Visit to South Australia

We have visited many places in Australia and for Gabby, South Australia (SA) was still the missing link for her to say she’s visited all states in the country. Yes, I already traveled myself to Adelaide for work in 2015 and spend a little bit of time going around. We heard of Kangaroo Island in the past from friends and we decided to organise a short 4 days trip with friends and use Australia day public holiday to make it a long weekend.

We flew from Brisbane on January 26th at 9am and arrived in Adelaide some 2:30 hours later to discover my luggage hasn’t followed us. It was only the 2nd time this happens to me so far (1st time was in Singapore in 2014) however this time I had absolutely nothing else than a tablet with me and the expectation was that we were going to immediately take the road with our friends that were already there waiting. I stopped at Qantas Baggage Service to see what could be done about the missing luggage. The lady was helpful and helped to organise my luggage that was still in Brisbane to be shipped to Kingscote on Kangaroo Island the same day at 6pm then she called the apartment hotel we were going to see if there was a possibility to organise for my luggage to be picked up from the airport as it would have been close by the time we get there. I was glad there was a plan but I was really suspicious that this would work out without hiccups considering the number of connection and different people handling my belongings. Well surprise, the luggage was waiting at the door when we arrived later that day at the hotel!

So, after managing this little inconvenient, we started the trip by driving to Handorf, a small German settlement about 45 minutes east of Adelaide. We walked through the main street and visited the European looking town. We stopped at the old Handorf Inn (established in the 19 century, around 1830) for a massive lunch.

After visiting Handorf we drove through Adelaide Hills and stopped to a Yangarra organic winery for some tasting.  The place was very pretty and the owner very friendly but we found most wines too dry for our taste buds except the bottle of Viognier that we bough (all empty by now! – Valentine Day). We then took the road toward Cape Jervis to catch the ferry that was from memory leaving at 6:30pm (all the paper I printed were in my missing luggage…) but unfortunately, the ferry was actually leaving at 6:00pm. We were lucky to be able to reschedule our departure until 7:00pm. The ferry ride was good and short (45 minutes) but it was the most expensive ferry ride I ever took! Some abusing 650$ for 4 passengers and a car both ways (SeaLink). This is one of the reason many locals never went to Kangaroo Island (that’s a flight return to Japan when on sale).

Luckily the sun goes down late in SA and we could catch the sun set on the way to Kingscote, the small (very small) seaside village on Kangaroo Island. We didn’t want to arrive in the darkness because of the danger of wildlife on the road from dusk to dawn. Indeed, we saw a horde of Kangaroo on the way there and these little guys can bounce in front of your car when you don’t expect them causing damage or worst a crash. We arrived at the apartment with still a little day light. We unpacked quickly (my luggage was there yay!) and walked to town in hope to find a restaurant to eat but everything was shutting at 9pm. So we stop at the gas station and bought frozen pizzas…! Yummy…

Several fun things were on schedule for the next day. It started by a tour of Seal Bay to check out a sea lions colony. The tour was really interesting and we got to see front close many of the sea lions and we learnt about the story of the colony that went close to extinction not so many years ago. Now it is a protected area and they are recovering.

This beautiful experience was followed by a 2 hours guided Quad adventure around Vivonne Bay. This was our first experience and we enjoyed it. The Quad tour was then followed by going down sand dunes at Little Sahara using toboggans and sand board. Perfect day!

Back in Kingscote, we ensured we had food for a proper meal and walked near the beach and the main wharf.

The following day plans was to check out Flinder’s Chase National Park at the far end of the Island and the many exceptional landmarks around the area. We started by visiting the amazing Admirals Arch, then the walk near the lighthouse until the little warehouse.

After lunch we visited the truly Remarkable Rocks, which are spectacular rock shapes resulting of ancient molten rocks. The view was fantastic with unreal colours and the view of the South coast.

Then we did the Snake Pools walk in the western part of the national park. The walk was easy  and mostly flat, about 45-50min one way. The view at the end was very rewarding and surprisingly the water wasn’t cold.

We drove back to catch the ferry and watch the sun set and stayed at Cape Jervis for the night.

