Honeymoon Journal: Part 6

It doesn’t seem right to sum up all of the fun we had on the North Island into 1 post, but its been over 2 months since we have been back and it’s time to come to a close. Enjoy!

So traveling between islands in New Zealand is so easy, no security, no long lines, show up twenty minutes before and you are good to go! We flew from Nelson back to Auckland, picked up our rental car, relived the Rugby World Cup with the rental agent, and then headed South for Rotorua. After a couple hours of driving and a quick bite for lunch our first stop in Rotorua was to the amazing ‘i-site’ info center in town. Every town in New Zealand has one and they are fantastic. Had we known, we wouldn’t have booked anything before hand and just relied on the great local knowledge and information available to us at these centers. Throughout our trip we went to the ‘i-site’ in most of the places we visited, whether to book tours, use the restroom or just grab a couple brochures/return brochures. Just a little shout-out to this amazing service they offer throughout New Zealand.

At the info center we booked a Hangi, which is the Maori form of cooking and along with a great meal comes some Maori entertainment. Before the Hangi, we went to the Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife park to see a kiwi. We actually saw 2 kiwi’s in the exhibit plus a baby kiwi! Since kiwi’s are nocturnal, the exhibit is pretty dark and no pictures are allowed. The 1 kiwi we saw the most, as he was wondering around to eat, was pretty big, and oh so cute! We saw all kinds of cool birds at the park including a kea, weka’s, a awesome grey parrot named Mandela, and various other birds and even some cool rainbow trout. You even get a bottle to fill up with fresh Rainbow spring water!

I spotted an All Black Kiwi!
Coolest parrot ever!

After the wildlife park, it was time to have a Maori feast. The Maori would dig a pit in the ground and use heated rocks to steam meat, potatoes and vegetables.

Hot Rocks!

The food cooked in the traditional Maori form was excellent! Of course they also had other yummy New Zealand food including lamb, green-lipped mussels and Pavlova (meringue based dessert). We sat at a table with another newlywed couple from England  the the girls kiwi parents and a couple from Korea who ate about 3 plate fulls of green-lipped mussels. After dinner there was a show of traditional Maori dancing and games which required some audience participation, so we were called up on stage.

Dave with a Maori warrior

The next day we went to check out Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park. They have a geyser (not as cool when we learned they set it off once a day), volcanic craters, mud pools (which make a really cool bass noise as it boils), amazing geothermal colors we had never seen before including the Champagne Pool.

Lady Knox Geyser
Mud Pools
Volcanic Valley
Watch Out!
Champagne Pool

Yes, that is the color of the water

After exploring the geothermal park, we went to check out the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. They have 6 different pools they fill up daily with water from the Te Manaroa natural boiling spring (of coursed it is cooled off first). We went in all 6 pools and even did the eco-trail to see the spring. This was an amazing experience, the water was so warm, it was hard to get out of the water. We had a lovely view of the local landscape (a farm) and felt so relaxed. Loud music and a soda were necessary to keep me from falling asleep as we drove to Taupo. Driving in this area was pretty cool because all around you could see steam coming from the ground.

When we arrived in Taupo and went to the i-site to book our bus ride for our big adventure the next day.  We had wanted to try out Hell’s Pizza, but it wasn’t really a restaurant and didn’t serve any alcohol, a deal breaker in our book. So we ate some real pizza and enjoyed some beers at an Italian restaurant next door. After a stop to a crappy grocery store (no pre-made sandwiches!) to load up for the next day’s adventure we were back to our hotel to hit the sack.

We were up early for our bus pick up at 6:15 in the morning, we were on our way to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing!And we were lucky because we had a nice day. The crossing is 19.4k (12 miles) and takes about 7-9 hours. You bascially walk the length of Mount Tongariro, starting in one valley and ending in another with views of Mount Ruapehu (an active volcano) in the distance and Mount Ngauruhoe (also known as Mount Doom, LOTR) which is an option to climb to the summit. It’s important to be prepared with food, water and clothing because the weather can change in an instant up at the top. Although we saw plenty of people that did not heed to that advice (kids wearing flip flops, really?!?).

