2018/03/21: Miles

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
While we were in Grand Bend we stopped to see my cousin, her husband and their dog. In the summer Grand Bend is a hopping spot .... pretty quiet in the winter.

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Miles can no longer go for long walks unless he goes in style. He loves it when his daddy puts him in the carrier.

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2018/03/20: Tundra Swans

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Each spring Tundra Swans migrate north through Canada. One of their favourite stops is the Thedford Bog (just outside of Grand Bend). We haven't seen the tundra swans for a lot of years and Ed decided it was time to see and photograph them.

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Hey! These are ducks.

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2018/03/18: The Grotto in Winter

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Bruce Peninsula National Park is found on the Bruce Peninsula (pretty obvious) about 10 kilometers south of Tobermory. The Grotto, a unique natural wonder, is a shoreline cave with beautiful blue waters. In the winter it is a cave with interesting ice features.

The Grotto is about 3 kilometre walk from the winter parking lot. We missed a turn and ended up at the trail head which then led us around a small lake to Georgian Bay. From there it was an interesting scramble following the Bruce Trail eventually making it to the Grotto. The detour added about a 1/2 km to the hike and was well worth it.

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The Georgian Bay shoreline.

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Standing under the natural arch.

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The Grotto. You can see people standing on the ice at the entrance to the cave.

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Looking out from the cave.

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Cyprus Lake

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Taking a break on one of the Nation Park trademark chairs enjoying the view of Cypress Lake.

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Little Tub Harbour lighthouse.

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The harbour at Tobermory. A couple of tour boats were still in the water with bubblers running. The rest of the boats were on shore.

2018/03/10: Ice in Meaford

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
An item on the local news was the ice blown into the town of Meaford which is on Georgian Bay. The truck needed a good run and it was sunny so off we went to Meaford.

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Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
We left the hotel for the airport at 3:30 am New Zealand time (a 2 minute drive) and arrived at Toronto airport at 6:50 pm Toronto time just over 33 hours later. And we have the 2 1/2 hour drive home.

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The airport opened at 3:30 am but security didn't open to 4:30 am. It's pretty quiet when you get to your gate right after security opens.

It was raining when we left New Zealand so no "good-bye New Zealand" photos. The flight was nice and uneventful.

Our layover at Sydney airport was suppose to be 4 hours. It quickly turned into 6 hours when the waiting passengers were informed about a "mechanical problem" with the airplane.

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It had been raining when we landed in Australia but by time flew out the rain had stopped though it was still overcast. Good-bye Australia!

After we had been flying for a few hours, a flight attendant made an announcement asking if a doctor was on board the plane would they please let a flight attendant know. Later we were asked if anyone had a glucometer and certain meds. When you are flying over a lot of water you start to wonder where the plane could land if the ill person needed more help than a doctor on an airplane could give them. Luckily, the doctor managed and paramedics were waiting for us in Vancouver. This unfortunately caused further delays as medical equipment needed to be refilled or replaced.

When we finally boarded the plane our ETA in Toronto was 2:50 minutes past our original ETA.

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Leaving Vancouver we saw the top of a mountain poking through the clouds.

The pilot really put the pedal to the metal or found a tail wind getting us to Toronto 15 minutes before our updated ETA. On the upside we missed rush hour.

I called my brother when we landed in Toronto knowing that we would be outside waiting for him when he arrived a half hour later. When we walked to the designated "pick up" spot we didn't see anyone being picked up but rather cars stopped and waiting. Due to these inconsiderate people, cars, like my brothers, were forced to double park so they could pick up people resulting in a huge traffic mess.

My second pet peeve actually occurred a couple of days ago. For some reason Chinese people think it's a good idea to stand in the middle of a highway and take a photo of someone doing the "jump pose" in front of a distant mountain ignoring oncoming traffic. When you see it the first time you just think "stupid people" but when it occurs a number of times you really start to wonder what people are thinking.

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When you've been on airplanes for more hours than you want to imagine you look for things to amuse you. The frost on the outside of the window amused us for several minutes.

