Down South New Zealand

Pano of Milford Sound

Picking up on my previous post about our vacation to New Zealand, I wanted to finish up my reflections on this amazing trip with some images and brief thoughts on the South Island. Firstly, everyone we talked to when preparing admonished us to see the South island, and let me just echo that sentiment. New Zealand’s South Island is amazing.  It feels pure, wild, and a bit like Middle Earth.

Lake Wakatipu

We flew to Queenstown from Aukland, and after 3 or 4 days in country we were finally adjusting to the time difference.  Queenstown is a on Lake Wakatipu, and it’s somewhat of an extreme sports and skiing mecca. In fact, just north of Queenstown is where commercial bungee jumping was born. We flew in during the evening, and given we planned on driving 4 hours away to Milford Sound first thing in the morning, we went to bed quite early. Not until the long ride to the Milford Sound did we begin to realize the full extent of the South island’s magical landscape.

The Road

Anto captures NZ

Fjordland Clouds

The road ahead in New Zealand's Fjordland National Park

Fjordland National Park, NZ

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimgroom/34455564282

After an hour of driving through the Fjordland National Park we came to a tunnel that seemed to be dug out of the mountainside by orcs. I had never been so uncomfortable driving through a mountain before in my life. It was a one lane road and it looked as if it had been dynamited the day before. We made it, and soon would see what may be the single most beautiful place I have ever laid eyes on: Milford Sound.

Milford Sound as seen from the docks

It really did seem like King Kong’s Skull Island:

Mitre Peak would make a fine stand-in for Kong's Skull Island

Antonella and I were excited!

Milford Sound #4life

Maybe some of us more excited than others:

So I married Gene Simmons's daughter?

We took a boat out to the Tasmanian Sea and got a quick look at the Ocean, debating whether we try and swim to Australia.

The Tasmanian Sea

After that, we went back into the sound:

Mouth of the Milford Sound

There were two amazing waterfalls:

Waterfall on the sound

Image credit: NewAnto

IMG_6643

Image credit: NewAnto

And the flora around the sound was kinda like a fern-based tropical rain forest. And while Milford Sound is one of the rainiest places on earth, we did catch it on a gorgeous Fall day.

Fern Rain Forest

We left the Milford Sound unwillingly, and it’s about the time we started to realize doing New Zealand in anything less than a month or two is a crime. I would have loved to hike and camp through out the Fjordland National Park for at least a week. There was so much beauty to behold. But, that was not our lot and on the ride back home we stopped at Lake Te Anou and caught a gorgeous sunset:

Sunset on Lake Te Auno

After that we drove back up to Queenstown and prepared for our trip north through Otago to Mt. Cook. Antonella captured the road from Queenstown to Mt Cook far better than I could. It was a spectacle of fall colors and desertic landscapes within an hour of each other:

Fall in NZ

Image credit: NewAnto

Sheep 1

Image credit: NewAnto

the road

Image credit: NewAnto

Lindis Pass in Central Otago

After a leisurely 3 hour ride we made it to Mount Cook, and yet another natural wonder to behold.  We did a 3-hour hike up to the glacier-based lake in from of the mountain, and it was amazing. But don’t take my word for it, take my iPhone’s:

A stack of rocks

Pano of trail to Mt Cook

Signs of Mt Cook

Reflective Tarn II

Mt. Cook

On the way out of Mt. Cook the sky was like a painting:

Like a painting

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimgroom/34647483515

That evening we headed to Lake Tekapo for some sleep. We woke up to yet another gorgeous lake (there is no shortage of those in New Zealand):

Lake Tekapo

Fall on Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

There was even a monument to Border Collies near the small church:

Border Collie Monument in Lake Tekapo

We then drove our final leg to Christchurch, and the gorgeous scenery just wouldn’t quit:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimgroom/33805355194

When we got to downtown Christchurch I have to admit we were a bit confused.  We didn’t really know where the city was.  Sadly, most of it was gone.  I avoided “ruins porn” photos of the city. While there were a few places where you could still see the dramatic effects of the 2011 earthquake that leveled the city, for the most part it was simply empty lots everywhere. And that’s when it slowly dawns on you just how devastating and horrific that event must have been for the residents. We traveled outside the city to Sumner Beach:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimgroom/34517173481

Sumner Beach, Christchurch

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimgroom/34262452320

And our last hurrah before heading to the Airport hotel for an early morning flight was New Brighton Beach:

Dunes Beaches of New Brighton

Sunset on the New Brighton Beach pier was quite a way to end an amazing trip:

Sand Art

New Brighton Waves

And the surfers were quite good:

Waves coming in From New Brighton Pier

Surfer catching a wave off New Brighton Pier

As were the murals:

Space for Art

And that was it, an amazing trip to an amazing island. And if we’re lucky enough we’ll return with the kids in the future. I feel like I only got a glimpse of the beauty, but until then…

 

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4 Responses to Down South New Zealand

  1. Nigel Robertson says:

    Beautiful shots and you got the sand artist.
    So glad the weather worked out for you. Since you left, all the high country has been blanketed in snow with icy winds blowing!

    • Reverend says:

      Nigel,
      Without you none of the trip to the South would have worked out as beautifully, and that goes for the North island too. I can’t begin to express our gratitude for all your guidance before and during this trip. It really was an amazing experience, and all the more so thanks to you and Anne.

  2. Aaron Davis says:

    Totally agree Jim that a few weeks is not enough. I found that the longer I stayed the more I realised I was missing.

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