Beginning at zero

It’s all uphill in the beginning, going up the Devil’s Staircase to the South Crater.

Up and up we go

Once in the South Crater you climb the ridge of the crater to Red Crater. Before we made it to the top of the ride, we veered off and did the Tongariro Summit.

Dave in the South Crater

The summit trail was marked, but you basically walked along the side of the mountain. When we were almost at the summit, there was snow on the trail. I was good going to the top but coming down on the snow I was scared. A couple ran down in the snow as I scooted on my butt. When I got to the bottom of the snow part I realized it wasn’t that bad, but I already looked like a big whimp in my husband’s eyes.

Trail to the Tongariro Summit

Up the snow

View from the top

Once we made it back to the main trail, we continued on the ridge to the top of Red Crater. In the trail information, it does state on a windy day, you may have to crawl, thank god it wasn’t windy! Once at the top though, you must go down, and down a steep loose trail. It was eaiser to slide down the loose rock, but I didn’t realize that till half way down. Again, my husband was thinking I was being cautious, but the last thing I wanted to do was fall off the trail to my death, which was not just in my head, it was a real possibility.

Going down the trail to Emerald Lakes
The trail we just came down

 Once down by Emerald Lakes, the hard part was over and I survived! We had lunch and continued on to Blue Lake.

Us by Blue Lake

From here, it’s a short climb to North Crater and the landscape changes dramatically, it looks more like a grass valley. Because it was a nice day, we had a spectacular view of Lake Rotoaira and Lake Taupo.

Amazing!

And the rest of the hike it zigzagging your way down through the valley, then into a forest and finally you make it to the car park. And boy is it hard on your feet going down, it seems like it never ends. We made good time going down, partly because of the pain and need for the downhill to end and were back on the bus to Taupo.

Glad to be done!

We did the crossing in about 8 hours which included the side journey to Tongariro Summit, for a total of 16 miles. I was definitely scared at times, but the amazing views and just the experience made all 16 miles worth it! After a long hot shower, we enjoyed a nice meal of local NZ food and a few local beers at Plateau.We both slept like a rock that night!

The next day was our last full day in New Zealand! We couldn’t leave New Zealand without seeing the glow worm caves in Waitimo and if your going to visit some caves you might as well go caving with the Black Water Rafting company! This was our last big adventure and frankly after canyoning, this was pretty easy and a lot of fun! We decided to do the Black Abyss tour. We got all decked out in wet suits and helmets, loaded into a van to a hole in the ground and learned some safety tips. From there we abseiled 35 meters (110 feet) into the cave.

Abseiling like a pro

We walked around in the cave, saw some stalagmites and then zip-lined in the dark with glow worms above us. You land on a rock formed platform and after a quick break, jump with a inter-tube into the cold water. We floated around and checked out the glow worms, learning that they aren’t really worms, they are larvae of flies (maggots). After our view of the glow worms, we dropped off our tubes and slid down a small waterfall slide and continued through the caves. We squeezed through a tight space or two and then were told that we need to climb up a few waterfalls in order to get out of the caves. There was no set path or anything, it was just our guide telling us where to put our hands and feet as we climbed up a waterfall. It was pretty awesome, though a bit unsafe considering you could slip with the wrong hand/foot placement! 3 waterfall’s later and we were out of the cave.

Dave climbing out of the cave

It was cold down in the cave, but we had a fantastic time. We were with a pretty cool group and had 2 great guides. It was a great tour, check it out if you want to see the glow worms in Waitimo.

After our caving adventure, we drove a few hours to Auckland. What a difference from the South Island in overall scenery, it is much more populated especially as you get closer to Auckland. It was weird to actually be on a highway (they call it a motorway). We made it to Auckland and changed to enjoy our final night out in the city.

