Fern Walk, Pohangina Valley


Yesterday, I spent two and a quarter hours hiking in the Pohangina Valley, on the search for some local native orchids.  While my flower search was fruitless, the hiking was quite stunning and peaceful.  The air was so refreshing, with no one else around it felt like I’d stepped back in time… I found myself imagining what it must have felt like for the original settlers of New Zealand to inhabit and clear this bush for settlement and farm land.

The emerald coloured fern, covered the forest floor and ancient Rimu and Totara trees towered above creating a dark dense walk.  If you’re in the area I highly recommend you check out this wonderful track.

Te Anau & Milford Sound

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We spent 3 lovely nights in Te Anau and truly rested.  Mike and I spent our first night with his Aunt Val and Uncle John who graciously shared their gorgeous bach with us and enjoyed getting to know them a bit more (Mike was able to head out for an early morning Kayak and we both also enjoyed Val and John’s cooking).  They have been coming to the area for respite for a few years, and we can see why.  The place is a gem!

Te Anau is a quaint town, situated on the edge of the Fjordlands National Park.  The town has some fabulous food.  We found an excellent Italian restaurant where we ordered some authentic margarita pizza and the best gelato I’ve ever eaten, and were able to walk easily from Val and Johns place.

During our stay we did a boat tour of the Milford Sound (which is actually a Fjord, that has been carved through the mountains by glaciers).   It’s about 2 hours from Te Anau, and actually we nearly missed the tour due to lack of time watching.

The Milford Sound area stands out for me…I first saw it during the opening scene of a snowboarding film a few years back that has stuck in my mind as a pretty iconic place to visit in New Zealand.  The nature encounter tour we took was 2.5 hours and included a stop into an underwater observatory where we got to see “black coral” which is in fact ironically…white.  The strangest thing, my camera showed me true colours through the glass when we were underwater, and when I uploaded them they were very unbalanced and were aqua.  It’s incredible that my eyes adjusted to show me what it thought was natural light…

Crazy stuff.  This is what I’m talking about… thankfully I was able to colour balance the image manually on my computer.

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We paid an extra (whopping) 3$ for a pre packed lunch and found we were given ample (very tasty) packs with a lot of variety.  I don’t even think you could buy 1/3rd of the items for that price.  The slight upgrade was definitely worth the price, if you take the 12.00 noon tour with this company.

You’ll likely see plenty of waterfall and wildlife on the tour…many people are encouraged to get out on the deck and get wet!

We slept very well here, and I quite happily enjoyed the few days I didn’t have to roll in and out of bed from our tent.

If you have the opportunity to check out the Fjordlands, be sure to also bring some sand fly spray.  We found an organic spray that was really good at keeping the flies off us, and sooth the itch that came from the ones who managed to get a taste of us earlier.  This is the brand we bought and would definitely recommend (picked it up in a local super market).

We’re just back in Palmerston North…it’s been an epic month long journey of camping and while we have seen so so so much of the country – there is still much more to experience.  I’m hoping next time we can do a tour as a family, and I’m a bit more mobile. My beach ball belly has been an unusual and tricky addition which has slowed us down more than we both had anticipated.

Part of the reasoning behind this journey was to help pick out areas that we’d like to permanently settle.  We covered a lot of ground and saw plenty of great places we could easily live.  The next 6 months will bring tonnes of change, and when we’re ready to make a permanent move we’re now more prepared by what each community offers and the kind of lifestyle we’d like to lead.

I’ll write some more about road tripping whilst 7.5 months pregnant…and show you what we saw (some adorable little birds!) on the East Coast soon.

Much love,



We Found Gold!

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After we left the lush green West Coast of the country we drove inland toward Wanaka and Queenstown.  The landscape changed drastically and quickly became dry and quite barren.

This is prime country for merino farming, and it was in this climate that we saw a shift from dairy properties to sheep.  The country is hard, and lacks vegetation – which causes a bit of stress making the merino wool softer and longer (we learned this in Eneabba as well).  It is also a popular place for snowboarding, skiing, luxury retreats and station living.

Mike used to live in the area, and spent a few seasons snowboarding and was keen to show me the space.  We visited old friends (Tracey and Elliot) and thier two dogs whom have settled into Wanaka’s easy ways and enjoyed some really nice sushi and a breezy few days in the summer sun.  The area is really cute, and frequented heavily by tourists, yet still doesn’t appear to be too over crowded.  That is true apart from….

