Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Road to Edoras

We are currently in Hammer Springs, an area north of Christchurch, in the mountains. We are going to enjoy the hot thermal springs this morning to warm our cold muscles up. (It's been a bit nippy here.)

We spent several days at Mount Cook, which turned out to be fabulous, since the weather cleared, and we had beautiful views of Mount Cook and Mount Sefton.

A few days ago we drove to Edoras, the site of the Hall of Rohen, from Lord of the Rings. It was quite a journey up a rough gravel road. Yesterday while driving around we found a local country fair. We stopped for a few hours and had a pleasant time watching some horse jumping, and other stock shows. It all reminded me of my childhood in England.

Tomorrow will be our day to swim with the Dolphins, we are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather. Then down to Christchurch for two days, before we leave. Christchurch should be a beautiful city with extraordinary gardens.

Dolphins & Christchurch

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Land of the Long White Cloud

What a great week. John's back is on the mend, thank goodness. We spent three days in the Fiordland National Park. Which was very cool. We drove up a spectacular road to Milford sound and took a cruise early the following morning. Sara even did a mini hike, and saw with horror where the Routeburn track was going in the distance! An interesting fact about Milford sound, it rains 182 days a year, and it is not unusual to have the British annual rainfall in 3 days. We were very lucky to hit it between rain storms.

Then we returned to the Queenstown area for three nights. We drove up into an area where we were surrounded by snow capped mountains. We camped two nights on the side of a deserted gravel road, prime photography. Sara managed to arrange a horse ride, called the Ride of the Rings. It took us to numerous Lord of the Rings locations used in the first movie. Breathtaking views were everywhere.

Then back to Queenstown, where on the spur of the moment we sailed on NZL 14, the 1992 America's cup NZ racing yacht. The winds hit 20 knots while we were on the lake, it was a blast. John has some great photos which we will upload when we find somewhere that allows uploading.

The next morning in Queenstown we were watching and photographing the paragliders land in a school yard. One guy had a slight front edge collapse, which corrected itself right away. We went over to talk to him, turns out he was from NM and is on the US paragliding team, and set a world record in time and duration with a Paraglider in Texas recently. Small world.

We are at Mount Cook, which is the highest mountain in New Zealand, and is quite spectacular. We have been lucky to have a clearing in the clouds so we can actually see all the mountains. We found out the name of our van means Land of the Long White Cloud, now we know why! We are very excited to see blue skies today, and the mountains.

Queenstown and Mount Cook Photos

We are heading to the East coast to swim with the Dolphins, should be fantastic. We talked to one girl that did it, and she said there were hundreds of Dolphins.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Misty Mountains and Queenstown NZ

We are currently in Queenstown, which is the adventure capital of NZ. The town is lovely, kind of a cross between Aspen, CO, Chamonix France and Lacarno Switzerland. There are mountains on both sides with para gliders flying off the top, and a big lake with lots of sailing.

We have been on the west coast, which is very spectacular, tropical rain forests, with a few glaciers, very unusual.

We were supposed to start a four day hike tomorrow, but unfortunately John's back is in a bad way. We decided it would be smarter to cancel than risk a helicopter rescue in the middle of the wilderness. We are both disappointed, but I am sure will find plenty of other fun things to do. This part of the country is just gorgeous.

We are heading to the Milford Sound area, which should be spectacular also.

Only two weeks to go, the time is flying by.

Here are the latest set of photos:

Milford Sound and Queenstown Photos

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Frodo and Sam go to Mordor

As we drove down the North Island we stopped to visit some of Sara's cousin's, in various locations. We had a lovely time chatting and meeting everyone. We had planned to swim with the dolphins, but unfortunately the weather was not cooperative, the winds were 30-40 knots, so it had to be canceled. I'm hoping we have time to schedule the trip at a different location on the South Island.

Sara purchased a Lord of the Rings location book, so we drove to the top of Mount Doom. It was bleak and cloud covered, and very cold. We've been driving through many of the other areas used in the film, and they are very spectacular. If we stopped at every site our trip our would take as long as the film did to make!

A few days ago we also stopped at some Geo thermal areas similar to Yellowstone. We even stopped for a dip in some hot mineral baths.

Friday we crossed the Cooke Strait on the ferry to the South Island. Luckily they were not fully booked because Sara made the reservation for February not March!

We've spent the last two nights at Able Tasman National Park which is on the coast. We rented a sea kayak for the day, and kayaked up the coast line. The beaches here are beautiful, and we were lucky with the weather, the sun was out all day. The sea kayak was fun but fairly tiring, we had to stop on a beach to rest and have lunch!

Now we are headed to the west coast of the South Island where a lot of the mountains are located. We just stopped at an outdoor store to buy freeze dried food for our hike, and ended up spending a fortune on special Merino wool shirts. According to my cousin Celia, they keep you warm, cool, and even! better don't smell. Could be the best purchase yet!

Here's a link to the next set of photos: New Zealand Photos