Me in Auckland

We found a great place to eat outside on the waterfront and enjoyed our final meal. It was weird that we would be leaving the next day. It wasn’t that we were necessarily ready to go, it had been a fantastic honeymoon, but our journey had ended so we knew we had to leave.

Sky Tower

We had some time in the morning to walk around Auckland and do some final souvenir shopping before heading to the airport. We were treated like royalty again on Qantas only to get back to the US and get sub par service on USAirways. We made it back home after our honeymoon adventure with nothing but amazing memories!

New Zealand, you are such an amazing part of the world! What more could you ask for in a country with amazing scenery, wonderful people full of such charm and class, and lots of adventures! We hope to make it back one day to enjoy more of all you have to offer. Thanks for the memories!

Special thanks to my husband, I’m so lucky to have an amazing travel buddy to explore the world with! You are fantastic at helping to find cool places to explore and without your enthusiasm I might not have experienced some of the most amazing adventures we had in New Zealand!

Honeymoon Journal: Part 5

We headed back to Picton the next morning to spend a few hours cruising on the Queen Charlotte Sound. The boat had an open upper deck and although it was a nice sunny day, on the boat, it was freezing! It was the best place to check out the view. We cruised all the way to Ship Cove, a small bay that Captain James Cook was famous for visiting. After making it all the way to Ship Cove and a few stops along the way, we made it back to Picton.

Seals on the Sound

QC Sound

Dave on the boat

We were making our way to Nelson from Picton, so we drove along the very twisty and tiny road, the Queen Charlotte Drive. We passed a few 100km speed signs on this road, but there was no way you could go more than 30km it seemed. We stopped for a late lunch in Havelock, to enjoy the world famous green-lipped mussels. These mussels are so delicious!

Mussels!

So big!

Based on a local recommendation, we also stopped along the way at the Pelorus Bridge, a site that would be used in the upcoming Hobbit film. The water was beautiful and there was this really cool, very long, swing bridge.

Pelorus River

Dave on the swing bridge

We made it to Tasman, where our B&B was located. In our search for accommodations in the area, we came across a very unique place and knew we had to stay. The B&B was located on the property of the Jester House Cafe and called The Boot, well, because it’s in the shape of a Boot!

Us at The Boot!

This place was awesome! We enjoyed dinner out at the Boatshed in Mapua for some fresh Nelson scallops And then we came back to our Boot to enjoy an evening by the fire outside, drinking wine, listening to music and trying to count the millions of stars we could see in the night sky.

Dave tending the fire

And to top it all off, every morning we enjoyed a lovely fresh breakfast in our cozy boot cottage.

Yum!

We headed North for the day to go sea kayaking near Abel Tasman in the Tasman Bay. Sea kayaking is no joke, it can be tough, especially in choppy water, but we had an awesome time exploring in our kayak. We even got to see some seals in the water, see Split Apple Rock, and relax on our own private beach.

A seal waving at us in the water

 

Look at us kayak!

Split Apple Rock

Our own private beach

After our kayaking adventure, we headed to Abel Tasman National Park to hike for a bit. Most of the tour company’s offer a water taxi drop off and hike back option, but we didn’t make it in time, so we just hiked in and hiked out. It seems our whole trip was doing the opposite of what all the out tourists were doing, so it seemed fitting. Abel Tasman is pretty nice, hard to compare to the hikes down further South on the island, but I’m sure if we had more time to explore, we would have seen some cool sights in the park.

A tunnel to explore at low tide

Bird on the beach

We made it back to the Tasman and were told we couldn’t come stay here at the Boot, without feeding the eels, something everyone does when visiting the Jester House cafe.

This was pretty weird, Dave was totally grossed out by the eels, but still kept feeding them. They are like big fat snakes in water. Basically, you are given some minced chicken meat and a stick. You put some chicken on the stick and feed the eels, although you have to hold on to your stick because these eels have sharp teeth and tug on the stick.

