Windy Birding at Wairau Bar

Royal Spoonbill having a bad crest day
No, not that kind of bar! The Wairau Bar is at the mouth of the Wairau River, about a 10 minute drive from our home base of Blenheim in Marlborough on the South Island. The Wairau Bar is a gravel bar north of the mouth of the river -- the Wairau Lagoons, where we had birded a few days before, are on the south side of the mouth.

The Wairau Bar is an important archeological area, as remains of some of the earliest known Maori settlements were discovered there in 1939 by a 13 year old boy.

If this place sounds familiar, it's because it's one of the first places we visited with home-exchanger Mick the day he picked us up from the airport. We saw our first shags and harriers that day and we were very interested in returning to this spot to see shags and other shore and wading birds.

Click here for larger pictures with captions.

During this outing, Susan conducted two separate stationary bird species counts for eBird. Afterwards, we walked around a lot at some mud flats nearby, watching the birds and joining them in fighting the wind that is apparently common here this time of year.

We were surprised to see so many New Zealand Kingfishers at both spots! They are beautiful little birds and we enjoy watching them and trying to get a good photo of them.

As we were leaving, we were surprised and amused to see a large family of California Quail scurrying across the road in front of us -- they do look funny when they run. This quail is one of many species introduced here and is evidently thriving.

On the way out we also saw a new species to us, the Welcome Swallow.

After we got home and started making notes about the birds we saw, we realized we were having trouble keeping track of the 7 different kinds of shags (cormorants) seen in New Zealand. We literally spent about two hours building a spreadsheet cross-referencing local shag names with international cormorant names and their Latin names. We'll post some of that info with pictures later.

We're a little behind in our blogging and picture posting -- there's a lot to see and do here and it's keeping us busy!

Here's a map of the Wairau Bar area.

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Queen Charlotte Drive and birding

New Zealand Kingfisher
Tuesday, September 21 -- Equinox Day! We drove up to the Marlborough Sounds via Picton, intending to get in a walk on the Queen Charlotte Track.

Shortly after turning off towards Anakiwa, Susan spotted a Kingfisher in a dead branch over the sand flats at low tide. Through the binoculars she could see he was smashing some sort of possibly crustacean lunch on the branch, but by the time we got stopped and Mike got the camera on him, the meal was over. On a trail just off the road we spotted another Kingfisher, and then another. They were skittish but Mike managed to get a few good shots.

Click here for larger versions of pictures with captions.

As we approached Anakiwa Bay, the first of many Caspian Terns we would see dove into the water. We also saw our first South Island Pied Oystercatcher (SIPO), another endemic oystercatcher we were hoping to see. A White-faced heron or two were also fishing in the shallow waters of the bay. Walking out on the Tirimoana Jetty, a Little Shag was rather nonchalant about our approach and seemed to want to pose for us. Later we saw him (or one just like him) struggling to hang on to a freshly-caught flat fish, a scene which was no doubt more amusing to us than to the hungry shag.

We drove out to the end of the road where it dead ends into the Outward Bound School and noticed some other birders as well as students. Back at the Bay, we munched on a quick lunch from the New World deli.

Next we headed off towards Kenepuru Road which would lead us deeper into the Sounds. This has to  be one of the windingest roads we’ve been on, and the native bush was fun to see. We went as far as Portage, and stopped at the resort there to stretch and get a beverage. Walking back to the parking lot -- oops -- car park, we heard beautiful bird songs and finally spotted the vocalists high overhead in some palm trees. Bellbirds! We can’t wait to see them again from a better angle.

