Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Horse Trek Day 2

The second day on our trek began with a huge breakfast prepared by Jess. The horses were then caught from the field and JD received a visit from the farrier to restore his lost shoe. We then saddled up and headed around Diamond Lake. From Diamond Lake we rode past Arcadia Station, down the Paradise Road through the Red and Silver Beech Forest, through an Earnslaw Station paddock then across Diamond Lake. From there we climbed up Mount Alfred to the grassy knoll overlooking everything from Lake Wakatipu and Pigeon Island to Mount Cosmos, Chaos, and Poseidon to the Paradise Valley. This view was breathtaking!

We stopped to eat a hearty lunch then headed back down the mountain to the Rees Riverbed then upstream to our night's stop - the Shearer's Quarters on the Rees Valley Station. To get the Shearer's Quarters we rode though a beautiful (non-native) willow forest and lush lupin fields.

The day was much warmer and we only required vests instead of our huge jackets. I loved being able to see the landscapes and I tried to take in the view as much as possible. Thank goodness for digital cameras and iPhones!

That night we, again, feasted with a meal of roasted chicken and all the fixings.

My Horse for the Trek - JD

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Horse Trek Day 1

Tuesday morning Suzie and I were picked up in a passenger van that headed to Glenorchy. They call this road one of the most beautiful drives in the world; and now I understand why. The scenery was truly gorgeous and it felt like we were driving into the heart of middle earth! The sudden temperature drop the night before left fresh snow on the mountain peaks and a chill in the air; but in the long term that didn't matter to me... we were about to begin our horse trek!

Our group was comprised of Suzie, myself, Briar (a super sweet girl from the North Island of NZ), and our guide Jessica (originally from Toronto, Canada). Suzie got a draft cross named Moose, Briar rode Beer, a grey Percheron cross, Jess rode Dusty, a little palomino QH gelding, and I was on JD, a sorrel station bred gelding (i.e. he was a draft mutt).  Between Briar, Suzie, and I our horses all measured over 16 hands and little Dusty was only about 14.3 or 15 hands at best.

Suzie on Moose (with a sun guard for his nose) and Katlin on JD
The first day of our trek we rode down the Rees river to the 'meet' - which is where the Dart and Rees River come together. We then rode up the Dart River past Kinloch Routeburn Station. Then over the Dart River bridge, across Earnshlaw station, down to the Dart River flats, then up Mount Alfred to Paradise! I didn't time it but I'm guessing that ride was about six hours or so. 

Boiler Room Hut
We then spent the night at the Boiler Room hut on Diamond Lake. Right before we got to the lake JD through a shoe which meant we had to make a brief stop to telephone for the farrier to come in the morning. The Boiler Room hut was a cute little cabin nestled among the trees of Diamond Lake. It didn't have any running water and the privy was just down a little ways from the hut. Jess, our guide, fed us afternoon tea which consisted of meats and cheese and hot chocolate. Then Jess prepared a huge dinner of steak, salad, and bread! 

The first day of the trek wasn't too cold, but the wind was outrageous and that made it feel colder than it actually was! The first day we also discovered that JD had an attitude so I put him in the back to group to avoid kicking any other horses.

Heading up the River
Every time we rode of a mountain, across a river, or though a station I just kept thinking 'this can't get any prettier' but then it did. I'm so thankful that I was able to go on this trek and that I was able to have Suzie come with me! I think I speak for both of us when I say that it was the adventure of a lifetime!

Diamond Lake

Diamond Lake

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Suzie and I arrived in Queenstown and were warmly welcomed at our hotel, the Alexis (another place I HIGHLY recommend staying if you end up in Queenstown). We spent that afternoon and evening wandering through the town shopping for New Zealand souvenirs all while taking in the sights.

We ate dinner at a little bar called Surreal (where there was an extremely cute waiter!) then watched a  comedic street performer. The performer did several acts, including Houdini's great escape. He was extremely funny and I enjoyed his humor! After the street performer finished we walked back to our hotel eating a delicious fresh baked cookie.

