A Trip Too Small: Fiji, New Zealand, and Some More

coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
edited September 10, 2015 in Journeys
Hello again! It's been a while since I've posted anything here, but this is still the best place for sharing photo adventures so I've silently kept up with everyone else's journeys, and now I'm on another one, so here we go! :D

Some quick links to the galleries included in this thread:
Fiji by ColdClimb: http://www.morffed.com/2015/Fiji/i-dZVRnSP
Fiji by Prezwoodz: http://www.kelseygrayphotography.com/OceaniaSouthPacific/Oceania/i-fsjcHnS
New Zealand North by Coldclimb: http://www.morffed.com/2015/New-Zealand-North-Island/
New Zealand South by Coldclimb: http://www.morffed.com/2015/New-Zealand-South-Island/
New Zealand by Prezwoodz: http://www.kelseygrayphotography.com/OceaniaSouthPacific/New-Zealand-2015

We departed Alaska in two separate groups, myself and my wife Tracy in one and Kelsey (Prezwoodz here) by himself. We met up again in the LA airport for the last leg of the first part of the journey, a quick eleven hour hop over to Nadi, Fiji. Arriving just at sunrise, we were welcomed to the island by a powerful show of color in the sky, and the usual marketers pushing their tourist fares. Having planned hardly anything up to this point except leaving Nadi, we decided our itinerary on the spot, rented a car, and left the airport headed north.

A few hours and one change of plans later we headed south past the airport, and still getting accustomed to driving on the left side of the road, we headed a few hours south and east to a small hostel we saw advertised near Sugatoka. The hours wiled away as we spent some time snorkeling on the nearby reef, and then after what seemed like forever, the sun finally went down on day one of our adventure.
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Day two we woke up and had a leisurely breakfast, accompanied by a herd of meandering cows drinking out of our swimming pool. Yes, that happened...
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Searching for some real Fijian experiences, we came across a small jungle reserve, and spent a good portion of the day wandering through the jungle on dirt paths, scoping out everything there was to see.
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Tracy follows the path along the edge of Waisila Creek.
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Waisila fall offered some nice viewing as it peacefully cascaded through the jungle.
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We took advantage of a sweet log spanning the canyon, where Kelsey posed for some jungle kung-fu.
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And at the end of our short hike, we found a refreshing swimming area, complete with a jungle rope swing. Kelsey partook, but Tracy and I neglected to bring the proper attire.
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John Borland
www.morffed.com
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Comments

  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited April 27, 2015
    Were totally going to super bomb this thread! Its going to be huge.

    We arrived in Fiji early in the morning and got a rental car. The prices here can definitely be expensive. We're not sure if we got a good deal or not but we ended up paying about $40 US per day for the rental. We made up for it on our first night and stayed in a relatively cheap bungalow. Somehow nobody else was staying at this particular resort.

    The inside.

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    And outside.

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    Ya thats a cow drinking from our swimming pool.

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    After settling in we found our way to Suva and Colo-I-Suva Forest Park. We were trying hard to get into the jungle by trail.

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    The trail winds along the river.

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    Tracy finding her way through.

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    The vines do the same.

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    Every now and then we came across frogs.

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    More falls.

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    And areas that looked like they came from WWII

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    The jungle is full of things to walk as we are missing our elevation.

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    Our drive back to the bungalow was relatively uneventful.

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    We were excited to finally get to one of the outlying islands and booked a trip to Mana Islands.

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    Local wildlife.

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    Goodbye mainland!

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    Hello Islands!

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    We landed on Mana Island after a 40 minute boatride.

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    We went snorkeling and saw some awesome sea life, turtles and manta rays! I mainly have video of the Ray so no photos but I did take some pictures of the sea life with my gopro. I rarely use the thing and will obviously need some practice.

    Our resort

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    A little underwater love with John and Tracy

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    Sea life.

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    Heading out on my first dive.

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    For those who like to dive the costs aren't to bad here but there not the best in the world either. It was $50 for one dive. Kind of expensive. But the sights were amazing. One again I don't really have any pictures just video but I saw sharks and turtles. Awesome stuff.

    We went back to the hostel and talked with Tiki, one of the workers who told us that if you use a stick to get your coconut from the tree they call you a pussy. So it was necessary to climb the tree and get our own coconuts.

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    Success

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    Of course that means you have to cut it open yourself too.

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    We hiked up to the highest point on the island to get sunset shots.

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    Other beautiful islands.

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    We wondered where this car was going...

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    Tracy in her photo pose.

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    Are you kidding me? This is paradise.

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    And for night life, sit back and watch the kids play.

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    Worst thing about travelling? Chain smoking tourists.

    More later!
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited April 28, 2015
    In an effort to keep the photos-per-page down, I'll break this up some. :D Day something-or-other we left Sugatoka early and dropped our car off in Nadi before hopping on a boat to head out to Mana Island in the Mamanucas. Here's Kelsey as the mainland falls behind us.
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    Mana island surprised us with a sort of lifestyle we're slightly less interested in. It seems most of the visitors to this area are bigger spenders than us, who enjoy spending time doing nothing at all on the beach in between carefully catered tourist outings, followed by drinking themselves to sleep accompanied by loud music every evening. We only had two nights here though, so we figured we could at least get enough adventure to keep us from dying, and we started it off with a bit of snorkeling on the reef that surrounds the island. Here, Kelsey waits on the surface as I borrow his Gopro for a portrait of a feather star, one of my favorite tropical ocean animals. Yes, it is in fact an animal, and those "fronds" actually grab you if you offer them a finger! :D
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    Tracy moves in for a closer look at the coral. Underwater photography is a challenging area I have little experience in, so I only got a few good photos, but I'm happy with those few!
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    Having somehow never climbed a palm tree to get our own coconuts, Kelsey and I decided we'd give it a shot. Here's Kelsey ripping his feet apart on his way to the coconuts, which were then surprisingly difficult to detach.
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    To complete the experience, you've gotta cut open your own coconut, right? Another not-so-easy task for the inexperienced, but we managed, although I started with the wrong end myself! rolleyes1.gif
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    Finally enjoying the fruits of his labor:
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    As the sun set on our last night on the island, we wandered to the top of a low hill overlooking the beach, which also seems to be the highest point on the whole island. Tracy and I posed for a quick selfie.
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    I now sit typing this on the beach in Nadi, and tomorrow morning we hop over to New Zealand and begin another stage of the journey! Stay tuned.
    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • CavalierCavalier Registered Users Posts: 3,010 Major grins
    edited April 28, 2015
    clap.gifclap Great, fun stuff guys - with some wonderful shots. Looking forward to more of your adventures.
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited April 30, 2015
    We left Mana Island behind as we rode on the bow of a motorboat, speeding across the South Pacific with a warm wind and a hot sun in our faces. As we rounded the beach of the island that had been our home for two days, I watched the glimmering wings of a stingray pass by underneath, too fast to linger and enjoy. We headed back to the mainland, picking up some sunburn on the way, and spent another night before heading out early the next morning bound for Auckland.
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    Auckland is a city like any other city, and we don't really travel to see cities. After picking up our camper van and catching up on chores like laundry and watching the new Avengers movie, we rolled out headed north and found a small campground to crash for the night. We had heard that camping in New Zealand is difficult, and that has proven very true, with it being illegal to just camp alongside the road anywhere outside of a campground, and even a lot of the campgrounds requiring a self-contained motorhome. Our camper van not qualifying as self-contained, we're stuck shelling out the cash in numbers we hadn't really anticipated, but maybe we can resolve that issue down the road.

