Long, South Island...
I left the small port town of Hokitika the next morning and continued driving on winding
Highway 6, slowly snaking my way up the west coast. At Westport, I headed
inland and drove along the Buller River Canyon for about an hour, then headed over to Nelson Lakes National Park where, this being a Friday afternoon, I
was expecting to see huge crowds and a packed campground.
surprised, however, to find only a handful of folks in the park and a campground
that was mostly
empty, so I enjoyed a pleasant night there while camping near Lake Rotoiti.
It felt good to get some use out of the folding chair, water jug and sleeping pad
that I'd bought in Auckland a month
earlier, now that I've toted that stuff all over New Zealand. Nelson Lakes
is a nice park something like Glacier National Park in Montana, with snowcapped mountains, pretty alpine-like lakes, and a great Visitor Center
with a friendly staff.
Above left: Driving north on the West
Coast. Ferns like these are just about everywhere in New Zealand, and some
are taller than houses.
Above center: Pancake Rocks viewpoint
at Paparoa National Park.
Above right: This is why they call them Pancake Rocks. Neither
scientists nor Aunt Jemima know how they formed.
Above left: Highway 6 on the coast... and
yet more ferns.
Above right: A tight squeeze. Compared to the U.S., the roads in
New Zealand are really narrow (though most are wider than this one) and very
winding. It can take all day just to drive 200 miles. That's one
reason New Zealand seems a lot bigger than it really is.
Above left: The weather was nice enough to
camp. This is at Nelson Lakes National Park.
Above center: Lake Rotoiti at Nelson
Above right: Another shot of Lake Rotoiti. This area was covered
with ice during the last glaciation, about 10,000 years ago.
packing up my tent the next morning, I drove up to the vibrant city of Nelson on
the northern coast of the South Island, which boasts that it's the sunniest city in New
Zealand. Sure enough, it was
indeed warm and sunny when I got there.
I checked into a mom-and-pop motel that afternoon, then drove a few miles to Motueka
where I hoped to do some sea kayaking near Abel Tasman National Park, which
apparently is one of the
most spectacular National Parks in New Zealand. Ah, but with beauty comes
popularity, and unfortunately all of the kayak trips for that day were filled -- that's the price you pay for serendipity, I guess. I consoled
myself by staying up until midnight while watching the New Zealand Black Caps
play (and beat) Australia in cricket.
morning was sunny, warm and glorious, and after returning some e-mail, I drove a few hours
north to Picton which, as you may recall, is the ferry terminus for the
South Island. It was good to get back here after my 33-day trip around the South
Island. I checked in, once again, to the pleasant Broadway Motel and got some takeout at
Lord Thompson's Takeout, which is undoubtedly the very best fish & chips place in New Zealand
(and having eaten in just about every fish & chips place in this country, I should
know). That evening, you guessed it, I watched some more Black Caps cricket on T.V.
Good thing I'm not in a rut, huh?
I had a few
hours to kill the next morning before the ferry to Wellington arrived, so I
drove down to an empty park near
the Picton beach to update my website. As I was typing away at a picnic
table, a park caretaker, a friendly elderly gentleman, came by with a broom and as he swept, we started talking. We
chatted for 20 minutes as he told me about New Zealand and I told him about
America, then he smiled and bid me goodbye. That's the way
it is in New Zealand -- people often come right up to you and start talking as if
they've known you all your life.
while, I packed up my laptop computer, headed over to the ferry landing, and
boarded the ferry. On this ride, I was taking the
older, slower, and cheaper Inter-Islander Ferry instead of the sleek, new Lynx
which I had taken on my southbound crossing on Christmas Day
(see News: January
1, 2002). The Inter-Islander is a
bit rusty and, at 20 years old, is definitely showing its age but it has a lot
more charm and personality than the Lynx. I decided that I preferred old,
slow and cheap -- maybe that's because I'm also old, slow, and cheap. As
I lounged on the sun deck while watching the scenery pass by at 20 knots, I said
goodbye to beautiful South Island.
33 days on the South Island, I saw just about every corner of the island and
visited every sizable town -- and a lot of small ones. Overall, my
experience there was pretty positive. Yeah, it did rain a lot and it was a
lot more crowded than I imagined it would be. In fact, it was more crowded than just about
anywhere I've been in the U.S. during the summer. But heck, it's a
beautiful place, the scenic variety boggled my mind, and the people were
exceptionally friendly. I'll definitely come back to the South Island some
day -- just not in December or January.