Day two for Queenstown was just as beautiful as the first day. We ended up walking to Starbucks then wandering through the local botanic gardens. The rain from the previous night sat perfectly on the flowers which made for a wonderful photo opportunity. After walking next to Lake Wakatipu Suzie and I decided that we should go for a little adventure... Zip Lining!

After returning our rental car, Suzie and I took the Skyline Gondola to the top of the mountain and then braved the rain to do a six line zip tour.  I thought that the zip lining was awesome, even if was raining and very chilly. It's not something you can do every day and, although I wish it would have been sunny,  I still think it was a fun and exciting thing to do in Queenstown.

Once we finished at the bottom of the mountain Suzie and I were freezing so we headed to a local pizza shop to grab a bite to eat. Then it was back to the hotel room to pack for our horse trek the following morning!

Driving to Queenstown

This blog post is more about the drive to Queenstown than actually arriving in Queenstown because who would have thought that a drive could be so incredible! It's safe to say at this rate that I've traveled the world, but I don't think I've ever seen such blue water as I did on this trip!

The first body of water that we saw was Lake Pukaki.  Lake Pukaki is the largest of three alpine lakes near Mount Cook.  I later discovered that this lake was the setting for laketown in 'The Hobbit.' Very cool!
Lake Pukaki

Our Trax Rental Car! SO CUTE

We then passed Lake Ruataniwha. Suzie and I were unprepared to see such incredible color... In fact we didn't even realize we would be driving next to this lake! The glacial feed to the lakes is what gives them such a distinctive blue color, created by glacial flour (which is extremely fine ground up rock particles from glaciers). 

Lake Ruataniwha

Lake Ruataniwha

We also passed Lake Dunstan (a man-made lake) and then the town of Cromwell, which had giant fruit statues boasting it's local fruit economy.  Ironically we also passed the Gold Fields Mining Centre (which is you know that I work in the Gold Fields District in California you should find that extremely funny)! 

Kawarau River

Friday, February 10, 2017

Christchurch, the City Centre, and Fairlie

Much to my surprise, I wasn't tired after our crazy journey from the US to New Zealand. In fact, I was excited to explore the city of Christchurch. As I reflect on it now, I wish that Suzie and I had planned to spend more time in this wonderful city but with the flight issues we only had one day!

We started out the day by walking into the City Centre of Christchurch. The city itself is a mixture of extremely old stone buildings and contemporary architecture, which seemed to fit together seamlessly. The damage to the buildings from the 2011 earthquake could still be seen everywhere and it was shocking to see first person. For those of you that don't know, Tuesday 22 February 2011 a 6.3 earthquake badly damaged Christchurch and Lyteelton killing 185 people and injuring several thousand. The earthquake's epicentre was near Lyttelton, just 10 km from Christchurch's central business district. The quake only lasted 10 seconds but because of damage from an earthquake several months earlier, the damage was severe to the city center.

The Christchurch Cathedral also experienced significant damage, losing its spire and part of its tower. The tower was demolished in March of 2012 because the damage could not be fixed. It was probably most shocking to see this in person. For reference this is what the Cathedral looked like before the earthquake

After Suzie and I walked around the Christchurch Cathedral we ended up eating at the best possible coffee shop. I can't recall the name of it, but the scones were AMAZING. They are probably the best scones I've ever had! Just image the perfect scone that is flakey, buttery, soft, warm, and full of happiness. 

Our next stop was the Canterbury museum. I wish I could say that the museum had one specific theme, but it was a random collect of exhibits highlighting everything New Zealand, including Fred and Myrtle's paua shell-adorned home living room. Fred and Myrtle Flutey decorated their New Zealand home with thousands of paua shells that Fred collected from a nearby beach.

Suzie and I then wandered through the Botanic Gardens in the city centre. If I recall correctly, the gardens were started when an English oak was planted to commemorate the marriage of a two royals (although I can't recall their names). I loved the gardens and wished that we could have spent more time there. One of the prettiest spots in the Botanic Garden was the Central Rose Garden that had over 250 varieties of roses.

It felt so good to be out in the sunshine away from the California rain. If I go to New Zealand and Christchurch again I would love to pack a picnic lunch and eat it in the Botanic Gardens while soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the beautiful city.

