Scenic Backroads - Kathy

Ready for the RideAfter returning from our incredible overnight trip to the Doubtful Sound, we realized that we had only two days left in Queenstown and wanted to make the most of it.  There were so many things we still wanted to do and see, it was difficult to decide how best to use the time.  We decided that a guided bicycle trip was worth the chance, because it allowed us to venture out to see more of the countryside and was met with much less resistance from the kids than another hike might have been. 

TSS Earnslaw

Our day started with a trip aboard the TSS Earnslaw, a vintage steamship still in use on Lake Wakatipu.  Thought to be the only coal-fired passenger vessel still operating in the southern hemisphere, this ship has been running since 1912.  During our cruise across the lake we got to see just how much work goes into keeping this vessel moving – there were several men shoveling coal into the fires throughout the journey.  Our 40 minute trip took us to the Western side of the Lake and the Walter Peak High Country farm.  While many of those on board were going to do tours of the farm, we were ready to hop on the mountain bikes that we had picked up prior to boarding the ship. 

Walter Peak Station SheepOur guide for the day was Sebastian, who was originally from Chile and had been living in Queenstown for about four years.  We were joined on the bike ride by a mother and her 12-year old son from Queensland, Australia, and a young woman from the Ukraine.  Once Sebastian had checked to make sure that all of the bikes were in working order and we all had a rudimentary understanding of how to break and switch gears, we were off.  

Scenic Backroad TrailThe first 15 or so kilometers of our ride took us through the beautiful countryside that encompasses the Walter Peak High Country Farm.  The farm is actually called a “station” and a public road runs through the private property.  We cycled along gravel roads with sheep and cattle on either side, with occasional stunning views of the lake and the mountains beyond.  Cameron and Elliott (the 12-year old from Australia) had great fun racing ahead once they had figured out how to handle the bumpy path.  The beauty of the guided ride was that there was really no way to get lost – we were just told to follow the road and, after a while, the guide would pass us by with the transport vehicle with a bike trailer attached.  When we caught up to him, we would stop and wait for the entire group to get together.  There was no rush, so we were free to stop and take pictures and enjoy the scenery along the way. 


High Country Muster StationAfter we’d ridden for about an hour and a half we loaded the bikes onto the trailer and were driven to a muster hut (still a part of the station) where there was a picnic table available for us to sit and enjoy our picnic lunches.  It’s amazing how good a turkey sandwich can taste after a morning of cycling!  The kids had a great time throwing rocks into the stream that ran through the property, and we all got a chance to hang out a bit and learn more about Sebastian and how he got involved with this tour.


Our Support Vehicle for the DayAfter lunch we loaded up again and drove for another 20 minutes or so to another series of mountain lakes called the Mavora Lakes, where we had the opportunity to ride through a lovely Beech forest. The landscape and the terrain here felt very different from that at the station where we had been cycling previously.  

 Pausing by the Malvora Lake Swing Bridge

After another 15 kilometers or so in the beech forest, we loaded up the trailer for the ride back to the Walter Peak Farm.  On the way back the adults were given the opportunity to get out and ride down a long winding downhill that overlooked some steep cliffs with a stream running below.  The kids stayed in the van with Sebastian and laughed at how slow we all rode down the hill.


Returning for Afternoon Tea at Walter PeakAfter returning to the farm, we were treated to tea in the little farmhouse.  The scones and biscuits were delicious and just the right end to a great day of cycling.

The TSS Earnslaw ReturnsWe had one more treat in store – on our ride back on the steamship, we were treated to the afternoon “sing-along”.  A woman boarded the ship and passed out songbooks for everyone and we sat around while she played the piano and we all sang songs like Waltzing Matilda, Edelweiss, and Oh Susanna.  While Mike quickly closed his eyes for a bit of shut-eye, the kids and I did our best to sing along with the crowd. 

Even a Sing-Along on the Way Home !For a last minute decision, this turned out to be a really great day of our trip!

Earth's End - Mike

Overlapping MountainsOn a March morning in the fall of 1770, Captain James Cook peered through his spyglass at a meeting of land and sea that lay five miles off the port beam.  Examining what appeared to be a passage between the sea cliffs, he considered for some time whether this inlet could provide a place to rest from the Tasman Sea.  He concluded that this was a Doubtful Harbor and that the Endeavour would not be risked to explore it further. 

