You are currently viewing archive for February 2018
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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 today’s 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.

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.

We passed Mueller Lake.

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.

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.

It’s 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 --- it’s the blue layer covered in black rocks and dirt.

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.

The blue lakes aren’t 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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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

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.


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.

Mount Cook.


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.

Yup, this is the railway station. Dunedin’s bluestone railway station was built between 1903 and 1906.

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

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Dunedin was established by Scottish Presbyterian’s but somehow the Church of England’s 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. It’s 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.

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.

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.


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



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

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.

The seal on the is a one month old baby.

A colony of Stewart Island Shags (Cormorant).

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.


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.

One of several beaches we stopped at today.

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

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

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.


A scenic view stop --- one direction was sheep and a lone cow, the other was a view of a beach.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
In case anyone heard about the cyclone that hit New Zealand, we were far away --- the storm cause some problems at the north end of the South Island while we were at the south end of the South Island.

Today was another "vast quantity of photographs" day. I've tried to keep the number of photos down but we saw so much that was so beautiful and then there's some with stories attached.

For a lot of people Milford Sound is the reason to go to New Zealand. After reading guide books and reviews, Doubtful Sound seems to be pulling ahead due to it's remoteness. We decided to go to both --- well because why not?

Ed's reaction to Milford Sound is that it is very busy and very commercialized. The boat terminal had the feeling of being in a large transportaion hub with "gates". The bus parking lot is huge. When we arrived for our morning boat tour it only had 2 vehicles in it. After our tour it was overflowing with at least 75 tour buses. Imagine all the people....

Now our story,

On the drive to Milford Sound you go through the 1.2 km Homer Tunnel with a 1:10 gradient down to the western portal. As I haven't experienced very many tunnels with slopes, it felt a little weird.

A view from the shore line with the tide out.

A slight different angle than the previous photo but now the tide is in.

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I think the 1st one is a Pied Shag (I'll have to spend more time researching), the 2nd one is a White Herron (or as we know them an Egret).

Milford Sound is a shorter and narrower fiord than Doubtful Sound, which makes the experience very different. I loved both cruises and was very happy that we had decided to do both.

Both sounds have a lot of waterfalls depending on the rainfall. At Milford Sound there a few more permanent waterfalls due to glaciers. In fact one of the waterfalls provides all of the drinking water used at the terminal and on the ships as well as generates the electricity required to run the terminal building. Milford Sound receives around 9 metres of rainfall annually. The fresh water sits on top of the salt water making a unique aquatitic environment.

A few photos of Milford Sound


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We reached the Tasman Sea. If we kept going the first land we would reach would be South America.

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We didn't see a lot of wildlife but we did manage to see some New Zealand Fur Seals, some dolphins too far behind the ship to go back to see them and an Albatross at the Tasman Sea.

I think this is Mt Tutoko glacier.

Bowen Falls framed with the boom. Our cruise was on a ship that is also used for overnight sailings that has a motor and a sail.

Back on the road to Te Anau there are more great views.



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On a nature trail we saw trees just covered in moss, I've never seen live trees covered so totally. I guess this is also the result of the 9 metres of rain in a year.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
When we were planning our trip to New Zealand we knew that one of the highlights of the trip would be the cruise on Doubtful Sound. Well today was it, and yes it was one of the highlights of the trip. Originally we had been hoping for a sunny day then we were told that the sound is actually more beautiful on rainy days. Almost all of the waterfalls only exist when it rains --- so no rain no waterfalls. So now we want rain and sun ---- just a little confused. So what weather did we get? It poured rain during the night and was overcast with bits of rain and eventually just a little sun, well maybe more like brightening.

The day was actually made up of five parts ---- a cruise across Lake Manapouri, a bus ride over Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound, the cruise on Doubtful Sound, a bus ride back to Lake Manapouri and finally a cruise across Lake Manapouri back to where we started.

Looking back across Lake Manapouri. Not a lot of colour in the photo but I like all the layering of the mountains.

The bus driver stopped a few times so we could get a good look at some of the beautiful sites along the road. The road was built to bring building supplies in for the power station when it was built in the 1960s.

Another beautiful view along the road.

The waves are from our boat.

There were a few pleasure crafts in the sound.

