Archive for March, 2014

SUMMARY OF OUR NEW ZEALAND TRIP

During our 16 days in New Zealand, we had a mixture of weather with some very warm days and some cool and rainy days, but the rain, while disappointing, didn’t stop or reduce our enjoyment of this spectacular country.

We had visited New Zealand some 32 years ago on our honeymoon and were not sure what we would find on our return this time.  Certainly some cities have grown but generally the countryside and the friendly people do not seen to have changed that much.  The scenery in all of the places that we visited was spectacular and while we had some memories of them, it was like re-discovering these places anew.

We were very fortunate to be able to share the past 16 days with Sandy’s sister, Maria, and her husband Dennis and we all were delighted and excited to see new places and do new things together.  We were also fortunate that our tour guide, coach driver and the other people in our group were all friendly and enthusiastic.

During our time we travelled by aeroplane, harbour ferry, hop on and off bus, coach bus, small luxury cruise boat, amphibious vehicle, inter-island vehicular ferry, jet-boat, gondola and lake cruise boat as well as doing a lot of walking.

It is hard to choose some highlights/favourites, because we enjoyed our tour so much, but some of the things that really stand out were:

Our walk around the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland in brilliant sunshine

Our overnight cruise on the Ipipiri in the Bay of Islands, despite the fact that it rained the whole time

Our “duck” tour of the Lakes of Rotorua – spectacular scenery in perfect weather

Our Jet Boat ride, including some 360 degree spins and great scenery, and

Our gondola ride and dinner at the Skyline Restaurant in Queenstown

On the first day of the tour on the coach, Maria and Dennis sat behind us and we were able to chat about things as we drove along.  Disappointingly, as a result of the seat rotation system that was used on a daily basis, we never got to sit anywhere near each other on the coach for the rest of the tour. However, we made up for this when we stopped for breaks or went exploring, and always spent the evenings together,

We continue to be impressed with the organization and activities that just “happen” – luggage being collected from our rooms and magically appearing at the next destination in our room; entry into large sites like the Agrodome and the Glow Worm Caves without having to spend long periods of time in queues lining up for tickets; being escorted by local guides who gave us lots of interesting information and being given recommendations about where good cafes and restaurants could be found.

Our 16 days in New Zealand with Maria and Dennis has been a wonderful experience and we have made many happy memories to last forever.

Day 16 Sunday 2 March – Lake Tekapo, Depart Christchurch

This morning, after breakfast, we retraced our steps to Twizel and then travelled to the beautiful Lake Tekapo, which runs parallel to Lake Ohau and covers 83 square kilometres.  We stopped at the Church of the Good Shepherd, which, in 1935, was the first church built in the Mackenzie Basin. The church, which was built as a tribute to the region’s early pioneers, features an altar window that frames the stunning views of the lake and mountains.

Close to the Church of the Good Shepherd is a bronze statue of a New Zealand Collie sheepdog.  The statue was commissioned by Mackenzie Country residents in recognition of the indispensable role of the sheepdog in their livelihoods.

We continued our journey down the mountain and could see the Canterbury Plains to the sea – about 50 kilometres away. We stopped for a break/early lunch at Geraldine before continuing our journey.  Along the way we saw some Irrigation Catchment ponds next to the Orari River – they are not allowed to draw water straight from the river but must wait for rain or floods.

We drove through Rakaia, and then continued on to Christchurch, where we were taken for a drive through the city and were saddened to see how much devastation there was from the earthquake in February 2011.  Many buildings are still in the same damaged state, either waiting for repairs or demolition.  The trams are running again and punting on the Avon River is operational again and the city is slowly returning to normal.

Laurie gave us a lovely farewell in Maori, which translated to English said “We welcomed you as visitors and farewell you as family.”

We dropped some people off at their hotels in Christchurch and then the rest of us were taken to the airport for our flights home.

All in all, we have travelled 4,300 kilometres in New Zealand on the coach and we have used 2,800 litres of diesel fuel.

Our flight to Sydney was with Qantas’ code-share partner, Emirates Boeing 777-300 and the four of us sat in the middle together in a 3-4-3 configuration, reminiscing about our wonderful holiday together. On arrival in Sydney, after our farewells, Maria and Dennis were picked up by friends and we transferred to Qantas Domestic for our flight home to Brisbane. All of our flights were on time and we arrived in Brisbane at 8.30pm – Janet picked us up and delivered us home for a good night’s sleep in our own beds after a long, long day.

 

Day 15 Saturday 1 March – Lake Ohau

This morning, we headed north and travelled along the east coast to see the Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach on the Otago Coast. These large spherical stones were formed over 60 million years ago.  We wandered along the beach in the sunshine, taking in this amazing sight.

From there, we continued to the harbour town of Oamaru, to see some of New Zealand’s 19th-century architecture. We had morning tea and then walked through the streets of the old town – we even saw a man riding a penny-farthing bicycle, which was amazing.

We continued on, driving through the Waitaki Valley to the McKenzie Basin, where we saw more cattle than sheep and a computerised irrigator that was 1.8 kilometres long.  We could see the snow that fell yesterday on the Mt St Mary Mountain Range in the distance. We drove beside a ridge of Oamaru Stone, which is apparently cut using a circular saw and has been used in the construction of quite a few of the older buildings.

As we drove past the Lake Waitaki Dam and the Aviemore Dam, Laurie told us some information about the construction process of the eight Power Stations in the area.  We drove into the Benmore Power Station Observation Area and got some great photos of Benmore Lake and Dam. We passed through Twizel, which was the construction town for the Power Stations, Canals and the infrastructure to link them together.

Only 25% of all visitors who visit this area are lucky enough to see Mount Cook – quite often it is shrouded in cloud, mist or fog.  Today, we were the lucky ones!!!  We saw this majestic snow-capped mountain with blue sky and a fine white cloud acting as a halo.  After taking several photos we sat in the café at the Hermitage in the Mount Cook National Park, just taking in this awesome sight!!!  In the museum at the Hermitage, we saw ßthe original plane that was converted to land on snow.  On our way back, we called in at the airfield to collect two of our tour group who had gone on a helicopter flight to the Tasman Glacier and we saw a plane taking off, as well as the helicopter landing.

Our next stop was at Peter’s Lookout for photos of Mount Cook across Lake Pukaki – what a magnificent view!

We backtracked along the same road and just outside Twizel, we saw the computerized Control Centre for the eight Power Stations.  Not far from there we also saw a Salmon Farm, where there were people fishing off the banks to catch the wild salmon that come in to scavenge some of the food from the farm.

We continued our journey beside Lake Ohau, which is a glacial lake in the Mackenzie Basin and is fed by the Hopkins and Dobson Rivers and arrived at our accommodation for the night.  The Lake Ohau Lodge is a wilderness lodge set amongst some trees beside the lake with a great view to the mountain ranges we had just been in. What a perfect spot!