Thursday, March 8, 2012

FAREWELL TO NEW ZEALAND

Just a normal day on the steamboat wharf....

Another local we met, obviously drunk, legless anyway.

Spot the tourist...

Mt Taranaki also known as Mt Egmont, spotted from the plane on the way to Auckland to catch our flight home.  Amazing isn't it?

Until next time....

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

DAY FIVE (MILFORD SOUND)

Sunday started out cloudy and we were concerned that our much awaited trip to Fjiordland would be wet and miserable.  Fortunately, the closer we got, the finer it became.  In fact, by the return home we were quite hot, mainly because we dressed for the cool of Queenstown.  We took the bus there, thinking at least we'd both get to see everything on the way which was the case but didn't stop to think if we'd driven to Te Anau and caught a bus from there, we'd have been able to stop at our leisure, at least on the way home, to take any shots we wanted rather than be at the mercy of the most boring bus driver in the world.  Ah well, such is life and who knows? We may have been better off.  We would dearly have loved to have photographed several of the wild flowers we saw from the bus along the way or find out what the white fluffy stuff caught in various bushes was.  Spider webs? Tufts of wool?  Mould?
First photo stop was Mirror Lakes.

This moss looks like a barrister's wig. Or maybe some mystical creature...

Ducks enjoying Mirror Lakes.

 You can see where the Lakes get their name.

Next stop, somewhere near Mt Crosscut and Mt Christina. Those are hanging glaciers up high.

Even shots from the bus are picturesque.  Babbling brooks abound, although the driver assured me this was a river; the Hollyford River.

Homer Tunnel, read about it here.  It's avalanche country around here.

This is the remains of an avalanche which fell last winter right near the tunnel entrance and has lasted through summer.

Just near the marina as we set sail is Bowen Falls, one of the 2 permanent falls in the Sound.

A bit of whimsy: doesn't this shadow look like Sherlock Holmes just left stage right?

First sighting of promised wildlife.  Fat New Zealand fur seals. A shame they aren't more colourful or chose lighter coloured rocks.

These are juvenile male fur seals who get kicked off the first rock to make their own way in the world.

 Gulls diving for a feed.  Look at the colour of the water!

 More gulls, near the entrance to Milford Sound.

Turn left and next stop is South Pole!  Well, perhaps an exaggeration....

\
 More sparkling water.  Perfect, if only a dolphin had come to visit. Just after this they said 2 penguins were swimming around but we couldn't spot them.  

 Captain Cook missed the entrance to the Sound and travelled much further south before finding safe harbour.

 Stirling Falls, the bigger of the 2 permanent falls. 

 The boats go right up to the wall and you get wet if you're on the top deck. There's a legend that females who get wet in the mist wake next morning looking younger.  I have to report that didn't happen....  
to us anyway.

 Loved the look of the mist on the water though.  Next stop Queenstown and Australia next morning, much packing to do.

Our last sunset in Queenstown.  In fact, the first we saw as we were usually inside eating when the sun set around 8.15pm.

DAY FOUR

Day 4 we were at a bit of a loose end as we'd been promised a helicopter ride if they could manage it seeing as that leg of yesterday's challenge had been cancelled.  We hung around the hotel for a while but by 10am it was obvious they weren't going to call. We found out later that all flights out of Queenstown had been grounded due to high winds.  So what to do?
Pam had cunningly found a voucher in one of the info booklets that gave us $10 each off the cost of the Kiwi Birdlife Park so off we went.  It's situated near the bottom of the gondola ride and is a fair hike up the hill to get there but as we'd managed it okay on Day 3, we decided we could only benefit from the exercise.  My knees held up well too.
Remember I said to use your imagination for the shots taken Friday on that overcast day?  This one was taken  from near the Birdlife park on Saturday.  Much better colours don't you think?
***
First up was a Conservation show given by a conservation officer (Irishman!) and we found out all about how the horrible possums which are so despised by New Zealanders were first brought over by New Zealanders.  Hah!  There is a thriving possum fur trade now in an effort to get their numbers down as they... brace yourselves... actually eat baby kiwis and the eggs as well.  Prior to their arrival there were no mammal predators in the land of the Long White Cloud.  We donated to the fund and Pam actually bought some possum fur products before we left Queenstown as a percentage of the products goes to the Conservation Fund.  We did see some kiwis which are nocturnal but were unable to take photos of them. The Park keeps them in big sheds where the lighting is the reverse of the real world. They fossick around in the litter so that tourists can appreciate them but when the park closes, special lighting comes on so they go to sleep while we sleep.  They lay HUGE eggs; the largest egg in relation to their body size of any other bird in the world. It's enough to make your eyes water.  The chicks they rear at the Park are released into the wild once they are a couple of years old because they would be unable to fight off possums or stoats (more introduced predators) before then.
Clever little Red-crowned Parakeet or Kakariki which did lots of tricks for us.
This happy fellow is the tuatara, apparently a living fossil or throwback to the days of the dinosaur.
 They don't do much and move very slowly.
This is a New Zealand pigeon and which is the second largest pigeon in the world.
After the show we wandered around the park and saw many of the local residents.  This is a Paradise Shelduck . Very striking with their piebald appearance.
I didn't take notes, trusting the old memory, so not entirely sure of this beauty's name. They are green gecko's (Duh!) but I think it said South Auckland gecko...
 We thought these critters were salmon but found out they are trout. Ugly looking fish facially (I know, very unkind of me) but their pretty pink underbellies make up for that. And, of course, they'd be delicious!
I seem to lack the ability to take a decent shot of New Zealand birds other than ducks. Most of them are just brilliant blurs; hopefully Pam got some better snaps.  This is the tui which was slightly more cooperative, beautiful singers and are expert mimics. 
Wondered what this beauty's name is; the hover fly seems to be on good terms with it.
I dubbed this trio "Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil". They are Scaup which are very cute and great divers.  We watched them a lot on the lake where they pop up all the time having been fossicking around on the bottom the whole time you'd been standing there watching the other ducks.