The boat cruised to the end of the sound reaching the Tasman Sea.

An albatros gave us a show and flew around the boat.

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The sides of the sound are very straight even under the water and the water is deep right up to the walls, so the boat was able to nose itself under the waterfall. The crew gave out cups so you could catch the water.

A couple more shots of the sound.


Back at Lake Manapouri we see the water intake for the power station. You don't see any buildings as the power station was built underground. The story is very interesting so just google Manapouri Power Station if you want to know more about it.

Almost back to the dock where we started the day.

2018/02/18: Off to Fiordland

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Ever since Ed watched a video of a commercial pilot flying through a cloud bank and landing at Queestown airport, Ed has wanted to see the airport. This morning as we were driving out of town, we came upon the airport. Standing at the end of the runway Ed saw a plane take off and

another plane land. These pilots were lucky as they had clear conditions.

Highway 6 follows Lake Wakatipu, which is a beautiful drive.

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My nature shots for today. I think the red berry like things are some type of apple.

At the bottom end of Lake Wakatipu.

Our itinerary suggested stopping at Kingston to see the steam engine. Our timing was good, we arrived shortly before the steam engine was take for a short spin.

Another scenic view as we continue our drive to Te Anau and Fiordland.

After settling in at our motel in Te Anau we went for a walk along Lake Te Anau.

It was mostly sunny along the walkway but we did notice what looked like rain on the other side of the lake.

Along the path we came across a bird sanctuary. The birds at the sanctuary are native to this area and have all been injured. This is a Takahe.

Manapōuri Power Station is an underground hydroelectric power station on the western arm of Lake Manapouri in Fiordland National Park. Water from Lake Te Anau and Lake Manpouri feed the power station. This is the control gate between the two lakes.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
When I awoke this morning it was pouring rain. As we had no concrete plans for today, sleeping in was a welcome option. Happily by 10:30 the rain had stop, the sky was clearing and we were on the way to the gondola. Our motel is in a great location ---- walking distance to a supermarket, downtown, the harbour and the gondola. This is particularly important as February 16th was Chinese New Year ensuring that the town is full of tourists especially Chinese ones and every parking place is full.

I was hanging on tightly but I survived and made it to the top of the hill.

Looking down on Queenstown.

We started following a hiking trail and were rewarded with some amazing views.

There were a few goats wandering on the hill.

After an hour and a half of going up (a little bit of flat but no downs) we reached the saddle. This is whats on the other side of the hill.

We haven't seen a lot of wildfloweers.

Sitting on a bench at the saddle looking back at Lake Wakatipu. We started the last hour of the climb to Ben Lommand but after 15 minutes Ed called "uncle". He wanted to head back to the cafe at the top of the hill and have a beer. I would have pushed on but given that Ed is not totally over his cold I agreed to heading for a beer. The Heinekens (brewed in Auckland) hit the spot.

Another great view on the way down.

We tried to take a selfie before we headed down on the gondola. It is painful for one fellow to watch so he offered to take a photo of us. He did a great job.

Almost at the bottom.

The Gondola --- it felt a lot steeper than it looks.

The TSS Earnslaw on it's way back from a cruise of lake Wakatipu.

There's some extra photos on todays blog as there was a request for some photos of Queenstown.

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Pedro’s House of Lamb is a take-away restaurant not far from our motel. They have one item on the menu “A whole lamb shoulder slow roasted to tender perfection. Made with locally sourced New Zealand lamb, complimented with garlic and rosemary, and served with a generous side of scalloped potatoes.” (stoken from their website) You can also get a salad and rolls. Pedro’s House of Lamb can be found in Aukland, Christchurch and Queenstown. It’s interesting that a restaurant can survive on one menu item. By the way it was really good. Fed both of us dinner, Ed will have left over potatoes with quiche for breakfast tomorrow and we have enough meat for three sandwiches.

It was a great day!!!

Couldn't resist doing this as it appeared to be the popular thing to do today.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today we have to drive 355 km --- on the 401 that would be about 3 1/2 hours. The estimated time for this drive is 4 1/2 hours (GPS), 5 1/2 hours (itenerary) or 7 hours (Queenstowns pamphlet mileage chart). Reality was almost 10 hours but we did run into some construction (road repairs due to a bad storm) and we made a number of stops.