On our last day, we drove back toward Adelaide from Cape Jervis near to the coast line and ensured we visit more wineries and local product maker in MacLaren Vale. We first stopped by a Buddhist temple with a huge status of Lady Buddha (there is a large Asian population in SA) and then we visited Paxton (one of my favorite Organic winery here) and a local cheese maker.

Back in Adelaide in early afternoon, we spent some time at Glenelg beach about 20min from Adelaide city center. The beach is rather nice and the water was warm. It was a really hot day but different heat than Brisbane. Brisbane heat is usually uncomfortable in summer: hot, humid and very sticky while Adelaide was a dry heat. We visited the city center, it was nice but almost like a Ghost town as very few people were around!

Kangaroo Island was amazing. Beautiful scenery and peaceful. Very serene atmosphere and plenty of activities for the nature lover. I would definitely recommend anyone to visit, however I found it quite pricey because of the ferry. So, for the same budget there is probably other places to visit first if you haven’t been in Australia for a long time.

We liked Adelaide, it’s the fifth largest city of Australia with a population of about 1.3 million people. It is rather calm, definitely has its charm and there is still plenty of things to do around.

Check the video I made below with music.

Posted in Adventure, Beach, Friends | Leave a comment

Annual year review 2015 and goal setting for 2016

ChildLearningGreetings readers!

Let’s start by wishing you the best for this new year that is only beginning. I wish that you appreciated how 2015 unfolded for you and that you have learned something positive during that long 365 days journey. If not, well this year you will have one extra day to figure it out! Otherwise, I hope that it helped you to foresee and think about the way you want to live for the next leg of your journey.

For our 6th Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere, we decided to stay home in Brisbane and enjoyed some good times with friends. Fortunately enough, we managed to do some decent traveling and went abroad to New-Zealand just before the end of the year (just before the high season!), so resting and relaxing at home wasn’t being done with any regrets.

2015 also marks our 5th anniversary in Australia. This is a strange feeling as our roots in this country are growing deeper every year. Australia has been rated again in the top of the best countries to live in and I couldn’t disagree with this. We feel good living here and embrace its outdoorsy lifestyle fully. At the same time, it has now been more than 2 years and half since I have visited my home country, family and friends and this also weight on my mind. It is difficult to keep contact with all people I would like to. Most people now do have their own little family too. Time difference don’t help but also I suppose this is just how life goes on.

The New Year seems the perfect time to make a fresh start, which is why so many of us make New Year’s resolutions. According to research, approximately 50% of us make resolutions each year, mainly about weight loss, exercise, smoking, money management, and debt reduction. Yet only about 8% of us manage to keep them. Perhaps sometime people are simply giving up on making resolutions because of past failures. Now help is at hand. In a recently posted article* on the Psychology Today website, psychologist and author Ray Williams summarises research explaining why we have such a hard time in keeping resolutions. Encouragingly, he also draws on research to offer suggestions to help you make your own resolutions work. His tips are:

  1. Focus on one resolution rather than several and set realistic, specific goals. “Lose weight” is not specific. Losing 5 kilos in 90 days would be.
  2. Don’t wait for next New Year’s Eve to make new resolutions. Make it a year-long process, every day.
  3. Take small steps. Many people quit because a goal is too big and requires too much effort and action all at once.
  4. Have an accountability buddy, someone close to you to whom you have to report your progress (or a blog!).
  5. Celebrate success between milestones—don’t wait for the goal to be finally completed.
  6. Focus your thinking on new behaviours and thought patterns so you can create new neural pathways to change habits.
  7. Focus on the present. What’s the one thing you can do today, right now, to move towards your goal?
  8. Be mindful. Become physically, emotionally, and mentally aware of your inner state as each external event happens, moment-by-moment, rather than living in the past or future.

I proud in taking accountability of my own stuff, but you guys are my accountability buddies here, and with this new year already started, its the time to do some active thinking and writing about the year that has just finished and look ahead for the next one. I do this exercise since over 5 years  to get clarity about my own life direction, achieve my long term goals and plan and take appropriate action to change the course of of what’s remaining of my life. The concept was originally taken from from Chris Guillebeau’s book on the “Art of non-conformity“.

