Wednesday, March 16, 2016

South Island Whirlwind Tour, Part 1... Wellington, Ferry, Christchurch, Queenstown

Hello Everyone,

Okay… I just want to start you off knowing that this is a long one…. one, two, skip a few… if you want.

Traveling the roads of New Zealand is an amazing experience.  The terrains and landscapes seem to change vastly at every corner.  It is such a beautiful country offering vast forests, high snow capped mountains and desert wastelands with turquoise blue rivers and lakes flowing in between, all in one view.  The South Island so far has been completely different from the North Island.  The north Island is a dotted with rolling green lush farms with cows and sheep everywhere separated by the lines of hedges and old rock walls.  Once you cross the ferry into the South Island you are in the central valley of California with dry desert lands spotted with vineyards.  There rare small valleys of green down here so far but we have only been traveling down the east side.

On our way to ChristChurch

Road from Picton to ChristChurch

Lake Takepo, New Zealand
Lake Takepo is this brilliant blue from glacial flour but this glacial flour is so fine that it is unable to sink so it stays suspended in the water refracting the light and will always be this color.  I believe it also carries the flour down the rivers but I haven't looked into that yet..

Lake Wakatipu
These turquoise blue waters of the lakes and rivers were stunning and we often asked ourselves what in the world made them like this or is it natural.  Well the answer is yes the color is completely natural but it is not permanent.  The lake used to be the regular beautiful deep blue that you would usually expect from a crystal clean alpine lake.  Then in January 2014 a landslip (or slide) in the Dart valley caused a bunch of glacier silt to flow down into the lake and the "flour" (glacial silt) is suspended in the water and refracts the light, it shows this brilliant blue.  It truly is amazing to see this glowing light blue water in the lake.  They say it will eventually change back to its deep blue color but probably not in our life time.

Glenorchy, New Zealand
We started our trip early catching the ferry in Wellington for our 3 1/2 hour ride to Picton.  I felt like I was back in the puget sound traveling in the San Juans.  It is beautiful.
Future picture of Chris and I on our road trip... love the suitcase on the back!

 Next we headed to Christchurch.  Here we were excited to visit the Antartica Center.  It definitely didn't let us down.  We thought it would take us about 3 hours to do through but 5 hours later we were still running through the center and looking at the exhibits and exploring.  This is a must do for anyone coming down the coast with kids.  We learned so much about Antartica. There were so many hands on activities and videos that were captivating from the land above to the sea life below... I found myself going back and re-watching quite a few of them.  The kids favorite part was the 4D movies especially the one that showed the journey to get there.  We all came out a little wet from the water that they spray.

Here you do in this room and they simulate a blizzard (sort of) in Antartica.  The lights start to dim the temperature drops way below comfort and the winds pick up drastically.  It was a fun and frightening experience for the girls not knowing what to expect.  It lasted about 5 minutes and I think we finally coerced Alina out of the igloo in the last minute so she could see what it was like.

After Christchurch we are making our way down the coast and stop to view some New Zealand Seals playing in the water... there were so many pups all around instead of the 5 min short break it turned to almost an hour... We were having such an amazing time watching them plan with each other that we lost track of time.

Just down the road from there I saw an opportunity to grab a sand sample for Mallory and myself.  I am collecting sand all along our journey of every anchorage and shore line that I can grab.  So far I think I have over 140 samples stretching from Mexico to New Zealand with a few more shorelines to gather along the way... I am loving doing this and the sand vial when you put them together are so beautiful and also help me to remember where we have been.  It is funny how you can hear the name of a bay or anchorage and it will bring back such vivid memories of the time that you spent there.  I am loving it and I want to thank Mallory Pierce for the idea... She is one of the science teachers at Amaia and Alina's school and a dear dear friend... XOXO

Always a learning opportunity like I said.. It really is amazing how well this country and all that it has to offer is documented and explained.  Awesome!

Roaring Meg

We have rented a house from a friend in Queenstown for a week and it has not let us down.  It is a quaint little log cabin that fits us quite nicely.  The only downside is that is does not get reception for internet or phone service and with Tristan's school activities we really need access right now so we have been venturing into town to crash the local library, coffee shops or at times just sitting in the car and using the hotspot on my phone.  Queenstown is loaded with tourists... I am not sure how they all get there except to fly in.  Once the people are in town then there are masses of buses crowding the narrow streets and parking everywhere waiting to take them on all of their adventures.  So besides the loads of people shopping and touring it is a cute little town right on the water.

One of the things we have been trying to do are visit some of the Lord of The Ring filming sites.  We bought a book in Hobbitown that has town and locations for the sites and it has been fun visiting some of these places and trying to figure out what scene in the movie they filmed there.  Even if we can't figure out the scene the areas, towns, roads and trails that this book has taken us to are simply majestic and incredibly beautiful and often times pretty remote.  So off we went to Glenorchy and Paradise where they filmed the scene for Eisengard, the evil guy with the big tower where Gandolf gets kidnapped and thrown on top of.  Anyway it is straight in the background in front of the little rolling hill in the middle.  We did get a closer and had a picnic but I liked this photo better.

Glenorchy, New Zealand the small mounds in the back was a site for lord of the rings

Notice the danger sign for where we are headed and then the 100km sign as we enter our dirt road... sometime I swear I don't know how they figure the speed limits around this country.  We get the most confusing signs... 

