Cynthia in New Zealand days 1,2,3
Ok, there really wasn’t a day 2, which was 10/30, because I left on Monday at 6 pm and arrived on Wednesday at 7 am. The trip itself was 5 hours to San Francisco, 2 hours in San Francisco and 11 hours to Auckland, for a total of 18 hours of traveling. The rest of the time is explained by an 18 hour time difference, and I think the International Date Line figures into that some how, but I haven’t figured that out yet.
So here we are, Daphne, Bob and myself. We arrived in Auckland on Halloween 🎃 and I can tell you that they most definitely do not celebrate it! No decorations, costumes, trick or treat, etc.
Auckland is very clean and has a spaciousness about it. Everywhere you go, you see water, since the country is two islands (north and south) in the vast Pacific Ocean.
We started our adventure when we arrived at the Air B n B near the wharf in Auckland at about 9:30 am. We couldn’t actually check in until 2 pm, so we hauled our luggage 3/4 of a mile to the “luggage hotel” and stored it. The couple who ran it were from England and had been here for ten years and their employee was from Mexico and came here for “Amor”.
The place is quite diverse. Just looking at people, you can’t necessarily tell their ethnicity, but there are lots of Maoris (the first people of New Zealand) and Polynesians, Asians (probably Chinese), and many Caucasians (descended from the British settlers).
We decided to kill the 5 hours we needed to kill by taking the short (10 minute) ferry ride to the town of Devonport, a little town with lots of shops and restaurants and a tall hill that gives a nice view of the surrounding area. It was a bit of a shock to see some beautiful flowers and realize that it is spring here- comparable to May in the US. We walked up the hill, and got a terrific view of the Auckland skyline.
Auckland has many gleaming buildings. So far, I haven’t seen any buildings that are very old. The Maori came here 700 years ago and New Zealand became a part of the British Empire in 1840, so it makes the US look like an old country in comparison!
The town is spotlessly clean and another thing about New Zealand is that there are no native land mammals such as squirrels, and I didn’t see any cats and just one dog, so that makes it seem a little bit emptier.
We had lunch at a nice little restaurant, the Twisted Tomato, and took the ferry back to the luggage hotel and walked our suitcases back to the B &B. There was a bit of confusion about who was actually supposed to let us in, since management had changed that day, but it all worked out. I went to bed at 8:30 pm and managed to sleep til 6:30 am Whoo hoo!
Cynthia in New Zealand Days 4,5,6, 7
Day 4 11/1
We decided to make this a relatively quiet day and take the “blue bus” to a town called Mission Bay on the coast. But first we needed to go to the pharmacy. In the process of finding the pharmacy and then finding the bus, we saw a great deal of downtown Auckland. Once you are away from the harbor, it looks like an ordinary city, somewhat hilly, pretty dull architecture. Could be Seattle or Montreal, no real indication you’re in a particularly different place.
The currency is the New Zealand dollar, worth about .70, but still using the $ sign. There are department stores and stores selling hamburgers and fries and coffee shops, just like home.
The thing that makes it so different compared to home is that it is spring here! The sun sets at about 8 pm and the days are getting longer. The temperature is about 60 degrees and getting warmer. The spring flowers are blooming. When you travel south the weather gets colder.
The time thing is confusing and different. We are 18 hours ahead of Chicago. That assumes you are traveling east. Since we traveled west, it is 6 hours behind, but since we crossed the international date line, you add 24 more, making it still +18. I have figured out that if you add 6 hours to the time here and subtract 1 day, that gives you the time in Chicago. So 11 am on Saturday in New Zealand is 5 pm on Friday in Chicago. It is very strange to talk to someone at home and it is a different day of the week for them! Not to mention a different season!!
The town of Mission Bay was an average seaside town, with a park, a beach, a fountain, souvenir shops and restaurants. There were three (probably) Maori teenaged girls playing in the fountain, having a ball and getting soaked. We walked up and down the main street of the town a couple of times then had some delicious fish and chips (in Daphne’s case, fried hash browned potatoes and chips), hopped the bus back to Auckland and walked home. We are staying in a very nice air B and B overlooking the water on Viaduct Wharf.
