Day 4, Queenstown

This wasn’t a day of travel. After a long night of partying with the teenagers I was rushed to make the 10Am checkout. Not feeling up to riding away, and wanting to write in this blog, I stayed a while longer. That turned out fine because Jamin was going to be in Queenstown in a few hours. I took that time to upload photos and such. The day did drag on while I wasn’t traveling, but it worked out well because he and I got to hang out.

We had discussed bungy jumping and wanted to to that the following day, but as it turned out Jamin was going to return to Antarctica. So most of the day involved him planning for that. Finally, after dinner, we took the gondola ride up to the highest point in Queenstown for a spectacular view. It really couldn’t have been better. The sun was about to set as we arrived, so that was nice, but also the largest full moon of the year rose soon after. Add those things to an already beautiful scenery, and the it was worth waiting a day to ride away.

Here is what we saw

Gondola ride complete with mountain goats.

The sun was setting, so it made for a beautiful skyline

It kept getting better actually.

And one of me and Jamin.

Here are some artistic shots I took, Jamin trying to climb the glass stood out.

I’d say that was enough sunset pictures, but it really did keep getting better. This is one of my favorites and current desktop.

And then the moon rose. It was big and bright.

And lastly, Queenstown from above. Sorry it’s smeared out.

There aren’t many photos this time. You can see them all here.

He and I ended up hanging out till late.  It was a pleasure to have someone to talk to.  Usually when I travel alone conversation is limited to small talk.  Jamin is now in Antarctica solving some problem only he could do.  I wish him and the rest of the team the best.

Sunny New Zealand

The title tells it all. Day two was one of wet weather. Day three was much nicer. Much nicer.

I woke late, like I’ve been doing lately, and go the information I needed to find my way. The first destination was Franz Josef Glacier, and we’d see from there. I was already in the town named for the glacier, and it was only a few klicks to get there. Signs in the parking lot warned of vehicle theft, so I chose a route that was shorter (and recommended by the hostel manager for being a better view.) Tell me if he was right.

Did I mention I was in a rain forest? It’s green here! I totally love the mountains covered in trees. It’s what draws me to the Appalacian mountains and now here. Add to that a beach just 2 miles away and you’ve found paradise. New Zealand it definitely a must see.

The road from Franz Josef to Fox Glacier is a nice and twisty path that cuts around the mountains and gives bikers something to keep their mind off the scener. VROOM! A couple of times that day I was so engrossed with the road I forgot to look up. That’s the life. At least every time I did look up it was a gorgeous sight.

I decided against hiking up to Fox. It may have been different enough, but there is a famous lake nearby, and I enjoyed a hike around that instead. (glaciers are cool, but after a month of living next to one the novelty wears off). The lake turned out very nice, and the warm sun really refreshed me. There is a spot on the trail called mirror island. During the right conditions the mountains show up nicely in the reflection.

Did I mention I was in a Rain Forest? 😀 The view was great. And although clouds obscured the tops of the mountains I still really enjoyed the sight. A couple at the stop complained. I think they wanted the picture perfect poster photo or something like that. I suggested they buy the poster – that guy probably waited weeks or more to get the right shot. I was happy with this one.

There are several good ones. Here are a couple; and one of me enjoying the view. It’s hard to get out of the “rush to see everything” mode.

Plus a couple of neat things on the trail

And then it was back on the road. Only this road led to the beach 😀

I took this time to read and take a nap. That sun felt great. From here it was a long ride to Queenstown, and I didn’t take many photos (read: was enjoying the road) A Toyota Corrola thought it would be fun to try and keep up with me. The curves posed problems though as I left him pretty easily. He’d catch me on the straight but only cause I didn’t want to speed too much.

The road to Queenstown was paved with good intentions: intentions to arrive early, intentions to take the best route, …. Well, I found myself running later than planned (the afternoon nap seems always to creep in there even though I still don’t plan for it). I made a quick, and wrong, turn in Wanaka, famous for beautiful scenery and aerial adventures. On the way out of town I realized that my tank was low and it was a still a long way to Queenstown. As I slowed to turn around I recognized one of my roommates from the hostel the night previous. His was a German named Alec who was hitchhiking around NZ, and today his destination was Queenstown. It was an amazing coincidence that I had already started slowing when I saw him.

Well, he had way too much gear to carry a long distance, but on his advice I decided to take the other route (the one that saved .5 hours and was much more scenic – the one also he wanted to take). I offered a ride back to town where he could then get a ride in a car. So we teamed up – he with directions, and me with transportation – to arrive back on the correct road and fully fueled. I left him there halfway expecting to see him in the next day or two in Queenstown. That never realized, but I got some amazing riding in in the mean time.

I’m still uploading too many pictures, so here are only a few of the better ones from the beach to Queenstown.

Of course there are more sheep. They are everywhere. This sight really caught my eye, and I even stopped and turned around to go back and get it. There were sheep nearer me, but they were afraid of the sound of the bike and moved away. I just love the snow capped mountain in this one with the warm pasture surrounded by trees in the foreground. There were probably 20 of these – this one being best.

