On the road again


On the road again

Tuesday its off to Auckland. This time catching a ride on the Intercity Bus. No need take one of our own vehicles to Auckland as it would bar 3 days be parked up.

The next tour starting Wednesday is 23 days followed by a short 3 day gap, then an 18 day tour. And last just a 2 night gap in Christchurch and a 14 day tour. All 3 small buses.

We start on the first tour by heading north to Hokianga, then across to the Bay of Islands for a couple of nights. Then slowly south wards as far as Milford Sound then finishing in Christchurch. A lot of driving. The last tour was 4,500km in the log book so guessing this next tour we will be close to 6,000km.

A different route at least in the North Island to I normally take. Always enjoy different roads and hopefully some different hotels.

Main bug bear last trip with the hotels/motels. We had some nice ones but sound proofing between rooms is terrible. That comment mainly relates to the new establishments, not the old. And it is something I note for our own tours as venues not to book unless we cant avoid. The clients complain, never to the hotel, but to me. And I don’t blame them. A bad snorer next door, an amorous couple or just maybe a loud television. Its terrible when all you want is a good nights sleep.

Had the boat serviced yesterday ready for the summer. I know I am not around but mid January I do get 3 days home so if the weather plays ball, just maybe I can escape for some fishing.

The weather in the far north is idyllic to say the least right now. But the downside is we are only mid December and the land is parched. One of our natural spring fed dams is drying up on the farm. It has been known to happen before but never this early in summer. With only Xiaoli home I am hoping our tank water is enough. The stock the water comes from dams that run all year round so they are fine.

Picked up another 38 domestic ducks yesterday from a Maori elder at Te Hapua. He is happy they are now gone as numbers just keep multiplying each year and he will not eat his own animals. So duck numbers here must now be over 100 currently. Xiaoli happy as some are still laying eggs. Personally I prefer a hen egg over a duck egg.

Well, 2 more sleeps in my own bed before its living out of a suitcase for the better part of 2 months. Driving every day. Making sure the log book is always filled in. Talking and smiling endlessly. The job of a tour driver/guide. At this point of time I say its my last season but I guess time will tell


Helping the orphaned ducklings

Every year we assist Bird Rescue in Auckland by taking orphaned ducklings off them assuming we have spare space in our vehicle to bring them back to the far north of New Zealand.
Varying ages. Some only days old, others almost ready for some release. Some domestic ones this trip to which is disappointing to know someone has at some stage release the parents and allowed them to breed in the wild.
Cost to us is time in raising them to an age when they are ready they can fly off. Obviously food as well. But a small cost knowing they will have a much better survival odds in the far north than in the city.
Included in this latest lot one Paradise duckling as well. Always happy to see a Paradise duck able to fly off to increase numbers in the wild


Dunedin to Omarama


Dunedin to Omarama – With an add on

First visit prior departure was the railway station. A beautiful old stone structure. Quite magnificent viewing. Even a train at the station when we stopped. Just a pity it wasn’t an old steam train like I remember from my childhood in Dunedin.

The group I gave as long as they wished for their photography. Not a huge mileage day so plenty of time to dawdle.

From Dunedin it was off to the Moeraki Boulders. Facts have it that were formed by sea sediment several million of years ago and as the cliffs have eroded they have been exposed. Maori’s have their own legend. For me although only a couple of years maximum since I last saw, I noticed that a number have become more broken up. Hopefully that’s the fault of erosion by the sea and not the tourists continually clambering over them.

Had a great cup of coffee at the café there. I mention that as the standard of coffees on route did vary immensely. Finished our stop with an ice cream. After suffering a bad cold for a number of days I was obviously feeling like tasting things again.

On through Oamaru before heading inwards towards Omarama. First stop was the Maori rock art. I did not walk with the group to see but awaited their reactions on return. And yes they confirmed my thoughts that they were largely disappointing but in reality that is caused by the many museums going back give or take a century, taking large segments away. Now unfortunately the many pigeons nesting in the cavities in the limestone rock offer more to view.

On to the hydro lakes finally topping by the largest, Lake Benmore. It was absolutely still offering brilliant reflections. Stunning o say the least.

At Omarama we had a late lunch before heading up to the High Country Salmon Farm. The group partook in some fish feeding. I was just glad to see the fish were still hungry as often by the time I get there they are full from the many tourists constantly feeding them.

What drew my eye was the size of the large salmon I spotted swimming underneath the netted pools. These salmon being free to swim the canals as they wish. I had my rod and reel in the back and had the spare time but decided it was better I just keep resting to rid myself of my bug.

Up to the Mt Cook Road. Disappointment on my behalf. The Lavender farm had been harvested so no lavender in flower. Always a popular attraction but sadly no flowers means we don’t stop.

Next stop was ‘Peters Lookout’ where you get to see up Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook in the distance. The mountains had no cloud cover so a brilliant photography day. And thankfully I would discover the next day that I made the right decision heading for the Mt Cook Road. The next day cloud was low. No mountains to be seen.


