January 2011-Page 2

Day 8 Bluff to Stewart Island

We took the ferry over to Stewart Island. It was a beautiful and warm sunny day, we were very lucky that we didn’t come on the ferry yesterday with the winds howling like they were. Stewart Island is home to Rakiura National Park, New Zealand’s southern-most National Park. Rakiura is one of the Maori names given to the island, which recalls glowing sunrises, sunsets and the aurora australis or Southern Lights.

A five minute little boat ride got us to Ulva Island where we walked all over and saw lots of South island birds. Ulva Island is the largest of several small islands situated in Paterson Inlet. The majority of the island is part of Rakiura National Park and is managed by the Department of Conservation as an open sanctuary – a place where native plants and birds can live in a safe environment but is open to the public. The birds that we saw included: the Steward Island Weka; Tomtit; Stewart Island Robin; Oystercatcher; Tui (which has the most amazing song; you have to hear it to believe it); New Zealand Pigeon, the blue penguin and the bellbird.

Day 9 Stewart Island to Waihola

We are now driving through the Catlins, this has been one of our favourite areas on this trip. We stopped at the Waipapa Point Lighthouse. Waipapa Point is the site of New Zealand’s worst civilian shipping disaster, the wreck of the SS Tararua, which claimed 131 lives in 1881. The site has a working historic lighthouse that was built after the tragedy. As we were driving out there was a farmer moving her flock of sheep on the road and we had to stop and let them go by.

Slope Point- The southern-most point of the South Island- had to get the picture of this one. You walk through a private sheep station to get to the point.

Curio Bay- This was a very cool stop. An ancient geological phenomenon – the petrified forest. Fossilised trees similar to kauri and matai lie embedded on coastal bedrock, remnants of a 180 million year old Jurassic era forest. A small population of endangered yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho) reside here. The yellow-eyed penguin is an endangered and unique species. Distinguished by its distinct yellow-eyes and headband, the yellow-eyed penguin in native to New Zealand. Hoiho, is its Maori name. We got a really good view of one on the beach that didn't seem very shy. We were told that if you get too close to the penguins they will go back out into the sea and not come back to feed their babies.

Nugget Point-A walking path between sheer cliffs to the left and right leads to the lighthouse, which had spectacular coastal views. The lighthouse was built in 1869. We could see fur seals and sea lions way down on the rocks below. It is also a breeding area for birds and yellow-eyed penguins. Its name is derived from the sea-worn rocks that resemble gold nuggets.

Day 10 – Dunedin

We arrived in Dunedin first thing in the morning, it was a refreshing change to be in a city. Went to a great cafe for coffees and hot chocolates, spent a few hours at each the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and the fabulous Otago Museum. Sushi was on the lunch menu and so was a nice walk within the city taking in the sites. The railway station just recently celebrated its hundredth birthday and claims to be New Zealand’s most photographed building, every place in New Zealand seems to have some moniker attached to its name! On our way out of town we stopped by Baldwin Street, which is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s steepest residential street. We were too weary to actually walk up it so we just gawked at it from the van!

Found a beautiful tent site at Trotters Gorge and we were finally able to enjoy it and sit outside because there were no sand flies here. Thank goodness for that!

Day 11 – Dunedin to Lake Aviemore

Moeraki Boulders are a collection of large spherical boulders that sit on a stunning stretch of beach. How did they get here and how did they become so perfectly spherical? There were some that split open and it looked like a giant caramel.

We were driving on the back roads and missed a turn so backed into a driveway, unfortunately over a culvert slashing our rear tire. Luckily the occupants of the house were home and very nice! They told us that we are not the first people to have this happen to. They helped us as we didn’t have a tire iron and as luck would have it the tire truck from the nearest town of Oamaru just happened to drive by. We were back on the road within the hour! Amazing

Oamaru was a really nice stop. The Whitestone Cheese Factory is there and you can see the cheese being made and have some tastings. They have a historic precinct where you can meander through preserved historic commercial buildings like the grain storehouse and the Woolstore. There is a limestone carver that sells reasonably priced sculptures and souvenirs. For a gold coin donation we visited a model train room. Of course we found the New Zealand Malt Whisky Company and Chris had a wee dram of a tasting. This was in one cool building – it is a 130 year old warehouse that a local lady is turning into a restaurant.