Just after we got back on the road, a Weka darted out in front of us! Mike slammed on the brakes and as Susan looked out her side window she saw yet another of these endemic flightless birds. At first they were wary, but the longer we sat still, the bolder they became until two little chicks peeked their heads out. Mike stood in the road taking pictures and Susan waited in the car until she could take it no more and had to get out for a closer look. Papa Weka was still scavanging right at the edge of the road, practically ignoring us, but the momma and chick scurried back into the bush. Shortly, Momma came back out to look for worms, and eventually the chicks came all the way out of the bush to eagerly grab a worm delivered by momma or papa from roadside hunting. We stayed a good 15 minutes watching the happy little family before heading back along the road, more acutely aware of the caution we needed to exercise while driving in these lightly traveled roads.

As the sun was setting, we stopped at Cullen Point near Havelock to see our last view of the Sounds for the day.

Wairau Lagoon Birding Walk

Pied shag
Today we wanted to get out and get some exercise again, so we left at around 10AM for the nearby Wairau Lagoons for a walk out to the TSS Waverley wreck and some birding.

The winds picked up even more than earlier in the morning, so we bundled up and headed out on still very soggy paths. At the entrance to the track we saw a sign explaining that due to the mud, a local running event held yesterday had been moved to Whites Bay, but we forged on as we were well-equipped.

Click here for larger photos and captions.

Where the loop trail split, we tried to go left, but there was just too much water/mud on the trail so we had to back up and go the longer way.

The royal spoonbill colony was still full of birds, and we saw some pied stilts, shags along with gulls and skylarks. The poor birds struggled hard to fly in the high winds! We also enjoyed seeing the little white crab things dart into their holes.

As we got farther out we saw more solitary spoonbills and got very close to some photogenic pied shags.

At the Waverly wreck, the sprinkles started, and the final 30 minutes of our walk we got rained on quite a bit. But we stayed mostly dry, got in about a 4 mile walk and were happy with our birding photography.

Kaikoura Peninsula Hike

Inland Kaikoura mountains seen from the Kaikoura peninsula
Ever hopeful to see whales and penguins, on Sunday we headed back to Kaikoura to check out the Peninsula Walkway. After a short stop at Ohau point, a visit to the Kaikoura iSite and gift shop, and stop at a pretty roadside cove to photograph shags, we got on the trail by about 1:30PM.

Right off the car park was another seal colony, then the very well maintained trail ascended steeply to Kean Point. The trail was absolutely fantastic. Because of its height, it afforded an even better view of the mountains to the west, newly covered with snow under clearing skies. Cliffs, bays, beaches and rocky shores punctuated the turquoise waters to our east all along on the 1hr 5 min track. Kiwis describe tracks in terms of time instead of distance, and if it is a round trip they simply say, for example, a 20 minute return. I find this system more meaningful, plus it has the advantage of avoiding the issue with Americans converting kilometers to miles.

Click here to see a larger version with captions of the above images.

We shared the trail with cattle for a bit on the South Bay side, where we also saw some Variable Oystercatchers and shags. The travel books suggested walking a loop through town to return to Kean Point, but that way appeared to be longer and less scenic so we opted to retrace our steps instead.

We want to come back again earlier in the day and add the short walk down to the Whaler's Bay viewpoint, as well as try to see Blue Penguins and whales.

Here's a map of the peninsula where we hiked.

View Kaikoura Hike in a larger map

Scenic Drive to Picton

Robin Hood Bay
Sunshine! We agreed to get going early and drive the scenic coastal route up to Picton via Port Underwood (Whites Bay, Robin Hood Bay, and Oyster Bay). Picton is the small town in the northeast corner of the South Island near the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound and where we’ll take the ferry across the Cook Strait when we visit the North Island.

Mick took us up to Whites Bay on our first day and though jetlagged, we were impressed with the awesome views from pullouts along the very drivable dirt and gravel road.

The Port Underwood route was packed with stunning views of turquoise waters, but there was also quite a bit of logging scarring the hillsides. It was quite windy and we had just a few sprinkles, too. There is a lot of local history in this area, which was first settled by Maori and then Europeans, notably whalers.

