Archives: New Zealand 2006

NZ Trip – FINAL NOTES 8 May 2006

The photo now above is my own of Mitre Peak in Milford Sound, and is one of my best. Thank you Andrea, for getting it loaded! I have *finally* finished expanding the Milford Track post with more detail, and loading and annotating all of my New Zealand photos, including from the Habitat build and the Tongariro volcano crossing – there are a LOT of photos, so I hope you can just enjoy them as you have time. I took about 1700, and I think about 40 are really good and/or representative – see the ‘Top Forty’ album if you want a quick glimpse. I have about 140 real favorites from the whole trip. And here is a map of my journey (click twice on it for a good full-screen view). Map of my travels

I flew into NZ via Auckland and then directly on to Christchurch for one night. The green leg is my bus trip to Mt. Cook, where I stayed for 2 nights. The blue line is my bus trip to Queenstown, where I stayed for 2 nights, then the orange is the Milford Track guided walk (5 nights), returning to Queenstown for 1 night. The pink line is our car/bus trip via Fox Glacier (just above Haast) all the way north to Nelson – that took 2 days, with the overnight in Fox Glacier and 1 night in Nelson. Then I flew back to Auckland for the Habitat build (12 nights). Then the bright blue line is the GV team’s van trip to Waitomo Caves near Otorohanga (1 night) then on to Taupo and Rotorua (2 nights). The red line is my bus trip to Tongariro National Park where I stayed for 3 nights, and the yellow line is my train trip back to Auckland to fly home.

I have also heavily edited the Milford Track entry from March 2 with many details of that absolutely amazing adventure – it was definitely the highlight of my trip, with Tongariro close behind (since my camera was broken, I found some great photos on the internet). The Milford album also has the most photos by far, and I think they tell the story of our 5-day adventure pretty well.

If any of you missed some of the early posts of my trip and want to read from the beginning, just click on New Zealand on the right and you will see them all – the earliest dates are at the bottom. And I recommend opening up a second browser window for the photos related to the post so you can see what I am talking about as you read. But most of all, THANKS FOR READING!

Goodbye to Godzone (NZ) 30 March 2006

Hard to believe, but I am HOME now. And my last two days in “Godzone” were as full as any other. For my last morning in Tongariro National Park, my delightful and very gracious hosts at the Tongariro Crossing Lodge, Sharee and Steve Fawlk, took me into Whakapapa Village where I headed off on a 2.5 hour walk to Taranaki Falls, about 6km. It is in between Mt. Ngaruhoe (Mt. Doom) and Mt. Ruapehu, so the views of the perfectly shaped cone of Mt. Ngaruhoe were wonderful… I kept a close eye on it to see if the summit would peek through the clouds, but except for one small corner, it was not to happen. But the rest of the scenery was still worth it. (more…)

Mt. Ruapehu 21 March 2006

This morning (barely :)), one of the lodge owners here took me up to the Whakapapa Ski Field on the Mt. Ruapehu volcano. Some of you may remember it… this is the one that erupted in 1995-1996, and there were photos on the internet of people skiing while the mountain is erupting behind and above them (I have been looking but haven’t yet found them)! So yes, it is another active volcano. All of the volcanoes in the park today were shrouded in clouds, but even though I dressed pretty well (thermal shirt, vest, raincoat, gloves, and headband), I had on thin capri pants and only ankle socks, so my lower legs were bare. (more…)

Mt. Doom!! 20 March 2006

Hi all – I DID the Tongariro Crossing today! And I was able to view and walk right past Mt. Doom (Mt. Ngauruhoe) – you can hike to the top, but it was just too much of a side trip… as it was, the 17 km (10.5 mile) hike took me nearly 9 hours. It was about 2600 (800 meters) feet up, and 3800 feet (1150 meters) down, and the landscape was absolutely stunning. I am so sorry I could not take photos – it felt like being on another planet. (more…)

Rotorua, central North Island 19 March 2006

Rotorua is a beautiful city in the heart of the volcanic region of the north island – I wish I could have taken more photos of it. But it does have a stinky sulphur smell about it – didn’t really bother me, but it does a lot of folks, even though they say you get used to it.

