Queenstown, New Zealand
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Pictures: Traveling south | Old Cromwell | Jones Fruit Stall | Kawarau River Gorge | Waitiri Creek Winery | Bungy Site | Frankton | Hilltop | Arrowtown | Parasailing | Arthur's Point | Nugget Point Hotel | Queenstown | Lake Wakatipu | Anniversary | Sunrise | Lake Manapouri | Fiordland National Park | Doubtful Sound | Cruise on the Sound | Dolphins | Manapouri Power Station | Kiwi & Birdlife Park | Shotover River Jetboat | Walter Peak | Good Bye
Leaving Twizel we headed south paralleling the Southern Alps. Destination is Queenstown, a Kiwi mecca for outdoor adventure. Our first stop was at Old Cromwell Town on the shore of Lake Dunstan. There was a wonderful refreshment break at Mrs. Jones Fruit Stall. We were now following the Kawarau River and had a wine tasting stop at Waitiri Creek Winery. They started the wine growing in 1993 and won numerous medals. Now there are a number of vineyards in the area.
Still following the river we stopped at the world's first commercial bungy jumping site off the Kawarau River bridge. There are now 3 bungy sites in the area that offer jumps from 142 feet to a eye-opening 440 feet. I seriously thought about "doing it." I even went onto the bridge to see how they harness the people. I think the average age of jumpers was 20 years. The operation seemed to run smoothly and quickly. You get harnessed, pray a little, get connected to the bungee cord, pray some more, then jump. A small boat retrieves you as you dangle over the water. Very interesting to watch.
A few minutes later we were almost in Queenstown. But first we stopped at a private home in Frankton, which overlooks Lake Wakatipu, to have lunch. Then there was a short tour of town with a stop at our tour leader's home high up in the hills overlooking town. We continued north to Arrowtown where we had some time to explore. On the way back to Queenstown we passed through Arthur's Point and saw some parasailing along the mountains. Our hotel was north of Queenstown center at Nugget Point. We had a great view of the Shotover River from the patio off the dining area.
We had the opportunity to explore Queenstown and admire the view of the mountains around Lake Wakatipu. That evening we all met at a local restaurant for dinner and celebrated the 53rd wedding anniversary of Charlie and Pat.
The next morning we left before sunrise for an all day trip to Doubtful Sound. I took some pictures of the sunrise from the moving bus. We followed the eastern shore of Lake Wakatipu over rolling hills with sheep and deer farms. It was a couple of hours traveling before our arrival at Lake Manapouri for a 30 km boat trip across the lake. We arrived at the west arm of the lake, went to a small visitors centre, picked up a picnic lunch and boarded a large bus for a 20 km trip down to the sound. On the way we passed through some dense forest with numerous waterfalls and small streams. We were in the heart of Fiordland National Park. At Deep Cove we boarded the Fjordland Navigator which holds 72 people; our group was only 42.
As we cruised on Doubtful Sound (actually a fjord) there were magnificent views in every direction. Waterfalls up to 1200 feet, shadowy mountains, Bottled Nose Dolphins which followed our boat a long way and even some rare Little Blue Penguins swimming by the shore. Could not get a good picture because they were so small and the large boat did not get that close. The dolphins did provide a very good show on both sides of the boat. It's interesting that they keep pace with the boat plus jumping and twisting at the same time.
Before re-crossing Lake Manapouri, we had a tour of the underground Manapouri Power Station. It was a 2 km tunnel then a short walk to the huge generator room and display on the history of the building of the facility. It's the largest power station in New Zealand and we found it very fascinating. It was already dark when we returned to Queenstown. The hotel had a special anniversary cake ready for Charlie and Pat.
Our last full day in New Zealand started with a light rain and a trip to the Kiwi & Birdlife Park in town. There was a nice demonstration and talk on some native species. We had the opportunity to see live kiwis in a darkened enclosure. So could not take pictures. There was also a tuotora, a large lizard. We wondered around town, had lunch and met up with the rest of the group for the jet boat ride on the Shotover River. This was really a lot of fun.
For our farewell dinner we had to board a 1912 steam turbine boat to cross Lake Wakatipu to have dinner at Walter Peak. The trip took 45 minutes. Walter Peak is actually a working sheep and deer farm with sheep shearing demonstrations. The meal was one of the best on the trip. Our group had our own dinning room and waitress. It is supposed to be the ultimate in Queenstown dinning.
The next morning, on the way to the airport, our tour leader sang the New Zealand national anthem. The flight from Queenstown to Auckland was 2½ hours. Initially we had a 5 hour layover in Auckland, but that was extended a few more hours. This was our first international flight that was completely booked. Thank goodness we both had aisle seats across from one another. We were able to check our bags all the way to Tucson, even though we changed airlines in Los Angeles. We did make our connection at LAX, but John elected to give up his seat for a free ticket anywhere in the US. He was put on a flight that left 2 hours later. Kirsten was tired (doesn't sleep on planes), so she just wanted to get home.