Archive for the ‘Dan & Lisa TravelJournal’ Category

Wellington New Zealand

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Four and a half hours after leaving Rotorua we finally arrived in Wellington.

Once we arrived in Wellington we didn’t have a clue where to find our hotel so we stopped at a local gas station to get some directions. Both girls that I asked in the gas station seemed a little hesitant and didn’t really know of the street I was looking for, so I was pretty much on my own. I hopped back in the car and started to drive in the general direction in which I thought it was but we ended up on the highway leading out of town. Once again, I pulled into another gas station in town and got some directions from a guy this time. He knew what I was talking about and gave me some clear directions to the hotel. It ended up being about 3 or 4 streets from the original gas station that I stopped at, so I’m not sure what those girls were on.

Driving along the highway into Wellington

Driving along the highway into Wellington

After checking into our hotel, which was kind of a run down place, I was anxious to book our hotel for the next day, so I brought my laptop down to the bar area and connected via a wireless hot spot. After messing around for an hour or two I finally got fed up and decided to do things the old fashioned way, I got a list of hotels and motels in Blenheim and started dialing them on the phone. Two or three phone calls later I had our motel room booked in the town of Blenheim for the next day. Lisa and I were exhausted at this point and went straight to bed.

Day 5

We awoke around 6:00 A.M. to catch the InterIslander Ferry crossing at 8:30, taking us from the north island down to the south island. It was a 5 minute drive from our hotel and thankfully we didn’t get lost again. We arrived a little after 7:00 and had to wait until 7:30 before boarding the ferry.


Interislander Ferry New Zealand

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Driving onto the ferry was a pretty neat experience. I thought everyone would just park on the first deck but we had to drive up a ramp and park on the second floor of the ferry, were most of the small compact cars went, as the bigger trucks and trailers parked on the first deck.

Lisa and I made our way to the cafeteria on board the ferry and grabbed some seats overlooking the front of the ship. I grabbed some breakfast for the both of us at a pain staking $16 and watched as the big ferry exited the port of Wellington. After we had reached the open waters Lisa started to get tired and I needed to find a power supply so that I could plug in my laptop and keep on working. Lisa and I found a little corner near the back of the ship in the bar section were she could lay down and I could plug in and continue working.

The ride across lasted about three and a half hours, we didn’t get to see all that much as Lisa was lying down and I was working, but we did manage to make it to the viewing deck as we entered into the town of Picton on the south island.

Driving up to the Interislander Ferry

Driving up to the Interislander Ferry

Before docking in Picton everyone on board driving a vehicle had to get back into their vehicle and prepare to debark once the ship doors were opened, so Lisa and I headed back to our vehicle. Once inside the vehicle a member of the ships crew told us that we were parked on a ramp and to not worry about the few little bangs we would feel and hear as the hinges were pulled and we lowered into position. It was a pretty neat experience as we were in the car the entire time.

Thankfully we were one of the first cars off the ship and were soon on our way to the small city of Blenheim which was only a few minutes drive from the town of Picton.


Blenheim New Zealand

Friday, November 27th, 2009

We arrived in Blenheim around 12:30 pm and checked into the Knightsbridge Court Motor Lodge. For a motel I had just booked the other night, it was pretty impressive. The motel room we had was very spacious, included a full kitchen and was very clean. Once settled in Lisa and I quickly connected to the internet, checked our email and then were soon off once again to visit some of the wineries in the area to do some wine tasting. Fortunately the wineries were located within close proximity of each other.

The first winery we visited was called Cloudy Bay, which was one of the more well known vineyards in the area. The vineyard is located just outside the small city of Blenheim, ideally situated near the bottom of a mountain.. Entering the building in which the wine tasting occurs, Lisa and I came to the quick realization that New Zealand’s claim to fame in the wine industry is it’s sauvignon blanc. I’m not much of a white wine drinker but I tried some of the wine and wasn’t very impressed and neither was Lisa. We left that winery pretty quickly but not before the nice host led me to the back room so I could take some photos of all the wine barrels.

Cloudy Bay Winery

Cloudy Bay Winery

Our next vineyard on the map was Allan Scott and was located just across the road from Cloudy Bay. This vineyard offered more red wines then Cloudy Bay so we decided to test some of the regions reds. Lisa and I especially enjoyed the Pinot Noir, which is hard bottle of wine to find by in Canada. Lisa and I picked up a few bottles at this vineyard and continued down the road onto our next stop on the map.

Mud House was our next stop. This was a unique stop as they didn’t just have wine but a whole little market setup for tourists to pick up other unique products such as flavoured olive oil and ice creams. I went in for the wine tasting and Lisa wandered around as she was starting to feel the effects of the wine from the previous two wineries. I had a few samples of their pinot noir and picked up a bottle to take back home. Lisa and I wandered around a few of the other shops and bought some flavoured olive oils and other alcohols to take back home with us to Canada.

Standing beside the grape vines (Cloudy Bay Vineyard)

Standing beside the grape vines (Cloudy Bay Vineyard)

While I was wine tasting, Lisa had spotted a black swan in a pond near by and so we headed down by the water and took a few pictures before leaving. By this time, I had had enough wine tasting. Too many different flavours made my stomach a little upset and both Lisa and I were a little tired. After passing by so many wineries on the way back we decided to visit just one more before calling it quits.