We went to “Johnny Barr’s” restaurant near our apartment for dinner and thus ended the day. Our bedtime started off at about 8:30 pm to help with the time adjustment and has slowly crept up to 9:30 or 10.
Day 5 11/2
This was our most exciting day yet. We signed up for a tour taking us away from Auckland and to various places to the south.
There were about 40 people on our bus. Most were Chinese, a couple from Hong Kong who we made friends with, two Japanese people, who had their own interpreter, various Europeans and a few Americans. Naturally the most obnoxious woman, was American. She ended up going to get coffee before we departed, causing us to leave 15 minutes late.
Our bus driver was Ben (which he pronounced “Bin”). He was both our driver and our guide on the bus and was simply delightful. He had a great sense of humor and was also very knowledgeable about his country and the area we were driving through. He had driven the former prime minister around and had also driven high ranking members of the Labor Party around.
Once we got out of Auckland, the scenery was gorgeous. What made it so gorgeous were the meadows with intensely green tufted grass, wild flowers, scattered streams and rivers, yellow, pink and red flowering shrubs near the road, cows or sheep grazing in the meadows, low mountains in the distance and lastly, no commercialism of any sort.
Some of the things Ben told us on the way down:
There are 30 million sheep in New Zealand and 10 million cows. So the combination of lamb, wool, dairy products and beef make livestock farming a very big industry.
With the large number of volcanoes in the area and periodic eruptions, the soil is very red and rich. New Zealand grows many crops (delicious oranges among them) for internal consumption and also exports Kiwi fruit, apples, pears amongst others.
The Kiwi is actually a large nocturnal bird native to New Zealand. The Kiwi fruit were originally called Chinese gooseberries, imported from China. They weren’t selling so they changed the name to Kiwi fruit, and bang- the rest is history. They are grown on trellises and there are 3 varieties- green, gold and red.
The first place we arrived was was the Waitomo glow worm cave. It was a dry cave with pavement, lights (and railings) that had been installed inside. Nevertheless, it was very neat with natural sculptures, stalagmites and stalactites. At the end, we took a brief boat ride through a dark, watery cave with many glowworms on the ceiling.
Our next stop the Agrodome, a working farm. First, we were given a sheep sheering demonstration. It was very interesting to watch. Sheep sheering is a big deal here. They even have contests!
Next was a sheep herding demonstration with a highly cross bred version of a sheep dog. Also cool.
N ext we got into a wagon pulled by a tractor and saw different varieties of cows and sheep and alpacas. We tried some kiwi juice and some of the farm’s special honey.
Our last stop was Rotorua, one of the ancestral homes of the Maori (first) people of New Zealand. There we had a young Maori lady as our guide. We witnessed some Maori customs (touching noses as a greeting) and a performance of their music and dancing. It was excellent. The Māoris came to New Zealand from Polynesia about 700 years ago and lived here with their culture and way of life and prospered until the British arrived.
Initial relations between Māori and Europeans were largely amicable, and with the signing of a treaty in 1840, the two cultures coexisted as part of a new British colony. Rising tensions over disputed land sales led to conflict in the 1860s. Social upheaval, decades of conflict and epidemics of introduced disease took a devastating toll on the Māori population, which fell dramatically. By the start of the 20th century, the Māori population had begun to recover, and efforts have been made to increase their standing in wider New Zealand society and achieve social justice. Traditional Māori culture has thereby enjoyed a significant revival, which was further bolstered by a Maori protest movement that emerged in the 1960s.
In the 2013 census, there were approximately 600,000 people in New Zealand identifying as Māori, making up roughly 15 per cent of the national population. They are the second-largest ethnic group in New Zealand, after European New Zealanders. Māori are active in all spheres of New Zealand culture and society, with independent representation in areas such as media, politics and sport.
On the same complex was an active geyser and a mud pool. The minerals from the geyser create reddish, bluish and greenish coloring on the rocks.
Next, we took the three hour bus ride home but our day was not over. With some complicated arrangements, our medical package was delivered to someone’s apartment that we couldn’t find. We walked up and down the street looking for it. Speaking of ethnicities and age, this area of Auckland on a Saturday night seemed to be 90% very young people of Asian descent.
