A Journal, with Pictures


Israel 2022 Tel Aviv

by on Apr.05, 2022, under Happenings

Our trip to Israel start­ed over a year before dur­ing lunch with Mar­i­lyn Faulkn­er, when she asked where are you guys going next. The answer was “the Holy Land” and she said “I would love to do that” so we start­ed plan­ning. Tony Huff­man orga­nized our trip, our fifth fab­u­lous expe­ri­ence planned by his orga­ni­za­tion. After a delay due to Covid in 2021, we arrived in Tel Aviv on Mon­day, March 14, 2022. Our tour­ing start­ed the next day after meet­ing our guide for the trip Jere­my Avon, who turned out to be a gem. The first day was spent in Tel Aviv explor­ing the rel­a­tive­ly new city on foot, while we got over the jet lag. In the morn­ing we walked through inter­est­ing neigh­bor­hoods, an old­er mar­ket area with unique shops, sam­pled some street food, got a view of the city, and learned about the short his­to­ry of the city and the country.

Tel Aviv was found­ed in 1909 as the Jew­ish sub­urb of the main­ly Arab city of Jaf­fa. It gets its name “Spring Hill” from a nov­el by the orig­i­na­tor of the idea of a Jew­ish State, Theodor Her­zl. The dec­la­ra­tion of inde­pen­dence was signed in a build­ing owned by Her­zl in 1948. In the after­noon Lib­bi Cohen joins us to show us street art, local cui­sine, and archi­tec­ture with an off-the-beat­en-path tour.  We see the work of the street artists who have achieved fame and for­tune, such as the band-aid man, see repur­posed build­ings sup­port­ing a thriv­ing young peo­ple scene and a build­ing boom that is in progress. We also sam­pled pas­tries baked by the city’s best bak­er, which were heavenly.

After a great first day, we look for­ward to expe­ri­enc­ing the rest of Israel.

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Caesarea, Haifa, Acre and the Lebanon Border

by on Apr.05, 2022, under Happenings

Moth­er Nature forced a change in the itin­er­ary with snow on our route to Galilee. Instead, we drove north up the coast and then turned inland to Galilee. Our first stop was at Cae­sarea, which is the ruin of a city built by Herod the Great, dur­ing the 22 to 9 BCE peri­od. The ruins include a well-pre­served amphithe­ater, race track (char­i­ot rac­ing), baths, mar­ket, and admin­is­tra­tive build­ings sur­round­ed by a wall and moat. Herod built a palace for Ceasar and him­self and includ­ed a har­bor. A sig­nif­i­cant aque­duct brought water to the com­mu­ni­ty. Inscrip­tions on a tablet in the ruin con­firm the exis­tence of Pon­tius Pilate Roman Gov­er­nor of Bib­li­cal fame.

Our next stop on our jour­ney north was the city of Haifa, which is Israel’s third-largest city and a major port. One of the major tourist sites is the Baha’i World Cen­tre. The immac­u­late­ly main­tained grounds include ter­raced gar­dens on the slopes of Mount Carmel, the bur­ial place of the founder of the reli­gion as well as admin­is­tra­tion build­ings. Also in Haifa is the ancient walled city of Acre, also known as Akka and Akko, which was built as the head­quar­ters of the Knights Tem­pler. This group of cru­saders was monas­tic sol­diers whose mis­sion was to pro­tect the Holy Land and the vis­it­ing Chris­t­ian pil­grims. The city had under­ground pas­sage­ways that per­mit­ted the inhab­i­tants to safe­ly trans­fer and hide their treasure.

We then drove to the north­ern tip of Isre­al at the Lebanese bor­der. The cur­rent bor­der was estab­lished by the UN fol­low­ing Israel’s incur­sion to elim­i­nate PLO bases being used to attack their coun­try. The line is marked by fences and out­posts. We vis­it­ed the place where an Israeli unit was attacked by a sui­cide bomber result­ing in a major loss of life. There were a series of Hezbol­lah attacks and counter-attacks in this area but there have been no recent inci­dents. We observed Lebanese sol­diers and an Israeli patrol boat.  The bor­der point is acces­si­ble by cable car.

