Archive - January 2018

1
Milford Sound New Zealand
2
Haast to Cromwell New Zealand
3
Chasing the New Year with Rain
4
New Zealand’s West Coast

Milford Sound New Zealand

Today would be on of the most beautiful days of our trip.  The night before we had checked the weather and it looked like it was safe to head to Milford Sound. We had a lot of miles to cover, and we would also be heading into some areas that were used in the filming of The Lord of the Rings.  I didn’t really do too much research, but I can assure you that even without having the exact points plotted out, the areas we would go through today were stunning and more than worthy of a movie location. For your future plans to visit New Zealand, here are the sites of some LOTR locations.  We hit it hard first thing in the morning, and made good time.  Paul rides a BMW R1150, with Catherine riding pillion, and he is a former and current racer, so he kept up a spirited pace throughout the whole day. We had read and been told that there would be a lot of tourists and tour buses, and that the road is long to get into Milford Sound.  I was expecting today to be slow going and possibly tedious.  This would not be the case, and the whole day would be an exercise in good timing,  low traffic, and gobsmacking views.  Part one,  just outside of Cromwell is a section of road that goes through the Kawarau Gorge, home of the world famous bungee jump. Lots of great twisties to start off the day. We did a lot of miles (or should I say kilometers ?) and did not stop at all except for gas and lunch. We stopped for pie in Te Anau.  Paul let us know that we would be having lots of chances to try pie over the next few days. Challenge accepted!! I have already started to fall in love with NZ pies.  I have never liked the American version we have which are chicken pot pies.  I am not a fan of that yellow gooey chicken gravy soupy filling.  NZ pies are filled with meat and cheese or other yummy goodness, but no icky heavy sauce. With tummies happy we continued on. We entered Eglinton Valley, and I imagined myself with the crew of Hobbits and Dwarves as they journeyed. The wide valley space was stunning, and there was still snow on the mountains, and views of waterfalls. Absolute heaven to look at plus the freedom of being on the motorcycles.  We tried taking pictures and video with the goPro.  Frank has mastered the feat of taking pictures with our good camera while he is riding.  We caught up to Paul and Catherine in front of a tunnel opening, already off their bike and enjoying the view, while waiting on the side of the road next to the line of cars for the tunnel.  We took some pictures and Paul said “do you want to wait around 20 min or go with the next group of cars?”  Cars from[…]

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Haast to Cromwell New Zealand

Today would be another short day as we would only be heading to Cromwell.  I had recently met someone who had just been to New Zealand, and she gave me some advice on her favorite things to see here.  We would stop by the Blue Pools today and go through the Remarkables Mountain Range. The sun was out, and the sky was clear, so I was happy. If you have followed along on any of my past trips, you know that I hate being cold. We stopped at Thunder Creek Falls, which have a little pool at the bottom. This reminded me of many films and commercials where someone is at the bottom of a perfect waterfall, bathing in the pool below…so picturesque. Down the road a little further we found the blue pools. Another suspension bridge and a 15 min hike was well worth the pristine cleared aqua blue water that we found beneath a second bridge.  New Zealand really loves bridges, and loves to torture me with wobbly bridges. We soon learned that the water was extremely cold. Locals were taking the plunge, as well as a few tourists.  One gentleman from Canada exclaimed “Whew! that is brisk.  Even for Canada that is cold”.  We only put our hands in, and can confirm that the water was pretty icy. We continued south and passed by two large lakes, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. I was loving the sun and warmer weather compared to the recent rain.  We found lunch in Wanaka, which was a super busy holiday spot with tons of people enjoying the summer sun.  The place was packed, and it took us quite a while to find parking.  Many of the cafes and food stands had lines out their doors. I’m sure everyone thought Frank and I were crazy dressed in full motorcycle gear while everyone else was in shorts and tank tops. Our final push south would take us to Cromwell.  This would be where we make use of Motostays for the first time.  It is a network of motorcyclist that host you in their home for free.  You in turn list your home as a possible place for other motorcyclist to stay. It seemed like a great way to to meet locals that knew all the details about the area and could point us in the right direction, especially all the best roads and sights to see.  We found Paul and Catherine who were located in Cromwell, and prior to the trip Paul and Frank had been emailing back and forth. He gave us a great general itinerary for the whole South Island based on how many days we had, and with that info I was able to plan out where our hotel stays would be. But last night was the last reservation I had made.  Paul told us not to make anymore reservations, because we would have to wait and see how the weather was. So the next few days, we would literally[…]