So at this point a note about my sister and brother in law: they are more fit than me, and as far as they are concerned, any trip under 4 or 5 miles should be walked. So when you make 2-3 of those trips in a day, it adds up!
Day 6 11/3
We spent a quiet morning/early afternoon at “home” in our b&b, with only a trip out to the “Petite Fourchette” around the corner for freshly baked croissants.
The apartment is very nice, two bedroom, two baths- right on the harbor, with large windows with views of the harbor. There is a “lanai” with a big table where we mostly sit and windows on all sides that slide out to make it open air. It is in an apartment complex that has a gym, pool, hot tub, and sauna.
We decided to go to Waiheke Island to look around and have dinner. We dragged around and managed to get out of the apartment by 2:30, in time to walk down to the wharf and catch the 3:30 ferry. It was a 40 minute ride across an aqua colored sea. With the low hills in the background.
We got up and walked about 1.5 miles up the hill into the town. We walked though the town, which was again, a seaside town with lots of souvenir shops and restaurants.
We found a way down to the beach located in a little inlet and sat for a while feeling the sea breeze and watching the people, dogs, birds and just the sea itself.
Then we headed back up to the town and found a nice restaurant- the Oyster Inn. We didn’t have oysters, but I had some nice fresh ginger tea to settle my stomach, and a nice piece of John Dory fish. Since we’re never far from the ocean, I’ve been eating a lot of fish, which has been very mild, fresh and delicious.
We caught the 7:30 ferry back to Auckland and made it home at about 9.
Day 7 11/4
Today we decided to explore an Auckland neighborhood called Ponsonby. Of course we walked. It was only 1.5 miles, but it turned out to be straight up a hill. While West Virginians Bob and Daph scrambled up like they were mountain goats, I was panting like a dog.
The neighborhood was quite picturesque with views of the center city and harbor, Victorian style houses and hilly, tree lined streets. There also are palm trees and tropical-like flowering plants, which is a bit of a mystery, since the climate isn’t that warm.
However, I researched it and found out that there are three reasons why the sun in the Southern Hemisphere is so strong.
There is less ozone here to block the UV rays that cause sunburn.
Earth’s orbit takes it closer to the sun during the southern summer than during the northern summer.
There is less pollution in the southern-hemisphere to block the UV rays.
The sun’s burning strength is measured by the UV index. The highest possible UV index at sea-level is about 20. This can occur at midday in equatorial regions. Any reading higher than 10 is extreme in terms of skin-damage.
The UV Index in the Mediterranean in high-summer reaches 9 or 10.
The people in Florida are fried on a just a few days each summer when the index reaches 12.
In New Zealand the summer index often exceeds 12. In the far North, 14 is reached.
The downtown, Ponsonby Central was a hipster/ tourist neighborhood with vegan options, whole food stores, cafes with sophisticated coffees, many restaurants, expensive boutiques and gift shops with very interesting items such as the “presidential wall game” and the “bad hombres” magnetic play set.
A little more about Auckland:
Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand, with a population of 1.4 million; 30% of the population of the whole country lives in Auckland. The average home price in Auckland is $1,000,000, whereas the median income is $55,000, so fewer and fewer people own homes (according to Ben). I myself saw branches of Microsoft, Hp, IBM and Datacom in central Auckland
We ended the day, and our stay in Auckland, with dinner at a Thai restaurant. After dinner, we walked down by a less commercial part of the harbor that was quite charming with its old street car tracks embedded in the side walk, grey skies and masses and masses of various types of boats and boat equipment. Several sailboats had masts that appeared to be 100 feet tall. The last day in Auckland really warmed me to the city.
Cynthia in New Zealand days 8, 9, 10, 11
Day 8 11/5
We got up bright and early to take the train from Auckland to Wellington, an 11 hour trip. The train was packed and we sat at a little table with two seats facing forward and one facing back. Once we got out of Auckland, the countryside was very beautiful with sharp, grass covered hills on either side, streams crisscrossing through, wild flowers and hills dotted with sheep (remember- 30 million sheep in New Zealand), cows, and even sometimes alpacas or deer (they have begun to farm deer). You see an occasional farm house or small town, sometimes with lots of junk in the yard- old cars, tractors, etc.
