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Our Trip Around the World - Part 3 - Australia and New Zealand

Our Trip Around the World - Part 3 - Australia and New Zealand

Old Mar 10th, 2020, 03:19 PM
  #21  
 
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Just joining your journey and loving it. Sydney is uniquely beautiful, isn't it? I can never tire of seeing the Opera House seemingly floating on water. And how about NZ - I really enjoyed your account of Doubtful Sound. Too bad you didn't have more time to continue along the Southern Scenic Route through the Catlins - it gets better and better.
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Old Mar 11th, 2020, 12:50 PM
  #22  
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Tripplaner001, I wish we could have traveled further along the Scenic Southern Route, as my research showed the Catlins were well worth visiting, as you say. Unfortunately, we had to make some tough choices about where we could go, due to time constraints on this trip. I'm thankful, though, for what we did get to see. Thanks for following along.

ONWARD TOWARD AORAKI / MOUNT COOK

Leaving Te Anau behind, we had a five hour drive to our next accommodation, a tiny house in the town of Tekapo, situated on the southern shore of Lake Tekapo. The drive took us back through Queenstown and halfway to Christchurch, which would be our final stop in New Zealand. After driving through the scenic wine country above Queenstown and then across picturesque farmland, we found ourselves in a dry, mountainous region that reminded us of Wyoming. Then suddenly in the distance off to the left, a snowcapped peak, taller than anything around it, came into view. We knew right away it was Mount Cook. Against a pure blue sky on a cloudless day, Mount Cook's snowfields covered its slopes with gleaming white streaks, accenting its sharp edges. And then glacial blue Lake Pukaki appeared in the foreground, completing the stunning scene. We pulled into the parking lot of an information center at the end of the lake to take photographs. Glacial blue water is a color that's almost hard to believe, it is so brilliant, and the mountain behind it really completed the picture. The waters of both Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo were glacial blue, and we kept marveling at the amazing turquoise color as we drove along the shore lines of each lake.

After we left the information center, it was only a 30 minute drive to Tekapo, and we were soon checking into our next Airbnb rental, a little red Quonset hut type building that was called "The Red Nest". Supposedly, it had a great view and I thought it was located right on the lake. So I was disappointed when the house turned out to be situated up on a hillside, surrounded by lots of other vacation homes, all jockeying for a view of the lake. But after our initial disappointment, the little place began to grow on us. Even though it was crowded into a housing development of sorts, our tiny house was located at the very end of the street and did have a pretty view in one direction. Small and cozy, it met all our needs. The only real negative I found was the complete lack of space for our clothes. There were no hooks or hangers or dresser drawers at all in the house, so I couldn't unpack anything. Thankfully, there was a tiny second bedroom where we could at least lay our suitcases on the bed, so we settled in for our two nights in "The Red Nest".
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Old Mar 11th, 2020, 02:07 PM
  #23  
 
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For those who weren't aware, there was a lot of damage on the road to Milford Sound, including Gunn's Camp. You were lucky to have been there before it happened!


I had to make two trips to Milford to be able to see Mitre Peak, but was able to on the second try (after walking the Milford Track).

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 11th, 2020 at 02:09 PM.
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Old Mar 11th, 2020, 09:33 PM
  #24  
 
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Hi Candace, I'm really enjoying reading your report, especially the Doubtful Sound tour day. So descriptive, it made me want to book airfares!

Kay
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Old Mar 12th, 2020, 10:40 AM
  #25  
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Wow, mlgb! I had read recently about the flooding on the Milford Sound Road, but had no idea of the extent of it. What an awful mess. I’m so sorry to see all the destruction. How long will it take to repair it all, I wonder?

Our trip to Milford Sound took place almost a year ago, in 2019. I’m afraid this trip report is really tardy but I decided “better late than never”.


Yes, Kay, Doubtful Sound was a highlight for us. I will never forget how dazzling it was in the sunshine. The sun never came out during our cruise of Milford Sound, so it wasn’t quite as dazzling for us, but was still stunningly beautiful. I hope you can plan a visit someday.

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Old Mar 12th, 2020, 02:00 PM
  #26  
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Two nights at the Red Nest gave us one full day to spend in the Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, and Mount Cook area. When the morning dawned sunny and clear, we decided the best plan would be to drive toward Mount Cook and take in the beautiful colors of Lake Pukaki. There were some outstanding photo opps along the way but we were disappointed when we got to Mt. Cook Village. On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in autumn, the small resort town was overwhelmed with visitors. There were no parking spots available in town or at any of the nearby trailheads. Finally, we gave up our idea of a pleasant stroll through the village or a walk on a path up toward the mountain, and decided to head back down the lake. We had packed sandwiches, and parked in a pullout above the lake for a picnic lunch.

