Last Days in New Zealand

After Queenstown, we ventured on to Te Anau which is where most people stay who are planning trips to see the Fjords. Our plan was to visit Doubtful Sound — named by Captain Cook due to his doubting it was navigable — in hindsight, I think Fletcher wished this were true. It was a stunningly beautiful, but long trip for us (especially Fletcher). The day included a car ride, bus ride and two boats rides all totaling about ten hours. And as any of you who have young boys know, nothing excites a kid more than looking at scenery for hours and hours on end! The part he enjoyed most was the power plant we visited on the way. It is the largest hydroelectric power plant in New Zealand built two kilometers directly into a solid granite mountain. The tunnel is so large that two buses can pass each other (I think it’s actually wider than most of the roads in Bali!) and the hall where we viewed the turbines looks like something out of a James Bond Movie.

Next we moved on to Dunedin which is known for its abundant wildlife. We visited an albatross colony which had over 20 nests with chicks. Albatross only have one chick every two years –and, when you see how large the chicks are and how much they eat, it isn’t surprising they don’t reproduce in greater numbers. One funny coincidence in DunedinĀ  — the tour company we used to organize our trip booked us at the Fletcher Lodge — it was great! They even have a dog named Fletcher!

Our trip ended in Lake Tekapo where the Mt. John observatory is located. We took the evening tour up to the observatory to view the stars. It was extraordinary! Even with naked eyes, the view of the sky was awesome and it got even better with the help of the many telescopes at the facility. What fun to experience a whole new perspective from the southern hemisphere. I think when you live in the city you forget (or maybe have never known) what the skies actually contain. Being a city person for a very long time, I probably hadn’t seen the whole Milky way since I was a kid. It is spectacular!

Tomorrow we return to Bali. It’s been a great trip!!

Queenstown

Queenstown is spectacular! Not only is it incredibly beautiful, there is more to do than almost anywhere I’ve ever visited. Bungee jumping began here in the mid 80s, and despite the fact that I don’t consider myself much of a thrill seeker, (unless you include brushing my teeth with tap water in Bali), we found tons of other things to do that were just exciting enough for all of us.

The first day we arrived we took an hour-long, eco-tour zip line, which included four different zip lines that were about 200 meters each, followed by a luge ride down the mountain. So much fun!

The next day we all went for a two hour horse trek that took us through stunning landscapes and included an area where they filmed Lord of the Rings. They definitely get a ton of mileage out of those movies — lots of “Lord of the Rings” tours available on just about any vehicle you can imagine — boat, ATV, horse, you name it!

The last day we went for a Shotover boat ride. Billed as “the world’s most exciting jet boat ride” — I was immediately wondering why we needed to go on the world’s most exciting jet boat ride –why not the neighborhood’s, or even the town’s most exciting? After all, we were in a place where they take their excitement very seriously — IĀ  didn’t feel a real need to be that excited. It didn’t help that when we were waiting on the dock as the boats came in with passengers from earlier trips, they all looked a bit overwrought. But, I figured this is my year of living dangerously so…what the heck? The ride was actually really fun and exciting — the only part I found too exciting was the part where the driver tries to get as close as possible to the rocks that the boat is passing at about 60 mph. Apparently, this is integral to the excitement — could have lived without that part.