What is The Opposite of a Jet Boat?

The TSS Earnslaw is a 1912 vintage twin screw steamer plying the waters of Lake Wakatipu New Zealand. It is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Central Otago, and the only remaining passenger-carrying coal-fired steamship in the southern hemisphere.

What is a twin screw steamer, you ask?  It is a is a steam-powered vessel propelled by two screws, one on either side of the plane of the keel. That should clear it up for you.  If not, how about this:


Quite a bit different from the jet boat of this morning.  The cruise was lovely. We got to have pictures taken on the bridge. It took everything I had not to refer to the shorts-wearing captain as “Capt. Stubbing.” We got to see the engine room and watch them shovel coal into the engines. Strange that something so mundane was so interesting.  It may be the only time the girls ever see something powered like that.

We disembarked at Walter Peak High Country Farm for dinner. The Colonel’s Homestead is beautiful and the food was good. By this time we have eaten New Zealand Buffets a number of times and while the food is always good it is beginning to become a bit run of the mill. And I am still getting used to the idea that cheese is not an appetizer but a dessert.

After dinner we went to the shearing shed and watched the farm dogs rounding up sheep from the hill paddocks, and the farmer shear a sheep. The dogs are the most amazing creatures. And the sheep, well, they are much like certain girls I knew in high school; cute, compliant and down right stupid. Here is a short clip of the show we saw, posted by someone else as we left filming to the girls.

On the trip back, at the pleading of the girls, we sat in on the traditional sing-along with the ship’s pianist.  Granted we were the only people there under 60, but the girls had a great time singing the hearts out to songs they have never heard before.  Finally, a walk back to the hotel and sleep much needed sleep.

Speed and Rain

Today we were up and out early for a trip to Glenorchy (pop. 220) at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. The day was wet and deary but with little else to do on a deary day in Queenstown everyone on our bus decided to solider on and see what the day would hold.

The ride from Queenstown to Glenorchy was about 40 km and about an hour drive.  Again we had a lovely tour guide.  At this point you can begin to assume that tour guides here are lovely, nice, kind, pleasant, funny people.  It is a national trait, I think. We arrived at the Dart River Jet Safaris office.  Since we got a bus tour and nature walk which would last another 1 or so we decided not to give the poor river guide a day off and bet on better weather for the jet boat ride.

So off we headed to view the,

wait for it,

beautiful scenery and sheep farm.

One would think that it would have begun to jade us a bit but indeed it did not. This time there was more.  Many movies and a great number of commercials have been filming in the little area, including Lord of the Rings, Wolverine, and Prince Caspian . We saw the area of Isengard and the Misty Mountains.  We learned more about flora and fauna. And as you can see, we bit the bullet and rode the jet boat, in the rain, in the cold, and had a fabulous time.

We did not get to go up as far as we would have liked because the Dart River is a braided river.  A braided river has a channel that consists of a network of small channels separated by small and often temporary islands called braid bars.

The channels and braid bars are usually highly mobile, so the guide told us that it is rarely the same river two days in a row. The water was a bit low so less of a ride for us, but since it was cold and wet we decided we could live with that.

After a quick bite at The Glenorchy Cafe, we headed back to the hotel for some down time and then it was off to the Wharf for our Earnslaw adventure.

Fangorn Forest Still Traps the Unwary

On our way to Queenstown we stopped and spent several hours exploring the Mavora Lakes. There are several of LOTR filming locations around there, including Fangorn Forest and the Silverlode river. Perhaps it was the thick carpet of spongy moss. Perhaps it was the curiously friendly bird that stopped by to greet us as we were leaving. But just as we leaving, the forest attacked. (And by attacked, I mean a rotten log collapsed under Carrie’s feet.) Carrie whacked her elbow pretty good when she fell and she scared the heck out of Brigit when she fell.

There is no depression in New Zealand*

Today we had one of the best wildlife tours, and that is saying a lot given the large number of wildlife tours we have had.  We were picked up from our hotel on the morning and driven through Dunedin.  The driver, who we later discovered was the tour company owner, gave us a tour of the city.  It has very beautiful architecture and in many way really reflects the history of the city.  The  architecture is very Victorian and we got to see yet another statue of Queen Victoria.  They are thick on the ground here.  But here there is also one to Robby Burns.

Our boat tour was lovely.  We were the only people on the beginning portion so we could completely monopolize the young man assigned to the role of tour guide/cabin boy.  He was very nice and friendly and answered our questions but about the wildlife and life in New Zealand in general.  We saw more fur seals and nesting shads and Sooty Shearwaters, who were returning from a crazy long migration and will soon number in the millions in this area, and seals, including babies and The Royal Albatross.

After landing we were picked up by a bus and taken to “The Penguin Place.”  It was the best fun at the penguin tour yet.  The trails are camouflaged and recessed so we were able to see a lot of wildlife quite closely.  The tour guide was, even by New Zealand standards, friendly and talkative.  I know stunning isn’t it.

After a return trip down the mountain, where we were chased by a huge grey cloud bank (I wish I has gotten film of it) we had lunch and then disappointed the girls by taking them to the Cadbury World10 minutes after the last tour of the day left.

