Abel Tasman and One of those days

Abel Tasman

This morning before starting another long drive I try to check the oil on my campervan after reading in the lease agreement that is something I should be periodically doing. The problem is I can’t find the engine. I’ve never owned or even driven a vehicle like this before. When I open the front hood it is all nonsense inside. Finally I ask a stranger at a gas station. He tells me he isn’t really familiar with the van but he thinks the engine is under the passenger seat. What?!?

Sure enough it is.

Looky there

After checking I am back on the road but I make a pit stop at a park where I read about my favorite bugs (sarcasm).

Apparently I am the filet mignon of humans

I am heading to the north coast and my destination is Abel Tasman. I have a reservation for two nights at a campervan site near the water.

Abel Tasman at low tide

The drive to Abel Tasman is twice as long as the estimate is. Once again I did not sleep well in my van last night so I am tired. Also it is really stressful driving on the steep winding roads heading into the Abel Tasman National Park; traffic is bad and cars ride my tail. I normally pull over to let faster cars pass but there is no shoulder for me to safely pull over. To top it all off I can’t find a place to buy gas that will accept my credit card and I am running really low on gasoline. I stop at a gas station one after another, each spaced far apart, and none of them are able to accept my credit card. I am almost at my campsite and when I discover the gas station nearby will not work as well so I have a mini panic attack.

I know a panic attack about finding gas sounds silly but I am pretty worn down and stressed out at this point. I turn around and end up driving to another town to find a gas station; thank goodness my van made it. This gas station has an attendant where I can make my purchase. I buy gas and three candy bars because I can’t decide if I want crisped rice chocolate, almond chocolate, or chocolate with peanuts so I just buy them all. Isn’t that what you do when you have a panic attack?

I decide that tonight would be a good time to spend some money on a hotel room. I just imagine getting to a crowded campsite with a bunch of screaming kids and end up getting into an argument with another traveler being very inconsiderate (something that tends to happen at these campsites time to time).

So that’s how I end up at a motel tonight. Hopefully I get a good nights rest and I am up for a hike because I’ve been looking forward to a day hike, I just wasn’t looking forward or expecting the crowds. But it is Monday so maybe it won’t be quite as bad tomorrow.

For tonight I have my candy bars ready and decide to go for some delicious veggie pizza at Sprig & Fern Motueka. It is really great veggie pizza. You can tell the vegetables are cooked fresh. Pizza and chocolate makes the world better, right?

Abel Tasman

Today I am doing a hike at Abel Tasman National Park. I wasted a day yesterday so I can’t do as long of a hike as I originally anticipated doing.

Abel Tasman National Park is named after a Dutch settler who had a battle with the local residents. Settlers eventually destroyed the area for logging, etc. They also tricked the native population into giving up their land.

In the mid 1900’s the land was preserved and turned into a park. Now it is a beautiful haven for day hikers, campers, and kayakers. One can spend days hiking from location to location while staying at different campsites.

I am only prepared for day hikes and fortunately there is a water shuttle to assist in that.

Waiting for my water shuttle:

My plan today is to take the shuttle from Kaiteriteri beach to get dropped off at Anchorage and hike back part of the Abel Tasman Coast Track to pick up the return shuttle at Apple Tree Bay. I have the option of walking all the way back to my car if I am feeling real adventurous. This shuttle ride only goes half-way into the park. I could could go further and see other interesting walks; some only available at low tide. I chose the one I did because it seems easily doable by me and I don’t quite trust the New Zealand track rating system; Kiwis tend to be in way better shape than I.

Taking off to Anchorage:

Split apple rock

I have arrived at Anchorage. Upon arrival I see the overnight camp site. Being intrigued I peak in the dorm. There is a nice dorm area to take coverage in overnight. No technology but at least not left out in the elements. I am happy to use the composting toilet before I begin my hike.

Dorm bed building

I start off the hike confused because the directional sign points in the opposite direction from where I believe the trail should start. I guess it is ok because the trail starts by going uphill and across the peninsula and heads back the correct way.

As I walk up the trail I hear lots of bugs. They are very loud but fortunately they all leave me alone.

The first part of the trail is mostly uphill but is well covered by the trees. Soon the trail opens up to a great view. It is warmer up here but at least I can see the water below.

Looking back down the way I came
Looking down at Torrent Bay

It is warm but not too warm, almost perfect for hiking.

I keep track of all the directional signs to ensure I am still going the correct way.

If I want to make it back to my car I am looking at least 11 km walk.
They have the pine issue here as well.
I am getting close to water again

I stop at a pretty beach on Akersten Bay to take a break and eat my sandwich. Hikers can camp on this beach for the night. The trail to get down to the beach is a little steep, unstable and at the end I need to hop over a cute little stream.

Again the sign is pointing in the opposite direction for which I think it should.
But the beach is still on my left so I am good.
At Apple Tree Bay. Do I want to hike another 2.5 hours to my car?