You are capable of more than you’ve ever imagined. ” – Thoreau

Annual Review

The annual review process being by focusing on what went well in 2015. This can be done using the goals you set yourself on previous years or by overlooking at the general topics that matters to you.  You then examine what could be improved. The result will surely help you with the process of being intentional about your choices in the following year(s) and maybe draw a first set of actions for change.

General review – 2015:

What went well – highlights ?

It would be difficult to compare 2015 to 2014 in terms of great highlights. Climbing the Kilimanjaro and raising awareness and money for Breast Cancer was a definitely fun, big commitment and an achievement it itself that I am really proud of! But hey its not a competition and every year brings something different.

So what’s happened? Last year, we went pretty intense on training and physical challenges by completing Tough Mudder, couple of long run including City to South and Brisbane Marathon (I completed the half marathon in 1h53min). Tough Mudder was a team challenge we really enjoyed. With the right preparation, it wasn’t too hard to complete. We also continue doing the weekly 5km Park Run on Saturday mornings 7am. By the end of the year, we had completed around 35 of them. My best park run was 22m51sec. It is such a nice ritual to get out there in the morning with friends and have the feeling of having accomplished something good so early in the weekend! Otherwise, I have been very regular with the gym, outdoor training, cycling to work and good eating habits.

I dedicated quite a bit of time of developing and improving professional skills. I finally obtained my professional certification (CBAP) and I also completed 3 courses on Coursera including 2 in Spanish language! One of these course were given by the World Bank on climate change which was an eye opener for me. I also listened to several TED talks which present a fantastic opportunity to learn something new all the time (instead of watching crappy “reality” TV shows which are endemic in Australia – e.g. The Bachelor being certainly at the top of this list)!

The major highlight of the year is that we have actually achieved obtaining Permanent Residency (PR) in Australia. This is truly a definite administrative win as this gives us the right to stay in here indefinitely and entitled us to most Australian privileges such as independence, social services & security, healthcare and a clear path ahead to citizenship. This may not seem comprehensible if you never lived overseas (for long enough) but let me tell you that it is one big step. However, this hasn’t come without its struggles as the whole process has been quite frantically draining emotionally and financially!

Otherwise, last year we started to be seriously involved in the preparation of our wedding that will happen in April this year in Mexico. It will be a wonderful opportunity to catch up with family and friends and celebrate our love and our union. So far, the wedding venue has been selected and will be directly on the beach as we always wanted. Without a doubt, the wedding will be the big highlight of 2016!

What could be improved?

  • Professionally, it has been an interesting year overall. Learned heaps with several rewarding challenges and also some frustrations with a general feeling of being overwhelm with the volume of work and some odd politics.  I am really unsure how the next year is going to unfold with the new permanent position I have accepted. The new role present some interesting challenges in term of ICT portfolio management and coordination however it also involves a significant amount of on-going BAU activities and coordination which put you in that constant state of disruption and spinning around.
  • It may sounds actually silly but although we have a very good circle of friends here, I have found difficult this year to keep enjoying things we like to do. For example, traveling, visiting and discovering new places and keeping a good variety of activities. Too many weekends were spent doing good old Aussie BBQ (birthday, etc)!! It is becoming a little too repetitive so this year we need some more originality and perhaps do more things on our own!
  • Having been raised in an North-American culture, I find that it is important to be dependable, on-time and being able to communicate information clearly. Being also often on the go, busy and with many goals in mind, I have learn over the years to be efficient with time management. Without wanting to offend anyone of course, this is unfortunately not something that everyone is able to do naturally. Perhaps a subtle shifts in perception would help concentrating on the positive side of things and avoid getting irritated when things are not happening the way I would like them to (e.g. fast!)… this won’t be easy!