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Chasing the New Year with Rain

It rained all night at Franz Josef Glacier.  We checked out the weather forecast and it was going to be heavy rain all day.  We decided to just hang out and try to wait it out. The normal checkout time was 10am, so we asked the manager if we could stay till 11 or 12, and he gave us the OK.  He said as long as we left before his cleaning staff at 2pm, because he did not want to clean the room himself!  We took advantage of the the hotel having a laundry room, and after I bothered the other guest for coins, I managed to find someone who had change for a NZ $20 bill. We started the laundry and walked to find breakfast in pouring rain.  As we turned the corner we saw the big group of motorcyclists that we had met at the lunch two days earlier. They looked completely soaked, and I hoped their gear was more waterproof than it looked. We all waved in recognition, and Frank and I took shelter in a cafe for breakfast.   We went back, finished laundry, and packed up.  It was still only noon, and the rain was not letting up. We then went to the West Coast Wildlife Center to kill more time.  They take injured animals, rehabilitate them and release them back out into he wild. We learned a lot about the different native Kiwi birds and their predators.  I learned about the Stoat, which I had never heard of that before, but is very similar to a weasel. The stoat is the biggest threat/predator to the Kiwi bird. The center also had a big room that simulated night time, so we had a chance to see Kiwi birds up close in a pretend habitat. We were not allowed to take pictures, so unfortunately I have no way to prove that we saw the Kiwi Birds. We also met the Tuatara, not a lizard, but it sure looks like it.  They are great at being completely still. For a long time.  A really long time.  I know, we waited for a really long time. Did I mention it was raining outside?  After we had our fill of all things Kiwi, we decided to hit the road even though it was still raining.  We had reservations in Haast, which we originally thought we would cancel because it was not that far down the road.  But we were glad to have the stop in Haast so we would have a short drive in the rain. We were heading south and the rain was heading north, but it was really coming down, and we were in heavy rain for about two hours. We stopped by Fox Glacier, but decided against the 20 min walk as it was pouring. Finally, as we got closer to Haast the rain stopped and the sky cleared. We made a stop at the Salmon Farm and cafe, to take a stretch and snack break.[…]

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New Zealand’s West Coast

Don, our B&B host, was already awake and had the breakfast table set with beautiful china, ready to serve us cereal, toast, coffee and tea. He had a container of what he called rata honey. He gave us a quick lesson about New Zealand honey and the difference between Manuka and Rata honey.  We learned that they can test honey to tell what flower the bees collected from, and if it is 80% of that type of flower, than that is the type of honey it is. The Rata honey has a higher sugar content and is more white in color than the Manuka honey.  It is pretty thick to spread, but I can also tell you it tastes great on toast.  While we ate Don gave us a lot of great tips on where to stop for pictures, and to turn down a gravel road to try to find some white Herrons in a lagoon. We said our goodbyes to Don and the family form Spain, and hit the road.  The next section of our trip was a combination of amazing roads with even more amazing views.  We would also have a chance to hit a few touristy spots. We took a short hike a long a river, which bring us to your new words of the day. Here in New Zealand, when you go hiking it is not called a trail, it is called a track. They also use the word tramping instead of backpacking. Our next stop was Pancake Rocks.  This was a 20 min walk through a track to see something I have never seen before. A unique geological area that has scientists puzzled as to how the layers of rocks formed in this pattern. We also got to see some large flat seaweed called Mermaid hair, which was easy to see how it got it’s name flowing in the water. Farther south we took a quick detour to Lake Mahinapua, which had a rich history of steamboats used for commerce and travel, and saw many foreign dignitaries visit.  We had the chance to see Weka Birds wandering near the shore.  These are the birds that have been fooling people into thinking they are Kiwi birds. They were not too afraid of us, so we got close enough for pictures. Next was a stop at Okarito Lagoon, to look for white Heron, but unfortunately none were to be seen.  When we read some information about there only being 30 breeding pairs, I figured it was okay that they were keeping themselves out of sight. I could live without a picture of the Heron, so we took one of the bike next to the Lagoon. Our final destination for the night would be the famous Franz Josef Glacier.  Rain was in the forecast for tonight and all day tomorrow, and it was getting late.  It started to rain as we pulled into town.  We checked into our hotel, then went to the glacier.  The car park was[…]

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