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Troy, Kristin and Carlin's Big Adventure

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December 12, 2002

Editor: "Troy , Kristin and Carlin Henikoff are now enjoying New Zealand (bikeless). They rendezvoused with Luigi and his wife Ruthie in Christchurch after their arrival."

Troy: "Proof"

December 12, 2002

Editor: "Did Lou actually do some riding in New Zealand?"

Troy: If you look at his attire and rental bike you will see that it might not be considered riding in some circles.

(On the other hand, Lou finally showed up on a bike that didn't have a mechanical. -- Ed.)

December 12, 2002

Maybe we could get Lake Forest to post similar warnings.

December 17, 2002

This morning as we were playing in the park, Carlin decided that she needed to "eat." Mind you that the word "eat" complete with the pantomime for eating was repeated no less than once every 3 seconds... Adjacent to the park, there just happened to be an outdoor cafe -- not just any cafe, they knew their clientele. Carlin must not have been the first child hanging out in the park that got hungry. They had a complete child's setup -- miniature table, silverware and china. Carlin opted for a muffin and steamed milk. Attached is a picture of her enjoying her morning snack on the shore of Lake Wakatipu.

December 18, 2002

Maybe we won't come home after all, it is just so beautiful here! I rented a bike and did a couple of hours of single track riding today, and around every corner it seemed like the views were better than the last. Look at the attached picture and you will see what I mean! I will need to get a little better at some of the technical aspects of mountain bike riding as I found myself "hiking" more than I care to admit...

December 24, 2002

Now, while the rumor might be that I'm on vacation, but I just want you all to know that I've actually been continuing training. Well, sort of... The attached picture is of Baldwin Street in Dunedin, N.Z. It might not have been a very long ride but it was the hardest quarter mile I have ever ridden! Baldwin Street is in the Guinness Book as the World's Steepest Street -- 38% grade! I couldn't let a challenge like that go.

I rented a mountain bike in town and had a short few miles to warm up, then it was literally straight up. I was in a 28 x 32, standing up, pushing as hard as I could and barely moving. With each pedal stroke I could feel the front wheel starting to lift off the road (and that was while standing and leaning forward over the bars!) I did make it all the way up to the top without stopping, but barely. It was 100% effort both in power and bike handling (as I could not have been going more than 2 mph, and was weaving back and forth while trying to continue forward movement and not fall) the entire time. As I got to the top, I was as close to losing my cookies as I can remember being on a bicycle, ever. That is more a tribute to my recent lack of conditioning than the steepness of the hill, but still...

Hope you flatlanders are having a great holiday season!

December 26, 2002

(Editor's note: Troy and Kristin took advantage of the magic of Shutterfly ( to mail their holiday greetings from Mount Cook in New Zealand.)

"Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year even if we can't be there to share it with you in person."

Carlin, Kristin and Troy

December 29, 2002

How about this? We did get to ride a "tandem".

December 29, 2002

We spent two days on Stewart Island the southernmost portion of New Zealand. It has a sense of remoteness both because of its location and the fact that you have to take a 1 hour ferry ride from the mainland to get there that crosses a section of ocean that is not always forgiving. (Since Carlin is still begging to go on a boat ride every day, I assume she has forgotten her bout with mal de mer&) The island itself has fewer than 400 residents and is has a quiet little town near the harbor. The town cannot occupy 5% of the area, and the rest of the island is accessible, only on foot with an extensive network of paths. To walk the perimeter of the island is typically a 5 day trip. Being in the southern ocean, the weather on Stewart Island changes minute by minute. Each day we had periods of rain followed by bright sunshine. This made for some amazing rainbows (see attached photo). We did a day trip to Ulva Island, a smaller island that is a wildlife sanctuary. They have eradicated the non-native animals and have a large number of native birds and plants that are becoming difficult to see elsewhere. The Wekas (inquisitive, flightless birds the size of a small duck) were so abundant that even Carlin became bored with their presence at her feet.