*There is No Depression in New Zealand, lyrics Richard von Sturmer; music Don McGlashan; 1981

Little Penguins and Big Boulders

In the morning we woke up to snow. In case you couldn’t tell from the pictures it has been an unseasonably cold spring here.

Fortunately, there wasn’t much but that didn’t stop some intrepid folks from making a snowman.


There wasn’t much on the roads so it presented no problem when we headed back out toward the coast. We had an appointment for a tour at the Omaru penguin reserve.


The timing of this was a little poor as most of the penguins were out at sea feeding. The only ones home are the ones sitting on the nests but they’re not easy to see as the nests are in boxes.

Normally, the penguins nest under trees but most of the trees have been eaten by the rabbits and possums which were brought over for their meat and fur respectively. Then as the rabbits and possums had gotten out of control. Stoats and ferrets were brought over to control the rabbit population. Unfortunately the stoats and ferrets quickly discovered that the chicks of penguins and other native birds were far easier to catch than rabbits. Thus the need for penguin reserves.

Anyway, we did get a very nice personal tour of the reserve from one of the only things not endangered in New Zealand, naturalists. Every little nature preserve, park and retirement home has a few. And they busy themselves outfitting threatened species with ecology bling in the form of radio collars and ID tags. But I digress.

Anyway, we didn’t have time to stay to see the penguins return from the sea as we needed to be in Dunedin that evening and we really wanted to stop to see the Moeraki boulders.


Check out the other cool pictures in the gallery.

“Glaciers are delicate and individual things, like humans. Instability is built into them.”

We headed out from Christchurch to Lake Tepako.  I was not sure what I was expecting but the beauty of this lake was far beyond anything so far that that is saying a lot.

As Joe mentioned there were no stars but the view of the lake made it worth every second of the travel to get there.

The next day we were up and out fairly early because we had to be at Mt. Cook for a glacier boat ride.  It was here that those coats and hats and gloves came in handy again.  I am not sure what I was thinking when I read glacier lake boat tour and thought “It will be Spring, light jackets are fine!” In case you were unsure, glaciers are cold.  And whipping around on a glacial lake in a jet boat is wicked cold! But no cold enough to keep Brigit awake.  Brigit is a car sleeper.  You put her in a car and sooner rather than later she will be asleep.  On this trip I have discovered it is any vehicle, including jet boats on glacial lakes.

This was the first time Joe and I began joking about “Another Day, Another Vista”  and “All the Weird Fresh Air.”  Case in point, we were driving to Mt. Cook with views like this:

Traveling to Mt. Cook, Around every Turn

And in the backseat of the car, this is what was happening behind the driver:

Beth Anne reading her Kindle

And behind the passenger:

Brigit on her DS Lite

When asked to look out the window, Beth Anne’s response was a non-committal “Yah, that’s pretty.”

Star Gazing

We cruised up to Lake Tekapo. It was a beautiful day and we were getting some beautiful views of the southern alps.



If you’ve seen any photos of Lake Tekapo they’ve probably looked like this.


Or this


But we came for the stars. And it was a beautiful clear day we were really excited.



Unfortunately, just before sunset the clouds rolled in. So you’ll (and we’ll) just have to imagine what it would have been like. Here’s a little help.

Jolly Good Effort

We were supposed to go to the Banks Peninsula today. It was an hour and a half drive to look around with no planned activities. So we decided not to go since we had not seen any of the city and to just hang in Christchurch for the day. We spent the morning getting caught up on school work which is a huge pain and I completely remember why I do not home school.

Then we used our passes to the local Highlands Museum in Ashland KY, to go to the local science museum, Science Alive! We used the free bus shuttle to get around the city. The girls had a great time and got to do the 5.3 meter vertical slide and the human gyroscope and a climbing wall so with just that the day was a success.

Toward the end of the afternoon, I was in the lower gallery trying to figure out a logic puzzle.  It had to do with lining up pegs so that none of them connected to another.  As I was working through it a boy about Beth Anne’s age came up.  I was trying to be systematic and there were still pegs that lined up.  In a very British accent (Yes I am beginning to be able to tell them apart a bit) he began to tell me that I was “incorrect”  and “Well, no that is not right either.”  Figuring he was old enough to know better and should know to be a bit patience, I finally sighed and looked at him and suggested that “perhaps you should try since you seem to know how to do it.” Completely missing the sarcasm, he replied “Well, I can give it a jolly good effort.  I can’t guarantee it will be 100% correct however.” Now read that again in your best Monty Python imitating a British colonel voice.   Joe and I almost fell over trying not to laugh at the kid.

After we took the shuttle to city center and Brigit used her +4 cuteness against Papas to convince him of the necessity of bungee trampolining. After wandering back to the hotel while looking for a restaurant recommended to us, which Beth Anne noticed and pointed out with a very generic “There’s a restaurant.” while pointing to about a half dozen cafes. Of course, we ignored her since she had been declaring starvation for the past 20 minutes. So finally back to our hotel we found a great Thai place and gorged on Pad Thai and Chicken Satay.