Some lesson learned:

  • Never give hope, good things will happen with focus and perseverance, sometime when you don’t expect them! (earning PR while in New-Z for example!).
  • We can always choose to perceive things differently. We can focus on what’s wrong in our life, or we can focus on what’s right. It’s up to us to feed the right wolf.
  • Managing stress is important and I am still not the best to manage it. I tend to become irritable, frustrated and sometime demotivated. Don’t let that happen to you for too long and find a way to balance it (like the gym!).

General goals – 2016:

Here are the three main goals and objectives for 2016.

  • Stability – make way for the future
    • Getting Married (April 2016)
    • Apply for Citizenship
    • Make a long term investment (investment property?)
  • Sustainability
    • Reduce my overall carbon footprint
    • Help steer global change
  • Strong focus on healthy and well-being – physically and mentally
    • Continue to challenge myself physically.
    • Continue to challenge myself intellectually.
    • Maintain a strong focus on health prevention
    • Allow more time for small moment to wind up and chill out, breath.

Here are the review and goal settings for each important theme for me.

Learning:

Learning is really something that motivates and energizes me. It sparks creativity and dreams. I like the challenge and the feeling of learning something new, making progress towards something, improving.

2015:

  • Completed my certification Certified Business Analyst Professional™;
  • Completed 3 courses online via Coursera, an online MOOC platform with courses from University from all over the world. 2 courses were in Spanish!
  • Listened to over 80 TED Talks;
  • Completed over 70% of exercises in Spanish using Duo Lingo;
  • Reading one or two other books on sustainability, business or politics.
    • Al Gore – Assault on Reason
    • The 100$ Start-up by Chris Guillebeau (almost completed)
    • Several papers on renewables and community shared solar.

2016:

  • Complete webinars and keep on top of new Business Analyst material (BABOK3).
  • Improve my skills in Spanish, embrace more opportunity to speak it and finish all  exercises on DuoLingo
  • Complete 3 more course on Coursera in Spanish!
  • Listen to 100 additional TED Talks.
  • Dance lesson (for the wedding)
  • Reading one or two other books on sustainability, business or politics.
    • Noemi Klein – This Change Everything
    • ?

Professional:

Until you retire or achieve financial independence or maybe live on a remote island (!), your job remains where you spend most of your time and provide you with the necessary financial support for a living and the means to accomplish few dreams like traveling. Therefore, it is important not only that you like and that you grow in what you do but also that you maintain your competitive advantage.

2015:

  • Completed CBAP™ certification;
  • Settled in my new role as a Senior BA with a new organisation and even a permanent position;
  • Learned a lot at my new work place about energy infrastructure asset, engineering, metering, etc;
  • Perhaps resuming the PRINCE2 certification. (Not achieved).

2016:

  • Be ready for everything! Look for opportunity to develop in my new role or look for new opportunities or perhaps try starting my own business.
  • Take every opportunity to develop further leadership and project/program management experience.
  • Resuming the PRINCE2 certification.
  • IIBA Babok V3.0 Webinars

Travel :

Traveling is something we will ever cherish but unfortunately it was not a top priority in 2015. I have not visited a new country (Gabriela did) but still managed to discover a fair lot of new places in Australia and I can now say that I have visited every states in Australia.  In 2016, we will be planning another extended trip most likely in South-East Asia. More weekends will also be on the agenda.

2015:

  • Australia: South Australia – Adelaide (August 2015), Canberra (Jan 2015), Sydney (Jan 2015),  visited Melbourne twice and Roma in central Queensland (for work in Feb 2015)!
  • New-Zealand : South Island.

2016:

  • Australia: Bundaberg, Lady Elliot Island / Lady Musgrave, Lake Erie Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
  • Mexico
  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Vietnam
  • Malaysia

Financial:

Money don’t buy happiness, this has been proven true many times. Still, almost everything in this world have an opportunity cost. 2015 has been pretty costly in term of organising our Wedding and obtaining our permanent residency. Strengthening our finance will  continue to be one of the focus of this year for the wedding in Mexico in 2016 and probably to fund another big travel trip at the end of the year.

