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New Zealand Day 16 – Queenstown To Te Anau

We woke up early, as usual, and packed up to drive to Te Anau. This drive was relatively short and will put us in position to visit the magnificent Milford Sound tomorrow.

On the road we encountered llamas, deer and a group of curious cows

Llama

Deer

Cows

The drive took us through more magnificent countryside.

Road Reflections

We arrived in Te Anau before lunch time, but we were able to get checked into our hotel without a problem.

We took the day to relax and walk around Lake Te Anau

Little Pied Cormorant

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Marakura Yacht Club

Cynthia managed to get the best bird photo of the trip, the Tui Bird seen here eating from this bush.

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Tomorrow, the Milford Road and a cruise on Milford Sound. Weather is looking good for this.

New Zealand Day 15 – Queenstown

Lake Wakatipu

Today was ours to explore Queenstown. We had breakfast and went for a walk around Lake Wakatipu to take in the sites.

Swinging Cynthia

Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu

The weather was really nice so we opted to take a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw, a 1912 Edwardian vintage twin screw steamer. It was a beautiful boat and a wonderful experience to take in the sites of the lake from this vessel.

TSS Earnslaw

TSS Earnslaw

TSS Earnslaw

When we got back to Queenstown we had a nice lunch and then headed up to the Skyline Gondola to take in the views of the city and the lake from Bob’s Peak.

View From Above

The ride up may have frightened Cynthia a wee bit…

Gondola Terror

Tomorrow we we have a relatively short drive to Te Anau which will be our launching point for the drive to Milford Sound.

New Zealand Day 14 – Franz Josef Glacier To Queenstown

Sadly, The Fanz Josef and even the Fox Glacier were a bust. Rain was coming down pretty steady and it was just not conducive to making the trek out to see them. Even the helicopters were grounded. We had a long drive ahead of us and decided to make our way to our next destination which was Queenstown.

River

Despite the rain and gloom, there was still some amazing sites to see, especially the clouds and mist as it came over the mountains.

Haast

The rain did begin to subside as we moved on and we made a few stops along the way, like this one to see the Thunder Creek Falls

Thunder Creek Falls

As we drove down the Haast River we had our first Lupin sighting

Lupins

Our midpoint on this leg of the journey was Wanaka where I wanted to see the most photographed tree in New Zealand

Lone Tree Of Wanaka

We also saw some purple lupins, Cynthia’s favorite.

Lupins

We then made our way up New Zealand’s highest sealed road, Crown Range Road which rises up to 3530 ft above sea level

Crown Range Road

We then descended into Queenstown just as the sky began to clear.

Queenstown

Also, today is Cynthia’s birthday. To celebrate we had dinner at an amazing restaurant called the Blue Kanu which serves food that mixes both Pacifica and Asian style, and blending the two cultures it aims to create a style and feel that they call “Polynasia”. Simply put, it was fantastic.

Blue Kanu

Tomorrow we explore Queenstown.

New Zealand Day 11 – Abel Tasman National Park

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We were not holding out much hope for today as it the forecast called for rain and possibly hail. But when we woke up there was some sunshine and a patches of blue sky. We decided we would go for it and make the drive some 60 miles to Abel Tasman where we had a cruise and hike booked for the day.

We made our way to Kaiteriteri and checked in and quickly boarded our boat, a medium sized catamaran that would take us up the coast to a series of secluded bays.

Beach

Beach

We were scheduled to get of at Bark Bay and do some exploring, but the weather was still “iffy” so we opted to stay on the boat and just ride the route till we got back to the point of origin. We did see some nice things like a seal colony

Seals

And Split Apple Rock

Split Apple Rock

We ended the cruise about mid-day and drove back to Nelson and explored a bit before having dinner.

Diocese of Nelson Christ Church Cathedral on Church Hill, central Nelson.

Tomorrow we drive to Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks and the weather looks to be great.

New Zealand Day 10 – Wellington To Nelson

ferry

Today we woke up early to return our rental and catch the Interislander Ferry from Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the South Island. The whole process was pretty straightforward and soon we were underway.

Cook Strait

The sky was overcast and there was some rain, but the 3 hour voyage was pleasant and uneventful. We sat with group of elderly Kiwis that were on holiday and they were great fun to talk to and they shared a wealth of information about New Zealand with us and the ferry ride passed quickly as a result.

car

We picked up our second rental car and proceeded to make our way to the next stop, Picton. The drive was very windy and took us along the sound and well up into the mountains. And though the skies were overcast, the views were quite spectacular

Cullen Point Lookout

On the way to Picton we stopped in Havelock for lunch. Havelock is the green tipped mussel capital of the world and we ate at a place called the Mussel Pot.

musselpot

For lunch we had the sampler plate for two that included mussels served in a variety of ways. It was all quite delicious.

mussels

While we were there we noticed there were a number of soldiers moving about. Turns out there was a joint military training exercise happening this week.

Military Manuevers In Havelock

We made it to our hotel and got checked in. The weather is a bit gloomy, and we are not overly optimistic about tomorrow when we are scheduled to visit Abel Tasman National Park. We’ll see how it goes.

