Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NZ Photos - 4

Gad if you only knew what an incredible pain it was to get these #@&! photos uploaded at this motel!

But I do it all for you fans...for you...or if Wife is to be believed because I'm obsessive. Can you believe that? Anybody calling me obsessive?

OK these are from the trip across the Cook Strait and the next days drive by the Queen Charlotte Sound

A picture of a sister ship passing us by on the Strait
This symbolizes the fact that I'm not puking my guts out - quite the ocean going feat for me :)

The approach and entry to the Marlborough Sounds (of which Queen Charlotte is one of and the main one we go down)

Scenes from the Queen Charlotte Sound Drive

These yellow flowers covered the hills for miles and miles

There was the same ferry we had been on the day before unloading

Views of the Sound

Another one of our favorite NZ signs - not big fans of Frosty the Snowman are they

There were these clouds that were hovering at this low altitude that I needed to get

Lunch at the Slip Inn

I was half way through the mussels when I remembered I was taking pictures

Another great NZ ale

Wife's pan fried cod

My awesomely good scallops

Equally good cappuccino

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Zealand 2009 - Tales of the Camera Sherpa - Part 10

Woke up today to...:( more rain.

Nonetheless we've decided that we're just heading out and doing our thing. Today's itinerary is going south and east around the coast. We're headed toward a place called Keikora around 130 kilometers away and there's supposed to be great sea coast vistas and scenery.

On the way down it was pretty cold and wet. Not a lot of rain but with the wind it was driven. But we were out there taking pictures with me holding the umbrella to protect the lens, camera, and photographer. As we got about 2/3rds of the way there, rain stopped even if it was still mostly overcast. A slight break in the clouds showed a glimpse of snow covered mountain.

Then we got to a section where we where there was a car park right by the ocean. We got out and went to the nearby rocks for Wife to photo shoot. We weren't really looking when we noticed not 10 to 15 meters from us was an adult male sea lion taking a snooze. With another just around the rock from him. It turned out there was a whole colony there a lot of pups playing around on the rocks and in the water. It was pretty cool.

We stayed there for quite some time until the cold got to us. We went on to Keikora and had lunch. It is known for its crayfish - which is what they call rock lobster. The one we had wasn't that great. Too bad. I also tried whitebait fritter. Whitebait is tiny fish. The fritter turned out to be an omelet! Who would have guessed that? A New Zealander I guess.

By the time we headed back, things were definitely clearing up. There was more blue sky and color. We stopped a number of times and clambered down to the beach for some serious 'art' photo shots. When we got back to Blenheim, we still had time to go to a really nice local garden for more picture taking.

Note on bird songs - Anywhere we've been where there is any kind of woods or trees whatsoever, you find yourself surrounded by singing birds. Maybe it is because it is early spring. A server at one of the wineries we were at yesterday confirmed this as a trait of New Zealand. She had been visiting in Australia a couple of weeks back and had noted when she got back the fullness of the bird songs.

Note on gardens - I love the gardens we've seen at the various towns. So colorful. They have the structured pattern of the French garden but with a softer feel using grass instead of stone paths for the backdrop.

Monday, September 28, 2009

NZ Photos - 3

On the way from Taupo to Napier...

...we saw a sign for a 'Scenic Overlook'...
...and found this awesome waterfall that wasn't even in the guidebook!

Ho Hum. Just more gorgeous NZ landscape


We loved the gardens

And this cool tree

Napier is known for its Art Deco architecture

Who says Amsterdam has a monopoly on micro-niche retailing!

At a Maori historical site

This was the lower village and fortified area

Looking down from there on some fields. I took this because it shows the use of trees as hedges to protect the fields (something we saw all over the North Island)

When we got to the top we had a fantastic view of the chain of mountains on the southern end of the North Island

This from the same point looking back at that first site I showed above and the parking lot.