Queenstown.  The city is perched on the edge of a beautiful lake, and is very strikingly similar in feel to Banff.  The temperature dipped low the night we intended to camp there and so we avoided the chill and took shelter in a local hotel.  This particular evening we ate out (which is not something we’ve actually done very much of while camping – for the most part we have been budgeting and making healthy meals) – at a popular pub that served us some pretty awesome pizza.  We both really loved the smoked chicken, cranberry, rosemary and brie pizza.  Seriously…it was beyond good.  I might try to find a way to make it at home.

During our time in the Otago, we also did a really cool tour at Cromwell for a bit of history on the local prospecting scene and to learn a thing or two about what it takes to actually pan for gold.

Men used to hike for days with little to no food from Dunedin, only to discover that there was no vegetation in the area…return back and then make the trek again toward the area with whatever provisions they could physically carry.  It had originally been discovered by two men whom were gold panning in the 1800’s and the volume of gold they found (80kg in three weeks) brought out a sea of men.  Very few made as much as the first two gold panning pioneers however it did become more lucrative over time as new methods of panning became available (dredging etc).

This was probably my favourite thing we did in the area.  The simple act of separating mud, rock and sand with water is quite soothing, and also did surprisingly yield a few little pieces for us.  We spent 3!!!!! hours hunched over with gold fever looking for the dull yellow mineral amongst the muck.  In the end we both hurt our backs and had to pull each other away from the hunt.  It was so much fun though.

We each took away a small vile filled with water and our small flecks, which of course we both compared and took note of whom might have found more gold.  It may be that I found a lot of pyrite! haha…it’s mostly goldish looking.

Hope you’re all well.


Holly & Mike

Lake Taupo, New Zealand

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We spent two quiet nights at Mike’s Aunt’s bach (a cottage)  which was a short walk from Lake Taupo.  The cicada were blasting away and numbering in the thousands as we walked through the bush to get down to the warm waters.  Native birds were also in high numbers singing and warbling.  At one point Mike even spotted a pair of tui dancing in the trees..

On our first day we took some time to go prawning at Huka Prawn Park.  We caught blue legged males, and spent about 3 hours in the morning sun trying to get them.  It does take patience, as they take their time pulling the meat away before they eat it.  We were able to take all 4 of them home and rustle up a meal with the groceries we’d packed for the trip.  They were really nice with pasta, herbs, butter, garlic, and fresh tomatoes from Mike’s dad’s garden.

Huka Falls is a free attraction, which is only a few minutes from the Prawn Park – We did the short walk to see the powerful deep aqua water rushing past.

I had my first bath in about 7-8 months at the bach and loved the feeling of floating in the water. Let me clarify here, I have been showering!  We also spent some time swimming in the freshwater lake, which is also something I’ve not had the pleasure of doing in a few years… it was so refreshing.  You can also pick up pumice stones straight out of the lake, and many people (us included) have used them to tidy up their feet.

In the evening on the second night, we were treated to the sounds of a Maori family celebrating in their yard nearby with a haka.  It was nearly dusk, and the chanting was really a powerful, entrancing way to end the day.

Mount Taranaki, New Zealand

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Mount Taranaki, was once an active volcano.  It last erupted in the 18th century and is now surrounded by fertile soil and Egmont National Park.  The area is predominantly occupied by dairy properties, and it was here that we stayed with dairy farmers and friends; Courtney and Tom, their two gorgeous kids; Charlie and Frankie.

Charlie we first met as a young baby about 2 years ago…seeing him now – he’s cheeky, brave, and curious.  He and his sister have an amazing set up with quite possibly the most epic play ground and tree fort in their front yard.  We stayed for one night, and got to watch Charlie run in the local races for kids aged 1+ – 9 or so.  It was really cool to see the turn out of families.  The idea of burning the kids out at the end of the day, and watching them socialise and practice healthy competition was brilliant.

Courtney and Tom own and manage their property of 300 dairy cattle.   The cows are milked between 1 or 2 times per day depending on the time of year.

We had some delicious beef schnitzel, hand prepared by Tom and got some great tips on where to travel to in the area.  Mount Taranaki can be viewed in all it’s glory right in the centre of their living room window (it’s the second tallest mountain on the North Island). It is likely the most perfect mountain you’d ever see.

It was at the farm that I was able to see my first ever chrysalis that will in time become a monarch caterpillar.   We took a slight detour on our way to Taupo, and drove down the winding “Forgotten World Highway”.  I was nearly car sick a few times…

We’ll write about Lake Taupo soon…


Holly (and Mike)