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.

We stopped at the top of the Pass at a lookout area to view one last time Doubtful Sound.

Along our bus ride you could see some snow in the mountains!

When we got back to Lake Manapouri, we boarded the boat again to cross the lake.

After crossing the lake we boarded our coach for our ride to Queenstown which is located by Lake Wakatipu.

This evening we had dinner at the restaurant atop Bob’s Peak.  We rode a gondola car up to the top of Bob’s Peak.

We had spectacular views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables mountain range, and Queenstown.

We sat on our balcony and watched a glorious sunset!


An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 11

Sunday, February 16th

Today began with “Breakfast with the Penguins” at the International Antarctic Centre.

We were able to visit before the centre opened to the public.  We were the only group of  visitors touring the facility!  Our breakfast was in front of the glass enclosure for the Little Blue penguins.  During breakfast our docent presented a slideshow/talk about the centre and her journeys to Antarctica.  It was interesting to hear about how the centre participates in the research base for the United States, New Zealand, Italy and South Korea.  Christchurch is the closest mainland city to getting to Antarctica.

The International Antarctic Centre offers experiences similar to actually visiting Antarctica.  We had the option of dressing accordingly and go into the Storm room.  It is chilled to -8 degrees Celsius (about 18 degrees Fahrenheit) and a wind chill machine that drops it to -18 degrees Celsius (about -.04 degrees Fahrenheit).

We also saw a 4D theater show film called “Ice Voyage”.  It takes you on a trip to Antarctica!  You experience wind, snow, water spray, motion action seats and other effects.  Having been to Antarctica, we enjoyed the film and the expedition company used in the film was the same one that we were on when we went!

We went to the airport for our flight to Invercargill!

After arriving, we stopped for a lecture from a local expert who explained about Southland and its agricultural importance to New Zealand.

Our motorcoach then headed to Te Anau which is located on the eastern shore of Lake Te Anau.  The lake is the second largest in New Zealand.  On our way there we had a comfort stop at McCracken’s Rest.  It is a beautiful lookout over Te Waewae Bay.

Upon arrival and check in to our hotel, we spent time doing laundry and then walked along the lake and into the city.  We are staying here because it is located by Fiordland National Park and our destination tomorrow!

An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 10

Saturday, February 15th

This morning we took a motorcoach to Banks Peninsula and stopped at Akaroa Harbour.  On our way we stopped at Little River for a comfort stop.

When we arrived at Akaroa Wharf,  we boarded a boat for a harbour cruise.

On our tour we saw the dramatic cliff faces and amazing views.

Fur seals were also spotted laying on the hillside.IMG_9717

We would have to say the highlight of our cruise was seeing the Hector dolphins.  Hector dolphins are rare, the smallest of the dolphins, and only found in New Zealand.  They are endangered and it is estimated that only about 7,000 are left!

They were following and swimming around us for quite a while and at one point we spotted almost a dozen!  Such beautiful creatures.

After our harbour cruise, we had some time to explore the town of Akaroa. We found The Brasserie Kitchen And Bar to have some fresh local food for lunch.


The Banks Peninsula War Memorial and grounds.

On our drive back to Christchurch we stopped at the Hilltop Lookout along Banks Peninsula and looking out at Akaroa Harbour.

Akaroa Harbour from the Hilltop lookout.

When we reached Christchurch we stopped and visited the Cardboard Cathedral or the Transitional Cathedral which replaces the original church that was damaged heavily in the 2011 earthquake.  The Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, did the design and the  cathedral opened in 2013.  Cardboard tubes were used as well as shipping containers for the walls.  It is a beautiful piece of architecture that will withstand any further earthquakes.

We took a walking tour of the city center with our site coordinator.

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Our last stop today was walking through the University of Canterbury which was founded in 1873.

A few other sites from our walk.

An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 9

Friday, February 14th

Happy Valentine’s day everyone!  Our first stop was the National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa at Rainbow Springs.  Our docent gave us a tour of the hatchery and explained about the endangered Kiwi.  We toured their facility and saw how they care for the eggs and chicks until the chicks are ready for release into their natural habitat.  We learned that a kiwi incubation period is around 78 days.  Since 1995 they have hatched 2,042 Kiwi chicks.  This season 119 chicks have hatched.  No photos were allowed in the hatchery itself.  We could photograph the introduction area and outside.

After our tour we left for the airport at Rotorua for our flight to Christchurch.

Christchurch is located on the South Island and up to now we were exploring the North Island.  It is also the largest city on the South Island.  We noticed upon arrival that the city is still dealing with the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.  They are still rebuilding and we saw a number of areas that are barren because of demolition of 80% of the buildings in the city center after the earthquakes.

The view outside our room in Christchurch. You can see some of the destruction of the Christchurch Cathedral.

This evening we visited Riccarton House.  We toured the bush forest on the property.

After our bush walk with a naturalist we toured the homestead and had our dinner in their restaurant.

After dinner, we were entertained by a storyteller, Margaret Copland.  She told us the story of early immigrants to the Canterbury area by portraying two different characters in her storytelling.

An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 8

Thursday, February 13th

Our day began with learning more about Rotorua’s geothermal background by visiting the Waimangu Volcanic Valley.  It was created by a volcanic eruption that occurred in 1886.

Panorama view of the Waimangu Volcanic Valley

We also took a cruise on Lake Rotomahana.  It was created after a volcanic eruption in 1886.  We passed steaming vents and geysers along the lakeshore.

On our way to lunch we walked through Rotorua’s Government Gardens.  The site that the gardens are on is historically important to the local Māori people because many significant battles occurred in this location.

We saw some pukekos or swamphen.

We spent the afternoon in Te Puia, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute and walked through the Whakarewarewa thermal area.

At the Whakarewarewa thermal area we saw the boiling mudpools and the Pohutu geyser.