Well things are winding down. It is hard to believe we have been gone from home for over 4 weeks. But it really doesn’t seem like it has been so long. The time has been flying by.
We had a lovely flight from Invercargill to Christchurch and then onto Sydney. Customs wasn’t so bad and we really are becoming pros at handling the massive amounts of luggage.
We are staying at the Hilton Sydney in an executive suite. The rooms and service are excellent, though the suites aren’t really meant for family accomodations.
We are right across from Queen Victoria Building and in the basement there is a food court. It is nice because the kids can get things from McDonald’s and Daniel and I can have food like sushi and Indian…
Unfortunately, I had a headache all day yesterday and didn’t do much except lay around and nap. Finally, I made myself go outside with Katrina. We went in search first of the swimming pool, but it is part of a health club and while we can use it, when we went down, all the lanes were filled with lap swimmers. So we walked to Darling Harbor and found a little playground, but it was really more for toddlers. The walk out did us good though, as my headache finally began to drift away.
We played some cards and turned in early.
Today was an awesome day! We checked out of our hotel around 9. Then we headed to the Te Anau Wildlife Center. We took a walk through the woods. We also learned about and photographed some of the local birds. Some pictures are below. For more, you can go to this Flickr link.
Kea – a Mountain Parrot
Kakariki – Red-crowned parrot
South Island Kaka named Charlie Brown. I wanted to take this beautiful bird home with me.
Antipodes Island Parakeet
Kereru – New Zealand Wood Pigeon
Unfortunately it was to cloudy to fully appreciate the beauty of Lake Te Anau
, which is the largest lake on the South Island, but what we did see was beautiful and serene.
We grabbed brekky and lunch from the local supermarket and then drove to Invercargill
. It was only a 2 hour drive and we saw sheep, cows, deer and a little rain. The land grew flatter and flatter.
We checked into our hotel and it was a welcome place to visit. We each had our own room. The way the hotel was set up was there was a main door, then off of that two doors each leading to a bedroom. Each bedroom had a bathroom, tv, tons of space, and some kitchen facilities. After all of our togetherness, you could practically hear the rejoicing as we each went into our own rooms…
As you can see Daniel was thrilled with the accomodations!
Today we got up slowly. Daniel was tired and had a few complaining muscles after yesterday’s adventure. Katrina and I were ready first, so we even got to get in an extra game of pool. When I was growing up, we had a pool table in our basement and I would spend hours there. I am not as good as I was back then, but it was still a lot of fun to play.
We left Fox Glacier around 10:00 and began the long drive to Te Anau (without stops, it was a 6 hour drive). Along the way we stopped several times to take photographs of amazing views. It rained off and on in between bouts of sunshine.
We saw sheep, cows, deer. We walked along the Tasman Sea and found some beautiful rocks and loads of driftwood. We saw green fields, icy crags, and rolling hills/mountains covered with everything from Evergreens to tufts of grass. We drove through valleys, admired rivers, streams, and waterfalls, and saw a rainbow. And we took photos of rain in a valley below, then later drove through those patches of rain.
Today we got up and guess what? It was raining! We had about a three hour drive from Greymouth to Fox Glacier. A couple of times we saw tops of snow covered mountains, the rest of the time we saw green, rain, fog, cows, and sheep.
We arrived in Fox Glacier before lunch. Daniel and Jack signed up to go on a 4 hour guided hike of Fox Glacier. Katrina and I stayed behind. We played a couple of games of pool at the hotel and then we went back to the room. Katrina watched TV and played Runescape. I got caught up on computer stuff.
The whole time Daniel and Jack were gone, it rained, and I am talking soaking, solid rain. They had been provided with rain gear and boots for the hike, but they still came home looking like drenched rats. They had an awesome time, however. They said they had to climb over 700 steps cut into the glacier and that their guide was from Iceland. Not sure if Daniel has posted the videos yet, but they took some videos and photos during their adventure.
As a side note, the constant rain caused Daniel’s really nice camera to stop working. Fortunately, another hiker had the same camera and had had the same problem in the past – so he told Daniel to take the camera apart when he got back to the room and put it in a nice dry spot. Well, we had electric radiators and Daniel was able to create a nice warm environment for his camera and it is back to perfect working order (just something to remember should you ever run into that kind of problem).
We did one load of laundry – and it went smoothly! That was a nice change!
