Joined by Kiwi mate Karin, our first stop was up in the Bay of Islands where we rented a gaggle of kayaks from a friend of Karin's. He runs a kayak guide business up there, and so had some boats available, along with a trailer and even a van to tow it with (our vans had no hitch). Sweet as!!! The first day was pouring, torential rain.....had us a bit glum, but after a night with the 5 of us in 1 hotel room, the morning for our launch was perfectly clear!
We paddled out to Urupukapuka Island, an amazing park managed by the Dept of Conservation. Spent a few days there, kayaking and hiking the island, camping on the beach. Great trip! The kayaking reminded us a lot of the Pacific NW of the USA, but the trails were like hiking on a golf course!!! The sheep roaming the island keep the grass green and mowed.....did not suck at all!
|Another rugged afternoon in camp|
|We weren't alone on the ferry!|
|Helluva way to start backpacking....pretty civilized!|
D&D brought a tent, but we slept at one of the hikers huts on the trail. The hut was ok, but with 14 people snoring and farting away in our room, with the same on the other side of the wall, we'd go the tent route next time!
|Gannet fishing through school of tasty fish....they were definitely not making it easy to get a feed|
All in all, we covered about 35 km as we hiked back to the vans. The views from the trail are great, as you ramble along the coast with a few jaunts inland to break things up. Really easy hiking on a great trail, but Cindi and I still managed to lose a couple of toe nails, from cramming our "luau feet" into our hiking boots. Price you pay, living in flip flops for a few years!!!
Back in the vans, we headed north to Farewell Spit. The beautiful beach was nearly deserted, except for some baby seals playing in a tide pool, and a few hikers enjoying the amazing caves and sand dunes. This spit of land wraps around a bay, infamous for trapping and beaching whales each year who get disoriented in the tremendous tide flats. Happily there were none when we arrived, though many had died there earlier this season.
|Gratuitous New Zealand sheep shot|
|Might trade up to this bad boy found in a field.....negotiations continue!!!|
|Bar is open...."I'll have a beer with a DEET chaser" The sand flies could be monsters!|
|Emptying the porta potties was always good entertainment!|
|Nothing handles like a rental!!!|
|"They don't mean us, do ya think???"|
|Apparently the critters can read in NZ...|
|Hiking up on the Fox glacier (with David Fox, of course.....)|
|Some wild weather approaching....."Auntie Em.....make room in the root cellar!!!"|
|Like the sigh says!|
|Cue the Sound of Music soundtrack, as Cindi goes all Julie Andrews on us.....|
|another gratuitous kiwi sheep shot.....|
|Damn jetboats....the kiwis love 'em, even in their national parks!|
We decided to give paragliding a try, from the hills of a local ski area overlooking the valley. None of us had ever tried it before. We weighed in at their office, they write your weight on your hand with a sharpie, and up you go. The jumps are tandem, you with a guide. After getting all rigged up, they wait for the right thermal, and it's "RUN...RUN...RUN!!!" as you head for the edge of the ridge. All of a sudden you're airborne, and it's a fantastic 15 minute ride to the valley floor below. Fantastic!
|The E ticket ride begins|
|Cindi looks a bit bored, don't you think???|
|Classic view of Mt. Cook|