After walking through the garden we headed back to the hotel. Our stop for the night would be the Pinewood Motel in Fairlie, a three hour drive from Christchurch (another motel I would recommend staying at if you find yourself in Fairlie). Before we checked in though we drove to Lake Tekapo. The lake was beautiful but the town was too touristy and not to our liking so we headed back to the sleepy town of Fairlie. 

Suzie and I ended up at an old library turned restaurant eating garlic cheese pizza and salad. (For those of you that haven't hung out with us you don't realize that we have a habit of eating garlic chips and a caesar salads more often than we should at Wally's in Cameron Park back home!) We discovered a delicious local cider and had too much fun laughing at a silly TV channel. 

P.S. For the sake of this blog I'm leaving out the numerous (hilarious) things that happened to Suzie and I while in New Zealand. If you want those stories then you'll have to talk to us in person!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Events

A series of unfortunate events; that's what created a 32 hour plane journey from Sacramento to Christchurch, New Zealand.

Here's the first blog post I wrote from 30,000 feet in the air:

As I write this, I am sitting high in the clouds, counting down the minutes until Suzie and I land in New Zealand. This hasn't been an easy journey and we've already had our fair share of adventure!

Leaving from Suzie's house this evening presented it's own set of challenges. We not only hit commuter traffic on Highway 50 but we also failed to realize that the Sacramento Kings had a game and that made additional congestion. We slowly crawled onto Interstate 5 then the road finally opened up and we turned into the Sacramento Airport.

Going through a security was a piece of cake and was probably the most enjoyable TSA experience I've ever had. Our flight from Sacramento left relatively on time despite the heavy rainfall and winds. Upon landing at LAX Suzie and I realized that we had to sprint through four terminals to get to the international terminal, find our gate, and try to make it to our flight. According to my FitBit, it took us approximately 9,000 steps and we walked almost 3 miles!

Hurry up and wait... That's the theme to the rest of this story. After sprinting to our plane at LAX we sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour. (I'll leave out the ticketing snafu but I will say that thanks to a very nice gate agent Suzie and I were able to get seats next to each other.) Since our flight leaving LAX was late that meant that we missed our connecting flight in Brisbane, Australia.  We tried to rush and catch our Brisbane to Christchurch flight but going through international security meant we had to wait. Qantas tried to rebook us into Christchurch via Sydney but that meant not getting into Christchurch until midnight. Instead Suzie and I are now traveling to Auckland, New Zealand. Hopefully we will be successful in catching our flight to Christchurch once we land, but since our connection is extremely tight I'm not sure it will happen. 

In the Brisbane airport Suzie found an amazing coffee shop (Coffee House) and I found food. Because of the missed connection Qantas supplied both Suzie and I with $20 vouchers for food. I had a cheese bagel, orange juice, water (for Suzie), a chocolate chip muffin, and a chocolate nutella milkshake (I'm pretty sure it was only like 9 o'clock in the morning but I really wanted a milkshake!).  Suzie had some sort of delicious looking breakfast but I can't recall what it was - only that it had an egg on it.

Poor Suzie... I think at one point in time she was ready to rip my throat out because of my unrelenting optimism about our situation. Alas - I'm excited to be on the plane headed towards New Zealand, even if it is the wrong island!

After writing that blog post (on my iPhone no less) I can say that we successfully landed in Auckland. We boarded an Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch and finally arrived at our destination around 9 o'clock pm. It was 32 hours of nonstop travel!

The first night we stayed at Amross Court Motor Lodge (61 Bealey Ave.) in Christchurch city centre. The owner was incredibly nice and I think she recognized the look of two weary travelers. I honestly think that fact that it was nighttime when we arrived worked in our favor since we were able to head straight to bed.

P.S. If you need a place to stay in Christchurch I would say that you should stay in Amross Court without a doubt. It's located next to several restaurants and coffee shops, as well as being a short walk to the earthquake center, the botanical gardens, and the Canterbury museum.  Plus the owner is incredibly sweet and caring.