The time difference between Houston and Newfoundland is 2 1/2 hours. We’re adjusting well, but we’re already early risers and with the sun coming up around 5:00 am we’re out of bed by 6:00 am.
This let us get an early start on exploring as we went to Cape Spear which is the furthest east you can get in North America.
We saw our first icebergs!
And we had the entire site all to ourselves
After visiting Cape Spear we had some breakfast and made our way to Bay Bulls to take a whale and puffin watching tour with Gatherall’s
We say thousands of puffins and other seabirds as well as about 4 or 5 Fin Whales, the second largest mammals on the planet. Sadly, no good photos as they only briefly ever broke the surface.
I did manage to get some photos of the Common Murre
At one point thousands of them left their rocky perches and took to the sea
We drive for a bit more and headed up to Pouch Cove, a small and picturesque town north of St. John’s
After this we were pretty wiped. We had an early dinner and called it a day. St. John’s and the surrounding area has been just lovely.
Tomorrow we head to Bonavista.
We had a 7:00 am flight from Houston to St. John’s with a connection in Toronto. Flying Air Canada our bags were checked through to to our final destination without the need to claim them and recheck them. We grabbed our rental car and made our way to the hotel and got checked in. A great day of travel without incident.
After checking into the hotel we drive up to Signal Hill, the sight of the reception of the first transatlantic wireless transmission on 12 December 1901.
There’s a great view from up there of Fort Amherst, St. John’s
We even saw a giant Newfoundland dog
From there we went back to the hotel and had dinner and we’re calling it a night. Tomorrow we drive to Witless Bay to take a boat tour to see whales and puffins.
I was watching TV when I heard the very plaintive squawking of a Mockingbird in distress coming from tree in the front of the house. The last time I heard something like this it was a Blue Jay trying to fend off the neighbor’s cat that was stalking her baby who had fallen from the nest. The Mockingbird was very agitated and did not fly away when I approached. I could not immediately sort out the threat until I peered into the tree noticed a mottled lump amongst the branches. I ran inside to grab my camera and a flashlight and was able to capture these images of what I found staring back at me. Cynthia quipped “It appears you have been accepted to Hogwarts”
The parade was moved from the usual route due to construction on Allen Parkway. The new route took the parade up Smith St. and past the old Enron building.
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.
We had an extra day scheduled in Dunedin that included some time on our own in the morning and a tour of the Penguin Place Yellow-Eyed Penguin Preserve and a cruise in Dunedin Harbor in the afternoon.
The weather was not so great and we were not very enthusiastic about our prospects. And we are getting very tired. We decided to take the morning and just relax. We got a little bored and walked over to the Dunedin Botanical Gardens which were nice, but then it started raining so we went back to the hotel.
At about 1:00 pm we were scheduled to be picked up by the tour operator so we decided what the heck and bundled up and met the bus and went on the tour.
The first stop was the preserve where we learned about the plight of the Yellow-Eyed Penguin. Turns out there are only about 700 on the mainland so the one we saw yesterday was really a rare sight.
At the penguin preserve they give you warm rain coats for the rainy days. This made things much better.
After they give their presentation they take the group through a series of blinds where you can observe the penguins.
THe next part of the tour was a trip out on the harbor on a small boat. Again we were provided with warm jackets
It was a little gloomy and wet, but we had a good time. We got to see some wildlife which was nice and Cynthia really enjoyed herself.
We got back to the hotel pretty late and had some dinner and went to bed.
Next stop, Lake Tekapo
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.
We woke up to some gray skies and fog up in the mountains for our drive to Wellington. It was a long drive ahead of us and was more of a functional day to position ourselves for our ferry ride to the south island tomorrow rather than a sightseeing tour. Frankly, there’s not much to see on the way and the weather wasn’t helping.
When we arrived in Wellington we checked in to the hotel and then went to see the Gallipoli: The scale of our war exhibit at the Museum of New Zealand. The exhibit is simply staggering. To mark the World War 1 centenary, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa joined forces with Weta Workshop to create this exhibit. The central focus of the exhibit is the six rooms holding expertly crafted human figures at 2.4 times human scale. The lifelike recreations and the attention to detail are just mind boggling.
We also got to see the colossal squid, captured alive by the crew of the San Aspiring in 2007
Tomorrow we take the Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton. For now, we enjoy the city affectionatly known as Windy Welly
Today we bid farewell to Rotorua and all of its burbling, steaming oddness and made our way to Tongariro. Fortunately, I had my trusty co-pilots and navigators with me.
As you can imagine, the drive was amazing. We were blessed with more sunshine so everything looked fantastic.
We stopped and Huka Falls which is easily accessible from the main road. These falls are a spectacular blue color and very fast moving.
After only a few hours we reached our accommodations at Tongariro National Park. We arrived a bit early so we were unable to check in right away. This afforded us the opportunity to go see the Tawhai Falls which were only a 20 minute trek off the highway. I carried my tripod and filters to take some long exposure shots of the falls.
We got ourselves checked into the hotel and found we had the most spectacular view of Mount Ngauruhoe, the mountain that was used for Mount Doom in the Lord Of The Rings movies.
Tonight we had dinner and are taking it easy as we prepare to drive to Wellington and on from there to the south island.