Dave feeding the eels

We enjoyed another night in our cozy little Boot and then the next morning headed to the Nelson airport for the North Island. The South Island was amazing, we had such a great time exploring and taking in all the beauty. One could easily spend a month on the South Island and still not see and do it all.

Thanks for the memories South Island and now on to the North!

Booting the Boot

Honeymoon Journal: Part 4

Finally a day to sleep a little later than usual! We had a bit of a drive ahead of us to get to the Marlborough region, basically on the other side of the island.  And sleeping in worked to our advantage because our first stop was to Punakaiki National Park, home of the Pancake Rocks. After a twisty drive along the coast, we made it in time to see high tide of the Tasman Sea spray through the blow holes.

Stacks of Pancakes!

Blowhole spray

After a nice stroll through the park, it was back on the road. We wanted to pet a lamb so we got a couple carrots at the store and while on the back roads stopped on the side of the road. Our attempt was a total bust, the lambs are big scaredy cats and ran away every time we came near them.

Along our drive, we had lunch with a rooster at the site of the historic mining town, Lyell, along the Buller Gorge. And we drove up to the top of a small mountain to try and spot a kiwi while checking out Lake Rotpiti in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Lake Rotoiti

Finally, after driving across the South Island, we made it to the Marlborough region! Oh what a glorious sunny day to drink some wine!

Vines of Wine

By the time we made it to Marlborough we only had time to stop by 1 winery, but we picked a good one, the wine was delicious. All the people are so nice, the lady at the wine place gave us some fabulous recommendations and we dinner at Raupo Riverside Cafe. They have delicious food, especially their hot chocolate.  Dave was annoyed they weren’t giving him any water though, said it was because he was wearing jeans, it was quite amusing!

There actually is quite a lot to do in this area, unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to do it all. We had wanted to hike some of the Queen Charlotte Track, but you have to take a water taxi out there and it would have taken all day, leaving no time for wine tasting. So instead we did a local hike with lots of lovely views of the Queen Charlotte Track in Picton.

Queen Charlotte Sound

After a nice hike, we grabbed some fish and chips and sat on the water to enjoy lunch. We were greeted by the cutest little black and white terrier dog, we named Henrietta. She would slowly make her way closer to us, as if we didn’t notice, to try and get some of our lunch.

After our lunch, we headed back to Blenheim to go wine tasting! There are a lot of good wineries also in a town called Renwick. It was a very windy day, so we didn’t rent bikes to go around to the wineries. We went to about 5 different “cellar doors” as they call them. It was very unlike Napa, not crowded at all, maybe it was the time of year, but it was a Friday afternoon. Everyone is so friendly and knowledgeable about wine.

Wine tasting!

Some samplings we picked up

Today was our Friday, but Thanksgiving in the US. So we did what any Americans would do to celebrate the holiday, ate pizza! Turkey does not exist in New Zealand, so pizza seemed like the next best option. We went to a place in downtown Blenheim, the pizza was ok, not as American as we would have wanted, but still fitting for the holiday.

Up next…Cruising the Sound, green-lipped mussels, and a boot!

Honeymoon Journey: Part 3

Today was the big day of our BIG adventure and luckily there was nothing but clear blue skies. We headed to the office to meet up with the guides and the other people as crazy as us to go Canyoning. We had a small group of 6, most had never done this before, so it was a little comforting that we weren’t going with a bunch of experts.

We drove out to a farm, put on some wet suits (over plenty of layers), helmets, gloves and shoes and then hiked up the mountain. Once at the top, we were given some instructions, but it’s more kiwi-style to just explain/learn as you go. So first thing first, we jumped into the freezing cold water to get use to the temperature. And then the fun began.

