New Zealand : South Island Part II

Onto Wanaka and Queenstown

This is the second blog of our trip to South Island of New Zealand.

First stop - Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowhole. We timed our arrival for high tide so we could experience the blowhole at its finest, as recommended in the tour guide. But no luck that day, guess it just wasn't in the mood.

As we drove, we saw cows (and sheep) everywhere. I kept seeing pairs of cows walking in perfect lines across a meadow, much like you'd expect  watching the boarding of Noah's Ark or a college marching band.

So when I saw yet another herd of cows walking two-by-two in a perfect line, I had to take a photo. A local farmer saw what I was doing and approached me. I thought I was in trouble. Not at all - she offered us a tour her dairy farm!

How cool was that?

During the tour she revealed the secret of the synchronized cows - they're walking between two electric fences. Ouch.

When we stopped to see the cows, we were on our way to Hokitika Gorge. The tour book said it was awesome, but it'd been raining and raining so we weren't sure it it would be worth another 2 hours out of our way. We gambled and went for it and were we ever rewarded!

Stunning Hokitika Gorge. Water color is from silt, or glacier flour, generated by glacier erosion.

We left Hokitika Gorge and continued south towards Wanaka, stopping at one of the South Island's "must see" spots, Mirror Lake. It's a quick and easy 30 minute loop from the parking lot.

Along the trail to Mirror Lake


Wanaka - Ya wanna go to Wanaka

Loved this quiet little town on the shores of Lake Wanaka!

The iconic Lone Tree of Lake Wanaka #thatwankatree

 Bradrona - along the fence of a Wanaka distillery to promote donations for breast cancer research.

Bradrona - along the fence of a Wanaka distillery to promote donations for breast cancer research.

 Horseback riding on the hills above Wanaka

Horseback riding on the hills above Wanaka


One of the highlights of our stay was a wild boat ride across Lake Wanaka to the island of Mou Waho, then  hiked up to Arethusa Pool.  The Pool has tiny islands in it so it's islands in a pool, on an island in a lake, on an island that's a country.  Crazy, yes?

 Island in a Pool on an Island in a Lake on an Island that's a country. Whew!

Island in a Pool on an Island in a Lake on an Island that's a country. Whew!

Beautiful Queenstown

Queenstown is stunning as it's nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu at the base of the Remarkables mountain range. I had imagined a big city, but it's really a charming village with only 30,000 residents.

A small town it may be, but it is a major center for sports and people travel from all over the world seeking adventure.  Depending upon the time of year, you can ski at one of four major ski resorts, go tramping, bungee jump (NZ was where the bungee jump originated), skydive, luge, or take a crazy jet boat ride (also originating from NZ) down the narrow Shotover River.

NZ, and particularly Queenstown, is all about the outdoors.

Tramping the Routeburn Trail

As I said, NZ is THE place to go if you love hiking.  NZ has eight extended hikes, referred to as "tramps" or "The Great Walks," We're not really hikers and certainly not trampers, so we walked a bit of two different Great Walks during our trip just to get a sense of them. The scenery was absolutely stunning and it was easy to see why the South Island was chosen for movies such as Lord of the Rings, King Kong, The Piano, The Hobbit, and The Last Samurai.

Below are a few photos from our hike along the Routeburn Trail outside Queenstown.

Visiting the Walter Peak Sheep Station

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Riding the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw across Lake Wakatipu to the station

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View across the lake

Luging above Queenstown- What a kick!

 The Luge track. You got to ride five times.

The Luge track. You got to ride five times.

Call Us Crazy - Another Night Shooting the Milky Way

Shooting the Milky Way earlier this trip was such a spectacular experience (shattering the LCD of my camera aside...) I watched the weather hoping for another clear night.  Last day of the trip I finally got one.

Steve and I headed up the narrow two lane road to Coronet Peak, a local ski area outside of Queenstown. At the top of the hill we turned onto what we thought was a pull out. Wham! The car dropped about two feet. A bit dazed, I climbed out and found the car hanging off the road. Right side running board was wedged into the asphalt, left side rear tire was spinning in the air at about 18" off the road.

If Steve gunned the car, would the one tire in contact with the road provide enough traction? And if it did, could he manage not to go over the cliff that was the far edge of the "pull out?"It was a gamble, but thankfully, the answer to both was YES! Nicely done, Steve!

Once all four tires were back on firm ground, I climbed out and started shooting. What else would you do?

Was it worth it? You decide!

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Day trip to Millford Sound

Millford Sound is a huge area of fjords west of Queenstown and another of the "must sees" of NZ.  We took a very long 5-hour bus ride each way to see it. You can get there in under half an hour if you're willing to spend the bucks on a helicopter ride.

Once in the Sound, we took a one hour cruise up one of the fjords.

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Heading out to Milford Sound

The bus happened to stop along side a stream and the bus driver told us to refill our water bottles.  No way!   Yes, way.  You can drink the water straight from the streams. Really.

In closing, this quote was painted on the wall of a local restaurant.  Pretty much captures our travel philosophy and especially the trip to Coronet Peak!

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So long New Zealand...you were lovely.