On Saturday we were back on the mainland and took an all day trip to Doubtful Sound that was outstanding. Not only is it impossible to describe the remoteness and beauty of Fiordland, but it seems to be impossible to remember it as well. I was on this same excursion nine years ago and remember being impressed with the mountains and how lush they were, coming all the way down to the water's edge with the rain forest (they get over 26 FEET of rain annually in this region!) but I had forgotten how truly breathtaking it is. Yes, we took lots of pictures, but the pictures don't come close to giving any sense of the magnitude of the fiords.

[Below] is a shot of the three of us with some of the background so you can get a tiny glimpse of what I am trying to describe, but however majestic you imagine it, your imagination is still falling short of reality.

Today, we tool a hike along the Kepler Track. Many people "tramp" along Kepler and spend up to 5 days to go its entire length. There is a series of huts for the trampers and you stay the night in these shelters. We just went out and back with Carlin in the buggy. Yesterday she had a "boat ride" and loved it, so today we told her she was going on a "buggy ride." She lasted almost 3 hours, or about as long as the food held out. She even managed to stay awake for all but the last 15 minutes.

Tomorrow we head back to Wanaka and will spend New Years with Bobbie and Bernie -- they run a B&B in town and we stayed with them on our way south. They are great. They have a beautiful house right on the lake, make an awesome breakfast and love having Carlin around. What more could you ask for? I'm not sure that Kristin and I will be able to stay up for the New Years festivities, but I am sure Carlin will have no trouble!

As you can tell, the trip is awesome and New Zealand is a pretty magical place. Have a great New Years and we'll see you in 2003!

Rainbow over Stewart Island

January 8, 2003

This may sound a little spooky, but it is true.

We were in Wanaka and I picked up a magazine called Outside New Zealand. Don't confuse this with the Outside Magazine that we get in the States as this has more of a polished, National Geographic type of quality to it and is published just a few times a year. Anyway, there was an article about this mountain climber Mark Inglis that was interesting enough that I took the bait. The next time I saw a book store I ran in and purchased his book titled No Mean Feat. The short version of this autobiographical adventure thriller is as follows:

I finished reading the book yesterday and this morning when I work up, across the street from the house we are staying at is a SUV with Mark Inglis painted all over it and the names of all his sponsors.  Kristin and I kept peeking out of the window, looking to see if it really was him. Sure enough, out comes a man with carbon fiber legs! So, now I can't decide if it is appropriate to go across the street and talk to him or not, and I decide to leave him in peace. Then today when I rent a bike to get a little exercise, the kid helping me starts talking about his bike racing, triathlons, etc. We get to talking bikes and he mentions his Dad who is sponsored by Trek. Yes, it was Jeremy, Mark's son. I told him that I had just finished the book and he said drop on by after dinner tonight. Too many coincidences to ignore this one. I did go over and spent about an hour with Mark and his family. What a genuinely nice guy. We talked about cycling, the engineering of his legs (he showed me his walking legs, cycling legs and climbing legs) and how he is doing a road show of motivational speaking to primary school children throughout New Zealand about how to celebrate success. I thought it was a cool story and I ve attached a picture of the two of us just so you know I didn t make all this up. He has a web site:

but since I am writing this offline, I have no idea what is actually there. His book has not been released in the US yet, so you'll have to beg for my now signed copy if you want to read it.

January 9, 2003

What an amazing place!

New Zealand continues fascinate and amaze us. We have now made our way across the Southern Alps to the West Coast. First we were in the town of Franz Josef. There are two glaciers that come down from the mountains almost all the way to the sea shore. They are the Fox and the Franz Josef Glaciers. They are very similar as they are less than 15 miles apart from each other. This is the only place in the world where glaciers and rain forest meet. I splurged and took a helicopter flight up to see the glaciers from the air it was spectacular. You leave from the middle of the rain forest at sea level and in less than 10 minutes your helicopter has landed on the glacier at 6,500 feet. We got to walk around and take pictures up there which was fun. A couple people on my flight were in shorts while standing on a glacier! Kristin, Carlin and I then spent the afternoon hiking up to the glacier the old fashioned way. The terminal face is only a 40 minute walk from the road these days (it receded almost 5 miles since it was first documented in the 1700's, but has advanced over a kilometer since 1984) Being face to face with something that actually can and does move mountains makes you think about how powerful the forces of nature can be.

