1/2/2018 In a vertical country it is easier to build a railway. Like a spine! We sleep well, if all too briefly, after arriving from Seattle last night. Catching the train for Wellington at 0745.\n Takes all day. And will be a peaceful ride through the backyards and back roads of New Zealand. And we are ready for peaceful. Train runs through some mountains. At one point there is a spiral tunnel carved into a cliff to gain altitude more gradually than the terrain would otherwise allow. They are telling us that each foot of altitude gain can be accomplished in no less than 50 feet of track. Steeper than that and engine loses traction. Maybe with more locomotives steeper might work.
Views are fantastic. And the pace is a big relax. Really like train travel. We chat with our neighbor about the area. She is very local. Her dad worked on the railway. Finally we arrive in Wellington. Big old time train station from the golden age of rail. Awesome. Wellington proves to be a delightful city.
They have a botanical garden worthy of the name. You ride an ancient cable car up the hill and walk down thru the garden. And it’s a beautiful day!
Somehow they must have heard that my wife Nancy Patterson was coming to town. And they reserved a parking spot. Nice folks. We should have rented a car! Or maybe it’s a no parking zone… Other countries are so confusing!
Their waterfront was awesome. Lots of cool brass stuff like Mexico has on their Malecons. But it’s a bit spookily underpopulated. Turns out this is the capitol of NZ. And it’s a holiday weekend. So they are all off in the bush enjoying their countryside! Leaving the town to the few that remain behind. Works out.
Around town and in the airport there are creations from WETA. Movie prop making group here in Wellington. Awesome work.
After a couple Wellington days we fly to Queensland on the South island. Very interesting experience. Hit the airport. Go through security. They did not ask for any ID other than our boarding pass. We told them who we were, and they took us where we needed to go. Very refreshing. This was the pattern through all of our travels in New Zealand. We rented a van to facilitate touring.
Queensland is a nice enough tourist town but it’s definitely a tourist town. This is their industry. After picking up the van we drove up the Central Otego valley to do some wine tasting. The have lovely wine here but great Pinot Noir for sure. We stop at the first bungee jumping place ever. Maybe. But it is spectacular. They toss customers off a bridge and they are recovered by a raft in the river below. Unrivaled setting.
Queensland is on beautiful lake Wakatipu. If you look you might see some rain across the lake.
There is an old steamship TSS Earnslaw. Built 1921 and ferrying people up and down this lake for 97 years. We did not ride but just watching it depart was stunning.
Here is a photo across the lake. Grey cloudy day. Then hole in clouds spotlights the opposite shore. I hope the photo does this Justice.
We don’t spend much time in Queensland as we are on our way to Glenorchy at the North end of the lake. From age 9 to 15 I lived in Olympia Washington. One of my buddies had a sister Kathy and her life found her living with husband John in Glenorchy. They have invited us to spend a few days in their home. About 450 people live in Glenorchy. So small town for real. One of the towns amenities is the campground that Kathy is involved with.
Now campgrounds kinda don’t do well anytime but summer. This one too. So there have been serial owners and serial failures to really make it work. The group is financing/organizing the campground and associated general store rebuild is making changes to expand their functional seasons beyond summer. They turned some of the land into hotel-ish housing. But different. They have a large solar panel array. Sewage is composted. Wastewater is handled on site and becomes irrigation for the landscaping. Building materials are recycled and/or locally sourced. Artists working on site drive the esthetics of design. The financial backers are putting all profits back into the Glenorchy community. Really impressive. This place is at high risk of serving as a model for beyond sustainable environmental and community development. Grand opening March 2018 and long may they run.
Apart from spending some delightful evenings with Kathy and John, we toured the Dart River valley.
This would be the setting for Isengard in the Lord of the Rings series. Beautiful countryside.
Nancy and I did a hike (a “Tramp” in local parlance) up to Sylvan lake. Trails very well maintained.
On our way we met a Bush Robin. Very curious little bird. Not so interested in our food, just inquisitive. Made us want to do more hiking.
But dirt roads are hard on the equipment. We ended up getting a flat tire. We put the micro spare (labeled “don’t drive on me very far!”) on and got back to Kathy and John’s.
It’s later on a Friday afternoon. We have some driving to do to get to other parts of the South island. Tire was destroyed. Need to be replaced. Nothing like that can happen in Glenorchy. And too late to get to Queenstown before things close for the weekend. And we need to travel did I mention? John suggests we call the car rental company and enquire about options. He does this for us and they say no problem. We will swap your van for another and look after the tire fix on Monday. They really made it possible for us to keep up with our previously scheduled stuff.
Kudos to the staff at Scotties rentals for taking care of us when things got complicated. 🙂 1/7/2018 We take our leave from Kathy and John. Brilliant hosts and fun to peek at the interesting projects they have become involved with in New Zealand.
It’s Sunday and we are headed for Te Anau. It’s a few hours drive through some great mountains. We find our hotel and scout the town so we know where to be the next morning. We will catch a bus and a guide will take us to Milford sound and on a few hikes on the way there and back.
After getting the lay of the land and dinner we return to our hotel to relax. We spot a couple in the hotel courtyard and join them. Chris and Elaine from UK. We enjoy a lovely evening as the sun sets. Sharing some wine, nice conversation and some guitar. The next day we head for the bus to Milford sound.
We are about to discover this Fjiording is wet work!
The guide has a lot to say about the area. The route passes through progressively more rainforest area. Lots of rain here on an annual reckoning. To include today off and on. But that is what fuels waterfalls after all.
We reach the tour boat dock. That and a parking lot. There is no town here.
There is a reason nearly everyone comes here by bus. And we get on the boat. Milford Sound is a fjord. Very deep with steep walls. Lots of waterfalls dumping the night’s rain into the sea. This place is alive with seals, penguins, dolphins, wow! And rain off and on.
More short hikes on the way back to Te Anau. Crazy New Zealand birds and more waterfalls.
We get back to town in time for dinner. Next day we pack up the van to travel further south.
On the way across the south end we saw evidence of chronic severe winter winds from Antarctica. Impressive!
The town of Bluff is the gateway to Stewart island. We check in to this funky art deco Foveau Hotel across from the ferry dock. Much of the waterfront is a hundred years old or more with lots of deco buildings. Interesting neighborhood flavor.
Ferry the next day to Stewart island. Not too many people. Tourism is probably their biggest industry but is far from over done. We did a short bus tour then did a hike across the island. Watched cormorants fishing. Met some crazy guy with no shoes on the beach that lives on his boat. Who would do such a thing!
Return ferry later that afternoon and it’s time for dinner at Bluff’s excellent Oyster Cove restaurant. We enjoyed breakfast at the Foveau with the owner. Interesting expatriot woman from the US. Hotel is for sale if you are in the market for one.
Driving back North to fly back to the boat via Auckland. We stay one night at Queenstown. Unpacking the van I note that my guitar is missing. Maybe I should not have leaned it up against the wall where it could hide behind the door… So I phoned the hotel owner and she mailed the guitar to us NZ Post at the marina. Problem solved.
In Queenstown we had a delicious dinner at Vknow. The sommelier was very informative and personable. Then airport again the next day and off for Auckland and back to the boat in the Bay of Islands. With my trusty box of boat parts. That sucker is well traveled. It flew from Seattle to Auckland. It rode the train Auckland to Wellington. The box began to fail so I had to reinforce it in Wellington. Then it flew to Queenstown. Traveled around the South island in a van. Then flew Queenstown to Auckland to Bay of Islands. And everything arrived intact. A miracle!