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Another Trip to South Island with Visitors

Written by Cathy Siegismund
February - March 2003


We were making our final trip to the South Island. Ken's brother Pete was coming down for a 2 week visit, and we had planned to start with 10 days in Queenstown. A few days before we were to fly down ourselves, our friend John who had been in New Zealand less than two weeks before told us that he was planning to come down for another month visit to finish getting his paragliding license.

We left Auckland and flew to Christchurch where we spent the night. We got up to a hot cloudless morning and drove past Mount Cook to Queenstown.

We took a few back roads and passed through some very small towns.

The booming town of Mayfield, which warns you "Blink and you will miss out"

We continued our drive through the plains of Canterbury and approached the snow covered mountains of the Southern Alps and Mount Cook.

Approaching the Southern Alps

On a sunny day there are a few stops you can't miss on this stretch of road. We stopped at the small Church of the Good Shepherd which sits at the edge of the turquoise blue glacial Lake Tekapo. Behind the altar of the small Church, built in the 1930's, is a large window framing the breathtaking view of the lake and the mountains. There is also a statue dedicated to the sheep dog, commemorating the important role these animals play in the high country farming.

Clouds settled on the mountains around Lake Tekapo

Church of the Good Shepard

Sheep Dog (Collie) Statue

Another few minutes of driving and you find yourself at the end of Lake Pukaki. This is another beautiful vista with the Southern Alps and Mount Cook at the end of the Lake.

Ken seated on the shores of Lake Pukaki

Cath pointing to Mount Cook, or Aoraki in Maori, New Zealand's highest peak at 3,750 meters (12,303 feet)

We arrived in Queenstown early evening and checked into the fantastic house we rented for the week. We rented from a company Queenstown Holiday Homes twice before and have been very pleased. This was no exception, we had looked at the house the last time we were in Queenstown, asked for a few amenities to be added, which were all in place when we arrived.

The house had one of the best views we'd seen in Queenstown and was a great base for us to enjoy all the adventure activities Queenstown has to offer. We had always felt rushed on our previous three trips to Queenstown, either due to other priorities or bad weather. This time we decided to stay in Queenstown until we did everything we wanted to; Ken in particular had along list of adrenaline junky activities he wanted to do, and planned to drag Pete along with him.

   

Bedroom and living room had amazing views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and The Remarkables

Cath in the kitchen

   

Breathtaking views from the large deck

Jet boats touring Lake Wakatipu

Our friends Bob and Cary on Illusion were traveling South Island and had just finished a trek when we arrived. As John and Pete were not arriving for a couple of days we had invited them to join us at the house.

Bob and Cary

The year before we had been in Queenstown, Tam and I had gone out for a horse trek in Glenorchy, a small town of a couple hundred people literally at the end of the road at one end of Lake Wakatipu. The scenery is famous around Glenorchy with some of the Lord of the Rings being filmed there and it being the start of several famous treks including the Routeburn. Tam and I went on our horse trek on a cloudy and drizzly day, and I had wanted to give it another try in the sunshine. Ken was game to go with me, so I booked an afternoon half day trek with Dart Stables in Glenorchy. The day was perfect and we were treated to some amazing scenery, both on the 45 minute drive along the lake to Glenorchy as well as on the trek itself.

      

View down Lake Wakatipu toward Glenorchy

A group of about eight of us were on the trek. I rode a big young horse named Zodiac.

Cath on Zodiac at Dart Stables

As a group, we walked through the small town and then began our ride along, and crossing,  the Rees River. I had the chance to take Zodiac off by myself own for a little hack along some of the trails.

   

   

   

Our Dart Stables Horse Trek, with Ken and I long the Rees River

The next day, our last before Pete and John arrived, we booked an all-day canyoning trip in Wanaka (a town about an hour from Queenstown). Though canyoning was invented in Europe over 100 years ago, it isn't surprising to find several tourist companies offering tourist canyoning trips in Queenstown. The idea of canyoning, is you hike up to the head of a canyon, then put on wetsuits and climbing gear. You then abseil, slide, and jump your way down through waterfalls and the river through the canyon. By luck, I think we selected the best canyoning company, at least for us. We went with Deep Canyon in Wanaka. We got a predictably short intro to abseiling, but were in small groups and felt very confident in our guide, Dave. The trip included, some big abseils, jumps as high as about 40 feet, and natural water slides that we did feet first and some even head first. The trip ended with a zip line ride across the canyon for our short walk back down to the base of the canyon.

The John was waiting in the house when we returned from our canyoning adventure. John, is by far, our most frequent visitor - a four-peat! John was back in Queenstown to complete his paragliding license.

John, back for his second trip, two weeks after his last

Pete arrived the next morning, and that afternoon Ken had him out starting the adventure tour. They opted for a little Fly by Wire. If you opt for a ride on the fly by wire, you are strapped flat down on a missile-shaped "plane" attached to a wire suspended over a bowl valley. The plane is then pulled up to the edge of the valley, the engine started and off you go. The plane can go over 170 km/h only a few feet from the ground.

   

   

   

   

Ken and Pete at fly by wire

While Pete and Ken were off tempting fate, John and I hung out in the house and watched Alinghi win the fifth and final America's Cup race. Ken and I had caught a bit of race four, from Glenorchy before our horse trek. Race four had yet another heartbreaking gear failure for Team New Zealand. This time, during a windy and squally race Team New Zealand's mast strapped. Sensing the impeding doom of the New Zealand campaign, the local newspapers were fairly brutal with their evaluation of the race. This included a cut out drawing of the Team New Zealand boat, with a dotted line across the mast that said "fold here."

