An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 17

Saturday, February 22

Today is our last day in New Zealand. Our morning was spent with Dr. Hamish Campbell exploring the bays of Wellington’s coastline.

We also saw the Wahine Memorial. The Wahine was a passenger and vehicle ferry that was caught in a really bad storm as it crossed the Wellington Harbour and capsized.

We also visited the Taputeranga Marine Reserve. It is a protected area of sea and coast and covers about 2100 acres!

We made a stop at Mt. Victoria. It is located east of central Wellington and there were some wonderful 360 degree views from the hill.

A memorial to Richard Byrd is located at Mt. Victoria. He was an American polar explorer and aviator and he used New Zealand as a base for his Antarctic expeditions for 27 years.

After two weeks exploring New Zealand, our next stop was the Wellington Airport for our flight to Sydney, Australia. We fell in love with this country and hope to visit again!

An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 16

Friday, February 21

Today began with visiting Zealandia. We had an excellent docent who took us through the park. Zealandia is an urban ecosanctuary that is completely fenced and encompasses 560 acres. There are many native New Zealand animals, trees, and plants that we were able to see. When New Zealand was inhabited by the Europeans in the 1800s, this area that is now the western slope of Zealandia was not good farmland for the settlers so it was left to become a forest again. The eastern slope still has remains of farming and human impact but slowly plant species have returned thanks to the ecosanctuary.

We walked through the Cable Car museum.

At lunch we had the opportunity to drink the Taha Tonic drink. Taha is made from natural ginger, manuka honey and pure New Zealand water. It was delicious!

This afternoon we had a guided visit to Te Papa Tongarewa: Museum of New Zealand. On our walk to the museum we saw many sayings and poems along the Wellington Writers Walk along the harbour.

After our tour we had some free time to explore the museum on our own. Below is a slideshow of some of the exhibits that we visited with our guide!

On our own we went into the special exhibit: Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War. It tells the story of the Gallipoli campaign during WWI. It tells the story through eight New Zealanders eyes during this time. The giant sculptures are 2.4 times human size. This exhibit was well done and very emotional.

We also stopped in the Earthquake House to experience a simulation. Where we live, the chance of a high magnitude quake is slim.

We left the museum and walked over to the Wellington Museum.

We didn’t have much time before the museum closed so we focused the majority of our time going through the special exhibit: Suffrage in Stitches. This textile work was created for the 125th anniversary year of the women’s suffrage in New Zealand. Its length is the same as the original petition and it consists of 546 individually fabric panels that were designed and tell the stories of those that signed the petition or relatives that influenced the 546 makers of the panels.

An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 15

Thursday, February 20th

Our day began with a walk to New Zealand’s parliament buildings in Wellington. We had a docent who led us on a tour. No photos are allowed inside the buildings. The pictures I have are from our walk and outside the buildings.

The crosswalk signal is Kate Sheppard, a leader of the Women’s suffrage movement.

After our tour of parliament, we walked over to the Supreme Court of New Zealand. The court was in session so we couldn’t tour the chambers but had an informative talk in the lobby area. There were windows where we could peek in and see the lawyers and judges. It was an interesting morning.

Below are pictures from inside the old Supreme Court building. We were allowed to take pictures in here.

We walked to the Thistle Inn for lunch. It is New Zealand’s oldest surviving tavern, 1840, and is operating from its original site! The sea used to be in front of the tavern but due to earthquakes and land reclamation the shoreline is now several blocks away.

Our afternoon was free so a few of us took the cable car up to visit the Wellington Botanic Garden.

The garden was established in 1868. We enjoyed strolling through its gardens and along the many paths.

As we left the Botanic garden, we walked through the Bolton Street Cemetery. It is Wellington’s oldest cemetery which dates back to 1840.

From the garden we walked toward Wellington’s harbor and enjoyed a beverage and then had a delicious meal at a nearby restaurant with some of our group.

At one point we walked through Wellington’s train station. It was great to see the reference to Harry Potter with the Platform 9 3/4.

An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 14

Wednesday, February 19th

Today we leave Queenstown and board our motorcoach. IMG_5191 Our first stop was along the road that goes up to the turn for the Skipper Road Lookout.  From here we could see the Coronet Peak and ski resort, the Remarkables, Cecil Peak, Walter Peak and Queenstown.

We stopped at the historic Kawarau Bridge which is the site of the first commercial bungee jump.  We watched several people bungee jump over the river.  That is not a thrill either one of us has any desire to try.

Our next stop was Arrowtown which was a former gold mining settlement.  We walked through the Chinese settlement.  In the 1880s the Chinese goldminers lived very modestly.  Watch the slideshow below to see some pictures of the settlement.

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Later we walked around the main street in town where the Europeans had settled and enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant.

After lunch our motorcoach dropped us off at the Queenstown airport and we flew to Wellington which is located in the southernmost part of the North Island.

Wellington is the seat of NZ government. Tomorrow we will be learning all about their government.

When we arrived in Wellington our site coordinator gave us a quick orientation to the city as we drove to our hotel.  Once we were settled at our hotel, we had a lecture about local life and politics!  Our group was very interested in how well the New Zealand political system works and how the U.S. should take a good look at their system!

An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 13

Tuesday, February 18th

This morning we took a walk first thing with our site coordinator from our hotel through the Queenstown Gardens. IMG_5159 It was a hilly walk, downhill and uphill!

After wandering through the gardens we walked back to the dock where we will board a boat to cruise across Lake Wakatipu to the Walter Peak Farm. Our boat was the vintage TSS Earnslaw.  It was built in 1912 and is a twin screw (propellers) steamer, which means it is steam-powered that is propelled by two screw propellers.  It is also the only remaining passenger-carrying coal-fired steamship!

The view from the ship to our destination!IMG_0322

At the Walter Peak Farm we saw a demonstration on sheep shearing and how the working dogs are trained to herd the sheep.

The farm has a buffet restaurant where we enjoyed lunch and then had some time to explore the farm before boarding our boat to head back to Queenstown.

The rest of the afternoon we explored Queenstown and got a lot of exercise walking up and down the hilly streets which were really steep in some areas.

Our last sunset in Queenstown overlooking Lake Wakatipu!sunset 2:18

An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 12

Monday, February 17th

Today consisted of a bus ride, boat ride, then bus, then boat, bus, boat and then bus ride to Queenstown to finish our day!  We drove around Lake Te Anau on our coach to arrive at Lake Manapouri.  Here we boarded a boat to cross the lake.

After crossing Lake Manapouri we boarded a bus to take us over Wilmot Pass, part of Fiordland National Park to the boat landing to explore Doubtful Sound which is only accessible by boat.  Our original itinerary was to visit Milford Sound but due to recent flooding the road leading into the Sound was damaged.  Our trip leader and our site coordinator told us that we were lucky to be seeing Doubtful Sound instead.  They both felt is was better.  Doubtful Sound is bigger and quieter than Milford Sound.  It is also the deepest and second longest of the South Island’s fiords.

We enjoyed many waterfalls on our cruise through the Sound.  Below are just a few!

At one point during our time on the Sound, the Captain turned off the boat’s engines and we enjoyed several minutes of silence.  It was incredible.

Inside the cabin you could follow along where our boat was traveling.

It was an overcast day but the views were astounding!

We traveled along and saw where some seals were resting near Doubtful Sound’s opening into the Tasman Sea.

We returned to the bus when finished with our exploration of Doubtful Sound.  Our bus driver had to maneuver around work crews clearing where they have had a landslide of boulders as we go across Wilmot Pass.