I finally reach the beach where the shuttle will pick me up, Apple Tree Bay. It is only 5.5km or so to walk back to my car. I consider it while I rest on the beach. There are very few people on this beach. I watch a family with their kayaks stop here to rest.

I decide to go ahead and take the shuttle back. It is a nice ride back.

Abel Tasman is beautiful and peaceful (except the main beach on the weekend). I could spend a week here camping, hiking and kayaking. One more thing to love about New Zealand.

Moeraki New Zealand Day 2

Today is my second day in Moeraki. On the agenda today is to go see the famous boulders on the beach then head back to Katiki Point to try to catch a sight of penguins again.

I enjoy the cooler weather with a yogurt, granola and banana with a coffee looking at the water below.

Yummy yogurt from the local store

I watch the boats heading out for a day’s fishing.

The best time to see the boulders is a low tide. Today that is scheduled at 11:30 am.

I walk along the road a little bit until I reach a now partially closed path. I take the Millennium track toward the beach. It seems like the track was longer in the past (closer to my holiday park) but erosion has made part of the trail unsafe. The brush is slightly overgrown. I am wishing I would have worn long pants today.

I finally make it to the beach where it is nice and calm. There are very few people on the beach but I do notice a dead seal. It is really sad to see. Luckily it has been removed before my walk back.

I make it down to Moeraki Boulders Beach to look at the unique boulders. The boulders were formed around 60 million years ago during the early Paleocene. They are now being uncovered due to coastal erosion.

I head up to the nearby café to order some fish chowder.

Moeraki Boulders Cafe

After lunch I walk back to the holiday park back along the beach.

I hop carefully from rock to rock to a secluded area. I savor the sounds of the ocean and birds. It is very calm here. I notice tide starting to rise. Not wanting to get “trapped” I head back the way I came. I think this probably used to be part of that now defunct track.

I notice different types of flowering plants on my walk back.

I relax for a little while before heading back to the Katiki Point to try to get some more penguin viewing. Today I end up seeing only one penguin.

He goes away from view for a while so I end up looking at some more seals.

The penguin moves uphill where I snap a couple more pictures.

I drive back to the campsite but first stop by the village to walk around. There isn’t much to the village but a pier and a nice restaurants. I have food to eat back at the campsite so I forgo the restaurant.

Cool campervan I see

Back at my campervan I set up a semi-healthy dinner. I make a large salad but can’t resist butter bread with this spectacular butter (I feel like an influencer now, they should be paying me).

I love my stop in Moeraki. If I had more time I would have checked out the nearby towns of Dunedin and Oamaru. Oamaru in particular has the Steampunk HQ: a funky museum of all things steampunk (a missed opportunity on the drive into Moeraki). I just kept missing the window of opening hours so I regret not stopping on the way. I think it would have been fun to visit.

Tomorrow I head further south to Te Anau to get closer to Milford Sound. Loving my visit to New Zealand so far.

Kaikoura, there she (doesn’t) blow

Train to Kaikoura

We take the train to Kaikoura today. We arrive at the station in Kaikoura and there is no uber and no regular taxis. There is only one guy with a passenger van who will give rides from the train station. He has a business card but doesn’t seem to be always available for rides. I arrange a ride in the morning to the dock for my whale watching boat (at the time I didn’t realize it is in walking distance from my hotel). Anyway, it is hard to get around here without a car unless you don’t mind walking a while.

The ride to Kaikoura is beautiful with an open air observation car at the back of the train (think cattle car).

Train station and whale watch office

Hotel in Kaikoura – Lobster Inn Motor Lodge

My aunt has a sunset kayak tour scheduled for the evening. We originally thought I would be joining her but I have done some damage to my shoulders while traveling. I am pretty sure ocean kayaking is not in the cards for me at this time. Unfortunately due to rough seas her tour gets cancelled for the evening. She hopes to do a paddle tomorrow sometime during the day instead.

We arrive early enough for lunch. We visit the cafe across the street where I get to try green-lipped mussels. They are large and quite tasty.

I go to bed early because I have an early morning boat ticket for whale watching tomorrow. Kaikoura is supposed to be a magnificent place to see whales and other sea animals.

There is a 6:45 arrival time for my tour, the first tour of the day. My driver drops me off on time at the office. Once I arrive I come to find out that both my cruise and the cruise scheduled immediately after is cancelled due to rough seas. There are people in line already to reschedule for a later time but most of the other times this morning are already booked. The only time I can reschedule is for the afternoon but doing so would make me miss our train ride that we have booked back to Christchurch. I am disappointed. I usually schedul multiple days in a location in case something like this happens but in this case I did not.

My aunt goes on her kayaking tour this morning as scheduled. I plan to meet up with her later in town. I decide to walk back to the motel from the whale office instead of trying to find the one taxi guy in town. It is a nice walk along the beach.

