Visitors from Home
Written by Cathy Siegismund
Allen Nasse, a friend of Ken's his days working in New Jersey out of
college, had planned to visit New Zealand for a month long holiday. Our good
friend John Hawk from Onyx also ended up visiting for the same period of time. John
arrived with short notice - due to a little confusion on flight plans, so his
first week in Auckland he was mostly self-entertained while Ken and I finished
up some boat projects and got ready for our third trip to the South Island.
We went out to dinner with John to our favorite Auckland restaurant and had
him down to the boat for dinner.
Ken and I welcomed John aboard Felicity in Bayswater Marina Auckland
John went out on one of the spectator boats to watch one of the Louis Vuitton
finals and explored the Auckland viaduct.
Photo by John "monkey-boy" Hawk
John exploring the viaduct
Our South Island trip with Allen and John was going to be a similar whirlwind
tour to our moms visit but for two weeks instead of one. We met Allen at the
airport the morning he arrived and the four of us flew to Christchurch. We
arrived in the afternoon, and checked into a great B&B within walking distance
of Cathedral Square. The manager of the B&B told us we had to go down to the
square to catch the World Busker's Festival. I, of course didn't know what a
busker was, and was informed buskers were street performers. Apparently, the
World Busker's Festival is an annual event held in Christchurch. After settling
in to our rooms, we headed to the arts centre for the evening performance. We
found seats in the already crowded outdoor venue.
World Buskers Festival
We saw four acts, each very different and for the most part hysterically
funny. The evening was emceed by two comedians from Toronto. The first act was a
fellow from Alaska who did a yoyo act.
Alaskan yoyo busker
The second act was very funny, though hard to due justice in words. It involved
a man and woman from New York dressed up with Elvis hair and New Jersey cheesy.
They chronicled their "love story" with a member of the audience involved in a
duel of spitting bananas shortly before they had him stripped down to boxers
with the woman on his shoulders and tossing flaming batons.
The third act was a random mime act from Germany. The finale of the evening
was worth the wait. Two English guys came out in sweats and started to do some
acrobatics. Soon they said they were going to get serious, stripped off their
clothes down to silver lame g-strings. These guys were incredibly funny, they
did acrobatics, fire breathing, picked on members of the audience, and finished
up with an acrobatic stunt with flaming sparklers clenched in their butt cheeks.
After an extremely entertaining evening, we returned to the B&B and turned in.
The next morning we took off to Greymouth and the west coast. We were taking the
Arthur's Pass route, and had a great sunny day for the drive across the
Canterbury Plains, across Arthur's Pass in the Southern Alps, and to Greymouth
on the West Coast.
Lovely drive across the Canterbury Plains and into the beginning of the Southern
We stopped in Arthur's Pass for a short three-hour hike up one of the Bealey
treks. We parked in the small parking lot at the trail head, and set off.
The hike began on a well marked path through the woods, then began following a
river bed, and eventually took us over piles of glacial till to the glacier.
The hike was great, but our day took a turn for the worse when we returned to
our rental car to find a smashed in window and my purse stolen. It has been our
first crime in 2 1/2 years of traveling, so I guess we've been pretty lucky.
When we reported this to the police, they said this type of crime is fairly
common. We have since not left our fully loaded car at any hiking/tourist
locations. If we have to, we put all valuables in the trunk (we had rented a
station wagon, so the trunk had not been an option.) If you do have your car
loaded, and need to leave it, pick a well trafficked area and walk to the more
The rest of our day was spent cleaning glass out of the car, canceling credit
cards, filing a police report, and arranging for a new rental car, and driving
to Greymouth. We spent the night there and got to pick up our new rental car
(which had to be driven over from Christchurch the next afternoon. Bad weather
had settled in and we were tired from two days of running around, we decided to
make a short day of it, and drove the 40 minutes or so south to Hokitika, where
we spent the night. I called it a day and enjoyed an afternoon of a hot bath and
some movies. Ken, Allen and John visited the local Hokitika aquarium, home to
the infamous blue eel feeding, and took advantage of some memorable night life
at a nearby, very local bar.