The next stop was the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights.

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The Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights

by on Apr.05, 2022, under Happenings

Our hotel bal­cony over­looked the Sea of Galilee (actu­al­ly a lake) and beyond to the Golan Heights. The lake is approx­i­mate­ly 13 miles long and 8 miles wide and is the sec­ond-low­est lake on earth, 686 feet below sea lev­el. It is fed by the Jor­dan Riv­er from the south as well as under­ground springs. The area around the Sea of Galilee is where, accord­ing to the bible, Jesus did much of his min­is­ter­ing. Strate­gi­cal­ly, it is obvi­ous that when Israel was divid­ed the Lebanese and Syr­i­ans held the mil­i­tary advan­tage of the high ground. After numer­ous attacks, Israel decid­ed to take the Golan heights to elim­i­nate the strate­gi­cal­ly unten­able sit­u­a­tion. Our first vis­it was to an Israeli self-pro­pelled artillery unit in the Golan Heights near the scene of the major bat­tle. We first vis­it­ed a memo­r­i­al to Israelis who lost their lives and view tank defens­es and bunkers. At the army base, a 23-year-old tank unit com­man­der explains the unit’s mis­sion and its con­stant preparation.

On our way to vis­it a Kub­itz, we stop at what’s left of the Syr­i­an Army head­quar­ters destroyed dur­ing the war.

We then vis­it and have lunch at a Kubutz. Our host explains the con­cept and work­ings of these small social­ist units, that are scat­tered around Israel. Ear­ly in the his­to­ry of the new nation, there were more of these set­tle­ments pri­mai­ly in the agri­cul­ture seg­ment. Today less than 3% lives and work in these set­tle­ments. They engage in a vari­ety of enter­pris­es includ­ing tourism, man­u­fac­tur­ing as well as agri­cul­ture. As 0ur guide said, it’s not for every­one, but very interesting.

We then take a step back in his­to­ry to vis­it the ancient ruin of a syn­a­gogue and spring used in dying cloth. This site has been par­tial­ly recon­struct­ed using com­put­er pro­grams that deter­mined the place­ment of each stone. Umm el-Kanatir is one of the world’s old­est syn­a­gogues, and Jere­my explained that the basic lay­out is a design that con­tin­ues today. We end­ed the day with a stop at where the Jor­dan Riv­er enters the lake.  Our view is north where we will tour tomorrow.

We start our last day at the Sea of Galilee with a vis­it to the Mount of Beat­i­tudes and Tabgha. The Church of the Beat­i­tudes is built on a hill, near the site of a Byzan­tine ruin thought to be where Jesus deliv­ered the Ser­mon on the Mount. It is anoth­er Anto­nio Baruzzi design and is shaped as an octa­gon to sig­ni­fy the Eight Beat­i­tudes from the Bible. It is thought that it was in a near­by cave that Jesus first spoke the Beat­i­tudes. The Tabgha is the Church of the Loaves and Fish com­mem­o­rat­ing the bib­li­cal mir­a­cle that is thought to have occurred at this location.

Next, we explored a mod­ern-day art colony, and view some con­tem­po­rary art. Jere­my took us to a cur­rent-day syn­a­gogue and explains the nature of the reli­gious practices.

Our final stop in Galilee was at the Syn­a­gogue of Caper­naum, a very sig­nif­i­cant reli­gious loca­tion. The syn­a­gogue is adja­cent to an ancient vil­lage thought to be the site of Jesus heal­ing the crip­pled man. Saint Peter­s’s house is thought to be in the vil­lage. The syn­a­gogue and vil­lage are men­tioned repeat­ed­ly in the bible and arti­facts tie to the nar­ra­tive. A saucer-shaped church is built over the vil­lage cen­tered on Saint Peter­s’s home. We then are picked up by our heli­copter pilot “Speedy” who flies us back to the coast and south past Tel Aviv, with great views of Caper­naum as we leave, Cae­sarea, and past Tel Aviv to a vil­lage near Jerusalem.





