Day 13 – Travel Day

Today we drove from Abel Tasman National Park to Punakaiki on the west coast of New Zealand.  The drive took us through wine country again and many small towns on the South Island.  We packed sanwiches and ate a picnic lunch along the way.  We stopped at the Pancake Rock Blowholes.  Unfortunately, we arrived after high tide which is when the blowholes are most active.  For dinner we ate at the Punakaiki Tavern.

We are staying at the Punakaiki Resort and had a beautiful sunset from our room balcony.

Day 12 – Abel Tasman National Park

Today we hike part of the Abel Tasman Coast Track from Torrent Bay to Anchorage with a stop at Cleopatras Pool. Today’s real adventure was taking a water taxi to Torrent Bay and back.

Today was our first encounter with the New Zealand Black Fly a.k.a sandflies.  They are similar to the mosquito in the States.  I really though nothing of the bites when I was bitten.  Just a nuisance.  But later that night, I woke up with fierce itching all below my knees.  I put Hydrocortisone on and took a Benadryl.  I was really surprised by how much the bites itched.  The itching lasted for almost a full week, too.

Tonight for dinner our hotel was offering “The Seven Deadly Gins” cocktails and tapa on the patio.  I tried a couple of the gin drinks and they were all excellent.  

Day 11 – Wharariki Beach

Today we did two hikes. The first was to Wharariki Beach. It is a beautiful beach on the Cook Strait, but you have to hike for about 20 minutes through sheep pastures and some woods to get there. Once there it is a large beach with rock formations just off shore.

The second hike was to Wainui Falls. It took a bit longer to get to, but well worth the hike.

Tonight for dinner we went to Mohua Eatery and Bar which was right next door to our hotel.  We sat outside and enjoyed the evening.  Shari and I split the Charcuterie and each had a beer.  We just didn’t want anything heavy for dinner.  Albert had the bar-b-que pork sandwich.  It was all good.  

Charcuterie board at Mohua

Day 10 – Travel Day

Today we took the car ferry from Wellington to Picton on the South Island of New Zealand.  Then we drove across the top of the South Island to the western coast and Pohara Beach.

We stopped for lunch at T.O.A.D Hall in Motueka New Zealand near Abel Tasman National Park.  It was a really nice place to eat lunch.  It was covered, but open-air dining.  They had a brewery associated with the restaurant.  Being unfamiliar with the beer choices we chose a sampler to start.

Shari sampling the Townshend Brewery beers

After lunch we continued our drive to Pohara.  In Pohara we are staying at the Ratanui Lodge.  It is a very nice hotel with only 10 rooms.  Steve, one of the owners, took great care of us.  He setup a full size roll-a-way bed in our room for Albert to sleep on.

After getting settled in our room we walked across the beach to Golden Bay and went for a walk on the beach.

Day 9 – Wellington

We started today at WETA Cave, the design studio that worked on the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Avitar to name a few.  We had a little trouble finding it.  It is tucked on the edge of a residential neighborhood in Wellington.  The tour took about 3 hours.  It was very interesting, but not what I expected.  It focused on the creation of models, and miniature sets a lot more than I expected.  I was hoping more about how they filmed the models and made them look real in the movies.  All in all it was a good tour and well worth the time.  Albert loved it.

When we finished the WETA Cave tour it was almost lunch time.  We are interested in seafood since we are here along the coast.  After doing a bit of research on TripAdvisor, we decided to go to The Crab Shack which was on the waterfront.  We had a delicious lunch and afterwards took a walk along the waterfront.

After lunch we drove back to the hotel and parked the car.  We went up to the room and relaxed for a while.  I took a short nap.

One of the top attractions in Wellington is the cable car.  we decided to ride the cable car to the top and then walk back down through the Wellington Botanic Garden.  The cable car seemed very short to me.  Once at the top we exited the station and started our walk through the botanic garden to the city.  It is a clearly marked path and took a through some spectacular sections of the garden.

Toward the end of our walk we entered the Bolton Street Cemetery.  It was established in 1840 and server the early settlement’s non-Catholic residents.  In the late 1960’s 3,700 burials, many unmarked, where exhumed and moved to construct the motorway.  I must admit that walking through and old cemetery made me introspective and added a nice touch to the end of our walk.

After our walk, Albert was ready for a gelato.  We walked back to the touristy shopping area of Wellington, but couldn’t find a gelateria or any ice cream shops.  Albert had his heart set on ice cream.  We came across a Mrs Higgins Cookies store and fortunately they offered 3 varieties of ice cream.  Shari and I got fresh baked cookies and Albert got a serving of chocolate ice cream.  We sat on the bench outside the store people watching while we ate our ice cream.  School must have just let out because we say many young people in their school uniforms.  We also observer that body sizes in New Zealand are comparable to America and not like Europe where the majority of people are thin.

Tomorrow is a travel day, so we decided to eat snacks in our room tonight for dinner.  There is a Countdown grocery store near our hotel, so we went there and bought a bottle of wine and some cheeses for dinner.

Day 8 – Travel Day

Today we drove from the Chateau Tongariro at Tongariro National Park to Wellington.  Immediately after leaving the hotel, we stopped at Tawhai Falls which was used as Gollum’s Pool in the Lord of the Rings movie.  It was an easy 30 minute return walk.

Next we stopped at the trail head for the Ohakune Old Coach Road.  This is like a rail-to-trails hike.  It is my understanding that as locomotive technology improved the railroad lines were straightened.  This hike is made up of the parts of the railroad that were removed.  It was an easy trail and took us about 45 minutes to return to the car.

We arrived in Wellington at rush hour, which was a little challenging.  We missed our hotel on the first pass and had to go around again to get to it.