Photo by John Hawk
John at the Hokitika Waterworld Aquarium
The next day was forecasted to be fair weather, so we thought we'd give Franz
Josef and Fox Glacier another try. Every other time we've tried to stop at the
glaciers, the rainy west coast weather convinced us not to stop. We stopped at
our favorite carving and craft shop and had to stop at some of the interesting
mountain pass establishments with themes ranging from the feral possum to the
regional New Zealand bird - the vicious sand fly.
stopped in the town of Franz Joseph, we make arrangements for an afternoon
helicopter flight that would take us around the two glaciers, landing on Fox. As
we had several hours until the flight, we decided to take a short walk up to a
viewing area of Franz Josef and then drive to the town of Fox to look for a
hotel room and pick up the flight.
Franz Josef Glacier
By the time we arrived in Fox the weather was already starting to turn. We had
tourist information arrange rooms for us, and checked in. We checked in for our
flight, and actually got out to the helicopter pad, when the flight was canceled
because of bad weather with low visibility. On the return to the office to get
our refunds, the shuttle driver told us if we wanted the best chance of flying,
we should book a very early flight. We took his advise and booked a 07:30 flight
up to the glaciers and then for some odd reason I agreed to join John and
Ken in a full day of ice climbing.
We had a good dinner in a small local pub/restaurant. We got up early, and were
pleasantly surprised to have a clear sunny morning. The helicopter flight was
fantastic. We flew over the Franz Josef and then flew over the mountains to Fox,
where we landed on the glacier. After several minutes of non-stop picture taking
of the glacier and surrounding mountains we were back in the helicopter and back
By 09:30 we were being fitted with gear for our ice climbing adventure. As we
were trying on our climbing boots, crampons, and were being told how to hang our
ice axes from our packs, I was questioning wondering why my fear of heights had
not vetoed this idea. Fiona, our guide for the day, drove us up to the parking
lot where we would hike to the foot of the glacier. After a hike to the glacier,
we put on our crampons and started walking up the ice. After a short lesson on
how to walk on the ice, we climbed up to an ice wall. Three English guys, were
already climbing with another guide. In typical Kiwi fashion, we got about 30
seconds of instruction and then I was told to start climbing.
Fiona giving me the cliff note version of how to ice climb
For more photos, see the Ice Climbing Photo Gallery
Ice climbing was not something I ever would have though I would do, but it has
to be one of our best New Zealand adventure activities.
After a very tiring day, we spent a second night in Fox so we could get an early
start for our drive to Queenstown the next morning.
The day started rainy, but cleared as we approached Queenstown. We ended up
having a very pretty drive into the lake region north of Queenstown.
Scenic drive to Queenstown
The Kawarau river bungy jump bridge
We stopped in Wanaka to enjoy the day and catch a late lunch
We arrived in Queenstown in the early evening. We rented the same house we had
rented the year before with Jason and Tam. The three bedroom house, has a great
view of the lake and provided a nice setting for our four night stay in
Queenstown. Unfortunately, our good weather luck did not hold, and we had five
cold and rainy days. The boys went out and played a few days and Allen did log a
couple of bungy jumps.
Photo by John Hawk
Ken and John riding home-made go carts - only in Queenstown
Allen, John and Ken out riding 4-wheel ATVs
After a few relaxing, though soggy days in Queenstown, we left and drove to Te
Anau and into Fiordland. We had reserved spots on of the overnight cruises of
Doubtful Sound. We left early in the morning, to make it to Manapouri my noon.
We parked our car for the night and checked in with the tour company. We picked
up our tickets and lunches and boarded a boat that would take us across Lake
Manapouri, from there we were bussed over the steep gravel pass to the head of
Doubtful Sound. The rain and clouds were so low, the bus ride was shrouded in
mist and rain.
