Table of Content for nz2015:

More pages: January 2015 February 2015




2015/01/10 New Zealand Days 1-7: Auckland
π 2015-01-10 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips
This year, for the 3rd time, linux.conf.au was in New Zealand, and conveniently in Auckland which is a nice direct flight for us. We arrived 2 days before the conference started, which gave us 2 days to visit Auckland. While 3 or 4 would have been better, I feel that we got the highlights in 2 days :)

Our first day was a bit tough since we landed around 05:30, and went directly to the hotel to drop our luggage and start exploring. Thankfully our flight in business was quite pleasant and the lie down flat beds were very good:

the entertainment system was top notch
the entertainment system was top notch



The flight was almost over too soon, I'd have happily slept there a bit longer :)

Welcome back to NZ!
Welcome back to NZ!

After arriving at our hotel around 07:00, we did a portion of the coast to coast walk although we only got as far as the War Museum (which is actually a lot more than just a war museum). We stopped by the botanical garden on the way:








happy bee :)
happy bee :)



heavily loaded bee
heavily loaded bee




Finally got to the auckland museum
Finally got to the auckland museum










The museum had one display showing you a simulation of what willl happen when the next volcano errupts around Oakland (and that's just a matter of time, we just don't know when):


Oakland is full of volcanoes
Oakland is full of volcanoes

The war museum part is the 3rd floor, which actually was the least interesting to us, but we still went through it quickly:



We then went to the art museum before heading back after a quick dinner (actually I went back out to see a couple of movies at the planetarium that were only showing that evening), and then it was time for well deserved rest :)





The next morning, we took a ferry to Rangitoto, the youngest volcano around Auckland:





Rangitoto
Rangitoto



we took the easy way up :)
we took the easy way up :)

you can still see that the island is volcanic
you can still see that the island is volcanic




that's the volcano crater, but you can't really tell with all the trees
that's the volcano crater, but you can't really tell with all the trees

nice view of Auckland from there
nice view of Auckland from there



we went by the lava tubes on the way down
we went by the lava tubes on the way down


After getting back to Auckland, we went to MOTAT, the museum of transportation:














After MOTAT, we went to Auckland Sky Tower:


you can walk around the top, tethered
you can walk around the top, tethered






war museum
war museum





That was it for day #2, we were still a bit jetlagged (not just the difference from California, but that we had flown from France 2 days prior), so we were happy to be in bed by 22:00 so that I could get an early start at the conference on monday the next day.
The rest of the week was indeed spent at the conference, but friday night, before leaving, I went to fly a jet auckland to try a 737 simulator again (75mn of flight), and joined Jennifer for dinner at Clooney, probably the best restaurant in Auckland, where we enjoyed a very nice 5 course dinner:






And that was it for our time in Auckland. It's a nice little city that isn't too crowded and we lucked out with the weather

See more images for New Zealand Days 1-7: Auckland
2015/01/11 Visiting The Museum of Transportation (Motat) in Auckland, NZ
π 2015-01-11 00:00 in Flying, Nz2015
Motat is an interesting museum, but a special part of it is the small but unusual collection of planes they have, including part of the now defunct NZ air force.

Small museum, but nice collection.







a huge flying boat
a huge flying boat







.
2015/01/16 Nice Dinner at Clooney in Auckland, New Zealand
π 2015-01-16 00:00 in Dining, Nz2015
At the end of our last day in Auckland, we went for a nice dinner at Clooney








2015/01/17 Scenic Passenger Flight to the northmost tip of New Zealand
π 2015-01-17 00:00 in Flying, Nz2015
As part of our trip to New Zealand's Northland, we flew in an interesting plane I hadn't seen before, an Australian version of a Kodiak. It had very good payload for 300hp, and it only burned about 15gph while carrying 8 people (albeit at 120kts):



The flight was very nice:




We landed on what looked like a sketchy grass runway that went unhill and curved, but our pilot did fine with it :)

Takeoff was also "interesting":

Our flight back was just as scenic:














Russel, where we spent the evening the day before
Russel, where we spent the evening the day before

It was a super nice flight, best way to see North New Zealand. Thanks to Salt Air!.

2015/01/17 New Zealand Days 8-10: Northland around Paiha
π 2015-01-17 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

We took an early bus from Auckland to Paiha, the place where all tourists to Northland get dumped :) As my guide book says, the town itself isn't much of a destination, but it's a convenient base to explore locations around from. When we arrived around noon, we were met by the owners of our B&B, Decks of Paiha, who nicely came to pick us up and drove us up the hill to their place. From there, we went for our boat tour of the neighbouring islands. As part of the trip, we got dropped off an island where we hiked a bit for views:

the bus ride was pretty comfortable
the bus ride was pretty comfortable


the locally famous hole in the rock
the locally famous hole in the rock










we got lucky to see some wild dolphins on the way back
we got lucky to see some wild dolphins on the way back


