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.
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.
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.
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:
And in the backseat of the car, this is what was happening behind the driver:
And behind the passenger:
When asked to look out the window, Beth Anne’s response was a non-committal “Yah, that’s pretty.”
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.
We walked from the hotel to town center to get the bus for the next in our many cruises in NZ. This one was one that Beth Anne has been anxiously awaiting. Its purpose was to try and see Hector’s dolphins. These dolphins are quite rare and we were luck enough to get to see two sets. One of them was quite playful and playing in under the bow of the boat. Poor Joe was up top taking pictures of another set much farther off the back of the ship and wondering what the tour guide was talking about and why everyone was clustered about the bow.
On our way to the boat as we were talking to the bus driver we discovered that he also drove a bus later that evening to WillowBrook. We were booked to have dinner and another Kiwi Encounter there. He told us that we could get a free ride, but we would have to come back from the boat tour and be ready to go in about 45 minutes. We did not have our voucher and because of the very strict drink driving laws here and the fact that we had already been in one checkpoint we decided that free bus was worth a quick cab back to the hotel. So we got off the bus and grabbed a cab. We got our voucher, grabbed a quick change of shoes and returned to town center only to discover that we did not qualify for the free bus. It was $30 for the bus or we could take in the Maori show and ride for free. We decided we would decide when we found out how much extra the show was. $48 was the amount; per person. Since we had seen a show already we decide to just shell out for the ride. We had a nice dinner and then headed off for the Kiwi encounter. It was not good. It was rushed and not nearly as informative as the one at Rainbow Springs. Even the girls commented that the only goof part was getting to see more Kiwis. Live and learn, live and learn.
We had a didn’t have much planned for today except a drive to Christchurch. We had some trouble finding a place to eat. One of the things that we have had trouble getting used to and will continue to have trouble with is the hours of service here in NZ. It was Sunday and most places were not serving. Most stores close at 5 and even The Warehouse, NZ’s Wal-mart/K-mart equivalent, is only open until 8. Most of the cities and towns we have visited so far are much more like the older mid-western town. Butchers and bakers and grocers and boutiques line a main street and it all closes down by 5.
We got to Christchurch early enough to visit the International Antarctic Center. Overpriced and disappointing we spent the next few hours looking at how things work in the Antarctic. We got to “experience” an antarctic storm, we got our first taste of penguins. No, you can’t eat them but there is a small group at the Center which are injured. They are cared for permanently there. We got to watch a beautiful film in HD of scenes from the Antarctic. So far the two things that I have found are good to watch in high def are sports (yawn) and nature shows. I wonder when we can get one.
After seeing what there was to see in the Center we got a ride in a Haaglund. This is the vehicle which is used in the Antarctic. We went up 35 degree inclines and over 12 inch crevices and into 4 feet of water. It was the most exciting thing for the girls, even better than watching the penguins get feed.
The grocery store was next were we continued in our quest to find the best mince pie in New Zealand. Brigit is a complete convert to the pie culture. And Beth Anne is loving the huge amount of Salmon found here. Joe and I are finding lovely beer and cider selections. 🙂
Today was one of the days that I had been waiting for since the early stages of planning this trip. I have always wanted to see whales and we were going to head out into the open Pacific ocean and hope to see them. We were up early, not 5 am, but early. We got to the Whaleway Station to catch our bus. And yes that was what it was called. We arrived to find that there was a seasick warning for our scheduled cruise. We asked about a later one and were told that it would only get worse not better. So we decided to risk it and head out. We did not know or perhaps understand how bad it was going to be. 1.5 to 2 meter swells are not something to take lightly. Initially we were all laughing at the boat’s ups and downs but for Brigit that soon changed. She was beginning to turn green. Now you might have noted that we have had a cold issue. But if you know anything about motion sickness you might know that cooling down your body temperature helps a great deal. Also being outside helps a great deal. Neither of which Brigit was inclined to do. This boat was restrictive about when you could go outside and there were others would were beginning to get sick around us. In a loud way, if you get my meaning. So now, Brigit is green and I am beginning to turn and I am trying to carry her, unwillingly, outside on to the deck in 1.5 meter swells. This is not fun. I spent the next 30-45 minutes huddled with her outside waiting for the medicine to take effect. And it did, Brigit passed out standing up, leaning on me.