Although we did spend most of our cruise in the rain, the scenery we could see
Doubtful Sound cruise ship
More pictures, see the Doubtful Sound Photo Gallery
When we returned to the tourist center in Manapouri, John had decided to "jump
the bus" and head back to Queenstown. He had hoped to do some of the famous
hiking tracks around Queenstown, but was hoping to do so in better weather. John
would keep in touch, but likely stay an extra week or so on the South Island,
before meeting back up with us in Auckland. Allen, Ken and I continued south
sticking with our plans to drive around the southern tip of New Zealand and up
the east coast.
We drove south out of Manapouri following the southern scenic route. As we
neared the southern end of the South Island we drove through windswept pasture
land, rugged coastline, and small fishing villages.
That evening we stopped in Invercargill. I had picked up a cold, so while I hung
out at the hotel, Ken and Allen drove down to Bluff. Bluff is Invercargill's
port and the departure point for Stewart Island. Though not actually the
southern most point of New Zealand, it is commonly referred to as such.
Ken at Bluff
The next day, was rainy so we decided to just explore the Southland Museum in
Invercargill, where they have an excellent exhibit about the exploration of New
Zealand's subantarctic islands which includes the "Roaring Forties Experience"
and photos and stories ranging from the original island exploration to modern
Photo of a huge penguin colony in the subantarctic islands
The Southland Museum is also home to the Tuatara House which houses Henry who is
over 100 years old. Tuatara's are an ancient and rare reptile which has not
changed since it shared the earth with the dinosaurs.
We then started our drive north up the east coast of the South Island to
Dunedin. The east coast is much drier and more pastoral compared to the more
dramatic west coast.
Dunedin is a large university town and the second largest city on the South
Island. Dunedin was founded by a Scottish settlers and Dunedin is Celtic for
Edinburgh. Although, this was our third trip to Dunedin, we had always been
there on a Sunday for a short stop and never had much time to wander the city.
We decided to spend a couple of days in Dunedin, so we had the time to wander
the town, shopping, enjoying the impressive architecture, and enjoying the warm
One of Dunedin's impressive churches
Ken and I also took a tour of the Speights brewery.
Speight's is a one of our
favorite New Zealand brews, and has a series of very funny TV ads.
Dunedin Speight's Brewery tour
Speight's, since its inception, have also run pubs and minimalist hotels. Tying
in with their advertising campaign these pub/hotels cater to the "Southern Man".
The Southern Man is usually portrayed with his horse and dogs heading out into
the bush. He is also usually wearing his long oilskin or trademark short shorts
Southern Man Speight's Hotel
Our second day, Ken and I took a drive out to Port Chalmers, on the opposite
side of Otago Harbour from the Otago Peninsula. Port Chalmers is a small
historic town founded in 1844 when it became Dunedin's port.
Boats at anchor off Port Chalmers
To enjoy the sunny day, we took a morning beach horse trek along the beach
outside Port Chalmers.
Beach ride at Port Chalmers
That afternoon, Ken and Allen drove out to the Otago Peninsula to visit one of
our favorite tourist stops,
Penguin Place is home to the rare yellow-eyed penguins. Their tour was in the
early evening, and as the penguins had chicks in the nest, they had the chance
to see penguins coming back from a day's feeding to feed their hungry chicks.
Yellow-eyed penguin returning ashore after a day's fishing
Views of the Otago Peninsula
We left Dunedin and continued, what was becoming to Ken and I, a rather familiar
drive up the east coast. Some interesting clouds did make the sprawling farmland
Impressive mid-day clouds on our drive to Oamaru
We also stopped at the impressive Moeraki Boulders. These huge, spherical,
smooth rocks sit in the beach surf like giant bowling balls
We had to make a stop at another one of our favorite South Island places,
Oamaru, home of the
Little Blue Penguin. We checked into a hotel in Oamaru and killed some time
until we headed over to the penguin colony new watch these tiny and incredibly
cute penguins come ashore at dusk. As usual the little blues didn't disappoint
and we enjoyed watching them.
The next day we drove back up to Christchurch where we caught a flight back to
Auckland. Allen rented a car and would spend the rest of his holiday traveling
around the North Island.