    With a diving destination in mind for Kelsey we headed north, but deciding to forgo the trip to the very end of the island, we stopped off for a walk in the woods at the Puketi Forest Reserve. What can I say about this forest? I grew up in the Alaskan woods, I've explored California's Sequoias and Redwoods, treaded the Florida everglades, wandered through the bamboo in China, walked with Orangutans in the thick jungle of Sumatra, and I had nothing to compare this forest to. It's a little like the lush greenery of Oregon and Northern California, with a taste of Florida's ferns and then some, and with jungle giants that, while not rivaling the redwoods in size, are on equal footing with regards to natural majesty. On top of that there's the dense damp humidity of tropical jungles I've seen in Thailand and Indonesia, and one or two new features I've never seen before. Tall ferns support their widely spreading fronds well above the forest floor, dropping the light levels on the ground to a mottled heavy darkness and leaving a relatively thin growth of underbrush in most areas, and hidden out there in the brush somewhere, we know, is something none of us have ever seen: the nocturnal Kiwi.

    Entering the darkness of the forest, here's a spot of sunlight illuminating a dead stump, which supports other life long after its own spark is extinguished.
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    Looking up at one of the giant ferns that blocks the light from reaching to the forest floor:
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    Thick moss coats the surface of almost anything that doesn't move, and humidity levels ensure plentiful plant life everywhere.
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    A contrast of life and death: Here a fading fern frond rests lightly atop a living one, and the low light of the jungle here casts deep shadows underneath.
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    Kelsey takes a shot down a long hallway of tall fern stalks and tree trunks, a feature which seemed new to me and gave this forest a feel all of its own.
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    The trunks of these giant ferns turn black and grow a heavy coat of moss as the fronds drop off and the plant grows skyward. Here a small vine grabs hold and moves upward into the light against the black growth of the fern that supports it.
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    Deteriorating fern fronds turn almost black as they melt away into the jungle floor, returning to offer their nutrients to the life that follows after.
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    The smaller elements of the jungle around us being awesome, the main feature of this forest walk is actually the Kauri tree. These giants tower so high above the forest floor and the canopy of the other foliage that it's really quite difficult to get a decent photo of them, but trust me, they are awesome. Here's Kelsey checking out the feel of a Kauri up close.
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    This Kauri seems to reveal a closed door, which one can only imagine would lead one into the heart of the tree, were it ever to open.
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    Kelsey gazes skyward, getting close to a Kauri in the awe-inspiring forest of these giants.
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    The textured bark of the Kauri is reflective of the chipping and flaking which it undergoes as it grows, leaving behind a featured look that the eyes don't quickly grow accustomed to.
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    Moving deeper into the forest, we spotted this tiny blue mushroom, standing starkly in contrast to the dark and muted colors of the forest floor.
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    Sprouting fern fronds sport a sort of red fuzz as they emerge from the main stem of the plant.
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    The trail having been walked in its entirety and the day coming to a close, we headed down the road to a small campground offering a free place to stay for the night, and bedded in after a delicious dinner cooked out of the back of the van. We are well satisfied with our explorations of this new country so far, and we look forward to the next few weeks!
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    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • chaddchadd Registered Users Posts: 80 Big grins
    edited May 2, 2015
    Great report.
    It feels like I've been there with you.
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited May 3, 2015
    We landed in NZ and spent the day around Aukland and its not the most beautiful city, although it does have some photo worthy items. I didn't really take any on the first run. The next morning we decided to drive north and stopped at Puketi Forest Reserve to see what the woods look like here. It was an interesting start as we had to walk across a cow pasture to get there.

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    Right through.

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    You looking at me?

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    The bridge to the reserve.

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    For those who don't like lots of pictures of vines and ferns, this next section will probably bore you a bit but hang with me!

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    People had told us that NZ was pretty much just a second Alaska. Well we were beginning to doubt them as we don't really have tropical trees. What is this mystical place?

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    Some things were like home.

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    Some were not.

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    Kauri Trees, these may be some of my new favorite trees. Amazing energy and just a beautiful tree.

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    Lets leave the forest for a bit and lets leave in style. Van #1.

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    I wanted to dive at least once in New Zealand and at once I learned that the Poor Knights Islands were apparently something amazing. Rated as one of the top dive sites in the world it sounded like a good place to start.

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    Besides the diving they had some amazing scenery. This is the second largest sea arch in the southern hemisphere.

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    We went right through a few of the arches. They were huge.

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    Then we went into the largest sea cave in the world by volume. The acoustics were amazing.

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    And the color of the water! Schools of fish were everywhere.

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    I have some gopro footage but I'm probably to lazy to edit it. But the diving was amazing, we went through caverns and saw manta rays, and one of the best parts was diving with Seals! They would come up to us and just watch as as they passed. Couldn't be closer without touching them! No pictures of that as my gopro died on the way up to them. That was terrible but so it goes. We drove on to another campground near the beach and camped. It was time to go exploring at night and see what is out there.

    I came quickly up to what one would expect in the night, spiders.

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    After Africa i'd had enough of spiders though so I continued down to the beach and found some other photos to take.

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    Back at the campsite I'd figured I was done for the evening but heard a night right next to our campervan.

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    Awww. Cute.

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    And in the morning, my first good New Zealand sunrise.

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    Everything was waking up.

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    Textures.