The last winery on the list was Hunters, which was my least favourite out of the bunch. We walked into the building were the wine tasting took place; Lisa looked around because she was out of commission and I went straight for the wine tasting booth. The hostess wasn’t all that pleasant and wasn’t very patient. There were only three other people sampling the wine at the time and I just got a bad vibe from her. I quickly downed a few of the samples and then Lisa and I were out of there.

Black Swan at Mud House Market

Black Swan at Mud House Market

We returned to our motel room and Lisa was craving some American style pizza. So we ordered from the local Pizza Hut. They didn’t have a “deluxe” pizza flavour as we do back home so we just created our own pizza. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing, I worked and Lisa watched a movie. At one point we decided to go swimming in the pool at the motel but that came to a quick stop once we dipped our feet in to test the water. We quickly retreated back to our motel room.

Day 6

The next morning Lisa and I got to sleep-in, well kind of. We awoke before the alarm which was set for 10:00 am and packed our stuff and began our long drive down to Timaru. As I was checking us out of our motel room the owner pointed out a great location on the map to stop and view some new born seal pups.

A few minutes outside of Blenheim we passed by the Montana winery. We weren’t originally going to stop but decided to at the very last moment as this is the only winery in the South Island of New Zealand that offers a tour of their wine making facilities.

Hugging one of the huge wine caskets at the Montana Winery

Hugging one of the huge wine caskets at the Montana Winery

The Montana winery was awesome. It was the best winery we visited, not only because of the wine, but because you appreciate the wine much more once you have seen the process that goes into making the wine. It was a great tour, Lisa and I and another Canadian couple were the only ones on the tour. At one point during the tour we were able to stick our fingers into a stream of grape juice as the grapes were going through the squeezing process and then got to lick our fingers. The tour guide later said that she had never even done that herself. The guide then led us into a few more buildings giving us details on the different stages and machines the wine must pass through before it is put into the bottle and onto the store shelves. We finished off the tour with a little wine sampling. The wines were pre selected but they were the best the winery had to offer. During our wine sampling the guide was giving us full glasses of wine to taste; I’m not sure if it was because we were such a small group but none of the other wineries the day before were that generous. Needless to say, I had to start taking a few sips of each and pouring out the rest as I had a lot of driving left to do and the drinking and driving laws in New Zealand are strict. Lisa and I loved the tour, I think Lisa more so then me if you know what I mean!! I would definitely recommend the Montana winery tour to anyone who will be in the Blenheim area.

Seal cubs playing on the rocks at Ohau Point

Seal cubs playing on the rocks at Ohau Point

Our next stop this day was just a few minutes outside the town of Clarence along the east coast. A little rest stop called Ohau Point Seal Colony was the location the motel owner had pointed out along the way to stop and view the seal pups. Lisa and I stopped and took a few photos and videos of the seal pups playing in the little pools of water created by the rocks below. This was the first time that either of us had seen fur seals and they were quite entreating, well the pups were anyway. The adult fur seals were a little tougher to spot since they are lazy and barely move.

Once we arrived in Kaikoura Lisa and I were pretty hungry since we hadn’t consumed anything except wine all day. We stopped at Pipi’s, a small little restaurant just on the way into town. From the outside it looked like an ordinary small town restaurant but once inside it had a real sea side feel to it. Most of the items on the menu were seafood but Lisa was craving a big hunk of beef. Lisa managed to find a cut of beef on the menu while I opted for some prawns and scallops. There aren’t really all that many flying insects in New Zealand, so most of the places you visit don’t have any screens on their windows or any windows at all, just big open entrances to the outside. Lisa and I got to enjoy our meal inside while still enjoying the fresh air and sun from the outside. This was pretty unique to us as back home in Canada when summer finally shows up, so do the mosquitoes.

Prawns, scallops and steak at Pipi's restaurant in Kaikoura

Prawns, scallops and steak at Pipi's restaurant in Kaikoura

After the early dinner at Pipis, we jumped back in our rental car and continued on our drive down the east coast to the city of Timaru where Lisa’s uncle and his wife Jen lived. Leaving Kaikoura we drove along the jagged coast line for another hour. Lisa and I were in awe at some of the views as we rounded corners on the cliffs which jutted out into the ocean leaving us with wide open spectacular views of the east coast of New Zealand. Once the highway went back inland it twisted and turned through the mountains and finally flattened out for the last hour into Christchurch. On the outskirts of Christchurch Lisa and I stopped at a gas station and fuelled up for the last leg of our journey to the city of Timaru.

From the outskirts of Christchurch to Timaru was more of a familiar drive, straight and flat, which was fine with me as my body was starting to tire of the long days drive.


Timaru New Zealand

Friday, November 27th, 2009

We arrived in Timaru around 6:30 and pulled into a local gas station and called up Lisas uncle and Jen to let them know we had arrived in town.

A few minutes later Lisa’s Uncle Raymond and Jen showed up at the gas station, we quickly did the introduction thing and then hopped back into our vehicle and followed them down to there place where we would be staying the next few days.

That evening we all sat around the dinner table and enjoyed a nice visit and some wine, about Midnight we finally got tired and called it a day!!

