Saturday, March 19, 2016

South Island Tour Part 2: Dunedin, Milford Sound, Invercargill and Bluff

Hello Everyone,

Dunedin is known for its Edwardian Architecture, The Old Railway Station building, the worlds steepest street, castles, restored victorian home tours, Museums, the sound with all the wildlife (including yellow eyed penguins and Albatross)the Cadbury chocolate factory and the Speights Brewery amongst other things.  We knew we would only be there for a day so we tried to take it in.  We arrived in and quickly scouted out the town and tried to get in on the last Cadbury chocolate tour but missed the last one so we ended up booking one for tomorrow and then headed to our rented home for the next two nights.  After unpacking and making dinner Chris and I decided to try and zip back into town for the Speigts Brewery tour.  It was 90 minutes and we know the kids would just be dying walking through it so we thought they could watch movies and chill while we headed in for a date night.  They so often come few and far between being in strange lands and remote places... it was nice for us to get away for a few hours.  Granted it was with 15 other strangers but it was still really nice.

Tristan and Alexia do a great job watching the girls and they are all really comfortable in all the places we have been.  One of the benefits of traveling as we do the kids make themselves at home any time and in any location. They are enjoying all the different types of houses we are trying out.  From modern to 1909 historical, including the heating system and wiring.  A few of these houses don't have heat so you end up waking up in the morning seeing your breath and the light switches remind me of the old farm house.. I think they are still the originals.  NIt seems now as long as we are a family it really doesn't matter what house they are in they just take as their home and play as usual.  New Zealand is so incredibly safe that it never really crosses my mind to be concerned.  Our house was located 20 minutes outside of town in a sleepy little nook of the wildlife peninsula so besides a fur seal landing in the front yard there wasn't much chance of anything else exciting coming along. 

So here we are getting up early and racing off to fill our day with the sites of the town.  We started off with a tour of the cadbury chocolate factory... Sounded like a great idea but I wouldn't recommend it.  You feel like you are going into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, they take your backpacks, phones, cameras and all personal items and lock them up in a locker before you begin your tour... so, besides signing the contract ....  It was okay but you didn't even get to see the chocolate being made they just walked you through the hallways and then led you to this "SENSORY" room where you got to smell pretend scents out of pipes and watch a video and then sample some of their product... like you don't do that in the stores anyway.. Event the kids were asking how much longer... it was a little bit of a let down.  Oh Well..

The just down the road was the Old Railway Station... Some say it is the 11th most photographed building in the World.. WHAT!!??!??!  Not sure where they come up with these stats... or is it just New Zealand Marketing.  Often when we are visiting sites things begin with ... Only in New Zealand or Most, Highest, Deepest... (in the world)  They are very good at making you feel that their country is unique and offers things that many other places in the world don't have... Maybe it is true and they are just very good at pointing them out... where as everywhere else we don't advertise the attractions that way.

And around the corner from the chocolate factory and the railway station was one of the must see churches... It really was stunning... 

Again this is the WORLDS steepest street.  They say Baldwin street is the worlds steepest street, granted it was very steep and I would have to say at one point the pitch of it was definitely steeper than the one in SF.  When we were driving up it, the car almost felt like it was going to go over backward on its roof.  I found myself leaning forward in my seat to help with the weight.. Like that was going to make a difference. Sheeesh.

On the way home we tried to drive by the castle to no avail... you can't see it from the road and you have to pay by the carload to go in, so we turned around and headed back to the house for a little rest and then off to the end of the peninsula to see the rare yellow-eyed penguins and albatross birds.

We decided to change our plans because a big weather system was coming through the south island and we wanted to see Milford Sound on a beautiful day.  Milford Sound is just under being qualified as a rain forest and gets 180 days a year of rain and often times strong winds through the Fjord.  Funny thing is that Milford Sound is actually named wrong and the government when they found out just decided to keep it named the way it is.  It is a fjord because it was actually created by a glacier from the Darren Mountain Range.  We didn't want to be out on the water when the Tasman Sea can reach 9 meters or even the winds at 60mph through the fjord (not that it would have been like that) but we wanted to have a clear day for our pictures and not be drenched in rain on the ferry.  

We had an early morning start (at least early for us... still dark at 6:30) and had a beautiful sunrise.  We had 6 hours to get to Milford Sound to catch the last ferry tour at 2:45 and they say that this drive is one of the most beautiful in New Zealand so plan on stopping and taking pictures.

Another funny fence right off the highway

The drive there is really spectacular especially once you get past Te Anau and start to enter the Darren Mountain Range.  The deep forest valleys lined with crystal blue lakes and high mountains with sleeping glaciers on their peaks.  

Entering into the Darren Moutain Range and Milford Sound

Monkey Creek

Homer Tunnel.  It is one way and during the winter they turn the lights off because they don't want people sitting and waiting outside of the tunnel for fear of avalanches.  This tunnel was amazing it was so unfinished that it looked like it was just carved out, no lights and you could see the scraping of the walls on the inside... I was like driving through a cave.