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Jerusalem and Bethlehem

by on Apr.05, 2022, under Happenings

Because it’s the Sab­bat, (Sab­bath) we rearranged our sched­ule and vis­it­ed the Nation­al Art and His­to­ry Muse­um and got a taste of both. We sam­pled Israeli art, which reflects its tumul­tuous his­to­ry. We viewed arti­facts from that his­to­ry, includ­ing syn­a­gogues from around the world and sig­nif­i­cant ruins mark­ing peri­ods includ­ing the Bib­li­cal peri­od. We then had a very inter­est­ing lunch with Khaled Abu Toameh, a Pales­tin­ian jour­nal­ist who gave us his per­spec­tive on Jewish/Palestinian rela­tions. We then met our Pales­tin­ian guide Kamal, who takes us into the West Bank Ter­ri­to­ry to the Church of the Nativ­i­ty, the birth­place of Jesus.

Our sec­ond day in Jerusalem, Israel’s cap­i­tal city, began with a panoram­ic view from the Mount of Olives. Where we saw the City of David and the walled city of Jerusalem. We vis­it­ed two Catholic Church­es on the Mount of Olives both archi­tect­ed by Anto­nio Bar­luzzi. The first, Domi­nus Fleuit Church, is shaped like a tear to com­mem­o­rate Jesus shed­ding tears with his dis­ci­ples before his arrest. The sec­ond is the Basil­i­ca of the Agony where a rock marks the spot of shed tears. In the adjoin­ing olive gar­den are trees that date over 2000 years that could have been there at the time of Christ.

We then drove to the street that sep­a­rates the City of David which is below the ancient walled city of Jerusalem. We explored a por­tion of Davids City that is under exca­va­tion with dis­cov­er­ies con­nect­ed to bib­li­cal events, then crossed the street to the entrance of the old city of Jerusalem. We vis­it­ed the West­ern Wall where  Ortho­dox Jews pray. We then walked the Via Dolorosa, (Latin Sor­row­ful Way). We start at the Church of the Con­dem­na­tion and Impo­si­tion, the Church of the Fla­gel­la­tion described in the Bible as where Jesus was tried, put on the cross, and flogged by the Romans. We then pro­ceed under the Ecce Homo arch men­tioned in the Bible and up the wind­ing street by the sta­tions of the cross (14 in all). Each sta­tion is marked on the wall with a met­al mark­er with the numer­al and a cast­ing depict­ing the sta­tion such as each of the three falls. The last five sta­tions are in the Church of the Holy Sepul­chre where Jesus was cru­ci­fied, entombed, and accord­ing to the bible was res­ur­rect­ed. We then vis­it­ed the site that is said to be where the Last Sup­per took place. This is a long walk back into bib­li­cal his­to­ry and it’s a long day of walk­ing, Joyce’s step meter reg­is­tered over 12,ooo steps, most­ly uphill.

Yad Vashem Holo­caust Cen­ter is Israel’s loca­tion for research­ing, doc­u­ment­ing, and telling the incred­i­ble facts relat­ing to the mur­der of 6.000.000 Jews dur­ing WWII. David Olesker is our guide for this expe­ri­ence. He takes us through the pre-war anti­semitism that exist­ed in Europe, the Nazi obses­sion with “racial puri­ty” and their dis­pos­ses­sion, con­cen­tra­tion, and sys­tem­at­ic mur­der by the Ger­mans and their col­lab­o­ra­tors. The muse­um uses indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences to illus­trate man’s inhu­man­i­ty to man on an unprece­dent­ed scale. Housed in the large cir­cu­lar mul­ti­sto­ry room are row upon row of books con­tain­ing the infor­ma­tion about those who were put to death. There are also pic­tures of some of the vic­tims, In the gar­den out­side the muse­um are trees plant­ed to hon­or those who helped to mit­i­gate the mas­sacre, includ­ing one made famous by the movie Schindlers list. No pho­tog­ra­phy was per­mit­ted in the museum.

