Monday, February 20, 2017

To Te Ananu and Beyond...

We got to Te Ananu towards the evening. It's just a couple of hours away from Queenstown - and kind of like a mid-way point between Queenstown and Milford Sound.
enroute to Te Anau
Milford sound was the Fiord we were heading towards- the one that Rudyard Kipling proclaimed as the eighth wonder of the world.
Milford sound
We did check the weather before we left,(after the deluge in Fraz Josef, it seemed only sensible) and unfortunately it didn't look promising. In fact it was guaranteeing us some serious rain. However, it does rain 2 out of every 3 days in Milford sound, so the chances of catching a day of clear weather was slim anyways.
The next morning, although the skies were more overcast, it wasn't really pouring in Te Anau.
The rainbow over lake Te Anau
Apparently there's no exit at the end of this rainbow.
As we moved through the Fiordland National Park, we made several stops, including Mirror lake and the chasm.
Mirror lake

...and you can see why its called so
Ponchos galore
Duly protected with emergency ponchos, we could enjoy how the water had carved out rather unusual shapes into the rocks.
the woods are lovely, dark and deep...

the Chasm

making for some pretty strange shaped holes
Child 1 and 2 took turns making up more and more gruesome stories about the shapes they imagined in the rocks. At monkey creek, we spotted the blue ducks and a Kea which looked like he was begging for human handouts, nevermind what the signs said about not feeding them.
A blue duck at monkey creek. 
After stern warning to all 3 co-passengers about feeding the birds, Child 1 came up with a more innovating way of attracting them. He started building up a small pile of rocks, and sure enough the Kea came up to investigate.
Beautiful birdie...
Anything but shy, this bird.
The rain continued to pour steadily and I wasn't sure we were going to catch anything at Milford sound- it was a proper downpour once we were there.
we set off amidst the crazy weather

We took the go Orange cruises out the the Milford Sound Fiord. What a lovely, unforgettable cruise! Not only did we spot dolphins (sorry, no pictures- they were too quick), seals and penguins along the way, we enjoyed some fabulous waterfalls and a really good look at the fiordland in all its glory.
Penguins - not a very good picture, but they were rather retiring

The seals
who were so blazè about our cruise, they didn't budge
 Although Lady Bowen and Stirling falls run throughout the year, the rain had created hundreds of little temporary falls which emptied out into the fiord.
Lady Bowen falls
Stirling falls

hundreds of little falls
The staff on the cruise we so, so fabulous, both with how patient they were with both the kids and with their enthusiasm to show you the beauty of the fiords and to field any questions you may have, even strange ones.
The awesome ladies of Go Orange!
Definitely a must do for anyone visiting the islands, despite its remote location.
Our return to Te Ananu was equally beautiful - rainy weather does have a certain poetic beauty.
we drive back in this weather. *sigh* 

... what I wouldn't give for a cutting chai and bhutta

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

South Island: Quintessential Queenstown

Our Queenstown trip was primarily done in two legs- one before we headed out to Milford sound and one on our return.
Queenstown, frankly is one of the prettiest towns we've visited. The whole town is settled around Lake Wakatipu. Wakatipu's waters are so clear, we could see almost right through to the bottom- despite it being almost 380 metres deep in places.
Clear waters of the Wakatipu
We took the million dollar cruise around the lake which started with the feeding of the rainbow trout by the captain of the boat. The trout, clearly loved their freebies and the captain then proceeded to take us around Queenstown... including the million-dollar plus houses that dotted the shores of the lake (hence the name of the cruise), but what really awed us was the view of the Remarkables.
Slightly rubbish weather, but the peaks of the Remarkables finally poked through

The million dollar houses along the lake

Another view once the weather cleared up a bit. 
Once we were done with the tour, we decided to drop in at the Fear Factory- supposedly New Zealand's scariest experience. They didn't let the little bossy baby in - she was considered too young, much to her displeasure. She clearly thought she was more than ready (the age recommendation is 15+) to take on whatever was thrown at here. So it was Pickwick and me  going in first, followed by the Baa-lamb, alone.
I'm not going to tell you what happened in there, but suffice to say I was rather hoarse from screaming and Pickwick had to admonish me several times for coarse language. Arun, apparently didn't fare much better (we saw the photographs of the screams) despite his denial of any such behaviour. If there was anyone who was fearless, it wasn't the adults.
Child 1's badge of honour. 
Fear factory. Totally worth it for the screams.