2015:

  • Putting some savings aside for the wedding, permanent residency and next travel
  • Looking into building financial independence (ex: long term appreciating asset – investment property, community solar project)

2016:

  • Continue putting some savings aside for the wedding and the end of year travel plan
  • Make a long term investment (ex: long term appreciating asset – investment property, community solar project)

Friends & Family:

Already close to three years elapse since I have been back home. I can’t deny that I am missing it a bit. I have been able to keep contact with some people and of course my close family, however I have lost contact with many others too, which is just the way of life. I am looking forward to met many for our wedding in Mexico this year. Otherwise, I think we have definitely strengthen our friend circle here in Brisbane which is really good. Lot of good people, dependable friends and always tons of activities. I am planning a visit to Canada in 2017. I haven’t succeeded in writing periodically on this blog as I intended too unfortunately.

2015

  • Focus on the strongest mutually beneficial relationship.
  • Strengthen my social network in Brisbane
  • Keep maintaining a good contact with my closest friends and family regularly through Skype.
  • Continue to write periodically in my blog (Failed!)

2016:

  • Friend & Family reunion in Mexico for our wedding.
  • Maintain my social network in Brisbane, however add more variety of activities.
  • Kept a good contact with my closest friends and family through Skype.

Health & Lifestyle:

This year again, I have been really strong on this key aspect of my life. Reached few goals too. Completed few races, ran another half-marathon under 2 hours however and complete Tough Mudder which was honestly a great deal of fun. I am looking forward for a similar challenge in 2016.

2015:

  • Completed another City2South (14.5km) in 1h10m24s and a half marathon (21km) under 2hours – 1h53min
  • Completed 35 park run  (5km every Saturday morning 7am)
  • Did few trail running (10km at enoggera reservoir)
  • Went regularly to the gym (3x times a week)
  • Maintained strong and healthy lifestyle, ate organic as much as possible (financially!).
  • Maintained my own (small) organic garden.
  • Juicing 3 times a week (vegetables, fruits) – 3x a week has been proven difficult….

2016:

  • Reach 50 Park runs.
  • Complete few races (e.g. City2South)
  • Complete Spartan Race and potentially Oxfam trail walker.
  • Keep going to the gym at least 3 times a week.
  • Keep eating as much organic as possible and maintain my own little organic garden.
  • Juicing 1-2 times a week (vegetables, fruits)
  • Complete a trail run every month

Community engagement:

2015

  • Donated and supported Medecin sans Frontière.
  • Organised 1 or 2 events for the Alumni club. (Planetarium)
  • Volunteer for the South Bank Park Run. (Not achieved)

2016

  • Volunteer for the South Bank Park Run.
  • Keep supporting Medecin sans Frontière
  • Organised 1 event for the Alumni club

Sustainability:

This has been an area of strong interest and focus for the last year and this will continue to be one for the next years. I have read countless papers, research and completed an online class on climate change given by the World Bank  and became very interested in the topic. I have convinced more than ever that there is an urgent need for the world to transition to a low carbon economy and everybody has a responsibility in this transition by reducing your own footprint and engage globally by putting your money where it encourages such a transition.

2015

  • Learned more on the science of climate change.
  • Completed a course by the World Bank on climate change and sustainability.
  • Cycled to work almost every day this year. (This saves about 1.3 tonnes greenhouse gas emissions each year over driving a car).
  • Paid to carbon offset of all my flights
  • Bought as much as possible local and organic
  • Reduced our meat consumption
  • Invested few hundreds dollars in energy efficiency and switched all lights to LED (ROI in less than 1 year!)
  • Bough and maintained two small composting bins
  • Switch to chemical free cleaning product (Not yet achieved)

CarbonFootprint2016

  • Continue learning more on climate change and how we can tackle the issue
  • Become more engage and active to promote change
  • Divest from fossil fuel
  • Invest in Renewable Energy
  • Continue cycling every day to work
  • Reduce further my carbon footprint from last year result
  • Switch to chemical free green cleaning product

When we look back at our lives, we don’t remember the times when everything went well and nothing was challenging. If you don’t have challenges in your life, maybe you should change your life!

Thanks for reading so far!