Day 7

Jen & Raymond's Food Caravan

Jen & Raymond's Food Caravan

Saturday morning was a busy one, Lisa and I were up around 10 A.M. helping Jen & Raymond prepare the days food for the big rugby game, the Canteburry Crusaders VS’s the South African Sharks. Lisa’s Uncle Raymond & Jen have a food caravan and go to various events around the south island of New Zealand and sell American hot dogs (Hot dog in a bun) and venison burgers (deer meat). I’ve only been to about 5 or 6 other countries in my life, but as far as I know when someone says hot dog, you think of a hot dog in a hot dog bun, but here in New Zealand a hot dog is a hot dog on a stick dipped in batter and then fried. Lisa and I stuck with the Venison burgers which are not all that common back home in Canada.

We arrived at the grounds around 3:30 and started preparing for the big game at 5:30. This was a major event as the Canteburry Crusaders only make one appearance a year in the city, the rest of the year making Christchurch there home town. Rugby is to New Zealand as is hockey is to Canada or Football is to the United States, it’s huge!!

Canteburry Crusader VS Sharks

Canteburry Crusader VS Sharks

10,000 fans showed up to watch the game that night, with a city of only a population of 40,000; that is pretty amazing. Before the beginning of the game the crusader put only a fairly large show. Knights dressed up in medieval uniforms came riding onto the field yielding there swords and pumping up the crowd for the big game.

Lisa and I stood and watched the entire game; it was really interesting even though Lisa and I couldn’t understand most of the strategies being used during the game. The atmosphere was quite similar to those of sporting events at home, there were family’s who came and watched the game and then there were the guys who came to drink. Needless to say we got to see a few guys dressed up in clown suits tossed out of the park grounds.

After the game Lisa and I returned to Raymond and Jen’s food caravan and sat around while the last of the crowd got there food for the ride home.

We helped Jen, Raymond and the kids pack up the food caravan and load up the coolers into the vehicle and drove back home, which was only a few minutes away. That evening we sat around, had some wine and discussed Lisa and I’s plans for the rest of the trip.

Again it was another late night and we didn’t get to bed until midnight.

Day 8

Left to Right - Raymond, Jen, Lisa & Myself

Left to Right - Raymond, Jen, Lisa & Myself

Sunday was our last morning with Jen & Raymond; after getting up and loading our gear back into the rental car, Raymond took us over to there next door neighbors yard to show us all the birds they had. We had heard about these birds all weekend and also heard them chirping away by our window all weekend as we slept. The amount of birds these neighbors had was pretty amazing; there must have been about 100 of them. There yard was setup like a little zoo which had a little walking path that weaved amongst the cages in there yard.

After the bird tour Jen & Raymond showed us around the cities ship port which is one of the largest in New Zealand and brought us over to a little trendy area of the city, which Jen pointed out had just been remodeled by the city over the last couple of years and was previously a shanty part of the city. This also happened to be the location of Jen & Raymond’s favorite restaurant in the city, so we stopped for lunch. The view from the restaurant was beautiful; we ate our meals while we overlooked the city’s beach and gardens. I had a lamb steak which was excellent and Lisa had a pasta dish which she also really enjoyed. After the lunch Jen & Raymond led us to the outskirts of the city were we said our goodbyes and were on our way south to the city of Dunedin.

Baby Wallaby

Baby Wallaby

Our first stop after leaving Timaru was at a wallaby sanctuary just located on the outskirts of the town Waimate. Lisa and I stopped our car in the parking lot just outside an older looking house, as we went in we were greeted by a polight older women who immediately asked us if we had had the chance to hold the baby wallaby yet, Lisa and I replied no and within a few seconds the woman returned with a baby wallaby wrapped in a blue blanket. Lisa held the wallaby first and I second. While taking our turns holding the baby wallaby the women went on explaining the history behind the sanctuary and filled us with a ton of information about the wallabies. After taking the baby wallaby from my hands and placing it in a specially made duffle bag hanging on the wall, the women then led us outside the house and through a gate in the yard which led us to some pens full of wallabies.

The pens were sectioned off into males, females, ones who liked to be petted and others who didn’t. The women gave us a brief tour of a few of the other animals on the farm and then gave us some instructions on how to feed and approach the wallabies and then let us lose into the pens, reminding us to close each gate behind us as we left a pen otherwise the bigger wallabies would gang up on the smaller ones.

Lisa being afraid, I feed the wallaby’s first will she observed. With a hand full of food pellets, I cupped my hand and bent down to the wallaby’s height, he then hopped over and began eating out of my hand. Once I had fed them a few times, Lisa got brave and decided to try it herself.
After about and hour or so and a whole lot of feeding the wallabies Lisa and I exited the farm got back into our car and continued on our way to Dunedin.


Oamaru New Zealand

Friday, November 27th, 2009

The next stop along the way was in the city of Oamaru which is located between Timaru and Dunedin. We stopped here to have a look at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. Although we were told our best chances of seeing a blue penguin were just before dusk, we decided we would take the chance since we were passing through anyhow. On Lisa’s list of things to see and do while in New Zealand, seeing penguins was close to the top!