Today was a fun day. We got up early and headed to the Ferry Terminal. We needed to be ready to board at 7:40 a.m. and we were all good to go by 7 or so. The Interislander is the ferry we rode on and it was huge! There were 10 decks. There was a playground (think big McDonald’s playground) on the second deck, along with two movie cinemas and a cafe. Cars, trucks, RVs, were parked on decks 3 and 5. On deck 7, there was a family room with a couple of tv screens (one news, one cartoons), some video games and a few toys, plus plenty of seating and big windows for looking out, a cafe, a reclining room (chairs like you would see on an airplane, but nicer), and a small store. Then on Deck 8, there was another reclining lounge, a food court, and a restaurant. On deck 9 there were passenger cabins. On Deck 10 there was an observation/sun deck. Quite nice! I had never been on such a large ship before. It was really cool and the three hours flew by!
We landed in Picton and picked up a new rental car and had lunch at the Dog and Frog (no kidding!). The food was great!. Picton is a quaint little seaside town and it looked a lot like Mayberry. Only about 12,000 inhabitants. The water was so beautiful – it was turquoise.
Here is a picture or two.
Today, we left the hotel a little before 10:00. Our first stop was a nearby laundry business that the hotel directed us to. While they offer laundry service at the hotel, the cost is by piece of clothing (for example: $9/pair of pants). This was not going to work for us, so we looked for a place that charged by the load. Well, we plugged the address into our GPS, Golem. But Golem pulled one of his normal stunts and told us we were there, when in fact, we were about 1 mile from where we needed to be. I got out with the three bags of laundry, thinking it was just a little way to go, and I kept asking in stores and being told it was just over there, then I would keep going and before I knew it I had walked about a mile, my arms were breaking and for my troubles, I was told that the place I was looking for had closed last month!!! The lady that told me that, then got out the phonebook and found a couple of other addresses for me before I began my trek back. Fortunately, Daniel had come looking for me in the car, so I didn’t have to walk all the way back. We decided the laundry could wait one more day…..
Next we headed to Central Park because Katrina and Jack were keen to show their dad the Flying Fox ride and Katrina was really wanting just some playtime. The Flying Fox is an awesome zipline and the kids had a blast on it. I have some video and when I have better internet, I’ll try and post some of these videos I have made. I did get some pictures of the kids climbing around.
After that, we headed to the Sheepskin Warehouse. In Australia, Katrina and I got some opal jewelry, that was our ‘big’ souvenir from there. Then here, we wanted something made from sheep (since they are everywhere. Katrina got some lovely boots and I am happy with my slippers. Plus I got a sheep wool steering wool cover to keep my hands nice and toasty warm!
Today we set off on a tour that included Lord of The Ring(LOTR) filming sights, a seal colony, a winery and other opportunities to see the scenery and lay of the land. This ended up being about a 10 hour tour and is the last one we are signed up for during our big adventure. The tours have been great ways to learn a lot and to have someone else drive so we don’t have to go through the headaches of driving and figuring out where stuff was. Our tour was a small one today, only 8 people.
In the morning we visited several sites where scenes from the various LOTR movies had been filmed. Of course, there is nothing left of the elaborate sets, but it was still kind of neat to see where things had been. We saw where Helms Deep had been built (at a quarry), where Rivendell had been built, where Legolas stood guard on the way into Rivendell, the tree that the Orcs danced around, the field that Gandalf took off through on his way to visit Saraman (sp?) and the pillars that they walked by during their talk, where Frodo, Sam, and the others hid from the Ring Wraith under the roots of a tree (the roots were built out of styrofoam, but the forest was real), and we saw the white cliffs that the Fellowship passes after putting their canoes in the water. Here are photos of what the places look like now:
Hiding from the Ring Wraith.
Rivendell was built just past the bend in the river under the electrical pole.
The area where Legolas stood guarding the way to Rivendell.
The white cliffs that you see behind the Fellowship of the Ring after they put their canoes into the water
Only 13 more days left before we return to the U.S. That is so hard to believe.
We got checked out of the Chateau around 9:30, had breakfast, and then began the trek towards Wellington. It was a 4 1/2 hour drive. We were suprised to learn that roads to the east of the mountain were closed due to the snow. As we drove along, we saw rain, snow, sun and clouds. A little bit of everything! We arrived in Wellington and got checked into the James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor. After getting settled, Katrina and I wandered around a bit looking in stores and scoping out the area restaurants. We ended up ordering Pizza from Pizza King (very good) and now we are watching a little TV before turning in. So far this evening, we have watched Spiderwick Chronicles, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, America’s Funniest Home Videos, and Barnyard. Tomorrow we have a tour of some Lord of the Ring sites and a Seal Colony. Should be fun!
Here are a few photos from our drive today.