Guided Small Group Tours of New Zealand

Travel Tales with Tia

Busy Summer Ahead

Hello everybody… Well, well, well… It is almost that time of year again and everyone here at Canterbury Trails are ready to go. I love this time of year, the nights are getting longer, the days are starting to warm up, loads of lambs, calves and ducklings, blossoms and daffodils, and everything is fresh and vibrant in colour. I have been out and about enjoying trips to Akaroa, Arthur’s Pass, Kaikoura and Waipara with some wonderful guests. One of the best things about my job is that no day is the same, even if you are going to the same place everything can differ from the day before…

Guests, weather, scenery, walks they all change, keeping me/us on our toes. These are two photos I took at Castle Hill only a week apart from each other.

I have also had some company on Fridays with John Dunne helping out in the office. He is a blast to work with and we have a lot of fun.

Oh and I almost forgot… Lulu became a proud mama of twin girls, Rosemary and Mint. Rosemary is very curious and Mint is more cautious. It is fun watching them out the window chasing each other and jumping around through the long grass. Chris even built them a wee house to sleep in.

Um where’s the first part of 2017 gone…

Well it has been awhile since I last updated you all, but even so, I cannot believe that we are almost half way through 2017!! Where has the first part of the year gone? We have had such a fantastic season, welcoming four new guides, meeting some wonderful people from all over the world, sharing their adventure, stories and loads of laughs with them, while showing them some truly beautiful parts of the South Island. Irene has been extremely busy, she been away quite a lot with business and marketing trips, here in New Zealand and in the States. So I have been holding down the fort here at Canterbury Trails HQ. Which is just as busy as being out on the road and judging by the amount of bookings we have been receiving it looks like we are in for another great season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have got some amazing work mates who keep me company by hanging outside my office window.

I would like to introduce you all to the team… Pearl (front), Lulu (behind Pearl), Baarbie and Rambo. These guys are such characters, each with their own personalities, Lulu has taken on the role of mama of the flock, she is protective and caring. Pearl is a girly girl who loves attention and affection. Baarbie is a little madam, who stomps her feet when she doesn’t get her own way. And then there is Rambo who is a typical bloke, he enjoys eating, lazing about in the sun and his favorite activity  chasing and teasing the girls.

I also get great updates from the guides while they are out on tour to keep me in the loop with life on the road, I thought I’d share a couple with you…

Maria sent…

“I’m singing in the rain… Just singing in the rain… Oh what a glorious feeling, to be at Arthur’s again” ☔️

and this one from Mr John Dunne…

It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it… John taking time to smell the roses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passing ships in the night

Hello and apologies for the long pause. Well this season has started off with a bang and all of a sudden it is already mid January. We have had a couple of new guides and are lucky enough to welcome to our team a Geologist, a botanist, a trail-runner and bilingual (6 different languages to be exact) speaking guide, whom have all started with us this season. All of us seem to be passing ships in the night, briefly catching up as we drop off and pick up vehicles. We have had really exciting and fantastic tour’s so far and all very different, from adrenaline pumping tours which include activities such as skydiving, bungy jumping and 4wd through skippers canyon to slightly more slower paced such as wine tastings, nature walks, harbour cruises in Akaroa and Milford sound tours. Will keep you guys posted as the season goes on.MaruiaHooker valley

Spring is Springing

I have just returned after a 6day tour starting in Queenstown and finishing in Blenheim via the west coast. I had such a wonderful time with these guests and we were lucky enough to have pretty decent weather the whole trip even at this time of year. We spent the days exploring the west coast and doing walks to many waterfalls, Franz Josef Glacier face and Lake Matherson, stopping for some well needed coffee at the iconic Cardrona Hotel. On one of the days the ladies needed a little retail therapy and the weather was a bit drizzly so we spent a little extra time in the small art and crafty town of Hokitika which is also my home town, where they got a wee private guided tour of the carving studio at Westland Greenstone by my high-school buddy/greenstone carver Devon, we watched the glass blowers doing their interesting and fascinating job, and had a good chat with the talented Charlotte Breeze (whom by the way has designed jewelery for the Game of thrones, tv series) and has some beautifully amazing work in Ocean Paua. Sunset, Punakaiki
Before leaving we had lunch at Stumpers cafe which is truly scrumptious and filling. We arrived in Punakaiki at about 4pm and were greeted with the Sun shining so we decided to do the walk around the pancake rocks and blow-holes. It was so warm and to top the evening off there was a beautiful sun set. I love this time of year the days are starting to getting longer again, the weather is warming up, there are blossoms and daffodils, but most importantly there are so many cute little lambs everywhere. Yay, Spring is springing. Little lamb