I spend a couple hours making some phone calls that are much needed to the USA. I have a short window to take care of business by phone since our days are their nights and vice-versa.

After I take care of things I walk down to town. It is a cute little town. I see signs for crayfish everywhere but I am too cheap to order it so instead I end up getting a huge fried flounder and chips at Strawberry Tree Kaikoura. While the fish below is quite tasty, I regret passing up the crayfish because later when I get serious about trying it before I leave New Zealand I end up paying even more for it and end up disappointed. It is probably much fresher in Kaikoura.

My aunt finally meets up with me and helps me finish the fish. She has a photo of the bones and asked if I wanted to post it but it isn’t pretty so I’ll forgo the photo.

We have a little more time to kill before we pick up our luggage so we visit the local museum Kaikōura Museum. It gives a little taste of the history of the area. There is a good exhibit that talks about the major earthquake that occurred in 2016. A great deal of damage had been done to the coast, roads and tunnels. It is said to have pushed the south island 5km closer to the north island.

We head back to get our luggage and then to the train. We are heading back to Christchurch to overnight before our day trip to Arthur’s Pass tomorrow.

Kaikoura is beautiful and I am very sad I didn’t get to see whales during my visit. If I ever make it back to New Zealand it is definitely on my list again – next time for more days.

Video of train ride to Kaikoura

More Sydney

In Sydney our hotel isn’t too far from the Royal Botanic Gardens so we end up walking past it a few times during our visit. We finally take the time to book a garden tour. I do love being introduced to new types of plants. The climate in Sydney seems to be similar to Florida so it makes sense that I see some of the same sorts of plants I have seen back home. The garden has some fun and different ones as well that are native to Australia only.

When you have just given up collection in the bookstore #forevercatlady
Brachychiton rupestris or bottle tree
Hard to see but this tree is full of parrots.
Fun old Fig Tree

Manly Beach

Another day we take the ferry out to Manly Beach. We must be taking the slower ferry because we see the fast ferry pass us by.

The ferry drops us off and we walk through a district with shopping and restaurants to get to the beach.

We view Manly beach but walk on to another beach

We end up at another beach called Shelly Beach. The sand is basically broken shells and they are beautiful. The water is very cold but I love it. I walk out cautiously so I don’t slip on the shelf of rocks.

We don’t stay long since we aren’t much for sunbathing and the water is a little too cold for my family. We walk back towards the ferry and see a fun lizard on the way.

Manly Beach

Before hopping on our ferry back we stop at Betty’s Burgers for a yummy burger and some fries.

The next day we take an Aboriginal walking tour. For some reason I put down my camera during the tour but the guide, an aboriginal guide, takes us on a tour of the area near the Rocks and informs us of history and customs of his people. He shows medicinal uses of local plants. We learn about totems, a natural object, plant or animal that is inherited by members of a clan or family as their spiritual emblem. They are tasked with protecting that totem. We are told about how it is a rite of passage for a boy to carve a canoe out of a tree. It is a great tour.

Our last day is spent lazily. We could have left town for the day to view the mountains but the brushfires have made those activities dangerous at this time. We wander around some of Sydney. I check out some street markets.

Steps near our hotel

I leave Australia tomorrow for some time in New Zealand. My aunt will be joining me for a couple days of exploring. We are both excited about visiting what we think will be a beautiful country.

I say goodbye to my cousins hoping to see them soon when they make a trip to the USA next summer. Note: They are not able to visit USA this year (2020) due to covid outbreak. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait longer to see them in person again.

New Year in Sydney

Sydney Opera House

It is new year’s day in Sydney Australia. We get a late start today because we were up late. Luckily I am not hungover from last night’s celebrations.

After visiting both Melbourne and Sydney I decide Melbourne is more my style but I think I would like Sydney more if I didn’t visit in the middle of their darn summer! It is quite warm here – as is most of my travels lately. However it is nice to be with family though. It is also nice to travel with someone who is compatible with my travel style right now. Prior to my sabbatical I would take 2 week or shorter trips where I would book every moment moment possible with stuff to do. I cannot do that type of travel on this trip or I will burn out. It helps to travel with someone who has already been to Sydney and doesn’t have an urge to see everything that can be seen.

We didn’t just sit around during our visit though: We crossed off a bucket list item by booking tickets for show at the Sydney Opera house on New Years Day. We witnessed great performers singing opera hits.

What an experience!

Bondi to Coogee

Easily accessible by train and bus we took the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. It is a beautiful and warm day and the views of the coast are great.

Along our walk we see Sydney ocean pools some of which were constructed in the late 1800’s. They are a very interesting concept. I enjoy looking at them and the different rock formations along the coast.

Are you my friend?

Still in Sydney for a couple more days. I’ll talk more about my visit in one more post!