It was clear when we drove through the Fox Glacier area so we stopped to grab a photo of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. (I think Mount Cook is on the right so Mount Tasman will be on the left).

We stopped to watch the waves at Bruce Bay.

At Lake Moeraki is a 1 hour return trip walk through a Coastal Rain Forest to Monroe Beach and a Peguin colony.

Unfortunately, no penguins just rocks.

A ways down the highway was a view point with more rocks.

The road turned inland and we followed a river, which in spots widened to lakes.

Some interesting rocks. Once upon a time there was a structure here, now there is a piece of concrete and loose soil (bottom right of screen).

A walk through a beech forest, over a swing bridge crossing the Makarora River brings you to the Blue Pools. The pools are pure glacial water gathered from the mountains. The water is cold, colder than Lake Huron in the spring.

A view from a swing bridge looking at the crystal clear water.

Lake Wanaka is a good size lake. The wind was picking up causing waves and mist to rise from the water.

We drove the short cut from Wanaka to Queenstown, which goes through the mountains. We could see Queenstown from the viewing area though you can't make it out in the photo.

Queenstown at night. The downtown area isn't that large but it is hopping at night. Lot's of 20 somethings in town.

2018/02/15: Glaciers and More

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
I drove on the wrong side of the road today. The trick is to figure out where you as the driver need to sit on the road but then that's the trick with driving isn't it. Oh and then there's remembering where the controls are. The wiper control and light controls are switched. I turned on the wipes several times when I meant to indicate a turn.

I forgot to mention another “small world” thing in yesterday’s blog. When Ed was standing in the observation car on the train taking photographs the woman beside him was from Toronto and the man beside him was from Kincardine.

Apparently we experienced typical New Zealand west coast weather today. Beautiful sunny sky this morning followed by pouring rain this afternoon and a sunny sky this evening. Made for some interesting site seeing.

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Another shot of the glacier from the motel this time using a telephoto lens. Morning sun does make everything look better.

We passed a number of waterfalls during our walk to the Franz Josef Glacier viewing area.

We’re still a fair distance from the glacier but this photo has blue sky in it. By time we reached the glacier viewing area the sky had clouded over.

Looking back at where we hiked.

What the glacier looks like close up …. Using Ed’s telephoto lens.

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A sign on a post indicated that the viewing platform was 750 metres from the glacier. I was looking at helicopters landing and taking off from the glacier. The helicopters were landing in front of the dark spot on the glacier.

Fox Glacier from a viewing area. Due to recent storm damage to the trails you couldn’t hike to the closer viewing area.

The skies opened up and the rain poured down but the cows didn’t seem to mind at all.

Lake Matheson, known for it's reflections of the mountains still managed to reflect close objects in the rain, though not as good as in the sun. Its excellent reflecting properties are due to the dark brown colour of the water – the result of organic matter leached from the humus of the forest floor.

Late in the afternoon the sky cleared. We drove to Okarito, a small village on the Tasmam Sea about 30 minutes drive from Franz Josef. We followed the Trig Walk to a view point and we rewarded with views of the mountains, Okarito Lagoon and the Tasman Sea.
20180216-20180215__7D_3825_6_7.jpg The Okarito Lagoon where it meets the Tasman Sea.

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We met this little fellow on the trail and we're quite surprised when he hopped up to Ed and started pecking at his boot.

2018/02/14: Trains and Glaciers

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Ed took a lot of photos today and I finally got through them all picking a few (probably too many) for the blog. Last night the Internet was having issues but it's working this morning so Valentines Day is finally done.

Ramblings for today, I have a couple of them. Yesterday when we arrive in Christchurch we felt like we were in one of those mazes where you couldn’t get to where you wanted to go --- the GPS gave us directions and every direction was not executable either due to No Right Turn signs or Road Closed signs. After a half hour of circling we found the only way to the hotel. I have no right to complain though. Christchurch is still rebuilding after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. A lot has been accomplished but there’s still a lot more to do. The hotel is situated in a great location for seeing Christchurch but that puts it into the middle of the construction. This morning Ed was very happy as we left Christchurch. Today we picked up our 3rd and last rental car and GPS. We turned the GPS on when we got to the car and it came up in Chinese ---- not useful at all. Rebooting, resetting and trying to remember the key strokes to change the language didn’t work. A car rental agent from another agency remembered the key strokes to change language and we were back in business. Any programmers out there want to make suggestions to the GPS companies on a universal way to change the language?