This ends our New Zealand adventure. Now I can start planning the next trip!!!!
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
We have another longish drive ahead of us --- 5 1/2 hours as we decided to drive the longer scenic route. What makes it long is the stops we'll do along the way.

This morning we woke up to a view that is all a lot of visitors get to see at Mount Cook ---- Mount Cook in the clouds. We were so lucky to have to sunny days here.

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On the drive out of Mount Cook we stopped at the same view point did on the drive in and took a similar photo. Definitely no top of Mount Cook and definitely not as good of a photo.

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Another great view on the today's drive.

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The first church is in Lake Tekapo and it has an amazing view. The second church is in Burkes Pass village.

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This is a view from the waterfront by the church and can be seen from inside the church.

Ed was able to take a few photos while I took my turn driving today (ignore the marks due to shooting through a window).

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Both of us are fascinated by the hedges. Sometimes the approximately 25 foot hedges would be near a building, sometimes they would just be in a field, sometimes you could see under the hedge, sometimes the hedge would grow to the ground. The top was cut flat and the sides squared up.

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In larger towns and cities the bridges were two lanes but in smaller towns and on less busy roads one lane bridges were a lot more common. Before you drive onto the bridge you are suppose to check and ensure the way is clear but sometimes on the longer bridges that is hard to do so the build a "pull out" for passing.

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View of the Rakaia River.

We've arrived in Christchurch and have a hotel near the airport, really near the airport. 700 metres, about a 5 minutes walk. Our flight tomorrow leaves at 6:30 am. If we arrive 3 hours ahead we'll get there just as they are unlocking the doors to the terminal. I think we're going to live dangerously and arrive around 3:45am or maybe even 4:00am. I can't believe these times. The other flight we had a choice on was at 6:15am so maybe 6:30am isn't so bad. We don't have to walk to the airport as the hotel has an on demand shuttle. I just have to sleep walk Ed to the lobby, push him on the shuttle, push him off the shuttle and then a bit more sleep walking. Think I'll wake him up in Sydney.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
It was really hard choosing photos for todayís blog. Here we are in the beautiful Southern Alps, the sun is shining, the temperature is perfect for hiking and we are hiking a few of the trails in Mount Cook National Park.

When we checked in yesterday the woman at the front desk warned us that a sunny day means busy trails so I got Ed up a little early today to beat the rush. We drove to Hooker Valley Trail which is the most popular day hike trail in the park.

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The trail crosses rivers in three places which means three swing bridges (and six crossings as we come back along the same trail) --- not the best for someone with a fear of heights. Looking straight ahead and singing a little song to myself got me across.

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We passed Mueller Lake.

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The trail eventually followed the Hooker River to Hooker Lake which is fed by the Hooker Glacier which is one of several glaciers on the slopes of Mount Cook.

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Several icebergs had calved off of the glacier and were slowly melting in the milky, silt filled Hooker Lake. The crystal clear blue glacier water occurs once the sediment in the water has settled. The snow covered mountain is Mount Cook.

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Itís actually quite hard to see a glacier at the water level because of all the silt and rocks on top of it. The glacier is almost in the middle of the photo --- itís the blue layer covered in black rocks and dirt.

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There were also great views walking back to the parking lot.

Another area of the park we wanted to see was the Blue Lakes and the Tasman Glacier.

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The blue lakes arenít blue any more. Originally the Tasman Glacier fed the Blue Lakes but now that the Glacier has receded only rainwater fills the Blue Lakes resulting in warmer lakes and algae that now makes the lakes look green.

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One of the icebergs calved from the Tasman Glacier floating in Terminal Lake.

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We did one last small hike near the motel looking for a geocache. The cache was at a view point looking out at Mount Cook.

2018/02/23: Drive to Mount Cook

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Mount Cook is the highest peak in New Zealand and we saw the top of it when we were at Fox (near Franz Josef). This time we are approaching it from the east coast and will stay at Mount Cook Village.

Nice change in the weather, the sun has come out again and the temperature has risen --- summer's back.

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Moeraki Boulders are large spherical boulders on one section of beach. The boulders are buried in the sand cliffs and appear as the cliff is eroded.

