OK, we are home and it was a whirlwind of a trip. We saw some amazing sights and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The scenery was just breathtaking from start to finish, including our time in Sydney both on our way to New Zealand and on our way home. We enjoyed a 8 hour layover on the way there and a 7 hour layover on the way home, so we were able to go to Sydney both times. We learned how to store our luggage at the airport and where the free internet was to do our research. Sydney Airport is pretty nice and even has showers available for free. Next time I need to bring a towel since we didn’t choose to use the showers on this trip, maybe next time.
I must say that the highlight of the trip had to be Queenstown. It was just so beautiful there and the weather was spectacular the first day we arrived. It also happened to be Ilise’ 50th birthday and we really enjoyed the day. We took a day trip to Milford Sound the following day, which was highly recommended, and we thought that it was really nice but the weather was not great. We were scheduled to take a bus there (which took almost 5 hours) and then take a flight back to Queenstown, but since the weather was pretty nasty they cancelled the flight back to Queenstown. That meant another bus ride back, which took another 4 1/2 hours. OUCH! That was one long day in a bus.
Once we were done with our time in Queenstown the real fun began, we rented a car. That might not seem like a big deal, but I got to drive on the wrong side of the road. That was a great experience, expect I kept turning on the windshield washers every time I tried to make a turn. I also didn’t look in the rear view mirror much since it was on my left side and I am so programmed to look to the right. All in all, it was lots of fun even if the round-a-bouts scared the bageezus out of me 🙂
Our drive took us through some amazing, actually spectacular views. The glacial lakes, waterfalls, mountain vistas and so much more. Every town we drove through looked deserted, but there are only 4.4 million people living in New Zealand and I believe less than 20% of those live on the south island, where we were traveling. We spent our first night on the road in Franz Joseph, which is the location of a set of glaciers. It was raining when we arrived and when we left the next morning so we didn’t go to see them. The hotel we stayed in had a great video so we got an idea of what we were missing.
Our next day, which was New Year’s Eve, took us to Nelson on the northern tip of the island. We had a really nice afternoon walking around town and reserving our tour of Able Tasman National Park the following day. We signed up for a hike and kayak which started at 8:30 on New Year’s Day. When we arrived at our hotel Ilise was reading the info and the sushi restaurant in the hotel was extremely highly rated so we booked a reservation for 8:30 for a nice dinner. The dinner was amazingly good, even though the sushi chef took forever to get us our food! We headed out for a walk around town and listen to a few bands in town and headed back to the hotel. We were asleep before 11 PM and missed the whole celebration. Ilise was still fighting a cold and I had spent 13 hours driving over the past two days and was exhausted. Plus, we wanted to be well rested for our hike and kayak.
Well, the rest was well worth it the next day. Able Tasman was pretty special. The water color was something we had never seen before. Different than the Caribbean, different from the Pacific or any other body of water I have ever seen. The trip started with a water taxi like no other. We arrived at the facility to prepare for our tour and they loaded us on a boat that was on a trailer attached to the back of a tractor. That’s right, this 20 person power boat was on dry land and we boarded it and we were about 1/4 mile from the ocean. It turns out that the tides are so variable that every time they take a group out on a water taxi they start on dry land. When the boat gets back they pull it out and wait for the next time they need the boat. For the engineer in me it was really cool to watch this whole process unfold. I was taking pictures of all the boats around us being pulled by tractors. Who in the world would ever think that a small town in New Zealand would buy so many tractors, to pull BOATS! The salesman for the first one must have been laughing for days until they ordered 10 more the following year. They have this system down, with motorized boat trailers that raise up to let the boats slide off when they get out a bit in the ocean. It was a very cool experience.
To be continued ….