We are staying at the Novotel Hotel on The Terrace in Wellington.  Tonight for dinner we walked over to Dillengers.  Our server was American.  She has been living in New Zealand for several years.  If memory serves me, I believe she was from Colorado originally.  After high school she moved to Nelson New Zealand to live with an Aunt.  Now she’s living in Wellington and working on her New Zealand citizenship.

Day 7 – Tongariro National Park

At breakfast this morning, Albert got a glass of this juice.

 I had never heard of it before, so I Googled it.  According to the website onlyfoods.net “Feijoa is a pulpy and juicy fruit. It is of a chicken egg’s size and is of ellipsoid shape. The fruits mature during autumn. It has a sweet aroma and sour-sweet taste.” It is also known as pineapple guava.  Just one of the many things you learn from travel.

It was rainy this morning when we woke up, so we were concerned that it would limit our activities today.  Fortunately, the weather cleared and we were able to get in a hike.  While it was still lightly raining we went to the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre.  We spent about an hour there enjoying the displays they had about the area volcanos.  We investigate our options for a hike and decided to do the Taranaki Falls trail.  It is a mostly level loop train that should take us a little over two hours to complete.

After the hike to Taranaki Falls we came back to the hotel for a swim in the pool and a few minutes in the dry sauna. The hotel’s pool is in the basement.  It has a very low ceiling which Shari said makes you feel like your on a ship.

After getting cleaned up after the pool we went to dinner in the hotels Pihanga Cafe and T-Bar  It is the casual dining restaurant within the hotel.  The main dining room, Ruapehu Room, looks nice, but we were not interested in white tablecloth dining tonight.

After dinner we sat in the Ruapehu Lounge area of the hotel and played Uno.

Uno in the lounge

Day 6 – Waitomo Caves

This morning we checked out of our hotel and drove two hours to Waitomo and the famous Glow work caves.  We had heard good reviews for the Spellbound Glow Worm Cave Tours, so we checked in with them when we arrived.  Unfortunately, they had a large group and would not be able to accommodate us on a tour that would fit our travel schedule.  Next door to the Spellbound office is the Waitomo General Store which served lunch.  So we ate lunch and discussed our options.

After doing a bit of research on the cave tours we chose Discover Waitomo Cave Tours.  Because of our time constraints the put us on the Ruakuri Cave tour.  We drove to the cave entrance.  It is a guided tour, so we had to wait about 30 minutes for the next tour to begin.  The tour starts by walking across the street to the cave entrance.  Our guide took us inside the cave and down a huge spiral walkway.  The whole cave tour was along improved paths throughout the cave.  At one point in the tour you reach a large pipe in the middle of the path.  If you look up through it, you can see the sky.  Our guide told us that this was how concrete was transported into the cave during construction.

The Māori consider this cave to be sacred ground, so at the end of the cave, following Māori tradition we sprinted our solves with water to wash off the sacred spirits and leave them in the cave.

After the tour we continued our travels.  We had a two hour drive the the Chateau Tongariro where we will spend the next few nights.

We arrived at the Chateau and checked in.  We chose to walk across the street to Tussock’s Bar and Restaurant.  They had a great beer selection on tap.  We shared a pizza for dinner and enjoyed another beer after dinner.  The restaurant has a ski lodge atmosphere including a fire place.  It was a relaxing spot to end the day.

Taps at Tassock’s

Day 5 – Rotorua

Staying at the Millennium Hotel Rotorua.

Today we were traditional tourists.  We ate breakfast in our hotel room and then drove over to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.  One of the things I never got used to in Rotorua is the smell.  Everywhere you go it smells like sulfur/rotten eggs.  The area sits on a caldera and has thermal pools everywhere.  Waiotapu is one of the largest thermal parks and has a variety of geothermal sightseeing attraction.  Of course, you never escape the sulfur/rotten eggs smell here.

We stayed at Waiotapu about 2 hours.  Next we headed to Eat Street Rotorua to find some lunch.  We were interested in pizza and found a great craft brew-pub called “Brew.”  We each ordered a beer and an order of their house made Bhuja mix to snack on while we waited for our pizza to arrive.  After lunch we went to Lady Janes Ice Cream for dessert.

Tonight we had reservations for a traditional hangi feast at the Tamaki Maori Village.  Since it was within a block of our hotel we walked over to the Gathering Place.  After a short video about the tribes history, we were loaded on buses for the ride to the Tamaki Māori Village.  At the village they did a traditional welcoming ceremony.  Next we went to individual stations where they explained different aspects of Māori life and culture.  Next we were taking to a large lodge where they did more traditional Māori dances.  Finally we went to the dining room where dinner was served.  It was all delicious.  It was an entertaining night.  However, if your looking for a doctoral dissertation about the Māori culture, you should look somewhere else.  After dinner the bus took us back to our hotel.

Day 4 – Rotorua

Staying at the Millennium Hotel Rotorua.

Since today is the first Sunday on our trip we went to church this morning at St Mary’s.  The church was originally established in the 1800’s as a Maori mission by the Marists.

After church we went to breakfast at Picnic Cafe.  It is on the other side of Government Gardens from our hotel.  This is the tourist area of Rotorua.

This afternoon we hikes through the redwood trees at beautiful Whakarewarewa Forest. First we just did a walk through the woods. It was very different than what I’m used to because of all the redwood trees and the fern trees. Next we did the tree top walk which was great and gave a whole different view of the same forest we had just hiked through.

Today was our first laundry day.  We did two loads in the hotel’s guest laundry.  While we waited we went for a swim in the hotels pool and went in the hot tubs in the Spa area.  Very relaxing way to do laundry.

For dinner tonight we just had snacks and wine in our room.  Afterwards, we played Uno until it was time to go to bed.