To be honest, the boat trip is probably what people do there, but not what we enjoyed the most. At the end of the trip, the boat dropped us off at Russell across from Paiha, and we hiked to the flagstaff and the beach by Takeka Point. Ironically that was actually free and fun ;)



passion fruit, but not quite ripe yet
passion fruit, but not quite ripe yet










After our hike at the beach, we got back to the ocean front for dinner and took the ferry back to Paiha to our BnB:



The next morning, we had great trip with Salt Air. They flew us to the north tip of the island. I put the flight on my flight blog. Thanks to that flight, we got to the north of northland to see its tip in a van driven expertly by our pilot:





checking out tide pools :)
checking out tide pools :)

The last but most fun part of that excursion was going to sand dunes and doing dune boarding:


long climb up :)
long climb up :)


Jennifer struggled a bit with directional control :)
Jennifer struggled a bit with directional control :)

After another great flight back, we went to Waitangi Treaty Grounds and learned about how the british went to New Zealand and actually treated the Maori with more respect than they have of any other country they tried to invade. From what I can tell, it's actually because the Maori were bad ass: all the tribes were unified against the british if needed, and they were scary warriors. The british likely feared them which is understandable considering how they look when they do their dances. All this to say, I have much respect for the Maori and I'm happy that it's probably the only native people to a land who stayed ahead and didn't get crushed like most others (Australian Aborigines, US Indians, and so forth).
(but rest assured the british of course still did their best to screw the Maori later, but only managed to do it so much)



huge boat
huge boat



where the treaty was signed with the Maori
where the treaty was signed with the Maori



The Maori gave us a very nice show:










The treaty grounds are also quite nice to visit:




The 3rd day, we had a nice breakfast at our B&B before heading out with a rental car. We then went to Kawiti Glow Worm caves:



you can see the glow worms if you look carefully
you can see the glow worms if you look carefully


Next, we went to the parrot place, which was quite fun:



yeah, scratch me right here :)
yeah, scratch me right here :)



friends :)
friends :)



very small baby quail
very small baby quail





On the way out, we went to see the oldest house in New Zealand, the brick house and rainbow falls:



We finished with a couple of wineries for Jennifer:








From there, we returned our rental car, took a bus to Whangarei and a minivan to Tutukaka where we slept before going to our diving boat the next morning

2015/01/20 Diving Poor Knights Islands on 3 day liveaboard by Tutukaka/Whangarei, New Zealand
π 2015-01-20 00:00 in Diving, Nz2015

As part of our trip through New Zealand, my guidebook mentioned Poor Knights Islands as some of the best sub tropical diving in the world (and especially New Zealand], so we took 3 days to go dive there with Ocean Blue Adventures. It's a small liveaboard, but they were nice enough to give us the one room (they had some bunks for the rest of the folks), and it was comfortable enough for that duration. The crew of 2 did everything they could to make the trip and diving as nice as possible.



Poor Knights Island is a 2H boat trip from Tutukaka, so it was nice to be able to stay on site and do more dives than the other boats that only did 2 dives per day.


Water was on the cold side (19 to 22C). Jennifer got too cold on her first day due to not putting 2 wetsuits on right away (ideally one would have been enough, but her body just gets colder than mine and then needed more time to recover). She missed a few dives as a result, but enjoyed the ones she did. I did all the dives myself, although 19-21C with a 7mm suit was really on the cold side.

The diving was interesting. There were scorpionfish everywhere, as well as nice nudibranch (some quite fat), and even nudibranch on top of scorpionfish (that was weird):



nudibranch threesome
nudibranch threesome





I totally missed the scorpionfish underneath when I took the picture
I totally missed the scorpionfish underneath when I took the picture






There were loads of rays too:





Loads of moray eels of all kinds:



nice blue moray eel
nice blue moray eel










that poor fish had a tumor
that poor fish had a tumor






We did one night dive. Lots of little food floating around :)




And that was the conclusion of our 3 days of diving at Poor Knights Islands. It was cold, pretty tough for Jennifer and borderline for me, but it was interesting to see different critters from what we usually see during tropical diving

2015/01/23 New Zealand Days 14-15: 1.5 days around Coromandel, Bay of Plenty
π 2015-01-23 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

After diving diving in Tutukaka, we took a bus back to Auckland, picked up a rental car, and drove towards Hahei. We lost 1.5h due to having to swap rental cars (the one we got in Auckland didn't have a trunk that could fit our luggage), and then we got stuck by an accident on the freeway out. Nonetheless we made it to hot water beach a bit late, but still in time to appreciate the hot water coming out of the sand which you could use to make your own hot pools given the right mix with cold water (the hot water on its own is scalding).




we stayed until the tide started coming back up and giving us some cold water to mix with the scalding hot water in our pool
we stayed until the tide started coming back up and giving us some cold water to mix with the scalding hot water in our pool

Next, we hiked to cathedral cove, a nice beach and cove that is usually filled with people but because we went there late (20:00), it was quite nice and quiet. The relative low tide also allowed us to cross the cove without getting our shoes wet (the next day, you had to swim across):







oyster catcher birds
oyster catcher birds

there was also a waterfall, nice...
there was also a waterfall, nice...


we then hiked back to our car and got to our B&B
we then hiked back to our car and got to our B&B

