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New Zealand 2014

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New Zealand


(it’s a lot like Oregon)


April 1st. After a year of planning, negotiations, meetings, emails and conferences we are finally off. We met Woody and Carole at LAX. Flying Air New Zealand was both good and bad. The tickets were cheaper than most other airlines but we had to leave from terminal 2 at LAX which has few stores and worse restaurants. But it was next to terminal 1 where Southwest and that was a plus.




Because we made our reservations so far in advance Woody was able to get us exit row seats. The 777 was only about half full and the exit row seats actually gave us more floor space than first class (first class does have very nice seats though).


April 3rd. Where the heck did the 2nd go? We landed in Auckland and made our way to the domestic terminal. Twenty years ago this was a small walk. Now there is a major city at the airport. We checked our bags and walked to the gate. At this point I was looking for our other couple, Jim and Jill Pearns who are friends from the Phoenix area. They did not show but then they might have gotten a direct flight to Queenstown. After two hours we boarded the last flight of the day (how many was that now?) and flew to Queenstown. On the way we flew over several volcanoes and passed right next to Mt. Cook which we would visit in a weeks time.


About New Zealand: New Zealand is made up of two major islands conveniently named the North Island and the South Island. Twenty years ago we visited both islands but had little time for Australia. This time it was decided to just visit the South Island as most of the scenic spots are located there and as we would be visiting in fall (yes April is fall down there) making the water attractions less than interesting.


The map below shows the South Island with the routes we took while we were there.




We landed in Queenstown, got our bags and rental car and looked for the Pearns family. Finally I called Jim and he told me he wouldn’t make at least the first week. This became one of the running jokes of the trip. “I think I saw Jim” was something that might be said if there was a lull. We stopped in downtown Queenstown and had lunch and made a stop at the local minimart. Bacon was $18 per small package. The trip wasn’t going to be cheap!

We then drove to our first hotel. Actually I had found a web site for holiday homes and we all decided on this one. It was called the Aspen House. I so hate those hard to pronounce names. With four bedrooms and four baths, a hot tub and a perfect view it seems like the correct choice. As it turned out is was much better.


Some pictures.












April 4th


We had most of the day to do something until Russ flew in and so we decided to take a small trip to the little village of Wanaka.





The town of Wanaka was billed as something like what Queenstown used to be years ago. We had lunch and visited some shops before returning to Queenstown.






Along the way we passed by this interesting exhibit. Pat suggested it was to show support for breast cancer. I suggested the town father’s outlawed bras. I suppose the truth is closer to what Pat said but I like mine better.




The lake at Wanaka.




Downtown Wanaka at rush hour.




The road back to Queenstown




We got back to Queenstown, picked up Russ and went back to the Aspen house.




April 5th. We decided to take an easy day in Queenstown. One of the attractions was the Kiwi Birdlife Park where (for only $65) you can also get a ticket for the gondola ride up the mountain behind Queenstown. While the Kiwi exhibit was excellent they are nocturnal birds and so you cannot take pictures of them.




The biggest thing within the park are the transplated Giant Sequoia trees which are now 150 years old.




After visiting most of the exhibits at the Kiwi Park we took the gondola up to the top of the peak behind Queenstown. The last time I was up there it was pretty much empty. Now there is a restaurant (actually three), a bungee jump and a small car track.




April 6th. The single biggest attraction of the South Island is Milford Sound. Getting there from Queenstown and back is a full day adventure.





On the way to Milford you drive by Fjordland National Park. As pointed out by the tour boat captain, a fjord is a valley cut by a glacier, which enters the ocean, and a sound is a similar valley cut by erosion other than glaciers. Milford Sound is a fjord but like some many things in the Southern Hemisphere (ie Alligator river in Kakadu NP in Australia only has crocodiles) they got the name wrong. But I digress.










One of the many single lane bridges that dot the South Island. The sign notes the direction that has the right of way. I think this is the one Woody tried to drive through at 80 mph the wrong way and found on coming traffic. But I could be wrong.




Just before entering the Homer tunnel there is a waterfall.




Mitre Peak




Our tour boat. Woody Carole and Russ took the larger boat on the right. They enjoyed a shorter trip with many more tourists. I will let Woody tell that part of the story.




One of the many waterfalls in the fjord.




A fur seal waves to us.




The fjord is so deep and the walls so vertical that the boat can back right up to the rock. This makes an interesting event as most folks scramble into the cabin. But both times now I have just donned my rain gear and had the deck to myself.




Dolphins are a frequent visitor to the fjord.




April 7th, Sunday. Half the day was spent doing laundry as we would not have another opportunity (so we thought) for a while. In the afternoon we drove to the Arrowtown which was a mining town years ago but now makes it living on tourists. There is an excellent mining museum. If you ever go there beware of the latrine. OK I will tell you just in case. When you open the door a guy inside says “hey get out of here”.




April 8th. We reluctantly left Queenstown on our way to Mt. Cook.




Along the way we passed by this beautiful river. Somehow I remembered it from the last time and at that point I found out why. There is an old bridge that is sill used for foot traffic on one of the many traks but does double duty as a bungee jump.




