The Moms' Visit
Written by Cathy Siegismund
Both my mom, Dorothy, and Ken's mom, Peggy, flew down to visit us in October.
My mom visited for three weeks and Peggy's trip was for two. As they wanted to see
many of the same things, and they get along, we planned to have them visit at
the same time. My mom enjoyed a week in Auckland prior to Peggy's arrival. She went out on a
spectator boat and watched the Louis Vuitton Cup, toured Auckland, and took a
tour to Waitomo and Rotorua.
The day Peggy arrived, we all flew to Christchurch, and started our whirlwind
8-day tour of South Island. It was mid-October so the weather was a little touch
and go, but we covered a lot of ground and the moms enjoyed the trip.
Our whirlwind tour of South Island
We flew directly to Christchurch, were we rented a car and drove to Kaikoura.
Kaikoura is small, largely tourist town, on a spectacular bay. Kaikoura is well
known for its wildlife and ecotourism. We had planned to go on a whale watch the
afternoon we arrived, but bad weather with high winds had forced the tour boats
to cancel. We stayed in a quaint Irish bed and breakfast, which we had seen on
our trip to Kaikoura the year before. The next morning, we awoke to a beautiful
clear sunny day, the only down side was there was frost on the ground. This was
our morning to go on a wild dolphin swim, yikes!
Blue water off Kaikoura
The moms decided they would rather enjoy the dolphins from the comfort and
warmth of the boat, and watch Ken and I swim with the dolphin. We did this with
blue lips, chattering teeth, and all.
Cath suiting up in a 7mm wetsuit and still freezing!
Despite the freezing water and somewhat limited visibility in the water from
the past days' rough weather, it was a great experience. The tour boat took us along the coast by Kaikoura to swim with a huge pod of Dusky Dolphins. The
waters off Kaikoura are literally teeming with life. Off the coast, is a very
deep trench, which brings nutrient rich waters up to the surface attracting all
sorts of wildlife including a seal colony, pods of dolphin, and a number of
different species of whales including orcas and sperm whales.
Dusky Dolphin off the coast of Kaikoura
We had the chance to go in the water four times. We suited up in wetsuits
and snorkel gear and waited for the signal to go. The crew would then drive the boat into the middle of a pod of
dolphin, blew a horn and we would jump into the freezing water. The guides gave
us hints to try and entice the dolphin to swim with us. We were supposed to swim
in circles, make eye contact, and make dolphin sounds. We weren't sure if these
antics were really to entice the dolphin or to amuse the guides and other
tourists who had stayed on the boat. For whatever reasons, the dolphin did swim
close to us, circling us and zooming past us. It was very cool.
Peggy keeping warm with her possum hat and Cath and her mom watching the dolphin
After lunch at the Mussel Boys restaurant - a great place for New Zealand
green-lipped mussels, we toured Kaikoura for the afternoon, looking in art shops
and taking advantage of the beautiful day.
Kaikoura sits on a large bay with the backdrop of the coastal mountain range
Cath and Dorothy and Ken and Peggy pose with Kaikoura's scenic backdrop
We then drove back to Christchurch, went for a drive to Lyttleton, and explored
Impressive cathedral in downtown Christchurch
The all important Starbucks also boarders Cathedral Square
Peggy and I also did some shopping in Christchurch. The cold weather had us
trying on sheepskin coats and sweaters. Peggy got a sheepskin coat and some
sweaters, and I got a sheepskin coat and gloves.
Trying on the very warm sheepskin coat
A drive up into the hills outside of Christchurch offers a great view of the
We had a quiet night, as we had to be up early to catch the TranzAlpine train
that would take us from Christchurch to Greymouth on the west coast.
We went to the Christchurch train station, where we caught the TranzAlpine
train. The train took us through the farm land outside of Christchurch and up
into the mountains.
Crossing the farmland in Canterbury outside of Christchurch on the TranzAlpine
Heading into the mountains that split the South Island of New Zealand
An open air car was available in the train for viewing the spectacular scenery, but was very cold especially as we
got higher into the mountains.
Cath bundled up in her new coat in the open air train car
At one of the stops, we saw one of New Zealand's remaining steam trains
We arrived in Greymouth at about 2pm, it was raining, which is not surprising
since much of the west coast is rain forest. We explored Greymouth, rented a car
and headed off to Hokitika, where we spent the night.
On our way, we crossed one of the many one-way bridges you see on the South
Island. This one is a little unusual as it not only is one-way for cars, but
is also a train bridge.
One way car/train bridge
Hokitika is a small coastal town and jade capital of New Zealand. We did a
little shopping in one of the many jade stores and had a great dinner. The next
day was our longest drive south down the west coast to Queenstown.
A short way south of Hokitika, we stopped in a tiny town to check out a craft
store. We've found that the small towns are great places to stop and where you
can find unique art at a much better price than you'd pay in the larger cities.
This shop was probably the best one we've seen in New Zealand. A Maori man ran
the shop and was the carver for most things in the store. We spent all sorts of
time wandering the store, and having him explain the meanings of the different
Some of the proprietor's carvings
Ken and I were very temped to buy some of the larger pieces, but being on a
small boat, makes us take a very hard look at possible purchases. We have bought
quite a bit of art; however, all but the smallest pieces we have to ship home. I
bought a lovely carved wooden bone hook necklace. Peggy bought a tiki
Peggy with her new carving and the shop owner /artist
We continued on to Queenstown, and drove past Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
through Wanaka and into Queenstown. Rainy weather had us skip one of the
helicopter rides up to the glaciers; although, Ken and Peggy took a short walk
up one of the trails.