Franz Josef Glacier

From there we drove an hour up the coast to Hokitika, a small artsy community with some great beaches. Not only are the beaches great for swimming, but Hokitika is the center for Jade carving and harvesting on the West Coast. We found lots of green stones, but none that we have proven to be jade.

From there we made out way up to Punakaiki, where the famous Pancake Rocks are found. Check out the attached picture and you will understand. There are these huge limestone formations right along the coastline that look like layers of stacked pancakes. Not only are they themselves interesting to look at, but due to the way they have formed, there are a number of natural blow holes in them at high tide with large waves, the water forces itself into caverns where the only way out is up, creating fantastic sprays of water. Even Carlin loved to watch them. In addition to exploring the beaches, looking for interesting rocks (still have not found a jade yet) and climbing on the rocks, Kristin and I had what was absolutely the best piece of lamb that either of us ever tasted. If you do make it to the West Coast of N.Z. make sure to have the lamb loin at the Rata Caf‚ in Barrytown. And pray that the same chef is still there!

Pancake Rocks

Next we were off to Hanmer Springs a small resort town (fewer than 1,000 residents) with natural hot springs. Carlin loved swimming in the kiddy pools that were fresh water, but heated with the geothermal energy from the springs while the adults preferred the hot pools straight from the springs.

Carlin in the hot springs at Hanmer Springs...

A short drive from Hanmer Springs and were are back on the East Coast in Kaikoura, a hub of whale watching, swimming with the dolphins, and seal colonies. We stuck to the shore today as it was a bit rough for the whale watching boat tours.


We leave early tomorrow morning for a remote lodge up near Able Tasman National Park that has no roads to it and is only accessible by water. Should be beautiful, but will make e-mail communications a little tough for a few days.

Hope you all had a happy and healthy New Year!

January 26, 2003

This picture was taken at Russell, a beautiful little town in the Bay Islands up at the north end of the North Island. Carlin loved playing at the beach chasing the waves. We leave in less than 48 hours, I can't believe it is all coming to an end...

Russell Beach

January 26, 2003

We spent two beautiful days in Able Tasman national park. It is at the very north end of the South Island and is a very large preserved area with no access for automobiles. Most people walk the Able Tasman track which can be anywhere from 4 days to a week to get from one end to the other. The area was declared a national park in the 1940 s and there were some people who had private property in the area at that time. We were fortunate to find a lodge that was built on one of these pieces of property. The Kunaka Hill Lodge was built 10 years ago as a private home for a family of 6. Once the children were old enough that they needed the social interaction of traditional school, they moved to the city and the house was converted to a lodge with 3 guest rooms. It is located on a beautiful cove about 100 feet up a very, very steep hill overlooking the golden sand beach and on out to the open ocean. The lodge is a 3 hour hike from the closest road, but since we were carting Carlin and all of her accessories (including a folding crib) we chose to take the easy way and hop a ride on the water taxi. Besides, Carlin got another boat ride out of the deal.

Our hosts Wendy and Tony were great. Since the lodge is so isolated (it is not like you can just walk into town for dinner) they provide all your meals as well as accommodations. Tony was an awesome cook. One night he prepared mussels that he had harvested that afternoon in the cove below the lodge. They don't get any fresher or tastier than that! We were very sad to leave, but there is so much more we had to see.

From Able Tasman, we had a short drive to Mouteka, where we stayed in a great little cottage homestay with a couple who left the U.S. 30 years ago to create their own paradise in New Zealand. Kathleen and John were such warm hosts, providing dinner as well as the traditional breakfast. They are almost completely self supporting, growing all of their own fruits and vegetables and even making all their own dishes as they are potters by trade.

We then reluctantly got on the ferry from Picton to Wellington, leaving the South Island and venturing onto the North Island for the first time. Wellington turned out to be a beautiful city, reminding us of San Francisco. Wellington appears to have all of the things you expect from a nation's capital: Museums, restaurants, lots of green space and most important to Carlin -- Parks. It has become very clear that there is a direct correlation between the quality of the playground equipment and Carlin's rating of a city. At least we all agree that it is a very livable city and one we would want to come back to.

