that night. We left at quarter till and we were the last two out. They also had a nice little eco tour we took the next day that educates folks on where the water comes from, neat geological formations and how it gets to the pools. Marc and I both would love to come here again.

Overview of the spa. You can just see the steps they use to cool the water before it gets to the pools in the lower left hand corner.

Overview of the spa. You can just see the steps they use to cool the water before it gets to the pools in the lower left hand corner.

Waikite3

Waikite2

New day, new wonders. We pushed onwards towards Rotorua and a meeting with new friends. Along the way though we did stop to check out the mud pools. The mud makes the most disgustingly amusing sounds as it bursts from the watery mud and the smell of sulphur is strong. I think our guide Scott Cook had a happy hour here. I wish we could have but it was too early that day. Maybe for movie night?

 Mid Splatter!

Mid Splatter!

We had one more stop to make before returning to civilization again. The Cook book has an entry for a hot water waterfall the location for which is a secret. Scott says he doesn’t want to see it overrun by tourists so he wrote a little poem with clues inside for those stubborn enough to try to solve it. It wasn’t easy, but we did find it. For anyone else reading that book and wanting to follow the clues, I can tell you the pine trees are dead but still standing. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring towels or suits, but we did bring a sense of adventure. What a blast!

Ok, We've Got To Go In

Ok, We’ve Got To Go In

WFClothes

We headed into Rotorua after that. Our friend Debs in Auckland had given us the info for some friends of hers in Rotorua and told us to look them up. We arrived a bit disheveled from our afternoon to their house and just squeezed down their drive in the camper van. They turned out to be an amazing couple and I’ll like to  tell you more about them next post. In the meantime, the rain has stopped and I hope everyone is having a great evening!

More On The Return To Auckland

Dr Suess Tree

Dr Suess Tree

Time seems to have sped up lately as we continue to get closer to our leave date for Bali. As I write this, its June 16th here and we leave on the 19th at an ungodly early hour. We sold the camper van last week and it went smooth as silk. I think we both kept thinking it was going far too easily, but I’m not going to question it anymore. We’re both feeling it’s loss, but I think at this point that’s just compounded by last get togethers with friends here as well. Luckily, we will be coming back for ten days or so after Bali so there is still that to look forward to. I’m going to try to fill y’all in on the rest of the trip back to Auckland before we go. Lets see how far I can get today.

He Climbed All The Way To The Top

He Climbed All The Way To The Top

After looking in the Cook book, Marc drove to Deliverance Cove and Castle Point. On the map, it’s located straight east of Masterton on the coast. This is where we each got a free dermabrasion treatment courtesy of the wind  that intensified during our tramp up Castle Rock. I stuck to the trail, but Marc was more adventurous and struck out for the top of the rock. He made it too and got some scary pictures over the side. Once he returned, we fought our way over to the lighthouse. The wind was fierce by that time and we had to literally  hold onto the fence to keep from being blown to Africa! Great views though and in the lee it was awesome to see the wind literally lifting the sea and blowing it into little water spouts. Very cool.

Over The Edge. View From The Top of Castle Rock

Over The Edge. View From The Top of Castle Rock

Deliverance Cove next to Castle Rock

Deliverance Cove next to Castle Rock

Made It!

Made It!

Stopped by a graveyard while we were killing time looking for a place to camp for the night. *Face Palm*Groan* We’ve done that several times to check out the stones and read the dates. It was a very peaceful place with beautiful old graves  on the side of the mountain with only one opportunistic horse for a neigh…bor. All animals in this country have me pegged as an easy mark. I gave this one our last carrot.

Hey! How Ya Going?

Hey! How Ya Going?

Childsgrave2

Childsgrave

I LIke The Sentiment

I LIke The Sentiment

We kept heading north and our next scenic spot was Waihi Falls in Tararua. A long drive down a metal road ended with a short tramp along  a ridge to get to the falls. It was stunning! Even more amazing, we were the only ones there! If we’d had more time and it had been warmer, this would have definitely been a place to go for a skinny dip and  overnight.