That was taken heading down a hair-pin road into the final stretches before Queenstown. That sight made me pause for quite a while. The camera cannot do it justice; it was too much to capture.

This was the most spectacular ride I’ve had in a long time – it’s really not fair that I get to enjoy all of this. The truth is it’s kind of an overload in beauty. I’ve become slightly desensitized. This post is being written several days after the photos were taken, and today I didn’t even take many. If I stopped for every amazing photo I would only progress one curve at a time and would never get anywhere. You’d need months in this country to take all the photos you wanted.

Lastly, after arriving in Queenstown I met up with 5 kids from Dunedin who were enjoying the weekend in a party town. 3 girls, and 2 guys who were all about 19 years old took me around town and got me drunk. Alcohol was actually cheap (Queenstown is known for highly inflated prices), and I had plenty. The kids were a hoot: one of them, nicknamed ADD – look there’s a rabbit – took 14 Jagerbombs in front of me throughout the night. These aren’t like American Jagerbombs; they fill a tall glass about halfway with Redbull and drop a shot of Jagermeister into it. They were nuts.

I skipped a lot, but in doing so I realized that there is too much to discuss. There will be times in the future to remember them all. Until then you can check out all the photos (about 140 if you can) in the photo album.

More New Zealand!

Oh Boy is it beautiful here. There is no place like this on earth. I can’t believe places like this exist. It is by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, and it doesn’t stop. The farther you go the more you see.

I don’t have time to put a lot of stuff up, so you can get all the pictures from day 2 here, and day three here– there are many. I’ll discuss some of the best ones though.
First thing after leaving the hostel was a ride up the beach to a geologic formation called pancake rocks. I wondered what that meant but soon found out. The ride along the coast was just perfect; I ended up taking too many photos, but they are all worth it.

It wasn’t a long trip, maybe 45 kilometers, but the whole ride was amazing. Lots to see. As you can tell it was cloudy, and on the way north it rained for a couple of minutes. That wasn’t bad – the bad stuff came later.

I got a lot of pictures of pancake rocks, and they are all worth seeing. So you should check out this link. I’ll just post a couple

After that was a quick walk up the Punakaiki river.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my camera wasn’t taking good photos. I had switched because I don’t like to use the newer one on the motorcycle. Well, that turned out to be good (barring the bad photos) because when it started raining I left the camera in my pocket. It doesn’t turn on anymore. The newer camera works fine but doesn’t meter well and the photos are often over exposed. Remember the Antarctica problem, same now. At least they are clearer. I’m definitely getting new camera when I get back. I can’t have bad cameras and travel. DOH.

I didn’t get much more in the way of photography that day. It rained a lot and for a long time. Here are a a couple of the vegetation beside the road. It’s really neat.

and flowers

That was day 2 – minus nearly 3 hours of rain.

I’ll talk about Day 3 next time. My internet time has run out.

Rode Across New Zealand

Man this country is beautiful. I’ve got lots to say and many photos to show. Unfortunately there is only time to upload the photos, I’ve got places to go!

Basically I left early afternoon after many hours of preparation. I had to mail some things home, argue with the airline, get camping gear and a motorcycle. It’s a nice motorcycle too. After initially getting turned around, was super hungry and not thinking straight, I found some food and was on my way. There are only a couple of roads that cross the island, so getting on the right one wasn’t too difficult. The ride was gorgeous, filled with mountains, fields of sheep, rivers and lakes, then on the west side it became rain forest and beach. The whole afternoon was filled with wonderful smells I haven’t sensed in a long time. Antarctica has no smell besides volcano dust and diesel fuel. The flowers, fresh cut grass, tall pines, and humidity made for a pleasant ride.

At the end of the day I wound up in Greymouth. The city isn’t much of one, but there is a supermarket ad a hostel. That worked out well. The hostel’s name is Noah’s Ark, and each room is named for a different animal. It is colorful, and the people are friendly. They all have the same complaint however: Greymouth has nothing to do. There is a river and the beach is nearby, but it’s not the best beach. Supposedly there are some “adventure sports” you can pay to do, but this whole motorcycle trip is one for me, and that’s what I’m going to do after typing this post.

Just a couple of photos. You can find all of them here.

The ride had become cooler and cloudier as I rose away from the East Coast so I stopped to put on some more clothes and take a picture of the sky. I also noticed some sheep hiding behind the bike and thought it would make a nice photo;

The roads here are all two lane, and they become narrow and windy as you go into the mountains. It is a motorcycle enthusiast’s paradise.

Everywhere you look there are sheep

And lots of gorgeous scenery

A couple of last things before I take off again.

At one rest stop there were these huge birds. They are called KEAs and are a mountain version of a Parrot. They are not noisy that I noticed but are ferociously hungry. They supposedly eat anything that will break off in their mouth, including car (and motorcycle!) parts.

And then I reached the beach. It’s pretty, but also dirty in a way. The sand is gray; it’s covered with driftwood and foam, and it was cloudy. I expect that to not always be the case. Anyway, a couple more then I’m gone. Make sure to check out all of the photos in the link above. NZ is really pretty. There should be a couple of good opportunities for more in the next week.

The last one is of some pure white rocks. I wonder how they formed.