The next morning, we enjoyed a nice breakfast before going to the beach for our kayak tour:




interesting rock formation
interesting rock formation







cathedral cove see from the sea
cathedral cove see from the sea

this is where we crossed on foot the previous evening :)
this is where we crossed on foot the previous evening :)

looks like running around that corner to avoid the water wasn't going to work this time :)
looks like running around that corner to avoid the water wasn't going to work this time :)






After the kayak ride which was fun and scenic, there didn't seem to be much to do besides staying on the beach which isn't much what we enjoy doing :) so my hiking book recommended the Karangahake Gorge and its Windows Walk. It's a very scenic place which mostly made up for the unfortunate 3H it took to drive all the way there and back (with a detour via Waihi). In hindsight, we should have stayed in Waihi the 2nd night or actually gone all the way to Rotorua to be onsite for the next day.

Anyway, Karangahake Gorge was very pretty, unfortunately windows walk was closed in the tunnel, preventing us from doing the full loop and wasting some of our time while we figured out where we could go and where exactly the track was closed (inside a mining tunnel turns out, so when your loop is almost over, you have to turn back and do it all again in reverse).









From there, it was too late to go to Waihi Beach before Orokawa Beach Track, so we went to the later directly. WE just happened to be driving by another mining town along the way, and they had an open mine you could look at:



For Orokawa Beach, you had to park somewhere obscure and hike 30-45mn to the beach:




fresh waterfall
fresh waterfall


nice place for dinner
nice place for dinner

I went for a swim, but it was kind of dicey with all the rocks
I went for a swim, but it was kind of dicey with all the rocks

having a fresh shower afterwards was nice :)
having a fresh shower afterwards was nice :)

 I did apply sunscreen almost everywhere :)
I did apply sunscreen almost everywhere :)

we then had to hike back up
we then had to hike back up


From there, we had to drive back to Hahei which was a bit tedious. The mountain roads at night would have taken almost 2h for the average driver. Google gave me an optimistic 1h25 (it uses the speed limit without knowing that you can't typically drive 100kph on curvy mountain roads). Thankfully mountain roads are my bread and butter, so I did it in 1h15 :) .

2015/01/25 New Zealand Days 16-17: 2 days around Rotoruta, New Zealand's Yellowstone
π 2015-01-25 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

So Rotoruta is actually tourist destination and as a result has a lot of things to amuze tourists that have nothing to do with the region. Usually we'd skip them, but this time we made an execption because they were just so much fun, and not something we were able to do elsewhere.

We started with rainbow springs to go see Kiwis as part of a backstage tour where you see how they take care of the babies that hatch in their nursery (kiwi birds do a very poor job raising their young and only 5% survive to adulthood in the wild. Actually kiwi birds are just not meant to survive unless they are alone, they don't fly, don't run fast, and can be easily eaten by any of many mammals that were introduced to New Zealand):





while they don't care for humans, they are cute :)
while they don't care for humans, they are cute :)




baby kiwi being weighed
baby kiwi being weighed

kiwi in its enclosure
kiwi in its enclosure

The park had a few other animals and birds:

kea, their local parrot
kea, their local parrot

the tallest land bird, now extinct (Moa)
the tallest land bird, now extinct (Moa)


their local pigeon, it's quite fat :)
their local pigeon, it's quite fat :)

Next, we went to the Gondola for a view of the lake higher up, and 6 consecutive rides of luge, which was a lot of fun. You can go quite fast with them, catch serious air, and if you're too fast in turn they'll tilt and slow you down without flipping over. They are quite well designed. You then go back up with a ski lift chair and go again :)
Needless to say that I went full bore on the expert track quickly being a bit competitive and all :) and let Jennifer get a good head start before trying to catch up with her. I managed most times except when the tortoise beat the hare :)



Wee! :)
Wee! :)


(I get good air around 0:47 and pass Jennifer at 0:55)

Next, we went to Ovo to try Zorbing, a New Zealand specialty. You're inside a giant double layer ball which itself has water inside, so the ball is falling down the hill while you are sliding around the ball on the water (if you wonder, you can't be inside too long since you'd run out of breathable air, but for the downhill length, it's not an issue):





This left us just enough time to drop our luggage at our hotel, and go to Mitai, a 3H Maori experience, including slow cooked lamb and chicken in the ground:



We then had a tour of the grounds and saw another Maori performance:







The next morning, we quickly went around Rotorua to see some of its geothermal activity and went to see a Maori Village built on heat vents for free cooking and hot water (in hindsight, Rotorua was totally skipable compared to what we were going to see later):






nice hot bath
nice hot bath

hot water is channeled
hot water is channeled

cooking corn
cooking corn





Mud pools are fun to watch:



Next, we went to Waimangu, towards Taupo Lake and did the walk down to see geothermal activity down the road










The next location, Waiotapu, also had a mud pool next to it and a long walk showing you all the features there:












When we were done, we drove through Taupo to get to our Chateau Hotel for the Tongariro crossing the next day:


