New Zealand’s South Island: Picton, Mt Cook, Queenstown March 11 – 17 2016

                            We left the North Island by ferry and headed to explore the South Island

 

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We had very rough passage on the ferry through the Cooks strait. The waves were crashing up over the bough at times.

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We were happy when we docked and were off  the ferry , picked up by our wine tour representative who whisked us away to catch up with our wine tour group.   This was the Marlborough region in the  Valley known as a white wine, Sauvignon Blanc, region. We visited four wineries. One of them, Lawson’s, was  a family run winery known for creating the first screw cap for wines to save the cork trees. After our tour we were dropped off at our motel near the Picton Harbour. We settled in and  walked the few blocks to town to find some groceries for the next few morning meals and a dinner. Picton’s Harbour area is a beautiful spot filled with boats and green mountains in the background.

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In the morning, we set off for the harbor for kayak adventure.  Double kayaks, OH NO! Remembering our experience in Vietnam, we hoped this one would work out better.  It turned out that this kayak was much sturdier than the other complete with a rudder and protective wet proof gear. We successfully kayaked 6 miles through the waters of the Queen Charlotte Sound past sea birds and beautiful mountains.

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We had lunch and wandered the town in the afternoon. We liked our lunch restaurant enough to go back there for dinner.

The next morning  we had time to visit the  maritime museum of The Edwin Fox, built in 1853 and the only survivor of the sailing ships that brought immigrants to New Zealand.  A preservation society worked hard to obtain, restore the ship and build the centre for the ship to be seen in Picton Harbor.
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We were on the train to Christchurch, a five hour journey past coastal waters on one side and mountains on the other. We rode past many sheep , cattle and deer farms.

We arrived in Christchurch and got to our hotel where we’d stay for one night. We had an early morning bus to catch to Mt. Cook National Park. 

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Waiting for the bus to Mt. Cook

We were able to leave some of  our luggage at the hotel to retrieve it when we returned from Queenstown, which we were visiting after our  Mt. Cook experience.

Mt Cook is the tallest mt. in New Zealand, used by climbers readying themselves for Mt Everest. The cloud cover prevented us from seeing the peak,but we were in awe of the beautiful scenery.  We stayed at the Hermitage Hotel in Mt. Cook National Park.

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Walking around the park we saw these ducks walking everywhere together. We found out that they are paradise ducks and they mate for life. The feather colors are so pretty.

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The next morning after breakfast we set off for  glacier exploration.  On the way to Lake Tasman, the glacier lake, we drove through the Tasman Valley, past mountains that were used in Lord of the Ring films, past Mt. Wakefield with a waterfall streaming down the mountain. We had a 20 minute walk to the lake where we got on the boats to see icebergs and Tasman Glacier up close. The waters in the icebergs  had a deep blue color which we learned was from glacier rocks forming a rock flour.

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The next day from Mt cook we took a bus to Queenstown and got in around dinner time.
We walked around town in the morning. Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. We saw para gliders and many ads for bridge bungee jumping and river rapid paddling, but we were not tempted to join them. We got picked up for a wine tour of Central Ortego wineries instead.
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We drove we past a famous bungee jumping bridge,
Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jumping
 
 and stopped to  watch river surfers in a river named The Roaring Meg, named during the gold mining years.
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 On our way to dinner up the mountain via gondola we saw a para-glider. We were happy to just be observers!
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We boarded the gondola skyline enjoying the scenery as we rode up.
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The next day before our flight to Christchurch we took a bus to Arrowtown, another famous gold mining town. We  explored the Chinese miners’ village, the village of the New Zealand Miners and the historical museum.
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That afternoon we flew back to Christchurch. We chatted with a couple at the airport who own a hotel in Blackpool England. maybe we’ll add that to our future travels.