The TranzAlpine train transverses the Southern Alps between Christchurch and Greymouth and it is as good as it is advertised to be. The trip starts by travelling through the flat Canterbury Plains, then climbs into the mountains following river gorges peaking at Arthur’s Pass. The descent takes you by lush green forests and along tranquil lakes and rivers.

One of the rivers the rail line followed.

Even with a flat grey sky the water was still an amazing blue green colour.

We passed cattle on both sides of the mountain pass. The commentary on the train indicated due to the drop in wool prices the number of sheep being raised in New Zealand has dropped substantially being replaced with cattle. New Zealand now produces a lot of dairy products and beef products for export. We also passed a lot of hay fields.

The sky began to clear making the countryside even more breathtaking.

The rivers have very wide river beds ... just image what spring floods are like here.

Our train going around a corner heading for the bridge.

Sheep grazing.

As we neared Greymouth, the clouds came back. Lake Brunner is a vacation spot. Must be a nice lake to sail on.

The clouds tend to drop their rain as they are climbing over the mountains making the west side of the mountains greener.

After picking up the rental car we were on our way to Franz Josef Glacier. By now the cloudy skies in Christchurch were only a memory and we were enjoying a warm, sunny day driving along the Tasman Sea.

The Hokitika River on the left meets the Tasman Sea.

The village of Franz Josef is at the bottom of the Franz Josef glacier. When we arrive there was cloud over the mountains. After dinner it was a different story.

The view of the mountain and glacier from Franz Josef. This might actually be the Heemskerick Glacier.

A lot of the bridges in New Zealand are only one lane. You have to pay attention to the road signs to determine which side of the bridge has the right of way. Luckily, the roads aren't that busy so if you do run into traffic you don't have to wait long before it's your turn to cross the bridge.

Our motel is a couple of kilometers outside of Franz Josef and is called the Glacier View Motel.

When the clouds co-operate this is the view. The sun was setting when the photo was taken.

and this is the view from the back window.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today we drove from Kaikoura to Christchurch.

We've seen shipping containers used for a lot of different things in New Zealand but this is the first time we've seen it used as a barricade. The containers were anchored with cables to the cliff.

Beach near Gore Bay.

Ed found an interesting rock on the beach that had holes in, so I did an art shot.

Cathedral Cliffs near Gore Bay

On September 4th 2010 Christchurch felt a 40 second, 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Some buildings in the downtown area were damaged. Just five months later on February 22nd 2011 a second earthquake hit Christchurch. This earthquake was only a 6.3 magnitude but it's center was closer to Christchurch and it was only 5 km deep, resulting in major damage to the city. Due to the damage city blocks were demolished, entire neighborhoods disappeared and heritage architecture was badly damaged. Seven years later the city is still rebuilding.

The towering spire of Christchurch Cathedral is gone. Support structure has been put into place but I don't think it has been decided what is to happen to the building.

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The steel sculpture Chalice was installed in 2001. It survived the earthquakes. We don't know the story behind the shipping containers but it does look interesting.

The new Regent Street is open for business. The original street was built in 1932. After the earthquakes the buildings had to be demolished.

The gate at the beginning of the bridge is a remembrance for soldiers lost in the great wars. Beside the river is the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial.

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The Christchurch Botanical Gardens is 30 hectares of gardens and green space by the Avon River.

Ed was standing by the river when this duck walked over to him. Soon at least a dozen ducks had congregated near Ed. They were very disappointed when he didn't fee them.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
What a nice change --- the sun is shining and it's warm out. You'd think it was summer. Oh, it's summer in New Zealand.

This morning we were off on a whale watching tour. The owner of the company stands behind his promise to find Sperm whales ---- no whales and you get 80% of your ticket price refunded. Sperm whales are found in all the world's oceans usually in submarine canyons of water deeper than 400 feet. The Kaikoura Canyon meets that criteria and it is only a few miles off the coast of Kaikoura. Sperm whales are interesting whales, when they dive then can stay under water for 40 to 60 minutes. When they come back to the surface they hang out for 8 to 10 minutes replenishing their oxygen. The boats use underwater microphones to listen for the whales then determine the amount of time the whale was been under water. It also really helps that there are helicopter tours --- when they spot a whale and begin hovering the boats know where to go.