A Doubtful Harbor?Cook sailed on having missed the opportunity to discover and explore one of the great fiords of the world.

Blue Hulled Navigator

These days you don't need to borrow a square-rigged sailing ship to experience the Doubtful Sound, but it may actually be one of the simpler options.  Our trek began from Queenstown where an unseasonably early snow had overnight painted the peaks of the Remarkables white and set the stage for the first leg of our journey, a three hour drive through the Southern Alps.  Our Destination, Manpouri, a small town on the shore of big lake. Parking our car at the town dock, we grabbed overnight bags and boarded a waiting ferry that carried us on the hour crossing to lake's West End - a place that despite being home to a hydroelectric power plant capable of powering the entire south Island is reachable only by boat and seaplane.  The challenging commute may be one of the reasons why the power station is actually unmanned, and remotely operated by workers a hundred miles away.

While no roads lead to the West End, there is one that leads away from it.  An unsealed and steep, single lane road that winds up and over the Wilmont Pass ending much as it starts, a place accessible only by boats or seaplanes, Deep Cove on the Doubtful Sound.  Fortunately the driving on this portion of the trip is left to the professionals and we boarded a bus that for a ride up, over and down the mountain.

Fjiordland Navigator Dwarfed by MountainsWaiting for us on the other end was the Fjiordland Navigator, a blue hulled motor sailor of some 125 feet on which we would spend the next 24 hours.

Misty MorningThese days the Doubtful Sound remains much as it was in the time of Captain Cook.  Hard granite mountains which withstood the grinding glaciers of the last ice age, drop thousands of feet into a cold, dark water whose depths can reach as high as the surrounding peaks.  Layered on these mountains is a dense, green blanket of plants and trees rooted only in a thin layer of moss built up over centuries. And when it rains, the cliff sides explode with the sight and sounds of hundreds of powerful waterfalls cascading down from on high.  

Mirrored ReflectionsThe complete absence of roads and homes within this National Park creates a refuge for wildlife.  In our short time in the Sound we saw both seal colonies and bottle nosed dolphins and heard (rather than saw) birds rarely found outside of this park.

Not unexpectedly, our time on board passed quickly.  Kathy and I took advantage of the opportunity to kayak along a small bay, while Shannon rode in the ship's tender to check out the plant life and waterfalls close up.  Cameron was our resident photographer and snapped pictures of everything - water, mountains, the sunset, the full moon, seals, dolphins and even the passengers hearty enough to try a swim in the icy water.  Board games in the Ship's lounge provided an opportunity to hang out while watching the scenery pass by.  One of the most memorable experiences was the 5 minutes of silence.  This was a time when everything on the ship was turned off, passengers were asked to remain still and quiet while the ship drifted and we were given the opportunity to listen to nature without the intrusion on any man made sounds.

Kayaking Past a WaterfallI'd be remiss in ending this post without a tip of the hat to the The Real Journey staff.  The small crew of our ship went out their way to ensure that everyone was able to make the most of their time onboard and from the guide who led us on a late afternoon kayak paddle to the captain who encouraged us to visit with him on the bridge at any time, enthusiastically shared this special place.

 Sun Setting Over the Tasman Sea

Swimming and bungie jumpers!

Today, we went on a trip to the indoor swimming pool located near the queenstown airport. We left at around 8:00 am and then got there about 8:30 am. it was a huge pool that had slides that went both inside the building and outside the building! 

There were also two different sections where you could either swim laps or have some fun playing with your friends. I really liked the squirt guns that they had on the side of the pool. The squirt guns were all on poles and you would push a button and it would fire. I think I really annoyed my sister after squirting here 10 times in the face. 


There was also a lazy river where the current was VERY strong. We had a contest to see who could make it going around the circle against the current fastest. In the end, my dad won with superior strength and longer strides. 

Later that day we went to go watch some bungie jumpers do their crazy backwards-headfirst flips down the bridge. It was scary to see that a kid a bit you then me just walked off the plat form backwards like it was no big deal at all. I have to say it made me want to do the bungie jumping at the gondola more because there you were wearing a harness and weren't being flipped upside down and being tied by you ankle. 


Over all it was a very exciting day and I sure everyone was tired after the long and hard day was over.



Mountain High - Cameron

TSS Earnslaw - Heading to QueenstownToday we went on many adventures including ones through man made courses and natural made mountains.

