Bob& Sue in New Zealand 2005       Picasa Photo Album

  More detail about New Zealand activities  

Robert and Sue now back after 9 touring days through the Southlands...incredible scenery, great weather and wonderful adventures at every twist and turn of the road...literally twist and turn as New Zealand is DEFINITELY hilly and mountainous.... a land of extremes except for the weather. Facts: 1/3 of slopes here are more than 28 degrees and the roads are built INTO the side of these slopes, 3/5th of NZ is over 300 meters high, with the Southern Alps counting 223 peaks over 2300 meters. There are deep caves, regular earthquakes and active volcanoes. It is a young and dramatic landscape!

First stop Dunedin, quite the Scottish-type city on the south-east coast. Enjoyed checking out the city centre, around The Octagon Park, then headed out to the Otaga Peninsula jutting out into the ocean. Larnarch Castle and gardens presented fascinating flora and bird sights as well as a tour of the castle with a very tragic history. Then on to the seal, penguin and albatross colonies at the tip of Otaga Peninsula, seeing only seals as the albatross were nesting at this point.

Next few days we headed to the south-west coast, as were thousands of other tourists heading for the #1 NZ destination, Milford Sound. The gateway town is Te Anau, saturated with people on the pilgrimage to Milford. Bookings are a must here and Robert & I camped at a Holiday Park for 2 nights, thanks to my sister's lent gear. Off by 6:30 A.M., beating the crowds, and had probably the most beautiful drive of our lives! 120 kms. to Milford Sound, and we took the opportunity many times to explore hiking trails, waterfalls, gorges, scenic views in decent one point we emerged from the Homer Tunnel and SWORE that the road had dropped away, a very dramatic view ! At Milford Sound itself, cruise boats came and went into the mist which unfortunately blotted out most views. Fact: Milford Sound has 1000 mm rain a year and 260 days of mist and time we'll come for 3 days and try to get at least one day of sunshine!! We stopped at the Great Divide on our way back, checking out the trailheads for the Routeburn (39 km.) and Greenstone-Caplan (70 km) Traks which head over to the Queenstown area. These are non-quota, unlike the Milford Trak (52 km.)which needs a 30 km boat ride to get to the trailhead, has a 40-person a day quota for their shelter system and doesn't allow camping on the trail.

Relunctantly headed north through the Alps to Queenstown, a bustling, almost frantic tourist town, but lays claim to being NZ's #1 Adventure area in NZ. Everything is here: jet boating, white water rafting and kayaking, para- and heligliding, hiking, a 1912 steam cruise boat which goes to a great sheep station/farm , great restaurants and night life, all set in a drop-dead gorgeous setting in the mountains and on Lake Wakatipu. Our adventure to the sheep farm included a dog-herding as well as sheep shearing demonstration....could hardly hold Robert back...he was very "excited!" Another highlight was driving up through a mountain range affectionately called the Remarkables, truly incredible as we clung to the slope looking a few hundred meters STRAIGHT down....

After 2 days here, drove up through more Alpine ranges, this time the Cardronas, proving once again that Kiwis take the prize for switchbacks and hairpin lane wide and commanding you to go at 10 km./hr! Stopping at several touristy excellent one was Arrowtown, a former gold mining town that at one point exceeded the Klondike in amount of gold panned out of the river. The town is completely restored and it has a great museum that's one of the best in NZ! Further on in the mountains, we stood high on the ridge, looking a few 1000 feet down and could see vineyards (lots of opportunity for wine tours in NZ!) as well as jet-boats roaring along the river far below!

Next....heading deep into the Alps, Mt Cook our destination, at 3700 meters the highest of the Alps. Excellent 2 days there, camping right at the base of the ranges near the Mt Cook Village (alert! no grocery store here, only 3 restaurants in their hotel system so stock up on water and food before heading the 60 kms. into Mt Cook National Park) What can anyone say about beautiful mountains, covered in fresh snow, hearing frequent avalanches all day and night, being part of a campground and hiking community? We hiked around the area, one being a 10 km. return Hooker Lake trek, right to the base of Mt Cook. Another was a short but steep trek up to the foot of the Tasman Glacier, 26 kms. long, ice floes cracking off. In both cases kayakers were on the lakes, paddling in and around the many ice floes.

VERY relunctant to leave this area, but finished off our tour by taking the Inland Scenic Highway #72


What we discovered and what made it so special..! If you can figure out the unique and intelligent sequencing system we used to put these items in order please call MENSA and apply for the presidency of this organisation.

When crossing the road, look to the Right. That's the direction that you will find oncoming traffic expecting you to have looked that way.

Kiwi - A kiwi in New Zealander or a bird. It is not to be confused with a kiwi fruit which is green and edible.