Here is a beautiful, true story whose history is part of Rotorua, and that we heard at the Maori village on Thursday night: Hinemoa was a young woman who lived on the western shores of Rotorua, and Tutanekai lived on Mokoia Island, a large island in the middle of the lake. (more…)

Cave Tubing! 17 March 2006

Thursday early morning we all headed out in a van hosted by Adventure Specialities, a NZ non-profit group whose mission is to work with at-risk kids and families. Our destination was Waitomo Caves, toward the central west of the North Island, about 4 hours’ drive. We made it about 1/4 mile and the engine overheated, so we spent a little over an hour waiting for a replacement van, on the grassy portion between freeway ramps! (more…)

Last work day 15 March 2006

Today was our last day, and I will …sort of… miss it! 🙂 It has been hard work, and it has been really great to be able to switch work sites, though I *did* get tired and sore from painting. Today I was at the experimental house site most of the day, but it was quite hot and I am coming down with a cold and I found myself losing steam so I bugged out the last couple hours and went back to painting – out of the sun. (more…)

Exotic black flower 14 March 2006

My *sweet* little camera is broken. I am so bummed. I think what happened is that something was dropped on it, or it was (unknowingly) stepped on! I pulled it out tonight to take a group shot at dinner, and found an exotic-looking black flower on permanent display with delicate lines through it. (more…)

From dirt to boating 12 March 2006

Yesterday, Saturday, was our 6th workday, and I **really** worked (not that I hadn’t been already!) – I got to work on the new site for the first time.

In case I had not mentioned it earlier, our team is actually working on two new houses under construction. The one most of us are working on is the traditional Habitat house here in Auckland, made out of a heavy, thick “tri-board” (wood chips and glue – very strong) with aluminum siding and roof…very nice looking. The other house has just been started, and is using an experimental design by a local university student architect, who is also supervising the build. That one is using a type of concrete block (I’ll have to find out more later), and we are preparing the foundations for the garage and the house. (more…)

Sanding, sanding, and more sanding… 10 March 2006

Today was our 5th workday on the house we are building for Juanita, the single mom who will be the new homeowner. She had sick kids on Monday and Tuesday, but has been at the building site for several hours the last two days, working along side us as much as possible when she is not at work. (more…)

Habitat, Manukau, NZ 7 March 2006

Wow – what an adventure this trip has been! When I arrived in Auckland on Sunday (March 5th) at 9am, I was just an hour too late to join the team’s short city tour, so the director of the Manukau Habitat affiliate picked me up and took me to their house to help prepare for the big brunch for the team and all the other kiwis that would join in. (ALL New Zealanders refer to themselves as kiwis.) And it turns out I was really lucky I didn’t make that tour… when they were stopped at a high point above the city and the stadium where the All Blacks (national rugby team) play, the van was broken into and 3 lost passports, IDs, tickets, money, cell phones, cameras, etc! So that was a rather inauspicious beginning, but we have had a great time so far, in the midst of those three having to deal with that. (more…)

Queenstown to Nelson, South Island 7 March 2006

Hi everyone! Sorry for the long delay in updating my travelogues here!

Friday (March 2), Karen and Phil and I drove over the mountains north out of Queenstown to the small community of Fox Glacier. It was a lovely, relaxing drive that took about 8 hours, including all our stops for photos and lunch. Luckily, Phil is almost as much of a camera nut as I am. We could see many of the same mountains I had seen before, from different perspectives, and then many new ones as well – all are incredibly rugged and ragged-peaked, with long, sharp jagged ridgelines and shiny granite faces, sheared by glaciers. (more…)

The Milford Track – “Finest Walk in the World” 2 March 2006

NOW UPDATED! Karen, Phil, I, and 48 other unsuspecting hikers in our group survived the Milford Track – unbelievable!!! It was **very** challenging – it was not 33 miles in 5 days, as I thought, but 33.5 miles in THREE days – I just didn’t read the fine print very carefully! (more…)

Beautiful Queenstown! (Day 5) 24 February 2006

What a beautiful day – shirtsleeve weather, beautiful!!

