South Island, NZ, Cont.


Gorgeous Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka

Here we go with the final days of our South Island loop!  We dropped down into Wanaka, the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park, after crossing the Haast Pass on a glorious sunny day.  The Top 10 Holiday Park greeted us like an old friend when we rolled into camp.  With so many activities to choose from in this lakeside town and only one night’s stay ahead, we got busy right away.  First activity of choice was a 2-hour horse and quad bike adventure in the nearby Cardrona hills.

Horse trekking through the hills

Horse trekking through the hills

Our hosts for the afternoon were a farmer, Sarah, and her colleague Kelly, who have recently started a horse trekking/quad bike touring business along the hills of Sarah’s family farm.  We had four horses and three bikes (like ATV’s) to share between the seven of us.  Kelly led the riders, and Sarah led the motorists, and we were off for a breathtaking tour of the hill country and farmlands overlooking the ski “fields” (ski mountain) of Cardrona.

Ron gives the thumbs up ready to go sign

Ron gives the thumbs up ready to go sign

Meme impressed with her confidence on the horse!

Meme impressed with her confidence on the horse!

Blair, Jeff and Pepe started out on the quad bikes

Blair, Jeff and Pepe started out on the quad bikes

They stopped frequently to absorb the landscape, and wait for the horses to catch up

We stopped frequently to absorb the landscape, and wait for the horses to catch up

Kelly and Thayer lead the way along the trail

Kelly and Thayer lead the way along the trail

Schuyler, Zoe and Meme follow close behind

Zoe, Schuyler and Meme followed closely behind

Farm animals wandered the hills all around us

Farm animals wandered the hills all around us

Hopping sheep!

Hopping sheep!

The horses insisted on a willow tree snack session

The horses insisted on a willow tree snack session

Thayer loves her horse, Andy

Thayer loves her horse, Andy

Zoe gets a thrill, her first canter, on Ginger Bear

Zoe gets a thrill, her first canter, on Ginger Bear

Schuyler thanks her horse, Boss, for a great ride

Schuyler thanks her horse, Boss, for a great ride

Jeff is hoping for a modeling gig with Jeff's Vehicle Deliveries

Jeff is hoping for a modeling gig with Jeff’s Vehicle Deliveries?

It was a spectacular way to enjoy the countryside and learn about the Cardrona/Wanaka region from some friendly, sporty locals! On Day 2 in Wanaka, we woke up to yet another sunny, warm day and this time we headed straight for the lake.   Icy cold waters make swimming an adrenaline rush in its own right, so we opted for a boat ride with local captain “Davy,” a retiree from the North Island who now spends his days taking tourists on fishing and sightseeing tours of the lake.  We spent about three hours with Davy, and along the way we learned all about the history of Wanaka, the topography of the area, and viewed Mt. Aspiring (tallest peak in the Southern Alps).  We even took a short hike during which Davy taught us about native plant species and Maori medicinal herbs.

Thayer was Davy's First Mate for the entire ride

Thayer was Davy’s First Mate for the entire ride

Enjoying the boat ride

Enjoying a day on the water

Looking out behind the boat

Looking out behind the boat

Ron takes a quick stab at the trout, close but no cigar

Ron takes a quick stab at the trout, close but no cigar

Blair enjoys some hot coffee after a brief dip in the freezing lake

Blair enjoys some hot coffee after a brief dip in the freezing lake

Hiking with Davy

Hiking with Davy

At the lookout point

At the lookout point

 

Mt. Aspiring, tallest peak in the Southern Alps at 10,000 ft.

Mt. Aspiring, tallest peak in the Southern Alps at 10,000 ft.

After saying goodbye to Davy, we piled into our vans and drove one hour to Queenstown, where yet another Top 10 awaited our arrival.  As this day also happened to be Blair’s birthday (the BIG 4-0!), we ended it with a perfect little celebration in the campervan before Blair and Jeff had a meal out together.

Happy Birthday Blair!

A birthday celebration!

The adrenaline capital of New Zealand (and some would argue, the world!), Queenstown is a buzzing community of skydiving, paragliding, bungy-jumping, jet boating Kiwis and everywhere you turn there is an option for FUN.  Situated on yet another stunning lake with mountains looming on all sides, there are plenty of ways to explore this town.