When last we visited, there was little more than the bridge and a parking lot. Now there is a large concrete building with an entire wall of large screen televisions. After watching several idiots jump I was almost out the door when Woody suggest we go. In a weak moment I agreed. Russ had better restraint.








After surviving the bungee jump we drove to Mt. Cook and checked into the Hermitage hotel.




April 9th. Great weather which you so often do not get in the mountains.


Mt. Cook from the hotel.




The peaks to the west of the hotel. Note that while they look close they are many miles distant.




A telephoto shot of the summit of Mt. Cook.




The five of started on a hike up the Hooker Valley track. The trail is mostly easy but there is one unfinished portion where some bolder hopping is required.




At the end of the trail there is a glacial lake and you can see the toe of the glacier as well as Mt. Cook in the distance.




Just in case I checked to see if anyone had seen Jim Pearns.




April 10th. We departed Mt. Cook and drove the remaining miles to Christchurch. We checked in to the hotel directly across from the terminal and returned our rental vehicle.




April 11th. One street from us was the Antarctic exhibit and terminal. While we didn’t have time to fly to McMurdo we would have time to visit the exhibit.

But if you are going to Antarctica the door in the distance is the one you would enter.






There were many interesting exhibits within the building but I thought, being an off road club, you might be more interested in the vehicles used down there.








Inside the museum there was a cold room where they brought the temperature down to freezing and had winds blow down on you at thirty mph. I guess they have never been to the Midwest in winder. There was also a penguin exibit.




After lunch we picked up our bags and moved over to the terminal. I checked but did not see Jim Pearns. Around five in the afternoon we departed Christchurch for Sydney. But I have used my allotted fifty pictures so that will have to be another report.

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I loved reading your trip report Sam! Great pictures; it looks like it was a lot of fun. You should be able to put up more pictures in a new post below, just click 'Reply to Thread' and GO! Thank you for posting this!

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Awesome report and pics Sam! My favorites!? - the wall of bras, AND watching you bungee jump! Way to Go Sam!!

smiles, ladybug

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;)Cool Beans. Appears you had a GREAT time… Thanx for sharing…

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That is a beautiful part of the world. Hope to get there some day!

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below are some time lapse movies I took, or had made, whilst in New Zealand. Note: You must double click on the picture to enable the movie.



Sunrise at Queenstown




Clouds Queenstown




bungee jump




more clouds Queenstown




sunrise near Mt. Cook



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Sam, you are an animal! Did Pat leave a bra?



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A whole story in itself which I might tell you someday. Short answer is NO.

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I arrived in New Zealand a day after Woody, Carole, Pat and Sam. They had already settled into the rented house in Queenstown. I left San Francisco, had a 15 hour non-stop flight to Sydney, a three hour layover, then a three hour flight to Queenstown.


On Saturday, April 5th (New Zealand time), we took the gondola from downtown Queenstown to Bob's Peak. It has a nice view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.






Woody is trying out a prototype of the new small Jeep:




After a grueling day of sightseeing, Woody and I relaxed in the hot tub at the house:




The next day, (Sunday April 6 in New Zealand) we drove from Queenstown to Milford Sound on the coast. Milford Sound is noted for the spectacular scenery of its glacial valleys and fjords:








We took a sightseeing cruise of the Sound: file-10.jpg








It was a very long day; although the straight line distance from Queenstown to Milford Sound is only about 50 miles, the highway distance is 180 miles each way. The driving time was about four hours each way on narrow, twisting two lane roads. We left Queenstown at 8 am, but it was after dark (around 8 pm) by the time we returned.


On Monday, April 7 we were very tired from the long drive to/from Milford Sound, so we had an easy day. After sleeping late, it was a short drive (about 20 minutes) to the historic gold rush village of Arrowtown. In 1862, gold was discovered in the mountains near Arrowtown. Today, Arrowtown's two block long main street features a gold rush museum, art galleries, shops and restaurants.




Woody, Sam, Pat and Carole resting on a bench in Arrowtown:




The next day, we loaded up the van and checked out of the rented house in Queenstown. We were headed to Aoraki Mt. Cook. Mount Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain, and is part of the scenic area known as the Southern Alps. Along the way, we took a break at a rest stop along the highway.










After watching a few bungy jumpers, Sam and Woody challenged each other to try it. Sam's jump:






Woody's jump:






We continued the drive to Aoraki Mt. Cook. Along the way, we saw this highway sign, which we all could relate to:




When we arrived at Aoraki Mt. Cook, the mountains were shrouded in clouds:




(to be continued)

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Wednesday, April 9 dawned bright and clear and early risers were rewarded with a spectacular view of Aoraki Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain:




After breakfast, we hiked up the Hooker Valley, about a four or five mile roundtrip.




















After we returned to our hotel from our hike up the Hooker Valley, we drove to the Tasman Valley for a look at the Tasman Glacier:




Our visit to Aoraki Mt. Cook was well timed, because the next day the mountains were again obscured in clouds.




We checked out of our hotel at Aoraki Mt. Cook and drove to Christchurch, New Zealand for our flight to Sydney, Australia.


(to be continued)

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