From Dunedin, I hoped a Naked Bus (just the name of the bus company, not how the driver & passengers dress), and headed to Queenstown – the Adventure Capital of the South Island. I had booked into the new Haka Lodge – 4-bed mixed dorm room – for a week. (I always request a lower berth!)
I must say, this really was the only mistake I think I made in my itinerary during entire stay in New Zealand. Queenstown is for the young, the daring, the brave! If you are into para sailing, bungee jumping, hang-gliding, hiking steep mountains, then this is the place for you For a senior citizen with gimpy knees- not so much.
Plus it was Chinese New Year and the Chinese love visiting New Zealand at this time of year. The sidewalks were almost impassable, the restaurants swamped, and even though the Chinese government is supposedly giving their citizens traveling outside their homeland lessons on ‘manners and courtesy when dealing with foreigners,’ they haven’t done a very good job! I have almost been blinded several times by ‘selfie-sticks.’ I can’t comprehend why the Chinese cannot take a photo of a view or place or thing without putting themselves in the photo. And don’t get me started on their tour leaders and their umbrellas!
|See all the little orange dots – para sails floating off the mountaintop! While I was there one of the new ‘instructors-in-training’ fell and was seriously hurt.|
I did enjoy a long cruise on Lake Wakatipu to see the glaciers and a visit to the quaint, gold mining town of Arrowtown. I had some nice meals and drank some good wine, but really didn’t feel inclined to take advantage of the very physical activities that Queenstown is noted for.
A view of Queenstown from the lake and a life-size Moa bird statue in the park. Unfortunately, the Maori found them good eating and they are now extinct.
Queenstown is surrounded by the Southern Alps. My lovely lunch in Arrowtown.
With my week in Queenstown concluded, I was really looking forward to my next adventure – a visit to Milford and Doubtful Sounds (think fjords) with a stop in TeAnau to see the glow worms – and I wasn’t disappointed!
The bus that we took from Queenstown to TeAnau and on to Milford Sound was glass-topped! Certainly made seeing everything so much better. Departing at 7 a.m., we traveled out of Queenstown, up, around and through areas with many
lakes and rivers with large, snow-covered mountains looming in the distance.
The weather gods were smiling on us this day. For this time of year, what is normally gray, wet and cloudy weather turned into bright sunshine with brilliant blue skies.
After a brief stop in TeAnau (time to buy a coffee and a snack) and take a picture of this big blue bird ….
|The view through the coach windows|
|That OMG view!|
|These little guys, a member of the parrot family were just sitting and posing|
|You can see why they call it Mirror Lake|
I had chosen to take the ‘nature cruise’ on Milford Sound. The normally wet and rainy weather had taken a day off and with sun shining it was a fabulous 3-hours cruise filled with mist-covered peaks, massive, thundering waterfalls, more seals and wonderful photo ops.
I overnighted in TeAnau just so I could tour the glow-worm caves. FYI:
In New Zealand and Australia, glow-worms are the larvae (maggots) of a special kind of fly known as a fungus gnat. Fungus gnats look rather like mosquitoes, and most feed on mushrooms and other fungi. However, a small group of fungus gnats are carnivores, and the worm-like larvae of these species use their glowing lights to attract small flying insects into a snare of sticky threads. One species, Arachnocampa luminosa, is found throughout New Zealand.
Hundreds of Arachnocampa larvae may live side by side on a damp sheltered surface, such as the roof of a cave or an overhanging bank in the forest. Their lights resemble a star-filled night sky. Māori call them titiwai, which refers to lights reflected in water. (TEARA – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand)
This photo was shot at the Waitomo Caves by a professional photographer with permission to take the photo. ‘Normal visitors’ are not allowed to speak, take any photos or ‘reach up and touch’ while in the caves as the ‘worms’ will be disturbed. I did ask if they sometimes fell off their fishing-line-like-filaments onto tourist’s heads and the answer was – yes!
The next morning I took a 30-minute bus ride to Manapouri and then an hour-long boat trip, and then another 30 minute bus ride that would finally take me to the mouth of Doubtful Sound. (If you look at the map at the top, Doubtful Sound is that little squiggle going out to the sea opposite the plane’s propeller.)
Once there, I boarded a ship where I would spend the day and overnight while touring this deep, mist-shrouded, mystical fjord. On board was a full-time historian and naturalist who kept us constantly updated on the history of the areas we were passing through, the flora and fauna and sea creatures to be found in the Sound. This time the weather was typical – but those who live and work in this part of the world think it is more beautiful seen through the mists than when the sun shines.
On the boat ride to Doubtful Sound
Doubtful Sound flowing out to the sea as seen through the mist on the bus ride to the ship.
Waterfalls were plentiful and the seals were there as well. The scenery was very similar to Mitford Sound, but the eeriness and quiet of Doubtful Sound really set it apart. Looking back, did I need to tour both? No. But hindsight is always so much clearer. Plus I met and dined with a lovely Dutch couple I actually ran into when I got back to the North Island. Small world…
|Doubtful Sound through the mists|
The next day I returned to Queenstown via bus and spent one more night before I flew to Auckland to spend my last few weeks in New Zealand touring more the The North Island.
Until next time…..