Huka Falls
Huka Falls


Taupo lake
Taupo lake


Tongariro NP
Tongariro NP

Chateau Tongariro Hotel
Chateau Tongariro Hotel



.
2015/01/27 New Zealand Days 18-19: Tongariro Alpine Crossing
π 2015-01-27 00:00 in Hiking, Nz2015, Trips

Per recommendation from Arturo and others, we went to the national park to do a nice 6H hike across a volcano.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize when I was offered a guide to get across that it was utterly useless and because I don't really like being in a middle of a pack with other people, I paid ever more to get a private guide who eneded up waiting for another private group we got effectively stuck with, and sometimes he was just with them chatting as Jennifer and I just pressed forward without him.
Putting aside the waste of money, it was a very nice hike, and while we got rained on for the last 3rd with virtually no visibility, it fortunately happened at the end when the views were that that important anyway, so it wasn't a huge deal.


















down down and down, but it was easy, I could just jump down and land in soft dirt, almost like sand
down down and down, but it was easy, I could just jump down and land in soft dirt, almost like sand



then the weather turned to shit :)
then the weather turned to shit :)

after more than 1h in the rain, we got below the cloud layer and rain
after more than 1h in the rain, we got below the cloud layer and rain

this birdie actually came to me to check me out and kept flying around me
this birdie actually came to me to check me out and kept flying around me

almost at the bottom
almost at the bottom

and done! :)
and done! :)

Here is the track: 19.6km, 1000m altitude gain, 7h with more than 1h of breaks and waiting for the other slower group.

The next morning, we went for a quick flight to see it from the sky, but weather wasn't good, so we only so a little bit:







the chateau where we stayed
the chateau where we stayed

nice grass strip
nice grass strip

2015/01/28 New Zealand Day 19: Lake Taupo
π 2015-01-28 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

Because there were too many things for us to see in Rotorua for the time we had, our first drive in Taupo was really just driving through to get to Tongariro NP. On our day back, we actually first spent the morning flying around Tongariro before heading back up.

I was told to stop at the National Trout Center (a trout hatchery), so we did just that.





plenty of trout, kids can even fish there :)
plenty of trout, kids can even fish there :)


Next, I wanted to catch the damn opening by Hukka falls, but despite my best driving efforts and beating the google maps time estimate by a fair bit, we still got there 2mn too late to miss the damn opening (they open the damn 15mn after 2 hours to release extra water). That was vexing. I'll pretend that we saw it by playing the pictures in reverse :) 232*






Next door was Rapid Jets where we got a nice jet boat ride except for the fact that Jennifer was talked out of wearing her sunglasses and couldn't see anything as a result while later we were doing 70kph flying on the water (impressive) but in pelleting rain which was somewhat painful when the water hit your face. The experience was much lesser than it should have been, shame...


the driver was incredibly skilled
the driver was incredibly skilled


And this was it for lake Taupo area, we then had to drive to Napier by the coast for our next area (which will be the next post)

See more images for New Zealand Day 19: Lake Taupo
2015/01/28 New Zealand Days 19-20: Napier and Hastings/Hawkes Bay
π 2015-01-28 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

After arriving from Lake Taupo, we still had a few hours in the day, so we went to check out a local winery for Jennifer before doing a quick tour of Napier for its art deco style (it was destroyed by an earthquake almost 100 years ago, so they used the opportunity to rebuild it differently). It was nothing to write home about, but still fun to see:



vin! :)
vin! :)

On to the art deco:





The next morning, we took a tour to see Gannets, birds related to boobies we had seen in Galapgos:




native NZ ducks
native NZ ducks




here they are, they like company :)
here they are, they like company :)


they have no fear of humans, you can be 1m from you and they'll ignore you
they have no fear of humans, you can be 1m from you and they'll ignore you

the babies were already somewhat grown
the babies were already somewhat grown




couple preening one another
couple preening one another

and making a little dance
and making a little dance

It was late in the mating season, but the males find sea weed to offer to females so that they can pair for life:


who wants my nice seaweed?
who wants my nice seaweed?

this poor bird is late for finding a mate
this poor bird is late for finding a mate

offering a feather seems like a nice gift too ;)
offering a feather seems like a nice gift too ;)

After the birds, we quickly stopped a small petting zoo on the way:

5 legs
5 legs


I'm a little piggy and here's my snout. Oink oink oink :)
I'm a little piggy and here's my snout. Oink oink oink :)




The rest of the day was spent in wineries:


I had to suck wifi wherever I could, wifi in hotels had sucked
I had to suck wifi wherever I could, wifi in hotels had sucked







and by 17:30, it was all over, everything was closed, so we had to go home and find dinner

2015/01/30 New Zealand Day 21: Flying from Napier to Nelson in the South Island
π 2015-01-30 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

Because we had seen Wellington some years back, we went to Napier airport to drop our rental car and flew directly to Nelson, the gateway to Abel Tasman, a very nice national park and the first part of New Zealand discovered by westerners, in this case a Dutchman who got in trouble with the Maori, left, and never came back, leaving the true discovery of New Zealand by Captain Cook.