Today we had a really good viewing of 1 sperm whale and just got to a second one a minute or so before he dove.

Humpback whales use to have a feeding ground in this area but disappeared years ago. Just recently a humpback whale is has found the feeding grounds and we were able to see him. Humpbacks whales are easier to watch as they only stay under the water for a few minutes at a time.



A pod of dolphins were swimming with the Humpback Whale. I think they were Dusky Dolphins.



The water was so clear you could see the dolphins clearly when they swam near the boat --- they like playing around the boats (the boats have jet engines so the dolphins can't get hurt).

An albatross flew by the boat.

It really was a beautiful day to be on the water.

This afternoon we decided to walk the “town hike”. Leaving our motel we walked to South Bay then walked the Peninsula Trail to the seal colony then back to town following the shore line.

Proof it really was "summer".

One of the beautiful bays we walked by. The yellowy area is flat rocks.

The layered rock pushing to the sky is an indicator of earthquakes. It also makes for a interesting shoreline.


The seal colony wasn't in the area indicated on the map but rather spread along half the peninsula.

When you were walking on the rocks you had to really watch when you came to the top of a rock --- there could be a seal on the other side.

2018/02/11: Ferry Ride

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today's rambles --- Anyone ever use an washer/dryer combination machine --- you know the one where you put clothes in the machine, it washes then dries the clothes? Last night was my first experience with the machine and I was not impressed. In fact if I ever run into one again I may use it to wash clothes but definitely not to dry them.

This morning I got Ed up bright and early so we could go to the ferry terminal to catch a ferry to the South Island. We definitely did not have the sunny warm day I was hoping for. Instead we had a "mystery / intrigue" day.

Leaving port.

We sat on deck and watched the scenery as the ship headed for Picton on the South Island.

Maybe not as spectacular as sunshine but the fog does have it's own appeal. Happily the rain held out till the ship hit open water.

The lounge was busy, so when we saw a fellow sitting at a table by himself with 3 empty chairs we asked if we could join him. Let me just say that it was interesting having a conversation about American politics with a New Zealander.

The rain stopped as the ship entered the Tory Channel about an hour and a half from Picton.

We passed another Interislander ferry as it headed for Wellington on the North Island.

Coming into the harbour at Picton. As the ship docked the skies opened and the rain came down.

In November 2016 Kaikoura was in the news when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred destroying both the north and south roads into the town, isolating the towns people and tourists. One thing I remember is the photograph on the news of cows stranded on a small piece of ground when all of the ground around it disappeared. The cows were rescued. The highway reopened December 15, 2017, well at least between 7 am and 8:30 pm and we are driving on it this afternoon on our way to Kaikoura.

I tried to get some photos of the construction, but between being in a moving vehicle, rain on the windshield and trying to miss the wiper blades I only got a couple and they aren't that great.

Not only did the road need to be rebuilt but so did the railway track. The roads department and the rail line pooled their resources and worked together. Rail line was worked on first as it could be used to bring in supplies needed to rebuild the road.

In a few spots you could begin to image the amount of dirt and debris that had to be removed so the road could be rebuilt.

We found one spot where we pulled off so we could take a few photos of the beaches.

Looking down the road from our motel in Kaikoura.

The Seaward Lions Club donated this three sided clock to the town. It was installed in 2011 but I think the symbolism is even more appropriate now. The wood carved side represents the past and the Maori. The brick side represents the present and the third side you cannot see is a plain glass plate representing the future.


Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today’s rambles. The GPS that we rented with the car is very smart. Not only does it know when you’ve been driving for 2 hours and need a rest (sometimes it reminds you early, so it must also sense you if are tired), it knows when you’re speeding. The GPS beeps when the speed changes but we also noticed it beeping some what randomly, that is until Ed admitted that he went over the speed limit. Can you imagine the constant beeping for the average person driving in Ontario?

Ontario is implementing traffic circles to avoid installing costly traffic lights. Today, as we sat in a 2 km backup at a traffic circle I wondered at the logic. Oh, by the way I saw more sheep than cows today.