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    Plant Life.

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    There she is, keeping watch.

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    We went back to Aukland to exchange our van, long story short, its what we did.
    While there we visited the Aukland museum. Can you sketch like this? Someone did and now its worth a lot of money. (A Picasso)

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    Dancing.

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    There going to do a race around the city with these vehicles. That's probably going to be amazing.

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    Some city art.

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    Geez this thread feels long. Anyone still with me on this? Oh well. Lets keep going.

    We headed off toward an area called Whatipu where they had some pretty cool caves.

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    And some amazing black sand.

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    I dont really know what caused this blue but it was pretty awesome.

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    Tracy enjoying the scenery.

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    Serenity.

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    Ok thats it for now! Wow. What a bundle. Were headed to some hot springs and botanical gardens and then finally climbing. See you then!
  • MitchellMitchell Registered Users Posts: 3,503 Major grins
    edited May 3, 2015
    Fantastic journey!! Thanks for taking us along.
  • denisegoldbergdenisegoldberg Administrators Posts: 14,155 moderator
    edited May 3, 2015
    I love reading about and seeing photos from your adventures. Thanks for sharing!

    --- Denise
  • captnemocaptnemo Registered Users Posts: 186 Major grins
    edited May 4, 2015
    Great stuff as usual, Love the blue mushroom- that's not a color you see in nature very often. and the little lizard. Of course more cave pics would be great too :)
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited May 6, 2015
    Catching a bit of internet in a shop in Wellington at the moment, but it's a bit slow, so I may not be able to get caught up...

    Leaving the jungle behind, we camped on the beach at a nice and affordable campground, where we saw the best clear skies we've had yet. Here, Kelsey prepares his luxurious accommodations for the night.
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    And here's ours - a little less luxurious, but it's all we need. We're not here to sleep, after all! :D
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    A few days were spent without much that caught my eye, photographically, but Sunday morning we had a short walk on the beach at Whatipu, which is a beautiful place with some serious wave action. Here's Kelsey testing the waters.
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    More uploading now...
    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited May 9, 2015
    Wow, we're getting a little behind on our internetting lately, so I'm almost forgetting where we've been and what we've done! Luckily I have pictures. Moving south from Auckland, our next stop was near Hamilton, where we caught up with an old friend of mine who was also traveling New Zealand, and staying with a local Maori family. They welcomed us in with open arms of incredible hospitality, gave us a place to sleep for the night, and taught us a ton about New Zealand, astronomy, and Rugby, as we watched history made when the New Zealand team beat the Australian team in the big game for the third season in a row. Apparently that's the first time this has ever happened!

    No pictures of our lovely stay in Hamilton, since we were only there overnight, but our many thanks and appreciation goes out to the family who opened their home to us there! Bidding our goodbyes, we headed southeast to Rotorua, where we had hoped to find some hot springs to check out, but it turns out the one guide to said springs is out of print, and copies are listed on Amazon for upwards of $2500, so finding good information is hard. We waded through the advertisements for commercial hot spring spas, and eventually just headed out to one we found listed online in anticipation of fighting heavy crowds for the spring experience.

    We were wrong! While there were a couple other people present, the hot waters cascade downstream at this location and offer a variety of pools for swimming. We had this one and its waterfall entirely to ourselves.
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    Of course hot water is nice, but pretty boring. We added a little excitement by traversing the falls itself.
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    Staying at a free campground near Lake Taupo that night, we awoke to take the best picture I've ever taken of ducks, resting in the morning calm on the steamy Waikato River.
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    The drive south from Lake Taupo to Wellington was probably our longest drive of this trip, everything here being so small and close. We spent most of the day driving, and found a free campsite well after dark just an hour or so north of Wellington. Just as I was starting to set up the tent, Kelsey took a short walk and immediately discovered a wild hedgehog - the first any of us has ever seen. He wasn't exactly keen on our photographic pestering though...
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    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited May 9, 2015
    Ah Wellington... we had heard a lot of good things about Wellington during our travels, but nothing really prepared us for what we found. And this time that wasn't a good thing. We hit town and spent the day walking around seeing the sights, which mostly consisted of a sort of a dingy grey unhappiness pervading a rather undeveloped and drab cityscape under a blanket of low clouds dropping a periodic drenching rain, and with the famous Wellington wind whipping in all directions in gusts capable of knocking people over. It wasn't a very nice place at all. ne_nau.gif We made the best we could of it, and then camped in the yard of a run-down hostel with a sort of abruptly unfriendly host. Most of the night was spent listening to the downpour while the winds smashed our tent flat on top of us, and then I slept a little bit at the end.

    We got up early to catch our ferry, drove our van on board with no troubles, and settled in for the ride to the south island. Wellington is a place I hope never to return to.
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    Swells rocked us for a while on our boat ride, and then suddenly as soon as Wellington was out of sight and well behind us, things mellowed out and we were greeted with smiling sunny skies and beautiful waters. See the difference for yourself - this is the small town of Picton that greeted us as we arrived on the south island.
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    Having had such an early start to the day, we took our time wandering westward to our first destination here, and stopped to enjoy and take in the views as we rolled us a ridge overlooking sheep pastures and vineyards.
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    While checking out camping in the area of Cape Farewell, which was our next goal in mind, we suddenly stumbled across a climbers-only campground. We hadn't realized there was any climbing in the area, so this was news to us, and we stopped for the night. The next morning found us diverted to a local sea cliff, where we pulled down on beautiful limestone overlooking the ocean. This was the first climbing we have done this trip, and it was a good thing. Here's Kelsey nearing the anchors on one of the routes we climbed.
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    On our way to the climbing we had passed a small sign warning to watch out for penguins on this coast. As the sun went down, we stopped for a bite and did some research, and discovered these penguins are nocturnal, returning to the shores in the evenings for their rest. We headed out to see if we could spot a few of them, and suddenly realized we were under an amazing blanket of Milky Way that had to be photographed.
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    Arriving back at camp tired and ready for sleep, we stopped to talk with our climbing friends from the day. They dropped mention of a nearby cave where one could see glow worms, and then offered to take us to it, which we immediately agreed to. Glow worms have been on our list all trip, and while we're told you can find them pretty much any overhanging dark place, we hadn't seen any yet. We hiked out to a damp hole in the ground, turned off our headlamps, and waited for the stars to come out, and we were not disappointed. Then we proceeded to attempt to photograph them in complete darkness for the next two hours. :D
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    We managed fairly well, though I think to do this experience justice photographically you would need a little more gear and experience. Up close and personal, these little worms are really cool!
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    The next morning found us hitting up a different crag, and this time our friend Aiden from Scotland who we met last year on the beaches in Thailand happened to be in the same town on journeys of his own, and joined us for the day's climbing. Here's our new German friend Manuel traversing a tricky section of a sort of interesting route we managed to get to the top of, with Tracy at the belay:
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    Here's Aiden on some of the area's beautiful limestone.
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    And that brings us through yesterday. This morning we woke early and ran through a heavy rain squall to a beautiful beach where we photographed frolicking seal pups under a rainbow from a whispers distance away. Those photos will come later! Stay tuned. :D
    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited May 11, 2015
    My turn!