The next day, the weather was still a little questionable, so we opted for a short game of golf. We went to the Queenstown Golf Club, set on the peninsula that juts out into Lake Wakatipu. We had a bit of an ominous start with branches being blown off the trees at the first tee, but the weather held with only few sprinkles and we enjoyed the course.

   

   

   

John, Pete, Ken, and Cath golfing at the Queenstown Golf Course

Thinking golf was not quite adventurous enough for Pete's Queenstown adventure, we took him to  Kawarau Bridge, for a post golf game bungy jump. A.J. Hackett's Kawarau Bridge bungy, a 43 meter jump, is the original home of the bungy jump, not counting the local people of Vanuatu to invented the original vine bungy jump.

   

   

Pete's Kawarau Bridge bungy jump

During the rest of our stay in Queenstown, each of us took advantage of a range of activities. John and Pete spent a day fly-fishing, while Ken spent an hour learning to drive rally cars, and I enjoyed hanging out in the house and doing some shopping in Queenstown. Each night we enjoyed a quiet dinner at the house enjoying the spectacular view and usually some good New Zealand wine.

John and Pete enjoying a post-fishing Speight's with their fishing guide

Even a squall is a spectacular site over Lake Wakatipu

   

Quiet dinners at the house

After a few cloudy days, the weather turned clear and we had close to a week of perfect weather. John began paragliding every day, working on his license.

John soloing over Queenstown

John and Pete were working on doing just about every adventure activity possible in Queenstown. They went off-road motorcycling, rode the luge at the top of the Queenstown gondola, went mountain biking, canyoning, jet boating, and jumped off the Nevis, New Zealand's highest bungy jump.

   

   

Ken and Pete out for an all day off-road motorcycle tour around Queenstown

Pete and Ken ready to luge

   

Pete aboard the Shotover Jetboat

   

Our mountain-biking

Ken and Pete enjoyed a day of mountain-biking and then somehow managed to get a ride back in a helicopter.

   

Returning from the mountain bike ride the easy way

John and Pete also took the plunge and jumped off A.J. Hackett's Nevis high wire bungy. New Zealand's highest at 134 meters (about 440 feet). The Nevis bungy platform is a fixed cable car suspended by high-tension wires that span 380 meters across the Nevis River. Jumpers get out to the jump platform via a small cable car.

   

The Nevis bungy platform suspended above the Nevis River seen below

   

Nevis jump platform is serviced by a small cable car

A Nevis jumper showing excellent bungy form

Ken being prepped for the jump

While the Machtley brothers were off testing their luck at the adventure activities, I opted for more mellow activities. I went for another all day horse trek with Dart Stables, and spent a decadent day at the Millbrook Resort Spa, which I would strongly recommend.

On one of our last days in Queenstown, Pete, Ken and I drove back out to Glenorchy to do the first day of the Routeburn track. The Routeburn is a beautiful walking track, and although we only walked up to the first hut and back it did make us want to return to complete the entire track.

Ken and Pete on one of the many bridges on the Routeburn Track

For more photos see the Routeburn Track Photo Gallery

We had spent nearly two weeks in Queenstown, and finally felt we had completely experienced the place. We had a nice sunny day as Ken, Pete, and I drove back to Christchurch to catch our flight back to Auckland. John was going to again stay in Queenstown to continue paragliding. He would come back through Auckland for a day on his return flight to Seattle.

Leaving Queenstown we drove through the historic town of Cardrona.

The Cardrona Hotel is one of New Zealand's oldest hotels

We stopped so Pete could do one more adventure activity, a ride in the rally car that Ken had done early in the week.

   

   

   

Pete in the rally car

The rally car ride, is around a track and is the same type of rally car you'll see on TV, or in the PlayStation Game. Pete and Ken thought this was great, though to me, it just looked a good way to get car sick.

On our way out of Cardrona, we passed another local landmark, the bra fence. Apparently, a local farmer began putting bras on the fence on his farm for a joke. Word spread and soon he was receiving underwear from across the globe. Passing women motorists even stop, get out of their cars, strip off their tops and adorn his famous fence with their bras. Although, I did not feel the urge to part with any undergarments, we did stop for a photo.

Bra fence

We arrived back in Auckland to find rainy wet weather. Pete spent a few days touring around Auckland, he went surfing with our friend Nik on Green Ghost, and he and Ken couldn't resist jumping from another high place - the Auckland Sky Tower.

   

Ken doing his super hero pose, right before he is very quickly lowered down from the top of the Sky Tower

Ken, Pete, and I had planned to go diving in Tutukaka's Poor Knights, a popular dive site a couple of hours north of Auckland. Unfortunately, Ken and I woke up with a cold and were unable to go, Pete however did make the trip. While Pete was diving, Ken and I explored nearby Whangarei and spent some time with cruising friends Ron and Ingri on Seashell. After we picked up Pete, we then drove up to spend the night in Pahia in the Bay of Islands for a little sightseeing. We were pleasantly surprised to run into other cruising friends we hadn't seen since French Polynesia. Denis and Tina are aboard a Baba 30, a boat very similar to Felicity. They had had stayed in Fiji for the cyclone season with their boat on the hard. They had flown to New Zealand for a two week visit, and to meet Fijian immigration requirements. They will be heading to Australia this season and we look forward to cruising with them again.

We returned to Auckland and had a nice farewell dinner with Pete. Pete flew out the next morning back to San Francisco. Ken and I now need to get very serious about boat projects that need to be completed before we sail back to the tropics in a couple of months. It is hard to believe we have been in New Zealand for 16 months, it really starting to feel like home, but it is time to look ahead and start planning for our next adventure.

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