WaihiFallsCara.e

WaihiFallsMarc

Don't You Want To Go For A Swim?

Don’t You Want To Go For A Swim?

The next spot was just a stop for a quick photo and some lunch. Taumatawhakatangihangakauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukopokaiwhenuakitanatahu holds the record for the longest place-name in the world. The name has something to do with a Maori chief grieving for the loss of his brother after they fought to get through the area.

Try and say it. I dare you.

Try and say it. I dare you.

Sometimes, even our camp sites were way scenic. On the way to Napier, we stayed at an apple orchard. Dick, the owner took me around and showed me NZ Splendor apples which can’t be bought in stores because they bruise too easily during shipping. Boy, were they good. An emigrant from the Netherlands, he  was such a nice, salt of the earth  guy. He showed me what a sugar core looks like in an apple. This is when liquid sugar collects in the center of an apple. Makes it that much sweeter.

Dick Eating Apples

Dick Eating Apples

A Little Fall Colour

A Little Fall Colour

I had been wanting to check out Napier since first hearing about all the art deco buildings there. You see, there was an earthquake in Napier in 1931 that basically destroyed most of the city. Art Deco was popular at the time and as a result the city was rebuilt in that style. We spent one full day and part of the next wandering about town looking at all the buildings and enjoying the ambiance. Dinner that night was fabulous too. If you’re ever in Napier I highly recommend  Milk and Honey.

Napier1

Napier3

I Got Some Great Vintage Patterns From Penelope at Charleston Chic

I Got Some Great Vintage Patterns From Penelope at Charleston Chic

Pania of The Reef

Pania of The Reef

NapierFountain

You Should See The Glass Dome Inside

You Should See The Glass Dome Inside

I think I’m going to end this post here today as our focus shifted after Napier. We headed for Taupo and Rotorua for the geothermal action next so that’s where I will start the next post. All, hot and steamy as it were. In the meantime, hope you enjoyed the pictures and hope the weather is not as rainy wherever you are  as it is here today. Cheers!

On the way back to Auckland….

Marina.e

Been a few weeks since I’ve had time to write, hasn’t it? I know I finished all the south island sights while we were waiting to pick up our passports from the Indonesian embassy. We didn’t just hang around while we were waiting for them though. Instead, we took off and explored the area with a side trip to the marina to find a dump station. Unfortunately, that ones been closed so we continued on looking for tramps and viewpoints. Quite by accident, we found a great mountain bike park .Looked massive and with an experience range for everyone. Crossing the highway, we found what we were looking for. Nice little tramp that overlooked the Wellington harbor.

WellieHarbour.e

Had a nice little drive along SH2 and the Rimutaka Ranges to get to the Rimutaka Forest Park. What a twisty road and just wide enough for two vehicles. It can get scary passing a doubled semi on the road. Especially with a sheer drop off along one side. Marc did an excellent job of keeping us alive and in one piece. The tramp itself was a little slice of heaven. The five-mile ridge loop led us through a stream and through a more jungle/ bush setting that really made us aware we were back on the north island.

We met Pat and Denise early on. Denise is 85.Isn't she stylish?

We met Pat and Denise early on. Denise is 85.Isn’t she stylish?

Natural Staircase

Natural Staircase

Rimutakamush.e

We took off for the Cape Palliser lighthouse next. It’s situated near the southernmost bit of the north island and has a beautifully scenic,occasionally bumpy and slightly scary coast road. We had lunch near a seal colony on a rocky outcropping before tackling the lighthouse. There are now 254 steps and I’m happy to say we both made it, but not without a rest or two.

Ngawi Bulldozers

Ngawi Bulldozers

Coming back, the tide was high and spray would dowse the road.

Coming back, the tide was high and spray would douse the road.