Today was mostly a driving day as we need to be in Wellington to catch the ferry bright and early tomorrow morning. Rain was predicted for today but it was mostly cloudy with just sprinkles now and then.

As we were leaving Ohakune, we looked back and happily saw the mountain. It was cloudy today but with a lot more visibility than yesterday.

The largest gumboot in the world can be found in Tiahape

Today's drive took us through some beautiful countryside --- lots of hills and valleys. At one point we even drove beside the ocean.

Another stop was in the town of Bull. Everything was about “bull”.

This town has a good sense of humour.

We arrived in Wellington and found our hotel without any problems which in retrospect was amazing (or probably due to the GPS). The streets in Wellington go every which way, no rhyme or reason that I could see, plus there are a number of one-way streets.

Wellington is a very pretty city. Unfortunately, it was foggy .... at least it wasn't raining, so not a lot of photos.

The couple we spoke to at dinner last night told us about an exhibit at The Museum of New Zealand. We didn't have a lot of time to see the museum but we did go through the Gallipoli The Scale of Our War exhibit. New Zealand lost a lot of soldiers at Gallipoli fight Turkish soldiers.

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The exhibit was amazing. These statues were so lifelike. They had pores and hair on their skin.

If you are ever in Wellington, drop by The Museum of New Zealand and make sure you have at least a half a day to spend there.

While we were looking for a restaurant we found this street of food trucks so we decided to give it a try. We split a Roti and some Indonesian noodles --- both were delicious.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
First a couple of random statements ---- So far I’ve seen more cows in New Zealand than sheep ---- seems a little weird to me. Is it strange that I find steam coming out of the ground in random spots is normal? It only took a day to get use to the steam and the sulfur smell when you are near the steam.

Today is a driving day. We leave Rotorua and will spend the night to Ohakune. Along the route we stopped at the Aratiatia Rapids. Many years ago this was a spectacular part of the Waikato River. Then the government plonked a hydroelectric dam across the river stopping the flow. Fortunately, the flow is not completely stopped. The flood gates are opened several times a day releasing excess water.

Before the gates opened.

Here comes the water.

Water is just a rushing through.

Flood gates open and water rushing through. A little different than the first photo.

When I reviewed the area we were driving in our guide book I found Orakei Korako, a geothermal area that is considered the best remaining thermal area in New Zealand at least according to Lonely Planet. Ed and I decided that we hadn’t seen enough geothermal areas and detoured to Orakei Korako. The photos aren't the best as it was raining.

Looking across the river to the geothermal area.



Boiling mud.


Soda Fountain was dormant for 17 years then in 1984 it suddenly filled. Since then it has been unpredictible filling and emptying at will.

Looking back across the river and at the boat coming to pick us up.

A duck by the dock washing his wings I guess.

Huka Falls is another spot on the Waikato River were the river narrows and water rushes through it.

Water coming into the narrows and it really is that blue.

Jet boats like to venture into the river at the bottom of the falls. The falls isn't very tall but the water is really moving.

We saw a lot of beautiful scenery today and some that should have be spectacular (darn rain) but no photos (again darn rain).

A small world story. In 1997 Ed and I went to Scotland and Ed corresponded with a fellow called Chris Nightingale who owned the Lochnaw Castle (Clan Agnews castle). The fellow sitting at the table next to us at dinner new Chris and did some work at Lochnaw Castle.

2018/02/08: Lakes and Maori

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Poor Eddie, he’s not feeling well. Even though we took Linda’s advice and wiped down all the plastic stuff in the airplane with a sanitary wipe, a cold managed to find Ed. As we have an event booked for this evening we decided to keep the day low key.

The lake region just outside of Rototura is very pretty. Two of the lakes are Lake Rotoakakahi (Green Lake) and Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake). Yup you guessed it that’s the colour of the water of each lake. Unfortunately the lack of sun prevented the normal brilliance of colours.
The not so blue looking Blue Lake.

A third, larger lake, Lake Tarawera, has a number of interesting homes built around it, plus this boat ramp area where we saw some old Maori Rock art.

In case anyone is wondering, yes Ed has been geocaching and once again it has taken us to something interesting off the beaten path. The cache was at the rock art..