There was a dining car, but we brought food, and an open air observation car that was really fun. I tried to take pictures, but since we were moving about 60 mph, it was challenging.
The trip went by quickly and before long we were in Wellington. We had a nice conversation with a young New Zealand woman who had her 5 year old son with her and had been visiting her parents. She was very pleasant and friendly. She told us that her son had just started school. The school year runs from Feb 1 to December 15, but the day you turn 5, you start school. That is grade zero. So if you turn 5 February 1st, you will do a full year of grade 0 and if your birthday is in November, you may just do a few weeks. They have 13 years of school and most schools are public.
She is a trained nurse and her husband is a doctor so she knew all about the medical system, which is a national healthcare system, but excludes dental. Doctors visits are about $50 and everything else is free. There are some waits up to about a year for nonessential care, such as a joint replacement, so some people buy private insurance.
Wellington is the capital and has a vibrant downtown, some old, and new architecturally interesting buildings, and the capitol building, called the beehive.
The apartment was way up on a hill and the terrain and the bay looked a lot like San Francisco, with very steep streets and kind of a terraced effect.
We stayed in a neighborhood called Thorndon and walked the two blocks straight down ( and of course straight UP coming back) and had dinner at the Tinakori Bistro, a fusion between French food and New Zealand food. As usual, I had fish!
There are lots of Māori names here. Also lots of people or signs greet you with “Kia Ora “the Māori term for welcome. Things are far from perfect with the Māori people, but New Zealanders seem to have much more of an appreciation for their native people than we do.
Day 9 11/6
Daphne and Bob knew Paul and Carol, who live In Wellington, and like many Wellingtonians, spent their careers in government.
Paul was out of town, but Carol came and picked us up and took us on a “wee ride” around a point on a peninsula near Wellington and back. The views were awesome. Midway, we stopped at a really cute cafe, the Maranui Cafe up on the second floor looking out on the water. The cafe burned down a couple of years ago and the owners decided not to rebuild. There was such outrage that neighboring cafés in the area dedicated one or more days of their profits to rebuild the café. We really enjoyed Carol’s company.
She dropped us off downtown and we walked around a bit and shopped in a really nice Marino wool shop. Then we took the trolley up to an area near our apartment and walked through some very lovely botanical gardens down to our apartment, which was already fairly far up the hill.
Carol had also invited us for dinner.
She lived about 15 minutes from our apartment up a different hill. Her house is gorgeous with ocean views and an open floor plan. The more modern houses here like to have lots of windows to look out on the beautiful views. It was meticulously furnished and decorated.
We spent several hours having pleasant conversation and eating delicious food. Carol worked primarily in trade and had spent part of her career in the New Zealand embassy in London. She is an intelligent, generous and accomplished woman.
Since her husband was out of town, she invited her son Oliver, who was charming. He is in his 30s and has recently come back to New Zealand from having lived in London for 11 years. Some people in New Zealand seem to go back-and-forth from other parts of the “British Empire”. Oliver had been in England and also in Scotland. One of his most interesting adventures was teaching young Buddhist monks between the ages of 12 and 18 in Laos. These young men study at the monastery and most of them leave the religious life but about 10% stay and become monks for life. We took an Über there and one back, with only one slight glitch.
Day 10 11/7
It was time to leave Wellington. We took another Über to the ferry. We then boarded the ferry called the Interislander which takes you from the North Island of New Zealand to the South Island. It was a huge boat that could transport 1300 passengers. There were about 600 aboard. They had a children’s play area, movie theater, several viewing decks, two restaurants and probably some other things I didn’t see. You could ride as a foot passenger or bring a car. Like the train, we sat at a table which allowed us to look out onto the sea. It was a very pleasant ride. At one point they announced that they had fresh baked scones with cream. My sister and I couldn’t resist and split one. It was delicious.
Cynthia in New Zealand days 12, 13, & 14
Day 12 11/9 (Nelson)
We spent our second day of two in Nelson. This day was probably our worst weather day- it rained about 90% of the day, sometimes hard, although the temperature was about 55°. We first headed to Nelson Honey, a small bee keeping operation about 20 miles outside of Nelson to buy Manuka honey for my stepdaughter. Manuka Honey is only made in Australia and New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native manuka bush. Advocates say it can treat wound infections and other conditions. Manuka honey’s antibacterial properties are what set it apart from traditional honey.