As we continued our way south, Peggy spotted a sign for a tourist stop
called Shantytown. It ended up being a really well-done sort of rebuilt Kiwi
Cath in the shoe store and Ken in the tool shop - some things never change
Some silly photos of the Peggy, Dorothy, and Ken
We continued our long drive, stopped in Wanaka for a quick dinner, and got to Queenstown at about 9pm. We
turned in early, as we had reservations for a full day tour to Milford Sound.
See the Milford Sound Photo Gallery for more pictures and
descriptions of our Milford Sound tour
We picked up a bus in Queenstown, which would take us on a four-hour ride
through the mountains through Te Anau and into Fiordland. Fiordland is in the
southwestern corner of New Zealand, and is a beautiful area of deep fiords,
waterfalls and mountains. The bus ride took us through farmland and then into
some beautiful mountain scenery. We finally arrived at the docks, where we
boarded a large tour boat. We toured Milford Sound with the breathtaking Mitre
Peak. We all thought that with the steep-walled fiords and many waterfalls, we
could have been in Desolation Sound in British Columbia.
Our second morning in Queenstown, we awoke to a breathtakingly clear, sunny day.
Stunning views from our hotel in Queenstown
We decided to take advantage of the great day and explore Queenstown. We started
out the day with a jetboats ride down the Shotover River. Ken and I had been on
the jetboats the year before, but it was definitely a new experience for the
moms, who really enjoyed it.
The Shotover River and the jetboat dock
Our next stop was a trip up the gondola to take in the great views of
Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkable mountains on such a beautifully
At the base of the gondola, we went to the
Kiwi and Birdlife Park.
We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the birdpark, and we saw many of New
Zealand's wonderful birds, including the kiwi, tui, pukeko and kea.
Ken posing in the entrance to the Birdlife Park
To see more, go to the Kiwi and Birdlife Park Photo
After exploring the bird park, we had lunch and did some window shopping in
Queenstown. There was an arts fair down by the lake, which we couldn't pass up,
and Peggy and I picked up a couple of things.
Art fair in downtown Queenstown, with the backdrop of the Remarkables
Later that afternoon, we set off for Dunedin. We had a quiet night, and after
breakfast the following day we set off to explore the Otago Peninsula. The Otago
Peninsula frames the Dunedin harbor, and has a number of small towns, and
several worthwhile sightseeing stops. A highlight of our last summer's visit was
Penguin Place is a privately owned and funded reserve for the rare yellow-eyed
penguin, only 5,000-6,000 remain in existence. The yellow-eyed penguin does not do well in
captivity, so this very well-run reserve is one of the few opportunities to view
Cath at Penguin Place
For more pictures, see the Penguin Place Photo Gallery
Our next stop on the Otago Peninsula, was
Larnach Castle was built in 1871, and was restored in the 1960s. The grounds and
surrounding scenery are fantastic. It is easy think you are in the UK, rather
than 40 minutes from Dunedin.
For more pictures, see the Larnach Castle Photo Gallery
We drove out to the Albatross Colony to take in the view, but did not go to the
Albatross Colony tourist center. We were however, visited by a seagull.
Seagull visiting us on our rental car
We took a scenic drive around the coast of the Otago Peninsula on our way back
to Dunedin. The peninsula has a number of small cute towns and farms.
As it was early spring, so everywhere we went we saw lambs. We might have gotten a
little carried away, but we couldn't resist taking quite a few lamb photos
While trying to find our way back to the main road back to Dunedin, we came
across an elderly lady taking her burro out for some grass.
Taking her burrow out for a walk
When we returned to Dunedin, we did some brief sightseeing of the historic train
station, made a quick stop at Starbucks for a pick-me-up and headed off for our
Dunedin's train station
It was a beautiful day with the spring flowers in bloom - it was a perfect day
for sightseeing and photos.
Cath in front of the spring flowers outside the Dunedin train station
After leaving Dunedin, we set off for Oamaru. In route, we stopped at Moeraki
There are two ideas about how the Moeraki Boulders got here, the Maori one, and the
scientific one. In Maori legend, the Kai-hinaki food baskets were washed ashore
when a canoe was shipwrecked while searching for precious stones. The scientists
say that the boulders are 60 million years old. They started as lime crystals,
which then attracted other minerals around it to make the boulder shape.
We then continued on to Oamaru.
Oamaru is a town of impressive limestone architecture. These buildings were
largely built during the period 1860ís - 1880ís and today remain as New
Zealandís most complete collection of Victorian buildings. Oamaru is the main
town of the Waitaki area, whose limestone Victorian buildings reflect the
wealth of the New Zealand gold rush era. Today Oamaru, is known as the penguin
capital of New Zealand. Oamaru is home to a large nesting colony of Little Blue
Penguins. This is one of our favorite tourist attractions. The Blue penguins
are the smallest of the world's 17 species of penguin. Standing just 25cm high
and weighing 1 kilogram; and are one of the cutest animals we've seen. They are
found around the coast of New Zealand and in Southern Australia.
Penguin Crossing sign by the colony
The penguins come ashore at dusk, to return to their nests. Last year when we
visited the colony, it was during the penguin's annual molt, so we only saw
eight penguins come ashore - and were delighted with that. This year, the
penguins were returning to hungry chicks and we had 74 penguins come ashore --
it was fantastic!
Blue penguins coming ashore and preening before returning to their nests and
We had a quiet night in Oamaru, and the next morning we drove to Christchurch,
and flew back to Auckland. Dorothy and Peggy took an overnight tour to the Bay
of Islands, and spent the remaining time touring Auckland with us. Peggy and
Dorothy had a great time and flew home a few days later loaded with souvenirs
and rolls of film to be developed.