    Thank you everyone for the comments so far!! I'm behind because the internet isn't as easy to find here as you would expect...well it is but its capped everywhere so it takes forever to get some photos uploaded.

    We last left off on the East Coast of the north Island. We spent a bit of time around Aukland switching our van out, which I wont go into but we got a new one. Then we began our trek south. We'd heard of hot springs and decided to try and find a few. The first one was a great river with some fun swimming holes called Kerosene Creek.

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    This is the stuff I've had to deal with this trip. John and Tracy never missing a moment to get in a kiss.

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    We stayed that night at a wonderful free campground on the river. It was wonderful mainly because it was free and it was on a pretty awesome river.

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    We stopped by a place simply because it said Thermal Pools and we were wanting more hot springs and it turned out to be a pretty awesome place. So far its the only hot springs were willing to pay for.

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    Local flora

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    We'd started moving pretty quick to try and make our way down to the south island. We'd heard it was pretty good down there and we were starting to run out of time! So we drove right on through some cool areas. Those of you who are LOTR fans will remember this as Mt. Doom.

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    In our campsite that night i went for a little walk and came across something I'd never found in the wild before. A hedgehog!

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    I called him sonic because I'm original like that.

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    dee ee, you were right. There are some awesome birds down here. These are for you.

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    (Uhg…i hate writing an entire trip report and accidentally closing the window instead of saving or sending it…which I just did. Lame! Ok here goes again.)

    We continued our way to Wellington which we found quite windy. I guess they call it Windy Welly for a reason. While in Wellington we accidentally ended up at the Weka Workshop, where they make all the LOTR and Hobbit stuff.

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    A cool place for sure.

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    They also made this guy.

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    We caught the ferry and ran for the South Island, it rained and blew us right out of Welly. The weather must get pretty bad as there are two lighthouses at some areas.

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    Hmm open and ready to go. Not a good sign.

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    About an hour out we felt the boat stop rocking and went outside. It was quite a difference at the South Island!

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    This was quite a view to be greeted with.

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    We first drove to a place called Takaka where we found our first climbers campground in NZ, Hang Dog Camp. We headed north to Pohara the next morning to find some dry cliffs and get our first climbing in. We were definitely rusty but found some great routes.

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    The views weren’t half bad either.

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    After climbing the sun started to go down and its hard to miss a good sunset.

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    When I say the views were not half bad I mean they were amazing.

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    We went for a drive and soon found that the stars were better then anything we see at home so we stopped again and took some more pictures. This day and night were going great!

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    We heard some noises and decided to investigate. Soon we found penguins! What! What a day.

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    We went back to camp and figured we’d packed just about everything we could into the day when we heard a guy talking about glow worms. Well our new friends decided to show us where some were and we headed back out with our cameras to a dark cave nearby.

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    I’d never been in a glow worm cave and was really excited to be in the darkness lit only by the glow worms. And our headlamps and camera lights which we played with constantly for pictures.

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    I didn’t like the pictures from afar so I moved in closer.

    Wow!
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    The next morning we were still on climbing mode so we didn’t take many pictures of climbing but I managed a few of Vincent on his first lead ever.

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    And Manuel looking quite relaxed.

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    After climbing we hopped in the car and headed for Farewell Cape and Golden Bay. Thanks for sticking around for this super long post. I had definitely gotten a bit behind but I think I’m catching up! I’ve got some more to post of the last few days so hopefully those will come soon.

    Thanks for all the replies too! I enjoy reading them and its nice to know others are enjoying the pictures as I go along!
  • ian408ian408 Administrators Posts: 21,870 moderator
    edited May 11, 2015
    Looks like an amazing trip!
    Moderator Journeys/Sports/Big Picture :: Need some help with dgrin?
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited May 12, 2015
    Alright folk, if anyone is still looking at this thing I'm surprised. If anyone is on dialup then I really apologize, this threads getting huge.

    We woke up and rushed off to Archway Islands in the morning, trying to catch some of the sunrise.

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    It was a really nice well worn trail along the hillside.

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    Right when we got to the beach it rained and we rushed off for cover in a cave. The weather changes fast around here.

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    Theres one thing about rain though, when it goes away theres usually some really great contrast in the sky.

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    And wow.

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    Also in the small pools you can often find baby seals playing. We were happy to find them playing with kelp.

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    You looking at me?

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    Young love.

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    Within an hour the sun had opened up and the islands came into view.

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    The animals are pretty adorable.

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    We headed off back to the car, happy that we'd seen what we came for.

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    At the parking lot Tracy made a friend...sort of...

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    Driving across the country theres one thing that we've seen everywhere.

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    And lots of...

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    Well thats it for now, I tried to make this one a little smaller. Maybe I'll make it to another page. Thanks for commenting!
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited May 13, 2015
    The north end of the South Island has a few beaches on it that are great tourist destinations. The one we had seen postcard-worthy photos of was Wharariki Beach near the Farewell Spit, so we headed north early in the morning to catch a 7:00am low tide and found ourselves traversing a very nice trail through some beautiful scenery.