New Zealand 2009 - Tales of the Camera Sherpa - Part 8 & 9

Monday - Day 8

Predominately a travel day

We decided last night to find a place early rather than driving part of the way to Wellington. Ended up with a really nice place with a spa tub. Both Wife and I took advantage of it to soak and relax.

Note on motels – they seem to uniformly have kitchenettes with refrigerators, dishes, utensils, etc. It makes it very easy to buy provisions and eat various meals in the room saving a bit of money and cutting down on the amount we’re eating – not an inconsequential consideration on a three-week trip!

We’ve got a four-hour drive down to Wellington. The weather is rainy again but not too bad. There’s one incredible series of mountain road up and down on the way. My motto for New Zealand; “The shortest line between two points is a series of S curves.

Then it is on to the ferry over to the South Island.

The weather is again pretty crappy as the ferry leaves Wellington. Not much in the way of views or pictures on the way out. Did you know that they don’t make Dramamine any more? There are other brand names now. Reason I know this is that I have had some terrible incidents of seasickness in my past and had a bit of trepidation about the voyage through the Cook Strait. It turns out the sea was pretty calm and there were no issues for me. In fact I was up for a beer and a sausage roll. The sausage roll is a NZ fast food dish with a chopped sausage filling (pretty dry and not greasy) in a pastry covering. Not bad but probably the last one I’ll have this trip. I liked the roast sandwiches better.

A note on NZ beer – good. I’ve tried three different brewers so far and each was very good. The beers I’ve selected have been with darker malts and plenty of hops.

When we got to the other side and went into the Marlborough Sounds the weather had let up so Wife was able to take a bunch of pictures. This section is pretty cool with the ferry going down an extended fiord until it reaches its port, Picton on the South Island. Then it was off to Blenheim where we are staying for a couple of days. Driving is definitely getting a little less stressful.

Tuesday – Day 9

Still more rain. In fact, I’ve found some rain projection maps for NZ and it looks like it the rain is going to develop in every area we are going just when we arrive to them. We’ve pretty much gone through the anger and despair stages and have moved on to resignation. I’m pretty bummed that my ‘photo shot’ spectacular is pretty much getting rained out. But there’s a hell of a lot worse things in life.

Today we went on a scenic drive that provides views of the Queen Charlotte Sound (a subset of the Marlborough Sound area). Using the rain projection map, I’d figured our best chance for pictures was to go earlier in the morning. Our planning was pretty good and we got out just after the fog started to lift and had a good two hour run before the rains started in earnest. Even during the beginning of the rain, we’ve learned to just wait at a desired place because there is a good chance the rain will let up for a period and allow a shot.

We ended up in a small town called Havelock. At the grocery store last night, I was reading labels for a local woman who had forgot her reading glasses. She had told us about a restaurant in Havelock, the Slip Inn (named because it is on the slip for the boats in the harbor. She recommended well. I had some baked mussels (Havelock says it’s the Green Mussel capital of the world) and some local scallops – served Euro style with the roe (mmmmmm). Wife had sautéed black cod that was good too.

The rain was really coming down in the afternoon so we opted for wine tasting. Marlborough region is noted for its Sauvignon Blanc. We went to two wineries. Pretty good deal. We tasted almost 20 wines and there was no tasting fee like there is in most US wineries. (Yes, I did spit – I’m driving remember). We picked up a few bottles for consumption on the way and a few for bringing back.

NZ Photos - 2

Scenes from Lake Taupo

Looking in three directions from the overlook above the town coming from Rotorua

Along the side of the lake

Looking across the lake at sundown at the mountains of Tongoria National Park

Taupo Dining

Excellent Mussels

Wanted something other the Pinot Noir. Oops, this was from Australia - but it was great.

A fantastic seafood chowder

A flounder that turned out not so hot

Awesomely wonderful twice cooked pork belly

Samples of some of our favorite signage

We loved this because we've never seen a forest fire danger sign in New Mexico that was at the 'low' mark