ToughMudderSEQ2015 049

Pascal

Posted in Annual review, Difficulties | Leave a comment

Amazing New-Zealand – South Island – Part III (Last)

NewZealand South Island 228Friday 4st of December – Milford Sound, Te Anau and Kepler Track

We left the camp site in the morning to get to Milford Sound,  a very famous fiord in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island, within Fiordland National Park located an hour away. We decided to go with a boat cruise that we booked in Queenstown.We though about going for the Kayak option but at the end it was a good decision to go with the boat cruise as the Fiord is very long and we wouldn’t have covered a long distance kayaking. Also, the Kayak trip was very expensive (175$-200$ each!) compare to 45$ each for the cruise.

The narrow and winding road took us through the tall forest and mountains through the Homer tunnel which was hewed from solid granite. this tunnel took apparently 20years to build and measures 1270m.  There was patches of snow all over around the tunnel entrance. We embarked on the Jucy boat cruise tour at 9am. The sky was unfortunately quite cloudy. However, it was not raining. With a mean annual rainfall of 6,412 mm (252 in) each year and being considered as one of the wettest place on earth, I guess we were already lucky! The ~2 hours cruise was relax and enjoyable. The scenery was frankly stunning with so many waterfalls around. The most impressive one was the Stirling Falls from its 155m height.

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After the cruise we stopped on the way back to Te Anau at the Chasm for a 20min short walk. We reached Te Anau mid afternoon and after eating lunch and looking at our options at Te Anau visitor center, it looked like it was too ambitious the do the full Kepler Track to Luxmore Hut within the day and drive all the way back to Queenstown. So we decided to only do the first section of the Kepler track from the car park to Brad bay campsite. The walk around Te Anau lake was very easy and enjoyable and we felt sad we couldn’t continue all the way up to Luxmore hut as the track looked like phenomenal. However, staying longer here would have mean staying less at Mount Cook and this was a non negotiable. After the walk, we stopped in Te Anau at a free wifi spot to first check out where we could stay around Queenstown for the night and also for looking at our emails. I had the strange feeling there would be some development in our immigration saga in Australia. There was indeed an email awaiting to be open from the department of immigration and as the internet connection was breaking all the time, so my patience was!  Finally, some 20 min later, I could read the full email and attached document and best news ever, we were finally granted Australian Permanent Residency, nearly 2 years after first embarking in the long and painful bureaucratic journey. No one will understand what this meant for us unless they have been through the process themselves.

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We then continued our way closer to our next destination Mt Cook instead of staying without a real purpose for another night in Queenstown, other than a quick shower! As the evening approached, we stopped in the town of Cromwell for the night and parked the car in a parking lot for the night. To celebrate the previous good news with style, we had a quick dinner and a bottle of wine in the old part of the town which was surprisingly very nice.

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Technically, it is not allowed to camp in a public car park unless you have a self contained vehicle (toilets, etc) and that there is no restriction of freedom camping in the area. So, we had a quick breakfast and left as soon as possible in the morning 🙂

By the way, in doubt, always check the New-Zealand department of conservation website. Otherwise, there are also very useful “Apps” to install, like “CamperMate”, that can guide you in the planning of your trip.

The drive to Mount Cook through Lindis Pass took out once more through beautiful and varied landscapes. From dry valley and wine producing region, to lakes and mountains. Most precious view was definitely along the blue lake Pukaki with Mount Cook in the background. We had to stop several times to take extraordinary pictures.

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Arrived at Mount Cook, or Aoraki in Maori, impressive visitor center, we took a look at the different walks for the day and the weather forecast. It was starting to drizzle lightly and it wasn’t looking too good for the reminder of the day. We reached White Horse Hill camp ground at the near base of Mount Cook and make lunch. The camp site was really good and the view of the snow covered mountains and the Hooker valley was simply gorgeous. We then started one of the short track I was really keen to do, the Hooker Valley track.  This scenic walk started directly at the camp site and led deep into the foothills of the Southern Alps through a series of swing bridges and offered excellent mountain, glacier and river views. The walk was very nice but weather quickly turned nasty with wind guts of around 60km an hour and horizontal rain! Gabby put on her rain pants but I didn’t had any. I was completed wet in a matter of minutes. It was also cold outside and very humid, with the heavy wind, we were miserable but as we were about mid way to the end of the 2h track, we decided to continue on. We reach the nice glacier lake at the end of the track and quickly turned away to head back to safe ground. We crossed the last swing bride that was literally swinging in every direction because of the wind. The wind was so strong, it was difficult to stay straight and not pushed away on the ground.

