My two favorite shots of the trip are the two I had the least hope of coming away with.
The first is this HDR shot of an iceberg near Twillingate. Three shots on a moving boat took some work to merge. It was a total experiment that ended up working out.
My other iceberg photos (including the ones from Iceland) can be found here.
The second was an attempt to photograph the Milky Way on one of the clear moonless nights. This is over the fjord near Gros Morne.
I’m new to astrophotography and I don’t get to places where I can practice very often so I am rather happy with the results.
We made the drive from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch today. This drive was not all that spectacular. The landscape was pretty flat. The weather was very good and we made good time and were able to check into our hotel early.
We found some lunch and then went walking around the city center. I’d forgotten that Christchurch was hit by an earthquake in 2011. They are still restoring the Christchurch Cathedral and the repairs look like they will take another several years.
We fly home tomorrow and we’re looking forward to being home. We’re tired after logging well over 3,000 miles of driving. It has been an amazing trip.
We woke up to what looked like more rain, but as we drove on to our next destination, the weather turned fine and we had a glorious day.
Our first stop was to see the Moeraki Boulders, some unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the coast of Moeraki and Hampden.
I wanted to try some long exposure techniques so I brought out my tripod and filters and these are some of the results
I may have gotten a little wet in my efforts to get these shots
We continued up the coast and I spotted a sign pointing to something called Steampunk HQ in Oamaru so we stopped to have a look. It was pretty cool to see.
From there we turned inland and drive to Lake Pukaki and followed the coast to Mt. Cook. The scenery was just spectacular
Mt. Cook was covered in cloud and fog so we didn’t really get to see it. We turned around and drove on to Lake Tekapo and found our hotel.
Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki are the most amazing shade of turquoise blue I have ever seen. It’s due to the the glacier run off…something called glacial flour which is a term for the byproduct of the rocks being ground to powder by the glaciers.
The Lupins here are in full bloom and all over the place. It really is quite beautiful
Tomorrow we drive to Christchurch for our final day in New Zealand before flying home on Tuesday.
Today we woke up to a bit of rain, which was disappointing as the drive was through a spectacular piece of the Southern Scenic Route. Happy to say that after a few hours it cleared up quite nice. The wind, though, was very strong. At one point we parked to take in the view and when we opened up the doors of the car the crosswind was so strong it flung the doors open and almost sucked all our loose items out and into the sea.
Along this drive we encountered Niagara Falls
A rare Yellow-Eyed Penguin near Curio Bay
The beautiful Matai Falls
And toward the end, before finding our way to Dunedin, we drove several miles along a gravel track and hiked for a bit to visit the lighthouse at Nugget Point
From which we had some spectacular views of the ocean
We have a full day tomorrow to explore the area around Dunedin and we’re hoping for favorable weather
Today we drove south to Invercargill. This is the furthest south we are traveling on this trip. More fine weather and stunning scenery as we drove
When we were filling up with petrol before getting underway the gas station attendant asked about our journey. He indicated we should stop at two places along the way. The first was a place called Monkey Island
And the second was a tiny fishing village called Cozy Nook
Both of these locations were well worth a stop and we enjoyed them immensely.
We made good time and were in Invercargill just after lunchtime so we decided to drive onto Bluff. Bluff is pretty much as far south as you can get on the mainland. There’s not much there, but Stirling Point is quite pretty on a pretty day with its lighthouse, giant anchor chain sculpture and an amusing signpost.
We then drove back to Invercargill and checked into our hotel. Once that was complete it was off to E. Hayes & Sons Ltd which is like a cross between Academy and Ace Hardware. We wanted to see Burt Munro’s “World Fastest Indian” motorcycle which is on display in the store.
They had quite a collection of other unique motorcycles on display as well
I don’t think I ever knew the Chevrolet made a motorcycle
All in all, a great day. Tomorrow we drive to Lake Tekapo
This was the day I really wanted sunshine, and New Zealand delivered! We woke up to clear skies and a bit of frost and the forecast indicated the sunshine would continue and it would get a bit warmer.