Back in the car to drive through the Waitaki Valley. Saw some Maraewhenua Maori rock paintings on the side of the highway.

The next stop was at Elephants Rocks ,giant limestone boulders which was Aslan’s Camp in the Narnia movie.

Our campsite that night was at Lake Aviemore where we me some local kiwis from Dunedin and the kids had so much fun playing with their kids and especially their three dogs. We actually played a bit in the Lake. The kiwi’s think nothing of jumping in a going for a swim or a water ski but we find it incredibly cold!

Day 12 Lake Aviemore to Christchurch

Today was a long day of driving. Saw the Benmore Dam Earthworks which was so cool to see, there was tons of water coming out of the dam. The dam is the largest earth-filled water-retaining structure in New Zealand. The dam's spillway can cope with 3,400 cubic metres of water per second, about 10 times the mean river flow. With a generating capacity of 540 MW, Benmore Power Station is the second largest hydro station in New Zealand.

It is almost too hard to drive through New Zealand because you have to keep stopping to take pictures of everything!! Lake Pukaki is a smoky blue colour. The glacial feed to the lakes gives them the distinctive blue colour, created by glacial flour, the extremely finely ground rock particles from the glaciers.

We continued our drive through Mackenzie country, stopping to buy fresh cherries, and stone fruit like peaches and plums (which were still in season), by the side of the road. We decided to take a small detour to the Peel Forest to see the Big Trees. Peel Forest Park is located along the foothills of the Southern Alps. The three largest trees in Peel Forest belong to the family “Podocarpaceae”. It is a very ancient family with a line of descent going back in time more than 100 million years. The three trees are kahikatea (white pine), tōtara and mataï (black pine).

Day 13 - Christchurch, NZ

On 4 September 2010, a major 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch causing an estimated total cost of $4 billion in damage, 63 aftershocks were reported afterward, we could see the damage as we drove around. It is the biggest city in the South Island. It has a very historical and British feel to it. Christchurch has a great museum and wonderful botanical gardens. We stayed at the Holiday Park which had an indoor pool, TV/movie room; bouncy pillow; and playground. Now this is a real holiday!!!

Day 14- Christchurch to Nelson (back home!)

Kaikoura was one of our favourite places that we visited. It is on the ocean, behind which lie the mountains, along the highway is a railway which tunnels are dug through the rock. It is almost a surreal place, it is so beautiful. Visitors come here to whale and dolphin watch. We saw sea lions on the beach and many birds. Our most memorable visit though was to a B and B / sheep farm where we watched a sheep get sheared and learned a whole bunch about the sheep industry in New Zealand. We met "Ram-Man", learned about the different types and sheep and wool and what they are used for; about the tools they used to use to shear the sheep and the present-day situation. Did you know that there is a job called a sheep shearer who the farmer hires to come to the farm to shear the sheep. This happens with most sheep once a year, some sheep like the Drysdale get shorn twice a year. A good sheep shearer can shear hundreds of sheep a day. It looks like really hard work, I can't imagine doing this for a living! There are sheep shearing contests and even World Championships held in different countries around the world every couple of years. Sheep stations or farms are now being sold to foreigners (Japanese, American). It is not as profitable to own a sheep farm as it is to own a deer farm or even more profitable are the cattle farms. We also got to feed and hold baby lambs, feed the "Ram -Man" and cuddle with the resident sheep dog.

A stop in Havelock for mussels as Havelock is the green shell mussel capital of New Zealand! and then then very windy, steep road back to Nelson. Our boat was still in her slip and all was good, we never were so happy to sleep back in our own beds!!