Graves Track

Graves Track

The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony has a grandstand situated along the ocean for observers to witness the blue penguins come in to shore each evening. They also have a beautiful walk that leads you along the rocky coast line and onto some beaches further along the coast. Lisa and I took the walk, called Graves Track, along the coast in hopes that we might catch a glimpse of one of the penguins even though it was the middle of the day. As we got further along the track we meet up with two young girls who told us that just around the corner were a penguin and three sea lions. Lisa and I speed up our walking speed, and just as we rounded the corner onto the beach we saw a few people gathered around this yellow eyed penguin taking photographs. Lisa and I rushed over and started to take a few photographs of our own. After spending a few minutes in awe looking at this yellow eyed penguin, Lisa and I made our way back down the path and returned to our vehicle. But before leaving the parking lot of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, Lisa had to get her picture taken with the penguin crossing road sign, which I’m sure there are very few of in the world!

After Oamaru Lisa and I didn’t stop until we reached the city of Dunedin.


Dunedin New Zealand

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Upon entering the city of Dunedin we were on top of a very large hill and when we rounded the corner on the highway we got a spectacular view of the city and the Otago peninsula.

Lisa and I hadn’t yet booked a hotel and needed to find one quick if we were to make it out to the Otago peninsula in time to go on the Yellow eyed penguin tour. Lucky for us, the first hotel we pulled into had a room, so Lisa and I quickly brought our stuff into room and then got directions to the Otago peninsula and the yellowed penguin tour.


Otago Peninsula New Zealand

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Lisa and I had no clue what time the penguin tours started and ended, but after about a 45 minute exhausting drive on a very narrow highway that curved sharply back and forth along the coast of the Otago Peninsula we finally arrived at the penguin reserve parking lot. We quickly dashed to the lobby to see if we were too late. Luckily for us the last tour bus was just departing and we managed to get on board.

Highway along the edge of the Otago Peninsula

Highway along the edge of the Otago Peninsula

We took about a 10 minute bus ride on a winding farm road until we came out into an opening on the other side of the peninsula. In the past 20 years, the land owner has setup a penguin reserve and has been restoring the original vegetation in the area and encouraging penguins that once populated the area to come back.

4 buses each carrying about 20 people unloaded in the parking area and each group split off into different directions led by the bus driver. Our group walked up and down through the specially made paths on the hills that surrounded the beach. Lisa and I could see four or five penguins walking up from the beach and a few more scattered amongst the field below as we were walking. The section of the field below us was setup with trenches and was covered with camouflage netting; we could see the other groups walking through the trenches trying to get a better view of the penguins without being seen. We were told the yellow eyed penguin scares very easily and this is the reason for all the trenches and camouflage netting.

Penguin Reserve - Restored Beach

Penguin Reserve - Restored Beach

We followed the guide through the trails and trenches for about an hour getting within two or three feet of some of the penguins for some up close encounters, with the penguin never even knowing we were there. Each trench led to a little look out tower that sat a few feet above the ground, this is where I setup my camera and managed to get a few up close photos of the penguins. Nearing dusk we loaded back onto the buses and returned to the main parking lot. Once back at the parking lot we hoped back in our rental car and headed back down the Otago Peninsula road.

Penguine

Penguine

On our drive back I was watching the gas gauge like an eagle. I didn’t get the chance to fill up with gas in Dunedin before leaving because we were in such a rush, and I didn’t expect the drive out to the location of the penguin tour to take so long. I knew that the road back required a lot of breaking and accelerating and I couldn’t recall if I had seen any gas stations on our way to the penguin tour. Lisa finally noticed me being a little paranoid and she started to become a little worried. Needless to say I managed to drive almost the entire way back without touching my breaks; it was actually kind of fun once I knew we were going to make it back. Lisa and I stopped at the first gas station we found in Dunedin, fuelled up the car, grabbed some snacks and headed back to our hotel for the night.


South Scenic Route New Zealand

Friday, November 27th, 2009

The next morning I awoke around 8:30 am and hopped in the shower while Lisa lay in bed. I needed to wake up early so that I could write some more in my journal about our previous night in New Zealand and I also had to wash a load of laundry before we checked out at 10:00.

By 10:30 we were on the highway out of Dunedin. Lisa and I had decided the night before that we would take the southern scenic route through the south end of the island instead of just driving straight across inland to Manapouri, which was to be our next hotel stop on the trip.

Our first stop of the day took us to Nugget Point which is located just a little past Kaka Point. Nugget Point was a little way off the main scenic route but was definitely worth the detour. Driving to the point took us onto a gravel road for about 16 kilometres, and then we reached a gate at which point the road narrowed and zigzagged up the side of a hill for a few more kilometres. We stopped at the first parking lot that we came to because we thought we had reached the top, but as we were stopped we saw a few cars coming down another part of the hill so we decided to continue going up. The road at this point narrowed even further and we began driving alongside a very steep cliff; any slip off the road at this point and we were finished. Being on the left hand side of the rental car, Lisa had the best view and she was very diligent about reminding me what kind of view it was. As we were driving up the hill we came to a small bay were a sign indicated that all buses must stop here as the road ahead narrowed so much that it was unsafe to go any further. Lisa and I traveled past the bay for about another kilometre up the hill before we came to a final car park located almost at the very top of the hill. Thankfully we didn’t have to pass any cars on this last section of the road as it might have been a little scary for Lisa. I forgot to mention that this was a foggy day and by the time we were near the top of the hill we were driving in the clouds which made for really poor visibility. But once in the parking lot Lisa and I were amazed at the site in view. The parking lot was literally at the edge of a cliff that stood a couple hundred feet above the ocean and went straight down into sharp rocks that were getting pounded by the waves.