At Whites Bay we saw the building where the first undersea telegraph cable crossing Cooks Straight from Lyall Bay in Wellington (North Island) was connected in 1866. We made several other stops along the road to take in the views and take pictures.

Click here for larger versions and captions of the above photos.

We enjoyed an excellent lunch at Le Cafe in Picton, after walking around town a bit and getting some information from a helpful clerk with an Austrian-kiwi accent at the i-SITE. The Picton area is also where we'll do some hiking on the Queen Charlotte Track. We left Picton and drove back on Hwy 1, taking less than 30 minutes to get back to Blenheim.

On the way home, we stopped at the home of our home-exchangers' daughter, Haley and her family. Like all the kiwis we have met, they were very friendly. John was working in the vineyard when we arrived so we stopped and chatted briefly from the car. We asked him about the fenced elk we’d been seeing here and there and he told us they were actually red deer. We found out that the red deer is the largest deer species and about one third smaller than our elk. John said they have elk here, and we were surprised to find they also call them wapiti!

John and Haley own and work 12 hectares of vineyards and they grow Reisling, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir grapes. We chatted with Haley, Lindsay and Galen and had yummy kumara muffins and tea, and got some ideas about things to see and do. Haley said she’d be our Marlborough wine tour guide, an offer that will be very hard to refuse! On the way out we met their pig, Charlotte, and sheep.

Here's a map of the route we drove.

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Springtime in Christchurch

The Inland Kaikoura route to Christchurch was a winding hilly drive, studded with snow capped mountains towering above verdant rolling hills dotted with sheep. Very few cars or towns made the ride especially relaxing.

When Hwy 7 met up again with Hwy 1 the intensity of the drive picked up and Christchurch was the most traffic we've experienced in New Zealand so far. Arriving just before rush hour, our GPS took us to our Merivale accommodation in what seemed to be a circuitous manner through narrow residential side streets, but in retrospect the route was reasonable. The friendly woman at reception advised us that walking into the city center would not be arduous. Tickled with her word choice, off we went.

Click here to see larger images.

As newcomers to the city, it was a bit of a problem to find sidewalks that weren’t cordoned off because of earthquake damage. Bricks and toppled bits of buildings were notable, but hardly ubiquitous. We made our way to the iconic Cathedral Square and strolled around taking pictures and watching people play chess with the oversized pieces. The Cathedral itself was not open as a precautionary measure. Our dinner was a happy hour pizza special at Elements, a little restaurant with a view of the Cathedral, where we enjoyed our meal while watching the sun set in the Square. We had a nice walk back to our room and called it a day. During the night there were aftershocks, but even though we slept restlessly, we were not awakened.

Wednesday brought a brisk but sunny morning for our walk to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Daffodils were blooming along Beasley Boulevard and North Hagley Park, but they were said to be even better along Riccarton Avenue. We stumbled upon the Christchurch Model Yacht Club maneuvering their little sailboats around Lake Victoria before crossing a footbridge bridge over the River Avon into the gardens. Just inside, a pond had common waterfowl and ducklings, and nesting overhead in a tall tree was a colony of Pied Shags. We grabbed lunch at the Botanic Gardens Cafe, then strolled around the rest of the gardens, ending with the Daffodil Woodlands along Riccarton Avenue. The area was so pleasing, we lingered most of the day.

At around 3PM we remembered we wanted to take a drive out to the Banks Peninsula so we walked back to our accommodation and hopped in the car. We had a little trouble getting out of town in rush hour traffic, but once we were out of the city, the drive was great. The sun set along the way and we hit the French-influenced town of Akaroa at dusk. We agreed this spot would be worth another visit.

Mike and I were aware of only one of the several aftershocks in the night. At 10:41pm he heard a low rumbling and rattling but I only noticed the bed rocking, like being in a slow moving roller coaster car. Weird! Maybe weirder that I was not scared.

