The South Island

Wednesday, April 8, Lisa and I flew from Auckland to Christchurch. There we stayed at Tranquil Lodge (a hostel) and walked around Christchuch -it was chilly! Wandered into a bar looking for some dinner and of course we happen to stumble into the most American bar. Not intentional at all; we just saw "The Grumpy Mole" and thought we'd check it out. The next morning we picked up our rental car and I was suddenly driving on the wrong side of the road! I got used to it pretty quick though. We drove from Chirstchurch down route 1 to Ashburton, Timaru, Oamaru, Palmerston, Alexandra, Cromwell, and finally Queenstown. The drive was supposed to only take about six and a half hours, but we pulled off at a few lookouts to take some pictures. In Oamaru there's a penguin colony. We saw fur seals and some other birds but no penguins.

We arrived in Queenstown at about 7:30PM on Thursday and it was already very dark. The sun set before 6:30PM. Got some great pictures along the way! The South Island is full of mountains and sheep...can't forget the sheep! There's 4 sheep for every one person in New Zealand. We checked into YHA Lakefront hostel in Queenstown, parked the car and dropped off our luggage, and then went on a hunt for a beer and some dinner. The next day there was not a single cloud in the sky! The air was so fresh and crisp that I was awake within seconds of walking outside. We then took some pictures in front of Lake Wakatipu where there were snow-capped mountains and the water was crystal clear. Because the lake was formed by glacier the water is pretty cold and clear. After getting some breakfast at a local bakery we looked into what we wanted to do. I was interested in the more extreme activities, while Lisa was more content with just hoseback riding or taking a tour by car --- so there were some conflicting interests.

Agreed on taking a $99 helicopter trip above Queenstown and the Remarkables (a mountain chain of Queenstown given their name because they run directly North to South). At one point the pilot decided to show us the steepness of the mountains and made the girls scream; except for me, I was just laughing -- people probably thought I was a crazy person. The rest of the day was spent exploring the resort town. The next day we went on a 4-wheel tour of different Lord of the Rings locations and New Zealand scenery. There was a couple from Mexico in our group so I had my chance to practice some Spanish. The guide also had some Lord of the Rings props (capes and swords), so at one location he had us dress up and pretend to be in one of the scenes. Good fun! I was determined to see Milford Sound, but Lisa didn't have much interest so I went by myself with Mitre Peak Tours. I had to be up and waiting for the coach bus by 6:30AM! Managaed to get up and out the door and was on the bus watching the sunrise. Lisa booked a horseback riding trip for her afternoon and was actually on a horse that was in Lord of the Rings.

My tour guide gave a comentary while driving the coach bus on New Zealand's second most dangerous road and it was pretty awesome. It took us about 5 hours to get to Fiordland National Park. He let us out at the Mirror Lakes where there were a bunch of rainbows because it was a rainy day. They say that rainy days are the best ones to see the park because that's the only time there's waterfalls. There were hundreds of waterfalls and it was hard to believe that they were all created just by rain! Once the rain stops the waterfalls dry up almost instantly! When we arrived at Milford Sound there was a ferry ride around the sound (technically a Fiord, but was incorrectly named by the early explorers). I saw fur seals, dolphin and kea bird. I was awestruck the whole time I was in Fiordland! There were couples and families in my group, but I managed to meet Nick, from the UK, who was a 3rd-wheel on his trip with his two friends who are a couple so we chatted. The boat went under a waterfall at one point and I was soaked head to toe! I was glad I bought some propper hiking pants and so they dried really quick once I got off the ferry. Got back to Queenstown at 7:30PM a very sleepy explorer.

Tuesday, April 14, we drove back to Christchurch to fly back to Auckland this morning (April 15). It was an AMAZING trip!! The only part that I am VERY sad about is that I think I lost 5 days of photos because while on the bus driving through Fiordland I was taking pictures and reviewed one and the screen read "File Error" and then none of the pictures were there!!!! I continued taking photos in Fiordland but stopped in hopes that Morten can help me figure out what went wrong. I'm crossing my fingers that he can figure it out because I put my memory card in my computer and only the 63 pictures taken in Fiordland showed up to be imported. Lisa has some of the same photos as me but I had some other Fiordland pictures that I really liked, as well as some shots from my hike down to the Shotover River. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

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