Driving to Nelson – New Zealand

Today was a day of driving.  We headed from Carters Beach to Nelson, working our way through the scenic roads where we will ultimately end up in Picton to take the Ferry over to the North Island.  We only have a few short days left here in the South and it is happy to throw everything is can at us.

Framed with light clouds and blue sunny skies, warm temperatures and dry roads, we drive up and down mountains, along rivers and through small towns.

Surprisingly we fit underneath this rocky overhang.

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Beware of SLUMPS!

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Driving INTO a cloud.

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Believe it or not, they strung the hydro wires from mountain to mountain ACROSS a river and road!

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Some Clouds just did not want to give up the day.

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There is evidence of logging in this area as well.  Not all the replanted trees survive.

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We do make sure the kids have time to play.  Roland and I got out the first ting in the morning and explored the campground.  We met a goat and a cat on our travels.

 

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We also try to find a place to play at lunch time so everyone can relax and stretch out for a while.NZ Day 14

That’s the sugar bowl she is eyeing…

 

We continue to encounter crazy roads.  This is a One Lane Road.  It was two but the mountain got in the way.  The corner is so tight you can’t even see the oncoming traffic!  There is actually a stop light to control traffic too.  I guess you will have to cross your fingers if it’s not working!

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I think this is my favourite picture of the day.  Still a working farm, this home looks like it must have a century ago.

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Complete with working horses, I wish we could have stopped and explored their home.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks – New Zealand

As we head north of Greymouth we feast on the spectacular ocean views of Punakaiki and the Paparoa National Park.

Know for pancake rocks and blow holes it is easy to see why they say it is a must see on the West Coast of the South Island.

 

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The Pancake Rocks that Punakaiki is famous for, are limestone formations that began forming 30 million years ago, when lime-rich fragments of dead marine creatures were deposited on the seabed, then overlaid by weaker layers of soft mud and clay was raised above sealevel by earthquakes to form the coastal cliffs and coastline. The sea, wind and rain have since etched out the soft layers to form the unusual rock formations we see today. When conditions are right, heavy ocean swells thunder into the caverns beneath the rocks and huge water spouts blast skywards through the blowholes in a truly spectacular sight. (http://www.punakaiki.co.nz/about_punakaiki/)

There is a short 20-minute walking trail that is paved.

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It would have been easy to take the kids but everyone decided to have a nap while I went for the walk.

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What do you see?  Some people have a great imagination and can see all sorts of creatures in these rocks.

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Did you see any of these creatures?

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The wind, rain, and sea constantly change the formations and leave behind the harder stone.

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Unfortunately, there was no activity at the blow holes.  I imagine a higher tide would have produced some great sprays to see.

We rounded out our drive by heading a little further north to the small town of Carters Beach.  Know for their sunsets and spectacular star gazing, we were not disappointed.

As we marveled at the wonders of nature we were also left wondering just what happened here.

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ShantyTown – New Zealand

Just a short drive from Greymouth is the heritage park of Shanty Town.

Here you can Ride the Steam Train, Pan for Gold, Watch a Holographic Show, Walk through China Town, Get and Old Time Photo, Eat at King Dick’s Cafe and Play at the Park.  Oh, and of course you can get a cat to give you a tour of the museum…

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We started off our visit at King Dick’s Cafe for breakfast before heading off to explore the town.

There were toys for both Roland and Scarlet to play with.

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Roland just loves finding toys that Scarlet will love.

 

We had some time to explore before catching the next steam train.

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I guess we will catch the next one!

While Dan watched the Holographic movie, Roland, Scarlet and I found ourselves a tour guide.

This is Mr……I can’t remember.  He is the resident cat of the town and he also runs the joint.  He truly did take us on a tour.  We followed him to several buildings.

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The town is set up with all the little stores you would have found in a gold rush.

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Roland getting the cannon ready to fire

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early examples of doctor equipment

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There are many people who made places like New Zealand work.

