Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The drive back to Christchurch over the Banks Peninsula

After our harbour cruise and lunch in Akaroa, our guide took us on a beautiful drive of the Banks Pensinsula on our way back to Christchurch.

Our first stop was at the Cheese Factory in Barry's Bay, the only one remaining on the peninsula.

cheese factory

We also took a short, 10-minute hike, to see this very old, two thousand year old tree.

the trunk of a very old tree

One of the things I love most about New Zealand is the gorgeous scenery and amazing colors. These photos show exactly how vibrant the colors are here. I told Dick that they look like old photographs that have been tinted with color. I also love all the sheep. ;)

Akaroa Harbour Cruise

Today, we drove about 1.5 hours to the 150-year old French harbor-side village of Akaroa. We went on a 2 hour cruise of the Akaroa Harbour, where we saw gorgeous views, Hector Dolphins (the smallest type of Dolphin) and seals.

One of my favorite parts about the ride was watching this cutie, named Sydney, run around the side of the boat, scoping out the dophins. He was very good at it, and took his job very seriously.

Sydney, watching for dolphins

do you see the seal?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Clean Clothes and a new friend in Christchurch

We arrived in Christchurch in the mid afternoon today. Before we left on this trip, we checked with our travel agent to see if any of our accommodations would have laundry service. She told is to plan on this hotel in Christchurch, since it was midway through our trip. This was helpful information, and helped us to pack accordingly.

When we arrived, all I saw was the laundry bag and order sheet where you pay around $4.95 per pair of socks, or underwear (all other items are even more pricey!). I was a little bothered that it cost so much, but figured we'd have to do it, since that was what we'd packed for. Luckily, Dick was more thorough than I, and saw in the hotel guide book that they offered free washer and dryer machines in the hotel!! It was raining when we arrived, plus I was a bit tired, and we didn't have any big outings planned for the day. It made for a perfect afternoon to do a load of (free!) laundry. Yay!!

Bonus: during room turndown, hotel guests get a little teddy bear to bring home! (Or, as the nice staff woman that we met in the laundry room called them, "a wee, fluffy bear".)

His name is George (which is the name of the hotel). Apparently, I'm collecting teddy bears on all our vacations this year. ;)

Rotorua Airport

We are at the Rotorua airport, waiting for our flight to Christchurch.

This airport has one airline (Air New Zealand), one gate, and no security at all (meaning, no X-ray machines, etc). We parked our rental car on the lot, walked into arrivals, dropped off our car keys, walked to self-check in (no line), loaded our baggage (no line) and paid our $5 each for a developing levy ticket (required for all passengers). This all took less than five minutes. 

Bonus: Free WiFi.  

I love small airports in other countries. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Waitomo Glowworm and Ruakuri Caves

By David and Miguel's suggestion, we ventured out to the Waitomo Caves today. It's about 2-1/2 - 3 hour drive from our lodging in Rotorua, but it was well worth the trip!

First of all, I'm going to make the statement that it's impossible to get a decent photo of a glowworm on an iphone camera. ;)
To see some really nice professional photos, you can check out their website.

We went on the Ruakuri Cave tour first, which was pretty amazing. We weren't allowed to take photos in the glowworm cave (for good reason) so all these photos are from the Ruakuri Cave. Very cool.

The boatride in the glowworm cave was simply amazing, and really hard to describe. We were about 20 people in a boat, with our guide. We were told to stay quiet the whole time, which everyone managed to do. To see this cave lit up with glowworms in near silence was pretty surreal and magical.

here, you can kind of get an idea of how the glowworm (actually at larva stage) and it's "web" work. They feed off mosquitoes and other small insects who get lost in the cave. The glowworm's light attracts the insects, as they think it is daylight, then get stuck in their single string webbing.

well, I know you can't actually see anything, but this a photo of some glowworms. ;)

Boat Ride around the Lake

This is the lake surrounding the resort that we are staying at in Rotorua.

Dick and I took a small dingy out for a ride this afternoon. We used both the engine and Dick even tried our the oars.

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos from our outing, as I was too nervous about the boat tipping over and killing my phone (not to mention my nervousness in open water).

It turned out to be a very nice outing, and we both managed to stay dry. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako

We landed at Orakei Korako and took a short boat ride across the lake to the hot springs, geysers and just all around natural beauty of the geothermal park. It's tucked away, and hard to access, so coming here by float plane was really ideal. There weren't many other people there, and we were able to walk the whole area (with lots and lots of stairs) in about an hour.

What was most striking to me was the difference between this geothermal park, in contrast to Volcano National Park in Hawaii. Where Hawaii's volcano park was black, full of lava rock and stark of any greenery, this park was white, colorful, and filled with interesting vegetation. It was a very beautiful and really neat hike.

here's a shot of the same area that we had just toured from our float plane.