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Start of The Journey: Canada & New Zealand 2016

Route: London – Calgary – Harvey Heights – Vancouver - Auckland – Otorohanga -New Plymouth – Wellington – Picton – Westport – Hokitaki – Okarito – Haast – Queenstown

sunny 22 °C

FEBRUARY – MARCH 2016



It was dull and damp in London for our departure and around 12C, what you would expect for February in the UK, which made the -10C in Calgary a bit of a shock to the system. We had just over a day in Calgary to acclimatise, before meeting up with friends and journeying into the Rockies. This gave us a bit of time to get over the jet leg and tiredness from a month of emptying and packing up our house.

On our third day in Canada we met up with our good friends, Carole, Olivier, Carol & Fred and headed of into the Rockies for the main event. The reason for us all being here was to celebrate the 50th birthday of another very good friend, Guylaine. Guylaine and her husband Glenn had arranged for us to stay in a cabin (called The Palace), close to their place and in the Rocky Mountain hamlet of Harvey Heights (very close to Canmore).
By the time we reached the Rockies, the weather had become a bid milder and we were able to enjoy the snow covered valleys and mountain views that surrounded us. A week of fun then followed with snow trekking, tubing, drinking and silly games the order of the day.

Ice & Water Canmore

Ice & Water Canmore

Sunny Day on a frozen Johnson Lake

Sunny Day on a frozen Johnson Lake

Birthday Party

Birthday Party

Lake Louise Canada

Lake Louise Canada

Winter Snow Canada

Winter Snow Canada

Sunset on Canadian Rockies

Sunset on Canadian Rockies

All good things must come an end though, and at the end of the week it was back to work for everyone, that is except for us. This was just the start of what we hoped would be a 5-year travelling adventure. Our next stop was a night in Vancouver, before taking our flight to Auckland New Zealand.

After a 14:05hr flight across the Pacific Ocean we landed in Auckland. This added further jet lag to the one we hadn’t yet shifted from the Canadian leg. We had even lost a full day (Saturday 13 February) during our flight across the Pacific.
We started our New Zealand adventure a couple of hundred kilometres south of Auckland in the farming town of Otorohanga. By now the weather has changed considerably. We were enjoying temperatures in the high twenty’s and plenty of sunshine. Otorohanga is renowned for its caves and hilly scenery as well as a secluded natural harbour. For those who know the “Lord of the Ring”, the landscape is very reminiscent of the Middle Kingdom. You expect to see a hobbit coming out of its burrow any moment. Our time here was spent getting to grips with a New Zealand way of life, a bit of hiking and cave journey under the surrounding hills.

Hangatiki Scenic Reserve near Otorohanga (North Island NZ)

Hangatiki Scenic Reserve near Otorohanga (North Island NZ)

Hangatiki Scenic reserve near Otorohanga (North Island NZ)

Hangatiki Scenic reserve near Otorohanga (North Island NZ)

Otorohanga

Otorohanga

From Otorohanga we continued down the west coast of the North Island to New Plymouth. There we spent a couple of days enjoying the waterfront walks and hiking in the Mount Taranaki National Park, home to the volcano that dominates the skyline from all around the region. Next stop was Wellington, with a day to see the city before catching the ferry to the South Island. We will return to the North Island later in the trip to explore it more fully.

New Plymouth Street Art

New Plymouth Street Art

New Plymouth Sculpture

New Plymouth Sculpture

Wave Bridge in New Plymouth

Wave Bridge in New Plymouth

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

Hiking in Mount Taranaki NP

Hiking in Mount Taranaki NP

Kai Iwa Beach (means black sands)

Kai Iwa Beach (means black sands)

The weather for the ferry journey was beautiful, which allowed us to appreciate the stunning Queen Charlotte Sound as we arrived in Picton, on the South Island.
Overnight in Picton, then southwest to the coastal town of Westport. Our pace has now slowed down and we were able to explore more fully the regions we are staying in. Westport offered us a variety of scenery, from the coastal walk to reach a seal colony, to a hike along an old mining rail track into the heart of a mountain gorge.

