Off on another adventure with Todd and Katy

Our journey begins with a five night stay on the beautiful island of Taveuni in Fiji. After two long days of travel (which included crossing the international date line), we arrived on Saturday, August 10, early enough to enjoy a full day at our villa resort.

We spent the day lounging in the pool, fishing, and making decisions about where to sit:

What to eat:

And what to drink:

The weather high is 80 F and the low is 78 F. There is a wonderful breeze. Paradise! A great day to recuperate from the long trip.

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On to birds…..

Done with flora, onto fauna.

There are no native land mammals in New Zealand. When the Maori people arrived 500 years ago, they introduced the rat and dog. NZ now has Australian opossum, stoats (like weasels), mice, wild pigs (boar), cats, dogs and a couple of other very hungry creatures. They, of course, prey upon the ground nesting and flightless birds of the islands. (Even their two native birds of prey are ground nesters.) There is a nationwide attempt to reduce the number of these predators. Our eco lodge employs “Robbie, the Pig Hunter”. He comes up on weekends with friends to hunt pigs. In the last 18 months, they have harvested 200 pigs!! There are also a variety of poison traps throughout government controlled lands and properties of conscientious private landowners.

Many such traps can be seen while hiking on the islands. Some hiking photos.

Our first encounter with the New Zealand pigeon was at the aforementioned aviary. Evidently, that particular bird thought that Todd’s hair was either good nesting material or a threat. Hence, the full swoop and head attack. Now, this bird is really big, and we enjoyed seeing many of them in the wild, who were not inclined to attack Todd.

There are , of course, many sheep on the islands. (As in, as far as the eye can see.)

Our farm stay raised primarily Merino (pink nose sheep). Upon shearing, The wool is graded according to fiber width in microns, and sold mostly to Icebreaker (which has been recently purchased by Smart Wool).

At our second eco lodge we were able to see Fiordland Crested Penguins. No photos, but this is the beautiful beach where they come ashore.

At this lodge on Lake Moeraki, we had a great day to go kayaking.

We went to the Royal Albatross center where we were able to see the Royal Albatross, Little Blue Penguins (smallest in the world), and many other nesting birds.

These are red billed gulls. Duh.

One of the most picturesque places we went was the Nugget Point Lighthouse. We saw both NZ fur seals and NZ sea lions.

Selfie at one of many waterfalls!

Katy.loves.flowers.

So, I will turn the car around to look at a bird, and Katy will turn around to buy “traveling” flowers.Yes, the peonies traveled around with us on the South Island in a beer box, gracing the tables at each of our lodgings.l

We did a rocky trek in Arthurs Pass Natl Park to see the world’s largest buttercup. There are many, many introduced species growing wild in NZ.

We stayed at a sheep farm/eco reserve in Arthur’s Pass. On our first “walk about”, we did some eco management by pulling random, invasive Frazier firs.

We also saw the smallest daisy, termed a mat daisy. This one is in full bloom!

While in the subject of fauna, we walked through some amazing rain forest.

And saw some awesome trees.

The “Wanaka Tree” grew from an old willow fence post. It is one of the most photographed trees in the world.

Notes:

About 40% of vehicles on the South Island are large camper vans (or so it seems). The weather was still unpredictable. We missed out on our whale watch cruise from Kaikoura and our flight/cruise to Milford Sound, due to “rubbishy” weather, as the locals would say.

Most bridges on two lane roads are one way. The signage posted indicates who has the right of way. Remember, we are driving on the left. And there are a lot of bridges.

Can you check a bird off on your life list if you see it in an aviary?

Tough question! Katy says that seeing a native bird in an aviary counts, as opposed to seeing something such as a kiwi in the Pittsburgh Zoo.

On Thursday, we headed north along the coast. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the Tasman sea was quite picturesque. It wasn’t far into the drive before I realized that there are virtually no straight stretches of road in the entire country, and New Zealanders are very aggressive drivers, a fact that they readily acknowledge. We stopped for a delicious picnic lunch, before heading inland.

Our destination was the Otorohanga Kiwi Preserve and Bird Park. The kiwi is a flightless, nocturnal bird that nests in a burrow. The preserve has an active breeding program and regularly releases birds into established predator free areas. In the “nocturnal” house, they trick the kiwis by reversing day and night. We were able to see one of the three birds in this house during the keeper talk. Outside, we then meandered through the bird park and saw many native species. Our next keeper talk was at the giant eel pond. Now, these eels swim the whole way (against the current) to Guam to breed. The fry then drift with the current back to NZ. The keeper had on an awesome outfit!! Soooo Kiwi.