In 1901 the first California Coast Redwood trees were planted in the Whakarewarewa Forest. Today there a number of large redwoods and lots of smaller redwoods.

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As the trees are much younger than the ones in California they are smaller but still impressive.

Couldn’t resist the looking up at the trees shot.

The Government Gardens in Rotorua are very beautiful. There is a rose garden plus a number of other gardens, statues, and playing fields. Including a beautifully groomed croquet field with club house.

This evening we went to a Te Po and Te Ra at Te Puia. Translation, we went for a tour of a thermal reserve, tried to see some kiwi birds, learned about traditional Maori crafts, enjoyed Maori entertainment, ate a delicious hangi feast (traditional Maori cooking method) and watch the geyser Pohutu blow it’s top as the sun was setting at a place called Te Puia.

Anyone care for a mud bath? Maybe not in this pool as the middle of the pool is at 100 C

Pohutu rerupting

Looking back at Phutu.

The modified traditional cooking method. The pit is no longer hand dug and food is covered with metal plates instead of dirt. By the way the food was delicious.

The king and his warriors came out to welcome us to the feast.

We were entertained with dances and songs including the famous haka (war dance). If anyone watches international Rugby the New Zealand Blacks always do a haka before the game. It is done to give the men strength and hopefully scare off the opponents.

The sunset

Phutu erupting again.

2018/02/07: Caves and Hot Water

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
When we picked up our rental car today the agent said we didn’t need to check it for dents, scratches, etc. because it was a brand new Toyota Corolla with 10 km on the odometer. After spending a few minutes finding important things like lights, windshield wipers we were off driving south. Our vehicles at home are older so are missing the newest features like Lane Departure Warning. This is a great feature when you are driving on the “wrong” side of the road and are getting use to positioning the car in the lane.

First stop today was Otorohanga. It’s a cute little town that’s all about kiwis ---- the birds not the fruit.

There are over three hundred caves in the Waitomo area but only a few are open to the public. There are three caves main caves that have been entertaining visitors for over 100 years. Ruakuri Cave was the one we chose to visit.

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The new man made entrance is a spiral ramp. The original entrance was closed a number of years ago when the remains of Maori chief were found. The cave receives a lot of visitors, so to protect it railings and sensors were installed. If any body part goes past the railing an alarm goes off.

In one part of the cave the ceiling was full of a formation known as “straws”.

A little cave with stalactites and stalagmites.

Now you are looking at the photo and saying why did she post this obviously bad photo. Well this is a photo of the “object” that brings most people to these caves. The little dots of lights are glowworms, well actually glow larvae of the fungus gnat. This is an interesting insect --- the gnat only lives for a couple of days, just long enough to get it’s eggs fertilized and laid. The larvae lives six to nine months, using it’s “glow” to capture insects for food.

One more photo of a cave formation.

We get back on the road again and drive a couple of hours east to Rotorua. We are staying at the Ambassador Thermal motel. “Thermal” is a good hint as to what Rotorua is famous for. If you guessed hot springs would be correct. It also means the air has a constant sulfur smell that takes a little while to get use to. Our motel has a natural hot spring pool that we enjoyed.

Rotorua is on the shores of Lake Rotorua. After dinner we took a walk and came upon steam come from rocks on the beach.

We found this hole with water bubbling away.

We also saw a number of different birds included a bunch of these geese.

2018/02/06: Auckland

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today was our “free day”. When we booked the trip we had no idea how we would feel after travelling 28 hours so we added a day to recover from travelling if need be. Turned out we both felt pretty good this morning so we decided to walk around downtown Auckland and walk we did. The handheld GPS recorded us walking 22 kilometers today. Happy Waitangi Day. It's a public holiday today so most businesses were closed but many stores were open, at least the ones downtown.

A view of downtown Auckland from the raised walkway in Silo Park.

A lot of the waterfront use to be industrial, over a number of years it is being turned into public space filled with parks, trendy restaurants, museums, shops and interesting looking buildings. I’ve cut this photo into an odd size to hide the construction around these two buildings. The front of each building is covered with small pieces of metal --- one is vertical the other horizontal.

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The photo on the left is a street view taken from the raised walkway. The photo on the right is the ornate fencing built between 1913 and 1923 to enclose the Queen Street Wharf.