Ferry landing at Milford Sound.

On our way to our new home... The Plains Farm Station Cottage in The Keys, NZ.

Perfect timing on our ride home for sunset and reflection on the lake...
Sand Sample Glacier Lake:  Gunn Lake

Since we had to change our schedule it also worked out for the best because then the farm stay that Chris found was available.  This little farms stay had 2500 acres, 2000 sheep, 600 head of cattle, a few thoroughbreds he was raising, dogs and a cat.  Check out their last names... I thought this was really cute. Of course the kids were so excited to stay here.  We had a lot of fun on our down day after school was out.  Tristan had to take his midterm exam that took 3 hours for English and successfully passed both tests.  So happy that now the 1st Semester is all completed.  Sharon and Alister were a lot of fun to get to know.  The houses that we get to stay are always different and we are finding it fun to stay at all these different places and get to know all the people along the way.  Highly recommend staying here if any other cruisers are heading down this way next year.  Most of our homes we have booked through Air B&B and they haven't let us down.  

These little mushrooms dotted the yard.. perfect story telling and Alina kept looking for her fairies but none were to be found.

The puppy kept stealing Alina's shoe...  I am not sure why he only chose hers.

Its funny when you talk to New Zealanders and you let them know you are coming down to Invercargill they look at you really funny and tilt their heads and then say Huh… well if your going all the way down there, make sure you get the fish and chips.  We came down to Invercargill for three reasons and now four (the fish and chips).  First to see the Worlds Fastest Indian car (in the hardware store) and second to visit Bill’s Transport World.  I know you can all see the kids rolling their eyes already and making those god awful noises they do when they don’t want to go somewhere.  As I explained to them we have all gotten to pick a fun adventure and this one is dad’s so you can’t ruin it!
On the way down we started to see the coast line and stopped for a quick sand sample and beach run at Gemstone Beach.  It just sounded really cool.  Although you discover that many places you can't swim because of rip currents and the cliff sides are crumbling.  Not that I would swim in that freezing water anyway...

The hardware store is funny down here.  In the center of many of the aisles are old motorcycles on display (some from the 30’s) and then in the back of course is the actual car from the movie and much of his tools and parts from his garage.  If you haven’t seen this movie with Anthony Hopkins, I highly recommend it.  Even the kids liked it.  The store also has many classic cars and trucks inside to see amongst all the regular hardware items.  It is pretty cool if you are into the old car thing.

Next we ventured to Bill’s Transport World and with Amaia protesting to get out of the car and the other kids dragging their feet behind us… Chris has grabbed my hand and is grinning from ear to ear and walking so fast I almost have to jog to keep up.  He is like a kid going into a toy store and is so excited.  I must say that this collection of cars, trucks, engines, tractors, big trucks, farm trucks, and the list goes on is so impressive that it is hard not to be in awe of how much Bill had collected over the years.  It is probably one of the best museums we have gone to.  It is new with a modern feel to it and then you have the vehicles starting from the first car made by ford in 1896 (I think) and many rebuilt from the early 1900’s.  Usually when you go to an old car museum you see the typical fancy rebuilt cars but he had old rusted trucks that still had sheep poop in the back in one room and then in another right next to it all the ones he was working on and had restored.   It really was beautiful!  The best thing about the museum for me was a huge Lego room in the back for the kids and big kids too.  There was so much for the kids to do that the parents could wander, have a cup of coffee in the cafe and then wander again and the kids would never know the difference.  Thanks Bill!  

The best thing about the museum for me was a huge Lego room in the back for the kids and big kids too.  There was so much for the kids to do that the parents could wander, have a cup of coffee in the cafe and then wander again and the kids would never know the difference.  

The Cafe had these rooms  to eat in that made you feel like you were back in the 50's. Thanks Bill for an unexpected surprise and a fun day!

Next we headed to our rental house in Bluff.  If you are in Invercargill then you have to go to Bluff because it is the farthest point south you can get on land in New Zealand.  We have come all this way why not another 15 miles to Bluff and take a picture and get some sand samples from the farthest beach south Latitude 46.36.54 at Stirling Point.  We got our fish and chips and then headed home for a movie night.

Hmmm.. this one is NOT on the bucket list... although it got good reviews diving with the great whites out in the freezing waters.... The people must have returned in order to give the review..

We are now on our way for a quick overnight at Queenstown tonight and then on to Franz Josef Glacier for a little hiking... it will be raining so we think the Heliflight is out.. bummer.  Then we go to Berrytown for Tristan and Alexia's all day knife making class, where they get to form raw steel into a knife.. .and then the most exciting part... our vineyard farm stay in Nelson over Easter for our Abel Tasman stint.

This is a turning point in our travels because we are at the bottom and now the only way to go is north for us, not just on land but also on the boat. 

Hugs and love your way... Heath

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