Now while all this is going on Joe and Beth Anne, who are also a bit queasy, but better than Brigit and I, are looking for a whale. Finally they spotted it, a sperm whale. They both got a really good look and some OK pictures. I did get to see it but not for long. They also got to see a seal feeding in the sea and battling with sea birds for a barracuda.
After returning to land everyone perked up almost instantly and we went to lunch and the grocery and back to the hotel. Then we headed out to the beach again. The girls lasted about 5 minutes before their shoes, socks, and leggings were off and they were in the water. They ran in and out and got wet up to their waists and still complained about going home even thought they were blue and shivering.
Back at the apartment we ran into a lovely older couple who wanted to know where we were from and we spent the better part of an hour comparing travel stories about them in the USA and us in NZ. They were nice people, sort of beginning to be an expectation of Kiwis at this point.
After a yummy lamb chop dinner we packed up for our trip to Christchurch tomorrow.
The very best part of our time in Wellington was the fact that our walk home from the botanical gardens walked me past a sight I had spied out our hotel. So the first night it looked like this and I was a bit concerned over the whole Wellington stay. 😉
The next morning I peeked again and the red light was gone. I might add it never returned over our whole stay either. In its place I could see the cemetery.
It looked old and interesting. Those of you who know me well, know that I have an odd taste for getting to know a place and that includes wanting to see the local cemeteries. This one looked right up my alley. That was why I was so happy when I discovered that the botanical walk lead right through this cemetery to our hotel. I was able to walk and read and take pictures. It was unlike any cemetery I have seen. Many graves were fenced and planted with flowers. Many of them were hidden and not easy to get to from the paths that wound throughout. It was truly lovely in many ways.
Since when do I have to be up at the ungodly hour of 5 am on my vacation? Well, since we are booked on the ferry from Wellington to Picton. Today is an early morning ferry ride followed by a drive to Kiakoura. The ferry ride was our first encounter with a potential luggage issue. So the night before we pack and repacked and unpacked and finally got it to a reasonable amount. Turns out it was a non-issue and we checked the big pieces and found a locker for the small ones. It was also the first time we were frustrated with vague instructions from our tour company. We were told to drop out car off at the terminal. However, we arrived and there was no terminal for our car company and there was no key drop for our car company. So we had to run around with all of our luggage and try to figure out what to do while not missing our ferry. It resolved itself as most things do here with incredibly helpful service industry people coming to our rescue.
The ride over was uneventful. No swells, no sea sick, no issues, except Brigit and Beth Anne almost blowing off the upper observation deck. If you look at the pictures you can see what I mean. We arrived in Picton and had our small world moment of the trip. See Joe’s post about this.
After that we stopped for a bite in the Frog and Dog and headed out to see the Mainland (South Island). Now the North Island, as you have seen, is beautiful. But it is a soft sell; it is only buttering you up for the hard sell of the South Island. We we left Picton we drove through the some of the wine country. Here there was all the makings of a French meal. Sheep on the one side and wine on the other. It was all rolling hills and blue sky and puffy white clouds. Then wham!
Ocean, beautiful ocean. It was an amazing color. I blue-green that I have not ever seen before. If you know me at all you know how I feel about the water and I was in love. Then around the next curve, there was this:
Holy Beautiful Vista Batman!!!!!! We stopped and took pictures at the beach with at the beautiful smooth rocks and the cool black sand. Then we stopped and took pictures of the seal colony on the huge craggy rocks. The 6 or so yearlings in the pool playing was so fun to watch. After stopping in the hotel and going to dinner we took a walk along the beach and the girls, in their new winter coats and hats took off there shoes and ran in and out of the incoming tide with the snow covered mountains in the distance and the moon overhead.