Te Anau to Dunedin – 3 days to go


Te Anau to Dunedin – A lot of sheep!

Yes, we saw a heck of a lot of sheep in paddocks on the way from Te Anau to Dunedin.

The day started with me having to change the mornings plans. Major flooding in Roxburgh had the road closed for an indefinite period so it meant rearrange the mornings plans. No more going via Central Otago to Dunedin but re-routing through the faster but less scenic route across to Gore then up the number 1 highway to Dunedin. No stone fruit country for my group. A disappointment but one cannot argue with the weather.

The drive was uneventful and we did drive through some pristine rolling country side with many sheep to be seen. The cameras were still to be heard behind me so I guess the group were still happy and over the earlier disappointment of me telling them about the route change. Breakfast television helped as the floods featured heavily so they understood the issues I had.

I was born in Dunedin. Lived there to I was 14 and the parents for work reasons headed north to Auckland. That was obviously a few years ago but other than changed roading, some one way streets, there never seems to be many changes. I am sure there are but just not obvious the route we travel.

The house I was raised in still looks similar. Some aluminium joinery but other than that it still looks the same. Memories!

Once in Dunedin we headed down the Otago Peninsula to the Albatross Breeding area. I am not a great one for studying seabirds but the tour was interesting. To see the Albatross stretch their wings was interesting and the highlight not caught on camera was when one came in close to our viewing area gliding past. It certainly illustrated the sheer size of these birds.

We need areas like these that protect birds like the Albatross in their breeding areas. These very large seabirds spend most of their life out in the ocean navigating the world yet come back to the Otago Peninsula to breed once a year once they have reached 5 years old.

From the Albatross we headed up the hill to join a tour to see seals in their breeding area plus the Yellow Eye and Little Blue Penguins.

Seals are nothing new for me but it was good to see the babies less than 24 hours old in their natural habitat. Unfortunately only about 25% of those born will reach adult hood with the predators waiting out there in the ocean to feed on them. Sad, but that is the environmental chain at work unfortunately.

One of the males tried to bale us up as he sought to protect his harem. Again nature at work. Fortunately we were well protected.

Before we departed Dunedin we stopped for photography at their famous railway station.

Dunedin is not a regular stop on my agendas but this summer I have 4 tours that spend a night there. Its all dictated by how long people have in the country as to whether Dunedin features. All my tours so far booked this summer start at a minimum of 18 days, so plenty of time to see Dunedin.


Very busy times for this tour guide


Busy times with little time to write blogs. Yesterday and today been full on doing business admin and tax payments then concentrating on signing contracts for the next 3 tours. These tours taking us through to February 18 after which I believe I need proper time out. Poor Xiaoli once I leave on December 19 will only see me 3 days mid January. Other than that its sorry Xiaoli, but I will be back February 19, maybe. I say maybe as another request for 5 days South Island Xiaoli herself communicated to me just a short time ago.

My last tour blog ended with one I wrote my first night in Queenstown on my 18 day tour with 8 from England and Scotland. What a great bunch of people they were. A pleasure to guide around the country. Encouraged me not only too much food, but too much of the wrong kind. Fish and chips!!!

Fish and chips seemed to be regular. Beer was very popular which I suspected would be the case, but wine with most wasn’t far behind.

What did we do in Queenstown? It seems so long ago now. I know I went with 7 of the group up the gondola and now I think about it, my visit of Queenstown after that became being bed ridden with a very bad cold or flu courtesy of some of my group that had it first. It couldn’t have struck at a better time as officially it was my rest day. It still persists today and did make some days interesting but we completed the tour and I wasn’t alone in being unwell.

We departed Queenstown for Milford. Never my favourite place to head to Milford from. I find its better to base yourself 2 nights in Te Anau.

The weather was great for our drive to Milford. Eglington Valley was looking magnificent with its very colourful lupins with a backdrop of snow peaked mountains. Mirror Lake we struck perfect with not a ripple on it but unfortunately 5 buses pulled in at the same time meaning we needed to rush through to stay ahead of the bus passengers.

Photographs show the beauties we passed and captured on camera. I didn’t go on the cruise at Milford. My decision to opt out to continue the fight of this nasty bug with a good rest. My group loved the boat trip was as predicted.

One of my crew was extremely disappointed I hadn’t managed to show him a Kea and in our good hearted banter I offered to pay for the nights beer tab if I failed on the way back. Fingers were crossed and I did not disappoint as we drove out of the Homer Tunnel to see 4 on the ground which we parked close to. They did their normal antics picking at the trims on someone’s car. I wasn’t going to shoo them off as my people wanted photographs.

The beer bet I may have won but it was not honoured as my group I had booked to the Te Anau Glow Worm caves. I didn’t go as I have done many times. For me another early night