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CapePallisarLH.e

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We were going to do the Putangirua Pinnacles next, but it was getting dark and we noticed the DOC park right next door had fire pits. We had the firewood gathered and camp set right as darkness fell. Our third campfire began soon afterwards. I didn’t stay up for the whole thing, but I understand the rains started about three a.m. We did make an effort to make the tramp the next morning, but with howling winds and rain falling intermittently, it was a wash.

Super Delux Hermit Hut

Super Delux Hermit Hut

Offerings to Posiden

Offerings to Posiden

Putangirua Pinnacles

Putangirua Pinnacles

PutangiruaPinnacles2.e

Yes, we burned it all.

Yes, we burned it all.

PuangiruaFire2.e

We headed north after that, looking for further adventures and the Waiohine Gorge swing bridge. I think that’s where I will end this post as we saw so many neat things along the way and I’ve got some great pictures to share. Finally got to experience a road closure due to a sheep drive too. Got some great video to share once we get home too. Think y’all might be up for a movie night?

Waiohine Gorge Swingbridge

Waiohine Gorge Swing Bridge

WaiohineGorgeSB2.e

Chasing Rainbows

Chasing Rainbows

CutOuts.e

SheepDrive.e

Reefton to Ohua’s Waterfall Surprise

Swingbridge Outside of Reefton

Swingbridge Outside of Reefton

What an exciting day we’ve had. We’re on the north island now and exploring the south-eastern coast before continuing on up to Napier. The winds were fierce today as we explored around Castle Point and there was a an extra bit of excitement when Marc  strained his ankle. He’s resting with an elevated foot and an ice pack and earlier he got some anti-inflammatories. He’ll be fine, but between his ankle and the wind today we haven’t gotten as far as originally intended. Might as well catch y’all up on the rest of the sights on the south island before our time here runs out.

I left off with Arthur’s Pass and the Keas last time. As we were on a mission to do all the passes on the south island, we hooked around to pick up the Lewis Pass and go back towards the east coast. We stayed in Reefton one night and met our host briefly the next morning on our way out. Turned out to be a fortuitous meeting as Dom gave us a print out of things to see and do along the way.

First stop was the Inanhuaga Swingbridge.  Beautiful little spot we actually could drive right up to. It’s not a very long bridge but one of the more entertaining. It was also older and moved more than any others we’d been on. A guardian fantail stopped by to check us out near the middle of the bridge. They are such fast little flyers, and very curious.

Forbidden Waterfall

Forbidden Waterfall

That same day we stopped at an unnamed, closed DOC park. It was shut due to flood damage, but we’d heard there was a pretty spectacular waterfall there. Although the ground was a bit soft in places and any sign of the bridges that once stood were  long gone, we still managed to climb up the rough path and ford the stream to make our way as close as possible. We worked for it, but it was so worth it.

Steep As In Places

Steep As In Places

Well, what to do after such an adventure? We went to Hanmer Springs for the geothermal springs of course. This is by far the biggest complex I’ve ever seen and had a large variety of pools ranging from natural sulphur, aqua therapy and a lazy river to a kids section with water slides and obstacle courses. We got a day pass so we could soak twice. It was so nice to walk home from the spa  that night all steamed up  and  feeling like jelly. The lights in the park seemed to impart a magical glow.

HanmerSprings.e

Sulpher Pools.

Sulphur Pools.

Our next big adventure was doing Jollies Pass and Jacks Pass on our way to Kaikoura. The NZ Frenzy book did try to caution us against going up Jollies but we figured we’ll see. I am glad to say we made it, however we wouldn’t ever try such a stunt again. Kinda scary, narrow, rutted logging truck road with water features and steep drop offs. Absolutely beautiful views from the top though.

Jollies:JacksPass1.e

Really? The Road Goes Through This?

Really? The Road Goes Through This?

Outside Kaikora it was absolutely fog bound when we arrived. So we decided to just do a short tramp next to the tracks to see an old train wreck. Not sure when this happened or even what happened, but my best guess is that part of the limestone cliffs collapsed and sent the train onto the sand. Really eerie scene in the fog with the tide coming in and the silence of the wreck scattered amongst the rocks. Continuing that sense of disquiet was in hearing a flock of birds heading north overhead as we crossed the river on the train tracks before  returning to the van.