The mar­ket area of Jerusalem is a great pho­to op and to make it more inter­est­ing we are guid­ed by Deda along with Jere­my to sam­ple eth­nic foods from both Israel and sur­round­ing countries.

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The Dead Sea and Arava Desert

by on Apr.05, 2022, under Happenings

Our last leg of our trip took us out of Jerusalem into desert coun­try. We saw Bedouin camps by the high­way and as we head­ed south the ter­rain gets more rugged. We arrived at the Jor­dan Riv­er at the spot, where accord­ing to the Bible, John the Bap­tist bap­tized Jesus. We had vis­it­ed the same place from the Jor­dan­ian side a few years before (See Jor­dan trip). A dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, same nar­ra­tive, and Mar­i­lyn the Bap­tist got to self bap­tize. The land mine warn­ing was a reminder of more recent his­to­ry at this spot.

Our next stop on the Dead Sea is an ancient set­tle­ment of a break­away Jew­ish sect that cre­at­ed the Dead Sea scrolls. The scrolls were dis­cov­ered in near­by caves.  The peo­ple of the sect took rit­u­al baths and built an elab­o­rate cis­tern and water sys­tem in their vil­lage. We then trav­eled a short dis­tance to anoth­er set­tle­ment with the ruins of an ear­ly syn­a­gogue with a well-pre­served mosa­ic floor. Near­by we stopped at the low­est point on earth 1411 feet below sea level.

Our next stop was Masa­da ( Hebrew for fortress), which is an ancient for­ti­fi­ca­tion sit­u­at­ed on top of an iso­lat­ed rock plateau over­look­ing the dead sea. Herod the Great built the palace for him­self between 31 and 37 BCE.  One account of the end of Masa­da describes a siege by the Romans of the last Jew­ish hold­outs (Sicarii rebels) between 73 and 74 CE at the end of the first Jew­ish-Roman war. The siege end­ed when the Romans built an earth­en ramp and a siege tow­er, which was set on fire by the defend­ers. Accord­ing to one account, 960 men and women com­mit­ted sui­cide in the face of the 15,000 Romans and slaves. Masa­da is well pre­served with an elab­o­rate cis­tern and water dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tem and baths as well as the palace. The rem­nants of the Roman encamp­ment and earth­en siege ramp are still visible.

We arrived at Six Sens­es Resort and Spa and say good­bye to our great guide, Jere­my. The next day we explored the resort and get some much-need­ed R&R. The Six Sens­es resorts are 21 out-of-the-ordi­nary five-star resorts locat­ed all over the world. Six Sens­es Israel is locat­ed near the vil­lage of Shae­harut in the Ara­va desert an hour’s dri­ve from the Red Sea port city of Eilat.

Our final day of tour­ing includ­ed a dri­ve to Eilat where we met Gil, our last guide, who took us first to Arrona Spring men­tioned in the bible as a stop­ping point on the trek from Egypt. We then went on to Tim­na Park locat­ed approx­i­mate­ly 20 miles north of Eilat. The park val­ley includes unique geo­log­i­cal for­ma­tions and the site of the old­est known cop­per mines dat­ing to the 5 or 6th mil­len­ni­um BCE. The mines and ear­ly foundries were prob­a­bly worked by the Edomites the bib­li­cal foes of the Israelites. The sand­stone cliffs in the Tim­na Val­ley fea­ture a for­ma­tion called King Solomon’s pil­lars and the site of ancient wor­ship to var­i­ous “Gods” du jour.

Our last image was of an Ibex, a wild goat indi­genes to this region, and is some­what sym­bol­ic of the amaz­ing inhab­i­tants of Israel, strong, unique, and able to sur­vive in a very chal­leng­ing land. We trav­eled back to the Six Sens­es then the next morn­ing to Tel Aviv to board our flight to the Unit­ed States. We expe­ri­enced an incred­i­ble adven­ture that exposed us to the ancient, Bib­li­cal, and recent his­to­ry of the unique place called Israel.





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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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