Surveyors, police, blacksmith, robbers, all types of people.  Some did well and some, unfortunately, did not make it at all.  You can learn about many of these stories around Shantytown.

Here are some great examples of Old Time Medicine.  How far we have come.

 

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We caught the 11:00 train that took us on a short trip with the opportunity to pan for gold.

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Much like Canada and the US, New Zealand also has a long history with the Chinese and mining work.

I had some trouble with Roland and Dan so I decided to try out the disciplinary teachings of the period.

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Things are getting serious now.  They still won’t behave so I will just have to put them in irons.

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Here Roland is trying to help poor Daddy who has been thrown in the stock.  He can’t quite reach as he is at the end of his ball and chain.

There is quite a lot to see and do here in Shantytown and we easily could have spent the whole day.  Roland, however, was tuckered out and it was time for a nap/drive to the next spot.

Frans Joseph Glacier – New Zealand

We started off our morning with some silliness and cuddles, the perfect way to start any morning.  I also remembered that Roland had picked out a new stuffie at the roadhouse we ate at yesterday.  He clearly forgot about it so I decided to give it to him still wrapped up.

 

 

 

We are breakfast at “Snakebite” cafe.  Dan and Roland tried some Asian pork dumplings and both approved of it as a breakfast item 🙂

We drove just a few minutes out of town to find the Frans Joseph Glacier walking trails.

We also saw these two girls, who have clearly walked from town, making their way in.  We decided to give them a quick ride the rest of the way to the parking lot (probably saved them a good 30 mins of walking).  One was from England and the other from Ottawa! (Not too far from home).

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The start of the path we work was well groomed but we knew that would change and there was no way we would actually walk up to the glacier.

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Here is a little knowledge for you about Franz Joseph.`

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We walked as far as these waterfalls.  The water was so clear and clean you could drink it right our of the stream.  The weather has also turned rather warm on us (a whole 16C!)

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As he headed back to the car Roland did his best to walk the whole way but clearly tired he was whisked up by daddy for most of it.

It sure didn’t take long for him to fall asleep with snack still in hand! (cheese and carrots!)

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Driving towards Greymouth we saw evidence of current and past gold mining towns.  Many of the gold rushes in New Zealand have been long ago and short lived.

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Mining Turck

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More Mining Machinery.

 

The rivers here are so wide and blue.  The flat lands well utilized for farming. The mountains jut up and are covered in green.

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The roads often make sharp turns.  We often drive beside the road while still on the road.

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Now, this is something special.  I have never seen this before.  A roundabout WITH a train track running through it!

We also had the unique pleasure of being detoured due to construction, onto a train bridge.  Yup.  The currently used train bridge.

 

Heaading to the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand

With not much of a clear goal in mind, we headed towards the West Coast. We couldn’t take the “short” route either.  The GPS told us to take a particular road that happens to be on our NO GO list provided by Maui.  We really wanted to take it too.  We actually met several people who drove on it VERY SLOWLY and said it was spectacular and one of the most insane roads they had ever driven.  (maybe it was a good thing to avoid in our giant moving house).  Even with the “Safer” route, we were not left disappointed by the drive.

Hairpin turns, switchbacks, cliffs, one lane bridges and rocky overhangs were a regular occurrence with the occasional reprieve of valleys and flats.

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It’s a Bug…

Easy Driving.

 

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When they say go 15km/h they mean 15!

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Netting to hold back the rocks from falling on you.

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You can’t even see the road around the corner.

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Keeping Roland entertained on these drives can be difficult at times.  I find myself singing, a lot.  It usually involves silly things, what we see and what we are doing.  He loves it and frequently sings his own songs.  Much to Dan’s annoyance I frequently sing “The Bear Song” by Green Gelly. (As I write this I am finally listening to the song on my comuter, love it. Look it up!)

 

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This is a river.  Can you imagine it full?!?!

This one lane bridge is so large it has two “Passing” sections where you can sit and wait for a car to pass you.  We’re still not sure on the actual etiquette on this so we just waited until the whole bridge was clear.  We might also be too large for such a passing place too.

