Friday, March 13, 2015

New Zealand - South Island

The InterIsland Ferry

We had a nice ferry ride to Picton.  The plan was to stay around the port and explore the Marborough wine region but the campgrounds were either run down or by noisy highways so we continued toward Christchurch.
Fortunately we ended up at Kaikoura and ended up spending 2 nights in this one road beach town.  We went to the seal colony and hiked a few miles.  The beach was made of finely ground black rocks but had not one shell.  This area is famous for a species of Abalone called the Paua.  Of course, we bought two.

Port of Picton

Kaikora Peninsula

Shoreline in Kaikora

Kaikora Fur Seal

Tucker Sno-Cat from the actual expedition

We went to the Museum by the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch.  They had some nice exhibits but we both thought the Antarctic Exhibit was very interesting.  New Zealand is the closest major country to Antarctica and has been a major player in its exploration.

When I was flying EC-130's in the Navy, my engineer, Dan Shore, flew in the squadron that had LC-130's belonging to the National Science Foundation in support of Antarctic Operations. 
I always wanted to fly in that squadron.  What an incredible experience that would have been. 
LC-130 (notice the skis around the wheels)

Apparently the US Air Force now has the job.

Temporary Support for the Anglican Church in Christchurch
We stayed 2 nights at a backpackers hotel in Christchurch (Kiwi Basecamp).  It was kind of fun and more social than a regular hotel but had a frat house feel to it.  Us old folks were falling asleep as the youngsters were  jamming on guitars and drinking out back in the courtyard.

We walked the City Center and visited the Quake City Museum.  Even though the city was basically leveled by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, the rebuilding has been progressing rapidly.  There is no shortage of work in CC for construction workers.

Catholic Church in Christchurch under repairs

More of those walking road blocks
We picked up our final camper  and headed to the west coast in search of something besides hills covered with dry brown grass and found it.  Once we hit the foothills of the New Zealand Alps, it rained solid for 24 hours and then never really stopped.  We did finally find green hills and some incredible scenery.  

Franz Josef Glacier

 Neither of us had ever seen a glacier and that was probably the highlight of our trip.  If it was winter, it would have been nothing more than a snow capped mountain but being summer and warm, it was truly special.  The glaciers are receding 125 metes per year and probably won't be there in 50 years.  Too bad.

Reflecting Lake - Too much wind, Too bad

Front edge of the Fox Glacier

The Fox Glacier used to cover this entire valley
Getting there was half the fun
The Fox Glacier

Mostly loved by the sand fleas

The Blue Pools. Nice hike, nice surprise

Suspension bridge to the Blue Pools

On the Lookout at Bluff.
At the south tip of Bluff

 We headed down to the 'Far South' and were as close to Antarctica as most people ever get when we went to the town of Bluff.  A Low had come passed and it was windy and cold.  If it wasn't, I would have been dissapointed.  We went to another museum in Invercargill and headed up the east coast to Dunedin.  

It was cold at Bluff

Cheese tasting and tour in Oamara

We were ahead of schedule and spent a few extra days exploring the southeast and even had an unplanned night at Akaroa.   

Never too old for the Jumping Pillow

World Famous Chips in Akaroa

Akaroa Harbor
Getting a little stick time at the museum.  P-51 in the background
We returned to Christchurch on our last day and went to the New Zealand Air Force Museum and took back the campervan. 

The flight the following morning was full but we were lucky and had a morning arrival at the Coolangatta Airport in Australia.

Now that we are done living in vehicles, it's back to Tortuguita. Sure seems huge compared to what we have been living in for the past 2 months.

Kiwi Air Force Museum

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