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We finally reached the camp site and we went straight inside the shelter to relax and dry out. Mission impossible, it was so humid and cold outside, we had to take everything humid off and put multiple layers on! We made dinner in the shelter and then spent the rest of the evening in the camper van and watched a movie. With everything all over the place inside, including damp clothes hanging around and a camping chair in the camping van, it felt like a strange bogan house. Anyway, good thing we had a DVD player so we could watch a movie until it got dark!  The walking tracks in the area were probably the best in New-Zealand so our hopes were high that the following day weather will be more merciful!

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Sunday 6th of December – Mount Cook & Lake Tekapo

Our prayers have been answered, we woke up with few thick clouds in the mountains but with the sun shining. This was great. Before having breakfast and to test the water before embarking on a longer hike for the day, we started off with the Kea Point short walking track. This was less than an hour return, and it testing positive for what was upcoming.

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Back and the camp site, we cooked a good breakfast to ensure we have enough energy for few hours and then prepared for the Sealy Tarns Track a step 3-4 hours return. The track was promising breath taking view of Mount Cook, the valley and Mueller Glacier. It wasn’t long before we had to take few layers off as we climbed up the infinite steps up the mountain. The sun was slowly pushing away the hanging clouds and the view of the snow covered mountains was opening up to our great pleasure.

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We reached the end of the Sealy track in about 1h30min with several picture stops along the way, remember that even if the pictures are incredible, it can never fully translate the 360 degre beauty of the place. There was a small alpine lake at the top that offer when there is no wind, a perfect mirror view of the Mount Sefton and the Mueller Glacier. There was only a small breeze but I think the picture is really good.

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We heard other visitor continuing our way up in the snow to Mueller hut. Considering the the day was still young and that the weather was getting close to perfect, we decided to continue on. The Mueller hut was another hour an half  to two hour away. The track got a bit more step and without man made steps. Few patches of snow started to appear until we had to hike through a big and step one. Gabby was afraid of the way down as it was slippery, but we carried on each foot step allowing us to capture another moment of this incredible place.

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Once we hiked our way up near to the top, we had to go around to the other side of the mountain where the track and stone we’re now completely covered up with snow. The hut came in our view some 20min after this. The view was truly spectacular. We walked up to the Mueller hut (1800m) and stayed there for a short break to eat and drink. Enough to replenish our body of its depleted energy. We couldn’t stay there very long as there was still a lot to do for the day! The descent was actually easier than anticipated but as stunning. We crossed path with few other people that were staying at the hut for the night.

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Back to the car some 6 hours later, very happy with the hike and the luck we had with he perfect weather, we took a short rest, ate and changed. We then drove to the nearby Tasman glacier to check out the place. We also did one other short 30min to check out the blue lake and the glacier. At that point, we were satisfy and happy to not walk anymore!

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A bit bit late on our schedule, we then drove toward Lake Tekapo to relax in the anticipated Hot Springs! The road took us once more around the stunning blue Lake Pukaki with the view of Mount Cook in the background. We followed the instruction of the GPS to finally reached a closed road on the way to Lake Tekapo :-/ There worst place then New-Zealand for having to turn back, but we were getting close to 6pm and still wanted to relax in the hot pools! We finally reached the hot springs around 7:00pm, but against thanks to long days, the pools were only closing at 9pm. We stayed for a little more than one hour and really enjoyed relaxing with the fantastic view offered to us. This was good, however we had to keep going to reach the camp site near Geraldine for night, still located more than an hour away. There were few other things planned initially that we had to skip (Lake Alexandrina, Mt John Summit and the observatory – legs can’t do more hiking anyway).

