Monday, January 30, 2017

Stewart Island

The ferry ride to get from Bluff (at tip of the South Island) to Stewart Island was terribly rocky, and people were getting sick left and right (yes, some threw up). It's an hour-long ride, too. There was a storm going on so we couldn't see much outside of the windows with the crashing waves and rain. I usually don't get seasick, but I did this time and almost lost it. The boat was battered hard several times by big waves -- I suddenly had even more sympathy for the people who immigrated to New Zealand via a three-month boat ride that we had just learned about at the Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin. There's a recreation of the sleeping quarters there -- no windows, just a small hard bunk.
little town of Oban, the only on Stewart Island
We made it to the hostel (a small, quaint place where they don't even give you keys because there is a trust policy that seems to work alright) after toting our luggage in the rain and later headed down to the dock again to see the little blue penguins come in for the night. There were only three, but they were cute to watch as they swam up then hurriedly slipped behind the rocks to make it to their hidden nests on shore. We came back the next day too and saw three again, but one did a little show and jumped off a rock into the water before disappearing.

The next day we lingered in the hostel waiting for the rain to let up. We darted over to the visitor center, me trying in futile to use an umbrella and having it not work at all and then expressing my anger at NZ weather. I'm not a fan of being wet. By mid-day the rain had cleared enough that we suited up in our rain gear and went out for a walk along one of the shore paths. It was nice enough and we saw some NZ birds along the way and some cool seaweed on the rocks. At dusk, we went to a nearby area that is known for kiwi sightings, but unfortunately we didn't get to see any -- just lots of other birds hunting for worms in the rain-soaked field. The short rainforest trail we took was cool though, and haunting at night. It's nice to not have to worry about predators here.

naughty kea birds about to be fed on someone's porch
New Zealand wood pigeon (so big!)
rainforest walk


treated ourselves to fish & chips after the hike

The ferry back the next day was much better and calmer. We all stood at the back in the fresh air to avoid the claustrophobic feeling of the cabin, and it seemed to work and no one got sick this time.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Another South Island Road Trip

With another round of visitors here, I completed another tour of the South Island by car. But this time, I was able to check out a new place, Stewart Island, which is below the South Island of New Zealand. The rest was comfortably familiar, and I know where my favorite spots are without needing much map assistance. It only takes a couple years to start settling in to a country of this size, it seems.
Before we left Christchurch for our road trip, we drove along Summit Road in the Port Hills for great views of the coastal areas. We saw hang-gliders and sheep and stopped at the farmer's market in Lyttelton, where a cheeky sign introduced them to NZ humor.
On the road trip heading to Stewart Island, we stopped at Moeraki Boulders and Dunedin, where the weather was very decent.

young seagull squeaking in the nests on Otago Peninsula
Railway Station
finally went inside the big church in Dunedin, very beautiful
plum crumble at hipster cafe, Morning Magpie
After Stewart Island, we drove to Queenstown and enjoyed a burger at Fergburger and ice cream at Patagonia. On the way out of town, we stopped to watch the bungy-jumpers and hit my favorite fruit stand. I got the blueberry 'real fruit ice cream' with cookies 'n cream ice cream as the base (the flavor combo worked, surprisingly!) and they tried the cherry and mixed berry with vanilla ice cream. We also snagged a bunch of 'seconds' fruit that was cheaper than the regular fruit, including apricots and cherries.

After a wonderful day in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, we headed back to Christchurch to enjoy more Whittaker's chocolate and made a pavlova (meringue-type cake) with the pre-made store base plus whipped cream and strawberries and green kiwi fruit. We also finally checked out the newly-built Margaret Mahy Playground in the evening and it was quite fun (the young adults and teens come out after the little kids have gone home, and there's a security guard on duty so it's safe).