Monday, September 22, 2008
Milford Sound is a fiord in the south west of New Zealand's South Island, within Fiordland National Park. It is one of New Zealand's most visited tourist spots in spite of its remote location and long drive drive from Te Anau, one of the closest cities to the Sound. We took a boat cruise that took us out to the Tasman Sea and back again. It was the perfect day for a boat ride.
We decided to continue on to Te Anau after riding the gondola in Queenstown. We're headed to Milford Sound in the morning and wanted to lessen the amount of driving the next day. There were a few restaurants in the town for us to choose from to celebrate my parents' 34th Anniversary. We chose The Fat Duck and had a very enjoyable dinner.
We took the scenic Skyline Gondola for views of the city, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables mountain range and across Lake Wakatipu to Cecil and Walter Peaks. On the top there was also a 800m Luge track that wound through trees with amazing views of Queenstown and the mountains. The luge was a bit scary for me so I went a little slower and watched little kids passing me by (James went twice, I just sat back and enjoyed the view with my parents).
We've arrived in Queenstown. There are a lot of visitors here for ski and snowboard season giving a nice ski village feel to the area. We stopped at Kiwi Birdlife Park and pretended to be a different part of the Kiwi bird. We then explored the city by looking in lots and lots of shops.
Lake Matheson, near Fox Glacier, is known for its stunning reflections of New Zealand's highest peaks - Aoraki (Mount Cook) and Mount Tasman. We walked over the Clearwater River suspension bridge and continued through ancient native forest. The part of the lake where you can see the mountains refected in the water was too far away so we just walked to a pontoon that extended out onto the lake.
We are now at Franz Josef Glacier, one of two of the most accessible glaciers. There are options to take a helicopter ride to the top and hike around the glacier. Because of the non-stop bad weather, many of the helicopter companies weren't flying and hiking around a glacier didn't seem like the perfect activity to do with my parents :) So we just hiked as close as we could get and then explored an overlook that was quite a steep hike in the woods. James took off running when no one was looking and touched the glacier (you aren't allowed to get too close without a guide). A guide did see him and began yelling, but he was all the way at the top of the glacier and really couldn't do much except yell.
Our "luxury" motorhome was extremely comfortable, but it did have a few minor flaws. Many of the roads were a bit bumpy and a couple cabinet doors and the refrigerator door couldn't withstand the terrain. A few times the drawers and the door would fly open throwing out all of its contents. We solved the issues ourselves and in the instance of the fridge door, we made a contraption we like to call the Cradder (crocs + ladder). It did a good job of holding the door shut while the Crocs protected the wood from getting scratched.
We traveled just a bit North of Greymouth to see the famous Pancake Rocks & blowholes at Punakaiki. "The Pancake Rocks are columns of limestone resembling stacks of pancakes. At high tide with a heavy swell running, seawater is forced upwards through blowholes."
Because of the horrible weather that NZ has been having many of the roads out of Christchurch were either flooded or blocked. Luckily, there was only one road open and it was the road I wanted to take! So we are now headed across the South Island, through the Southern Alps (using Arthur's pass, see bottom right photo), towards the west coast to Punakaiki, Greymouth, Franz Josef Glacier, and then Fox Glacier. Oh! The bird at the bottom is a Kea (same name as our motorhome company :) They are pretty smart parrots who, unfortunately, have the reputation for pulling off the rubber lining from car windows.
We made it to Christchurch, New Zealand and headed straight to the Motorhome Company to pick up our vehicle. It took a while to figure everything out in the motorhome and find a place to park it. The weather in New Zealand has been horrible...nonstop rain for weeks on end. We ventured out to the city for dinner and tried a nice little Mexican restaurant. I miss real mexican food :)
The top photo is a view from our room. The rest of the photos are of downtown Melbourne. We took a quick stroll around part of the city before heading to Chinatown for dinner. It's going to be an early night because we have to catch an early flight to New Zealand in the morning!
The highlight of the trip was the famous 12 Apostles. The rock stacks were formed by the headlands eroding. Today, only 6 apostles can be see from the viewing platforms. We also took one of the walking tracks in Port Campbell National Park to see Loch Ard Gorge and the Blowhole (bottom left).
We left Melbourne early in the morning, and took The Great Ocean Road. It ranks as one of the world’s most scenic drives and touring routes. We passed through the costal town of Torquay where they had a ton of surf shops such as Quicksilver, Roxy, Billabong, Hurley, before stopping at Bells Beach, famous for its amazing surf. We continued on to the next town for breakfast. Mom and dad got to try their first meat pies. It wasn't the best example, but they still enjoyed it.
Each night at sunset, the world’s smallest penguins, the Little Penguins, emerge from the sea and waddle ashore to their sand dune burrows. We stood on elevated boardwalks and viewing stands to enjoy all the ‘penguin action’ without disturbing them or their burrow homes. The penguins traveled in big groups and as the waves crashed onto the shore you'd see a pile of penguins suddenly appear. Some of the burrows were located in the parking lot, so they warned visitors to check under their cars before leaving.
No rest for the weary! After a 21+ hour trip I had my parents taking a tour around the city of Melbourne. We walked to Flinders Street station and then took a tram tour around the city. After the tour we had a quick lunch and then headed to Philip Island for the penguin parade....
Chinatown was near James and my hotel, so we decided to have dinner there. Many young women carrying menus stood outside the restaurants, trying to tempt you in with their special deals. After walking up and down the street a few times we finally decided on the cleanest and most populated restaurant. It turned out to be a good choice.
Hi! I apologize for the lag in blog entries. Before my parents arrived I posted 50 or so entries within a short period of time. I don't think most people knew to look back at old entries, to see my "new" entries, so that was kinda a waste :) This time I'll just post a few entries at a time so as not to overwhelm. Ok so, July 27 is the day BEFORE my parents arrive. James and I flew down Sunday so we would be able to meet my parents at the airport first thing Monday morning. We walked all over the city. So far Melbourne is my favorite big city in Australia.