Above left: Since my last name is Leu, I
got a kick out of this "superloo" in Nelson.
Above center: Sunbathers at Pelorus
Above right: Check out the mussels on the roof.
Above left: Kenepuru Sound on the northern
tip of the South Island.
Above center: Heading north on a
beautiful, warm afternoon.
Above right: After traveling around
the South Island for a month, I returned to the pleasant town of Picton where
I'd catch a ferry the next morning for the North Island.
Above left: One of the two Interislander ferries coming into Picton.
Above center: The first stop in
Picton: fish and chips. This little place serves the best fish and
chips in New Zealand.
Above right: "Three pieces of flake and one scoop, please."
Above left: The next morning, waiting for
the ferry to take me back to the North Island.
Above center: Leaving Picton and the
South Island, heading north.
Above right: Heading out into Queen Charlotte Sound.
Above left: On the Interislander Ferry
during the 3-hour ride to Wellington.
Above center: Saying goodbye to the
beautiful South Island.
Above right: And saying hello once again to Wellington, on the North
And Hello North Island
a pleasant ferry ride across the windy and choppy Cook Strait, I returned to the North Island
and, thanks to a tip in my Lonely Planet guidebook, found a campground at peaceful Rimutaki Forest Park.
Rimutaki is a wonderful place about 20 kilometers east of Wellington with a
stupendous trail through a tropical rain forest, which I explored the next
morning. The park is run by DOC (pronounced "Dock," as in
Department of Conservation), the main federal land agency in New Zealand. I love hidden jewels and
this one definitely qualified.
After my morning hike, I headed up the western coast
of North Island, passing the golf
course at Paraparaumu near Wellington, where Tiger Woods had played in the New
Zealand Open just a few weeks earlier. Unfortunately for Tiger, it was
cold and rainy during the 4-day event and, in his first visit to New Zealand, he didn't do
so well. When I drove by, though, it was sunny and hot, and I quickly
decided that I enjoyed wearing shorts and a t-shirt in January.
Camping at Rimutaki Forest Park near Wellington. This is what a typical campground
looks like in New Zealand: very few facilities and just a patch of grass
where you can pitch your tent. On the other hand, it cost only US$1.50 a
Hiking through the jungles of the beautiful Orangorango River valley
the next morning. This was one of the best hikes I've taken so
far in New Zealand -- and not nearly as crowded as the more famous
places like Milford Sound or Abel Tasman National Park (and no
reservations required, either).
I drove into Palmerston North (pop. 67,000) that afternoon, I decided to stop
and see Massey University, one of the largest universities in New Zealand.
For some reason, I really enjoy visiting universities and college towns.
In fact, I was so impressed with Massey University that I decided to stay in Palmerston
North for a couple of days to update my
website. I'm not exactly sure where "Palmerston South" or just plain old
Palmerston is, but I would guess that they're somewhere south of Palmerston North.
liked Palmerston North a lot -- not only does it have a college town flavor but
it also has, like many cities in New Zealand, a beautiful
square in the middle of town with a large, grassy park and shade
of the hassles of traveling on the road is having to find a place to stay every
night. Fortunately, I had stopped during the previous month at the
Automobile Association (AA) office in Auckland and got some travel literature, all of which
was free since the New Zealand AA has a reciprocity agreement with AAA (the
American Automobile Association). During my travels around New Zealand, my
AA motel guide became indispensable and I opened it up every afternoon and
scanned the listings for the town I was in. After a month and a half of
use, my motel guide was getting pretty tattered, but once again, I pulled it out
and looked for
a place to stay.
The Park Inn got my vote, so I found it on the
map and drove over late that afternoon. The receptionist there was a cheerful,
sandy-haired woman named Nita who was in her 40's. As so often
happens when I talk to motel owners, our conversation soon turned to the New
Zealand Black Caps cricket team. After a friendly chat, Nita gave me the
key to a nice room on
the top floor of a two-story building with a pleasant view of the area. Nita also directed me to the best
fish & chips shop in town, where I got a large order
to go along with a Lemon & Paeroa ("L & P") soft drink, which
is like carbonated lemonade. Unfortunately, they don't have anything quite
like L & P in the U.S. -- or New Zealand fish & chips, for that matter.