Our schedule was to drive the Milford Road for 2 hours to meet our ship to cruise around Milford Sound (actually it’s a fjord) for 2 1/2 hours.
We decided to allocate 3 hours drive time just to be on the safe side.
We got underway and as we climbed into the Southern Alps we were in great spirits as we marvelled at the scenery. We came to an overlook and decided to pull over because there was a great view. When I got out of the car I noticed a Kea Parrot on the railing.
I was really hoping to see these birds. The Kea is the only mountain parrot in the world and is only found in New Zealand.
Kea Parrots are known for their destructive nature and they frequently chew the rubber bits off of cars, causing extensive damage if left to their own devices. As we got back in the car and were getting ready to leave we heard something on the roof. The Kea and hopped on to the top of our car and was up to no good.
We shoo’d him off and got on our way before he could cost us our deposit on the rental.
We arrived at the terminal to catch our cruise and got checked in
The weather continued to shine and we had an awesome time cruising around Milford Sound.
We really enjoyed the cruise and we enjoyed taking a leisurely drive back to Te Anau.
Tomorrow we drive to Invercargill. This will be the furthest south we get before turning back to drive up the east coast of the North Island.
We woke up early, as usual, and packed up to drive to Te Anau. This drive was relatively short and will put us in position to visit the magnificent Milford Sound tomorrow.
On the road we encountered llamas, deer and a group of curious cows
The drive took us through more magnificent countryside.
We arrived in Te Anau before lunch time, but we were able to get checked into our hotel without a problem.
We took the day to relax and walk around Lake Te Anau
Cynthia managed to get the best bird photo of the trip, the Tui Bird seen here eating from this bush.
Tomorrow, the Milford Road and a cruise on Milford Sound. Weather is looking good for this.
Today was ours to explore Queenstown. We had breakfast and went for a walk around Lake Wakatipu to take in the sites.
The weather was really nice so we opted to take a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw, a 1912 Edwardian vintage twin screw steamer. It was a beautiful boat and a wonderful experience to take in the sites of the lake from this vessel.
When we got back to Queenstown we had a nice lunch and then headed up to the Skyline Gondola to take in the views of the city and the lake from Bob’s Peak.
The ride up may have frightened Cynthia a wee bit…
Tomorrow we we have a relatively short drive to Te Anau which will be our launching point for the drive to Milford Sound.
Sadly, The Fanz Josef and even the Fox Glacier were a bust. Rain was coming down pretty steady and it was just not conducive to making the trek out to see them. Even the helicopters were grounded. We had a long drive ahead of us and decided to make our way to our next destination which was Queenstown.
Despite the rain and gloom, there was still some amazing sites to see, especially the clouds and mist as it came over the mountains.
The rain did begin to subside as we moved on and we made a few stops along the way, like this one to see the Thunder Creek Falls
As we drove down the Haast River we had our first Lupin sighting
Our midpoint on this leg of the journey was Wanaka where I wanted to see the most photographed tree in New Zealand
We also saw some purple lupins, Cynthia’s favorite.
We then made our way up New Zealand’s highest sealed road, Crown Range Road which rises up to 3530 ft above sea level
We then descended into Queenstown just as the sky began to clear.
Also, today is Cynthia’s birthday. To celebrate we had dinner at an amazing restaurant called the Blue Kanu which serves food that mixes both Pacifica and Asian style, and blending the two cultures it aims to create a style and feel that they call “Polynasia”. Simply put, it was fantastic.
Tomorrow we explore Queenstown.
We were not holding out much hope for today as it the forecast called for rain and possibly hail. But when we woke up there was some sunshine and a patches of blue sky. We decided we would go for it and make the drive some 60 miles to Abel Tasman where we had a cruise and hike booked for the day.