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    After a few minutes of beautiful sunrise over the ancient grass-covered dunes, we reached the shoreline where the grass broke down and the dunes reared their sandy cores. As I took these photos, the first drops of rain began to fell and a dark cloud loomed over the nearby hill.
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    In a sudden downpour we ran across the beach to find shelter in a convenient cave we found nearby, where we sat out the rain for just a couple minutes.
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    With the rain dying down, we stepped out and started shooting some scenery while we looked for the islands we were here to shoot. Along the way we spotted some young seal pups frolicking in the tidal pools.
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    So we shot those guys for a while, fighting the challenging lighting conditions and the frolicsome movements, and we managed a couple decent shots.
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    Taking a break from the seal pups and walking down the beach a short distance, we discovered the photo angle we were looking for, looking out at Arch Islands. There's three arches that we could see from our vantage point here.
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    As we crawled around the rocks a little more we found a couple adult seals lazing around. They apparently aren't too sensitive to human contact, because they let us get quite close without any more than batting an eye.
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    Back at the tidal pools before leaving the beach, we scored more magical moments watching the seal pups play as a rainbow came out overhead. This is the best I could do with the lighting I had... Maybe someday I'll revisit this shot and see if I can process it better!
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    From the north end of the south island we headed across to the east coast and down, stopping for a couple nights to visit my uncle and his family in Kaikoura. I didn't get many photos of that portion of the trip, but I do have one or two coming, so that'll be my next post. Who knows when that will happen though... tomorrow morning we head for the hills again. :D
    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • ChrisJChrisJ Registered Users Posts: 2,164 Major grins
    edited May 16, 2015
    Awesome... still looking and enjoying! I try to never a miss a post by the Alaskan Adventurers (even if I don't always comment). I might be down in the South Island next month, so I'm looking forward to what you think about the Christchurch area, though it will be winter time.

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    Chris
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited May 17, 2015
    ChrisJ: Christchurch area has been good to us! It's getting chilly, but nothing Alaska doesn't beat by a mile, so I don't think your winter weather should be much of an issue! :D The mountains will be a bit snowier for you, but they're full of ski areas, so if you ski that'll be a plus.



    Leaving the northern tip of the south island, our path brought us across and down the east coast to Kaikoura, where my uncle and his family live. Kaikoura is a pretty cool coastal town with a variety of things to do, and after talking with the family and checking out the town, we chose to try our hand at Paua diving and surfing.

    Paua, commonly known as Abalone to us from the States, live in plenty off the coast of New Zealand, where it's legal to harvest them if you're not using SCUBA gear. My uncle Bill had all the tools and told us the tricks of the trade, but as he had some jobs this week he wasn't able to come with us. We headed down to town, rented some wetsuits, and set out to the beach. That's when things got sort of miserable.

    The wetsuits protected us pretty well from the cold water with the exception of our faces. While swimming out to the rocks we endured the cold aches with brief submersions until the pain dulled to a bearable level and we were able to keep our heads submerged. Visibility was about three feet or so, and a light swell rocked us back and forth. Upon reaching the area we were advised to try, we began diving anywhere from five to fifteen feet to the seaweed covered rocks at the bottom and searching for Paua. With the light swell, this involved swimming down until seaweed came into view, catching on to something like seaweed or a rock as the water pushed us past, and then pushing the seaweed aside and peering around, looking for a sort of shell-shaped rock attached to the larger rocks, which would be the univalve abalone we were hunting. The cold water and low vis were much smaller challenges than the tossing waves, but adding it all up, life was generally pretty awful. On top of that, once we found a paua we were supposed to detect which of the two types it was and compare its size to the guage we had to tell whether it was legal or not prior to harvesting. We never had to face the challenge of holding our breath that long, because we never located a single one, and after an hour or so of exhausting efforts the seasickness began setting in from the tossing waves, and we forged back to shore, crawling up on the old wharf exhausted, sick, and ready to give up on everything. What an adventure! rolleyes1.gif


    Our second item on the agenda was surfing. All of us felt awful after the paua hunt, but we were there and had to give it a shot, so we headed to the surfing beach and after a bit of sandy jogging to recover equilibrium and heat, we traded our turns on the one surfboard we rented. Here's Tracy trying to recover while watching Kelsey give it a go.
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    All of us, we have discovered, are fairly terrible at surfing. This makes perfect sense as all of us have only done it once before. We watched as local surfers caught waves nearby and rode them all the way down the angled beach. Two even had SUP boards and cruised around at will with little apparent effort. We showed all the signs of apparent effort, and in all of our attempts I don't think anybody came any closer to riding a wave than Kelsey is here:
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    It was a beautiful spot though, and we eventually overcame our exhaustion and sickness enough to give it a worthy effort.
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    Waking up the next morning, we stopped off at a seal colony to shoot a few of the lazy loungers lying on the rocks before we left town.
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    These guys were so adjusted to humans being around all the time that they let you get pretty close without even batting an eye. Apparently their bites do give you a nasty bacterial infection though, so we avoided angering any of them for our shots.
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    That night we made it through Christchurch and camped at a free campground alongside Lake Ellesmere, a huge lake that is mostly 3 to 6 feet deep all the way across, and is composed of brackish water (a mix of fresh and salt) due to its separation from the sea by only a small sand bar that periodically erodes and opens the lake to the ocean. We pitched camp, and as the sky was clear I set up to try my hand at some star trails as Kelsey and Tracy made dinner. Sitting in the van eating for an hour, not one of us noticed that right there in the background of my star trail timelapse was a beautiful display of the Aurora Australis. In fact it wasn't until last night as I put this image together that I discovered what we had missed. I have a whole timelapse of the show, but I flunked at assembling it into a video, so here's the blurry composite of an hour's worth of fantastic sky viewing. :D
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    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited May 17, 2015
    Time to continue on with this thread!

    We left off on our way to Kaikoura and stayed with some of Johns family members. They were great hosts and on our last day we had a massive crayfish / lobster dinner. But before that we decided it would be a good idea to give a go at surfing. I’d surfed poorly in Costa Rica and South Africa so it was a good place to surf poorly again!

    (This is not me surfing in the picture.)

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    The wind whipped at the top of the mountains.

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    This guy was cruising the waves on a paddle board and making us generally look bad. Or were we doing that to ourselves?

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    Heres John, this is what we looked like in general.

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    Tracy getting ready for the trip in.

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    We decided that we’d had enough surfing, we also took a break in-between to do a little Paua fishing, which I won’t go into for fear of relapsing into nausea and shock. Continuing on to the seal colony (because apparently you can never have to many pictures of seals) we found them to be lazy and generally uncaring of our presence.

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    This is what a seal looks like when he doesn’t care at all…

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    Some of the larger males were a little less happy about our presence.

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    That next day we drove to Christchurch and decided to camp nearby. I’d wanted to buy a new lens and the only way to get it was to wait for it to be delivered from Wellington. We camped at a large lake that was essentially just a giant lagoon. The entire lake was around 2 meters deep. A nice older gentleman told me he was fishing for flounder with a net and I decided to follow him and find out what kind of flounders he caught.