Proof I’m in Auckland.

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I always love seeing building from different eras together as seen in the left photo. The Auckland University clock tower is Auckland’s architectural triumph. The tower was built in 1926.

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The Sky Tower is 328 meters high. For a price you can jump off of it or walk on the edge of one of the viewing platforms. We passed on both of these activities. I don’t usually post photos of food but the presentation was so unique I thought it was worthy of posting. Ed chose Espetada which is chicken thighs, peppers and red onion on a skewer.

The sparrows in Auckland are very cheeky. If a restaurant keeps a door open, a sparrow will fly in and see if it can find any food. This one sat on the top of the bench staring at our food.

2018/02/05: We're Here!!!!

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Yeah!!! We survive the flights and are safe and sound in our “apartment” in New Zealand. It took 28 hours to go from Toronto to Auckland but we crossed the international date line so Aukland is a day ahead of Toronto. That’s how why we are February 5th and not the 4th.

Today was a long day but now that it’s over it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. The five hour flight from Toronto was uneventful though the plane was fuller than I expected. I guess a lot of people didn’t pre-book their seats. Between the plane getting to the gate late and having to de-ice the place and a head wind we arrived in Vancouver more than an hour late. We spent most of our hour and a half at the Vancouver airport walking the halls. We figured we needed to give our legs a good stretching before the 15 hour flight. As the flight was late arriving in Vancouver we were also late leaving Vancouver. Part of it was due to the amount of carry-on luggage. The flight attendants had to shuffle luggage around so the overhead bins would close. And then there was the broken overhead bin --- one of the hinges was hanging on by a thread. We overheard discussion that the plane could not take off unless the overhead bin was able to close. After moving the luggage out of the bin an enterprising passenger closed the bin ending our visions of several hours of delays while the overhead bin was being fixed. Fifteen hours in the air is a really long time --- I read my book, watched three movies, played a couple of computer games, talked to the woman stilling beside me, looked at the flight path a lot and tried to sleep, oh and ate. At around 1 am Vancouver we were served dinner, about 6 hours later we were given a sandwich and a couple of biscuits and about an hour and a half before landing we were served breakfast. Surprisingly, I was happy to see the food. I didn’t realize how hungry you got sitting in an airplane.

Landing in Sydney

Our stay in Australia was short but not as short as it could have been. Our flight arrived just in time to catch a flight to New Zealand --- when we booked our flights we opted to take the 2nd flight to New Zealand. Ed and I were both happy that we had opted for the later flight as it gave us time to walk around and stretch our legs and enjoy not sitting on an airplane. Our flight left 2 hours later and was very relaxed --- the boarding started early so it was unstressful, the meal was served with complementary wine and was only 2 hours and 40 minutes long. Favourite flight of the trip.

Landing in Auckland ---- we were on the side that didn't see the city.

New Zealand is very concerned with the environment and are serious about their rules. The arrival card had a lot of questions regarding items being brought into the country --- the usual food and plants questions but also a recreation and sports equipment question. As we have hiking boots with us we had to go through the “check line”. Our boots were pretty clean but were dipped in a disinfectant solution to be safe. All luggage is put through xray scanning before it can leave the building, but this time they are looking for food, nuts, plants etc.

The drive from the airport to the hotel took about a half hour and gave us a chance to get an idea of what Auckland looks like. First impression is that it is a large city. An information guide indicates that one third of New Zealand’s population lives in Auckland.

Ed and I are quite happy with our accommodations --- it’s a 1 bedroom apartment in an apartment hotel.

Our view.

2018/02/03: And We're Off

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
The house is clean, the suitcases are packed and just a few last minute things to go into the carry on bags. And yes my travel pants fit comfortably once again.

It is the start of a very long day. We plan to leave home shortly after 11 am to drive to my mother's house in Burlington. After a late lunch my brother will drive us to the airport where we will catch an 8:15 pm plane to Vancouver and Sydney Australia. After a 3 and a half hour stop over in Sydney we catch another plane this time to Auckland, our destination landing on Monday February 5th at 6:40 pm. Now it's not quite as bad as it sounds as we cross the international date line and loose a day but the travel time from Toronto to Auckland is 28 hours so it's still a loooonnnnnnggggg day. Sure hope I can sleep on the airplane.