We started off our day by going to the market that happens every Saturday. Shannon bought a little bone carving as a souvenir. While mom and Shannon were still in the market, dad and I decided to take a look at the steamer, a boat which has been around for 100 years.

Luge ThrillsOnce we were finished with the market the fog finally cleared so we decided to go head up the gondola and do the luge and get some great views.

The luge wasn’t like the luge you see in the Olympics but it was still fun. There were two different tracks, One for going slower and one for going faster. I did the luge a total of four times. I did it twice on both tracks and the last time I did it I did it alone on the advanced track. I managed to go super fast that time and I posed for a lot of pictures.

Glenorchy LagoonAfter we got some really nice pictures from the great view up there we went to a little town out in the mountains [Glenorchy]. Over there there was a track where you walk to a lagoon, which we did. We happened to get some really nice photos of the lagoon and the scenery around it because of Shannon. Shannon had her camera out the entire time and she was taking photos of everything and a lot of them turned out to be pretty good photos!

Misty MountainAfter this busy day I think we were all ready to head back to the house. All of us were tired and wanted a bit of rest before we did anything else. Besides that fact we still had a ton of fun today enjoyed all of it. Well, maybe not me when we were on the trial because I was feeling sick but besides that........ We had a GREAT day!!!

Fall Colors - Kathy

View from Queenstown HillOur first full day in Queenstown provided clear evidence that it really is Autumn even though the calendar says April.  When we arrived last night we knew that we had great views from the house of Lake Wakatipu and the mountain range (appropriately named “The Remarkables”), but the morning light really illustrated just how beautiful this place is and how vibrant the colors are right now.  The bright yellows with the occasional shock of red on the trees make for a truly picturesque postcard view.

We started our day with a quick drive into Queenstown, less than five minutes from where we are staying.  Arriving into town we quickly appreciated that this is a tourist oriented place, particularly by New Zealand standards.  There are storefronts everywhere advertising one form or another of adrenaline pumping activity - bungy jumping, jet boating, sky diving, paragliding and canyon swings to name just a few.  There are also more hotels, restaurants and bars here than we have seen anywhere else we have visited in New Zealand.  Despite the tourist trappings, it really is a lovely place, with its setting on a large lake surrounded by the mountains.  It feels to me a bit like Park City (if Park City was on the shore of a beautiful lake).

Arrowtown Main StreetAfter walking around town we took a short drive to Arrowtown, a small gold mining town located about 10 miles down the Shotover and Arrow River valleys.  While again a “tourist friendly” locale with art shops and restaurants on main street, the town also has a lot of charm with its tree lined streets and original frontier structures which date back to Arrowtown’s origins in the gold rush of 1862.  Situated on the bank of the Arrow River, the Fall colors are really beautiful with a panorama of color lining the mountains. 

Panning for Gold on the Arrow RiverSome visitors tried their hand at panning for gold in the river, but our kids decided that the riverside skateboard park looked more interesting.  The kids had great fun at the skateboard park, even though they had no skateboards to ride.  The cement hills and tricks are fun to run up and down even without a board it seems.  Riverside ParkWe’ve noticed that just about every small town has one of these skateboard features in the local park and they seem to get a good amount of use but we have yet to see any of the kids wearing helmets while doing their tricks.  

Mountain ColorsWe took a short walk along the banks of the arrow river before heading home.  It is really nice how many walking paths there are in this country and how well built and maintained  they all seem to be.  After returning to the house I discovered another beautiful path along the lake near our house.  Autumn ViewThe path runs right along the lake with spectacular views in all direction.  This particular section is 5km long and runs from Queenstown on one end to Frankton (near the airport) on the other and is part of a 100km long network of paths that follow the Wakatipu shoreline.  I’m happy to have found a perfect running path for the rest of our stay here!

Dusky Dolphins - Shannon

Blue, salty, and full of life, what am I talking about? The Ocean! 

An early morning startToday we went to swim with the dolphins. We woke up at 4:30, had breakfast, walked down to Dolphin Encounters, got suited up in thick wetsuits, watched a short video then hopped on a bus that would take us to the boat that would take us to the dolphins.  Did I mention we had to get up at 4:30 in the morning?

At the readyOnce we were a little ways from the shore, the crew had us sit on the back of the boat to get ready to jump in when they gave the signal.  After entering the water we swam towards the dolphins.  The wet suit was hard to maneuver in but I did ok.  The dolphins weren’t particularly interested in playing with us but they did come over to check us out.