We had to change planes in Wellington, which was a fun airport to visit with its Lord of the Rings theme:






Once we arrived in Nelson, our awesome motel had bikes they were able to lend us, so we biked downtown to a small museum which quite frankly was skipable, but we figured we'd give it a shot anyway :) and we went to check out their small cathedral:






We checked out a couple of wine shops for Jennifer, went around Queens park and walked up to the middle of new zealand for a bit of a view:










some birds with webbed feet have learned to stay on trees
some birds with webbed feet have learned to stay on trees

2015/01/31 New Zealand Day 22: A day in Abel Tasman
π 2015-01-31 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

We took an early bus from a dreadful company that is indirectly responsible for severely damaging one of my cameras, after leaving at 07:30, we arrived just after 09:00 to connect to a Wilsons boat that took deep inside Abel Tasman to our kayaking point (it's a 5 day backpacking trip from end to end):



cool rock
cool rock




about 1h later, we arrived to our beach
about 1h later, we arrived to our beach

safety briefing
safety briefing

it's stable, but hard to paddle in the sand :)
it's stable, but hard to paddle in the sand :)

We got to see seals and sea lions
We got to see seals and sea lions

Baby!
Baby!

so cute :)
so cute :)

after much paddling in current, we got to our destination beach
after much paddling in current, we got to our destination beach

oyster catcher
oyster catcher


a mixed couple, I'm told it's rare
a mixed couple, I'm told it's rare

low tide, this all get covered
low tide, this all get covered










beautiful insect, we called it 'clack clack' for the noise it makes
beautiful insect, we called it 'clack clack' for the noise it makes










stingray
stingray


Thanks to a very nice british couple that was part of our group, we were able to stay 2H longer, enjoy extra beach hiking time, and get back to Nelson 2h later thanks to them giving us a ride (the bus leaves early for no good reason). Abel Tasman was beautiful, we really loved it

2015/02/01 New Zealand Day 23: 10.5H bus ride from Nelson to Fox Glacier
π 2015-02-01 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

Getting to Fox and Franz-Jospeh glaciers is just no fun. The only way is a long (8H+) drive from the north coast or 5H+ drive from Queenstown. Google maps does give faster time estimates, but unless it's me driving, and I don't get blocked on the windy roads where you can barely pass, the google time estimates based on the speed limit, are just not realistic.

So, I asked Penny from boutique travel, our agent who booked all our trip, to prefer busses over driving whenever possible, so that gave us the 10.5H bus ride (which included 3, 30-45mn stops).

We left Nelson bright and early at 07:15, and this gave me a chance to practise low power usage on my laptop since there was no power on the bus and the driver didn't agree to me plugging into his cigarette ligher adapter. I ended up using my tablet to watch videos while sorting pictures on my laptop (not playing video on the laptop saved the batteries somewhat).

While I expected the bus ride to be boring as hell outside of my own devices and reading material, the stops were actually very well chosen, and let me take the pictures below. It wasn't a tour bus, but the few scenic stops almost made it like one:

Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Paparoa National Park
Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Paparoa National Park





Eventually we arrived in Greymouth where the transalpine train from Christchurch, arrives. I had considered taking that train, but it just didn't match our travel itinerary and the fact that we were skipping Christchurch which hasn't yet quite recoverd from the earthquake destruction some years back.


Soon after, we stopped by a small kiwi center and zoo and a beach that happened to have an art contest, almost burning man-like:


crayfish are like crab, they're greedy so you can fish them out after they grab a piece of food :)
crayfish are like crab, they're greedy so you can fish them out after they grab a piece of food :)




The town of Hokitika was actually fun to see for 30mn:





evolution of man?
evolution of man?

camel?
camel?



this one must have been work
this one must have been work


fisherman, nice...
fisherman, nice...

After this fun, it was time for going back on the bus and arriving at Fox Glacier a few hours later:


the weather was starting to turn as we got closer
the weather was starting to turn as we got closer

wisdom from the restaurant we had dinner at
wisdom from the restaurant we had dinner at

Long bus ride, we were glad when we got out :) .

2015/02/02 New Zealand Day 24: Rained out in Fox Glacier :(
π 2015-02-02 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

Yeah, so, after all this effort getting to Fox Glacier, it was mostly for nothing. We had between almost rain, light rain, heavy rain, and "oh my god, someone is emptying an ocean over our heads" rain. At the same time very low clouds made it so that all helicopter flights were cancelled. As a result, our heli hike was rescheduled twice and cancelled twice (we were supposed to get dropped on the ice and hike around for 3h).