I had planned to take the gondola to the top of one of the mountains just above the city, but when I got to the gondola terminal, I noticed a couple of hikers headed off on a trail, and realized that there is a trail to the top! I had been thinking I need to keep my legs in shape for the Milford Track tomorrow, so this was perfect. It turned out to be more than adequate for this purpose! It was **VERY** steep, and in my sneakers, was quite challenging, but beautiful. It was very like nearing the top of the trail above Bear Lake in Colorado, where the trail gets steeper and rockier. There were many spots where I had to pull myself up using branches and rocks. (more…)

Bus across sheepland forever (Day 4) 24 February 2006

Hello all… I was going to say this was an uneventful day, but the bus ride from Mt. Cook to Queenstown this aftenoon was really rather amazing, in retrospect. It seemed that we crossed the wide high rolling hills (over Lindis pass for miles and miles) of sheep and dairy farms, then vineyards, forever! They truly seemed endless, sometimes barren, sometimes heavily covered with many-colored green shrubs, always very steep, then becoming very rugged. It could have been the hills of Texas, or of southern Idaho. I think now that I would like to see a sheep farm, and plan to check out that possibility. Shops selling the ‘finest merino wool in the world’ are **everywhere** – too bad I rarely wear it, it seems a shame to pass it up. We passed through the glider flight capital of the world – only two weeks ago the international competition was held in Omarama. (more…)

Hooker Track & to the TOP of Mt. Cook (Day 3) 23 February 2006

I went to the top of Mt. Cook yesterday! Unbelievable. I splurged on a scenic helicopter ride – nearly an hour – and it [almost] left me speechless. We flew up the Tasman Valley (where I am staying, in Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park), over the Tasman Glacier, which is not the longest in the world outside the Arctic Circles but in the southern hemisphere. I still don’t remember how long it is, but I think not 70km – maybe 27km! We then flew between Mt. Tasman and some other peak, over the Main Divide (I presume their version of the Continental Divide) and landed on the Franz Josef Glacier, which is 11km long. I simply could not believe the spectacularly beautiful scenery – literally surrounded by jagged, pointy peaks and snow, and icefalls! As you can imagine, I was in heaven, or felt like it. (more…)

Bus Ride to Aoraki Mt. Cook (Day 2) 22 February 2006

As I write this, it is about 9pm, and I have a warm buzz from having enjoyed the South Island’s favorite beer, Speights, while spending over an hour in the sofa lounge just mesmerized by the howling winds streaming the snow off the peak of Aoraki Mt. Cook (Aoraki means “cloud piercer”), which was finally bathed in sunshine after being shrouded in rain and clouds all day. (more…)

Hello from NZede/Godzone! (Day 1) 21 February 2006

It is about 7:30pm here (about 1:30 am Tuesday, your time), and I got about 4 hours’ sleep on the plane last night from San Fran to Auckland, so have been up for about 30 hours except for the fitful airplane-seat snooze. I have kept busy today, hoping to sleep like a log tonight!

NZ smells like San Diego, because it has a maritime climate, and when we landed in Christchurch (CC) this morning at 8 am, the city was still blanketed with what Dave & Susie would call the “marine layer” of fog. (more…)

Bon Voyage! 18 February 2006

This post is for my daughter Andrea, architect of this website (and who keeps saying “WRITE! WRITE!). She and my sweetheart Lester and my mom Helen were the planners of the wonderful surprise farewell/”retirement” party they threw for me Thursday! It was fantastic, and I WAS **totally** surprised! It was a lovely evening in the company of wonderful friends and family – I missed those of you who could not make it to Duangrats (some of the best Thai food in town). To my delight, I received a few things that I had not thought of, or had not been able to find – thank you! These will fit nicely into my backpack – my ONLY bag… yes, I am truly backpacking NZ. My next post will hopefully be when I land in Christchurch, assuming I will easily find an internet cafe. 🙂

In case you are wondering… 30 December 2005

For those of you who might not know and be wondering why and what that photo is up there, that is Milford Sound, on the south island of New Zealand, where I am headed in late February. I will be hiking with my sis Karen on the famous Milford Track for 5 days, and then working with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village for 16 days to build a house for a Maori family near Auckland.