When we were swimming with the dolphins they went right around and under us - close enough to touch, but I didn’t.  Breathing though the snorkel I swam around making noises to attract their attention my personal noise was CaCaDoodle Dooo but it sounded weird under the water.  Once one of the dolphins started circling around me and it was adorable!!!  There were also a lot of babies at one point one of them came close to me - he was very cute

Our Pod of Dusky Dolphins

Tons of Jumps and FlipsAfter a bit of time passed, the horn would sound and we head back to the boat to get ready for another swim.   Up close and PersonalAfter four times in and out of the water I was exhausted and ready for the last part of the trip which was a photo op when we got lots of great photos and videos. 

My brother wanted me to mention that last time I said my favorite part was how cute they were and they still are.

Saying Goodbye

Unexpected Encounters - Mike

Making our way Southeast from Nelson we pass through Marlborough’s wine region where the mountains and beaches of the upper South Island give way to a warmer and drier landscape of rolling hills.  We could easily mistake the view of grape vines just about ready for harvest for as a scene from Napa or Sonoma if not for the occasional presence of New Zealand sheep grazing between the vines.

Kaikoura Coast - South Island New ZealandTwo hours further on we are back to the coast, but this time on the Eastern side of the island where the Southern Pacific Ocean crashes onto a rocky shore.  We are headed to Kaikoura, a small town where snow capped 7000’ mountains rise a few miles inland while just a half mile offshore lies a 4,000’ deep ocean trench that connects to one of the deepest place on earth, the Kermadec Trench which has a depth of over 30,000’.  

 The deep water so close to land around Kaikoura gives rise to rich web of marine life and makes this a great place to see sperm whales, dolphins, fur seals and the great albatross.

 Resting in the SunDriving along the coast we pull over to take some pictures and notice that we weren’t the only ones to stop off at this rocky point.  A group of fur seals are also hanging out, some sunbathing on the shore, while others are playing on the rocks in the crashing surf. The seals don’t seem to mind our presence and even when the kids get a bit too close for my comfort the seals hardly seem to notice.  

Up from a swimMaking our way back to the car we strike up a conversation with a couple from Hammer Springs who encourage us to take a few minutes to hike back to the Ohau waterfall around the next bend in the road.  

 Ohau WaterfallWe follow their advice we hike inland and up, following a trail along a small stream for about 10 minutes until the sound of crashing water signals that we have almost arrived.  Taking the final turn, the canopy of foliage opens up to expose a ten story high waterfall dropping into a dark pool the size of a basketball court sized and in the pool are dozens of frolicking baby seals.

Turns out that the waterfall is nature’s version of a nursery school.  While their parents are out taking care of business in the ocean, the young seal pups make their way up the stream to play in the pool under the waterfall.  The pups are so full of energy the water is practically alive with their movements and their high pitched barks echo through the forest.  There wasn’t an adult seal anywhere to be seen, which wasn’t too surprising because it was hard enough to imagine how the young pups could have walked and swam this far up the hill.  

Seal Pup in the ForestJust as we turn to leave a trio of adventurous pups decide to head our way and check us out.  Coming out of the water they climbed over the rocks and walked across the forest floor until they were literally standing at our feet.

Racing the Tide - Cameron

Today we embarked on our journey to Abel Tasman. It required us to wake up fairly early and then hop in the car and get going at 7:00 in the morning. I was actually surprised at how long it took. I thought the drive would be as long as yesterday's drive but actually it seemed really short. We got to center fairly early and checked in before anybody else came.

Marahau ReflectionSince we had the extra time we decided we would head down to the store and possibly take a look at the beach down there. When we finished the walk down to the store we were slightly disappointed because there was nothing we wanted there. But looking on the bright side, there were lots of pretty views out there! Shortly after we exited the store we realized we needed to get back because it was time to go! So we all rushed and got back with plenty of time to spare.

Abel Tasman Water TaxiI only had to take one look and the boat and thought "This is going to be SOOOOO EPIC!" I found the boat ride a ton of fun because we kept bouncing up and down on the waves and it was very exciting. We had many stops around the way including some beaches where people got off.    Split Apple RockMy favorite place where we stopped was the "Split Apple" rock. Our guide told us some interesting facts about its marketing and what it looks like when it is high tide.

