June 14, 2009

When All is Said and Done…

I am sitting at Los Angeles airport waiting for my flight back to London. After 4.5 months away it definitely feels like to time to go home.

To conclude, here are my thoughts on the best bits of New Zealand (call it Stewart’s very brief tourist guide). It has something of a South Island bias.

  • Favourite place: Mount Cook Village
  • Favourite walking area: Arthurs Pass
  • Most beautiful spot:Glenorchy and the Dart River Valley
  • Best day walk:The climb to the Mueller Hut by Mount Cook (but you need some snow), closely followed by Avalanche Peak at Arthurs Pass (you need a sunny day)
  • Best activity:Glacier walking (Fox Glacier)
  • Most fun:Driving a cross country kart in a downpour near Greymouth on the West Coast. The wetter and muddier the better!
  • Best drive:From Geraldine to Twizel and on to Queenstown
  • Best beaches: Abel Tasman National Park (especially Onetahuti beach)
  • Most relaxing: The thermal pools at Hanmer Springs
  • Best place to stay: Awaroa Lodge in Abel Tasman National Park

Goodbye New Zealand!

Last Picture


Volcano Tour

Big Island is home to the active volcanoes of Hawaii, indeed, Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world and it is currently erupting albeit quite gently. This is fortunate as we stood on the crater edge.

We set out at 7.15am with a flight to Big Island and spent the day seeing and learning about the flora and fauna of the area, the history of Hawaii and the volcanoes. It was a fascinating, although exhausting, trip. We returned to Honolulu just before 11.00pm.

Crater

The Erupting Crater of Kilauea

Lava Tube

Walking through a Lava Tube. This is created by a flow of lava which solidifies on top and then drains through the tube below.

Black Sand

Black Sand Beach on the Edge of a Fairly Recent Lava Flow

Lava and Sea

The Lava Reaching the Sea after Flowing a Number of Miles Down the Side of the Volcano. We could see occasional sprays of lava as well as the lava flow high up on the mountain side.


Hawaii

Arrived in Hawaii on Wednesday evening. Having crossed the International Dateline this meant we arrived 15 hours before we left Auckland! On Thursday I visited Waikiki beach and went on a tour of Oahu Island. Spent Friday on a volcano tour on Big Island – more on this later. Saturday I took a bus tour around Honolulu and along the coast.

Here are some pictures of Oahu Island and the Honolulu area.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach. This is Famous for its Surfing – when there are Waves in the Winter.

Coast nea Honolulu

The Coast Near Honolulu


June 08, 2009

Almost Time to Come Home

This was my last weekend in New Zealand which I celebrated by spending Saturday marking undergraduate assessments.  A little more exciting was a trip to see Stomp 09 in the Town Hall theatre on Saturday night.  This is an international, but largely British, group that use anything and everything to make rhythm - brooms, dustbins, rubber tyres, kitchen sinks, newspapers, ...  With audience participation and some humorous moments the show is very entertaining.

Not to be outdone by the Kiwis, I ran up the road and track to the Port Hills on Sunday.  I have seen many of the locals training up there so I decided it was something I had to do.

Harry Ells Walkway (or is that Runway?) onto the Port Hills

So just three final days working and clearing up this week and then I set off for home early on Thursday ... with a few days in Hawaii on the way!


June 02, 2009

The Queen's Birthday

It turned out that the Queen had a birthday in New Zealand on Monday 1 June, so we all got the day off.  Incidently, she has a birthday in Australia a week later.  How many birthdays do you need?!

Anyway she chose a beautiful sunny day to celebrate the NZ version of the event, so I decided to take off for the mountains.  I returned to Arthur's Pass and wandered up Bealey Spur.  The astute may realise I walked up this on a wet and windy day in February and saw nothing.  Monday was something of a contrast with great views of the mountains following the recent snow.  There was about a foot of snow on top of the Spur, which made walking quite hard, but enjoyable.  A lovely final visit to the mountains before returning home.

Here are some snowy pictures:

Waimakariri Valley

Looking up the Waimakariri Valley...

