So this is it: Ruth and Mark's travel blog for our amazing trip around the world. Thanks for visiting! Come back soon to see where we are in Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Back in San Diego

We are back in San Diego. Actually, I am - Mark will be travelling with his dad until Christmas.
Got back Sunday night, just in time for Mark's mom's 8oth birthday!

Coverage of our last few weeks in New Zealand to follow soon.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Auckland: our last few days in New Zealand and a meeting with my brother

It's amazing how things work out sometimes: there we are travelling through New Zealand, and my brother gets invited by the New Zealand Tourism Board to travel NZ at the same time! So for the third time this year, I got to see my brother! We last saw him at the beginning of August, during the first few weeks of our trip, when we spent a weekend together in Hamburg and Sylt. And now we got to spend some time together at the end of our cool is that?

Reunited in Auckland, at a small restaurant in the neighbourhood of Mt. Eden, near our hostel "The Bamber House". We were trying to have a last NZ lamb feast - but they were out of lamb!?!

In the park:

Downtown Auckland:

After Patrick left, Mark and I still had a day to explore Auckland, so we took a ferry to Rangitoto, a relatively new volcanic island.

View of Auckland Harbor from the ferry:

Rangitoto Island:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hiking the Routeburn Track

One of the greatest things about travelling in New Zealand is the extensive network of hiking trails, complete with backcountry huts for a good night's sleep. Since we were biking most of the time, we only got to do one 3-day hike: the Routeburn Track.

Off we go:

Beautiful scenery Day 1:

View from the Routeburn Falls Hut:

Day 2: Climbing Harris Saddle

Reflection in Lake McKenzie:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Beautiful Milford Sound

We spent a wonderful day hiking the beginning of the Kepler Track (from Te Anau Control Gates to Luxmore Hut), and then drove down to Milford Sound - in the rain, with waterfalls running down the rocks everywhere. Then this morning a 2-hour cruise on Milford Sound - "moody Milford Sound" as the call it.
This Sunday we start our 3-day hike on the Routeburn Track.
Next week we fly up to Auckland, where we will hook up with my brother Patrick, who happens to be in New Zealand!!!
Until soon...

Monday, November 19, 2007

We are in Queenstown, New Zealand

We took the TranzAlpine train across the mountains back to Christchurch, where we returned the bicyles. We then rented a car and drove down to Lake Tekapo, and today, on to Queenstown via Wanaka. Beautiful sunset here tonight against the mountain silhouette!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Franz Josef Glacier

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Biking through New Zealand - after all!

We have just completed our beautiful bike ride from Christchurch to Greymouth, via Picton, Nelson, Motueka, St. Arnaud and Westport. The beginning was a bit slow, with several broken spokes and other obstacles to overcome. However, once we got the bike fixed in Nelson, we had a wonderful 8 days riding through New Zealand. From Nelson, we rode up to Motueka, where we locked up the bikes for one day to take a day-hike in Able Tasman National Park (definitely want to come back here some day to do the complete 5-day walk). We then rode down to Kohatu Junction, along the beautiful Motueka river - this was one of the most scenic rides of the trip, with very little traffic! From there, we rode up to St. Arnaud, a tiny town in the mountains, and gateway to Nelson Lakes National Park, and from there to Murchison. The next day was our record day: we rode nearly 100km in one day, all the way from Murchison to Westport, always along the Buller River, and throug Buller River Gorge. At this point, we had had two weeks of sunshine - no rain. That was about to change. Once we arrived in Westport (finally at the West Coast!), it started pouring. So we spent most of the day sitting in the hostel, drinking hot tea, thinking about what we should do...then we decided to take a bus to Greymouth, only to find out, that the bus had broken down! Maybe it was a sign telling us to ride...when the rain stopped around 4pm, we got on the bikes and decided to ride 20km down the coast to Charleston, hoping that that would give us a chance to still make it to Greymouth the next day. As we were riding towards Charleston, battling strong winds, it started pouring - and the for the first time I got to try out my rain gear, which I had been hauling around for 2 weeks! Wet and cold, we arrived in Charleston, a tiny little township. Aya opened the door to our hostel for the night, and within a few minutes we were in the hot turned out to be a fun evening with our hosts Aya and Paul. Paul finds and carves jade...very interesting...The next morning, we woke up to a blue sky and sunny weather, and so we got on the bikes for our last 77km to Greymouth! The rugged West Coast is spectacular, and we were very happy to ride the last stretch, vs. sitting on a bus...

We got to Greymouth just in time to rent a car to drive down to Franz Josef Glacier, where we are spending the day. It is pouring rain today. Mark is up on the glacier with a guided tour - I decided to take a day off from activities and work on the blog instead...Tomorrow we drive back to Greymouth, where we will catch the Tranzalpine Train to Christchurch, where we will return the bikes, before renting a car to head down towards Queenstown and the Milford Sound.

Only 2.5 weeks left on our trip --- time goes by too fast. New Zealand has been my favourite destination on this trip! It is so beautiful here, I would like to spend a lot more time...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Beautiful New Zealand

A spring day in Hagley Park, Christchurch

Riding our bikes along the East Coast


The Marlborough Sounds

Rugged West Coast



Amazing hostels

New Zealand has the most amazing backpacker hostels. Each place we have stayed has been unique. All have shared bathrooms and kitchens - cooking your meal in the community kitchen is a great way to meet other travellers. The first night, we stayed in this train wagons:

The second night, we stayed in this old jailhouse:

Dolphin Lodge in Kaikoura - with a patio with a view of the snow-covered mountains and the sea:


Hopewell - what a peaceful place!

The Lauging Kiwi in Motueka, near Abel Tasman National Park



Jailhouse in Christchurch

Hippo Lodge in Queenstown

Monday, November 5, 2007

Biking New Zealand - thanks to our angels!!!

So we rented bikes in Christchurch, thinking we would ride for 5 days straight, all the way up to Picton, and then hang out there for a few days. And then things started happening in different directions...just about 30km into the first day, one of my spokes (Speiche, for you Germans) broke. Since it was clear that there would not be a repair shop for at least 150km, we had to go back about 14km to a town we had passed over an hour ago.

Fortunately there was Andy. Andy was sitting at a red light in his truck, and we didn't really give him a chance to say no, when I asked him whether he would give us, and our bikes, and our bags, a ride back to the last town.

Thank you Andy!!! You made our day!!!

After a few happy days of riding, it happened again: I heard that sound, and another spoke had broken! This time we were in the middle of nowhere, in the Marlborough we started pushing our bikes, thinking we were only a few kilometers away from the place where our water taxi was to pick us up to take us to our next hostel...

And then Emma and Malcolm came along and saved us! Thanks for the ride! You made our day!

Now we were stranded at Hopewell: the most beautiful hostel we have ever seen, at a wonderful location (more about that separately) - not a bad place to be stranded!!! How to get out of here, to Nelson, a 5 hour drive away, to the nearest bikeshop?

Along came Kathrin and Markus, our next angels. They offered to pack our bikes and bags, and us, into their van, and take us along to Nelson. In the morning, the next problem arose: their van had a flat tire. So Mark and Markus put on the spare tire. We started driving - and soon realized we were losing air in the spare tire - so off we went to the next garage...So here we were at the garage, our bikes in the back of the van, getting the spare tire repaired...

Thanks Kathrin and Markus for saving us!