Methylglyoxal is its active ingredient and likely responsible for these antibacterial effects. Additionally, manuka honey has antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
In fact, it has traditionally been used for wound healing, soothing sore throats, preventing tooth decay and improving digestive issues.
The clerk, who was local, was quite startled at the idea of shipping the honey to the US, but eventually figured out how to do it, while we looked around the store, with many shelves stacked with small bottles of honey.
Next we headed to St. Arnaud, Nelson Lakes National park and Rotoiti Lake.
We had lunch at a restaurant there, unremarkable, except that they were playing Tom Jones music. They seem to love OLD American music here, artists like Dionne Warwick, Elvis Presley, Patsy Kline, etc. I have heard songs here that I haven’t heard in years!
On the lake, we saw the iconic pier jutting out into the lake, with the mountains in the background. I saw a black bird with a bright red beak that looked like a swan. When I looked it up later, it turned out that it WAS a black swan, native to Australia and New Zealand. We got a little break in the rain to get out and walk around.
As we travel around, we seem to meet a lot of young people working in cafés and restaurants who are from Europe and are traveling around New Zealand. It turns out there is a holiday/ work visa offered to young people 18-30 that allows them to do just that; travel around New Zealand and work for up to a year.
We returned to our apartment that looks out onto the water to see the sunset. We didn’t want to make a big fuss over dinner, so Bob and I went across the street to the fish and chips place. We picked out our fish in the case from amongst many varieties and the proprietor battered and fried it right before our eyes!
Day 13 11/10 We departed Nelson with a small disappointment: we had planned to take a train called the TranzAlpine, which runs through the New Zealand “alpines”, but due to bad weather (a bridge being flooded out) the train was cancelled. So instead, we kept our car and took the coastal highway. It was a very lovely ride, mostly along the Pacific. We stopped at a look out point along the highway and looked out into the water where there were some flatish rocks and to our delight, we saw many, many seals. I never thought I would see a seal in the wild! We continued on and decided to take a little detour to a town out on the point of the Kaikoura peninsula, which we were going by. There, there were also some flat-like rocks, able to be walked on, leading out to the ocean and there was one seal on them. Lots of people were gathered around and we were able to get within about 5 feet of seal. Again, a big thrill!
Although New Zealand doesn’t have many native foods, they have a type of ice cream called hokey pokey, which has bits of crystallized honey in it. I finally got to try it in kaikoura. We headed in to our next destination, Christchurch and found our apartment. We went through cultural shock when we found that for the first time, we were not overlooking the ocean!We took an Über to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Somewhat like New Orleans, Christchurch is known for its major disaster- a series of earthquakes from 2010-2012. I began my search for someone who had lived here during the earthquake. The first Über driver was Filipino and had come here AFTER the earthquake because of all the construction work. The second driver was Indian and had come here AFTER the earthquake to go to school.
Day 14 11/11
A little about Christchurch:
The Avon River flows through the centre of the city, with an urban park located along its banks. At the request of the Deans brothers, whose farm was the earliest settlement in the area—the river was named after the River Avon in Scotland, which rises in the Ayrshire hills near to where their grandfather’s farm was located.
Christchurch became a city by on 31 July 1856, making it officially the oldest established city in New Zealand. They named the city after Christchurch, Oxford. The new settlement was laid out in a grid pattern centered on Cathedral Square.
Evidently up until 2011 it was a traditional city with many buildings dating from the 19th century.
The city suffered a series of earthquakes between September 2010 and early 2012, with the most destructive of them occurring at 12:51 pm on Tuesday, February 22, 2011, in which 185 people were killed and thousands of buildings across the city collapsed or suffered severe damage. By late 2013, 1,500 buildings in the city had been demolished, leading to an ongoing recovery and rebuilding project.
Today, Christchurch revolves around the results of the earthquake. Many people left Christchurch as a result of the earthquake, going to the suburbs or to other parts of New Zealand, never to return. Others came to be part of the economy based on demolition and construction. They came from many parts of the world, one of the primary being the Philippines. Around that built a new economy and young people came from other parts to work in the businesses that serve the construction economy.
