Thursday, March 15, 2012


Last day in NZ...torrential downpours keeping all of us in motel, almost all. Nan and Bruce left for Australia early and Steve had already signed up for a river boarding trip, which was going to soak him,anyway. He was bussed to a river with class II-III rapids, put on wet suit and fins and given a small river surfing board to surf 4 miles of tumbling frothing NZ river. He said it was pouring! It was really fun and much harder than it looked! The 3 of us left were waiting for the "fine" afternoon that was predicted on theTV weather. And guess what? About 1o'clock it WAS FINE! That means sunny and about perfect around here, and so it was!
It was so perfect, that we four decided to board the gondola and have a "look see" at the top. Of course, being NZ , there was also a bungy jump and a ledge swing on the top also..oh-oh. His Highness of the Adrenaline Rush decided he had spent enough NZ dollars and went the tourist route with Dave,Linda, and myself. It was crystal clear up at the restaurant bar, where we watched others jump off the bungy, saw the whole country side, and decided it was a fine way to end our trip. But, there was ONE more "to do". Ever since we had landed in Queenstown, we had heard the praises of a "Ferg Burger". We hadn't had one because we could not even get close to ordering because of the throngs of people crowding and spilling out of the door ALL HOURS! But, it was our last "fine" day, so we decided we would run the
gauntlet, and go for it! It was loud,crowded, and a tad confusing for us olders, but the hamburger gods were smiling as we were taken under wing by a ready server, scored a seat being vacated, and got our burgers and chips in fast order. It was worth the wait and we wisely split one. Now we could leave NZ and say: YES, we had done the Milford, AND had a Ferg Burger! Wahoooo, and G'bye!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


We are in our last days. Nan and Bruce are off to Australia, and Aussie adventures for a few weeks. Dave and Linda, Steve and I will fly the long journey home. We will leave NZ in the afternoon, and return to the US just a few hours later, thanks to the time change.
I've been compiling a mental list of Kiwi things we all love. Of course, the New Zealanders are at the top of the list. They are unfailingly kind, and interested in us from the USA. They think we have a funny accent! They have a visually beautiful country, and stunning scenery everywhere we looked. We love their signage, which in some ways made better sense than our own. They have universal health care that seems to work out well for all. They also have the option of purchasing extra care, if wanted. Their taxes are included in ALL pricing for everything, so what you see, is what you get. We really got used to that! There is no tipping. People here get paid a "living wage", so tipping is basically non existent. Political candidates are allotted a monetary stipend for their candidacy, so there are no PACs. Also, the nominating and voting process only takes a few months. America-get a clue!
Prostitution is legal and taxed. NZ has no death penalty. Their police do not carry guns, because no one else does either. They have wonderful trails (tracks) everywhere. It is easy to walk places.
The have McCafe's, which are great. They have tea time. They have great wines. The go ballistically happy over "All Blacks", their national rugby team. Everywhere we stayed, the accommodations had kitchens,tea pots, refrigerators, and were exceedingly clean and comfortable. I could easily keep going, as we enjoyed this country so much. If there was a down side, it was no easy access to internet. They seem to be a tad behind in this. We could usually find it, but for a price. Even Starbucks charged, and all the hotels did also. They have narrow roads and look at bicyclists as stationary objects that are basically in the way of their cars. I would not call them bicycle friendly. And the biggie is they drive on the other side of the street! ha! Queenstown has no lights, so crossing any street was always a challenge.
We loved New Zealand.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