Waimakariri Valley Other Way

... and the other way

Snow and Sky

The Route up

On top of Bealey Spur

On Top of Bealey Spur


Dunedin

Dunedin, in the south east of South Island was my destination for the weekend.  The Otago Peninsula, just outside Dunedin, is famous for its wildlife and especially for having the only mainland based colony of albatross.  On the journey down I was able to see the Moeraki Boulders (see picture below) which are unusual because of their spherical shape.

Anyway, I got to see some albatross, both by braving a boat trip just before a storm blew in and by visiting the observation centre at the colony.  I also visited the world's steepest street (Baldwin Street: 1 in 2.86), although I didn't brave the drive in my old hire car.

One final note on the state of the world.  Despite all that is happening in the world, NZ radio news on Sunday afternoon reported only three news items: 1. a road traffic accident, 2. a road traffic accident and 3. Susan Boyle didn't win Britain's Got Talent!  Maybe we are not so far from the UK after all.

Moeraki Boulder

A Moeraki Boulder.  It is real, despite the graffiti.

Albatross

An Albatross above the Otaga Peninsula

Blue PenguinSea Lion

A Blue Penguin in the Sea ... and a Sion Lion on the Beach.  I wasn't too sure that he was all that friendly.

Steepest Street

A House on Baldwin Street.  I am not convinced that the roof line doesn't exaggerate the effect.


May 24, 2009

Yuk Weather!

We have had a south wind for the whole of the last week which means cold, windy and wet/sleety weather - with snow on the mountains.  There has been so much snow that ski fields are about to open and avalanche warnings are already in force.

As the weather persisted into the weekend, that restricted outdoor activity a bit.  Anyway, I did drive down to the Peel Forest, 100 miles south, and take a wet walk.  There was almost no view; partially due to the trees (it is a forest!) and partly due to the weather.

I did find a Totara tree, which is something I wanted to see.  These trees live a long time and have very wide trunks.  In this case the tree had a trunk about 7-8 feet across and was about 1,000 years old (a plaque told me this).  At least it made me feel young after my birthday this week.

Totare Tree

Being Eaten by a Totara Tree.  Full wet weather gear needed for the first time.


May 19, 2009

New Zealand Roads

Why a picture of this near empty road (there is a car in the distance)?  This is State Highway 1 about mid-morning on Saturday.  State Highway 1 is equivalent to the M1 in the UK i.e. the main north-south road in South Island.  Picture the M1 on a Saturday morning.  I think I am going to struggle with the traffic in the UK when I get back!

SH1


Mount Herbert

I used Sunday afternoon to climb Mount Herbert and Mount Bradley.  Mount Herbert is the highest of the Port Hills near Christchurch (919 metres or 3015 feet - making it a very British mountain) and Mount Bradley is its neighbour of nearly the same height.  As they are near to the coast, I got to climb them from sea level.

It was a sunny day with temperatures reaching about 19 Centigrade, which is not bad for late Autumn.  There was a fairly strong wind, however, which cooled things a little on top. 

We had quite a bit of snow on these mountains at the beginning of the week, but it had pretty much cleared with rising temperatures at the weekend.  The wide variations in temperature are all to do with the wind direction: NW=warm, SW=freezing.

View from Mt Herbert

View from the Summit of Mount Herbert.  Below is Lyttelton Harbour and the Port Hills, with Christchurch on the far side.  Looking from here it becomes more obvious that the Port Hills form the rim of a volcanic crater.

Mount Bradley

On Mount Bradley with the Pacific Ocean Behind


May 17, 2009

Alpine Pacific Triangle

Spent Saturday driving around the Alpine Pacific Triangle.  I don't think anything goes missing here, unlike the more famous Bermuda version!

The highway follows the coast north to Kaikoura - famous for whale watching and dolphin swimming- and then heads inland, following the mountains, before returning back towards Christchurch.  It's about 300 miles altogether.

I had a wander along the peninsula at Kaikoura, looked at a ski resort (which isn't open yet) and had a soak in the hot pools at Hanmer Springs to finish the day.

Kaikoura

View from the Kaikoura Peninsula


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