We made our way to Kaiteriteri and checked in and quickly boarded our boat, a medium sized catamaran that would take us up the coast to a series of secluded bays.
We were scheduled to get of at Bark Bay and do some exploring, but the weather was still “iffy” so we opted to stay on the boat and just ride the route till we got back to the point of origin. We did see some nice things like a seal colony
And Split Apple Rock
We ended the cruise about mid-day and drove back to Nelson and explored a bit before having dinner.
Tomorrow we drive to Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks and the weather looks to be great.
Today we woke up early to return our rental and catch the Interislander Ferry from Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the South Island. The whole process was pretty straightforward and soon we were underway.
The sky was overcast and there was some rain, but the 3 hour voyage was pleasant and uneventful. We sat with group of elderly Kiwis that were on holiday and they were great fun to talk to and they shared a wealth of information about New Zealand with us and the ferry ride passed quickly as a result.
We picked up our second rental car and proceeded to make our way to the next stop, Picton. The drive was very windy and took us along the sound and well up into the mountains. And though the skies were overcast, the views were quite spectacular
On the way to Picton we stopped in Havelock for lunch. Havelock is the green tipped mussel capital of the world and we ate at a place called the Mussel Pot.
For lunch we had the sampler plate for two that included mussels served in a variety of ways. It was all quite delicious.
While we were there we noticed there were a number of soldiers moving about. Turns out there was a joint military training exercise happening this week.
We made it to our hotel and got checked in. The weather is a bit gloomy, and we are not overly optimistic about tomorrow when we are scheduled to visit Abel Tasman National Park. We’ll see how it goes.
We woke up to a glorious sunny day which was good, because our plan was to fly by helicopter to White Island, an active volcano off the coast of Rotorua.
We got up and had some breakfast and found our way to the lake shore and the offices of Volcanic Air Safaris, the company that we had bookd for our adventure.
Besides Cynthia and myself, there were two other people who had booked the tour so that meant a small group headed to the island. And, as luck would have it, they were also photographers so they would not be impatient while I took my time photographing the island.
We took off a little before 9:00a am for our 35 minute flight to White Island and the view was simply spectacular.
We circled the island and then landed in an open area, not far from the crater lake
We spent the next hour and half hiking around while our guide told us the history of the island.
Cynthia was very pleased with herself for overcoming her fears of flying in a helicopter and of walking on an active volcano. Truth be told, we both agree that this was the most amazing thing we’ve done on any of our travels.
When we returned to the city we went back to the hotel and quickly went back out to visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Mostly I wanted to see the Champagne Pool…the rest I was not so enthusiastic about which was a good thing, too, because we were fairly tired after the previous adventure.
The Champagne Pool, named for the tiny bubbles the fizzle and pop on the surface, did not disappoint.
Tomorrow we’re headed to the Tongariro National Park and hoping for more good weather.
We got up early and found breakfast at a place called Jandals Cafe. In New Zealand, jandals are how they refer to sandals or flip-flops. It was a casual, local space and the menu was AMAZING!
We opted for the Handle The Jandal Breaky (breaky means breakfast) and it was SOOO good. The tomato was sweet, the eggs were fluffy and you can’t see it in the photo, but there was toasted homemade bread under that pile of yum.
We got on our way early and again, the weather was great and the scenery was just unbelievable.
We stopped a few times for some photos
But we kept things moving today so we could get to the Hobbiton Movie Set.
This is the place where they filmed the Shire scenes for the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. The tour is pricey. And it’s a little on the long side at 2 hours. But it has to be this way because it’s a guided tour on private property. Frankly, I could have taken the whole thing in in about 30 minutes. But it was still fun to do.
The tour ends at the Green Dragon Inn where you can sit and have a beer or a cider before departing the movie set
From Hobbiton it was on to Rotorua where we will be staying for a few days. The area is known for its geothermal activity and there’s steam coming up out of the ground all over the place. And it smells like sulfer here.
Tomorrow we take a helicopter to White Island, an active volcano.