After our visit to the Park we had lunch, wandered around the markets and found some cakes to buy...

(cakes of soap! Aren't they beautiful?) 

Taken at Armisfield Winery


We then took a drive in the country and visited a winery on the way.  Of course, one could only have a tiny taste of the wines on offer as one was driving.  Lovely countryside and the driving is easy though. 
***
Home for dinner at Winnies again although we didn't pick anyone up this time and managed to spend the whole voucher by ourselves.  We started with cocktails this time.  Pam had a beautiful blue concoction called "Illusion" and I had a "Toffee Apple".  Both absolutely delicious but being the forgetful dills we are, didn't think to take snapshot of them.  Home to bed to get ready for our  big day out to Milford Sound...

Monday, March 5, 2012

MORE OF DAY THREE

We had been wondering what the splash of red amongst the foliage in the hotel courtyard was each time we walked by so, finally, I went and took a closer look.  The autumn colours of the trees contrast beautifully with the green shrubs and red of this sweet little rose.

The views from Bob's Peak are amazing and on a fine day would be even more breath taking.  Friday was quite cloudy most of the day and we were too tinny to pay the $25 gondola fee to go up again on Saturday which dawned bright and sunny, so you'll have to make do with these perhaps inadequate snaps of the scenery.  Imagine them as brighter, bluer and greener!

This is the view from the street of the gondola route up to Bob's Peak. 
For some reason I completely forgot about the 'panorama' setting on my camera and this would have been the perfect time to use it.  
We stayed at the Crowne Plaza which is right opposite the marina. The beds were comfy and although we had a courtyard room we had no view of the courtyard.  However, the staff were all very helpful.  Lucky Pam won the trip though because I doubt we could have afforded such great accommodation right in the middle of town.
 This is the TSS Earnslaw, a steamer which takes tours around Lake Wakatipu. Something we thought about doing, but didn't.  I should start a post about things we DIDN'T do. 
 Another shot of the paragliding.
These beautiful purple bloom spikes are very fetching but no idea of their name. From our observations, one reason we couldn't find out names of flowers is that hardly anyone in Queenstown is a New Zealander, let alone a native of Queenstown.  Might have to ask one of my Kiwi friends now living in Australia...

Friday, March 2, 2012

DAY THREE

Unfortunately, this will be our last blog from here.  It's become too cumbersome to upload photos and check our emails in the 20 mins they give us for free and the laptop is too heavy to lug around town searching for free wi fi. Check back shortly for updates from home.


Today we did our triple challenge, which was rafting (fabulous and would do that again in a heartbeat). 
 About to set off, we are anticipating some fun.

Coming out of the tunnel over the last rapid.  It may not look like it but we were enjoying ourselves.

We also had a ride on the jet boat which we could do without really. We didn't feel the need to scream and squeal in delight like a lot of the others. We bought the photos from the rafting but not the jetboating.  Unfortunately, the helicopter bit was cancelled due to low numbers but we went up to the Peak by gondola after an arduous trek up the hill and are now very tired.



One challenge we DIDN'T do today!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

WE'RE HERE!! DAYS 1 AND 2 AND WE HAVE OUR LUGGAGE...

 You'll be pleased to know we made it to Sydney without getting lost and arrived at the right gate in plenty of time to board.  Not to whinge, but we were 80mins late getting away from Sydney.  Didn't they know they had VIP (very interesting passengers) on board?  
Finally, we flew off into the sunrise. 

 It was clouds all the way over so nothing much to see most of the time.  Flying into Queenstown we got glimpses of spectacular scenery between clouds.  As we landed the sun was shining and The Remarkables were a remarkable sight, shrouded in mist and clouds.  Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo of that because Qantas lost our bags so any thoughts of taking shots of mist covered mountains or anything else were forgotten. It stormed as well so which didn't help.  Day one? Pretty much a bust.
 View from our breakfast table.  There is a sprinkling of snow on the peak that wasn't there yesterday.

Queenstown is definitely photogenic even without snow and the foliage is so diverse and varied we can't help snapping away.
Today we've wandered around Queenstown snapping like tourists (!?!?) and done a tour around Arrowtown which is like a tiny Queenstown and is also very photogenic.
These bees are huge! At least twice the size of our ordinary honey bees, but fast; they don't spend much time on each flower.
Some of the nature abounding in Arrowtown.
Want to live in this quaint miner's cottage???

 Prepared to be bored to tears with a constant stream of photos.