We are on our last day in NZ and I find myself making a list of everything we’ve done in the past few days.

We drove from the ferry to Kaikoura sometime about a week ago. The ferry ride was terrific, in spite of the weather being cloudy and rainy. The Interislander is much bigger than the ferries in BC with a food court, a full lounge including live entertainment, a children’s area with a live magic show, movies to watch, reclining seats to cozy up in and a running commentary in case dolphins or whales are spotted. Sure enough, we got a good group of dolphins following us, so that was my first free sighting of wildlife in this area.

Once off the ferry, we drove along the coast to Kaikoura, which means food/crayfish. The crayfish here is like a 5 lbs lobster with no claws. Sorry Ariane, you would not make a feast of it, but Earl and I sure would! Unfortunately, we never did try the crayfish (too expensive at $90 for 2 people) but I can dream… We did however, see a whole colony of seals sunning themselves on the rocks at low tide. They are easy to spot, not too scientific, just look for cars pulled over and they are usually there for a reason.

pacific coast south island north of Kaikoura
seal snooze in Kaikoura

We stayed at a B & B in Kaikoura, complete with a hot tub that looked like a large barrel. Then dinner was at the Irish Pub (actually a large property suitable for weddings complete with pond and willows). They sure don’t let you go away hungry. I had a huge piece of Blue Cod with other accompaniments. We met a nice couple from England who were travelling in a campervan. We ended up having a few beers (or ciders) and closing down the place sometime after 11pm, on a Tuesday or Monday, or something. There are always good stories to tell when you run into other travellers. You get a lot of good tips of what to visit as many of them have just been where you are going.

The next day we were off to Christchurch for 2 nights. We stayed in a swanky hotel off the park, complete with champagne and chocolates. Leon said the travel agent probably Googled hotels with champagne and chocolates to find this place for us. She knows my tastes! We walked around and searched for the earthquake damage and there is quite a lot of it. We also met up with an old army acquaintance of Leon’s for a nice dinner. Turns out his wife is a teacher too and is now out of the classroom and writing curriculum. Hummmm, sounds familiar…

baguette from Akaroa

We took some time to visit a French settlement in Akaroa. Now the French were to settle there and would have been successful, but the English got wind of it and planted the British flag before the French had time to settle in as planned. And so the town has at least 5 French flags, but the boulangerie has nothing really French in it, including baguettes that taste like they came from Metro or Loblaws. I bought one, I know… Nevertheless, the scenery was spectacular as we drove into this delightful valley and cove. Following that, we were back in town and off to the beach in New Brighton, on the Pacific coast.

Mt. Cook

The next day, we were off to Te Anau, about 9 hours south-west of Christchurch. A long, long drive… But certainly worth it! We drove into the Otago valley which could be used as a movie set for Kelowna, or maybe it’s the other way around. We stopped in Tarras, near Bendigo Station, and found out all about Shrek, the alpaca sheep who had escaped shearing for 3 yrs or something, and had about 50 lbs of wool on his fleece by the time they caught him. They wrote a book about him as a huge fundraiser for the kids’ hospital. As for Bendigo Station, Leon had a theory that it got its name from a rich gold miner who had made his fortune in Bendigo, AU and decided to buy a homestead and give it the same name. Einnnhhhh! Wrong answer!! Good try though. I looked it up and it was simply named after Bendigo as gold diggers came to NZ when gold was found here. So I’ve been to Bendigo, NZ but not Bendigo, AU yet. Good story to tell my students though.

Back to the destination of Te Anau, we arrived at our hotel by the lake with the same name. Cute tourist town with lots of restaurants and bars. We happened to arrive for the harness race through town on the next day. They actually made a track by dumping loads of dirt on the streets to create traction, I imagine. There was a beer tent set up for the afternoon and we managed to return from our tour of Milford Sound just in time for the auction and a few drinks with the locals. The streets were already being cleaned off. Funny thing about the auction, I was trying to see what they were auctioning off, had my hand over my face to shield my eyes from the sun (a common problem for me here) and the guy thought I had placed a bid. Phew, that could have been right out of the movies!

cruising Milford sound
one of the many waterfalls at Milford sound
on the way to Milford sound
tunnel to Milford sound

Milford Sound was awesome! We travelled about 180km from Te Anau by bus until we got to the other side of a tunnel to the Sound where we boarded a 3 masted boat for a 1.5 hr cruise. The scenery was fantastic, high peaks, water falls, an occasional albatross riding the wind currents, touching its wing tips to the water, almost like a snow boarding touches the snow for balance. We had a picnic lunch I had brought along and the boat provided a really, really good cup of tea (or coffee). Leon actually had 2 cups of coffee rather than the beer I offered. We met some nice people from Manchester who were newly retired and travelling for 3 months from AU to NZ, then off to Chile and Argentina before going home. It seems you can buy a round the world plane ticket and all you have to do is make sure your mileage is not exceeded when you fly. I have to look into that.

And so now we are in Queenstown, land of the extreme sport. There are lots of young folks around. We think they may be the same people who live in ski resorts in Canada and come here for a change of pace. The lake is huge and very turquoise (as are most glacier lakes), the mountains, named the Remarkables, are exactly that (this is where they filmed Lord of the Rings) and the ambience is great!! We’ve walked to town twice from our hotel (about 30 min each way) and to Frankton once today (about 1 hr around the other side of the bay). At least I can justify my cider tonight. Dinner will be back at the hotel. There are bbqs in the complex for us to use. They are a little different – made of stainless steel, more like a steel plate heated by electric elements underneath. We’ve got sausages and potato salad on the menu. Sounds good eh? Should be ripper! Beauty!

So over the ditch we go tomorrow. Donna has arrived in Canada and her travel-agent daughter is meeting us at the airport in Melbourne. We are looking forward to a nice meet and greet and possibly what she calls the best hamburgers in Melbourne. We’ll see…

Here’s the movie version of a beautiful afternoon in the Queenstown harbour.