As I said, my morning started out in a mellow fashion. I followed the jet boaters into town, bade them farewell for their adventure and dinked around in town for a bit. I was sitting in the sun,watching the world go by, when I saw Steve. He was headed to his next thrill...the "Shotover Canyon Swing" and was filling me in on all the fun he had being thrown out of the raft into the raging river. Somehow, I found myself reluctantly agreeing to accompany him to the Canyon Swing. While he was filling out the paper work, they slapped a "swinger" wrist band on me and said I also had to fill out the safety documents. Hmmmmm. Seemed strange, since I was only going along for the ride. The other 4 companions were two very nice and very young couples from England. As we were getting in the van, the driver/ guide said..."it's a beautiful day to die"! Chuckles all around. Ha. Then he cranked up some Nirvana...loud, and away we went. I had a feeling, I was in a time warp or something, since these kids and the driver knew all the words to: Another one Bites the Dust! Climbing rapidly, we turned off onto a very narrow gravel road. He did call ahead and said we were on the road, so we wouldn't meet anyone coming down. As if I wasn't having enough fun, he then undid his seat belt and told us to do the same...because if we started to tumble down the cliff....we could jump free! I figured the Canyon Swing would be a piece of cake after the ride up!
The world's highest cliff jump is 109 m high, a 60 m free fall, then a 200m arching swing. Then they reel you back up to the platform. There are many ways(or forms) of jumping, from easy plunge to 4X scary hard, which is the one Steve chose. After the other four kids went screaming, it was Steve's turn. He chose the "pin drop" which was hands clasped behind his back and leaning forward, looking at his toes...then jump off sideways!!!!!! He did it, saying it was the biggest "rush"of the whole trip for him. Then they let everyone go tandem, but since he was alone, they let him have another turn. I guess he really thinks these thrill events are fun, but I was bracing for the ride back down the mountain as my adrenaline rush of the day. This time, along with then rock music blasting, he put on a video of funny things that happened to people when they jumped. Glad we saw that little ditty AFTER Steve's jumping.
It ended with a visit to a nice pub, where our wrist bands got us a nice big glass of ale. Then we went to Devil Burger and had a huge venison burger on homemade rolls. Finally, since Steve had barely eaten all day...he splurged on a huge piece of chocolate/raspberry melt cake!

Monday, March 12, 2012


Sitting here this am drinking coffee, while waiting for the sun to warm things up. Of course, Mr. "live life to the fullest" man has departed early for a class IV-V river rafting trip, or as I call them: "helmet river rafting". For Steve, this will be followed by the "shotover jet boat" ride with full Hamilton Spins! As in a post a week or so ago, I have had all the Hamilton Spins I want for a lifetime. Then, as that is just a taster for him, he will do more bungy(not bunny) jumping and the Nevis Swing. Don't ask, don't tell. Yesterday he already super seeded the 1st Bungy that he and Bruce did. That 1st one was 43m. Yesterday he did a134m jump! loved it and going back for more today! He also worked in a full day of paragliding with Bruce. Crazy? Nahhhh-- he fits right in with the adrenaline junkies of NZ, only he is about 30-40 years older than most! We hear this a lot: "did you see that old guy do that? Yadda,yadda.
So what do I do when all this action is taking place? Shop and eat.
Oh yeah, drink cappuccinos. Luckily, I have 2 very cool gal friends to share this enjoyment of a much slower pace. It is a quick walk into town from the Blue Peaks Hotel, and we enjoy the parks, walking paths, window shopping, people watching, and as the day drifts into late time. We have been drinking NZ wines exclusively, and so far, we have enjoyed most of them.
Last night Steve and I walked into town for a light bite. We ran into Dave and
Linda at the same seafood "take-a-way." Linda was enjoying a huge container of NZ green lipped mussels, and it looked so good with hot chili dipping sauce. Being adventuresome AND Norwegian, Steve thought he would try the smoked eel. Imagine our surprise when the cook brought out a
Whole eel, head and bulging eyes, mouth agape with rows of tiny teeth, and tongue sticking out. Even Steve was a tad taken back! You should have seen Dave! Laughing and sticking around for the "Steve eating the eel" show! It was messy, and maybe a bit gross, but after pealing off the black smoky skin, and eating the white flesh, Steve said it tasted like chicken!
I cannot believe I left my camera back in the room!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


We know that Milford can be breathtaking on a rare sunny day, with snow capped peaks displayed against the clear blue sky and reflections shimmering on the water, but in all travel, you just have to sometimes play the hand you were dealt. We were dealt rain. We all enjoyed the "Lord of the Rings" atmosphere we got to see, and glad we did the Milford.
That said, it is a long drive on winding roads. Nancy, whom we jokingly referred to (or not) as the management side of "The Tour Team", kept wanting to stop and see the sights, and the rain be damned! That is what we did, donning rain gear each time, and returning to the van like drowned rats. By the time we arrived in Te Anau, Nancy had redeemed herself with a happy hour party- to be held in the van- while a non imbibing Pete,drove another 2 hrs to Queenstown. They have different rules here in NZ.
It was the last night with The Tour Team, and after a short rest we all joined together for a farewell dinner at Avanti. We rehashed the good and the bad of the trip, but there really was no bad! We all laughed alot, had fun adventures,learned alot about a beautiful country, and stayed friends. What more could one ask. We gave hugs and and thank you's and wished Nancy and Pete well, as they return to Christchurch, and a dental appt. for
Pete, as he developed an abbess tooth a couple days ago. (Luckily we were in Queenstown and they found a dentist to treat him asap).
We six are now on our own for a few days. Stay tuned.