Thursday morning we took the gondola ride at Port Hills and although this tourist attraction is set up to handle large numbers, only handful of other visitors were there on this cloudy morning. On the way up, it occurred to me that this was not the ideal place to be should a large earthquake happen. I guess this is our form of “extreme sport” in New Zealand!  It was brisk and windy, but at the top we got surprisingly good views of the Southern Alps given how cloudy it was in town. We learned there are tracks along the hills up there and would like to go back to walk if we return to Christchurch.

It was past lunchtime when we headed out of town, so we stopped at a recommended place near Amberley called Brew Moon Brewery. We tried a sampler of all 4 of their brews and my favorite, not just because of the name, was the Dark Side of the Moon Stout. The ambience and food were great, too. I tried a cauliflower blue cheese soup and Mike had steak with gravy and mushrooms on top of fries with a salad, a meal that we find in some form or another on every menu we've seen. We visited with the owner, a friendly 40-something woman with waist length dreds.

On up the road we decided to take the scenic loop out to Gore Bay. We saw the mouth of the Hurunui River and Cathedral Cliffs overlook -- both gorgeous!  We were among the first to travel past the big slip that closed Hwy 1 for several days, although only one lane was open so we had a short wait. Susan saw an orange warning sign with a seal on it near Ohau point, but we didn’t see any seals on the road. We continued our drive home along the coast at sunset with ocean to our right and snow capped peaks to our left.

A long but enjoyable day of driving, and it was good to be back “home.”

Drive to Kaikoura: Sunshine, seals and shags all the way down!

We had been planning an exploratory trip to Christchurch via the coast and Kaikoura, so when Tuesday, September 14th dawned with the best cloudless sunrise so far, we were excited to get on the road.

The nominal 2 hour drive to Kaikoura was excellent -- sunshine, seals and shags all the way down this beautiful coastal drive.

Shortly after our first ocean photo op stop, we came upon another pullout at Ohau Point that we almost skipped, but Mike noticed a sign about a seal colony so fortunately we pulled off. We saw lots of adult New Zealand fur seals and pups right below us, basking on the rocks.

Susan then spotted what we later learned were Spotted Shags (cormorants here are known as shags) nesting on a rocky outcropping to our right. We counted around 20 of these beautiful birds with their blue-green face, all in their double-crested breeding plumage. We watched them flying in and out, busily collecting materials to build their nests with.

Seeing the seals at this beautiful ocean viewpoint was great, and the spotted shags made it even better! But then Mike learned from a local at this stop that another pullout that we had just passed included the opportunity to see fur seal pups super close-up, so we followed them back up the road to see them, not expecting too much and still more excited about the Spotted Shags.

Be sure to click this link to see larger versions of the above pictures, including two short videos.

But the seal pups were truly one of the most amazing wildlife displays we've ever seen. After we parked, a sign we'd missed from the highway directed us up a 5 minute walk through the woods following a stream which emptied into the ocean on the other side of the highway. As we walked up the cool shaded path, we suddenly encountered two seal pups right in front of us! They just looked at us with those gigantic eyes, often with their head twisted upside down. They even made their way right up to us, one of them touching its nose to Mike's shoe to sniff it. We could have reached out and touched them, but we restrained ourselves. After a few minutes of taking this in we continued our walk, now seeing half a dozen more seal pups in the underbrush all along the trail. Delightful!

But the best was yet to come... the rocky stream widened into a large clear pool at the base of a 30 foot waterfall surrounded by a fairly dense canopy of trees and ferns. In the pool about 30 seal pups continuously frolicked about, porpoising out of the water, splashing and climbing on the rocks.

The sign at the beginning of the trail explained that in the winter, hundreds of fur seal pups travel up the stream to the waterfall. They interact socially with each other while their mothers are feeding at sea.

All this was going on just a stones throw away from us -- no zoom needed! It was an amazing and peaceful place. With some reluctance, we finally we tore ourselves away, excited and still smiling at this incredibly unique and unexpected treat.