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    This was the average flounder size, he was pretty happy as the day before he’d caught 1 and this day he’d caught about 25-30.

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    Well I’d had about as much as my legs could handle, he was in protective gear and I wore shorts with no sandals. We spent the rest of the day in Christchurch waiting for the lens and then drove to one of our larger objectives for the trip, Castle Hill. For those who have been to Castle Hill you know what the climbing is like. For those who haven’t I’ll say this - Most of the climbs are slopers, with mantle sloper topouts, and slopers for feet and hands, and slopers for looking at and slopers, and slopers…Ok I’m exaggerating a bit but theres a lot of sloping going on.

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    John on an average Castle Hill topout.

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    But it was hard to deny the beauty of the place. The problems were everywhere and the boulders were numerous.

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    Some more odd then others. John was determined to top this one out.

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    Success.

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    We played around for hours. I barely made it up the easy ones and flailed around on some of the harder (for me) problems. We’d missed the crash pads for rent place so we went old school on it. Grass padding.

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    Walking around the hills we ran into a nice German girl named Nadia who was working on a farm study in Oxford. She joined us and climbed for the rest of the evening. We managed to stand up to face the upper slab but none of us had the V6 slab ability necessary to go further.

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    Amazing place.

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    A cold Tracy.

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    That night we drove to a free campground at another lake. I really like how so many of the free campgrounds are on lakes and rivers and outside of the towns.

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    What a view!

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    That next morning we woke up and headed into Castle Hill for day 2. We weren’t feeling that confident since it had started to rain pretty good but every now and then there would be a small break where we’d attack a boulder.

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    The wet rocks of Castle Hill.

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    Looking for something dry.

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    We climbed a bit more and to be honest we weren’t really sure if the water was worse to climb on or not but the increasing strength of the rain finally ran us off. We decided it was time to continue on. Its hard to climb only two days at an area but there was still a lot more we wanted to see. We made mental notes to return and drove on toward Lake Tekapo, a place that is called one of the worlds best sky sanctuary’s. Next is photos from there!
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited May 17, 2015
    For me, the main goal of this trip was to climb at Castle Hill Basin. This is one of the world's foremost bouldering areas, and for a number of obvious reasons. I've had my eye on these rocks for more than a decade, and to walk up the trail to this crag was a thrilling experience. We stopped off at the first rock on the way in and began our day's work pulling down on the slippery smooth limestone. Here's Kelsey on something like a V3, figuring out how to use these slopey holds.
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    Kelsey had a seeming aversion to the unfamiliar rounded style of climbing here, so he hopped on every crack we walked past to get a familiar feel from the stone.
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    The landscape here is dotted with thousands of perfectly sized (and larger) boulders sitting peacefully in a sheep pasture, which gives it a truly incredible setting for bouldering. Boulderers only started using pads as protection about fifteen years ago, so I hardly consider them an essential item for the sport, and in an area like this one I feel like it would almost be hard to justify using one, except on super high problems or on the rare ones with bad landings. Regardless, we didn't have one, and it didn't slow us down much. Here's Helsey getting off the ground on "Latte", a V1.
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    And again on an unnamed V3. For this one I tried out Kelsey's new 14mm wide angle lens. I like it. :D
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    This problem stumped us pretty good. We were able to get slightly farther than Kelsey is in this photo, but the super delicate moves and steep slab shut us down trying to get out of the stemming position shown here.
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    Day two at Castle Hill we woke to a drizzling rain that threatened our climbing prospects for the day, but my home crag in Hatcher Pass is famous for drizzling rains, and I may sort of have a reputation in smaller circles for climbing in said rain anyway. Moving out down the trail alone with a high level of stoke, it wasn't long before I found Kelsey and Tracy reluctantly backing me up, and we hit the rocks together in spite of the moisture. Here's Kelsey working the unusually delicate moves on a soaked V0 slab problem on the Submarine boulder.
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    Later in our wanderings we found this stellar formation featuring some really cool climbing up "Old Chimney", a V4. Here's Kelsey working out the moves inside the scoop, prior to attempting the exit out the top.
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    With energy high, at least on my part, we turned tail and headed out as the rain changed from a drizzle to a heavy dump, and said a happy goodbye to Castle Hill Basin. Two days is hardly a taste here, but it's a start, and maybe I'll come back sometime just to spend a few weeks just on these rocks. We wandered off south with a loose goal of finding camping on the way to an area we heard had a "sky reserve" and rolled into an empty campground late at night for some rest. Over dinner we found that we'd randomly picked a campground within a short distance of one of the area's climbing destinations, so in the morning we rolled out slow and enjoyed a few hours of light cragging before rolling on through more of New Zealand's famous sheep-filled scenery. For lunch we stopped at a pulloff with a view and had some Nutella sandwiches while watching the sheep and listening to the birds.
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    Lake Tekapo sits in a large area that is known as one of the world's few "sky reserves." We rolled in with plenty of time to check out the town, which includes a hilltop observatory on Mt. John that offers tourists some expensive tours and some free great views. We opted for the views.
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    Finding a free campground later that night, Kelsey and I set out to put his new lens to good use. It was a team effort - he had the lens, but Tracy and I had the tripods and remotes, so we shared everything. rolleyes1.gif Here's a shot of Kelsey inspired by my boredom as I waited for my turn with the wide angle. It's hard to tell using the red diode on Kelsey's camera as a main light source, but our vantage point for our shots of the milky way here was a few feet into the waters of the small Lake Poaka, where we could just get past the branches of the nearby trees and catch the stars as we saw them.
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    And here's my results. I was trying out different ISOs with a 30 second shutter, and caught a meteor in this shot. I figured I'd stop there. :D
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    A whim the next morning brought us a short distance out of our way to see Aoraki (Mt. Cook), and man was that worth it. The scenery there is incredible, and the mountains are super intimidating from a climbing perspective. This was evidently the training ground for a lot of great mountaineers, including Sir Edmund Hillary, although the summits here are definitely some worthy accomplishments on their own. Here's the highest mountain in New Zealand, known to the Maori as Aoraki.
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    And with that, you're caught up with my photographic adventures to date. Currently we're soaking up a little civilization and electricity in Wanaka, before wrapping up the tail end of the New Zealand section of this trip with a little more adventuring! Here's Kelsey shooting Aoraki to hold you over until we have more to show! :D
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    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited May 17, 2015
    Ok, time to continue on.