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It was getting quite dark outside and there was no indication anywhere for the camp site  (Pioneer Camp site) we were looking for. We turned around twice, drove some 40km extra but could never find it. Maps or GPS leading us in strange place. It was around 10:30pm, we were exhausted, hungry and finally gave up. There was no camp site around to be found so we decided once more to chose to camp in a car park in one small town named Fairlie. We had cereals for dinner and slept almost straight after.

Monday 7th of December – Christchurch

It was the last full day in New-Zealand and we had to return the campervan in Christchurch before 5pm. I was initially planning to spend some time in Akaroa and perhaps spend some time in Christchurch in the evening but Fairlie was still a fair distance from where I was intending to spend the night originally, so we preferred to take a bit more time to explore Christchurch then rush to try to fit in two destinations that are an hour an half away from each other.

We got to Christchurch in the morning and decided to try to check Lyttelton first to check out the area and the sea side. We walked a bit around and stop by the visitor center, but the person in place told us there was not much going on since the big earthquake that shocked the area in 2011. There was one hike to do around but we didn’t want to hike anymore. We had instead a coffee in town, check out the port and and went back to Christchurch.

New Zealand is accustomed to earthquakes, but few have been as destructive as the 6.3-magnitude tremor that hit Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city, in 2011. The central business district was devastated and nearly 200 people across the city died. Even four year after the catastrophe happened, part of the city still looks like a war zone. Fences that stretch for blocks enclose vacant lots piled high with rubble. Deserted buildings await demolition, some with gaping holes where windows should be, some without walls almost all of them with several graffiti on them.

Slowly, it seems life is returning to Christchurch, in part thanks to creative endeavors of its resident. Scenes of desolation have seeded place to artsy graffiti, painting and other original creations. On one block, an impromptu installation called the Sound Garden had been set up, with chimes fashioned from hollowed-out fire extinguishers and a rain stick made from a pipe filled with wooden beads and rubber balls. Across the street is something called a Dance-O-Mat — an open-air dance floor with speakers and a disco ball where passers-by are invited to drop a coin into a washing machine, plug in their smartphones and get down in front of construction workers for a half-hour.

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We completed our tour of the city, visited the Botanical Garden and drove to our bed and breakfast for the night located near the Spaceships drop off location and the airport. Our host at the bed and breakfast (Maples on Harewood) was extremely friendly and offered to drive us to the airport at 5am the next morning.

This mark the end of a much rewarding trip to New-Zealand! Please see below a recap of the itinerary

Summary

  • If you enjoy the outdoor, you will fall in love with New-Zealand, not a single doubt!
  • Everywhere you go and everything you see in the South Island of New Zealand is spectacular!!!
  • We drove a total of 2353km!
  • We took over 1300 photos and videos
  • We did over 30 hours of hiking / walking
  • We were bitten by around 100 sand flies!
  • We spend a total of around 5,000$, with most of the cost being transport related (flight, camper van, petrol, taxi,) and activities (heli hike trip, rafting, luge, cruise)

Favorites:

  • Area: Mount Cook, simply mind blowing
  • Hike/walk: Mueller Hut in Mount Cook National Park.
  • Town/city: Queenstown
  • Beer: Mac’s Porter
  • Activity: Heli Hike trip on Fox Glacier
  • Sunset: Gillespies Beach.
  • Campsites: Boundary Creek Campsite (DOC) along Lake Wanaka and White Horse Hill Campsite (DOC).

Not so much our favorite!

  • Sandflies : They are everywhere and their goal is to bite and annoy the shit out of you.
  • Petrol is not cheap (~2$/l)…
  • So are most activities, good news is that if you love outdoor, most of this is free.
  • No Uber, Taxi is super expensive.

Tips:

  • Campervan is the way to go. Spaceships Beta S2 was perfect for our need.
  • Driving around New-Zealand with this stunning scenery can be distracting, be careful!
  • CamperMate, Android Apps was very useful.
  • Fill up for petrol in major town or cities.
  • Visit New Zealand in early December before the peak season or after.
  • Be well equip for all sort of weather. It can be very wet and cold or sunny and warm!

Pascal & Gabriela

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