Florida, Family, Flora, Fauna and Fun

We flew to Miami on Sunday January 28th and met with my sister and brother-in-law the next morning. My sister drove us to Naples where we were booked to stay for the next 3 nights.

Took it easy the first night and strolled down to see what is left of Naples pier and wait for the sunset, it was a bit breezy but well worth the wait

On the way back we had dinner at a Thai restaurant that was excellent but as we walked further on, on our way back to the hotel, we saw an amazing looking Persian restaurant and promptly booked a table for the following night.

Lazy start the next day and a brunch at the local cafe before driving off to Corkscrew swamp sanctuary which belongs to the Audubon group. https://corkscrew.audubon.org/

It was perfect winter weather for Florida, warm enough to not need coats but not sweltering hot and humid. There are about 2.5 miles of walkways around the swamp and while we did not see loads of birds, those we did see were quite close and I was able to use my new camera and get some pretty decent shots.

Back to Naples and the most amazing dinner at Bha Bha the Persian restaurant on 5th avenue. It was so good, I ate it instead of taking pictures!

Next morning we drove to Sanibel Island and had a walk and drive around the Ding Darling reserve. We were treated to a lot more birds but other than this great Osprey, they were further away than my camera would have done justice too.

After a happy few hours at the reserve we carried on to Captiva and had lunch sat out in the sun and watched the world and a few more birds go by! Can you see the crab in the beak of the small heron

On the Thursday we drove back to Miami, ready to fly out the next morning, we were coming back to Atlanta and my family were on their way to Martinique to start a catamaran trip.

On the way back to Miami, my sister had booked an airboat tour of the Everglades, it was so much fun, we got up close and personal with a number of alligators and this delightful little bird called a Gallinule, first time we had seen them. They were obviously used to the boat pilot as one of them came and ate a small worm out of his hand. The Airboats are quite noisy but it’s amazing how they glide through the Everglades. Thank goodness we were spared from seeing any of the infamous Burmese pythons.

We took an Uber down to Ocean drive and sat outside for dinner and people watched, to say there were some interesting characters would be an under statement! After dinner we walked along the front, admiring the architecture and enjoying the views. I was particularly drawn to the Betsy Hotel, it had two very interesting additions, the Betsy Orb which the Google describes here “The Betsy Orb is a work of public art installed to connect two architecturally significant buildings: The Betsy Ross designed by L. Murray Dixon and The Carlton designed by Henry Hohauser. Once a month, we use The Orb’s surface to project artistic videos or photographs for the community to enjoy.” And the Betsy poetry rail, again curtesy of the Gooogle “The Betsy Poetry Rail is an homage to the poets who have shaped Miami literature by including their diverse, historic, and contemporary voices: Muhammad Ali, Richard Blanco, Adrian Castro, Chenjerai Hove, Langston Hughes, Donald Justice, Campbell McGrath, Geoffrey Philp, Carlos Pintado, Hyam Plutzik, Gerald Stern, and Julie Marie Wade.”

The Trip was rounded out by a cocktail or two in the hotel bar, their speciality was a whisky sour with peanut butter and yes it was delicious. Kat and Ian taught us a new card game and Rob was happy to win at least once and so is looking forward to playing it again.

All in all a great trip and good to see family !!

And the travels begin again – just a little!

I belong to a spinning guild, the type that spins fiber into yarn not the over active cycling kind. One of our members suggested a road tip to Florence Alabama to see the Alabama Chanin clothing factory. Florence is right next door to Muscle shoals and I knew from watching the music documentary “Muscle Shoals” which, by the way, is definitely worth watching, that Rob would also really like to visit. The plan was to arrive on the Thursday and we would visit Muscle Shoals sound studio together. And then separate on the Friday, Rob would go to the Fame Studio and I would do the factory tour.

Off we drove, avoiding as much of the motorways (Interstate) as we could and had a brief stop at a very local diner for lunch. We checked in to our hotel and were given a great room overlooking the Wilson Dam on the Tennessee river.

