A Journal, with Pictures

Archive for March, 2020

New Zealand 2020

by on Mar.10, 2020, under Happenings

On  Sat­ur­day, Feb­ru­ary 15 we left Savan­nah for a two-hour forty-minute flight to Hous­ton, then the fif­teen-hour flight to New Zealand on Air New Zeland. The Air New Zealand flight was very good or at least as good as a fif­teen-hour flight can be. We arrived in Auck­land ear­ly in the morn­ing where we were met by the Sea­sonz rep­re­sen­ta­tive who had us in the car in short order being dri­ven to the Auck­land Hilton. We had booked the room the night before so we were tak­en direct­ly to our room. We show­ered had lunch and met our guide for a tour of the city . The tour includ­ed a vis­it to the Auck­land Memo­r­i­al Muse­um which includes an exten­sive Mau­ri (Indige­nous peo­ple) exhib­it as well as the memo­r­i­al to the World War I New Zealan­ders who were lost. We then drove around the city as well as the quaint sub­urb of Par­nell. In the evening we dined at a water­front restau­rant called Soul and I had two of my New Zealand favorites, local oys­ters and White Bait then fin­ished with a Pavlo­va for dessert.

The City of Auck­land has grown and changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly since I had last vis­it­ed. Our stay was just one night and we left the next day which was Feb 17 since we lost a day trav­el­ing across the inter­na­tion­al date­line. The rest of our trip would take us to three Lodges on the North Island and One on the South Island over the next two weeks. Our next stop would be The Lodge at Kau­ri Cliffs which is on the East Coast (Pacif­ic Ocean) at the north end of the North Island.


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The lodge at Kauri Cliffs, North Island NZ

by on Mar.10, 2020, under Happenings

We flew to the Bay of Islands air­port from Auck­land the after­noon of Feb­ru­ary 18th arriv­ing at the lodge late in the after­noon. Kau­ri Cliffs is a Robert­son Prop­er­ty devel­oped by an Amer­i­can who pur­chased 6500 acres and in addi­tion to the lux­u­ri­ous lodge, cot­tages and a cham­pi­onship-lev­el golf course oper­ates a sheep and cat­tle ranch on the property.  There are three Robert­son resorts in New Zealand and we will vis­it two. The Lodge and cot­tages have a spec­tac­u­lar 180-degree view of the Pacif­ic Ocean and over­look the golf course. Dur­ing the tour of the beau­ti­ful facil­i­ty, we learn that there will be a beach bar­beque that evening, so it’s time to unpack and then we are trans­port­ed over the graz­ing land and hills down to a stun­ning beach that reminds us of the Mon­terey, Cal­i­for­nia Coast. Cock­tails and great din­ing at sun­set on the beach, plus a chance to inter­act with the oth­er guests from around the world is a great way to start our New Zealand Lodge experience.

The next day we have a pri­vate char­ter to cruise the near­by Bay of Islands. After a great break­fast, we scur­ry around get­ting all the things we were told we should take, tow­els, swim­suit, sun­screen, etc. etc. and show up at the lodge with half of the list. The staff hands us a bag with every­thing need­ed when we get to our car and we real­ize we need to stop think­ing and let these great peo­ple take care of us. We arrive at the dock and are met by our Cap­tain (own­er) Alan and his first mate Jen­nifer and wel­comed aboard “Buck­et List”. We are get­ting over jet lag and our instruc­tions are we look for­ward to a relax­ing day explor­ing the Bay of Islands. This is exact­ly what we expe­ri­ence, cruis­ing through islands, see­ing the spot where Cap­tain Cook the first Euro­pean land­ed, anchor­ing in a cove and hav­ing Alan and Jen­nifer pre­pare fresh snap­per fil­lets, bar­be­qued rack of lamb served with fine New Zealand wine, topped off by a Pavlo­va for dessert. More cruis­ing and final­ly back at the dock ends a per­fect day. Again, the New Zealand theme con­tin­ues, Alan and Jen­nifer make us feel like fam­i­ly, not char­ter customers.