The new Center City is a combination of still vacant lots, street art which arose as results of encouraging people to create murals on buildings rather than engaging in graffiti, massive construction projects some of which blatantly display the earthquake proof reinforcements, sometimes doing it in an artistic or architecturally pleasing way. However, there is no continuity to the rebuilding; each building seems to be different from the next and there is a kind of a mishmash feeling to the downtown.
The area along the Avon River is pristine. The river is winding, shallow, slow moving and clear, with stones on the bottom. There are massive parks and a botanical garden on the banks, so you see walking paths, grassy clearings, trees, flowering shrubs and flowers on the banks.
We started our day taking the bus up to the gondola. On the bus, I continued my search. I sat behind a young lady whose father had come to Christchurch from London to work on the reconstruction. We ascended the mountain to the top where there was a restaurant and of course a gift shop. From there you see beautiful port side as well as lakeside views and there was a viewing deck all around the restaurant. We stayed up there for about two hours and then came back down.
Next, my sister and I got off the bus and walked all along the Avon River, through the Botanical gardens and North Hadley park to “home”. At one place we came across a memorial wall, similar to the Vietnam Memorial, but white, with the names of all those who had died in the earthquake.
We dined at a delicious Greek restaurant. Our waitress had been living in Dubai during the earthquake , but she brought over another waitress who had been through it. This young lady was only about eleven, but she remembered the trauma of everyone in her neighborhood having to leave their homes. The story she told me that made the most impression was of a man who was walking around the neighborhood with papers in his hand where people had signed over their houses to him, probably for a small amount of money.
Cynthia in New Zealand days 15,16
Day 15 11/12 Our last day in Christchurch. We discovered Whole Foods, a coffee shop built on one of the many vacant lots. There were two containers on the lot, one of which was the coffee shop. They seem to find a lot of use for containers here: buildings, putting murals on, blocking sites that are forbidden to enter. They had set up a tent for seating and some benches in the back. It was very pleasant sitting in the sun and drinking our coffee.
In the afternoon, we hopped on a hop on hop off bus and took a tour of the city. We got of the bus at Mona Vale, which is a homestead that the Avon runs through with gardens as beautiful or more beautiful than the botanical garden.
We went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. My favorite (NOT!).
Day 16 11/13
We departed Christchurch by car for the most scenic day yet, although all of New Zealand is so scenic that it is hard to rate one place being superior to another. We went through the cute town of Geraldine, and on to our first stop, Lake Tekapo a long Lake right in the middle of the South Island. It is also the site of the Church of the Good Shepherd. in 1935, was the first church built in the Mackenzie Basin. The church at Lake Tekapo was designed by Christchurch architect R.S.D. Harman, based on sketches by a local artist, Esther Hope. The church is arguably one of the most photographed in New Zealand, and features an altar window that frames views of the lake and mountains.
Next we drove around the Tekapo lake with its purple, pink, yellow and white lupines framed against snow capped mountains to the Astro cafe, upon a hill at the University of Canterbury astronomical observatory. This is also a great place to see stars. The iconic constellation of the Southern Hemisphere is the southern cross, which is also on the New Zealand flag. The views from there were spectacular:
As we continued our drive, we were planning to go to Mount Cook National Park, but it turned out, as we drove along the highway we got multiple views from where we were. At one place in particular, could see Mount Cook and the reflection of the mountain range in the water:
As we left Mount Cook, the scenery continued to be fantastic- the yellow brune, the lupines, the lakes, the rushing rivers, always the mountains in all their iterations- grass covered, pine covered, newly bare from tree harvesting, cragged and rocky, pure dirt with interesting curvatures.
As we came into Queenstown, we couldn’t believe there was no urban blight, no fast food restaurants, car dealers, grocery stores or litter. We are staying in a little apartment overlooking the lake. The owner converted her split level basement to a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment. We walked over and ate at the Hilton pub, which was just down the road.
Cynthia in New Zealand days 17, 18, 19, 20, 21,22
Day 17 11/14
Slow morning. In the afternoon, we went downtown to the 6×6 block downtown and had lunch. It is filled with tourist shops and tourists. The harbor is attractive, but crowded. Queenstown has a center city population of about 20,000 and a total population of 25,000. Its main industry is tourism, with activities like parasailing, hot air balloon rides, zip lines etc. it is also the jumping off point for Fjord National Park and Milford Sound.