New Zealand Day 7 – White Island and Wai-O-Tapu

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We woke up to a glorious sunny day which was good, because our plan was to fly by helicopter to White Island, an active volcano off the coast of Rotorua.

We got up and had some breakfast and found our way to the lake shore and the offices of Volcanic Air Safaris, the company that we had bookd for our adventure.

Besides Cynthia and myself, there were two other people who had booked the tour so that meant a small group headed to the island. And, as luck would have it, they were also photographers so they would not be impatient while I took my time photographing the island.

White Island

We took off a little before 9:00a am for our 35 minute flight to White Island and the view was simply spectacular.

White Island

We circled the island and then landed in an open area, not far from the crater lake

White Island

We spent the next hour and half hiking around while our guide told us the history of the island.

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

Cynthia was very pleased with herself for overcoming her fears of flying in a helicopter and of walking on an active volcano. Truth be told, we both agree that this was the most amazing thing we’ve done on any of our travels.

When we returned to the city we went back to the hotel and quickly went back out to visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Mostly I wanted to see the Champagne Pool…the rest I was not so enthusiastic about which was a good thing, too, because we were fairly tired after the previous adventure.

The Champagne Pool, named for the tiny bubbles the fizzle and pop on the surface, did not disappoint.

Champagne Pool Waiotapu geothermal area

Champagne Pool Waiotapu geothermal area

Tomorrow we’re headed to the Tongariro National Park and hoping for more good weather.

New Zealand Day 6 – Whitianga To Rotorua

We got up early and found breakfast at a place called Jandals Cafe. In New Zealand, jandals are how they refer to sandals or flip-flops. It was a casual, local space and the menu was AMAZING!

jandals

We opted for the Handle The Jandal Breaky (breaky means breakfast) and it was SOOO good. The tomato was sweet, the eggs were fluffy and you can’t see it in the photo, but there was toasted homemade bread under that pile of yum.

jandals2

We got on our way early and again, the weather was great and the scenery was just unbelievable.

Open Road

We stopped a few times for some photos

Cynthia Bridge

But we kept things moving today so we could get to the Hobbiton Movie Set.

Hobbiton

This is the place where they filmed the Shire scenes for the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. The tour is pricey. And it’s a little on the long side at 2 hours. But it has to be this way because it’s a guided tour on private property. Frankly, I could have taken the whole thing in in about 30 minutes. But it was still fun to do.

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Hobbiton

Hobbiton

The tour ends at the Green Dragon Inn where you can sit and have a beer or a cider before departing the movie set

The Green Dragon Inn - Hobbiton

The Green Dragon Inn - Hobbiton

The Green Dragon Inn - Hobbiton

From Hobbiton it was on to Rotorua where we will be staying for a few days. The area is known for its geothermal activity and there’s steam coming up out of the ground all over the place. And it smells like sulfer here.

Geothermal Activity - Rotorua

Tomorrow we take a helicopter to White Island, an active volcano.

New Zealand – Day 2

jaycyn

We woke up around 4 am due to the jet lag. Hopefully by tomorrow we will have our sleep cycles under control.

On this day we were scheduled to spend it in Auckland City. Frankly, Auckland is not all that exciting. It’s much like any other big city and we’ve seen plenty of big cities. As we pondered our options Cynthia found a brochure in our literature that talked about Waiheke Island which is only a 40 minute ferry ride from the harbor here in Auckland. We thought we would give it a go and off we went.

waiheke

Buying tickets for the ferry we spotted (and Cynthia photographed) this sign.

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They are very protective of the island and don’t want any pests carried over. Cynthia pointed out that if she had any skinks hidden in her bag they came from New Zealand and not from home.

We boarded the ferry, skink free, and before we knew it, we were at Waiheke.

The sky was overcast but we didn’t let that stop us from renting a car and heading off to explore.

Right off the bat, we were overjoyed with our decision. The island is relatively small and filled with twisty, turny roads. Each turn brought us to something amazing. Beaches, hidden coves, hills and valleys…

Waiheke

Man O War Bay - Waiheke

Cynthia was happy to see her first sheep of the journey and she captured this wonderful image of two lambs.

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We had a great time exploring the island. Though small, it was sometimes confusing and we did get a little lost…

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(photo by Cynthia)

But we didn’t mind because we knew it was a small island and we’d eventually get back on track.

We wrapped up the journey at a lovely little restaurant with a deck that looked out over one of the many bays on the island. And toward the end the sun even peeked out and gave us a glimpse of the the true beauty of the island

Waiheke

The restaurant also featured some rather fearless seagulls which swarmed the table as soon as we got up to leave and devoured all of our scraps.

Seagull Want My Food

While waiting on the ferry to go back to the mainland I did manage to drop and smash my iPhone. Fortunately there was a repair shop near the hotel and I was back up and running in less than an hour after returning back to base.

We took some time and got some rest before heading out to dinner and going to the top of the Sky Tower which towers some 1076 feet over the city and offers some amazing views of Auckland.

Sky Tower - Auckland

View From The Sky Tower

It was pretty cool to see, but we didn’t stay long as we are pretty tired and have a big day tomorrow as we head off to the Bay Of Islands in the north.