The evening after the cruise on the Bay of Islands dur­ing cock­tails we were treat­ed to a per­for­mance by a local Mau­ri trib­al group.

The final day at Kau­ri Cliffs includ­ed a round of golf. The course was stressed by recent droughts, but still beau­ti­ful with great holes along the coast. We enjoyed our golf and had anoth­er great din­ing expe­ri­ence then it was time to pack.

We rose to see a beau­ti­ful sun­rise then enjoyed anoth­er great break­fast over­look­ing the golf course, and ocean. Then we were off to the air­port bound for the Huka Lodge.


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Huka Lodge North Island NZ

by on Mar.08, 2020, under Happenings

On Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 21 we trans­ferred to the Bay of Islands Air­port from Kau­ri Cliffs Lodge. Oops the flight to Auck­land was fine, but the ongo­ing con­nec­tion Taupo air­port was can­celed, so instead, we flew to Rotarua and were dri­ven the one hour trip to Taupo where the car from Huka lodge was wait­ing. On our dri­ve, we saw exten­sive forests that were being har­vest­ed and replant­ed and a lot of geot­her­mal activ­i­ty. This part of the island was formed by vol­canic activ­i­ty. The lodge is sit­u­at­ed on the Waika­to Riv­er that flows out of Lake Taupo New Zealand’s largest lake. Our suite had a great view of the riv­er gen­tly flow­ing by. Just below the lodge is the Huka Falls, which gave the lodge its name. It orig­i­nal­ly was a fish­ing lodge. Fish­ing is still a rea­son to vis­it but of all the great din­ing expe­ri­ences we had in New Zealand, Huka Lodge had by far the best. We start­ed our first night with a gourmet tast­ing menu served to us at our pri­vate table in the wine cel­lar, paired with a dif­fer­ent New Zealand wine with each course. We fol­lowed this reg­i­men every din­ner while at Huka Lodge.

It was driz­zling a lit­tle on the sec­ond day at Huka Lodge but that did­n’t stop us from going fly fish­ing for trout on the Waika­to riv­er, with super guide Chris Bren­nan. Joyce had nev­er fly fished and it had been years since I cast a fly, but we lit­er­al­ly got tired of catch­ing nice large Rain­bow and Brown trout. We had a great time, catch and releas­ing well over 20 fish and enjoyed a pic­nic lunch on the riv­er for a great day.

On Sun­day we drove back to Rotarua to vis­it a Mau­ri Trib­al meet­ing house (Marae) and learn about the Mau­ri peo­ple. We were treat­ed to the wel­com­ing cer­e­mo­ny which made us hon­orary trib­al mem­bers, we watched tra­di­tion­al dances and saw how a feast (Han­gi Meal) was pre­pared then cooked under the ground on heat­ed stones. While the meal was cook­ing we took a short excur­sion to near­by falls hiked through the for­est then watched white water raft­ing. Again, the New Zealand hos­pi­tal­i­ty pro­vid­ed by the two Mau­ri fam­i­lies made us feel right at home wel­com­ing us and treat­ed us like family.

One last incred­i­ble din­ing expe­ri­ence, then time to pack and in the morn­ing after anoth­er great break­fast we were off to Cape Kid­nap­pers by car.

