Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ferry Crossing Wellington, North Island to Picton, South Island, Friday, February 22, 2013

The ferry crossing from North Island (or vice versa) takes approximately 3.5 hours.  The ferry passes through the Cook Strait, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea....never calm.....a matter of how turbulent.  Our crossing was complicated by high winds and seas BEFORE the Cook Strait....

This may not LOOK very rough to you from these me....(that would be the author, Kathy...the sailor, the one who snored though the hurricane force winds thought nothing of it) was you see ANYONE else out there on the deck, including our sailing captain TOM, who was enjoying an espresso at this point?!

This is a FERRY??  It carried, we think, approximately 20 semi trucks, fully loaded,  80-100 passenger vehicles, fully loaded and additional 150-200 foot passengers......enormous!  There are ferries of similar magnitude around the New York, for example....but is it a 3.5 hr crossing on confused seas???  

Checking in

A group of Asians next to us......having a great time!!

An arcade for the kids

Dining area

One of the bars

Another bar...note the TV's

Not the best pictures, but hopefully, you get the idea that this is not an ordinary ferry....bars, restaurants, movies, sports bars.....and we paid a nominal extra get a comfortable seat....we didn't know that included full breakfast, midmorning snacks of bagels, croissants, etc. and unlimited soft, energy, sugared, coffee, tea, AND alcoholic drinks.....we will be better prepared next time...

Our first sightings of the South Island......a dismal one, at best

Turangi to Wellington - Thursday, February 21, 2013

Our fellow IKA lodge mates.....Guillaume and Celine....from France....have lived all over France....he is finishing his residency as an ENT physician.....taking a break before he accepts a position..

Our gracious host, Ken, and his wife, Margaret, who have owned the IKA for the past five years...they were "closing shop" for the weekend, as we left.  They were going to Christchurch for a concert and a long weekend holiday for themselves!

This beautiful lake was filled with black swans....they obviously lived here....were not bothered by our presence nor by two power boats which were jockeying for "fishing position"...

We have seen these signs in other countries in Europe......Kids hop off the school bus and RUN to we have a major cultural difference here?

FROSTY?????  The Snowman.....slippery not when wet nor icy...FROSTY!!

Snow capped mountains..

Near/next to a volcano...

Next to what we thought was a forest fact, a "burping" volcano...hikers are restricted to a distance of 3 miles from this potential eruption.  This is a disappointment to those serious hikers who travelled far and wide to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing....a steep, strenuous 13 mile hike.....

The Tongariro National Forest is one of the original UNESCO World Heritage a matter of minutes, we have switched from mountains, to volcanoes, to lakes, to near desert, to rolling farmland, to verdant pastures...we are still catching our breath:  "Are we really in New Zealand?"

Time out for a passing train....note the graffiti on each passing car.  There were about 50 cars and each  one was decorated with different graffiti....wonder why and how that happens?....and read carefully the last picture, if you can...."No bells 10:30pm to 7:00 am".....better be vigilant if you are returning late from a party!

Besides having pretty churches and pretty art galleries, Ohakune is also the "Carrot Capital of NZ"!

This is the town "Bulls", on the north island of New Zealand. approximately 40 miles north of Wellington, our destination for the night.  At the risk of delaying our arrival, battling rush hour traffic (still on the left side, still fairly beige knuckled), we stop....and hopefully, you will see why it is worth the the Kiwi humor and creativity!!!

Read carefully on this one!

Not quite a "bull", but nonetheless fun and creative:  "PIG AUTOMATION"

We arrived in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, in time for "happy hour".....crashed and burned....the previous two days hit us like a brick and we never left the Ibis hotel....couldn't tell you nor show you a thing about Wellington....perhaps on our return trip....another advantage of a LOOOONG trip....we get another chance!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

WE MADE IT!! Wednesday, February 20, 2013

We sailed into Auckland Harbor at 7:00 a.m........first thing we saw is this ship in the berth next to ours.....the Holland America Oosterdam, which is the very one upon which we will return to the U. S. on March 30...

Our second view.....and MY last....I waited at the port with our luggage while Tom went to get the rental hour later, he shows up in a van with another couple and a driver????  The rental pickup   location is 15 miles from the port.....a detail not mentioned in prior emails......hmmmm

Rental car (Toyota Corolla) acquired, we take off, but not very far....just around two "round abouts" (traffic circles), driving on the left side, white knuckled, stressed to our collective max, but, alas, another major hurdle to jump. ......our communications setup with Verizon which we had plannned for months before our departure was all cancelled during our voyage...we received an email while on the ship, advising us that New Zealand had switched to GSM negating all our plans.....we had to find sim cards which is no big deal, but we also had to be certain that Tom's ipad mini would be our GPS.   And we don't speak the techno language.....We did some homework and discovered that an upstart company, 2degrees, is giving Vodaphone stiff competition....

This kind, patient beyond belief young man, Shane, helped us equip the mini and Tom's iPhone for communication and GPS use.  He did not roll his eye balls, nor laugh, nor snicker...even sent us to his competitor down the corridor....but, in the end, he made the sale....and for much less than the Verizon deal...

Ok, so it is sorta "hokey", but as we left the 2degree store, we passed this sign.....which was my Mom's nickname and now my "grandmother" name.....a sure sign that good luck is coming our way...

To celebrate and fortify ourselves for the upcoming drive (on the left side, in traffic), we decided on this place for lunch....and a "board meeting", planning session.....Our goal is to get to the South Island as quickly as possible....simply because the further south we go, the colder it will be....and we are here at the beginning of their autumn.  So we triple check our route (two paper maps and Tom's new iPad mini we go!

So far, looks pretty much like the Midwest....lots of cattle and dairy farms, rolling hills and beautiful farm pasture land.....cattle, cattle everywhere.

Lake Taupo.....the largest lake in New Zealand

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder

And THIS is Tirau's Information/Visitor Center!

We finally arrive at our first night destination:  Turangi, located in the middle of the North Island.  Our lodging is pictured below.....It is  a bed and breakfast in a home...

The name is pronounced "EEKA" and is a type of bird.

The driveway approaching the house was filled with summer blossoms!

Charming and inviting....our hostess advised us to go to dinner ASAP.....Turangi is not very big and most things are closed by 8 p.m.

We walked to dinner down this path....

by this little river....

to this restaurant, The Bridge, which looks very plain, but the food was delicious!!!!  Yea!  WE MADE IT!!