Nugget Point

Nugget Point

Off to the side of the parking lot was a trail, so Lisa and I threw on our rain gear and made our way down the path. I was a little worried, as was Lisa, because the path was not enclosed in anyway and any slip off the path, which was no more then 3 or 4 feet across, and our days were numbered. The drop along the path must have been 4 or 5 hundred feet, perhaps even higher, to the rocky shore below. With very little effort and after about a fifteen minute walk we made it to the end of the trail and were rewarded with a great view from the old lighthouse which sat on a part of the cliff that jutted out from the hillside. Even though it was a drizzling day with a ton of fog all around us, the view was amazing. I could only imagine what it would be like on a sunny day; it must be an incredible view.

We stood up on the point for about 20 minutes taking in the scenery and listening to the birds and seals in the water below and the sound of the waves crashing into the gigantic rock formations (the nuggets).

After a short rest and some great scenery Lisa and I made our way back down the path and back to the car. We decided to stop at the other trail that we passed on the way up and see what it had to offer.

The other trail, which thankfully didn’t have any eye popping cliffs to fall off of, was a little more relaxed and led us down to a beach were yellow eyed penguins could be viewed. Well I thought it led us to the beach, but it ended up leading us to a little look out tower that sat 50 to 100 feet away from the beach. It was still a great view and would made for some excellent yellow eyed penguin watching and photographs if there had been any yellow eyed penguins. Unfortunately we weren’t as lucky as the previous day and didn’t see any penguins, but the vegetation around the beach and the beautiful ocean view were still worth the walk.

At this point Lisa and I had been out in the drizzling rain for around 45 minutes and were starting to feel the effects, so we rushed back up the path and back to our car were we could dry off and warm up.

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls, one of the most photographed falls in New Zealand, was our next stop. After taking another small ten minute detour off the southern scenic route we came to the car park which was right near the entrance to the Purakaunui falls walking trail. Lisa and I threw on rain gear once again and headed into what looked like the south island jungle, but is actually referred to as a beech forest, in search of the Purakaunui falls. It didn’t take more then a 10 minute walk down the trail and we were at the falls. What a spectacular view!! Lisa and I stood and took photographs for a few minutes, having the whole place to ourselves for 5 or 10 minutes. Once a few other tourists showed up we made our way back up the trail and back to the car.

Lisa and I had planned to make a few other stops around the area to see some more waterfalls, but Lisa didn’t bring much rain gear and after viewing the falls the rain started falling pretty heavily, so we just decided to carry on and see if the sky would clear up for us along the way.

Clifden Suspension Bridge

Clifden Suspension Bridge

After a few hours of driving and no hope of sunlight, Lisa and I made a meal stop in Invercargill for a few sub sandwiches at the local Subway. We ate our sandwiches inside the restaurant giving us a few minutes break from the driving. I always like checking out the different items on the menus at restaurant chains in different countries to see if there are any items we don’t have back in North America. The Subway menu was pretty much the same as back home in Winnipeg except they had one sub which featured lamb meat. We ended up ordering our favourite turkey breast and ham sub anyhow.

As we continued our way to Manapouri along the southern scenic route, Lisa and I made a few stops along the way at whatever caught our attention. The first was an old suspension bridge just outside the town of Clifden. It was still raining at this point so we just got out of the car for a few minutes and took a couple pictures of the bridge. It looked like a really great resting point where we could have had a picnic and enjoyed the scenery.

Our next stop along the way was a look out point which was located a few short feet from the main highway. I pulled over because I could see a partial view from the car and thought it would be an even greater view from the lookout point. Lisa stayed in the car while I ran in the rain to the lookout point and for a few short minutes took in the breathtaking view. What I saw was beautiful cliffs and the big blue ocean with huge white waves crashing onto the never ending beach. It was spectacular and would have probably been even better on a sunny day but oh well, you can’t win them all!!


Lake Manapouri New Zealand

Friday, November 27th, 2009

It was around 6:30 pm as Lisa and I pulled into the town of Manapouri and found our motel; we checked in at the front desk, got our keys and hauled our stuff into the room. We both jumped on the bed and laid there for a few moments to relax and unwind from the days drive. I mean, I had to unwind from the days drive since Lisa had the luxury of having her feet up on the dash taking short little cat naps and enjoying the view.

Lisa and I headed over to the town of Te Anau, which was about a twenty minute drive north, and got some snacks for our lunch on the Doubtful Sound cruise the following day. We then drove back to our motel room in Manapouri and called it a night.

Day 10

Real Journeys Doubtful Sound Cruise Docks

Real Journeys Doubtful Sound Cruise Docks

Lisa and I awoke around 6:30 am to a clear blue sky the morning of the Doubtful Sound cruise, just what we needed for a beautiful day on the water. We packed our lunch and backpack for the day and headed to the motel’s main building for breakfast before the tour bus was to arrive.

Lisa and I were sitting at a table eating our toast when the tour bus from Real Journeys pulled up in front of our motel. Lisa and I quickly ran out and hopped on the bus. I was expecting a 20 minute bus ride when I hopped on, but three minutes later we pulled up to the docks where our Real Journeys Doubtful Sound cruise was to begin.