Trainwreck.e

Trainwreck2.e

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Look Close

We stayed in Kaikoura with a friend of a friend. Steve in Dunedin had told us to look up his cousin when we arrived and he’d hook us up with some crays. Indeed he did. Kaikoura is famous for crayfish, although we’d heard the prices there can be astronomical. Our local host sold us two from his freezer and we had them the next night with champagne as we celebrated my birthday a day early. Of course, we did do a five-hour tramp first. We tried to get to Spyglass Point, but only managed to do the four kilometers to the beach and rock hopped about two bays before realizing that it wasn’t in the cards. Still, had an awesome time and the sunset on the waves as we walked back was  like the wrapping on my gift.

The Goal Is In View

The Goal Is In View

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As Close As we Could Get With A Telephoto Lens

The Treck Ran Parrallel to The Traacks

The Track Ran Parallel to The Tracks

Neat Flowers.... I Think

Neat Flowers…. I Think

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Dinner. Ask Us About The Aftermath If You Want To Hear A Funny Story

Dinner! Ask Us About The Aftermath If You Want To Hear A Funny Story

There was only one more destination on the south island before we headed for the ferry. The Ohau seals have an unusually good deal  going for their pups. Each fall and winter, the pups head up the  stream  300 hundred meters to a waterfall where they play, fight, and grow stronger as they learn  all about being a seal. There is a nice raised walkway built over parts of the stream and we saw seals everywhere we looked. Playing with sticks, rock hopping up and down the stream and sleeping in favorite locations around the path. While not exactly friendly, they were a little bit curious and a lot cute. It was hard to get a good picture of them as they seemed to be constantly in motion. The bowl at the bottom of the falls  fairly rolled with sleek brown missiles. It was mesmerizing.

Playing Keep Away

Playing Keep Away

OhuaSeals.e

OhuaSeals3.e

That was the last thing we did before leaving on the ferry to get back to the north island and Wellington. We’re now coming down to the last three weeks of our stay here before we move on to Bali. Already, things have an urgency and a poignancy that wasn’t there a few weeks ago and I’m beginning to feel a little sad at the thought of our immenint departure. While we will come back to New Zealand from Bali, it will only be for a short period of time before we fly back to the states and all the reality waiting for us there.  I’m going to miss New Zealand; the land and the people. Hope they’ll have us back sometime.

From Church to The Shakedown Clowns @ Arthurs Pass

Scenic Lookout Along Arthur's Pass. Rock Shelter and Waterfall Shute Above The Road.

Scenic Lookout Along Arthur’s Pass. Rock Shelter and Waterfall Shute Above The Road.

The last time I ended the blog post  with a dip in the hot springs. I won’t end this post with more pictures though we  did  find more hot springs  about two weeks later.Man did we put some miles on the camper van before then. Here’s a story of some of them  while we ride the ferry back to Wellington.

We got lucky when we managed to pass the Church of the Good Shepherd during the day. We’d thought we’d passed it in the dark on the way to Lake Tekapo. Actually, we passed it on the way out of town. This small church erected in 1935 was intended to show the glory of God and as a memorial to the pioneers of Mackenzie County. Quite beautiful, eh?

Church of the Good Shephard

Church of the Good Shepherd

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This statue, a tribute to the working dog, stands near the church.

This statue, a tribute to the working dog, stands near the church.

Next stop was Christchurch, known by the abbreviation ChCh. We stayed with this lovely women who first really tuned us into how bad the earthquake three years ago really was. She has several people camped in her yard in caravans as it’s really hard for single people to find affordable housing still. As well, the goat Crystal is also a refugee. Maureen adopted the Angora goat as a kid when her original owners had to move after the quake.