Off we went to meet our friend at the music studio. The tour was truly excellent and the list of stars that had produced their records there was awe inspiring. They still produce records there today, although the original backing band, The Swampers, are no longer involved. Back to the hotel for drinks and dinner in the hotel bar and being treated to live music.

Friday morning the weather was pretty bad so while Rob was off on his second studio tour, I went to meet the girls and have a look around the factory earlier than planned. Apart from getting a bit wet and wind blown the tour went really well. Natalie Chanin, the designer behind the brand, has built the business around a simple series of clothing pieces that are then elevated with a lot of hand stitching, appliqué and stenciled painted patterns. The completed pieces carry a hefty price ticket but you can also buy them in kit form and do the stitching yourself. Natalie also has a number of stitching and design books that she has produced and we were lucky enough to actually meet her. I bought her studio sewing and design book and she very kindly wrote on the inside cover for me.

We met back up with the boys and then drove into town to the famous local diner and ice cream parlor. Trowbridge has been in business at the same location since 1918 and it certainly lived up to its reputation, grilled cheese sandwich followed by ice cream with hot fudge sauce, YUM!

Back to the hotel for dinner and more live music and making plans for a detour on the way home on Saturday. We travelled back via Patches and Stitches in Huntsville, a delightful shop that caters for cross stitch, needlepoint, wool appliqué and quilting.

Day 59 to getting home

This one has been the hardest to write, I kept saying to myself, do it now while it’s still fresh in your mind. And before it does all start to blur into a mish mash of fantastic memories, so here goes.

Thursday we just enjoyed the company of our friends as the weather really did not want to play ball. Although the evening was rounded out by some fabulous New Zealand lamb for Rob and yummy chicken breasts for me and yes of course there was dessert!

Friday we went out in the boat with Toni, Denise and Jim. It was fantastic and we quickly went from the lake down through the river valley and out to the beach. Jim and Rob pulled the boat up onto the beach and then we all walked out to the sandbank. It was interesting to see the scenery change so dramatically over a reasonably short distance. The lake had lots of black swans most of them in family groups with all their cygnets in tow. It was a great chance to spend time on the water and also blow some cobwebs away.

Saturday we took a run in the car with Toni, over to Bulls Creek beach and Crystal beach. They are both very close to the house although once you are over the hill the roads become very quiet with nothing but sheep and forestry. At Bulls Creek, we had to maneuver the car through the sheep to get to the parking spot and then a quick walk over the headland to see the fabulous waves crashing on the shore and a solitary sea-lion having a rest.

At Crystal beach we thought we may get to see some of the very elusive penguins but alas it was not to be. But the crashing waves more than made up for it. I LOVE the smell of the ocean, especially when there is seaweed as well. And the sounds of the waves is just music to my soul.

Sunday morning was a bit of excitement as Denise and Jim were having an old walnut tree cut down. It was really interesting to watch him strip all the branches off first and then take the tree down from the top. The strapping young guy with the chain saw did a great job taking it down limb by limb to avoid damage to the building or fence. He left quite a large stump, but Jim says it makes it easier to pull the roots out once you have dug around them, and you have something you can really pull on.

Sunday afternoon we had to pack to make sure we were under the weight limits on our bags. After another great dinner, Rob and I used the hot tub and ad a chance to reflect on all our amazing adventures.

Monday was leaving day, it was pretty tough to say goodbye to Toni, Jim and Denise and the tension was only broken by Rob’s inability to start the car (see day 1 post) and realizing that it works better if you have not left the keys on the side in the house. Dunedin Airport is the complete antithesis of most airports in US and UK. It was only a 15 minute drive from the house and returning the car consisted of parking it and leaving the keys in a mailbox!

After an uneventful flight we arrived in Auckland and traveled to our hotel. We stayed at the Four Point Sheraton and had floor to ceiling windows on 2 sides of the room which gave us great views over the city, including the sky tower. We took a walk into town along Queen Street which is the main shopping street and went as far as the harbor ate dinner and then had wonderful gelato to round it out. I do have to say that Auckland City Center is my least favorite place in the whole of New Zealand, I thought it was dirty, run down and I feel sorry for all the cruise ship people who get that as their first taste of this amazing country.