Landing at Bark's Bay - the start of our hikeWhen we reached the place we learned that we had to take our shoes off to walk through the water. At first this wasn't that big of a deal but it took us awhile to dry off our feet and clear them of sand. The bad thing was that we hadn't realized there was another water area we had to cross to get to the actual trial so thats what really slowed us down. My dad volunteered to cary us across the water so we did not have to put our shoes on and off again.

My dad only made one mistake while doing this and that was that he forgot to take off his shoes so when he finished carrying everybody over the other side his shoes and socks were soaking! They were so wet that he decided that he would go barefoot for the rest of the trip.


Swing BridgeI was really happy that we were finally on the track so that we could get to the beach. The my parents told me that there was a shortcut near the end of the trial that would cut off a whole hour of walking. I was really for this until I heard that as the tide came in the shortcut would be flooded. I was still determined to make it to the short cut in time so we could take off a whole hour of walking. I was almost power-walking through the entire thing. Before we got to the swing bridge there was a "few" mountains to climb and I RAN up all of them. of course I was exhausted after that and had to have some chocolate. Then, we got to the swing bridge and had fun walking across it while having it sway underneath us. I still think everybody was glad to be on the other side.



12' tides fill this lagoon dailySame lagoon during our 2009 tripAfter a bit more walking and a few more stops for chocolate we made it to the shortcut. The tide was already starting to come in so we had to rush across the flooding land.

Clam shells cover the tidal flat at low tide

 I also found it interesting that the ENTIRE place was full of shells. That was also the bad thing about the shortcut, sense my dad was barefoot he feet got all cut up by the shells. Once again though my dad carried us across until we made it to the end of the shortcut. While we were crossing the shortcut I looked at the mountains we would have to go through if we hadn't been there in time and I was then very happy that we managed to make it in time.

Arriving at Anchorage BeachAfter we finished the shortcut it was only a little ways until we got to the beach. Once we actually made it everybody was super hungry so instead of playing first we decided that we would eat lunch. During lunch the bee's seemed to be attracted to me and i even saw a few huge ones. At first I just sat down on the towel at the beach and played in the warm sand but then I decided I wanted to go in the water. The water was super freezing at first but eventually it got warmer.



Happy Face in the SandBefore we left Shannon and I decided to bury me and then build a sandcastle after I broke through. We finished everything just in time before i heard my dad shout "The boat is here! The boat is here!" Then it turned out that it wasn't actually our boat! A little after that we actually got on our boat to Marahau.really enjoyed todays trip but the walking part wasn't my favorite.

I look forward to what we get in to in Kaikoura!

- Cameron

The Beach Hunt - Kathy

Dealing with a nineteen hour time difference (and not having had much sleep on the airplane) we crashed early last night (kids by 5:30, Mike and I by 7:00) and were up before the sun this morning, ready for our first full day in New Zealand.  This gave us plenty of time to eat breakfast, relax, plan our day, and even take a quick walk into town to get a view of Nelson at dawn.   

Flowers from VenceOur first stop was the house across the street, the home of Jane Evans, the local artist who owns the cottage we are staying in.  Jane invites her guests to come and see her studio and learn more about her artwork.  We were excited to go and meet her, especially after we found her biography written  (a whole book, not just a few paragraphs!) on our coffee table. Painting by Jane Evans In the biography there is one vignette about how, as a young girl, Jane stood up for friends when she felt were being unfairly treated by the teacher.  I felt Shannon really needed to meet this woman!  Jane's studio was filled with color - tubes of watercolor and oil paints, oil crayons that looked like pastels, even pallets of dried paints that some guests have asked to purchase from her.  While the canvas in the studio this morning was blank, we did learn about several of her most famous paintings and what the inspiration had been.  

 After our bit of culture, we headed towards the Marlborough Sounds.  We were getting a later than anticipated start due to our visit with Jane, and decided to go to the first town, Havelock, so as not to spend too much time in the car.  The guide books described Havelock as a "small fishing village" famous for its green lip mussels.  I had understood that we would be able to rent kayaks or take a water taxi from Havelock further into the Sounds, thus fulfilling our desire to see the sounds and appease the kids' request for a visit to the beach.  Arriving in Havelock we soon decided that "small" here is even smaller than we thought.  The village was a couple of block area with a few cafes serving mussels and other New Zealand fare.  The man at the visitor's center suggested we drive a little further along to Anakiwa, where we would find a sandy beach as well as the entrance to the Queen Charlotte Track, one of the more famous hiking trails on the South Island.