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Cape Kidnappers North Island NZ

by on Mar.08, 2020, under Happenings

On Mon­day, Feb­ru­ary 24 we were dri­ven the two-hour dri­ve to the Hawks Bay Region stop­ping for lunch at the Clear View Win­ery. This is one of the wine regions of New Zealand with the largest city in the area Napi­er. Napi­er is inter­est­ing in that it was destroyed by an earth­quake in the 1920s and rebuilt in the art deco style. After lunch, we con­tin­ued the short dis­tance to the Farm at Cape Kid­nap­pers, which is a 6000-acre work­ing ranch with approx­i­mate­ly 2000 sheep and 500 cat­tle. Over­look­ing the bay is the world rat­ed top 100 Cape Kid­nap­per golf course and lodge where we stayed. Our suite had a great view of the prop­er­ty and Hawks Bay and was only a short walk from the beau­ti­ful lodge. This is anoth­er Robert­son resort so we knew the evening rou­tine, cock­tails, and canapes served in the lounge area fol­lowed by a gourmet din­ner with fine NZ wine and out­stand­ing service.

Our first day of explo­ration start­ed with a Kiwi dis­cov­ery walk. Lau­ra our nat­u­ral­ist guide took a group of guests into the woods to find a Kiwi, which is the nation­al bird of NZ and an endan­gered species. To help pre­serve the Kiwi pop­u­la­tion a num­ber of Kiwi sanc­tu­ar­ies have been estab­lished to increase the sur­vival rate of young birds. Cape Kid­nap­pers Farm is one of the sanc­tu­ar­ies and Lau­ra used a radio direc­tion find­er to locate one of the chicks that had a radio tag. We got a brief­ing on the Kiwi and saw the humon­gous egg of this species. The full-grown Kiwi is about the size of a chick­en and does not fly. Kiwi’s are noc­tur­nal feed­ers so the Kiwi was awak­ened from his sleep so we could observe it. Lau­ra weighed the bird, checked its health then placed it back in a bur­row with some food. It was an inter­est­ing and edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence and helped us work up an appetite for lunch.

After lunch, it was time for a Can-Am (All-Ter­rain Vehi­cle) tour of the prop­er­ty. This includ­ed a vis­it to the fur­ther­most reach­es of the farm through old creek beds, across expan­sive farm­land and down to the ocean.  We also vis­it­ed the rook­ery of the Gan­net, the chicks first flight is eight-day non-stop to Aus­tralia. This is the largest rook­ery and it is esti­mat­ed that these birds con­sume eleven tons of fish per day. We observed the par­ents feed­ing the chicks.

On Wednes­day we played the Cape Kid­nap­per golf course. This is a stun­ning set­ting and the design­er Tom Doak took advan­tage of the sea­side cliffs and rugged ter­rain to pro­duce a visu­al­ly spec­tac­u­lar and dif­fi­cult test of golf. We enjoyed our round and had a “small world” expe­ri­ence on the 16th. hole. A sin­gle caught up with us so we let him play through and low and behold it was Will May­hall a fel­low mem­ber at Chechessee Creek Club.

Anoth­er nice evening enjoy­ing the great din­ing expe­ri­ence and ser­vice, then pack. Tomor­row after break­fast we leave for the South Island.

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Blanket Bay Lodge South Island NZ

by on Mar.07, 2020, under Happenings

On Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 27 we flew from Hawks Bay on the North Island to Auck­land and then to Queen­stown on the south end of the South Island. We trav­eled by car an hour to the south end of Lake Lake Wakatipu to the Blan­ket Bay Lodge. The lodge is a very impres­sive stone and wood struc­ture over­look­ing the lake and the Liv­ingston Moun­tains. Our suite was at the south end of the hotel and had a patio and win­dows that gave us spec­tac­u­lar great views.

The weath­er changed our plans for Fri­day so we moved the day’s activ­i­ties to Sun­day and enjoyed a day of relax­ing at the lodge and a vis­it to the lit­tle town of Glenorchy for some shop­ping and sight­see­ing in the driz­zle. Sat­ur­day the weath­er coop­er­at­ed so we embarked on our Dart Riv­er Jet Boat Wilder­ness excur­sion. This includ­ed a mini-bus ride through the coun­try­side lead­ing to the rivers enter­ing the south end of the lake, then a hike through the for­est and final­ly a Jet Boat ride up then back down the Dart Riv­er. The Jet Boats are fast and boun­cy able to trav­el with only 8 inch­es draft over the rocky riv­er rapids. We had pon­chos but we still got a lit­tle wet but the incred­i­ble scenery and excit­ing ride made it worth it.