Next morning we went for another walk into the harbour and then caught a train out to the largest craft shop in NZ. Parked Rob in the husband crèche and had a good look around although given our suitcase weights, I was very restrained and just bought a couple of fat qtr of linen. Back into town, an early lunch and then headed out to the airport to start the long journey home. Auckland airport is very nice, clean, tidy and plenty of places to sit. The food options were good and the prices were not the usual outrageous prices that you get at some airports. Air New Zealand has an option in economy class called “Sky Couch”. You get a row of three seats and each seat has a leg rest that comes up level with the seat and gives you basically a twin width bed. For two short people like us, it was great and I made the most of it. We had a long layover in Houston before the final journey back to Atlanta. Arriving home pretty close to midnight. We were knee deep in leaves and our water would not work till Rob was able to fix it the next day but that was our only issues.

And so the journey ended …………. But with fabulous memories and plans for more travel so watch this space!

Day 55-58 Otago

Sunday we had a lovely relaxing day, we took a run into Dunedin and saw the worlds steepest street, one of the early settlers monuments, note she has a spindle with wool wrapped around it. Off we went to photograph Dunedin’s train station, probably the most photographed building in Dunedin. Trip to see Port Chalmers, the working harbor and where the Cruise ships come in. Toni’s house is just amazing and we have well and truly made ourselves at home. There is a constant supply of good food and a lot of home baking by Denise (Toni’s mum and Toni) We had dinner up at Denise and Jim’s house and the most amazing cinnamon cakes, Ginger loaf and shortbread. Yes I have been busy scribbling down the recipes.

Monday we took a run up to Oamaru, a pretty coastal town that has kept a lot of its original buildings and warehouses intact and created a lovely area to walk around and browse at various crafts. There is also a Steampunk museum that has some very interesting creations, some of which will move if you add 2$ to the slot. We still get blown away by the amazing colors of the sea and sky over here. I assume its the lack of pollution.

On the way back we stopped in Moeraki and walked down onto the beach to see the famous boulders. It’s so hard to believe that they were created naturally and they really are a unique sight. Here is what the Google has to say, “Moeraki is now most famous for its boulders; mysteriously spherical stones scattered across a beach. Each boulder weighs several tonnes and is up to two metres high. Scientists explain the boulders as calcite concretions formed about 65 million years ago. According to Maori legend, the boulders are gourds washed ashore from the great voyaging canoe Araiteuru when it was wrecked upon landfall in New Zealand hundreds of years ago”

Tuesday we headed into Dunedin and Toni went into the office for a few hours and I visited the local needlework shop 🙂 As compensation for Rob’s patience we went to the Toitu Otago museum and don’t tell him, but it was really interesting with a really wide range of displays from cars to clothes. Nice lunch at the Thai and home to recuperate.

Wednesday – we waited for the weather to dry out but we also need the wind to pick up as we were going to the Albatross colony and they only fly if there is enough wind. We were really lucky and saw plenty of them flying, plus there were young baby Seagulls, Sea-lions and Rabbits running around. The trip both there and back was along different sides of the peninsula and the views were just striking. Plus we saw black swans and a baby Oystercatcher. Here is what the Google has to say about Albatross, “ They usually breed on remote offshore islands and spend at least 85% of their lives at sea, well away from land and humans. Dunedin’s Taiaroa Head is the only mainland Royal Albatross breeding colony in the world. Renowned ocean wanderers, they travel vast distances from their breeding grounds to feed”

We met Denise and Jim in town and went to a local fish and chip cafe that is know for the quality of the food, they all had battered lemon sole but I wanted something that I had not had before, so went for the Elephant fish and it was really good texture and flavor and the Google says “ The elephant fish, also known as the Australian ghost shark, is a unique-looking fish with an elongated, protruding snout. It is commonly feeding on mollusks or other invertebrates on the ocean floor of the South Pacific ocean. The elephant fish has no bones; instead, its skeletal structure is entirely cartilage.These fish have a special reflective tissue in their eyes, so their eyes can appear to transition between shades of yellow and green.
It can be aggressive and fight back hard if threatened. These fish are very popular in cooking, particularly in Australia and New Zealand. They are common in fish n’ chips!”