Ignoring the guidebook's warning about the narrow winding road (remember, they drive on the left here and small windy roads can be a little hairy for us foreigners!), we were quickly rewarded by a spectacular view of the Marlborough Sounds.  The guidebook was right on this one, beautiful waters surrounded by what look like miniature mountains.  Evidently the Sounds were formed when valleys were drowned by the ocean, and the result is amazing.  

Arriving in Anakiwa, we found the beach but again had to recalibrate our expectations - the "sandy beach" was less than twenty feet long and about two feet wide.  A little bit of sand mixed in with a lot of shells and rock - not quite the sand and surf the kids had envisioned.  In addition, we then learned that Cameron has quite a fear of bugs, flies and particularly bees.  There were a few of these small flying creatures around and it took quite a bit of coaxing to get Cameron out of the car.  

This was not turning out as I had hoped.Outward Bound - 14 kids onboard for 3 days at sea 


Queen Charlotte TrackLuckily, the man at the information center had been right about the trail head for the Queen Charlotte Track. Most trampers (hikers) get dropped off by water taxi at the far end and then hike back to Anakiwa, a three day trek in which they camp along the way.  Much to our kid's relief, we were not planning to walk the entire track, but only the final two miles.  

Once we were able to get everyone out of the car and on the path, we enjoyed a beautiful shaded walk, complete with native fauna and regular views of the Sounds.  We walked for about 45 minutes to Davies Bay, a camping spot along the Queen Charlotte Track.  I had once again held out hope that the kids might swim at the Bay - and there was, after all, a beach.  Shannon changed into her suit and charged in, but alas she had to wade a long way out to get the water up to her shins - not ideal for "swimming.  When she noticed a dinner plate sized jellyfish in the water, we decided it was probably time to come in and look for shells.  (We found out later that the jellyfish are actually harmless, but better safe than sorry!).   

Driftwood on Davies Bay - Queen Charlotte TrackWhile we didn't quite find that elusive beach, the day was a success.  We met an artist and learned about her work, visited the green lipped mussel capital of the world, saw spectacular views of the Marlborough Sounds, and took a nice walk along the Queen Charlotte Track.  And despite Cameron's worst fears, other than a few mosquito bites on yours truly, we seem to have avoided any damage from bugs and bees.  

- Kathy

Our Arrival - Shannon

Our first stop in New Zealand was a beach park in Nelson where we walked on the beach, drove go-garts and went down a really fun waterslide.  

Accelerating out of turn 4...The go-karts were these metal karts that went really fast if you pressed the gas pedal all the way down.  I crashed quite a few times, but my last lap was only a few tenths of a second slower than Cameron's fastest.  It was a lot of fun but also scary and I'm glad I got up the courage to do it.


Safety InstructionsThe slides were a lot of fun as well.  On the water slide, we went down on a mat, head first on our stomachs.  The first part has a lot of turns and then there was a certain part that went in a curve really fast like a roller coaster.  Almost every time when I exited the tube I totally wiped out.  There was one scary part where two kids decided to go at the same time, right after I took off.  I heard their screaming all the way down and I was pretty sure they were right behind me the whole time bumping into each other recklessly.

Wipe Out  






When we got to the house I was really tired but noticed how much art there was in our cottage.  It turns out the woman who owns the place is a famous artist in New Zealand.  Bird with a necklaceThere is one really pretty piece of a bird on top of a stone holding a beautiful necklace in it's mouth.  This one is my favorite.  The cottage has a ton of beautiful colors that make the place feel really warm and welcoming.

There is a little kitty cat that keeps coming up to the door of the cottage and meowing.  It is really friendly and I'm sure would love to come in to the house but dad said not to let him in.

I am hoping we have a chance to swim in the ocean today...

- Shannon

Fast & Slow Lanes - Mike

Fast & Slow LanesTwo flights, 20 hours and a day lost to the International date line took us from our home in Oakland California to the city of Nelson on the South Island of New Zealand.

A mid-morning arrival left us with a bit of time before check-in at the cottage we'll be staying the next three nights so we stopped off at the local beach park to grab a bite to eat.

Enjoying the food and the view, we notice that the giant slide at the Tahunanui park proudly declares Fast & Slow Lanes in large, slightly crooked letters running down its side.  Seems in many ways a fitting caption for the start of this trip.

- Mike