By this time, the bossy baby clearly had enough of everyone else having fun, so off we went to the Remarkable Sweet Shop for a free fudge tasting and buying some really amazing fudge (the dark chocolate and salted caramel fudge was to die for. So was the red velvet) and some very happy people.
image courtesy: Lengwapa
the next day dawned wonderfully bright and sunny, so we set off on a walk along the lake, we also decided to drive down to Kawarau bridge to watch a few brave souls bungee jump off it.
Bungee Jumper screaming her head off. What fun!
Although I was sorely tempted, we'd just blown our adventure budget on the skydiving, so we had to make-do with some vicarious fun.
The Kawarau gorge

the laguid Kawarau
We even made our way down to the bay for some really fun paddle-boating with some over-sized plastic wheels (of course). Ultra-competitive Child 2, naturally , overreached for the pedals while trying to overtake child 1 and me and took and unexpected plunge onto the lake - naturally because that was the one time I wasn't carrying spares.
Child 1, who insisted on steering, though he can barely peer over the handlebars...

...and Child 2, who despite being drenched is still practically standing on the pedals

We spent the rest of the afternoon feeding the ducks, drying off (in the case of child 2), hanging out at the park and finding little treasures on the shores.
Mummy and baby ducks. They had quite a fan following with Child 1 and 2
little sparkly treasures on the shore

The Fergburger with a view
We also sampled the legendary Fergburger, and realised why it had acquired its legendary status, before we drove on to Te Anau.
*I'm also going to include the short visit on our return leg here for the sake of continuity
The return drive from Te Anau was equally spectacular - we took the road that hugged the Wakatipu and of course we took far too many pit stops for pictures. I think even the bossy baby (who is a serial photobomber) was quite sick by the end of it.
The road hugging the lake

One of the many, many Pitstops
And if all that driving wasn't enough, we decided to do the Remarkables drive- a winding route up to the ski slopes (during the winters) where, to be honest, we spotted more snow that the Franz Josef glacier.
The snow melting off the slopes

The Remarkables drive

More fresh snow than Franz Josef
The wind was still biting cold but the view alone was worth it. we could even see where the Shotover and Kawarau combined to become one river.
The hotver is swift and muddy. The Kawarau is the gentle blue,
As we took off to head to Auckland, I couldn't help but promise myself another visit sometime in this lifetime.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

A Rainy Day in the South Isles

Although our flight was to Queenstown, we weren't going to be staying there until later. Our destination on day 1 was Wanaka - an hour's drive from Queenstown, and oh-so-beautiful. Now this might seem like I'm repeating myself, but everywhere you go here, the beauty of the place just takes your breath away. Just how people can tear themselves away from watching the lake and get any work done is beyond me.
Sunset at lake Wanaka

We spotted hundreds of lupin along the banks of lake Wanaka
The simple joys
But Wanaka was only a pit stop on our way to the Franz Josef glacier. We'd heard wonderful things about it and we were excited to see how New Zealand could top this already stunning scenery in front of us.
The Franz Josef glacier isn't hard to get to - but the drive is quite long - especially if you plan to cover it from Queenstown.
Up until then, the weather, which had been so cooperative, decided to turn a bit foul and grey clouds started to roll in. The dive there takes us via the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, which deserves quite a few pitstops. We chose to stop at Fantail Falls.
Fantail falls

So tempting to want to dip your feet in the crystal clear water
The water was so clear , you could see right to the bottom, and the sun turned it into the most brilliant blue colour.
As we got to Franz Josef, the weather continued to get worse, steadily, and we made the 40 minute walk up to see the glacier drenched to the bone.
The rain-drenched blue-and purple jackets making their way up. Purple Jacket was Not Happy. 

Not very inviting, this.
For the first and possibly the only the in New Zealand, I felt a bit deflated when I finally spotted the glacier. We were quite a distance from the ice, and perhaps it was the season, or perhaps its just Global Warming, or maybe a bit of both, the glacier wasn't a patch on what you'd expect once you've seen the Alps, or the Fagaras or the Himalayan ranges.
The glacier in the distance. Yup. That was it. 
The only place where we could spot the famed 'blue ice' of the glacier
In fact, to me (and my little ones), what was more interesting than the Glacier was the rust-orange moss growing on the stones in the region making the landscape quite colourful.
Pretty, no? and I can spot at least 4 different types of Lichen growing on this rock. 

Scattered throughout the banks of the river, at the bottom of the trek.
Frankly I'd be happy to give Franz Josef a miss and a bit more of the amazing Tai Poutini National Park. So, basically, that's what we did during our drive back to Queenstown. we stopped by the Blue Pools and the swing bridges. Unfortunately, the skies had well and truly opened up by now and the blue pools were now a very muddy grey.
The not-so-blue pools
But hey, there was fun to be had at the Swing Brigde and By Golly, a bit of rain was not going to stop 3 cheeky moneys from bouncing around.
3 monkeys at the end of the swing bridge
Queenstown had better watch out!