We next headed to our “farm stay” airb&b, making sure we made it for the 5:00pm tour. Our host has 30 acres of pasture with emus, ostriches, goats, alpacas, llamas, and miniature horses, donkeys, pigs, a bull, a highland cow, and others. Katy was in her element! Already planning her own little farmette,

Our lovely cottage.

Up the next morning for our 8:30 tour at Glowing Adventures glow worm cave. The privately owned caves have been in the family since 1912. There is a much larger, highly touristed tour that we did not choose. This cave has no electricity or paved pathways. They issued us hard hats, headlamps, clothing and boots, as much of the tour involved walking through the creek and crawling over rocks. We even got to see two giant eels in their natural habitat. The tour ended with the spectacular glowworm display!

On the return to New Plymouth, we stopped at Tongaporutu and walked the black sand beach to the Three Sisters.

Next up? Thanksgiving dinner! Now this took some serious grocery store skills, as Kiwis do not have this holiday. We ended up with a delicious chicken, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut (very difficult to locate), stuffing, sweet potatoes, gravy, asparagus, and cranberry sauce (once again, very difficult to find).. Not to mention , that K and T have only lived in this temporary house for 4 days and really don’t know what they have or where it is!I

(That is a roasted yellow tomato, not an egg yolk.)

So, we are binging on holidays, and the next morning was Christmas!!

The rest of the day was spent with Katy working🤨, and us going to the local Taranaki Museum.

Notes: The weather is still very unpredictable, unless you take into account that it will probably rain. Electricity is very expensive. The electric outlets need to be turned on to activate. There is no drip coffee. It is all barista style. Katy and Todd are really good at Ticket to Ride Europe. I miss this guy.

Arrived in New Plymouth, finally!!!

We left Dulles, headed to Beijing. Both of us probably slept for about 8 hours. We didn’t need to claim our checked luggage, and easily went through immigration and customs. We did need to go through security, and, once again Steve had to have his bag searched!

We then headed to the Air China business class lounge. Really good food, limited alcoholic beverages.  We booked our one way business class ticket on Air China using United Airlines frequent flyer miles.

Steve won our Settlers game.

That club closed at 10pm so we hopped next door to the BGS Lounge, accessed with the Priority Pass.

Strange food offering. Not very good.

Boarded our next flight at 1:05am. Got another decent amount of sleep. Arrived in Auckland and spent the night at the Ibis Airport Budget hotel. Up at 3:00am for our flight on Air New Zealand to New Plymouth. Beautiful view of Mount Taranaki from the plane.

Finally arrived….left Sunday, here on Wednesday! Todd met us at the airport at 7:20am. We started our NZ adventure with a long walk along the New Plymouth Coastal trail and home through downtown.  There are cool playgrounds everywhere,

The modern art museum.

Got back home just before the torrential downpour! Katy is off to work, and we are on our way to lunch.

Notes:  The weather in very unpredictable, but currently it is rainy and cold (48F).  Older houses in NZ do not have central heat,  just portable heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves. I can’t decide if it is colder inside or outside of T & K’s house.  People from NZ are very hardy and think coats and long pants are for woosies.  Shoes are optional for children.  Everyone is very friendly😊.  NZ accents are way easier to understand than Australian.  Believe it or not, our lamb at dinner was delicious!  😉

Off to visit Todd and Katy! New Zealand!

We have already had a trip highlight and haven’t even left the country! Spotted a beautiful red shouldered hawk along the roadside on our way to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).

Our first stop was the Comfort Inn Washington Dulles International. The deal? Eighteen nights of parking, overnight on our return (you can stay on either end of your trip), and free airport shuttle for $186.00. We are hoping to return to a vehicle that is free of ice and snow!

The international terminal at IAD was virtually deserted at 12:30pm.

We headed to the Turkish Airlines Lounge where we had access with both our Air China (yes, we are going to NZ) business class ticket or Priority Pass. Excellent food selection, bar service beer, wine, and drinks (ie; has no self serve), and a very small space. Quiet at 12:45 but filling up at 1:30!

Next up: 14 hour flight to Beijing, 6.5 hour layover, 12.5 hour flight to Auckland. We depart today, Sunday, 11/18, and are scheduled to arrive in New Plymouth, NZ on Wednesday, 11/21.😳