 

 

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We can now see OCEAN!

 

 

We decided to grab some lunch at a random spot along the way.  Turns out the Makarora Country Cafe was a wonderful and special place.

Cozy Fireplace, kids toys, room to crawl around.

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This is NOT the fireplace being used today!

 

 

Good food, Flags, antiques all over the place. License plates from all over the world, even Canada and the US.  This money tree.

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It was the atmosphere that made it more like visiting your family cottage more than a random stop on the road.

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We are so glad we stopped by!

Out on the ocean, we drove by spectacular sights.  There is a little place you can pull off and some great beach access.

There is also a lot of smooth white rocks.

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People have gone and written all sorts of messages and added them to a pile right on the beach.  There were half a dozen piles.

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We got as far as Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier as it started to get dark and called it for a night.  We liked the idea of viewing a glacier and that it just what we will do tomorrow.

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Rainforest Retreat

The Rainforest Retreat has a variety of accommodations and even has a full-service restaurant!  The staff at Monsoons were fantastic!  The camping spots are set in the back of the park and surrounded by lush rainforest.  Just perfect.

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Maui in the forest.

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lol, not our camper.

 

Queenstown – New Zealand

Once a sheepherding town turned gold rush, now hosts thousands of visitors each day.  With the average stay of 3 nights, that’s a lot of people coming and going out of this mountainside town.

Situated on  Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by snowcapped mountains such as the remarkable, people flock to this area for skiing, fishing, hiking and jumping off of and out of various things.

We stayed two nights at Creeksyde (Queenstown Holiday Park & Motel Creeksyde)

 

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I just love this little wishing well they use for drinking water.  It is a very eco-friendly place.

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This is a boiler.  Placed right in the middle of the main building.  It is covered in beautiful and interesting graffiti.  It was originally used for fire suppression back in the sheepherding days of the town.

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We took some time to wander around town by foot and we saw why people love this town.

From good coffee to Orange and Basil Sherbert, the food is wonderful and varied.  Something for everyone.

We hit the marina and admired the shark boat (know to make people vomit) but decided on the more gentle cruise with one of the several companies down here.  We hopped on with Million Dollar Cruses

 

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Roland took these two photos of our fellow passengers.

With lunch on the docket, we headed for another walk around town.  Roland is not always the best-behaved kid so we thought it a good idea to leave him in the stocks for a little while. JK.

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We headed up the hill towards the Gondola with the plan to eat at the top with a view (assuming the clouds would finally go away)

We were greeted by this “little fellow”.  How would you like to drive around with this guy on your car!

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Roland is really getting into the idea of having his picture taken in various places.  He loves saying “CHEESE” with the biggest goofiest grin on his face!

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At the top of the Skyview Gondola, you will find a restaurant ($55/adult for a buffet) and (thankfully) a cafe with various things you can eat.  There is even a play area for kids.  You will find a typical souvenir shop and even JellyBellys both for sale and on the walls as art.

 

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A view from the top

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Looking Down on Queenstown

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They like to jump off things around here.  It’s a drop and a view you will never forget.

At the top, you can also find this.

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Luge Chair Lift

They will let you even take your toddler on this to get to the top and ride your way back down.  That’s 1.6km of GRAVITY-FUELLED FUN.  And, He Loved It!  (I was so scared with him on my lap on that chair lift though!)

 

These are the Remarkables.  You can see why they named them so.

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There is plenty more to see and do in this town but we need to keep moving.  We found it better to pay for an extra night so we could walk the town, rather than drive and look for parking.  There is the feeling of a ski town to me.  A lot of focus on the outdoor and extreme activities with a younger crowd.   (took a while to even find a change table, there is one in the Mall near McDonald’s)

For now, we head off towards the west coast.

Driving to Queenstown – New Zealand

Today we are heading from Milford Sound to Queenstown (arguably the most popular destination in New Zealand).