It appears that the majority of spots that interest us in the North Island are far from Wellington, up north. So we left and started driving up the east coast. We had a long day of driving (including stopping and sampling various parks along the way) and got to Napier. Napier is a city noted for its Art Deco architecture there was a devastating earthquake in 1931 that destroyed the entire city which was then immediately re-built with the then current style Art Deco. Although the architecture was interesting, we spent more time gawking at the playground than the buildings. They have by far, the most extensive playground we have ever seen. Dozens of different sets of climbing and swinging equipment, many of them shaded by huge artistic canvases suspended parallel to the ground some 25 feet up and all right on the waterfront. It was amazing.

We had another good day of driving to get up to Rotorua, which is home to an extensive geo-thermal area that rivals Yellowstone. On our way up, we stopped at Huka falls, home of the world famous fishing lodge Huka Lodge and it was quite impressive. But it was the thermal areas that amazed us the most. At Wai-o-tapu there were geysers, colored pools, boiling mud pools, caves and caverns, all created by the geo-thermal activity below. Just awesome. In Rotorua itself, there is a public park with open green space and wherever the steam starts rising, they just put a fence around it to keep people from hurting themselves. While we were there, they were erecting new fences as new geysers had just sprouted out of nowhere. Frankly, it was spooky. We stayed at the Ariki Lodge, a beautiful B&B on the lake a few miles outside of town. One morning we arranged for a sea-plane tour of the dormant volcanoes in the area. Normally you pick up the tour in town at the dock, but since we were the only passengers that trip, they landed in front of the house and we walked on right off the beach. It was a beautiful flight and you could see the huge craters left behind and even see the geysers and hot pools from the sky. Quite memorable.

Wai-o-tapu -- boiling mud

On our way up to the Coromandel Peninsula, we stopped at what was labeled Hot Water Beach. It turns out that there is a natural hot spring that seeps out of the sand at a level just below the high tide mark on the beach. If you were to go there around high tide, you could not even detect the spring; the volume of water is not enough to effect the ocean temperature. However, at low tide, you can dig a hole and it will fill up with scalding hot fresh water (the sign says it is over 140 degrees!) Then you dig a little canal from the ocean to temper the heat and you have your own little spa. Of course, we were not the only ones on the beach and it was clear that many people had much more experience than we did in making these baths. Ours started out much too cool and then with a slight diversion became so hot that I couldn't even get one toe in it. Cap that off with some great body surfing and you have quite a day.

Wai-o-tapu -- boiling mud

We then spent a few beautiful days in an area at the north end of the North Island called The Bay of Islands. The highlight of that section (for me) was the day trip I took to swim with the dolphins. There were eleven of us on the boat and we first had to find a pod of dolphins that was willing to let us join them. It took almost two hours of cruising around the bay, but we found a pod of about a dozen bottle nosed dolphins. These are like Flipper weighing up to 700 pounds and up to 10 feet in length. They are wild, and although very curious about us, were easily bored or spooked. You are not allowed to feed them as the Department of Conservation has very tight regulations on how you are allowed to interact with the animals and wants to be sure that they remain wild and do not become too accustomed to humans. The dolphins are very playful and even performed a number of jumps, getting entirely out of the water. It seemed that the more playful we were, them more they stuck around. I would try to dive as deep as I could with just a snorkel and fins and most of the time one or two of them would follow me down, twisting and rolling over while watching me. Although we were not allowed to actually touch the animals, they were close enough to do so most of the time we were swimming with them. It took a lot of discipline for me to keep my hands at my sides.

Swimming with the dolphins

On the way back from The Bay of Islands, we drove though the great Kauri forest. Kauri is New Zealand's version of the California Redwoods. Today only 3% of the original forest remains, as the rest of it was harvested for its beautiful hardwood timber in the late 1800's and early 1900's. We stopped and saw Tane Mahuta, the largest living Kauri. It is quite impressive to be walking through the rain forest and suddenly come across a tree that has a trunk with a girth of almost 45 feet! We also spent an afternoon at the Kauri Museum, which was just incredible. The history of the trade and the specimens that they have are just fascinating as well as beautiful.

We have but one more night in New Zealand, then it is time to board a plane for the long ride home. We have had an incredible time and will certainly never forget this amazing trip.

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Copyright © Troy and Kristin Henikoff  2003