Day 51 -54 Stewart Island

Nice drive from Te Anau to Bluff which is just south of the major town of Invercargill to catch the ferry. We were there early as usual and so a quick cuppa and a giant scone at the local cafe and a walk around the town passed the time till we caught the ferry. The ferry takes an hour and goes across the Foveaux Strait. It was far from a calm crossing but it was all good.

Checked into our lodge, which was part of the grounds for the local hotel. The town is called Oban and is pretty much the only part of the island that is occupied as at least 80% of the Island is the Rakiura reserve and there is a hut to hut walk that takes 3-4 days but I think we have done our share of those. Dinner in the hotel was good, it was also the local pub for the residents so there was a good atmosphere and a lot of interesting characters.

Next morning we caught the water taxi to Ulva – only a 10 minute journey but once out of the bay…….. very bouncy. Ulva is not lived on and is a sanctuary for the local bird life. We were there by 9 so a bit late really for any substantial sightings but the guide was able to point out some of them, one of which was a Robin only found on Ulva and Stewart Island. We walked through some really old forestry and onto a few little bays and altogether it was a pleasant way to spend the morning. Stopped for some local fish and chips for lunch and then had a relaxing afternoon. Dinner was at a food truck called Fin and Feather and it was amazing. Rob had Elk and I had mushroom, you could have them as a burger or in a salad and the salad was all sorts of yummy flavors. It was followed by a pannacotta that had popcorn, cardamom and other things added which was also very delicious.

Next day we took a water taxi to Port William and hiked back to Oban, the walk went up and down the various headlands and across the little bays and it really was beautiful scenery. Being the overachievers (idiots) that we are there is a decision point at the 9 mile mark, you can either walk a mile back into town or add on the last headland and you can all guess what we chose. Not realizing that this added another 4 miles and made the ups and downs of the previous trail look flat by comparison. Still we were happy to complete it and felt that we earned our pizza in the hotel bar that evening. As it was a Friday, some of the local were singing sea shanties in the bar so it was a good time to be there..

Saturday morning arrived and we were very grateful that we had changed our Ferry to the 8am and not the noon one, we had done it to make sure we were in Waihola early enough for the BBQ that was being cooked as Jim, Toni’s dad, was 82 and we were having a celebration for him. The reason we were so grateful was that the crossing was the bumpiest so far and the weather forecast was for gale force winds to come in at 11am and I can’t even imagine what that crossing would have been like. Anyway, we arrived at Toni’s by early afternoon and enjoyed a warm welcome from Toni, Denise and Jim plus an amazing array of food that evening. We have decided that we probably need to stop eating when we get back to Georgia until the New Year!

Day 46 to 50 The Big One !

So let’s start with a little of the how and why for these days, when we originally booked the flights to New Zealand, there were 2 things that were really important. Seeing our friend Toni and doing the Milford Track, everything thing we read and saw on YouTube talked about this being one of the best Great Walks in the world. I have to say, that’s only because they don’t all know Toni!

Our first thought was to do it the cheaper way which is backpacking all of your clothes food etc for the full 4 days and staying at the DOC huts along the track. But much to our good luck, the whole season was booked out within 7 minutes of it going up for sale this year, and there are very tight restrictions on the numbers of people allowed on the trail. The good luck part was, the fact that I think we woefully underestimated my ability to lug that much stuff over a mountain. Anyway there was a plan B, there is one private company that is allowed to take people on the walk and so a quick visit to the Ultimate Hikes website and I was able to secure the last double room available that fit in with our dates.

We have trained since August, building up the distance, number of consecutive days and carrying back packs and as you have all been reading, we continued that since we arrived in NZ, with some of the other notable walks here, Alpine Crossing, Roy’s Peak, Abel Tasman and many others. So with full packs (you still need to carry all your clothes and personal items for the 5 days) we were excited to meet the rest of our group at the Alpine Center in Te Anau.