In the Afternoon I went on a photography tour with “Dan” and fellow participant Judy from Hong Kong. We went to a place called Glenorchy and nearby a valley called Paradise. Paradise Valley was a lush green valley with small streams running through and herds of cattle and sheep surrounded by snow capped mountains. Dan took us to all of the spots and gave us suggestions on how to get the best shot both composition wise and technically. I learned a lot and had a very enjoyable afternoon.
I returned to the apartment and Daph and Bob had decided on Dominos pizza for dinner so we sat outside at the table overlooking the garden and beyond it the mountains and the lake and ate American pizza!
Day 18 11/15
This is the day we had arranged for a 13 hour tour to Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park, which is about 200 miles away from Queenstown. Sometimes when you are a tourist you have to work hard, ha ha ! The cab came to pick us up at 6:30 AM and we got on the bus and departed at about 7:30 AM. Somehow, we ended up in the front of the bus, which factored into the trip later on.
The drive down to Fiordland National Park was very lovely. Some of it was along the lake with the fields, mountains and herds of sheep and cattle as I have described before. But after two hours we started getting into the mountains and went through some beech tree forests and were in an area with very very tall, steep mountains, of course carved out by glaciers. There were many fast running streams coming down from the mountains with aqua colored water as clear as could be running over large, medium and small stones. We stopped at one stream to take pictures and there was a rather tame New Zealand parrot hanging around. If I looked at it carefully, I could see it was a parrot, but it was quite colorless.
As we got closer and closer to Milford sound, the cliffs around us became steeper and steeper, and of pure rock, with ribbons of streams running down. We went through a 1 km tunnel, and shortly after, we arrived. We briefly saw the peak that you see in pictures of Milford Sound. I snapped a picture, not actually realizing what I was taking a picture of!
They hustled us onto the boat which passed out of the sound and a short way into the Tasmin Sea. The big thrill for me, was seeing penguins- two small ones on the rock.
Between my inability to see things that people point to, the crowd of people looking, and the water spraying, it was difficult to take pictures. There was a magnificent waterfall coming back, narrow and long. When we arrived back, they hustled us to the bathroom area and onto the bus.
Shortly after we departed, there was a woman who was seasick/carsick. The bus driver (who was unremarkable in his ability to do commentary) moved her to the front of the bus in the seat next to me, which didn’t help. My sister and brother-in-law got a big chuckle out of my using an orange peel to muffle the smell.
We arrived back in Queenstown and went to a burger place, the Red Devil, all the rage in Queenstown.
Day 19 11/16
A rainy day, and our last day in Queenstown. We enjoyed the beautiful views from our apartment in the morning, then headed downtown in the afternoon. We walked around and shopped a little, went into two galleries of mostly original art. In other places, I have bought original art from street artists, but there was no opportunity here. We had lunch at a restaurant with nice atmosphere and headed home.
A little about Queenstown:
Queenstown is a resort town in Otago in the south-west of New Zealand’s South Island. It has an urban population of 15,850.
The town is built around an inlet called Queenstown Bay on Lake Wakatipu a long, thin Z-shaped lake, and has views of nearby mountains such as the Remarkables, which we could see from our apartment.
Queenstown is known for its tourism, especially adventure and ski tourism. Young people are nuts for Queenstown and they overrun the town. There are more of them than the residents. Everywhere, you see signs for parasailing, hot air ballooning, bungee jumping, zip lining, etc.
Queenstown hosted an international marathon on 11/17, so the town was more packed than ever. We managed to go to a pub nearby, which was undiscovered by tourists and we got to see a little of the life of working New Zealanders. The bar was 95% men, construction worker, since in Queenstown, as in Auckland and Christchurch, construction is going on at a feverish pitch. They were sitting outside in the rain and there was an open fireplace. We saw pitchers and pitchers of beer going out there, as well as plates heaped high with mixed grill. Everyone seemed to be having a good ole time!
