The DougBlog
"Et sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!" —Baudelaire

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Doug & Karen's Kiwi Adventure Part 6: Fjords, Queenstown, Christchurch...and home

Finally, nearly 8 months after I returned to the Northern Hemisphere, I am pleased to present the final installment of our trip to New Zealand: Milford Sound, Queenstown, and Christchurch.

Fiordland National Park is one of the many parks along New Zealand’s wild western shore—this one near the southern tip and named for the steep glacial inlets that line the coast. They’re not easy to get to; indeed, some cannot be reached by land. The most famous fjord is Milford Sound, reached by a magnificent, winding 2-hour drive from the sleepy hamlet of Te Anau. One of the sites along the way are the Mirror Lakes.

Whimsical sign:

It was a rainy day (which is more typical than not in these parts) and along the way, the very mountains seemed to seep water. There were waterfalls everywhere: a small taste of what lay ahead.

And we had to remain cautious of the car-eating Kea!

But finally we reached Milford Sound and boarded a boat (the only way to see it). Soon we were headed out into the misty, watery canyons.

Karen on board, fighting the elements:

I, on the other hand, was a little more ill prepared for the weather:

It was a rough but beautiful voyage to the mouth of the fjord and back. And wet. Countless waterfalls, large and small, lined every nook and cranny. Indeed it seemed as in the rocks themselves were bleeding water.

Despite the rough surf, wet air, and cool temperatures, some hardy creatures make their homes along the edge. We passed a colony of seals...

And a gaggle (?) of penguins (a little harder to spot, they’re in the center—as with all photos you can click to enlarge if you need to).

The seas tossed our little boat like so much flotsam and jetsam. Here’s a video Karen trying to maintain her balance, some seals, and our unexpected journey through a waterfall (click to play):

It was rough, but in case of trouble, Karen was ready to muster.

The magical journey continues....

That night, back in Te Anau, the weather cleared—affording a spectacular view of the Southern Hemisphere’s stars (Orion is still visible down under, but he’s upside-down):

The next day Karen was departing for her own Australian adventure. So I drove her back to the airport in Queenstown and bade her a fond adieu:

I stayed on in Queenstown: a modest-size town on a lake that’s known as the world capitol of adventure sports. Without Karen cramping my style, I checked into a swank hotel overlooking the lake:

I spent a day exploring the town. A cable car takes you to the top of a nearby mountain to enjoy a panoramic view of Queenstown:

At the top there was a wildlife center where you could see the country’s emblematic but enigmatic mascot, the Kiwi. These long-beaked birds are endangered and nocturnal. At this wildlife center they were kept inside a building where the controlled lighting, much like Las Vegas, turned day into nighttime and night into daytime.

At the top of the mountain was also a cemetery, and you know I love me some dead people, especially with a view.

The cemetery was large and even had a Jewish section...with all of two Jews in it! On the plus side, this meant that the Jewish graves were simply identified by their names rather than grave numbers:

And that was about all the fun that was to be had in Queenstown. Although I did throw a Lamington (New Zealand’s version of the Hostess Sno-Ball) off my balcony and watch this happy little bird GO TO TOWN:

Finally, I flew back to Christchurch, completing my south island circle and spending a day before my own flight home.

Christchurch is called “the garden city” because it has a lot of green spaces. It was nice. Not thrilling, but nice. My hotel room had a great view of the cathedral that gave the town its name.

The inside was lovely, too.

There was a little touch of traditional Maori art.

Sadly, the church was heavily damaged in the earthquake that struck Christchurch only a short time after my departure. They are still unsure whether any of the building can be salvaged at all.

And almost as tragic, this entertaining book-on-a-stick that I spied inside the church is probably lost forever, too:

Much of the remainder of the city was indeed garden-like.

This lovely clock was erected to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

This is the synagogue of the Hebrew Congregation of Christchurch. How humiliating for them.

And with that I began the long haul home via Auckland and Los Angeles...

New Zealand is an amazingly diverse country. One can’t help but feel some amount of sensory overload from the vast differences between the different destinations of this relatively small island nation that has only been inhabited by humans for a few hundred years. The people are friendly and outgoing, the sights unparalleled. All in all, an outstanding adventure.


This is a puzzling world:

Karen does a little shopping (GET IT? HAHAHAHA!!!!):

I guess if you’re only a half-hearted guest, you’re screwed:

I enjoyed the fact that this sign for a Maori poupou was covered in poopoo:

This is William Gilbert Rees—the founder of Queenstown—and what I can only assume was his “special friend”:

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that despite its splendors, New Zealand is not all roses: there are hateful flies in the south that eat you alive!

You know, I think the backstory to this photograph is most entertaining left to your imagination:

As the Maori (of whom, I will remind you, I am now a chief) would say...Kia Ora!!


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