It rained overnight in Milford sound and we woke to what can only be described as THOUSANDS of waterfalls.

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We took the time to have lunch in Te Anau.

 

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The rest of our drive was easy going with unforgettable views.

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This sign reminds me of toothpaste.

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He’s napping with his feet up on the table!!

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notice the zig zag lines the sheep use to get up and down the “hill”

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Kingston and Lake Wakatipu

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Lake Wakatipu

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Lake Wakatipu

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The sun is starting to set on Lake Wakatipu but we actually got a picture of the two of us!

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What a road!!

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That is a big rock!!

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Bridge work entering Queenstown

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Don’t get lost!

 

It was dark by the time we arrived in Queenstown and checked into the park late as usual.

The staff at Queenstown Holiday Park are nothing short of fantastic.  They were such a help with figuring out where we were going the next day and even got us a bathtub for the kids!  The amenities are great too.  The kitchen and lounge/TV area was comfortable and spacious.  It was nice to get out of the camper to cook and eat.  We like the place enough to stay the second night too.

 

 

Getting to Milford Sound – New Zealand

There are a lot of places to see in New Zealand and by far the most spectacular so far is Milford Sound.  A unique world unlike any other in the world, Milford Sound is also far off the beaten track.

On our way, we passed through Lake Manapouri and Lake Te Anau.  Both have great places to stay and beautiful views.

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These small towns are a great launching point for your 2 plus hour drive.  Take your time, stay the night and explore all of the beauty of the region.

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Once you leave Te Anau there are no gas stations, no stores and no towns along the way.  There are very few places to overnight as well.

You can find some campsites that are “self-serve” and even a few remote lodges.

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The drive is filled with spectacular sights so go slow, stretch your legs and gaze upon the views that are like no other.

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Road conditions also change from day to day.  Check www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic every day before you drive.  You can have frost, rain, snow, avalanches, rock slides or pleasant sunshine. The weather also changes based on your altitude, on the day we traveled there was snow as low as 300m above sea level.  The next day, when we left, there were thousands of waterfalls caused by that night’s rain.Day 9Day 9Day 9Day 9NZ 8NZ 8NZ 8

This is the Kea

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The Kea is endangered and the worlds only alpine parrot.  It has sadly fallen prey to mammals and most notedly the Human.  The salt in our food will kill them as they cannot process it.  PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE KEA!

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They are cheeky little birds who will tear apart exposed parts of your car, wires, and rubber bits mostly. They are fun to watch and quite bold.

There are plenty of scenic lookouts and hiking trails along the way.

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Open Fields encased by snow capped mountains

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Dense forest

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Glacial formed rivers

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Clear Blue Water

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Mirror Glass Water

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When you get to the end of the road to Milford Sound you will find the information center/café and the harbor.

This is when you have finally reached your destination.

 

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There is a lot to see and do here and only one place to stay.

The Milford Sound Lodge has various accommodations with everything from private bathrooms to a Resturant and Lounge.

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Bluff – South Island, New Zealand

We slept in today.  I am amazed it is so late.  Usually, we have one of two kids waking us up at 7 am.  I don’t know what woke us up but this is what we saw at 8:23 this morning.

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Scarlet has definitely learned how to crawl over top of those cushions on her own.  Time to invent the next barrier to separate those two.

I think the ducks can be credited to the quiet toddler this morning.  You can see him looking out the window.  There are 4 large ducks hanging around the camp kitchen hoping for a free meal.

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In fact, it might have been the ducks that wake us up “QUACK QUACK QUACK”

Roland said we need to investigate these quacking birds a little further.

After completing a few necessary “to do” items in town we decided to head out to Bluff.

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We drove south.  We drove as far south as we possibly could.  The only way to drive any further south is in a submarine.

There are no roads south of here unless you count the roads in Antarctica.