We took a shuttle bus to the trailhead and walked as far as was allowed, and a bit farther. We could have gotten a bit closer to the glacier with more time but we had no way to tell our shuttle driver to come back 30mn later with no cell phone coverage, so we didn't hike any farther to see the glacier a bit closer (without being able to get to it since access was not possible due to safety, flowing rivers, and terrain issues). Of course, this is mainly due to global warming making the glacier recede more and more each year.




they don't want you to try and hike to the glacier yourself
they don't want you to try and hike to the glacier yourself

this is as far as we were supposed to go, and there was 0 view of the glacier
this is as far as we were supposed to go, and there was 0 view of the glacier

so I crossed the ropes and went towards the river and got a view of it at least
so I crossed the ropes and went towards the river and got a view of it at least

yeah, we should have gone up that trail if it weren't for the shuttle supposed to pick us up
yeah, we should have gone up that trail if it weren't for the shuttle supposed to pick us up

but zooming out shows that I was a bit far from it still
but zooming out shows that I was a bit far from it still

on the plus side waterfalls were flowing
on the plus side waterfalls were flowing



not quite the view we got
not quite the view we got

Next, we got dropped off to a nice little lake with forrest walk, under the rain still




beautiful pluffy wet bird :)
beautiful pluffy wet bird :)


somehow the mountain reflection in the lake thing didn't quite work out
somehow the mountain reflection in the lake thing didn't quite work out


spongy!
spongy!


The afternoon weather was even better:


later
later

even later, a clear improvement
even later, a clear improvement

So yeah, all our efforts to get to Fox Glacier was not entirely for naught, but mostly for naught. Bummer. I'm so not looking to another 18H of bus to try this again later....
Ideally our itinerary should have had a day of buffer between our milford track hike in Queenstown that we couldn't move, and this, but it didn't so we had to leave for Queentown the next morning as the weather was improving and without being able to do our heli hike the following afternoon under nice weather. That really blows considering that the glacier was supposed to be a highlight of our trip :(
Such is life....

2015/02/03 New Zealand Day 25: Fox Glacier to Queenstown
π 2015-02-03 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

After missing out on Fox Glacier, we had to take another bus to Queenstown. Thankfully the driver stopped a few times in places where I was able to get some nice pictures:






Eventually we got to our room in Queenstown with a nice lake view for dinner before leaving early the next day towards Milford Sound for our backpacking trip on the milford track:





.
2015/02/04 New Zealand Days 26-30: Hiking the Milford Track
π 2015-02-04 00:00 in Hiking, Nz2015, Trips
After arriving in Queenstown the previous late afternoon, we went directly to Kiwi Discovery to pick up our rental backpacking gear. We took the evening to pack, and had a short night due to having to take an unnecessarily early bus (06:45) to get to Te Aura, from where most things in the Fiords start.

The weather was already bad by then, rain and wind, and we had to get better rain jackets from a local rental shop and then wait for the second bus leaving at noon that would take us to the boat that would drop us off at the trailhead:


rainbow
rainbow

Department of Conservation, like a ranger office, where we got our permits
Department of Conservation, like a ranger office, where we got our permits

our upcoming track
our upcoming track

weather on the boat was already nice :)
weather on the boat was already nice :)


thankfully it was mostly clear when we started
thankfully it was mostly clear when we started


This wasn't a real backpacking trip because we were not going to sleep in tents, but in huts that had matresses, water, and cooking gas. That said, people for whom this is still too rough can pay way too much money to do a guided walk and end up in plushy cabins with showers, beds, and cooked meals. Bah, that's totally cheating!

Day 1: Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut: 5.8km, 1h34, from 200m to 230m

Day 1 was too short, just a short walk to the first hut.

the first stop for people who can't rough it even a little bit, was almost right off the boat
the first stop for people who can't rough it even a little bit, was almost right off the boat

supplies get delivered by heli
supplies get delivered by heli




our own huts weren't that far either, the first day was really short
our own huts weren't that far either, the first day was really short

this bird is shifty, hard to get good pictures of it
this bird is shifty, hard to get good pictures of it

the robins are super curious and fearless
the robins are super curious and fearless

after checking me out, it came on my foot to look for worms in the holes :)
after checking me out, it came on my foot to look for worms in the holes :)

a ranger gave us a quick talk in the giant kitchen/common room of our huts
a ranger gave us a quick talk in the giant kitchen/common room of our huts

keeping warm
keeping warm

the bad weather lifted just a bit, probably the best view we had that day
the bad weather lifted just a bit, probably the best view we had that day

The evening, I went out to see glow worms:

see the strings
see the strings

it doesn't look like much, but that's how they glow up at night. This cons insects into their traps
it doesn't look like much, but that's how they glow up at night. This cons insects into their traps

Day 2: Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut: 20.1km, 6h09, from 230m to 600m

The next morning, the weather turned from bad to worse, we had non stop rain between moderate and very heavy. This put our gortex rental rain jackets to the test for sure. Views that day were quite poor and each picture meant getting your camera pretty wet:




very wet birds
very wet birds

moss everywhere
moss everywhere


on the plus side waterfalls were flowing everywhere
on the plus side waterfalls were flowing everywhere


quick stop in a shelter on the way
quick stop in a shelter on the way

snow and boulder avalanche path
snow and boulder avalanche path


Eventually all of us (about 40) ended up in the next hut, soaken wet:



each hut has a helipad for deliveries and getting staff in and out. That's so cheating :)
each hut has a helipad for deliveries and getting staff in and out. That's so cheating :)

New Zealand Weka flightless bird, roams around a bit like a chicken
New Zealand Weka flightless bird, roams around a bit like a chicken


