It’s Sunday evening in New Zealand and we just returned the Ark II to the wonderful people at Wilderness. We had 23 wonderful days living in the campervan and we were a little sad to say goodbye. We just checked into a cute little boutique hotel in Christchurch called Merivale Manor and we could not believe our eyes when we walked into our room - it is huge! Although we loved the holiday parks and the campervan life we are quite happy to have our very own private bathroom within our warm cozy heated hotel room. Tonight we’re planning to checkout a restaurant down the street and settle into bed early since we have a 9:55 a.m. flight in the morning.
So, I have about a week of catching up to do. My last post covered everything up through seeing the lookout in Bluff, which is at the very southern tip of the South Island. From there we drove about 45 minutes north to a town called Invercargill. It was after dark when we arrived at the Top 10 Holiday Park in Invercargill and after checking in and being personally walked to our campervan spot by the woman at reception we thanked her and inquired about a restaurant in town where we could get dinner. She recommended we go to the Speights Ale House. We headed back into town and found the ale house on the main street. Inside we chose a table by the fire and ordered dinner, we later found out that their portions are fit for a rugby team. As we were waiting for our food a group of about 20 guys came walking through the door, some of them limping, some with ice packs, all in suits wearing gold and maroon ties. We asked our waitress and were told that it was the Southland Stags rugby team. Apparently the team eats at the ale house after every home game. After the wonderful food and the rugby celebrity sighting we headed back in the Ark II to settle in for the night.
Monday morning our plan was to drive to Te Anau, which is the town at the beginning of the road to Milford Sound. But, before we left we decided to go and check out one of the things that Invercargill is famous for - the World's Fastest Indian. An Invercargill man named Burt Munro took a 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle and modified it into a racing bike. In 1962 he took the bike to Bonneville Flats and broke the world record by going 190.07 mph, that record still stands today. The motorcycle is on display at E. Hayes & Sons along with a few other bikes and engines built by Munro and Hayes. You can read more about Burt Munro's story here. A movie was made about Burt Munro in 2005, his character was played by Anthony Hopkins, Charles has seen the movie and I am looking forward to watching it once we get home.
|The World's Fastest Indian|
After seeing the World's Fastest Indian we drove on to Te Anau, in the rain. We had already decided we were going to go on a boat tour of Milford Sound but we hadn't booked anything so our first stop in town was the i-Site visitor center. We arrived in Te Anau to freezing cold weather and rain blowing sideways in our faces. We ran quickly from the campervan into the visitor center and booked our tour for the next morning. The rain let up a little and we headed back to the campervan and drove over to the Top 10 Holiday Park. We checked in and decided the first thing on the agenda was laundry. I worked on laundry and blogging while Charles did some painting then went for a run. As Charles headed out on his run we bumped into Eric and Sabrina, who we met in Dunedin, they were staying at the campsite across from us. We told them we would plan to chat with them in the campground kitchen a little later. At dinner time we took our broccoli and tortellini to the kitchen to make dinner and visit with Eric, Sabrina, and their two boys. It was great being able to talk to them a little more about their trip. (If y'all are reading - it was great getting to meet you and we hope to keep in touch!).
Tuesday morning we were up early to go to Milford Sound. It is a two hour drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound, there is only one road to get there and it is often closed during the winter due to snow and/or avalanche danger. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we drove through the mountains to the start of the sound. As we have found is the norm in New Zealand once we got to the boat terminal we had to trade in the tickets we purchased the day before for new tickets that would allow us onto the boat. With tickets in hand we made our way out to the boat, it was a cold morning and I was very happy to find there was free tea and coffee on board.
|About to cruise Milford Sound|
|About to get sprayed by the waterfall|
|Other cruisers leaving the waterfall spray|
|Rainbows in one of the waterfalls in Milford Sound|
Tuesday evening we drove on to Queenstown, which we were both really excited about because we had been hearing so many great things about the city. We were driving past Lake Wakatipu and into Queenstown just as the sun was setting.
|Getting ready to jump|
|That little dot above the water is Charles|
|Getting picked up|
|Lunch in Arrowtown|
|Charles at the Postmasters Residence Cafe|
|Delicious pumpkin, spinach and feta sandwich|
|Exploring the historic Chinese Miners Settlement|
|The store in the Chinese Mining Settlement Arrowtown|
Thursday morning we woke up and went to see the kiwi birds feed. The Kiwi Birdlife Park does a great job of explaining the dangers to the kiwi population and helped us better explain the kiwi's best hope for survival, which is releasing kiwi chicks hatched at the park when they are large enough not to be eaten by the introduced opossum and stoat that threaten their survival. We also stayed for the parks Conservation Show, which provided more information about why so many of the native birds of New Zealand are so threatened. We couldn't get any pictures of the kiwi's because they are kept in dark rooms because they are nocturnal birds. I was surprised by their size, they are actually quite big, maybe a little bigger than a chicken. It was really cool to watch them stick their beaks down into the ground looking food.
After leaving the Birdlife Park, we took the Gondola up to the top of the mountain to do the luge we had been hearing so much about. The luge is awesome! I was skeptical, but it really is so much fun.
|Chairlift up to the luge race tracks|
After checking out the luges we had lunch at the top of the mountain at the cafe then headed back down on the gondola. We wanted to find a place to hike and then check out some more things in the city. On our way to find a place to hike we walked past the ice bar, and decided maybe we would have to check it out later in the evening. We hiked around on the mountains around Queenstown and found some amazing mountain bike trails as we were exploring. That evening we went to the ice bar which was -7 degrees Celsius (which is 19 degrees Fahrenheit). Before they allow you to go in you have to put on coats that they provide and you are only allowed to stay inside for about 30 minutes. It was really cold, but pretty cool to hang out in a room built entirely of ice.
|Ice Bar - even the glasses were made of ice|
|Sitting in the ice chair|
I was hoping I could finish this entire post today, but it's late, so it will have to wait a few more days...