az 2 nz & au what & why where references
photos news

news of the journey

daily accounts, bit by bit

news stand

latest news
the most recent dispatch from the field... (more)
catch up on previous news postings... (more)
email list
Sign up to get email reminders when there is new news... (more)
recent news

oct 15, 2000
Wanaka and rainy days at Franz Josef Glacier... (more)

oct 14, 2000
Natalie arrives! Te Anau & a night on Milford Sound ... (more)

oct 12, 2000
Invercargill, Athol flat tires, and snow on the long route to Queenstown ... (more)

oct 11, 2000
Multimedia schools, museums, and the streets of Wellington ... (more)

oct 08, 2000
Museums and windy beaches in Palmerston North ... (more)

oct 06, 2000
Graphic Arts at Whanganui Polytech ... (more)

oct 04, 2000
Biking n' Hiking in Taupo ... (more)

oct 02, 2000
Build me an ark in Rotorua ... (more)
october 17, 2000
photo here Having enough of rainy glaciers, Natalie and I headed another 150 kilometers or so north, along the coast, to the town of Hokitika. Once a gold miner's hangout in previous centuries, the town has more of a tourist bent, though we were a week or more early for nz location map the first rush of visitors. The town is known know also for its greenstone (jade) jewelry, from sources in the mountains east, and also for its cuisine. Our stomachs were curious about the latter.

photo here Our first mission on getting to towns is finding the "I" center, or Information center. This system is wonderful service you can find in big cities or the smallest of towns, a friendly staffed place, clearly marked with a big italic "i", with ideas for things to do, Better yet, they are able to call ahead and make bookings for you.

photo here In Hokitika we were quickly sold on a night's stay in the log cabins on the beach at the Shining Star. These places are brand new, in fact the owners were in the middle of building the latest structure. Another nice touch was the big bouncy sheep dog.

And finally, finally, FINALLY, after several days of cold rain, the sky opened up and revealed that thy sky was still truly blue. photo here It was tempting enough for Natalie and I to venture out to the beach, and poke around the rocks washed up looking for jade. But never expect too much; one stray cloud washed in and rained on us for 5 minutes, enough to chase us back to the cabin!

today's photos
- all photos   o o o o

o o Hokitika
o o Punakaiki

In the evening, we enjoyed a scrumptious seafood meal at the Tasman View restaurant, looking out the window to a sunset over the ocean. In this off season time, we often feel like we have our own private chefs when we are the only people in a restaurant! At least, that is our illusion.

The town was pretty much deserted after dark. We returned to our cabin, enjoying the sound of the waves outside our door. In the middle of the night we were wakened by a humongous thunderclap and a blinding bright flash of lightning. Obviously, there was a bit more weather to get out of the system.

in the morning, we continued our journey farther north, still clinging to the coast. We stopped first at the Hokitika I center before leaving town and made arrangements for lodging the next night, as well as some activities- guided horse trekking in the afternoon and a cave tour/float the following morning.

The destination was the area around Paparoa National Park, including the Pancake Rocks. photo here This seaside spot includes layered limestone rock which truly looks like giant stacks of pancakes, just lacking the butter and syrup.

photo here The strong waves that bash in against the rocks have eroded a series of contorted channels and bowels, and in places the wave action forces water upwards through the cracks venting at the surface as "blowholes". It is an amazing site and sound (and fell if they catch you by surprise!).

We checked into our next beach accommodations, at the Punakaiki Cottages, tucked right next to Pancake Rocks and the beach. photo here At this stop are also two nice cafes and art shops. We had a quick lunch and checked into our email to let folks at home where we were and what we were doing. It is not too surprising that you find this sort of service all over the country.

At 2:00 we headed for the stables of the Paparoa Horse Treks, where we had booked a 2 hour guided trip. photo here As a complete horse novice, I was a bit nervous, but Natalie was calm a she had more experience. We met with our guide, Libby, and as we were the only party, again Natalie and were getting a feeling of having our own private guides in New Zealand.

So we got suited up, met our horses, and mounted up. My horse, "Stevie" was pretty reluctant to come in from the fields where he obviously would rather be eating than carting me around. I was assured he was safe and reliable.

Our trip included a bit of a walk down the road (Libby assured us that horses had right of way) and then along a dirt road that ran along the Punakaiki River. We had to dodge several large trucks that were carting gravel from the river for a new hotel. Stevie was not fond of the trucks! photo here Eventually we had our first of several crossing over the river. The horse is an amazing creature in terms of its strength and nimbleness of step. The valley was lush green and we were enchanted by the serenity of the whole place.

After two and a half hours were almost back (certain body parts were no longer "serene"!) photo here As a nice final touch, we got to ride on the beach, which to us the horses seemed to enjoy a it more than picking through the brush. While not ready to make this a hobby, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Throughout our trip since starting in Queenstown, we stayed in towns that got progressively smaller and smaller, and Punakaiki was getting to be about as small as a town could get. Our dining options were one, the local tavern, so we gave it a try. photo here Actually the food here was very good, fresh, and it was a fun atmosphere. The best part was a big sad-eyed dog named "Rex" (we mis-heard the owner when she provided the dog's name and we kept calling him "Riggs"). Rex had the same food-side eyes as our dog "MC" at home.

The next morning was an early one, we had to drive north to an even tinier place called Charleston for our cave tour. The destination was Metro Caverns which had promised to be part hike, part "blackwater" float (a river that runs through the dark caves, "blackwater" as opposed to "whitewater" rafting), and a float in the river. The ironic piece was that this was the first clear blue sky day we had seen in a while and we planned to go inside of a cave!

There were two van loads of other people in this trip, among them a family of four from England (more on them later and why I said so). Our guides drove us into the woods, parked, followed by another 20 minute walk to a clearing. photo here Here we donned our orange and black wet suits we would need in the cold dark cave. We were not necessarily a stylish group, but well set for the elements.

From there we walked across the river (testing the coldness) and climbed a steep path to the cave entrance. Inside, we toured the narrow passages, toting our inner tubes we would need for the bottom level. The walking part took us very close to delicate stalactites, stalagmites, columns, curtains, fossils, and other features. This was a much closer exposure to these than you get on a tour of a large cavern.

There were three main cave levels we descended through, the middle one was a wider straight passage that provided the name to this cave (reminded someone of the Paris Metro). In the bottom section, we entered the water and linked our tubes together as we floated through a passage (with our lights turned off) lit up gloriously by thousands of glow worms. It was like looking at a clear night sky view of the Milky Way. Eventually we exited to the daylight and got to enjoy a few kilometers of floating through a series of rapids and waves.

This was a fantastic trip, with lots of variety. The only sad part was knowing we had a long days drive ahead of us! We stopped first in Westport to their information center, where we were able to book accommodations for the next two nights up in Nelson. we had a 4 hour drive through the magnificent valley of the Buller River, a stop in the pretty valley town of Murchison, and a drop into the fertile north coast near Nelson. We had two more days to enjoy on the South Island...

from .az to .nz & .au what & why where references photos news