Our drive continued until Kaikoura where we turned inland due to a slip (rockslide) dumping almost 30,000 cubic meters of rock/soil which had closed Highway 1 and the rail just south of Kaikoura.

This gorgeous drive took us closer to snow-capped mountains and hilly winding roads towards Christchurch, which we'll cover in our next post.

Sunday hike in the Wither Hills Farm Park

Fortunately, we're getting back to a normal sleep schedule. Susan "slept in" until 6AM, and Mike was up by 6:30. This was a record good night's sleep for us so far.

There was more rain this morning so Susan did some house-cleaning. At about 10AM the rain stopped and the sun came out, so we decided to do a short hike in the Wither Hills Farm Park near Blenheim. These hills are the view to the south from our house.

We decided to walk to the trail-head instead of driving, so we ended up walking and hiking a total of 12.25 kilometers (7.6 miles). We hiked up to the Mt Vernon viewpoint and it was steep and sometimes muddy. It started out very cool, but we were working so hard we quickly had to shed a layer and our jackets. We gained almost 1,100 feet in less than 2 miles, but there was plenty of oxygen compared to where we usually hike!

Click this link or the slideshow above for larger images.

The views were great and well worth the effort! We especially enjoyed seeing the waters of Cloudy Bay, the Wairau Bar and the mouth of the Wairau River. Lots of cow pies on the trail, but only 1 person (on a mountain bike) on the way up. A few more folks showed up as we went down, but also some clouds showed up so we congratulated ourselves on getting the better views in the morning. We walked to the trailhead all the way on Redwood Street, but took the Sutherland Stream Trail on the way home, which was a superior route with less traffic. A nice guy driving by saw us looking at our map and asked if we were lost. So much for looking local.

Mike got to see and shoot his first Skylark. Other birds on this hike include the Masked Lapwing, California Quail, Grackle, Song Thrush, Silvereyes, gulls, sparrows and ubiquitous Australian harrier hawks. We also took some photos on the way home of flora. Lots of unusual plants and beautiful flowers. We can’t wait to see the gardens in Christchurch!

We got home, had some wine and cheese, showered and then finished off the leftovers from yesterday, now morphed into beef soup. As we ate, the rain started up again and we were very happy to have squeezed in this hike in the best part of the day!

Wednesday and Thursday: Grocery shopping, library, and birding

On Wednesday, our outing was shopping at New World, the locally owned grocery store recommended by Mick. A sign in the parking lot “Trundler Park” turned out not to be a Saturday afternoon place to play, but a shopping cart corral.

Once inside, the produce section was excellent, but we had been left a generous selection fruits and veggies back home. Only a few familiar brands popped out (Kellogg's Frosted Flakes were "Frosties"), but we found most everything we were looking for in some form or another, even though many shelves were empty with signs explaining that food had been diverted to Canterbury because of the earthquake.

We must have spent an hour walking up and down all the aisles gawking or giggling at the new items and looking for the familiar, while trying to look “local.” Kiwis don’t mince words -- a tube of Neat 3B Action Cream advertises that it's "for sweat rash or chafing between the breasts, buttocks or between the legs".

Eggs are not refrigerated and come in several numerical grades, as well as cartons of mixed grades. We randomly chose 7’s and found both white and brown-shelled eggs in the same carton. As we shopped for potato chips, a woman took pity on our indecisiveness and pointed out her favorite, seasoned with local Marlborough Sea Salt. They were good, and much less salty than American chips. We began to believe that New Zealanders were not fans of our favorite cheese, until we deduced that “tasty” cheese means sharp cheddar.

Self checkout was about the same as back home, except that a store manager was required to verify we were old enough to purchase wine. Mike got a few Kiwi dollars at the Auckland airport, but so far we’ve been able to use our credit cards.
White-faced Heron

On Thursday, we went to the Marlborough District library in Blenheim and found a very good selection of bird identification books. We didn’t think to leave Mick an Glenda our library card, but will add that to the list of things to do next time we home swap.