Queenstown from above

Queenstown from above

We started with zip lining.  A tree-top course with four different lines to traverse provided an adrenaline rush for Pepe, Jeff, Blair, and all three girls for the entire morning.

Ready to GO!

Ready to GO!

Pepe gets tricky early on with the upside down move

Pepe gets tricky early on with the upside down move

Schuyler on the move

Schuyler on the move

Jeff comes in after a wild ride

Jeff comes in after a wild ride

Zoe loves the thrill

Zoe loves the thrill

Glimpsing a paraglider through the trees while zipping past

Glimpsing a paraglider through the trees while zipping past

Thayer is thrilled to be the SMALLEST EVER zip-liner at this course!

Thayer is thrilled to be the SMALLEST EVER zip-liner at this course!

From the Zip Line we journeyed to the Kawarau bridge, off which Blair and college roommate Pickle had hurled themselves 20 years ago.  This time, Jeff and Pepe were the brave bungy jumpers, both swan diving off the platform and hurtling 150 feet before the bungy cord saved their precious necks.  The girls and Meme could hardly watch as first Ron, then Jeff, jumped one after the other! 

Ron ready to go on the bungy platform

Ron ready to go on the bungy platform

One of the professional photos of Jeff's jump

One of the professional photos of Jeff’s jump

After the jump, the boat picks Jeff up to deliver him ashore

After the jump, the boat picks Jeff up to deliver him ashore

Our Queenstown adventures continued for the next couple of days, with indoor trampoline parks, aquatic centers with hydro slides and lazy rivers, great cafes and shopping, and for Jeff and Blair, a night away from the rest of the group.  First night away from the kids in 5 months (thank you Meme and Pepe)!   We were sad to leave it all behind and begin the long drive to Timaru, where we would spend our two final nights of campervan life before returning to Christchurch.

On the road to Timaru

On the road to Timaru

Timaru was really just a random stopping point to help break up the journey, but we discovered that the Top 10 there had a golf course connected to it so Jeff and Ron naturally took advantage of that. 

Father/Son golf bliss

Father/Son golf bliss

Timaru golf course

Timaru golf course

We also found another aquatic center, complete with fitness center, café, swim-wear shop, giant pools and diving platforms, two incredible hyroslides, a play gym for small children (in the pool), jacquizzis and warm pools, and a lazy river to float in.  We took photos so that someone in our home town of Portsmouth can get to work on this.  If Timaru, population 27,000 can do it, so can we!

Timaru Aquatic Center

Timaru Aquatic Center

A building in Timaru reminds us of Market Square in Portsmouth!

A building in Timaru reminds us of Market Square in Portsmouth

And on our final drive, a sheep jam…

Sheep moving to a new pasture, via Highway 1

Seeking greener pastures, via Highway 1

CHRISTCHURCH, once again We made it safely back to Christchurch on January 15th, and it was almost time to say goodbye to Meme and Pepe after 5 weeks together.  Before they departed, Jeff and Schuyler joined them for a bus tour around the city which has been ravaged by earthquakes since 2010.  Much of Christchurch has yet to be rebuilt due to the over 10,000 aftershocks that have rippled through on a regular basis, and continue to do so.  So many buildings have been condemned yet have not been torn down because of demolition backlog and insurance red tape.  Thousands of residents have moved away, and we were all shocked and saddened to see the South Island’s biggest city in such a state of disrepair.

Christchurch building, in shambles

Christchurch building, in shambles

IMG_9754

Construction sites like this one abound in the city

IMG_9763

Christchurch’s iconic 19th-century Cathedral, partially rubble now

And then it was time to say farewell to Meme and Pepe.  We will treasure our memories of the epic road trip together.  Tough Tiger and Lady Di will be missed!

Meme and Pepe, all smiles in NZ

Meme and Pepe, all smiles in NZ

Back to our little family of five now, we distract the girls with a visit to the International Antarctic Center.  