We headed inside the Real Journeys building and got our boarding passes. Then we boarded a small ferry along with 30 other people and headed out onto Lake Manapouri for an hour long ride across the lake. The ferry was setup for viewing and had a top deck for some great picture taking.

Lake Manopouri

Lake Manopouri

Once we arrived on the other side of Lake Manapouri we debarked the cruise ship and headed into the West Arms Meeting building. Inside the building we took a little brake and were warned that this would be the last chance to use the washrooms for quite a while, so almost everyone immediately headed straight to the washrooms. We still had some time to kill before the bus was ready, so we both read the information about Doubtful Sound that was on display within the Meeting building. After a half hour break or so we were signalled to exit the building and board the tour bus which was parked outside.

Once on board the bus our driver explained that our first stop of the day was the Manapouri Underground Power Station.

After about fifteen minutes on the bus, we drove down a two kilometre underground tunnel into the working guts of the Manapouri Underground Power Station. On the bus ride down the shaft the bus drove on the right hand side of the road so that the bus driver could see how close he was to the wall if we had to pass any vehicles in the shaft on the way down. The bus ride down probably took fifteem minutes. It was a pretty neat experience.

Once at the bottom of the tunnel, we were offloaded and gathered on to the deck overlooking the machine hall. From the deck we could see the seven huge generators that provide electricity to the aluminium smelter near Bluff. On the walls were pictures and stories of the construction of the power station and also the specs on it. We visited the generator room for about 30 minutes and then were shuffled back onto the bus. Lisa didn’t care for being underground and couldn’t wait to get back to the surface but I was very impressed with the power station and really enjoyed the tour.

Once we were back on the bus, the driver discovered that he couldn’t start the bus so he called for a maintenance worker to come and take a look at the bus. We sat on the tour bus for about 20 minutes while some mechanics worked on the bus. Not long after they arrived the bus rumbled back to life and we were on our way out of the tunnel.

Overlooking the Doubtful Sound

Overlooking the Doubtful Sound

The bus ride over to the Doubtful Sound took us on a narrow gravel road which climbed up the mountain side and descended on the other into the Doubtful Sound. While on our way, the bus driver pulled over a few times for same great photo ops of the surrounding area. We stopped at Wilmot Pass which has a breathtaking view overlooking the Doubtful Sound. I couldn’t help but put myself back in time and tried to imagine what it felt like the first time someone stood at that very point and looked down upon the sound below. It truly was an awe inspiring view!!

After the few stops, our last being at the top of the mountain overlooking the Doubtful Sound, we made our way down the steep mountain side road and came into a small bay where a fairly large ship was anchored to a dock. Two other buses had already arrived and were boarding the large cruise ship that would take us on a three hour tour of the Doubtful Sound.

Once on board Lisa and I made ourselves comfy on the bottom deck, seeing as everyone else had previously boarded and had taken the two upper decks. It didn’t really matter once we got going, the views were spectacular no matter where you were seated on the boat.

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound

Not very long into our cruise the boat stopped and the captain announced on the speaker system that we had some penguins swimming in the waters just off to the side of the boat. The boat couldn’t get very close as the penguins kept diving and popping up further away from the boat. We continued on our way through the Doubtful Sound, every now and then the speaker would come on and the host on the ship would start to talk and describe different features and islands as we cruised by. Lisa found the air outside to be quite cold so we stayed inside the ships seating area most of the time. But once in a while I would pop out onto the deck of the ship and take a few photos of any mountains or waterfalls that caught my eye.

As we approached the end of the Doubtful Sound and neared closer to the Tasman Sea, we came upon a rock which was a hot spot for fur seals. The ship pulled fairly close to the rock island and Lisa and I headed out onto the deck of the boast and took some photos and watched the fur seals play in the water surrounding the island. There were so many of them on the rock that you could barely see any of the rock underneath. I just looked like a big pile of fur seals. Once everyone had filled their cameras and video cameras with video and pictures the ship circled and headed back into the Doubtful Sound.

Seal Colony in the Doubtful Sound

Seal Colony in the Doubtful Sound

Just a few minutes after viewing the fur seals the ship happened upon two yellow eyed penguins just sitting on an island. Once again the ship pulled in close and Lisa and I fought the crowd on the deck of the ship to get a few good photos of the penguins. Actually it wasn’t all that bad; everyone was really polite and moved out of the way once they had taken a few photos. I managed to get a few photos, but the zoom on my camera wasn’t strong enough and I really couldn’t get a nice close-up picture of the penguins. Oh well, I’ll know better for next time.

As we continued on the cruise for some time we came to a calm bay within the Doubtful Sound. Once in the bay the crew asked us all to stand still as they shut off the engines and asked everyone to refrain from making any sound for just a few moments. In those few minutes all you could hear were the birds chirping and the water sloshing softly against the coast line. Once again I was taken back in time and tried to picture what it would have been like if I had discovered this place three or four hundred years ago. I pictured myself swimming across the bay in complete isolation listening to the birds and the sounds of nature looking up every once in a while between a stroke to see the towering green mountain tops rising up out of the water and touching the clouds above. Oh what a feeling that would have been!!