Kaikoura, Akaroa, Arthur’s and back

Well, well, well … Work has been keeping me busy on the road even during our winter season. It started last week with a trip to Kaikoura with a doctor from Brazil and an Italian Historical Author, also going to Kaikoura was another tour of two ladies from Spain with the fabulous Mr John Dunne, whom we kept bumping into along the way. We struck a beaut day, the drive up was good still a bit of snow around. The sun was shining but a little crispy fresh. They enjoyed their Whale Watch cruise and got quite a lot of action from these giant sperm whales. We had a scrumptious lunch at Cellar View before heading to the seal colony and as per usual the seals were lazing around soaking up the sun. We started to make our way back to Christchurch but not before making a necessary stop for some wine tasting at Waipara Hills. The following day I was off to Arthur’s Pass with the Italian Author and low a behold the same two women from Spain were going to Arthur’s too but this time they were traveling with Lovely Miss Maria, so we played follow the leader again. Unfortunately the weather in Arthur’s Pass wasn’t the greatest so we decided to join the two tours and watched a 20min historical movie about the area at the Department of Conservation Center before going our separate ways. Cinzia (the Author) and I braved the cold and went for a couple of walks to the Bealey chasm and the Devil’s Punch-bowl falls.Arthur's Pass, waterfall

Devil's punchbowl

After drenching ourselves from the rain we thought it was time for lunch and to warm ourselves up. On arrival to the Bealey Hotel it was beautifully warm, they had the fire going and Maria and her guest were sitting in front of it so we pulled up a couple of chairs and joined them. All in all the day was extremely sociable with a great group of people. I said goodbye to Cinzia who I had really enjoyed her company over the two days of touring with her. The next day was my turn with the two ladies from Spain which was great as I got to know them over the last couple of days of following each other around. We were also joined by a wonderful woman from Atlanta, Georgia, and headed over to Akaroa, after a delicious lunch at the award winning Bully Hayes, I dropped them off at the wharf and they boarded the Black Cat for a nature cruise. Once again there was loads of action from the were greeted by the locals, the small Hector’s dolphins. Once again another great tour with amazing company.

Family fun

So I just got back from tour with an out-going, full of energy family of 6 from New Jersey. These guys were so much fun, it was Mum, Dad and children which were aged 17, 10, 8 & 5. We started off bright & early (well not really bright as it was still dark when I picked them up) and headed towards the train station to hop on the train bound for Arthur’s pass where I was to meet them. It was definitely crispy cold up there with fresh powdery snow everywhere, which I think always makes this area magical. Once I had collected them we set off to do our first walk,Bealey Chasm we got to the Bealey Chasm and the family all decided they wanted to go further and enjoy the sunshine, snow and the views of the mountains. We spent about an hour and half soaking in all the beauty around us before heading back to the vehicle and on to the West Coast. Mt Rolleston look out Walk We made a stop in Hokitika for some yummy lunch at Stella cafe before hitting the road again. Next stop a short walk at Mananui, (by the way, I really recommend this walk it only takes about 10 minutes) you walk through lush west coast forest and come out in front of the Tasman sea. The kids had fun treasure hunting for stones along the beach. I dropped them off at their accommodation in Franz Josef just in time for dinner and a well deserved rest. Pick up time the following morning was 8am and our first stop was walking up to the view point of the Franz Josef Glacier face, we were the first ones there, which was nice and we took our time along the way. One of the best things about my job is watching my guests reactions as they enjoy seeing all the beauty that New Zealand offers. I truly love sharing these moments and it makes me proud to call New Zealand my home. As we pushed on, we had all worked up an appetite (even after a big breakfast), so I decided that the Salmon Farm, lake Paranga would be a good place to take these guys, not only is it delicious fresh salmon, but the kids can also feed the salmon which is usually a hit. We still had a bit of ground to cover before our destination of Queenstown and I still wanted to show them so much more, we stopped at ships creek and walked through the giant ancient Kahikatea & swamp forests where we were greeted by a nosy little fantail which flitted around us and even landed on the hand of the 17 year old twice. I took them to a secret waterfall and the Thunder creek falls, and we stopped as they were amazed to see the biggest, brightest rainbow they said they have seen. We didn’t arrive in Queenstown till about 7.30pm but we had a fantastic day exploring, discovering and spending the day in full amazement, we went from rain and world heritage forests, glaciers, the ocean, sunshine and snow. I had a wonderful time on tour with these guys and hope they enjoyed the rest of their adventure here. Kahikatea

Mmmm….. Mountains….