It is said that when you tell people you are going to, or have gone to NZ, the most asked question is: "Did you go to Milford Sound?". I am not sure if this is because it is a long, as in looooong, road trip, or because it is usually wet, sand fly ridden, or breathtakingly beautiful...but, we went!
As we got up early and wandered to our breakfast spot, it had been raining all night, and was still dark and drizzly, nothing new to we travelers from the NW. Our ever optimistic driver, Pete, made light of the situation and said it would probably clear by our boat trip on Milford Sound, which is NOT a sound, but a true fjord. We drove through a countryside very much like the NW on a rainy afternoon, so we felt right at home. The landscape then gave way to enormous rock walls with waterfalls EVERYWHERE. Linda can attest to this, because we think she took pictures of each one! The thing about Milford in the rain, is to witness these hundreds of falls everywhere we looked. When it stops raining, they dry up in a matter of hours. Even in the fjords, there are only a couple of true permanent falls, so we were able to witness this beauty.
We boarded our boat and found it almost empty. The hoards of Asian travelers we saw being bussed to Milford were on other boats! Score!
While eating a yummy lunch time buffet, we toured the Milford Fjord with informational commentary from our captain. In fact, Steve, found himself in the wheelhouse with said captain, enjoying "off the cuff" nautical talk.
A few times, the captain was able to edge this big boat almost under a couple waterfalls because of the torrential amount of water cascading this day. Bruce and Steve put on their rain gear and went to the outside bow and got soaked. Steve must have loved it the first time, cause he did it again. We did make it out to the Tasman Sea for a bit of a cruise before we had to turn around and head back.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


We are starting the last legs of our trip with a drive out to the remote part of South Is NZ, called Te Anau. We left Queenstown this am for the 2 hour drive and long the way saw.....ta-da.....more sheep. Another animal product very prevalent in this area is deer. Yes, here in NZ, venison is cash meat, raised and butchered and sold like beef. So here, when you drive by fields and fields red deer, they aren't Bambi...they are meat for sale. The fences are REALLY high. Of course we stopped for coffee in yet another new spot.
We got to Te Anau which is a cute little town on the shores of Lake Te Anua. This is also the jumping off place for a 2 hour drive to Milford Sound, which we will be leaving for tomorrow, early in the AM. We spent a short time in a preditor controlled habitat for rare native birds, and saw the wingless takahe, but we haven,t seen the kiwi yet. The other thing Te Anau is noted for are the glowworm caves. Of course, we did this, minus Nan, who elected to hang out in the tiny town. Her excitement for the day was finding Decafe fake cappuccinos, and gluten free pizza crust.
The rest of us boarded a very nice catamaran that took is to the caves. We were divided into small groups with tour guide and he led us through a long entry into a pitch dark cave. We could not use cameras at all, or make noise. The caves are at least 12,000 years old, but the limestone they burn through is over 35 million years old. The entrance to the cave is very low and we walked in a crouch, but it eventually opened up and after some climbing and more walking, we boarded a small boat and somehow ended up in a pitch dark "glowworm grotto", where the only light was from hundreds of glowworm pupa before they turned into larva. The hungrier a glowworm, the more brightly it grows. I know it seems a tad corny and weird, but it was really serene and beautiful and we all enjoyed it more than we thought we would. Plus, we learned a lot about caves in the area, and glowworms!

Friday, March 9, 2012


I had mixed feelings about Queenstown. After we got settled here last night, we strolled into town and it was very crowded. A very young crowd here and the bars were packed lots of tourists. The town itself is cradled around a beautiful lake with the "Remarkables" in the back ground. If you want action, this is the place to find it, and there is something for everyone. Steve and Bruce found a paragliding site and took off
In the early morning to paraglide all day. Dave also got up early, but went on a half day hike around the lake. I followed suit and took a walk by the lake and walked back through the most beautiful "English" park. In fact, Queenstown was named after Queen Victoria and as in most of New Zealand, the English influence is readily seen.
The morning was sunny, bright, and the streets were empty. It looked so different and was wonderfully quiet. Linda, Nan and I found a nice pub for lunch and spent the afternoon wandering the streets, the lake side and the park. Even tho the town is crawling with tourists, it is such a beautiful setting, it is hard not to get swept up it's action and activities. We will be leaving for a couple days, but will return for 3 more days in Queenstown, and Steve is organizing all the thrills and spills he can fit it!