Thankfully the rain subsided a bit in the evening, so we had at least a bit of view


rain plus cold = snow
rain plus cold = snow


remember that this is like snow in July
remember that this is like snow in July

New Zealand duck, quite pretty
New Zealand duck, quite pretty

finally, we got to see what our crossing the next day would look like
finally, we got to see what our crossing the next day would look like


Kea, smart New Zealand parrot
Kea, smart New Zealand parrot


Day 3: Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut via McKinnon Pass (1140m): 20.2km, 8h23, from 600m to 110m

The third day, finally weather was non rainy:


we quickly got to the snow line
we quickly got to the snow line







we're lucky we got views at the top
we're lucky we got views at the top


I happened to have some bird seeds :)
I happened to have some bird seeds :)

another kea
another kea

top hut/shelter for breaks or in caese of bad weather
top hut/shelter for breaks or in caese of bad weather

MacKinnon pass, the top (1140m)
MacKinnon pass, the top (1140m)

the peak across had a few snow slides
the peak across had a few snow slides

after a while we got back down under the snow line
after a while we got back down under the snow line







A little fork off the trail was to see Sutherland Falls, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand. It's 580m high and a very powerful fall at the bottom. The spray at the bottom was enough to get wet from a distance and get your camera instantly wet as soon as you try to take a picture:




After a bit more of a walk, we got to our 3rd and final hut, this time without being wet, a welcome change:




Day 4: Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point: 21.0km, 6h12, from 110m to 0m

The 4th and last day was smooth sailing. We had to get on the trail a bit earlier since we had to arrive at the boat by 14:00 to get back to civilization via a boat and bus.



this turned over rock could fit multiple people inside
this turned over rock could fit multiple people inside







fluffy
fluffy




and after 3.5 days, we got to the end :)
and after 3.5 days, we got to the end :)


boat back home
boat back home

A few pictures from the boat and bus back home:






We finally got back to our room and enjoyed a nice dinner :)


2015/02/08 New Zealand Day 31: Queenstown Day1: Luge, River Surfing
π 2015-02-08 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

After getting back in Queenstown, we got up and went for a quick walk to downtown towards the gondola where they also do parasailing and luge:





Very nice few from the top of the gondola:


Downtown Queenstown
Downtown Queenstown


After enjoying the view, we went to do luge. It wasn't as good as the track in Rotorua, but eh, still fun:



A fun run, passing Jennifer after I gave her a bit of a head start:

After that, we were hoping to parasail, but the winds were too high, so we went river surfing instead, which was quite interesting, and intense at times (it's basically like white river rafting, but on a boogie board):




The rest of the evening, we spent in Queenstown:






2015/02/09 New Zealand Day 32: Queenstown Day2: Fly Boarding, Escaping Escape Quest Twice
π 2015-02-09 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

The 2nd day was supposed to be not so good weather, so we tried the escape Room in Queenstown. We got out with seconds to spare:


We then went out after the rain for a lunch by the lake. Ducks noticed, and like Hitchcock's birds, they came in a flock to bully us for our food :)




Next, we tried fly boarding which definitely was something new. I did mostly ok although falling from 6 meters+ in the water wakes you up for sure :)
In case you wonder, the jetski's engine output is redirected to a pipe that goes to your feet to direct 2 jets. You're then supposed to balance with that. The jetski then has control on the power and how high you go (so it's a bit of a surprise to you since you don't control that part yourself):





Jennifer struggled a bit, but also got some air:




she had a good time :)
she had a good time :)

We were supposed to go to nearby Coronet Peak to do both parasailing and handgliding, but the weather meant there was too much wind, and it got cancelled in the end. This cost us a few hours of waiting unfortunately, but once it was clear we wouldn't be able to go, we tried the 2nd room from the Escape Room and got out with 12mn to spare. That was better :)


To celebrate, Jennifer went to a wine tasting room. Turns out wines around Queensland are actually some of the best ones in New Zealand:




2015/02/10 New Zealand Day 33: Doubtful Sound
π 2015-02-10 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are both supposed to be very nice sceneries to see as (long) day trips from Queenstown. While we did hike the milford track, we didn't have enough time on our day back to see the area when we hiked out, which was a bit disappointing.

However our trip to doubtful sound would make up for it. Thankfully our agent, Penny, booked us on a combo tour where we flew to Manapouri to avoid a long bus ride, but we still took a van to a plane to a bus to a boat to a bus to a boat (the destination) to a bus to a boat to a bus to a plane and to a van :) (doubtful sound is indeed remote, and you need to take a boat across a lake to a bus across a peak that takes you to the final boat where you cruise around doubtful sound up to the ocean.
It was pretty, but that was a lot of travelling, and would have been even worse if we had not flown and taken another bus ride that was about 2H each way. We also kind of prefer to set foot on land and see local anmimals/birds when possible, but it just wasn't practical there.