The weather was a little drizzly, but we headed out Highway 1 to try to find Big Lagoon, a nearby birdwatching area Mike had seen on the map. Missing our first turn, we decided to take the scenic route and went up over a couple passes on the winding road before turning to pick up Redwood Pass Road from the other end. Green rolling hills, sheep and a few cattle about sums up the view. As we approached the lowlands again, we started seeing large groups of Black Swans and birds that looked like giant killdeer. We later learned they are Masked Lapwings (aka Masked Plover aka Masked Spur-wings). We also saw a NZ endemic species, the Paradise Shelduck. And Mick was right, the Australian Harrier Hawks were everywhere as well. We never did find the turnoff that was supposed to lead to the Big Lagoon, so headed back up Highway 1 to a track on Wairau Lagoons that Susan spotted on the map.
Black Swans

Along this road we saw our first White Faced Heron and Pied Stilts. Very cool! Parking the car, we headed out on the track which was longer and wetter than expected. We did see a colony of Royal Spoonbills and again heard the voices of unseen songbirds all around. It started drizzling so we headed back home to grab a meal and view and organize our photos. Later in the evening, we enjoyed watching a little local TV.

Pied Stilt

Royal Spoonbills


Hey, what happened to Monday? Our bodies really need the answer to that question. Exhausted before dinner and wide awake before dawn... and feeling spaced out between.

So we took it easy and spent this weird day emptying our suitcases and settling in. Susan used Google’s new Call Phone service to talk to her mom and her daughter right from her computer. We were pleased to be able to confirm that communication with family and friends back home will be so convenient and, amazingly, free.

Our New Zealand home is very comfortable, with lots of light and windows, a warm and inviting decor, all on one convenient level. We saw our first birds at the feeders outside the kitchen window -- the cute little silvereyes often visit in groups and seem to love the sugary mixture.

The kitchen, dining room and living room are situated together and is where we will spend most of our time at home. There is also a second living area through double doors out of the living room. Down the hall past the front door are the bedrooms and baths. The laundry room is right off the garage and also has a door out to the clothesline in the back yard. Should we need it, a clothes dryer is available in the garage. Just outside the garage is the camper caravan which will to be an interesting option for exploring the country...after we stop feeling hungover!

We're here!

After months and weeks of planning, preparation and packing, not to mention extensive preparations of our house for our home-exchangers, it was finally time to begin our trip. We were 99% packed the day before and planned to leave at 10:30am to meet Glenda, who had flown in from New Zealand on Friday night and spent the night in a motel not far from the airport in Denver.

At about 10am, Mike took a final look at the Air New Zealand itinerary and realized that our plane left a full two hours earlier than we remembered, because of a change Air New Zealand had made in July (we bought our tickets in April). We both sort of freaked out since we expected to have lunch with Glenda and then take our time before she dropped us off in at the airport and then drove herself up to Estes Park to “take over” our house.

We hurriedly (but without any panic) threw our stuff in the car, ran through our final list of things to do, and drove to Glenda's hotel where we loaded her bags in the car and then drove on to DIA. After telling Tina (our Chevy Traverse) how to guide Glenda to our house with the nav system, we said our goodbyes and went in to check our bags and go through security.

We had plenty of time to relax before our flight to San Francisco, where we had a four hour layover before catching our flight to Auckland. Our plane left on time and we arrived at SFO where we walked around some for exercise, had a beer, and then got on the Boeing 777-200 which took off about 9pm.

The flight was scheduled to take 13:15 hours, but soon after taking off, the excellent LCD displays in the back of the seats in front of us projected a flight time of about 12:20 hours, which was pretty accurate. They served us a very decent meal a couple of hours into the flight and then we tried to catch some sleep for awhile.  Fortunately the third seat in our row was unoccupied so we were able to spread out a bit, but still sleeping upright is far from ideal. Susan tried sleeping on the floor, but a flight attendant was quick to tap her shoulder and get her back into the seat. Mike slept through all this. We were served a pretty decent breakfast meal and then only had a couple of hours before landing in Auckland at about 5:45am local time. It was great to finally see the lights of the North Island below.

