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South Island Trip: Queenstown to Auckland

Written by Cathy Siegismund
April 2002


After a great week in Queenstown, we had to start our quick drive to Christchurch.

Our return trip from Queenstown to Auckland, via Sydney

Our friends Denis Maguire and Valerie Nelson, who both work at the Onyx Sydney Office were getting married and we were invited. We made a quick but very pretty drive across the interior of New Zealand over Lindus Pass, which took us through Omarama and by Mount Cook. Although, evening was approaching the day was clear and we had a wonderful view of Mount Cook.

Mount Cook

Panorama of Mount Cook (103 kb download, Java required)

We made a long day of it, and reached Christchurch that evening. On April 4, we flew from Christchurch to Sydney, Australia for Denis and Val's wedding. We were going to spend five days in Sydney to attend the wedding and be tourists. I had been to Sydney quite a few times for work, but had done very little sightseeing and it was Ken's first trip to Australia.

We stayed at the Harbourview Hotel just across the bridge in North Sydney. I had stayed at that hotel a number of times for work and thought it would be a nice as it has great harbor views and is near a train stop.

   

View from our North Sydney hotel

On April 5, we attended the wedding of Denis Maguire and Valerie Nelson. It was a lovely ceremony, and it was a great chance for Ken and I to catch up with some of our Onyx friends who attended the wedding.

Denis and Valerie Maguire

See the Denis and Val's Wedding Photo Gallery for more wedding pictures some that we took and some from Denis and Val's wedding site.

As Ken had never been to Sydney, and in the past I had spent most of my visits there in an office, we decided to see the sights. The weather was perfect so we decided to explore the city. We walked around waterfront and then signed up for a harbor cruise.

Famous Sydney Opera House

With Sydney Harbour's many small bays and impressive waterfront, it is really a city best seen from the water. During the several hour cruise, we were treated to wonderful views of Sydney Harbour bridge, the opera house, Luna Park, Darling Harbour and the small beach communities that dot Sydney Harbour.

   

   

   

We were also treated to a day of sailing with our friend Andy Barbour, who had worked at Onyx. He like us had been bitten by the sailing bug, and took time away from work to follow his dream. He has been sailing single-handed up and down the east coast of Australia for the last year or so.

Mark & Jamie Mader, Ken and I joined Andy for a day sail around the a lovely national park area an hour or so north of Sydney.

Mark, Andy and Jamie on the stern of Andy's boat

Our last full day in Sydney, we went to two different wildlife parks to get our fill of Australia's unique animals.

      

The Koalas were a cute as you'd expect, and we even got to pet one

   

      

Ken befriending a variety of birds from cockatoos to emus

   

   

Kangaroos

   

Monitors and Crocs

   

Dingoes and wombats, oh my

   

We couldn't resist taking more pictures of the little blue penguins, called fairy penguins in Australia.

After exploring the wildlife parks, we continued to drive west into the Blue Mountains, which are about a 90-minute drive west of Sydney. The Blue Mountains region is an area of dramatic mountain landscapes, cute small towns, and eucalyptus forests. The blue haze that gives the Blue Mountains their name rises from eucalyptus forest. The region is at a higher altitude and a retreat from the summer heat of Sydney, for many Sydneysiders.

   

              

   

The three rock formations, are known as the Three Sisters. There is an aboriginal legend that tells the story of the creation of the three sisters.

THE LEGEND
The Aboriginal dream-time legend has it that three sisters, 'Meehni', 'Wimlah' and Gunnedoo' lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe.
These beautiful young ladies had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry.

The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters causing a major tribal battle.

As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witchdoctor from the Katoomba tribe took it upon himself to turn the three sisters into stone to protect them from any harm. While he had intended to reverse the spell when the battle was over, the witchdoctor himself was killed. As only he could reverse the spell to return the ladies to their former beauty, the sisters remain in their magnificent rock formation as a reminder of this battle for generations to come.

Before our evening flight, we thought we'd take advantage of our last day in Sydney and go exploring some of the marinas and marine stores doing a little reconnaissance if we decide to take the boat there when we reach Australia. We had an uneventful flight back to Christchurch.

As our flight did not arrive in Christchurch until around midnight, we got a bit of a late start the next day. We had decided to make the trip back to Auckland a quick one, but did want to see a bit of the west coast of the South Island first.

Our route from Christchurch to Auckland via the west coast of both South and North Island

We left Christchurch and headed back across the South Island toward Greymouth, through Arthurs Pass National Park and through some beautiful country.

   

   

    

The road winds through the mountains, and we passed through one lane tunnels and under an interesting solution to avoid road washout.

Waiting for our turn to transit one of the one lane bridges that cars and trains share.

We arrived on the West Coast in the seaside town of Greymouth in the early afternoon. We stopped at a pub, grabbed some fish and chips for lunch and then explored the town. Since it was still quite early, we decided to continue the drive north to Westport. This was one of the more spectacular stretches of coast we've seen. You've got the rugged coastline which is often battered by the Tasman Sea on one side and giant ferns, rainforest and small farms on the other. We will definitely take another drive down the West Coast before we leave New Zealand. We made a short stop at Punakaiki, a small town made famous for its Pancake Rocks, unique pancake-like limestone rock formations, and blowholes formed in the rocks by the temperamental Tasman Sea sending waves crashing into the rocky coast.

Punakaiki's Pancake Rocks on the rugged west coast

See the Pancake Rocks' Photo Gallery

We arrived in Westport after dark and stopped for the night. We had made reservations to cross Cook Strait on the InterIslander the following evening, so the next day we left Westport heading for Picton. We decided to take a somewhat scenic route through part of the Abel Tasman National Park, again this is another place we want to spend some time exploring next year. We got to Havelock around dinnertime, so we again stopped for a great meal of green lipped mussels before driving on to Picton.

The Mussel Boys, Havelock, with New Zealand green lipped mussels playing rugby on the roof

We again lucked out in the weather, and had a quiet crossing of Cook's Strait to Wellington. We spent the night in Wellington, and set off toward Auckland the following day. We awoke to nice weather, so we decided to take a slightly different route back to Auckland -- one we hadn't seen. We drove along the west coast of the North Island, and took a coastal road that goes around Cape Egmont and almost drives completely around Mount Taranaki. Mount Taranaki, also called Mount Egmont, is a solitary almost perfect peak. The extinct volcano is one of New Zealand's tallest at 8,261 feet, and is made even more dramatic by the surrounding low lying farmland and Tasman Sea.

Mount Taranaki peeking out of the clouds

We drove into the evening and finally stopped for the night in Hamilton. Hamilton is only a couple of hours from Auckland, but we decided we'd prefer to unload the car and inspect the boat in the daylight. We also had to fix our heater on Felicity, and thought a late night arrival in the New Zealand autumn wasn't that great of an idea. The following morning we arrived back in Auckland. We found Felicity in fine shape, and appreciated Drew and Nik (on Layla and Green Ghost respectively) checking on her while we were gone. We were also very pleased to find a letter from New Zealand Customs granting our request for an extension. This allows us to stay in New Zealand through June 2003. This will give us the opportunity to complete some pending boat projects, enjoy the America's Cup and spend more time exploring New Zealand.

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