Aussies - According to New Zealanders, an Australian is part of Homo Erectus but not quite evolved to the "Sapien" stage. I was told by our NZ host that I was being too generous with this description.

Washrooms and Bathrooms are called Toilets here. The little button on top of the toilet is for # 1 and the bigger button is for # 2. This is to do with water conservation, and not to direct the fluids to their breweries. Actually, the beer here is quite good although with a population of only 5 million people, I'm not sure there is sufficient production facilities to satisfy a certain Barbarian Replica who was to be found cutting down trees near Baddeck last Fall.

D.O.C. sites- Dept. of Conservation Information sites in every town...a Mecca for hikers, campers, wilderness seekers, with lots of free "stuff" such as maps, applications, etc. and wonderful staff to help you...there are hundreds of minimum-serviced campsites throughout NZ, especially on the way to "hot" tourist areas such as Mt Cook and Milford Sound. Bring camping equipment to enjoy $5./person a night sites! Make sure you buy groceries, potable water at a town BEFORE heading in...a cooler keeps things good for a few days. Use a water filter if you use stream or lake water. Given the fact that these minimalist camping sites have no showers, you might want to invest in panty liners, baby wipes and a hardy stock of deoderant.

NZ Rugby - This is not a sport in this country. It is a religion.

When crossing the road, look to the Right.

Bakeries- the equivalent of Timmies with a variety of different coffees including the "hi octane" one..... has hot meat pies for $3-$4. or so as well as NZ specialty bakery goodies, perfect for snacks or lunches! Thank goodness there is a minimum of fast food outlets here!

Holiday Parks- A variety of accomodations with showers, toilets, common kitchen and lounge available - tent sites ($15/ night), caravan sites ($30), basic cabin ($40. to $50, you need linens or you can rent sheets for $5...clean ones for $6 ), deluxe cabin with bathroom ($60 and up) and motel-type rooms ($70 and up). B & B's are pricey, starting at $90.(double) but with great full-cooked breakfasts that would be worth $12. each at a restaurant. These Holiday Parks dominate the accomodation scene and are a great way to meet other tourists as you prepare your meals in the common kitchen. Major social event!!!

Communications-These Holiday park sites also have e-mail availablity for about $2 for 15 minutes. Don't forget to get $5 phone cards for anywhere from 5- 15 cents a minute to call back to Canada to tell friends how warm and beautiful it is here while they just got in from shovelling snow.

When crossing the road, look to the Right.

Attractions- Again, according to our NZ host our "tight-assed Canadian view" is that attractions are pricey and competitive, but there are some great alternatives to the $$$$ activities.....for example, in Queenstown we went up the 13.5 km. road to the top of the Remarkables Range , Much higher altitude than the $$$ gondola and with quite the thrill as we looked down on the planes landing at Queenstown airport!

Christchurch- Has a multitude of acivities that aren't listed in the brochures....ask a local in any town what some of the out-of-the way neat places sister took us to a wide variety of gardens, beaches, lookouts, hiking trails, etc. that really brought Christchurch alive for us!!

Grocery Stores and Picnic Sites- get to know their names as it's the perfect way to keep costs down as you picnic your way around NZ...there's a multitude of picnic sites with fantastic views. Examples: Grocery stores = New World, Woolworth's, 4 Square, Pac and Save. There are even Spice stores for Greg Vail.

Extreme Sporting Events. Check out the NZ websites for things like triathalons, sea to sea races and other body bruising events. Their Medicare system is similar to ours so don't fret over a collapsed lung, broken femurs, third degree burns from the hole in the ozone layer, etc.

When crossing the road, look to the Right.

Hiking (Tramping) Trails - Called Tracks here and are BUSY....make sure to check whether quotas are in place i.e. Milford Sound Trak is strictly controlled with 40 persons a day, to accomodate the Hut system, no camping allowed anywhere near the trail and a 30 km. boat ride to the trailhead. West Coast is wet (1000 mm of rain a year, 260 days/year).... bring raingear, polyprop, etc.

Note that due to dry conditions some Tracks may be closed due to Fire restrictions. Check ahead.

One Way Bridges. When approaching a bridge you will find a "One Way Bridge" sign painted on the road before you reach forementioned bridge. It also has a big and small arrow painted on the road. If your direction has the big arrow, you have the right of way. If not you must let the guy coming at you at 100 kpm to cross the bridge before you do. Also (and I'm not kidding) there are some bridges that you share with trains. Same deal with the One way bridges except the train always has the right of way. ALWAYS !

p.s. you will also encounter flocks of sheep and herds of cows (usually on back roads). The farmers prefer it if you slow down and not practice moose and deer aversion tactics with their income source.

Two good Web sites, for general and specific information
Dept. of Conservation-

Trips and Itineraries-

Oh yea !!!

When crossing the road, look to the Right.