A huge museum, with all sorts of interactive exhibits for kids and families

A huge museum, with all sorts of interactive exhibits for kids and families

Fun Fact:  Did you know that Christchurch is one of the main gateways to Antarctica?   The U.S.’s McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base are only 2,400 miles by air from Christchurch.  Every summer (like right now down here), military aircraft complete over 100 flights to the continent, moving 5,500 passengers and thousands of tons of cargo.  They fly in airplanes that look like this – we saw some at the airport when we landed here:

The airplane that flies down to Antarctica

The airplane that flies down to Antarctica

There was a mock winter storm center that we experienced using the required warm weather gear - freezing!

There was a mock winter storm center that we experienced using the required warm weather gear – freezing!

Ice slide makes for cold bums

Ice slide makes for cold bums

Thayer explores a tent used by expeditions to the continent

Thayer explores a tent used by expeditions to the continent

We got to ride on a mock-ice course in this Hagglund, the vehicles used to drive around the crevasses and rough terrain. We had to hold on tight!

We got to ride on a mock-ice course in this Hagglund, the vehicles used to drive around the crevasses and rough terrain. We had to hold on tight!

Girls take a turn at the wheel, at Jeff's expense

Girls take a turn at the wheel, at Jeff’s expense

Outside the

Outside the research center for the U.S. Antarctic Program

We all came away from the museum with a wealth of information about the Antarctica and the individual research stations down there.  To be so close to this elusive continent felt pretty special.   Next Steps: From here, we will slowly make our way to the North Island, stopping to enjoy a “farm stay” and then the coastal town of Kaikoura before crossing the Cook Strait on the ferry.  Another week on the road (minivan only this time), and we will find ourselves in a temporary new hometown, Mt. Maunganui, along the Bay of Plenty, where we plan to settle down for about 2 months.  The girls will go to the local elementary and middle schools (starting Feb. 3), and Blair and Jeff will probably spend 8 weeks catching up on laundry and burning clothing that we can’t stand to look at anymore.  And yes, likely will enjoy some time off from 24/7 parenting! With the months of April and May still unplanned, we have some research to do as well.  Southeast Asia is definitely on our radar, but we are open to any/all suggestions – we also welcome visitors and travel companions! Next post will be authored by Schuyler, who is working hard to go live with her first solo blog project. For now, some parting words of wisdom: 

We saw this treasure in a store window in Wanaka… parting words of wisdom

We saw this treasure in a store window in Wanaka… couldn’t help but share it

Categories: NEW ZEALAND, South Island, NZ, Cont.

7 comments

  1. Blair, the blogs have been brilliant! Thanks for chronicling our fabulous vacation. You definitely have a knack for remembering and recounting it all. It was a trip of a lifetime just being with the family not to mention all that we experienced!
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Mem & Pep

  2. You guys have NO idea how fun it is to follow you on your travels. What a fantastic decision you made when you decided to give yourself and your girls this incredible powerful experience. This will last a lifetime, and will be talked about in the family for many years to come. Jeff & Blair: great job ! Chapeau ! Too many people talk about this and few actually do it.
    And now for the next part; consider Taiwan & Korea & Japan…. Or (parts of) Indonesia, Malaysia,Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam (?)…Or Burma, India, Nepal
    Our daughters -though a bit older than yours- loved it. Easy and safe and pleasant to travel (and not too expensive either !) Let me know if I can be of any assistance. I’m an organiser & tourleader pur sang as you may recall. Stay happy….you guys look happy anyway.
    Klaas

  3. Pretty sweet bungee jumping video, Jeff. Is sky diving next?

  4. No shortage of high adventure fun Demers family 🙂 Have a great time on the North Island…It looks like you’ll be a hop, skip and jump from hot water beach and cathedral cove…beautiful hike and one of our favorite beaches. Although, the waves and undertow almost took me out at Cathedral Cove.

  5. Hi Blair and Jeff and Family –
    Alicia sent me the link to your blog today – I didn’t know that you were on this amazing adventure but just spent the last few hours checking out all your travels. What an amazing experience for all of you!! I look forward to following along on your adventures! Love to all from New Hampshire! Robin & Mike

  6. I am still constantly amazed by your journey! It is absolutely thrilling to follow. I have just returned from Singapore with my M-2 students, and loved it! There’s plenty for the girls to do as well as adults. Should you choose to try Singapore of Thailand, drop me a line; I’d be happy to offer suggestions. Schooling in New Zealand will be an interesting read!

  7. Tell Jeff to get a haircut … he’s starting to look like me 😉

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