Anywway, here are the pictures:



downtown queenstown
downtown queenstown



very weird slide, maybe the ground collapsed somehow?
very weird slide, maybe the ground collapsed somehow?

deer fram
deer fram


all the cool critters you can't really see from the boat :)
all the cool critters you can't really see from the boat :)

it would have been nice to see a Kakapo, the world's biggest parrot
it would have been nice to see a Kakapo, the world's biggest parrot

all those pictures are there to trick you, kiwi aren't out during the day
all those pictures are there to trick you, kiwi aren't out during the day

their feet are huge :)
their feet are huge :)

first boat
first boat

The boat took us to a bus to cross to the other (lower) lake, where we took a bus to get us to the 2nd body of water that reaches the ocean. Between the 2 there is a big tunnel to funnel water down from the top lake and it acts as a electricity dam without being visible and ruining the view:



the engine air vents on the bus were cute :)
the engine air vents on the bus were cute :)

Finally we got to our last boat, to do the actual cruise of doubtful sound:




I guess you can see the area from a cruise ship too :)
I guess you can see the area from a cruise ship too :)



it's impressive that the trees can grow in such steep slopes
it's impressive that the trees can grow in such steep slopes







they have the longest species of dolphins, but we only saw them from far
they have the longest species of dolphins, but we only saw them from far


After finishing doubtful sound, we did all the transports in reverse, boat to bus to boat to bus to plane to van back :)


tree line indeed...
tree line indeed...



back to Queenstown
back to Queenstown




2015/02/11 New Zealand Day 34: Paragliding and Hang-gliding from Coronet Peak by Queenstown
π 2015-02-11 00:00 in Flying, Nz2015, Trips
For our last day and 34th day in New Zealand, we did Hydro Attack before going to Coronet Peak, and flying home afterwards.

We bought a combo of parasailing and handgliding which had been postponed twice for weather already, so this was our last shot. We went there early, and there was still a slight overcast, which made for an interesting flight, going through the clouds. Jennifer and I started with parasailing:






Pictures and video of Jennifer's flight:





After getting to the bottom, we got a ride back up to do it again in a handglider this time. We both got to fly it a bit. It was interesting for me when my pilot intentionally stalled the handglider to show me how it worked:




Jennifer also went at the same time:




the landing gear is your belly :)
the landing gear is your belly :)

This was definitely fun, and new for Jennifer. After this was over, we had to head back to the airport to fly home after 34 days in New Zealand.

2015/02/11 New Zealand Day 34: Queenstown Day3: Half Day Before Flying Out
π 2015-02-11 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

We only had half a day left in Queenstown before flying out, and still things left to do :) We started with Hydro Attack, an interesting shark looking jetski that could go under water:


I started right away at 08:00 (as early as they're allowed to make noise):







The shark's most impressive move was being able to swim under water and then jump up. One video from outisde and one from inside:

Then came Jennifer's turn:


As soon as we were done, we took a van to Coronet Peak try paragliding and hang gliding. Go to that page for pictures and videos of the flights.

After Coronet peak, we were kind of hoping to be able to do jetboating, but they were a bit too backed up, and we'd have run a bit too close to our flight time, so we went back to the airport to fly to Auckland, get our diving bag back from Lin Nah, a volunteer from linux.conf.au, who nicely delivered it to us at the airport when we connected to our 2nd flight back home (a big thanks to her for saving us the hassle of carrying that diving back around New Zealand needlessly).

The AirNZ flight in business was quite nice :)
The AirNZ flight in business was quite nice :)



home, sweet home
home, sweet home

2015/02/12 New Zealand Trip Wrapup
π 2015-02-12 00:00 in Nz2015, Trips

First thought is: 34 days! (or really 29 days if you remove the 5 days I was at linux.conf.au). That was a lot of time, but at the same time, barely enough to see New Zealand.

Clearly, New Zealand has a lot to see, and we got highlights, but there are things left for another trip, or to see and try again. We owe a big thanks to Penny Voigt from boutique travel for designing the trip for us. As per my request, she limited the amount of distance we'd have to drive (prefering busses and planes where possible) and did a good job designing the itinerary for us.

If you'd like to work with her, you can reach her at penny @ boutiquetravel.net . Note that for our trip I asked her to find what made the most sense to us and offered to pay her for the time she spent on the trip (usually agents only get paid for booking you with hotels and attractions where they get a commission, which can be a conflict of interest of course, but more generally I don't like the idea of them only being paid for some limited things we'd be booked at vs just being paid for all the time she spent organizing the trip for us).

Also, thanks to my friends and coworkers who provided their own suggestions on what to go see.

As for my thoughts of New Zealand, obviously we liked the country and its culture. People are very layed back, and enjoying the great nature they live in, even if there is the price of earthquakes and the much less frequent but very deadly risk of volcano eruption.
I was also very happy to learn about the Mauri (Māori), and have grown much admiration for them. They are descendants of polynesian people who were crossing the oceans some thousand years ago, more than 500 years above westerners started to venture the oceans, and they used stars and migratory bird patterns for navigation.
What worked out well for them though is that they were organized and fierce enough to scare the British invaders and effectively forced the British Queen to give them mostly proper rights (it's a bit more complicated, see my Northland page). Even if they obviously adjusted to western culture and technology, they are still a proud people that presents about 15% of New Zealanders, and I say "good for them" !


Anyway, we had a great time in New Zealand, hope to go back one day.

See more images for New Zealand Trip Wrapup

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