In Search of Fat, Wooly Sheep in the Sun

Trip Start Apr 05, 2014
Trip End Apr 26, 2014

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What I did
Baldwin Street
Sandfly Bay
Sandy Mount
The Chasm
Lover's Leap

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, April 26, 2014

This was our last day in New Zealand and the forecast said it was supposed to be sunny. I was on a mission to get my iconic photo of a wooly sheep on a bright green hillside. We got everything packed up and headed to Baldwin street at 9:40. We walked to the top and got some photos up there and then drove out to Sandfly Bay on the Otago Peninsula.

We started from the car park at 10:40 and spent an hour there. We stopped at the lookout and then continued down to the beach. When we got close, we followed the footpath to the steep sand dune on the far right. It looked really steep but it was super easy to go down because your feet sink into the sand for cushion. After we came down we saw a guy leap way out and land softly. We had limited time and didn't see any wildlife on the beach so we turned around of the way down instead of going all the way to the hide. On the way back, Wayne noticed a sea lion heading for the dunes and we watched him climb up the hill and into the dunes.

After that we drove 15 minutes over to Sandy Mount, Lover's Leap and the Chasm. I did get a picture of a wooly sheep on a green hill on the way but no sunshine. Surprisingly there were no toilets at either Sandfly or Sandy Mount.

The sign near the car park said Lookout to the right and Chasm and Lover’s Leap to the left. I didn’t realize the Lookout was part of the loop to the trig and we ended up going clockwise to the Chasm and Lover’s Leap. After that we saw a sign for "Alternative return to Car Park" that took us up the hill to the Lookout and trig and then back to the car park.  We didn’t go the other way so I can’t compare but it sure seemed like we were going against the (very strong) wind along the coast so I would go the other direction. When we got to the trig, I climbed up on the mountain key to take some pics and Wayne held my legs so I didn’t blow off.  It was pretty cloudy by the time we got there so we didn’t get the views we had hoped for but there were little openings in the clouds that would light up small patches of green grass. I can only imagine how pretty it would have been on a sunny day.

As we were coming down toward the car park, I saw a great sunny view but the sun went behind the clouds just as I was getting my camera turned on. I was going to wait a little while but Wayne said the sun wasn’t coming out again for a long time. A few minutes later the sun came back out temporarily but the view was blocked by bushes by then, ARGH! The story of our trip.

It was 1:00 and we had a 4:30 flight out of Dunedin so we headed to the airport. After stopping to fill up with gas in Mosgiel we arrived at the airport at 2:00 and turned in our rental car.

We didn’t have to go through security for the flight from Auckland to Nelson but they called our flight an hour before departure and everyone had to go through the metal detectors and all carryon had to be scanned.  There were two other flights to Auckland leaving at about the same time but I didn’t see them called up. Maybe this plane was going to an international destination after Auckland?

We sat on the right side of the plane from Dunedin to Auckland and had nice views the entire flight. I was hoping we’d final get a nice sunset in New Zealand but it happened right before we landed.  The story of this trip.

We had 3 hours to putz around the Auckland airport. There was a huge statue from the Lord of the Rings in the international terminal with a small piece was broken off.  Wayne noticed that it was made of Styrofoam!  I still hadn’t found a Christmas ornament from New Zealand so the airport shops were my last chance. I finally gave up and got a furry kiwi bird at one of the shops at the airport. Then I went on a mission to spend the $2.50 in had left in New Zealand change. The best I could find was 3 cookies at Subway for $2.60 so we emptied out all our pockets and dug through our bags and came up with a $.20 coin. Score!  We could now leave.  

Our flight to Los Angeles was smooth. The customs officer asked how long our layover was we told him 8 hours and asked if he had any ideas for what we could do. He suggested taking a bus to Santa Monica. We found 3 (volunteer) information desks in the international terminal and all of them were empty but there was some information about buses posted there.  

It was really easy and dirt cheap.  We took the LAX shuttle bus to Lot C Parking/ City Bus Center to pick up the Big Blue Bus to Santa Monica. And the bus fare  was only a dollar per person each way. You can’t beat that with a stick. There was a big accident on the way there so it took us 1hr 15 min to get there and they dropped us off a couple of blocks from the pier. We grabbed something to eat at a food truck and then walked down to the end of the pier and back. I never realized that Route 66 ended at the Santa Monica Pier. 

We watched some street performers on the Third Street Promenade on our way back and then went into the Santa Monica Place mall looking for something to eat. I’m not a shopper but they had tons of high end stores there.  We stopped in Pizza Antica and they said we could serve us in 10-15 min so we had pizza there.

It looked like the sunset was going to be pretty and I was really hoping to get a sunset photo at the beach since I didn’t get a single sunset in New Zealand. But we weren’t sure how long it would take to get back to LAX and we decided we’d be cutting it too close if we stayed. During the bus ride I kept getting glimpses of the sunset with palm trees but it was too crowded to get a shot. I finally took a picture from the bus anyway just to officially close out our trip. 

We had a good time in New Zealand but the weather kept it from being the trip of a lifetime that I was hoping for during my 6 months of planning. Two of our highlight tours: kayaking at Abel Tasman and hiking on Fox Glacier were cancelled and we cancelled our trip to Mt Cook because it would have been a total waste of time and money.

Fortunately (or maybe not in some cases) it never rained hard enough to keep us from going out and we did see and do a tons of things. It was just that so much of the great scenery that brought us to New Zealand was hidden behind clouds and fog.  The few times we had sun were fabulous but we didn't see a single sunrise or sunset; I never got a picture of the beautiful sunlit green hills that are everywhere; or the snow-capped Southern Alps and we didn't get to see the stars of the southern hemisphere. 

The weather is what it is but if I had it to do over I would go in late spring instead of April. We never go  anywhere in the peak summer months but the days are getting too short in April. Most scenery looks better when the sun is shining on it and mountains are in shadow much of the day in April, even on a clear day.  Also, the mountain peaks probably have the least amount of snow in April because it has been melting all summer long but new snow hasn't typically fallen yet. I would think waterfalls would generally be better in the spring due to snowmelt although I don't know what impact snowmelt has on the mountain tracks.

Maybe we will get back to New Zealand again someday but there are many other places we still want to see in the world.

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