Here’s a recap of our day. First, repel down a waterfall, then slide down a waterfall, repeat repelling, slide, jump from ledge into water, repel, zip-line across the canyon water, repel, slide, slide, repel, zip-line, in shock that you somehow lived through this whole adventure without dying, hike back to safety, enjoy hot tea and english sandwiches, arrive back in Wanaka. I’ll let the photos do the real storytelling.

Thinking: I could be wine tasting instead right now

Dave sliding down a waterfall

Honeymooners

our guide going down the waterfall – same way we came down

Dave about to slide down waterfall

Me jumping into water

I was beyond nervous when we were first walking up to the top of the canyon to begin the day, but by the end of it, I had a total adrenaline high, it was so awesome! I would highly recommend anyone going to New Zealand to do this trip, the company is called Deep Canyon. After the canyoning, we drove 3 and half hours to Fox Glacier and talked for about 3 hours straight about what we had just experienced. We had a blast, Dave said I looked freaked out the whole time, which I was at first, but after you rock a few waterfalls, it’s all fun!

So as I mentioned, we drove to Fox after our canyoning adventure. We had already done part of this drive the day before, luckily this time it wasn’t raining. The Haast Pass drive has a ton of one lane bridges, they seem to be all over the South Island. The drive from Haast to Fox has some really cool ones, some cable bridges and even a really long one land bridge with passing landings in the middle. We enjoyed our Subway sandwich dinner on the side of the road overlooking the Tasman Sea, quite lovely except for all the sandflies. We got to Fox around 9 and after a hot shower and a glass of wine to celebrate our canyoning achievement, headed straight to bed.

One lane bridge

In the morning we had booked a half day glacier hike. It was raining (this seems to happen a lot on the west coast) and a bit cold. The Fox Glacier Guide company gave us pants, jackets, socks and boots to use for our hike. We walked to the foot of the glacier and then hopped the fence to continue onto the glacier (only paid hikers can get to the glacier). We put on some crampons and hiked on to the ice.

It’s cold and raining

The glacier is pretty awesome, we learned all kinds of new facts about glaciers. We got to spend about 3 hours walking around on the ice, just checking out different things happening on the glacier. I get the sense that since the glacier is constantly changing, so does the tour and all that you get to see.

Dave checking out a moulin

Us on the glacier

After our glacier hike, we went to have lunch and do the Lake Matheson hike, which on a clear day offers amazing mirror lake images of the Southern Alps, but it was cloudy after the rain stopped. Still a lovely walk around the lake and a chance to take a few pictures of some cows.

Hello Cows!

We continued to drive up the West Coast and ended our day in Greymouth. Greymouth is one of those towns that is probably lovely on a sunny day, but they get way to much rain and clouds that sunny days are not too common. We found this awesome restaurant to eat at downtown called The Coalface. Your meal comes out on a lava rock and continues to cook while you eat.

Don’t touch the hot rock!

What a week it has been! Up next, pancake rocks and wine tasting!

Honeymoon Journey: Part 2

After a few fun days in Queenstown, we left to spend a couple days in Wanaka. It was the first time Dave was back in the car driving, so the first half hour of our short ride was spent talking about how weird it was to be on the opposite side. The Gibbston Valley that we drove though is beautiful, tons of wineries, orchards and the beautiful Kawarau River, where we stopped to watch people bungy jump.

Beautiful!

It would have been nice to stop by a few vineyards for a tasting, but we had planned to hike the Rob Roy Glacier when we reached Wanaka, so we drove on by. Luckily, we stopped at a store to get a few bottles to enjoy in the evening, the area really does make a good Pinot Noir.