Glenorchy, New Zealand

This is our picnic site and the river basin off to the left is where they actually filmed the scene.  It is really pretty back in these fields and we had to pass the Forest of Middle Earth where Legolas lives.  Of course Alexia was running all throughout the woods in search of our long blonde haired elf but to no avail did he appear.  So she sat and waited...and waited... and waited.

Tristan was finally able to bust out his throwing knives will we were there...

Found these in the woods not far from where we ate.... Hmmm maybe some elves were back there!

After lunch we headed up to another location to go for a hike.  This hike was the Rayburn Track outside of Glenorchy that some more of the elvish scenes were filmed.... I was a little disappointed in this one because of so many trees.  There was a river winding through it but unfortunately you never really were able to see it through the trees.  Maybe I am getting a little spoiled with all the beauty down here.  We still had a good time and it is always nice to go out for a walk, crossing suspended bridges, forest floors covered in ferns, water dripping out of cascading rocks walls that line your path way and trees that seem to reach the sky.

Goof balls......

I just loved the suns rays reaching down on the girls... Maybe there are fairies in the woods after all... 

Then to top it all off.... New Zealand always seems to have some explanation of what you are seeing, or why it is important to the environment or ecology/habitat/region... anyway you can always turn your trip into a science discovery and lesson.  I love it but the kids... Not always so happy with me and often I get, "Ugh... Mom, get a life... we are trying to walk here!"

After the day of tramping (what Kiwi's call hiking) we headed back to Queenstown to rest up for our next adventure... The Wanaka A&P Show.. It was a fun day of your typical county fair competitions, best jam, best rabbit, best chicken, best goat, best cow, best sheep, best horse and jumping, fastest lumber jack with chain saw and axe, jack russell terrier race, snow cones, fried steak sandwiches and coffee for me... I love going back to these and the kids get a kick out of them too now.  They always love seeing the animals up and close.

On Chris' bucket list was paragliding... so we just had to check that one off.  It was a beautiful day for it and the wind conditions couldn't have been better.  We finished up one of Tristan's tests for Health so he is all done with that course of the year now... YAY!  and headed out of town to watch Chris land at the Flight Cafe... Super cool to see all these paragliders and hang gliders taking off from the top of the mountain and then make their way over the tree tops and down to the grass area we were at.  They all seem to drop out of the sky at once... a little hectic but since these guys do this all the time never once are you concerned for anyone riding with them.  They all dance amongst them selves until they get clearance to come in.... 

Landing target for everyone... 

Then for something fun for the kids to do we headed back into town for the go cart racing and laser tag... We were lucky in our timing,,, it was Saturday night and the place was empty... so we had it all to ourselves.  For the little girls I was surprised at how much the loved it... They are such scaredy cats that they can't even go to the bathroom on our boat by themselves... STILL!  I thought for sure they wouldn't leave my side... but NOOOOO... With it dark and creepy with walls all around for us to hide and jump out at each other and to top it off roaring moving dinosaurs they weren't afraid a bit... How does that work???  Also with them being so small you can't see them until they are right up on you and your tagged... then you hear a little giggle and off they go for their next victim.  

Our last day was a relaxing day to enjoy and hang out... we decided to go up the gondola and Amaia really loves to do the luge... so here we go.. It really is quite beautiful up there and the luge tracks are always fun for the kids and us too...

Alina is a little pistol these days.. always messing around..

The skies started to turn grey and you can see the rain coming in on the right of this picture.  It always comes over the lake from Glenorchy on the right of this picture.  So we headed down the mountain to go do a little indoor miniature golf... It wasn't quite time to go home yet and I wanted to try to get to Arrowtown right up the road which is a historical mining town.  New Zealand had a huge gold rush in 1860 and the major finds were on the Arrow river that runs through Arrowtown... the town is still kept as an old mining town with all the little mining cottages and store fronts to make it look older... there were many cottages with the solid rock walls that they had built back in the late 1800s ... I just love this old stuff... kids suffer through it, I had to bribe them with fries, ice cream and some fun playing in the river time just to stop the occasional wine and asking... "Why are you dragging us out here?"  "At least it isn't Science guys... today is History! Whoop Whoop"

So there you have it... We are now in Dunedin and getting ready to leave here to go to Milford Sound to see the Fjords.  We had originally scheduled Invercargill (home of Worlds Fastest Indian, if you haven't seen the movie with Anthony Hopkins you should) but we had to change plans because being a sailor and wanting fair weather we had checked the weather for the South Island and we are going to get hammered on after tomorrow and we wanted to be out on the water in Milford Sound on the boat with fair weather and calm seas... so off we go for our 6 hour drive leaving at 6am trying to catch the last tour boat at 2:45 for a 2 hour tour and then back to our rental house another 2 hours away... At least you never know what you will see along the roadsides of New Zealand... there is always something quirky that comes up and so many times I have missed a picture but when possible I am making Chris pull over to grab a shot.... 

Do you see the confusion here... 80km and then stop??? again.. why don't they just put the speed sign on the road it is intended for....

I am beginning to feel the wear of our adventures and I believe the kids are as well.  It has been crazy and is only going to get crazier with the amount of driving coming up and the activities... We will have a number of long days ahead of us... but we are sucking it up and enjoying as much as we can... you only live once and we are trying to see and do it all... We have gone 2600km in 11 days and stayed at 5 different houses... Thank goodness we have flexible kids that travel for the most part pretty well.

Hugs and love to everyone and I will try not to wait so long next time... thanks for sticking with me and checking out what we have been up to... believe me I know it is a lot to get through!

Oh... and Chris cut my hair with kitchen scissors, not to bad a job I might say... 
Hee Hee, it will grow back.


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