Sun­day was our last day of tour­ing and it was also Joyce’s Birth­day. We were picked up in front of the lodge after break­fast by our heli­copter for the morn­ing. We lift­ed off head­ed across the lake and climbed over the Liv­ingston Moun­tains, through val­leys, over glac­i­ers, tra­versed the val­ley to the next range, the Franklin Moun­tains, and descend­ed into Mil­ford Sound to the beach on the Tas­man­ian sea. A recent “rain event” washed a large amount of drift­wood and a num­ber of boul­ders onto the beach which made for an inter­est­ing walk. We land­ed on a glac­i­er and the beach for a hike as well as on the side of the moun­tain over­look­ing Lake Wakatipu and had a cham­pagne birth­day toast. The sites were spec­tac­u­lar, our pilot Rene was great and when we were done we land­ed back on the east side of the lake at Moon­light lodge the head­quar­ters of a 33000 acre “Sheep Sta­tion” (Ranch). One inter­est­ing obser­va­tion was that the glac­i­ers had a red hue, which was caused by ash from the recent fires in Aus­tralia. The three-hour heli­copter explo­ration of the South Island moun­tains was one of the high­lights of our trip.

We were met by Pad­dy our driver/guide at Moon­light lodge and were intro­duced to John Fos­ter the own­er of the sheep sta­tion. We then took a tour via a Can-Am ATV (All-Ter­rain Vehi­cle). We drove up and down over lots of rugged ter­rains which is where John rais­es his sheep. The area is graz­ing land, native beech for­est, lakes, rivers, min­ing huts, and tracks from the gold min­ing era. Before lunch, we explored pri­mar­i­ly sheep graz­ing land with panoram­ic views of the moun­tains. We then enjoyed a pic­nic lunch with John and Gin­ny Fos­ter and his son and grand­son as well as Pad­dy in front of Moon­light lodge which is also John and Gin­nys home. In keep­ing with our entire New Zealand expe­ri­ence, we were wel­comed and treat­ed like fam­i­ly in the typ­i­cal open com­fort­able sin­cere style of the peo­ple of this beau­ti­ful coun­try. We learned a lot about the busi­ness of pro­duc­ing fine meri­no wool, main­ly that it includes a lot of hard work and the mar­ket for wool is uncer­tain. After lunch, we reluc­tant­ly said our good­byes to con­tin­ue our tour. Pad­dy then took us down the canyon which was a major gold-pro­duc­ing area, with rema­nents of past min­ing activ­i­ty and beau­ti­ful clear streams to ford. We swapped vehi­cles and then toured what was the gold rush town of Arrow­town that is now most­ly shops and restau­rants for tourist. We then head­ed back to the Blan­ket Bay lodge for our last din­ner in New Zealand.

In hon­or of the birth­day, the lodge poured cham­pagne for cock­tails and since it was a beau­ti­ful evening we dined out­doors on the deck with the incred­i­ble view we have enjoyed so much. It was anoth­er exquis­ite din­ner with anoth­er excel­lent New Zealand wine fin­ished with a birth­day cake to cap off a won­der­ful stay.


We had a leisure­ly morn­ing Mon­day pack­ing and one last great break­fast served by the out­stand­ing Blan­ket Bay staff. Our dri­ver picked us up and we were dri­ven back to Queen­stown for our flight back to the U.S. through Auck­land. This was the fifth trip orga­nized by Tony Huff­man for us and again it was anoth­er incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence. Tony and his asso­ciates as well as his part­ners, in this case, Sea­sonz in New Zealand, made the trip effort­less, absolute­ly first class with every detail attend­ed to. Our New Zealand expe­ri­ence was one of the best ever, Thanks, Tony.

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