After three hours of cruising the Doubtful Sound we were taken back to the dock were we had started, once again loaded back onto the same buses we arrived in. Lisa and I made sure we got our same seats, that way we could see all the views we missed on that side of the bus when we came in to the Doubtful Sound.

Our bus ride back to the meeting building was a lot quicker then our ride over; we made only one stop as we went back over the mountain and down to the waters edge of Lake Manapouri. Once again we boarded the smaller ferry and cruised back across Lake Manapouri back to the docks where we began our journey. Lisa and I were so tired that on the ride back across Lake Manapouri, we just fell asleep.

Once back at our motel room in Manapouri, Lisa and I quickly got our stuff together and headed to the town of Te Anau for some supper and a movie.

Lamb Shanks at "The Ranch"

Lamb Shanks at "The Ranch"

In Te Anau, Lisa and I found a nice restaurant called “The Ranch”. I had the lamb shank and Lisa had a ribeye steak, needless to say it was one of the best meals on our trip.

Once we were finished eating supper we headed over to the Fiordland Cinema, which was across the street, to watch a short movie on the Fiordlands called Ata Whenua – Shadowland, which plays several times a day.

The theatre was great, we could order alcohol in the lobby and bring it into the show with us, but Lisa and I opted out. What was even more impressive were the seats once we got inside the theatre. They were huge & comfortable!! I wish all movie theatres had seating like this one.

Before the movie began, one of the employees came in and told us the story behind the theatre and the film we were about to watch. We found out that the theatre was actually built specifically to display the film we were about to watch which made it even more interesting, and that the man who built the theatre was a local who flew helicopters in the area and teamed up with someone from the movie Lord of the Rings when the movie was being filmed in the area.

The movie wasn’t as great as I had hoped it would be but was still good. By the end of the movie Lisa and I had had enough for the day and headed back to our motel room in Manapouri and called it a night.

Day 11

Lisa and I awoke to another rainy day in Manapouri, which isn’t all that unusual, since it rains in this region of New Zealand three quarters of the year. We got up early so that we could get a good start to the day and make a few stops on our way up to Queenstown and hopefully still have some time to look around once we arrived. Queenstown is one of the biggest tourist attractions in New Zealand, spouting more adrenaline pumping activities then fingers on your hands, so we wanted to spend as much time there as possible.


Queenstown New Zealand

Friday, November 27th, 2009

We left our hotel in Manapouri a little after 9:00 am and began our two hour drive to Queenstown. We didn’t stop along the way as much as I had planned, however, I did manage to get a few nice photographs when we did.

We arrived in Queenstown a little after 11:00 and checked into the Earnslaw Hotel. It was still raining when we arrived, so Lisa and I decided to try and do some of the indoor activities Queenstown had to offer. But first we needed to get some food into our stomachs.

We found this great little Thai restaurant in the city centre that promised authentic Thai food. Lisa ordered a chicken dish and I ordered a fish dish. When the food arrived at our table, to our surprise, my dish came out with the fish head still on the plate. I thought it was cool, Lisa thought it was gross.

Along the highway into Queenstown

Along the highway into Queenstown

After the meal we headed to Caddy Shack City for some indoor mini golf. For $30 we played 18 holes on the most amazing mini golf course, I’m sure it must be one of the best in the world. Each hole had a unique theme and had varying degrees of contraptions setup for your golf ball to get lost in. One of the more spectacular holes had your golf ball go up a ski lift and then down a ski hill. Then depending on which run it took down the ski hill, you would end up in different putting situations for your last few strokes on the hole. Another neat feature was the 18th whole, which was a candy shop. Once we sunk our balls a lollipop fell from somewhere within the candy shop and appeared at our feet, I think this was Lisa’s favourite part of the entire course. Once our game was over we headed over to the lounge section and exchanged our ticket passes for complimentary sodas.

When we left the mini golf the sky looked to be clearing up a bit, So Lisa and I headed back to the hotel to lay out our strategy plan for the next few days in Queenstown.

Back at the hotel our hostess was great. She asked us what we wanted to do, made a few recommendations and then took care of all the bookings for us; now that’s what I call good service. Lisa and I finally decided on the Shotover Jet Boat ride and our hotel hostess called them up and got us booked in for 5:00 pm.

Fish Dish at Thai Restaurant in Queenstown

Fish Dish at Thai Restaurant in Queenstown

Lisa and I had some time to kill before our Shotover Jet Boat ride so we walked over to the hotel located across the street from ours to use the internet connection there. We uploaded some of our more recent photos up onto the website and sent a few emails off to our family.

Back in downtown Queenstown we boarded our tour bus a few minutes after 5:00 and headed on a 10 minute ride just outside of town to the Shotover River. When we arrived, the bus dropped us off near the edge of the river where we were given a long waterproof coat and life vest. The boats were cruising up and down the river as we were putting on our gear. From what I could see, the jet boats looked to be coming within millimetres of the canyon walls. It looked like it was going to be good!!

Each boat seated 14 people. Lisa and I sat together; Lisa made me sit on the edge as she was a little apprehensive from what she had seen while standing on the bank waiting to board.