    We left Castle Hill happy to have gotten to climb at least a few hours and headed south toward the sky reserve. We took some night shots on the way in anticipation and to get used to the new lens.

    Getting there…

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    Obligatory campervan rental ad.

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    Testing Light ideas.

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    We headed off that next morning to a climbing area called Hanging Rock that we only discovered was there that night. It had some really fun routes and we spent another amazing fall day in the sun in NZ.

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    The scenery.

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    We finally made it to the Sky Reserve and drove up to Mt. John Observatory. There are night tours to the observatory which I’m sure are probably pretty amazing but also very expensive. It was $145…not really something we’re willing to pay for. So we played around as the sun set.

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    Expensive looking.

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    Beautiful scenery.

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    That night we drove toward a town called Twizel. We wanted to stay the night in the sky reserve and see if we could get a clear night shot, even though the report called for clouds. I setup my camera in the lake and waited… taking the shot…Yes! Thats what I wanted!

    Totally worth it.

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    We woke up the next morning happy and content on our night shots. It was time to leave the sky reserve. We could drive toward Wanaka or head back and drive 55km out of the way to see Aoraki / Mt. Cook. Of course we were going to do that because I really wanted to see the mountain. We were not disappointed!

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    Now that is one tough looking mountain.

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    If you don’t like pictures of peaks…well keep looking because you should.

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    The scary looking Mt. Sefton.

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    Theres a hut in this photo.

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    From the other side.

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    Valleys and features.

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    And my parting shot from Mt. Cook, this is a type of picture called a “little world”. Its my first attempt and I need to do a few extra things next time to make sure the middle is fixed but I think it came out good!

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    And now I’m finally all caught up! We’re in Wanaka and taking a bit of a rest day to catch up. Next we’re off to look for more penguins and other awesome creatures along the coastline as we begin the last week in NZ!
  • ian408ian408 Administrators Posts: 21,870 moderator
    edited May 17, 2015
    Man, you guys experience more in one trip than many will in a lifetime. I especially love the Mt. John/night sky pictures.
    Moderator Journeys/Sports/Big Picture :: Need some help with dgrin?
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited May 18, 2015
    A short one for today. We’re in Wanaka, a beautiful little town on the edge of a large lake. We took a bit of a rest day to make all those posts and get a bunch of photos uploaded. Now we’re waiting for 11am where I’m going to take an acrobatic plane up and do some flips and turns! I don’t know how to fly so I’ll be in the co-pilot seat of course but its still pretty exciting. We went bouldering a bit on the Lakeside Boulder here in Wanaka and here’s some photos from that.

    John on a V4

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    The right Variation

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    Time to give the V5 a go.

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    A great day for a few problems!

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    Thats it for now, just a small one. Hopefully we’ll go climbing near Queenstown today and have some more photos to share.
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited May 18, 2015
    Thanks Ian! We're always glad to have the great comments.
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited May 21, 2015
    I'll throw in this one of Kelsey on the same boulder. More will be coming, along with some epic adventure stories too, once we get more down time with internet. :D
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    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited May 22, 2015
    Well, time to continue on!

    On our last day in Wanaka I took a flight that was awesome! I got to take off and land the plane as well as take it through some aerial tricks. It was pretty enjoyable. I have a few pictures from that but just go pro screen grabs.

    From Wanaka we headed toward Queenstown which bills itself as the adventure capital of NZ and possibly the world. Well it was pretty awesome as far as “pay for adventure” goes with crazy boats flying around in and above the water, bunny’s, rope jumps, and lots more but we were looking for something a lot cheaper. So we headed off to a place outside of town called Wye Creek which looked to have some good rock climbing. It certainly had a great view.

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    We were not the only ones at the crag. These two were from Invercargill, Sarah and Libby I believe.

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    That is an impressive crag view.

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    We went right to our main goal which was to climb Dream Thing. Its a 21 that is known as being one of the best climbs for photos at an easier grade. Well that sounded fun! As we get to the crag John says “Did I forget my shoes again?”

    Yes, he had. But that didn’t stop him from onsighting the climb barefoot.

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    A few more of the gals from Invercargill.

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    It looked like cold fingers on the classic 16.

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    Tracy enjoys a bit of the belay.

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    One of the awesome aspects of this area is the approach. These boards and rails are placed on top of the pipe coming from the dam.

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    And its a long way down.

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    The trail passes several dams and some beautiful small waterfalls.

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    Thats the most I have uploaded at the moment! More soon!
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited May 23, 2015
    Heres a few more pictures of the dam on the way to Wye Creek climbing area.

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    That was a very pretty area for sure. I could definitely return to Queenstown for some rock climbing as there were lots of quality routes left. The guidebook has over 800 just for the area. But we were continuing on the photographic mission and headed off to Dunedin where we stopped by an Anglican church to take a few photos. Apparently this is one the largest organs in the southern hemisphere. Over 3500 pipes!

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    It was fun being transformed back to Europe with some gothic architecture.

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    We continued on to the Royal Albatross center where I paid a bit of money to see some baby albatross. This is the only mainland breeding colony of albatross in the world, apparently.

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    The baby weigh 9-12kg while the adults are 8-10kg. They have some very unique habits. Such as the fact that they can fly over 1000km per day.

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    There were also Royal Sheep at the Royal Albatross Center.

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    Then it got really interesting.We drove back down the road toward town and then took a detour to a designated penguin colony for the Yellow-Eyed Penguin, considered the rarest in the world. Driving into the parking lot with the ominous yellow light of the gas tank on, it signified we were nearly out and that the night was going to be unpredictable.

    We walked along the beach to a Hide, the beach itself was generally considered closed unless you were inside the hide or on your way. You see the penguins are very touchy and generally won’t come on to land when people are nearby. They’ll stay out in the water. We walked the 20 or so minutes along the beach to the hide and waited…and waited. Nothing happened. We’d passed a few seals, or sea lions I’m not sure which, along the walk. They didn’t seem concerned at the time. We waited long beyond when the prime penguin time was, for some reason they were’t coming in. Maybe they knew something we didn’t?

    We started the walk back. I was randomly looking around at the sand and John asked if I’d taken a picture of the clouds. I looked to the dark sky and started taking photos. He was right, they looked pretty intimidating.