After a short coach ride and some early introductions to the people that we were going to spend the most time with, we arrived at the end of Lake Te Anau for the boat crossing to the start of the track. A short trek to the Clinton Lodge for our first night where we were greeted with snacks and soft drinks. Our room was basic but clean and tidy with our own bathroom and shower. The power is only on between 6am and 10pm so an early night is your only option. We met our guides and had a team photo taken before going for a 90 minute nature walk, which I think was really intended to see how people handled very uneven rocky ground with lots of tree roots. The bar opened at 5pm (well I did say we were doing it the fancy way) and at 6.30 we sat down for dinner. Which was another really pleasant surprise, our dinner every night was a full 3 course meal with choices the day before on the main course and the standard was really high, it would have given most restaurants a run for their money. After dinner we had a briefing from the guides on what to expect the next day.

Breakfast was at 7 and you also made your own sandwiches for lunch from and extensive array of options and at 8.30 off we went. The standard format was a guide at the front, one around the middle and one at the end to act as sweeper. There were a few side walks as optional extras and those that know me, know that I am not one to hang around! We were up the front with just the lead guide in front of us and no one to be seen behind us, at some point Susan, the senior guide started to speed up and we thought, oh well, we better walk faster but after about 10 minutes, she said, very tactfully, could we wait and slow the rest of the group down as she need to get to the first hut to get the water on to boil for the tea to go with our lunch! We stopped for lunch and then set off to complete that days walk, we were warned that the last 3/4 of a mile was uphill and the last 1/4 was uphill and over boulders. It had just started to rain a little but so close to the next hut that we just kept going. The Senior guide was at the top of the boulder field watching as everyone hiked up and I asked her later that evening if that was to assess who would be able to make it over the pass and who was not really capable and she confirmed it. Luckily all of our group were allowed to continue. One additional feature of all on the lodges was they had a place to hand wash anything you needed and then there were 2 drying rooms, one at a cooler temperature to dry out boots backpacks and waterproofs and a really hot one to dry your clothes. It rained really heavily all night but was just misty and cloudy in the morning ready for the big one.

Although today was less miles, this was going to be the hike up and over the McKinnon Pass and so we had a 6am breakfast and a 7.30 am start for the hike. The climb up the pass was ok and in fact I found it easier than Roy’s peak over a distance of about 4.5 miles we ascended 500 mt the top was shrouded in cloud so no views from the top other than this Kea making sure we did not miss the warning sign.

We had an additional 1.5 miles to walk along the ridge before a stop at the lodge to eat our lunch. Our trip down the mountain was really REALLY hard it was only 3.5 miles but we had to hike the emergency route as the regular one was under avalanche warning and it dropped 900 mt over that distance, most of it boulders with water running through it. I think that’s the longest I have ever taken to cover such a short distance. But we made it and were amongst the second group down. Hot shower, get clothes sorted and relax with a glass or two of wine and another great dinner.

The final day of hiking was another early start and over 13.5 miles, the weather was perfect, crisp with no wind and not too much sun. We passed some spectacular waterfalls that had been enhanced by the overnight rains. There was a little scrambling over rocks and trees but it was generally an easy walk. Not that we (read me) are competitive but we were the first of the group to make the aptly named Sandfly point. So quickly got into the hut to wait for the water taxi over to the Mitre Lodge. We checked into the lodge and we had the most amazing view out of our window! And it had a bath!!!! Long soak to ease those muscles and down to meet our friends for a celebratory drink and dinner.

The weather was dry and sunny the next day ( a rare occurrence in the Sound) and part of the package with Ultimate is a trip up the Sound almost to the Tasmin sea. The views were great given that we had such a clear day. Back to the harbor and a coach ride over to Te Anau, even that was an interesting ride as the road is pretty narrow and it twists and turns up and over the mountain – including a trip through a pretty long tunnel that only had room for single direction traffic, controlled by traffic lights.

We were sad to say goodbye to our friends but there were many promises to keep in touch. we decided to just stretch our legs a little and walked over to the Te Anau bird sanctuary by the side of the lake. We were able to see some of the rarities that the Department of Conservation are keeping under a watch.