Maureen & Chrystal

Maureen & Crystal

Further exploration of ChCh led us to a new friend I had  originally met in Auckland; and her partner. Unfortunately they were both in various stages of recovery from a respiratory bug. I think that actually works as a metaphor for Christchurch as well. It’s in recovery. Streets have changed or been blocked off, buildings await either demolition or reformation, and the people here endure. We didn’t do much here due to bad weather, difficulties traversing the streets and a sick day. We did manage to drive out to Summit Hill though and took a look at Godly Head Reserve. Beautiful up there, but we needed to move on.

ChCHConstruction

Many Buildings Still Await Repairs

Many Buildings Still Await Repairs

Marc surprised me wanting to do the other two passes but I’m glad he did. We headed towards Arthur’s pass first and stopped at Castle Hill. Part of Narnia was filmed here among these limestone rocks. It was like an amazing adult playground to us. We tramped around and through the stones for a while taking amazing pictures and marveling at the weird shapes. Almost hard to believe this wasn’t made by Hollywood.We loved it.

Can You See Me?

Can You See Me?

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Further up the pass the same day Marc spotted some Keas! They were hanging out by Deaths Corner and as we were quick to discover, skilled at shaking down tourists for treats. As soon as I opened the door I had four of ’em hop/running towards me. They really liked grapes but didn’t know what to do with the rye crisps. This belies the whole “Polly want a cracker” thing. These alpine parrots want grapes, though pineapple isn’t rejected either as we found out later. They were awesome!

Hey! We got a live one here!

Hey! We got a live one here!

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The Viaduct at Arthurs Pass.

The Otira Viaduct at Arthur’s Pass. Opened in 1999, this was built to replace a stretch of unstable ground. An amazing engineering feat.

We plugged in at the Otira Hotel that night. Marc remembered them from a Google Earth search he had done back in the states and shared with me. We had marveled at how anyone could live here with so little around. It was a wild night, the wind whipping through the pass and the occasional train passing down the tracks. Like so many places we’ve passed, the hotel is for sale, though I think it takes a special breed to run a hotel in the winter when the tourist trade winds down. Lonely there.

OtiraHotel

We ended up going back to Deaths Corner to try to find the Keas again. They were out doing Kea things so instead Marc risked his life above the viaduct. It was another windy day and he had just bought a new cap at the Otira hotel which the wind whipped away fifteen minutes later. Luckily he managed to retrieve it without becoming a casualty himself.

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On a rescue mission.

On a rescue mission.

In all this we  didn’t manage another tramp until the Devils Punchbowl outside of Arthur’s Pass. The tramp itself isn’t too far, but as it’s to a waterfall there are a bunch of steps before you get to the viewing platform. It was great though. Lush greenery, with snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance and hanging moss on the trees. Reminded me of a rainforest. We climbed past the platform and while I stayed a bit further away from the bowl, Marc climbed right down to it for some incredible pictures.

On the track to the falls.

On the track to the falls.

View From The Platform

View From The Platform

Can you see Marc?

Can you see Marc?

The same day we tramped a bit of Scotts Track which is across the way from Devils Punchbowl. This track was really cool and if you do it all, it takes you all the way up to Avalanche Peake. After the morning tramp though, we didn’t feel the need for a further four hours of climbing. We were happy  to  climb for another hour or so until we could see the town of Arthur’s Pass below us and across from us Devils Punchbowl falls and a little further distant; Bridal Veil Falls. The track was all exposed rock and gravel and it seemed to almost be almost dry stream bed. Really cool.

Scotts Track. The Begining.

Scotts Track. The beginning.

Looking down on the village of Arthurs Pass.

Looking down on the village of Arthur’s Pass.

I’m gonna close this with a few more pictures of the Keas. We did get to see the crew one more time and  in sunlight no less. We’re back on the north island now and waiting on the Indonesian Embassy for our  next visas. It’s supposed to rain most of the rest of this week so hopefully I can catch you up on Lewis Pass to Kaikoura fairly soon. In the meantime…….. Keas!

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