After about a 2 hour drive from Queenstown, we reached Wanaka, which is like a mini-Queenstown (although don’t tell a local that!). We went to the DOC office to get some info on the glacier hike. There was a storm moving into the Mount Aspring area, where the hike begins/ends and part of the adventure of the hike is the drive. Not only do you drive on a gravel road, you also have to ‘ford’ 8 creeks. No one had reported back the road conditions with the rain moving in, so we decided to give it a try. Well, once we reached the first creek, we decided ‘fording’ it in our little car wasn’t best, especially since it was going to continue to rain. At least we learned the best way to drive on a gravel road (fast) and got to see a ton of sheeps and lambs! We did hike Rocky Mountain (part of the Diamond Lake hike), which was a tough climb up the mountain (rather a large hill compared to the mountains around us) on a billy goat style trail. At the top, the hike offered stunning views of the area, well worth the climb.

To ford or not to ford?

Our Nissan Sunny

Lambs!

Wanaka is such a great little town. We had an awesome view of Lake Wanaka from our hotel (our favorite of the trip) and enjoyed some good food and wine the first night there, at the Spice Room.

The next morning we got ready for our canyoning adventure. It was still raining, so at first our trip was pushed to later in the day and then later that morning, we got word it would be cancelled altogether because the rain wouldn’t be stopping and the water level in the canyon was too high. We had to rearrange our schedule at bit in order to be able to do canyoning the next day, so we decided to do what we would be doing tomorrow, today.

We drove to Haast along the Haast Pass. The first part of our drive sucked, non-stop rain. We stopped along the way to see waterfalls and a few sights along the way and because of the rain, there were waterfalls everywhere, one didn’t even need to stop.

Thunder Creek Waterfall

Once we made it to Haast, we turned around and I drove for the first time. Luckily, the sky started to clear and we had a lovely drive back.

Clear Skies finally! - Lake Hawea

When we made it back to Wanaka, we decided to do the Mount Iron hike (again, more like a large hill) to end our day. Thank goodness the rain had finally passed because we had an amazing 360 degree view from the top.

View of the valley

View of both Lake Wanaka & Hawea with Southern Alps

Despite the rain and delays, we still had a great day exploring. Up next, CANYONING and Glacier Hiking!

Back from our fantastic adventure!

What a trip!

Dave and I are back from our amazing honeymoon. New Zealand has everything, breathtaking scenery, tons of things to do and lots of sheep. We fell in love with New Zealand and I already miss waking up everyday and seeing all of the country’s beauty.

Recap of our honeymoon journey to follow!

Happy Thanksgiving from the land of Kiwi

Hello!

Well, we have yet to see any turkey on the menu, so in honor of the good old US of A, we had pizza for our Thanksgiving meal, along with some excellent NZ wine!

We are in wine country now, enjoyed a few tastings today and the beautiful weather. Since my last update, we have been canyoning and hiking on a glacier. There has been lots of driving along the way, but it’s nothing like American driving, all the roads have amazing views here.We have gone from the Southern Alps to the sunny sounds, sweater weather to flip flops and shorts.

Here are a few photos of the past couple of days:

Fox Glacier

NZ Wine Valley - Renwick

Happy Thanksgiving!

Counting down the days

How this month is flying by! I’m glad though, because I’m ready to go on vacation!

We’ve been very busy planning all the details of our honeymoon trip. It’s going to be a trip of a lifetime! Some of the things we have planned include hiking, adventure, road tripping and cruises. We will go from hiking mountains to hiking the terrain of an exotic island. From big cities, small towns, to volcanoes. And hopefully at some point we will get to see a kiwi bird.

We’ve also been prepping our gear, which includes upgrading to a new DSLR camera. We got a very entry level DSLR, I’m excited to learn how to use it and practice taking some pictures before our trip.

Come next month, the days will really fly by – can’t wait!

Honeymoon booked!

We had planned to go on a grand adventure for our honeymoon. Somewhere far, somewhere amazing and somewhere that we would be talking about in 20 years as one of the best trips we ever took.

In a few months, Dave and I will be spending 15 glorious days on our honeymoon (17 technically, but 2 days for traveling), HERE:

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We are headed to New Zealand!

The countdown has officially begun and we are so excited!