I love this time of year and all the wonders it brings with it. I had a wonderful time on tour with a lovely couple from Maryland, USA. They had a great love for the Mountains so I was more than happy to show off just a part of what New Zealand has to offer. We spent the first day up in Arthur’s Pass where we strolled through the beech forest and spotted some local residents, including bellbird, kea and a little South Island robin who kindly posed for a photo. It was such a beautiful day up there the sun was out shinning although I must say it was fresh with an icy chill in the air, but in a good way. After checking out the Bridle-veil falls and Devils punch-bowl waterfall we had definitely worked up an appetite we called into the Bealey Hotel to visit Debby and the crew for some lunch before making our way back to Christchurch with make stops at Moana Rua/Lake Pearson and Kura tawhiti/ Castle Hill. bird They decided they wanted to follow the Mountains so we drove down to Queenstown keeping close to the Southern Alps and making a special stop at New Zealand’s greatest… Aoraki/Mt Cook, in Maori the name means ‘Cloud Piercer’ which is appropriate, although not one of the highest mountains in the world (standing at 12,218ft) it is a favorite challenge for climbers from round the world. The drive into the park itself is stunning as you wrap around the amazing glacier feed turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki. The whole day was great, lovely weather, outstanding scenery and most importantly wonderful company. ????????????????????????????????????

Kekeno/ Fur seals

If your coming to New Zealand and love the sea, Kaikoura is definitely a place I would recommend you put on your list to stop in and visit. This is a quaint little town where the mountains meet the sea, and is roughly a 2 & 1/2hour drive north of Christchurch. Kaikoura is home to an amazing and extensive range of sea life. On any given day you can visit the seal colonies, once almost hunted to extinction in the 1800 and 1900’s for their pelts and meat, these guys are making a great recovery with numbers of about 200,000 and increasing. They love to lay around and soak up the sun and in some places they can be quite hard to spot as they camouflage into rocks. It is important that people do not feed them and also respect them and their space, if they feel threatened they can become aggressive. These little cuties can be such a joy to watch during play time for the pups, as the dive and jump in and out of the water, have races and play-fight, I could easily watch them for hours.

Winter Wonderland

Winter has arrived and it has brought with it a crisp freshness to the air, I have been fairly busy not only on the road but also in the office. We have a lovely new guide Maria Cairns who has joined the crew, she is bubbly, enthusiastic and in her spare time enjoys trail running. I have had the pleasure (or she has, depending on who’s telling the story 😉 ) of taking her with me on the last couple of trips to Arthur’s Pass. She had a great time taking our guests on the Jacks hut walk, and to the viewing points of the waterfalls in the area. On the way back to Christchurch we all put our imaginations to the test as we walked around while looking for shapes and coming up with different objects that some of the limestone formations resemble at Castle hill.IMG_3428 I have also had a few tours to Akaroa lately also. I took a lovely french couple there on the weekend and they had a wonderful time with BlackCat Nature Harbour Cruise. They really enjoyed the wild-life which included a pod of about 15 Hector’s dolphins, New Zealand Fur seals, Wandering Albatross and the Little Blue Penguins. But to top it off and make this trip even more special they happened to come across two Southern Right Whales migrating pass the peninsula. I think its safe to say they found this trip worthwhile.Banks Peninsula

WOW….

Well, well, well… where did the first part of the year go? I have had such an amazing Summer and have meet some wonderful people. One of highlights of the Summer for me was a tour I was lucky enough to co-guide with the most wonderful and ever so knowledgeable John Houlton and a group of 32 South Korean Geology students, I had a blast throughout the entire tour, but the last night is one I will never forget. I have had the privilege to enjoy the Milford sound cruise a couple of times now but I have never seen it so crystal clear and smooth before, so much so that the staff of the boat decided to change the itinerary to make the most of it. We spent the afternoon kayaking around a small cove and doing bombs off the back of the ship. 12512546_10206892127360043_8670179597376046164_n As if we thought this night could not get any better the staff took the boat out of Milford where not only did we get to witness an amazing sunset over the ocean, and a variety of sea birds including the wandering albatross but we even had an evening show put on for us by a pod of at least 20 if not more common dolphins.  No matter how many times I see dolphins, it always feels like its the first time, it fills me with such excitement like a child on Christmas eve. I can almost guaranty that I was not the only person who felt this way.photo 2 12669678_10206892124879981_5731883195016413339_n As this was the last night and after the excitement of the day’s events we were all feeling sleepy even though we decided to stay up for a few hours to do some star gazing. I have shared some great times, loads of laughs and stories over this summer… Bring on next season.