Day 44 and 45 – Arrowtown to Te Anau

The trip from Cromwell to Te Anau was going to be about 3 hours and so we decided we would just stop wherever it made sense. The first place we came to was Arrowtown. This is what it says on their website “ Arrowtown is charming and quirky, a delightful gold rush village nestled beside the sparkling Arrow River and below magnificent peaks” we walked down the Main Street and took a few photos but really it is just a cute little shopping place, not something either of us are overly interested in. And so after about 20 minutes we continued our journey. One thing that was interesting was, the film crew that had blocked off the road to film for something in the local church, maybe we will see it in a future episode of Brokenwood. The scenery along the way was spectacular and made the travel worth while. We stopped at a roadside coffee van in a town called Garston and Rob had, what he described as an amazing lamb burger. My egg and cheese with all the veg was also excellent.

We arrived in Te Anau just after 2, checked into our hotel and then took a walk around the town to see what it had to offer. It is on the shores of Lake Te Anau and is the starting point for the Kepler track so was well served with both restaurants and sports shops. We had a great dinner at an Asian Fusion restaurant although I am sure we probably brought the average age up a few years.

This morning we went to meet the tour company and go through our pre track briefing ahead of tomorrow. We then did a sample pack of our backpacks to make sure that we could fit everything in and also to check if we needed to buy anything. We were on our way into town to get some last minute bits and pieces, when we saw a seaplane coming into land. We looked at each other and then decided yes we would go and talk to them to see what was on offer. After a 5 min chat, we had booked ourselves onto, what they call, a one hour mystery flight for 2pm that day. It was such an experience, we flew up one of the Fiords, so close to the mountains it felt like we could touch them. We landed in a remote bay and the pilot pulled the plane onto the beach so we could get out a just walk around for a bit before continuing the flight back around to Lake Te Anau. As an indication of how quick the weather can change here, our landing at the bay was on smooth water and by the time we got back to the lake the wind was whipping up the water and the landing was a little bouncy. What and experience though!!

And the obligatory bird pictures – the prints inside the sand circles are Kiwi claws, still yet to see them in the wild but I have hopes for Stewart Island.

Day 41,42 and 43 Cromwell

Arrived here late morning and while waiting for out first night hotel room to be ready, we first stopped at the Heritage area in town for lunch at the local market and then we headed out to Cornish Point for a walk along the side of Lake Dunstan -Lake Dunstan is a man-made lake and reservoir in the South Island of New Zealand. The lake was formed on the Clutha River as a result of the construction of the Clyde Dam, filling in four controlled stages beginning in April 1992 and completed the next year. We walked 3.5 miles out to the coffee boat and were lucky to be there, 10 minutes before it closed for the day. And then walked back to the car. We passed a number of cyclists and decided to hire some bikes for the next day and do the complete track to Clyde.

The weather was dry but overcast, which is ideal for cycling, but again a little bit of Googling last night indicated that this was no gentle path and not for the faint of heart! “The Lake Dunstan Trail links the townships of Clyde and Cromwell. The trail offers cyclists and walkers a challenging 55km ride (Grade 2-3) through unique and fascinating landscapes so characteristic of Central Otago as it journeys along Lake Dunstan, the Kawarau River and the mighty Clutha River Mata-au. This route climbs 2,837 ft with a max elevation of 1,029 ft then descends -2,940 ft. It was only recently opened in May 2021 .” Just after the coffee boat there is the highest climb with lots of narrow zig zags both on the way up and down the other side. Thank goodness we had the sense to hire EBikes but it was still a technical challenge for me as the track was very winding. I had my Garmin watch tracking and we cycled just over 27 miles then shuttled back to Cromwell. One of the things my watch does is tracks heart rate and then overlays it against gradient. It was funny to see it confirmed that my highest heart rate was not actually the climb up but further along where the path is flat, with lots of twisty bends, very narrow and with a drop off to the lake on one side. A very technical bit for me, and happy to say I negotiated it well and with plenty of encouragement from my riding coach (Rob) who was just behind me. We only took video and that needs editing so here is what someone else had to say about the ride.

