Marc's Public Blog - Trips to other locations


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This is a collection of my blog entries related to short or long trips I, or Jennifer and I went on.
I have some master pages for some specific locations/trips:

Paris over many years | Australia over many years | Canada over many years | Japan over multiple trips | Italy in 2011 | France in 2013 | Indonesia in 2013 | Japan in 2013 | Japan in 2014 | Taiwan in 2014 | Indonesia in 2014 | New Zealand in 2015 | Japan in 2015 | Costa Rica in 2015 | Singapore in 2016 | South Korea in 2016 | Japan in 2016 |

Table of Content for trips:

More pages: June 2017 February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 October 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 September 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 October 2012 September 2012 June 2012 April 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 June 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 September 2010 August 2010 May 2010 January 2010 September 2009 August 2009 June 2009 January 2009 December 2008 August 2008 February 2008 January 2008 October 2007 July 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 October 2006 August 2006 July 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 April 2005 December 2004 October 2004 July 2004 June 2004 January 2004 January 2003 January 2001 August 1997



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
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

2015/02/10 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




2015/02/09 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:




2015/02/08 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:






2015/02/04 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 :)


2015/02/03 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:





.
2015/02/02 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....

2015/02/01 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 :) .


More pages: June 2017 February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 October 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 September 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 October 2012 September 2012 June 2012 April 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 June 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 September 2010 August 2010 May 2010 January 2010 September 2009 August 2009 June 2009 January 2009 December 2008 August 2008 February 2008 January 2008 October 2007 July 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 October 2006 August 2006 July 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 April 2005 December 2004 October 2004 July 2004 June 2004 January 2004 January 2003 January 2001 August 1997