New Zealand

July 2003

Time for another update. This time it's New Zealand. We wanted to see as much as we could in a short time, so don't start reading until you have some time to spare. It's a long one.
in short:

We had high hopes for New Zealand, and right off the bat we weren't disappointed. We arrived in Auckland in perhaps the friendliest airport in the world--complete with mini-forest, chirping bird noises, and free coffee.

My parents arrived the day after us, and we rented a car to begin exploring. It was a bit strange getting used to having a car, but we quickly got used to the extra freedom of not having to rely on buses and trains. For that matter, it was a bit strange to get used to having more than just the two of us around. But we got used to that quickly as well--and it was a nice change.

Auckland Space Tower

A leisurely drive north took us from Auckland to Pahia on the Bay of Islands. There we took a boat tour to see dolphins, seals, the famed "Hole in the Rock", and Orupukapuka Island (you have to roll the 'r' to pronounce it correctly, but then it's pretty fun to say). The bay was beautiful, and it was fun to see all the animals. To finish the day off, we introduced my parents to one of the better points of Anglo culture: the pub quiz. We were completely useless with the New Zealand questions like, "Mr. Black holds the record for most tries in Rugby League and Super 8 Rugby, but not for which other rugby division that you've never heard of?" But we still had fun.

Bay of Islands More Bay of Islands Hole in the Rock Urupukapuka Bay of Islands from Urupukapuka

From Pahia on the east coast we drove west to Warkworth and the Kauri forests. Mighty big trees. (15 meters around.) After a couple of hikes and a couple of wine tastings, we headed south to Rotorua--the stinkiest tourist town in the world. Well, their brochures didn't actually say that, but they could. It's surrounded by lots of geysers, hot springs, boiling mud, and other geothermal goodies. They're fun to see and nice to relax in, but they do take their toll on the nose. Angela and I also went white water rafting on the Kaituna which includes the largest navigable waterfall. The one and three meter waterfalls were fun, but it was the seven meter waterfall that was really impressive. The raft (and all the passengers!) go flying over and then get completely submerged, though we did pop back to the surface soon enough afterwards. Finally, we also got to learn a bit about Maori culture at a traditional Hangi dinner and show.

Big kauri tree First wine tasting--Matakana vineyard Out in the winter vineyard at Ransom Outside the government gardens Matt at Hell's Gate Steam at Hell's Gate Hot waterfall at Hell's Gate Maori dance Maori Haka Boiling bubbling mud at Te Whakarewarewa Hot geyser at Te Whakarewarewa

Next it was on to Napier in the Hawkes Bay area--famous for its wines. We tried to spare a little time to check out the art deco that's found all over the city, but we spent most of our time on a wine tour sampling the finest local concoctions. None of the wineries failed to please with at least some of their selections, or failed to make fun of the Aussie wines at least once or twice.

The final stop on the North Island was the capital of Wellington. We had our first rainy miserable day there, so we didn't get to see too much. But that was compensated for by meeting up with my old Sybase/Powersoft buddy who's made his way back to his New Zealand homeland.

My parents with our guide, Vince Everyone at another favorite winery

Because it's winter, we wanted to spend more time on the North Island where it's warmer... but we didn't want to miss out on the South Island completely. So we took the ferry across and then drove down to Kaikoura. Here we got to realize one of Angela's dreams for the trip: swimming with dolphins. My mother opted to skip the swimming but still came along to watch us and see the dolphins. The water was definitely cold, but the wet suits were thick. And we got to swim with dolphins only a few meters away--sometimes it seemed like they were only inches away. After swimming we got back on board and watched the dolphins swimming and jumping in front of and behind the boat as we drank hot chocolate. The guides estimated that around 1000 dolphins were in the pod that swam with us. I'm afraid that the pictures again fail to capture the excitement of the moment, but they at least give a little idea.

Marlborough Sound More Marlborough Sound Still Marlborough Sound Even more of Marlborough Sound Another picture of Marlborough Sound Ready to swim with dolphins Jumping dolphins Dolphins swimming alongside the boat Dolphins swimming in the pressure wave More dolphins jumping Costal walk near Kaikoura

I finished off our time in Kaikoura with a round of golf with my dad while the women had (another!) wine tasting. It was a great chance for us to walk around and enjoy the pleasant South Island atmosphere in a slightly different context.

Warm up swing One last wine tasting

After that it was time to say goodbye to my folks. It was a nice break from just being the two of us for so long to get to travel with them for a few weeks. And now we're already looking forward to seeing Angela's mom and other relatives in Singapore in another few months.

Botanic gardens Last night in Christchurch Excellent parking garage

Having said goodbye to the older folks, we made our way to the west side of the island for some big glacier hikes. We decided not do a heli-hike. It sounded fun, but just a bit too expensive. So we started with a full day hike on the Franz Josef Glacier.

The hike was great. We learned a bit about how the glacier is formed: lots and lots of snow falls on top, and the weight of the snow on top turns the snow below into ice and pushes it down the mountain. As it goes down slopes it moves faster (around 5 to 10 meters per day), and down lower in the bowl it moves slower (around 1 meter per day). I hadn't expected the brilliant blue color of the ice which happens because the ice is so dense.

We reached the highest point up in the pinnacles of sharp ice and had just turned back toward home when disaster struck. One small awkward step... and click. Angela felt something pop in her knee and then couldn't walk any further. We helped her limp along for a bit, but then the going got too tough, so our guide carried her piggyback for a few minutes. Afterwards he carved out a landing platform... and the helicopter came to get us. I've never been in a helicopter before, so it was a nice treat for me. (Good job, Angela!).

We were a bit afraid that her new knee troubles would be similar to past knee troubles and take quite a while to heal. But I'm happy to report that she seems to be getting better much more quickly this time. So we're still expecting that the new injury won't affect our travel in Australia too much. We'll see.

Well, that's it for this marathon update. Next up is six weeks in Australia.

Take care all,


Unknown lake somewhere on the west coast of the South Island Unknown lake somewhere on the west coast of the South Island Looking back from the mouth of the glacier Stuck in an ice cave In a blue ice chasm Notice the three different regions Matt running around in the ice pinnacles Angela sprains her knee in the ice pinnacles Our guide, Tom, waiting for the helicopter

Last modified: 13 September 2003