Day 20 11/17
We got up fairly early and went to the airport. It was a five minute drive, but because of the marathon, which was running right past the airport, we left super early. We made the 1.5 hour flight to Auckland and were met at the airport by our “Fun Farm stay ” host, Ross. I had done a quick check on trip advisor and had run across a heading entitled “Travelers beware, this is the most horrible place you could choose “, another one in Japanese with one star and someone else who advised travelers to adjust their expectations.
When I got in the car, the cleanliness of the car gave me reason for concern, but driving up the driveway, the place looked lovely- animals in the field, a plethora of gorgeous flowers, a swimming pool. Once we got to the house, we were basically integrated into this family’s life. We were shown to our rooms, which were years old-lumpy mattress, old threadbare towels, smelly, with mold on the ceiling. We were ushered in to the dining room for the same lunch of corn fritters described in the review. The water glasses had little black specks in them and the water pitcher had suds on the top.
The family consisted of Ross and Lyndy and Arthur, their Maori helper of 45 years, who lived in a small shack on the property, but came up to the house quite often.
Lyndy snapped at Ross quite often and seemed to alternate between being angry and being friendly.
Almost immediately after we arrived, their daughter and her three children arrived to go for a swim. The children stayed a couple of hours and then changed back into their clothes in “our” bathroom throwing various things onto the floor. We began to plan our escape route.
There was a family from Singapore also staying there and we all sat down to dinner together to a meal of roast chicken, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. The vegetables were all home grown. The food was excellent and we enjoyed talking with the Singapore family, consisting of husband, Richard and wife, Bernice, both flight attendants for Singapore Air and their children, 11 and 14, who were seen and not heard.
After dinner, Ross turned on the TV and we watched a couple of mindless shows. Despite the level of various noises, including a barking dog, we managed to sleep.
In the morning, while Ross was watching the “All Blacks” rugby game, and motivated by her intense dislike of dirt, my sister worked up the nerve to ask him to take us to the Sheraton Hotel, where we had a reservation for the night.
Ross acquiesced. We thanked Lyndy for her hospitality, said good bye to Arthur and chatted with Ross as we took the 30 minute ride into Auckland. We paid him what we had agreed upon, and said goodbye to our fun farm stay. Sometimes experiences which have an unpleasant part are the most memorable and I think we will not soon forget this one!
Day 21 11/18
We found ourselves unexpectedly in the place where we had started out. I wanted to go back to the Ponsonby neighborhood to shop, so we walked there. We walked around and had lunch at a little cafe where we had an American waiter from Eugene, Oregon. Later on I had a chance to chat with him. He spent a year in Australia working and traveling around. Now he is doing the same in New Zealand and plans to go to Bali next. There is no tipping in New Zealand so I was curious about how they paid their employees. He told me that he was very well-paid, making $23 per hour on this job and he said he had another job where he made even more. His housing was nearby, in fact he pointed to it and he pays $400 per week for a small place.
We returned to the hotel which is just newly built in fact it is not even finished, but is very nice and had dinner at the hotel restaurant. I decided I should have land one more time before I left New Zealand and so I did.
Day 22 11/19
This was literally the longest day of my life. I left the hotel at 5 am New Zealand time and arrived at 411 N Humphrey at 9 pm Chicago time, 35 hours later, but still 11/19.
5 am- 8:50 am getting to the Auckland Airport and waiting for the plane.
8:50 am – 11:20 am (Melbourne time) flying to Melbourne. The plane was late due to a gate problem and my next plane was boarding at 11:15 am, so I had to race off the plane to international transfers, where the door was locked and I had to wait 15 minutes for someone to come open it. Then I went through security which took time, and was lucky that the next plane was late, so I made it. After we took off, I realized that I had just spent 40 minutes in Australia!
12 pm- 7:30 am (Vancouver) crossing the Pacific and landing in Vancouver. I slept from 11 pm-8 am Chicago time, so that was really good.
7:30 am- 2 pm layover in The Vancouver Airport. I was “entering” the United States here. They didn’t give me a boarding pass from Vancouver to Chicago, nor a proper bag tag in New Zealand so that was a problem and I was seated 3 times for one thing or another. My heart was pounding- imagine how an immigrant would feel!
2 pm (Vancouver time) – 8 pm (Chicago time) Flight from Vancouver- Chicago.
9 pm Home!!!