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Visitors from Home

Written by Cathy Siegismund
February 2003

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 Alps

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 remote locations.

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.



 We first 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 to town.





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 was beautiful.

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 day conservation.

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 day.

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 and hat.

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. 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 quite beautiful.

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


Moeraki Boulders

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.

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