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We stopped to look at another beach and we saw a flock of sheep grazing in a fenced off area and one sheep outside the fence. Some one must have called them because all of a sudden the sheep started moving quickly toward the farm. The one on the outside of the fence dove for the "hole" and squeezed through.


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When the GPS told us to turn off the main highway early, we were happy to follow. The route took us down some back roads and past beautiful sand cliffs.

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The altered route also took us past Elephant Rocks located on a private farm near Duntroon. They are a collection of large weathered limestone rocks.

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You have to watch where walk as the field is used for sheep grazing.

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The route followed a river that was dammed in several spots in order to produce hydro electric power. Here's photos of a couple of the dams.

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As we drove north towards Mount Cook we kept coming across large groups of bikers. Turns out they were on the last day of a three day charity bicycle ride that raised over a hundred thousand dollars. We were just happy they were headed south.

A couple of shots of mountains as we approach Mount Cook.

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Mount Cook.

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Pretty much the view from our motel room.

2018/02/22: Dunedin

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
We are booked on a tour this afternoon, so this morning we drove to downtown Dunedin. One of the big tourist attractions is the railway station.

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Yup, this is the railway station. Dunedinís bluestone railway station was built between 1903 and 1906.

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And this is the inside. It features mosaic tile floors and stained-glass windows.

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Dunedin was established by Scottish Presbyterianís but somehow the Church of Englandís St. Paul Cathedral (Anglican) gets the prime spot in the Octagon, the centre of Dunedin. The church seems a little off when you go inside. Itís explained by the fact the main part of the church was completed in 1919 and the sanctuary was completed in a more modern style in 1971.

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There are quite a few beautiful old building in the downtown area.

The tour included a bus ride out onto the Otago Peninsula, a visit to the Penguin Place, a wildlife cruise and boat trip back to Dunedin.

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At the Penguin Place we saw a number of Yellow Eyed Penguins receiving extra care before they are released into the wild. We took a walk out to the Penguin nesting area where we saw a number of nesting boxes with Blue Penguins inside --- we saw feet and tummies and a male Yellow Eyed Penguin who was almost finished molting. There were also several fur seals sleeping on the cliff edge.

The wildlife cruise took place off of Wellers Rock in Otago Harbour. We saw Oystercatchers, Black Swans, gulls, Shags, Fur Seals, Sea Lions, Royal Spoonbills and Northern Royal Albatross. The main focus was on the Albatross. The Northern Royal Albatross only breed on islands in New Zealand waters and this is the only colony on mainland. The birds have a 3 metre wing span, rarely flap their wings as they soar on air currents. The albatross only return to land every 2 years to breed spending the rest of the time as sea.

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The naturalists said that these were "teenagers practicing courting".

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The colony can be found below and to the left of the lighthouse.

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There was a Sea Lion swimming near the seal colony waiting for a baby seal to come into the water. It looks like this seal is yelling at the Sea Lion.

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The seal on the is a one month old baby.

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A colony of Stewart Island Shags (Cormorant).

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One of the beautiful views on the way to the dock in Dunedin.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Our itinerary indicated that the drive from Te Anau to Dunedin (west coast to east coast) would take about 4 hours. We opted for the scenic road that more or less followed the coast (about 6 hours). Ten hours later we arrived at our motel. Now we did stop a few times but not as much as we would have liked. In reprospect we should have planned a 2 night stay in the Catlins area.

Lots of rain today. First stop was this wood suspension bridge in Clifden.

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Built in 1899, it spans the Waiau River and is 111.5 m long. The bridge suffered damage in a 2009 earthquake. It was repaired and reopened to pedestrians in 2013.

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One of several beaches we stopped at today.

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Good timing. Monkey Island is only accessible during a low tide.

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Interesting motor home. Not sure if the top slies down or if it's driven as is.

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A view taken from the car window as we drove. The scenery was very nice for most of the drive so we felt it was worth the extra time.

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McLean Falls.

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The hike into the falls is through a coastal rainforest. Most of the trees had moss or other plants growing on them, except for this one type of tree that looks like it sheds it's bark.

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A scenic view stop --- one direction was sheep and a lone cow, the other was a view of a beach.