Crossing the Cook Strait from North to South Island

Crossing the Cook Strait from North to South Island

Prince Charlotte Sound

Prince Charlotte Sound

Arriving in Picton (South Island)

Arriving in Picton (South Island)

Fur Seal

Fur Seal

Weka NZ

Weka NZ

Westport

Westport

Hiking along the Ngakawau River

Hiking along the Ngakawau River

Hiking in The Ngakawau River along the disused railway line

Hiking in The Ngakawau River along the disused railway line

Cape Foulwind

Cape Foulwind

A bit of perspective at Cape Foulwind

A bit of perspective at Cape Foulwind

Blow holes at Punakaika NP

Blow holes at Punakaika NP

Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki National Park New Zealand South Island

Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki National Park New Zealand South Island

Our journey then continued down the west coast, with an overnight in the Greenstone (Jade) capital of New Zealand, the town of Hokitaki. Before continuing down to the beautiful isolated coastal village of Okarito. Okarito had lots to offer, with the glacier region on our doorstep as well as mountains and coastal lagoons. A visit to both the Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers was fun, but also a reminder of how global warming is affecting the planet – both of these glaciers are shrinking at an alarming rate. The other days were spent hiking in the mountains and to hidden lagoons. However, the highlight must be seeing a Kiwi in its natural environment. This sighting was made possible by a specialised trip with a local ranger, at night, in a nearby forest. It also required a lot of patience and total silence. Not an easy thing to achieve, with mosquitoes all around you (we did have protective clothing though) and barely moving for several hours, but it was worth it.

Franz-Josef Glacier New Zealand South Island

Franz-Josef Glacier New Zealand South Island

Franz-Josef Glacier

Franz-Josef Glacier

Franz-Josef Glacier

Franz-Josef Glacier

White Heron

White Heron

Three Miles Lagoon Okarito

Three Miles Lagoon Okarito

On our way to Trig Viewpoint Okarito

On our way to Trig Viewpoint Okarito

Cuation Kiwi (Okarito)

Cuation Kiwi (Okarito)

Fox Glacier New Zealand South Island

Fox Glacier New Zealand South Island

From Okarito our route took us further down the west coast to the town of Haast. The town itself didn’t have much to offer, but the journey there allowed us to witness some unique flora, and beautiful coastline scenery. It was just one night in Haast as our target destination was Queenstown in New Zealand’s famous Fiordland.

New Zealand Forest

New Zealand Forest

Lake Walk

Lake Walk

The Ukuru Estuary

The Ukuru Estuary

On the road to Haast

On the road to Haast

Ellery River

Ellery River

Mount Aspring National Park pass

Mount Aspring National Park pass

Again the scenery was fantastic and we took the opportunity to view it from as many vantage points as possible. However, it wasn’t Queenstown that impressed us (in fact we were a bit disappointed – far too commercial for our liking), but the hidden gem of Arrowtown. Situated not far from Queenstown, the village sits in a picturesque valley with buildings that give the impression that things haven’t changed much since the late 19thcentury. Queenstown also provided an opportunity to renew an old friendship. I hadn’t seen Bob, well at least not to have a good chat to, for almost 40 years, so we had a lot to catch up on. The three of us got together on two consecutive nights for a drink and a bite to eat, before it was time for us to be moving on.

Lake Wanaka from Mount Iron

Lake Wanaka from Mount Iron

Endemic bird of NZ

Endemic bird of NZ

Lake near Queenstown

Lake near Queenstown

Arrowtown New Zealand South Island

Arrowtown New Zealand South Island

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

We had planned to book accommodation as we progressed through the islands, but were strongly advised against this approach by locals we spoke to. They informed us that getting the right accommodation was no longer as easy as it used to be. They explained that over the past few years, the number of Chinese visitor had increased enormously and because of this the supply of accommodation was struggling to meet demand. With that advise we changed our plans and started to book our accommodation well in advance of arrival.

Posted by MAd4travel 01:51 Archived in New Zealand

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