After a few
days in Palmerston North getting my website updated, I checked out of my motel room and had another
pleasant talk at the front desk with Nita. Just before I stepped out of
the office, Nita handed me a piece of paper. She knew that I liked cricket
so she'd written down for me the remaining schedule for the Black Caps cricket
team so I could watch them on television -- once again, typical New Zealand
Above left: Massey University in the city
of Palmerston North is the second-largest university in New Zealand. And
it's the prettiest campus I've seen so far.
Above center: The pleasant Park Inn was my home
for two nights in Palmerston North while I got caught up with my website.
Above right: The city square in Palmerston North.
giving Nita a cheery wave, I headed up the coast to see Mt.
Taranaki. You've probably seen pictures of Mt. Taranaki -- it resembles Mt. Fuji in Japan and
it's one of the
most picturesque mountains in New Zealand. Unfortunately, though, it was
shrouded in clouds during most of the day. After driving all the way
around Taranaki that afternoon, I headed down to the historic town of Wanganui and
checked into the Aeroplane Inn, another small, cheap mom-and-pop motel. Wanganui
seemed like an interesting old port city, so the next morning I spent a
couple of hours strolling through the vibrant downtown area. After walking around
for a while, I decided that
Wanganui is like an couch down in the basement: not real
flashy but comfortable and with a lot of charm... and, it seemed, with a lot of stories to
After leaving Wanganui, I continued
driving north to Tongariro
National Park, New Zealand's oldest National Park and the home of several
dormant volcanoes, the largest of which, Mt. Ruapehe, erupted just a few years
ago. This area of the central North Island, including Tongariro and the
cities of Taupo
and Rotorua is the most volcanic area in New Zealand.
(pronounced "TOE-poe") is a pleasant resort town on the shores of Lake Taupo, the
largest lake in New Zealand and one of its most picturesque, so I thought this
would be a good place to settle in for a couple days and finish updating my
website. Taupo is also one of more pronounceable Maori place-names that
I've run into so far, and it was a welcome relief after dealing with hundreds of
names like Whangirangiparanui or the like, none of which I can ever remember for
more than five minutes.
Along with updating my
website during my two days in Taupo (and, yes, eating more fish & chips and
watching more Black Caps cricket), I
also got a chance to see some of sights here. With all the geothermal
activity around Taupo including geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles, this area is a
Yellowstone National Park though, unfortunately, the most spectacular sites are
privately owned and charge admission. Nevertheless, it's an interesting
area and I wish I had more time to see it, but I'm leaving New Zealand in a few
days and I still have a lot of traveling to do, so it's back on the road.
Above left: On Highway 3, north of
Above center: Mt. Taranaki, also known
as Mt. Egmont, is 7,500' high and resembles Mt. Fuji in Japan. It's often
covered with clouds, so I was lucky to see it.
Above right: New World is one of the biggest grocery chains in New
Zealand. Here I am restocking on kiwi fruit, "Bulk Chips" (the
closest thing here to Doritos), and "tomato sauce" (i.e., ketchup) in
New Plymouth. They don't have canned chili in New Zealand, though, and they
only have Coke here, not Pepsi. Oh well.
Above left: Driving down Highway 3 on the west coast.
Above center: Wanganui
is one of the oldest cities in New Zealand. It's a bit run down, but has a
pleasant and vibrant downtown area. That's the Wanganui River, the longest
navigable river in New Zealand.
Above right: Downtown Wanganui and its charming architecture.
Above left: Although the roads in New
Zealand are narrow, winding and slow to drive, they're kept in very good condition. I've seen road crews
everywhere during my travels.
Above center: Kiwi crossing, in
Tongariro National Park. That's volcanic Mt. Ngaurohoe in the distance.
Above right: I've been in New Zealand for nearly 2 months, but this is
the only Kiwi I've seen... stuffed and mounted in the Tongariro Visitor
Center. Kiwis are endangered and their survival is uncertain.
Unfortunately, domestic dogs and cats and the weasel-like stoats kill a lot of
kiwis while they're still chicks. New Zealanders really love Kiwis,
probably the same way that Americans feel about Bald Eagles.
7, 2002 (Auckland, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 1 (Taupo, New Zealand)
25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
New Zealand Trip
> February 2, 2002 (Page 2)