Friday, March 11, 2011

Daddy & Erinn tour New Zealand - Part I

It has been an incredible 8 months thus far. We have met so many fabulous people, learned a ton, and thoroughly enjoyed soaking in all the sights and sounds of this great country. What made it even better, though, was having the opportunity to explore parts of it with Daddy Piller! For two weeks, he bid adieu to the bitter Canadian weather and traded it in for some father-daughter time! He arrived a few weeks ago peeling off his winter coat as he walked through the arrivals gate. It was a beautiful sunny day in Wellington – a perfect welcoming! The poor guy was probably a little tired from the long flight but we didn’t sit down too long to rest. For the next day and a half, we feasted on brunches and dinners, went for a glorious walk up Mount Victoria, visited Te Papa – New Zealand’s National Museum, and cruised the streets. By the time the weekend was over, we had thoroughly made our mark on the city!

On Monday morning, we caught the ferry across to the South Island – a three hour trip from Wellington through the Queen Charlotte Sounds and into Picton (where Pete and I gave‘er at the Queen Charlotte Classic back in November)! Not. A. Cloud. In. The. Sky. It was breathtaking!
Leaving the Wellington Harbour...
...And entering the Queen Charlotte Sound
Looking out for wildlife
From here we caught a water taxi to our first stop on the tour – the Portage Resort in Portage Bay. It was a beautiful hotel nestled away in a secluded bay right on the edge of the Queen Charlotte Track. It was too beautiful for words. And so, instead of throwing on our kickers and rushing off to hit the trails, we chose to stick around, go for a swim, and relax on the deck with a glass of vino (scotch for Daddy) and our books. A perfect way to spend our first afternoon!
The view from our room!
Portage bay
On the Queen Charlotte Track looking down into a beautiful bay
A wonderful end to a wonderful day
The next day - Tuesday, February 22nd. It was a pretty grim day in the sounds but we braved the weather and hit the trails nonetheless. While the tramp was still indeed spectacular and much enjoyed, we were completely unaware of the goings on only a few hundred kilometers south of us. At approximately 1 pm that afternoon, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Canterbury region, killing hundreds and leaving complete demolition in its wake. Buildings collapsed as though they were made of cards, roads split in half leaving trails of liquefaction and seepage where concrete once lived. People were confused, rattled, scared. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. I have a few friends who call Christchurch home. Luckily they and their families were all OK. But even today, three weeks later, the wounds are still fresh as rescue teams continue to search for bodies amongst the rubble. The rest of the day was a bit surreal. Our schedule was taking us through Christchurch the very next day. I guess it was lucky timing…

On Wednesday, we cruised back into Picton and picked up one car and one Pete (he had taken the morning ferry across to join us for a few days). Unfortunately we had no choice but to head through Christchurch as we had to swap vehicles with the rental company there. Luckily, we were able to bypass the downtown core where the bulk of the impact had been and avoid getting in anyone’s way. From Christchurch, our route took us through Arthur’s Pass – the link between the Canterbury region and the West Coast. The pass crosses the Southern Alps and on the three-hour journey, we were rewarded with stellar views of mountain peaks, deep valleys, and incredible gorges. It was so beautiful that we decided to stop halfway through and fit in a short walk to a stunning waterfall known as the Devil’s Punchbowl.

Sleepy seals
Exploring the Kaikoura peninsula
Moa statue (a giant flightless bird that is endemic to NZ. They weighed up to 510 lbs which made them incredibly appetizing to European settlers. As a result moas went extinct in the 1800's
The moa lays an Erinn!!
Pointing the way to Mt. Cook (New Zealand's highest mountain)

Arthur's Pass National Park
Arthur's Pass
Arhtur's at dusk
Family photo
pretty mountains
I'd pick the sheep
Devil's punchbowl waterfall
The very next day we decided to check out Fox Glacier. Tucked in between a series of magnificent mountains (including the highest peak in New Zealand), Fox Glacier is a 13 km long glacier and is one of few in the world to end among lush rainforest only 300 metres above sea level. It’s quite a sight to come across this massive hunk of ice after walking through lush, dewy forest. Not your typical day walk in High Park! It’s quite incredible that NZ literally has it all – rainforests, mountains, alpine ranges, and glaciers! Incredible!
Fox Glacier
Crossing a stream en route to the glacier
Lake Matheson
Afternoon espresso with one helluva view!
Stopping to pick up a copy of New Idea mag with one of the latest (and beautiful) WWF ads!
The next day, we hit the road again and made our way to Wanaka – my favourite town in New Zealand. It was so nice to be back there for a few days and I immediately headed to the lake to soak it all in. It was far busier than the last time we’d been here as it was peak season and everyone else had the bright idea of staying there too. Luckily, by the late afternoon it had quieted down considerably and we felt like we had the place to ourselves. We were lucky enough to fit in two big walks, lots of yummy dinners and a stop at our favourite burger joint in all of kiwi-land. This place has nothing but local, organic goodies and the burgers are the size of your face! I mean really – how much more could one ask for?!
Cruising down the West Coast
The view from our room
Hiking up Roy's Peak
The view from the top
Taking a moment to soak it all in
Happiness is...
Spot Daddy Piller
After two days in Wanaka, we sadly had to bid adieu to the beautiful town, send Pete off on a 20 seater plane back to Welly-town, hop into our trusty “Peppersprint” (yup – we’d named her by this point), and hit the open road once more.

It is here that I will take my pause before carrying on. Stay tuned for updates on week 2 - more great adventures of Daddy and Erinn coming soon…

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