The flight to our final destination, Blenheim (northeast part of the South Island, Marlborough District), was scheduled to leave about 8am, but first we had to get our 3 bags and go through customs. After going through customs, we rechecked the bags for the flight to Blenheim and then chose to walk the 15 minutes to the terminal from which our last leg would leave.

It was our first real exposure to the cool, relatively humid air of New Zealand, and the sky was just starting to get light before sunrise. At the terminal we got some coffee, some NZ dollars from the ATM, and then something to eat. There was no free WiFi at the airport, but there was a public computer kiosk which we used to let people back home know we’d arrived safely. Then we learned our flight was delayed, later finding out that the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch the day before had caused their airport to close and created some ripples that disrupted travel a little. After only a 30 minute delay, our flight boarded. We were very surprised that there was basically zero security for domestic flights in NZ! No metal detectors, removing shoes, x-ray machines or anything. Just hand them a boarding pass and get on the plane, a smaller prop model that carried only 45 passengers.

By now it was light enough to see, but we quickly climbed up into and then above the clouds and didn't see much until we started our descent into Blenheim after about an hour. We flew in over the ocean, coast, and then green farmland and vineyards and then landed at the very small airport (Blenheim only has about 27,000 population).

We got off the plane, walked across the tarmac into the terminal and there was Mick, Glenda's husband, waiting to take us back to their house to get settled in. Although we'd talked on the phone a few times (both Skype and landline) in the previous few months, we'd never met, but it still felt like we were already good friends (a good thing to feel when you're trading not only your homes, but your car keys for three months!).

Mick drove us back to the house where we dropped off our bags, freshened up a bit, had some conversation, then lunch, and then Mick offered to take us into town to show us around. We saw “downtown,” the grocery stores, and other places we'd be frequenting during our stay as Blenheim “locals.”

After a quick tour of the town, Mick took us out into the country a little ways, showing us some beautiful spots where he's fished, camped, etc. He took us out to Wairau Bar, White's Bay, and some other very scenic spots. Not just great scenery, but also saw several birds we'd never even heard of, much less seen! What a great appetizer for New Zealand!

Because of our just completed 31 hour trip with very little sleep, we were pretty exhausted, so Mick took us back home where he made us a very nice dinner of teriyaki pork. Shortly afterwards, at about 8pm, we turned in for the night.

Monday morning we were up early after a jetlagged and fitful sleep, but drank coffee, covered last minute details with Mick before taking him to the Blenheim airport at noon to fly to Colorado. There was also time for an introductory visit from our neighbors. David and Yvonne are a friendly couple from the UK, who, like Glenda, moved to New Zealand to be near their kiwi grandchildren.

After we dropped Mick off, Mike got into the driver's seat and drove Mick's Nissan Terrano (diesel) out of the airport and headed out west of Blenheim in some low traffic areas to adjust to driving on the “wrong” side of the road. Kind of nervewracking and stressful to stay on the left, especially on turns or roundabouts (traffic circles).

We drove out as far as Wairau Valley where we pulled off on a dirt road to watch some sheep with their lambs and some birds. The air was filled with “baas” from soprano to bass, and the trees rang with songs of unknown birds We wandered around grinning as the realization that our adventure had really begun.

New Zealand, here we come!

Kia Ora!

We leave on Saturday. As the final trip details fell into place over the past few weeks, our apprehensive "OMG we're going to be gone for 3 months!" feeling has been replaced by an enthusiastic realization that "OMG we're going to be gone for 3 months!"

We hope you'll check back here often to read about and comment on our travels in New Zealand.

Susan & Mike