    The waves increased and off in the sky some lightning struck the water. The clouds were growing and the sea lions were looking off to the sea. We walked a bit further along the beach and John and I saw a massive wave hit the shore far off in the distance. John mentioned that we should keep an eye on that one but very soon we came to a sea lion that was rushing up the beach from the water. He nearly ran right into me. We let him pass and walked about fifteen feet when a rouge wave rushed at us. We ran toward the sand dunes and tried to jump up the shore but could only make it a few feet. The wave managed to swamp me nearly up to the knees. I could feel the pull of the water at my legs. John had grabbed Tracy and her camera and jumped up the sand. Tracy didn’t notice that a log she’d tried to stand on was threatening to take her out to sea with it. She’d been soaked to the waist.

    We waited a few seconds as the wave rolled back out and jumped further inland as a few others followed. Lighting began to crash off the coast, some were close and some were far. They struck in all directions as the sky ripped open. Rain started to fall, gentle at first and then pelting the skin as it turned into hail that reminded me of dippin’ dots. We were running now, against the wind that pushed us around and threw hail into our faces. The wind was never at your back. Along the beach there were suddenly several running bodies, all trying to get back to their vehicles. Some hid fruitlessly behind small tussocks only to get up and start running again when they realized it didn’t really help, and it wasn’t about to let up.

    I looked to my right and a sea lion was rushing down the shore toward us. We’d missed it and suddenly were right in the path. The sea lion ran between us as though were were as unimportant as the logs. That meant we should do the same. We took off down the sand, at times running full speed into the wind and hail. My face stung, ears, eyes, even through my shirt as I tried to protect my camera with my coat. Everything was wet. The extra weight of the blowing sand and water slowed us to a dull walk as we went up the hill. The occasional scream of excitement of the storm dwindled and in set the cold from the biting wind.

    We made it back to the car in time to quickly tear off our wet jackets and fall dripping into the vehicle which, of course, hadn’t filled itself with gas while we were gone. Driving up the steep hill and now icy roads with a van that could barely drive across the grass and was threatening to run out of gas was nerve-racking. Mainly because none of us wanted to hitchhike to the gas station in the storm.

    I’m not usually that excited to pull into a gas station but this time it felt good to fill up.

    The oncoming storm. Thank you New Zealand, for giving us a taste of the sea.

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    Well, with the night behind us the morning was sunny and warming. We’d had pretty good weather for the trip and certainly wouldn’t complain to much about a single day of storm. The next place on the list was the Moeraki Boulders, some geographical oddities sitting on a beach.

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    Some had interesting worn features.

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    Others were nearly round.

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    While others were nearly perfectly circular.

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    Well thats all I have uploaded at the moment. I know this one had a bunch more writing in it. Not sure if anyones reading it but if you guys want more of a write up I can do that too. I usually just focus on the pictures !
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited May 24, 2015
    We’d decided it was time to try and find peguins again. Maybe it was our fun from the time before but we decided to head north to another designated penguin colon. We stayed the evening and watched a few penguins far away come out of the water but the ones that were supposed to be close eluded us. The next morning we gave it another try.

    They were leaving for breakfast which they fish for 40km off the coast.

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    A few of the closer penguins woke up and decided to join us.

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    We waited until 9 and I decided to go down on the beach. Your not supposed to go down earlier then that because it disturbs the penguins. And these guys…

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    But I finally got a good view of the penguins! Its as much fun to hunt for the shot sometimes as it is just to travel.

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    This guy was acting pretty lazy.

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    Will Finish NZ next time I get internet, I’m minutes from hopping on an airplane and heading to Bangkok!
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited May 24, 2015
    Ok, I think its time to close up NZ and fly off to a new place.

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    But first we have to make our way out of Oamaru, this town is actually pretty cool and has the coolest park I think I've ever been to. This is the human hamster wheel.

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    We spent about 15 minutes seeing if we could keep from flying out of it at full speed.

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    We went into a church so I could attempt to make a little world of the inside of a building. Well my computer cant handle the 43 image stitch apparently so here's just a regular picture.

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    And then John and Tracy went along with me to a place they probably never would have gone on their own. The office Steampunk HQ of NZ. The town has many beautiful Victorian buildings so it became NZ's victorian capital. How that morphed over to Steampunk...well I have no idea but I liked it.

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    Tracy playing the organ.

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    They had a pretty nifty room called The Portal.

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    Artsy.

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    Best thing about steampunk is is you can edit the photos anyway you want!

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    Well guys I guess its time I get out of here. I'm in Sydney, Australia's airport and I'm heading toward Bangkok. This threads about to take a more tropical turn! See you on the flip side!
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited May 24, 2015
    Guess I'd better get caught up!

    Kelsey opted in on one of the pay-to-adventure items in Wanaka, which was a flight in an aerobatic plane where, with minimal instruction, you are placed behind the controls of an airplane, and you personally get to take it through the maneuvers, including takeoff and landing and a variety of spins and stalls. There is an instructor backing you up, but you do all the controlling on your own. Here's Kelsey's friendly instructor demonstrating what Kelsey will be piloting them through shortly.
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    And there they go, with Kelsey at the controls.
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    I took fewer photos of our climbing in Queenstown, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. Here's Kelsey on an 18.
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    Visiting the albatross center wasn't on our list until we discovered it was right next to where we were headed to see penguins, so we stopped in and while Kelsey did the paid tour, Tracy and I walked out to a small point. Just as I arrived, and before I had time to change all my settings in anticipation of the event, an albatross swung by and passed within a stone's throw. We waited for over an hour and it didn't happen again, so here's my best shot!
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    The wait was worthwhile anyway though, as we watched the sun peeking through the clouds behind the lighthouse at the end of the Otago Peninsula.
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    Kelsey's story of our epic beach adventure while looking for penguins is fairly adequate for coverage of that experience, so I won't go into it, but I did shoot this photo of the beginnings of the storm.
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    The Moeraki boulders were another item that wasn't on the list until we realized they were here! We stopped in on our way north, and between other tourists we managed to take a few shots to show how crazy cool these things are!
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    Later that evening, and the next morning too, we spent about six hours total just watching a beach where penguins do their daily departures and arrivals. I confess I wasn't as dedicated to this as Kelsey was, so I merely shot from above and heavily cropped, but it was a neat experience to see these rare birds in their environment for our first time!
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    And that may just bring my New Zealand section to a close. Tracy and I dropped Kelsey off at the airport yesterday and are now there ourselves with more flights ahead of us taking us back to the states, where we have a few more adventures planned without Kelsey before we get home to Alaska! Stay tuned for those! :D
    John Borland
    www.morffed.com
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