Shootover Jet Boat

Shootover Jet Boat

The Jet Boat pilot gave us a small speech to prep us for the boat ride and then we were off. We blasted off through the Shotover River Canyon at 75 KM/H coming within just centimetres of the rock faces on the edges of the river. The entire boat ride was like this, just nearly missing a rock or the river bank by only a few hairs. It was a pretty thrilling ride, but it wasn’t very warm outside and Lisa and I got cold fairly quickly. A real thrill was when the boat did a 360 degree spin, however the excitement started to wear off about fifteen minutes into the ride as we knew what to expect after a while. The complete ride consisted of shooting up and then back down the river in about a 30 minute span before docking once again.

Once back on shore Lisa and I weren’t super thrilled about the ride and didn’t end up buying any of the photos and souvenirs they try to sell you at the end. We just boarded the next tour bus back to Queenstown. I’m sure if it had been a nicer day it would have been a lot more enjoyable, but we were pretty cold by the time we got off the jet boat!

When we got back to Queenstown, Lisa needed a pair of pants since she had only brought capri pants with her on the trip. We wandered around Queenstown for a while looking for a good shop where we could find a descent pair of pants. Well this was hopeless right from the moment we started. Girls have trouble finding clothes even when they know where to get it, but now we were in a town where we didn’t know where anything was. Oh well, at least we got to check out more of downtown Queenstown. After wandering around downtown Queenstown for an hour or so looking for pants, we took our defeat and walked back to our hotel room.

Back at the hotel we gathered my laptop and headed back over to the hotel across the street to get something to munch on and to use their internet connection. Lisa ordered a chicken appetizer while I enjoyed a pint of New Zealand fine Speight’s beer as I typed away on my computer answering emails and doing a little work.

After along day Lisa and I returned to our hotel room and called it a night.

Day 11

Overlooking the town of Queenstown

Overlooking the town of Queenstown

Another rainy day!! Lisa and I woke up around 8:00 am and opened the curtains to another grey sky. I was supposed to go tandem paragliding off the mountain in Queenstown but after a phone call for a weather update it didn’t look like I was going to be flying any time soon.

Lisa and I headed down to the local McDonalds for breakfast to start the day; Lisa was craving McDonald’s Pancakes. After breakfast we walked over to the Skyline Gondola and took a ride up the mountain to the viewing station on the top. Once on top Lisa and I took a few photos and decided to check out the luge ride which was a little further up the mountain.

We walked to the chair lift which brought us even further up the mountain; this is where the luge ride began. After some brief instructions on how to slow down and stop, we were on our way down the mountain on these crazy little luges. The luge was awesome. I kicked Lisa’s butt to the finish line, although I think she was more worried of loosing control and going over the side of the mountain. Once down the course I went for another run, since I knew I would be kicking myself later if I didn’t try it again, this time on the faster of the two tracks available.

Luge Course

Luge Course

Lisa stood further down the track and took a few photos of me as I passed under one of the walkway bridges.

After the second luge ride Lisa was cold, so we headed inside to the cafe for a hot chocolate. Lisa said it was some of the best hot chocolate she has ever had!

After an hour on the mountain top we hopped back on one of the gondolas and went back down into the village. We didn’t really have all that much planned for the day so we went back to our hotel, got my laptop and went across the street to the other hotel to use their internet connection.

It was only about 3:00 and it was still raining outside. We were out of activities to do in Queenstown, so we decided to go for a walk along the lake shore.

The walk along the lake was great; it didn’t rain too much which made it much more pleasant. Some of the houses we saw along the lake front were huge; they were such a contrast to the other houses we had seen in town.

After our lake side walk we headed on down to the city center to see if we could find a nice restaurant to eat in. On our way, we happened to come across the Queenstown gardens; it’s really a great place to visit! There is a huge pond teaming with ducks and birds and huge trees that tower over the park. It only took five minutes to walk through and was really quite scenic.

Along the shore in Queenstown

Along the shore in Queenstown

We found a nice Italian restaurant in the city center called Fatz Cat. The sign on the door said the restaurant was open at 5:30 and it just so happened to be 5:30 when we walked through the door. We were the first ones in the restaurant and I think we caught the staff a little off guard as not all the staff was there yet.

Lisa and I ordered nearly the exact same pasta dishes, but instead Lisa had the chicken and I had ham. It was a great meal and went down well with a couple of glasses of the local Sauvignon Blanc wine. The restaurant was quite interesting, it was lined with cat stuff; books, pictures, stuffed dolls anything you could possibly think of. I didn’t have a chance to ask the host whose collection it was, but it was really interesting to look at while eating.

After supper Lisa and I walked to the Steamer Wharf and decided to try our luck inside the Wharf Casino. The casino was not very big, it probably had about 40 slot machines and a few poker and blackjack tables. Lisa and I started off small with the penny machines, I lost $40 in about 20 minutes and Lisa lost about $15.

Like any good gambler I decided to try and win back my losses quickly and went and played on the dollar machines. My second pull on the dollar machine netted me $100, which was enough to cover my losses and the cost of supper for that evening, so I cashed out.

After the big win at the casino Lisa and I called it a night and headed back to our hotel room. On our way out of Steamer Wharf we passed by a lounge called minus5. It caught our attention because the lounge was made of ice. We found out that everything inside the lounge is made of ice too. It seemed interesting but we decided not to go in since we left winter back home and were in no hurry to rejoin the cold!

Back at the hotel Lisa had a bit of an upset stomach and we didn’t want to chance it leaving the hotel room, so we sat around and watched a few really interesting shows on T.V.