We moved into our next location in Cromwell and struck gold, Hotel.com is owned by Expedia and they combine properties that are also part of VRBO, although that is not obvious when using the Hotel app. So we are in a VRBO for the next 2 nights, the lounge/kitchen area must be about 30ft by 40ft and then we have panoramic windows looking out onto a deck that is overlooking a small inlet off the lake. So today we are going to do nothing but enjoy our beautiful surroundings and just relax.

And here are the animal and flower images, ok some of the animals may not be real. It was interesting to note a few things, if you look at the vineyard image, you will see that every other gap is left free to grow wild flowers and grasses. Also not clear in the images above but all along the trail is what we thought was Heather but is actually wild Thyme and the smell was amazing.

Day 38 and 40 – Omarama, Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo

Woke up to a beautiful day in Omarama which is in a flat plain some 1500 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains. It is also supposed to be one of the best glider plane areas in the world. We drove out to follow the road up the side of Lake Pukaki and we were treated to beautiful displays of wild Lupins along the sides of the road and then an amazing views of Mount Cook. What looked fab in the pictures from afar, the low level cloud, also convinced us a drive to the base of Mount Cook would be a waste of time.

And so after driving halfway up the side of the lake, we turned around and headed to Lake Tekapo. More views of Mount Cook and also a very nice little town and we could stop and have lunch out on a deck. We could see the famous little church that the area was also known for but there was at least 4 full size tourist buses there, and so I made do with just a long lens photo.

We drove back towards Omarama and went to visit the Clay cliffs that are just outside of town, here is the Google description The Clay Cliffs are a stark sight – tall pinnacles separated by narrow ravines. These otherworldly formations are made up of layers of gravel and silt, originally formed by the flow from ancient glaciers over a million years ago. Back into the town and a quick visit to the glider landing field to watch some of the sail planes land and at least one get towed up behind a little tow plane

More animals and some of the thousands of bee hives we have seen everywhere this trip

Day 36 and 37 – Raspberry Flats and Roy’s Peak

What we have found over and over again on this trip, is that casual conversations with locals, has us going to places that were not on our original list. This was the case in Wanaka. At the top of Iron mountain yesterday, a gentleman recommended a drive out to Raspberry Flats and then when we checked into our accommodation (which turned out to be a very nice VRBO) he asked if we were planning to climb Roy’s Peak. Rob looked it up and we thought the Peak would be a challenge but we would give it a go.

Next morning the weather was raining at the start and the weather forecast predicted really high winds coming in later in the day. So we decided that Roy’s Peak was not a good idea and we would drive up to Raspberry Flats. The last 18 miles of that trip are on gravel tracks and through small fords so to say it was interesting was an under statement. When we got to the end there was the ability to hike up the valley, the scenery was stunning and we were able to see part of Mt Aspiring Glacier. But, as most of you saw from the video Rob posted on Facebook, the predicted winds were very strong and it was as much as I could do to stay on my feet. We just walked up 2.5 miles and then returned to the car. It was definitely worth the trip.

Next morning we were planning to check out of our rooms and then go and do Roy’s Peak. Wow, what an experience, here is what the Google has to say: “Roy’s Peak is a medium to hard difficult day hike. It involves a large elevation climb of 1,258 meters (4,127 feet) and in total is 16 kilometers (10 miles) long. You need to be reasonably fit to complete the track.” That’s 5 miles up and 5 miles back down. We experienced sunshine, medium winds, occasional light rain and up at the top we actually had some snow falling on us. The views were amazing, a lot of people stop about a mile before the top as there is a spot where a lot of Instagram photos are taken. But these hardy souls pushed on to the true peak. Although for the last 500 yards we took different routes. Rob did the incredibly thin ridge walk and I did the zig zag track. In total it took us 5.5 hours and I was incredibly proud of our achievement. We were pretty tired but drove on to Omarama, early dinner and then collapse into bed.

No blog would be complete, in my opinion, without some animal images