Tourist in my own State

The thing I love about traveling is how much it helps you appreciate what you have back home. Here in North Carolina, we are truly fortunate to have so many natural wonders right in our back yard. While we were in NZ, I realized that we don’t take advantage of how much our state has to offer. So I decided that it was high time to become a tourist in my own state.

If you are looking for the beginning of the New Zealand Trip, Start Here.

One of the things we really enjoyed was hiking to the top of random mountains to take in the view. I checked out a list of National Parks near us and decided on Hanging Rock.

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So we loaded up the car with our dog, Chai, our friend Sally, and K’s mom, Peggy. A mere 2 hours later we were just a short walk to Cascade Falls.

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Peggy and Sally taking in the view

Then we took our packed lunches up to the summit of Hanging Rock. Only trouble was, that we weren’t the only ones who thought this was a great day for a walk…

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I think I can see Peggy from here..

But it was totally worth the view for our lunch

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Chai doesn’t like when I get too close to the edge

This place would be amazing for bouldering and rock climbing. So just a reminder to have fun in your own state. Next week, the ZOO!!

The Itinerary: The Hindsight Report

Questions on our itinerary have been raised and I figured it might be nice to have a running log on what we liked, disliked, where we wished we had spent more time, and where we wished we had spent less. Also this will have mini reviews of our accommodations. This is a long, wordy one – so if you’re looking for photos, move on!

We also used a travel agent, Chrissy Sun, to come up with this itinerary, and she did almost all of our bookings (the heli hike on Aoraki-Mt.Cook being the only exception). I highly recommend using a travel agent. Everything is booked ahead, already paid for, so all you have to do is hand the proprietor your voucher.  www.firstlighttravel.com

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Taylor’s Mistake: Walking outside of Christchurch

Christchurch was our last stop. And my friend Donna and her husband Gareth made sure it was a great one! After picking us up for dinner and taking us to their wonderful friend Ronnie’s house, they made plans for our last full day of Christchurch.

We started out by touring the incredible Botanical Gardens of Christchurch. I was too busy feasting with my eyes to take pictures, but it certainly has earned it’s fame. Then we went downtown to see the rebuilding of Christchurch, along with the very recent memories of the terrible quake on February 22, 2011. It was very surreal, seeing our friends in a familiar city, that was no longer familiar.

Then it was off to the outskirts to Taylor’s Mistake. This 3 hour hike was filled with breathtaking views of the bay. And, as Donna rightly put it, “where you have to take care taking in the scenery, lest you become part of it.” You could easily see where the rocks had tumbled down from the quake a week or so ago.

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Some sort of blooming succulent that grew all over the hillside

 

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That was directly beside me (see my shadow). Part of this was just sheep paths.

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Gareth and Donna leading up the hill

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Donna and Gareth: and that sign was NOT joking

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One of the battlements put in for WWII

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Looking into the inlet, toward Littleton Harbour

This was probably our most favorite hike we did. It was very challenging, but incredibly gorgeous. Not to mention a perfect day, with Gareth finding the perfect place for a pint after.

I couldn’t think of a better way to end our trip, than with such excellent hosts of Gareth, Donna, and their wonderful friend Ronnie. Thanks to you all!

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A little bit of Milford Sound

We arrived early for our kayak & dusk walk, so we looked around the main bay to check out the sites. The ride in had been pretty impressive, with the rock face spouting forth waterfalls at every interval. Some were little streams that looked like icing traveling down the gorge, while others were large spouts, looking for the world as if it would drown anything. Not a ton of pictures from the road, simply because there was no where to stop. It was also overwhelming, the sheer height and number of the falls. Not to mention the sketch one way tunnel through the mountain, that felt like any minute Indiana Jones was going to speed past in a little mining cart…

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Not long after we started kayaking through the bay, a small school of bottle nosed dolphins swam a few meters in front of us. A rare treat that far into the bay! Apparently they were fishing. A serene paddle later, we were on the track. The Milford track, that is. We were hiking up the last few meters or so of the famed Milford Track. The Milford Track typically takes 5 days to finish. I hope to do it myself, someday.

Our hike terminated at this beautiful, cold, glacier fed waterfall. What a treat! There was a long swinging bridge that went across the river so we could go to the center and take pictures. Of course, Kevin and our guide, Cullen, didn’t mind bouncing it as I tried to walk back across…

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Aoraki Mt. Cook

Moving out of order for a minute and fast forwarding to our time in Aoraki/Mt. Cook. We drove out of Te Anau through winding roads, beyond the beautiful turquoise depths of Lake Pukaki, into the protected area of Aoraki. Originally we only had glacier kayaking planned, but fortunately Kevin found the number for Southern Alps Guiding and managed to book us a heli hike tour of the Tasman Glacier!

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We were finally greeted with incredible clear weather and were able to take the ski plane to the higher area of the glacier. As always, I have more pics of these amazing views from the plane that I will post later.

We had the honor of being guided by the company owner and his colleague, Charlie and “Ant”. Charlie has had over 35 years of mountaineering and climbed Aoraki / Mt. Cook 28 times! We were in very capable hands.

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Ant making sure we don't hurt ourselves

We got to look through ice caves, see rushing water under the glacier, and peer into deadly crevasses.

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We also learned that cramp-ons were awesome on snow and ice. Might need to pick some up for our next ice storm!

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We couldn’t believe how much we got to see of this awe inspiring work of nature. If you come to Aoraki / Mt. Cook, you have to go up with these guys.

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They’ve only recently gotten permits to land on the Tasman Glacier, and it was amazing to have the whole space to ourselves. It certainly made having our tour at Franz Joseph being cancelled seem fortuitous. We would not have gotten such breath taking experience, like we did with Southern Alps Guiding.