The town had an old world feel to it.  Bluff claims to be the first European settlement in New Zealand. (PersevePerseverance arriving in 1813) As a deep water port, Bluff is quite a busy place. It’s known for its aluminum smelter and oil explorations. We missed their annual oyster festival by one day.

IMG_8965We were really surprised to find out about how much meat is exported from this place. There are thousands of cows and sheep everywhere, but there are also thousands of deer being farmed on the way to Bluff. There are refrigerated shipping containers for the ships to carry frozen beef, venison, and lamb to faraway markets. Not to mention fish, and oysters too.

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I recommend making at least two stops while you are exploring the town.  There is a look-out on Bluff Hill (870 ft high) and the terminus of the peninsula, Stirling Point.

Bluff Hill is a steep drive and at the top, you will be greeted with spectacular views.

 

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Everything we have ever know is to the north of us.

 

 

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Looking South, places we have yet to go.

The hill is topped with a spiral walkway that will take you through some of New Zealand’s History.

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Headed from Bluff Hill to the end of the road at Sterling Point there are a few things to keep in mind.

 

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Glad I know how to get up Bluff Hill!

 

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With beautiful ocean views and a few places to park, it is a wonderful place to get out and stretch your legs.  There is even a short ocean trail.

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There was this interesting area out in the water where you could see allot of waves breaking.  After staring at it for a while I began to notice that some of the waves were actually going in different directions.  They would crash into each other and that was a large part of the turbulence I could see.  I’m still not sure what was causing it.

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After Bluff, we headed toward Milford Sound. I know we won’t make it there today, so we took our time and enjoyed the views along the way.

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gIANT rOUND rOCKS – New Zealand

We found $5 BREAKFAST and if you have any idea how much we have been spending on food you will know why we are so excited!  Not only was the food cheap, the coffee had a great kick. the food was delicious, staff was awesome and there were even toys for kids to play with.

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The Village Cafe in Timaru definitely gets thumbs up from us!  It’s in a little plaza with a grocery and a few other shops, including a pharmacy and post office.

As I was chatting with another mom with a baby, Roland comes running in with a new hat. the kind to which I responded, “Well I KNOW you Daddy didn’t buy that one for you…”  Of he went and returned two more times with different hats.  We bought this one.

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Whenever we leave in the morning we have a plan of where we want to go and what we plan on doing. Sometimes, however, we like to take detours on our way and if we are lucky we find some pretty spectacular things…

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We have mountains on one side…

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and ocean on the other.

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They have coloured “marshmallows”

Our goal, today, was to drive from Timaru to Dunedin but we saw a giant sign for the Steampunk HQ and through that might just be a worthwhile drive-by.

It was.  The cafe on the water was also worth a stop.

There are always signs pointing out historical markers, points of interest and memorials.

Dan through he saw “Memorial Boulders” and off we went to see what exactly a “memorial boulder was”.  Dan tells it like this.  “Well you see,  a ship sunk and crashed into a bunch of rocks and they died.  So the other rocks got together and built these boulders to remember that tragic day…” or something like that.  If you know Dan, this makes sense…

I also got Scarlet a new bib!

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Dan had a great time finding interesting signs.

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We made it to our destination of Dunedin at a respectable 3:30.  We headed straight for the Cadbury Factory to go on a tour but missed the last showing.  So, we simply asked what next? and were guided to the Train Station around the corner.  Naturally, Roland had lots of fun looking around.  The building itself is stunning.  Opened in 1906 it was the busiest station in all of New Zealand.  At it’s busiest it was doing up to 100 trains a day!  The architect earned the nickname of “Gingerbread Gorge” for the ornate look.  The tile work inside is equally as beautiful as the outside.  Considered one of the worlds 200 must see places, we agree.

I also spotted this old house and if you know me personally you will know why I was so excited to see it.

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We have checked into a Top10 holiday park here in town and Dan saw “heated Pool”

We had fun but we were still cold.  It’s dark and raining tonight too.

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Tomorrow we will go back to Cadbury and try to see some penguins aswell.

Oh and we cant forget to add this one in for you.