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Old Mar 12th, 2020, 02:15 PM
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So your trip was last year? I was amazed that the road to Milford Sound was open so quickly. We had to go in one way convoy out to the Sound. The devastation was awful. Gunns Camp is gone.
yes, NZ is gorgeous and way too much to choose from. We also enjoyed TeAnau as a place to spend a few days.
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Old Mar 13th, 2020, 05:10 AM
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Really enjoying your report Candace. Takes me back to many happy months wandering the highways and byways of New Zealand. we loved the Catlins and the Southern Scenic route but reading about the crowds in Mt Cook, it make me glad we always go in winter. Also loved your descriptions of Sydney, its harbour and, especially the Manly Ferry. Son and daughter in law live there and I take every opportunity to remind them that they have the best commute in the world! Just about to start planning for our next trip to Oz in 2021. Keep it coming!
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Old Mar 13th, 2020, 05:59 AM
  #29  
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We are glad to hear, yestravel, that the Milford Sound Road reopened so quickly, but we’re sorry about Gunn’s Camp. Hopefully, that too can be restored eventually.

Yes, unfortunately, I procrastinated for a while before I started this round the world trip report. But I did keep a journal while we traveled. Without the journal, I would probably have had some real memory lapses by this time.

Thanks for for your encouragement, crellston. Kind words like yours and yestravel’s help me keep this going.
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Old Mar 13th, 2020, 07:56 AM
  #30  
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After lunch, we continued our drive down Lake Pukaki. After a bit, I noticed a sign for a lavender farm up ahead. I do so love lavender. A few whiffs invoke memories of clean fresh sheets, little Parisian shops, and summer mornings in my herb garden. So soothing, the fragrance of lavender just makes me happy. So we stopped. To see the surrounding fields in bloom must be amazing, but the NZ Alpine Lavender Farm was still lovely, so neat and well kept, even after harvest. We had a pleasant chat with the young woman who running the pretty little shop, which she had created from a large shipping container. Before we left, I purchased a jar of lavender hand and body lotion, made with Manuka honey. Just lovely! I use it very judiciously and still have some left.

We stopped next at a salmon farm, down the road from the turn to Tekapo, as we thought we might like some salmon for dinner. Behind the farm’s restaurant were some pools filled with live salmon , with fish food pellets provided nearby to anyone who wanted to feed them. Feeding salmon was a new experience for us, so we took a few minutes to toss a few pellets to the fish, who broke the surface of the water, swirling and diving after the food. Later in the day, at a different location, we bought a package of bright pink salmon to cook for dinner. Delicious.

That night, we experienced the “Aoraki / Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve”, an area where minimal light pollution allows for beautiful views of the night skies. Sometime in the night, Steve woke up and looked out the window. He called to me, and we both looked out at stars big as buttons and bright as roadside flares in the night sky. Brilliant! The next morning on our way out of town, we stopped at the Mount John Observatory. Perched on top of Mt. John, the observatory is run by the University of Canterbury. There are various telescope domes on the mountaintop, and different night time tours are operated from this location. The Night Sky Cafe was open and we had coffee and pastries on the patio, sitting at a picnic table while enjoying the panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. After leaving the observatory, we stopped outside Tekapo at a pretty little stone church overlooking the lake. The Church of the Good Shepard, with its special location above Lake Tekapo, is well known as a prime spot for photographers. Unfortunately, by the time we got there in the morning, it was overwhelmed by tourists and it was nearly impossible to take an unobstructed picture. I guess we had taken too much time enjoying our coffee at the cafe on Mt. John. Never mind, we were soon on the road again, on our way to Christchurch to turn our car in at the airport. We would then spend the night in the city, before flying the next morning to Melbourne, Australia.
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Old Mar 13th, 2020, 02:37 PM
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OMG -- the salmon was so delicious in NZ. I was tempted to stop at that salmon farm, but we didn't. And the stars in Aoraki and elsewhere were fabulous. I was always running out late at night to check out the sky. We've just gotten home from our trip and its great to read your description of both places we went and those we missed.
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Old Mar 13th, 2020, 08:49 PM
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Another vote for NZ salmon. Didn't see stars though.
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Old Mar 13th, 2020, 11:03 PM
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Candace

I just love following along with your report. Another vicarious traveller here.
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Old Mar 14th, 2020, 12:47 PM
  #34  
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Yestravel and tripplanner, I wish we could get salmon like it here at home. We are not big fans of salmon, but we really enjoyed New Zealand salmon.

Thank you, Margo-oz, for following along. I, too, enjoy being a vicarious traveler. Right now, with COVID-19 infecting most of the world, vicarious travel is the only kind of traveling we can do.


CHRISTCHURCH FOR A NIGHT

After dropping our rental car off at the Christchurch airport, we took a cab to our hotel for the night, the Chateau on the Park, a Hilton Doubletree property. On route, the cabdriver told us about a memorial vigil that was scheduled to take place later that day in Hagley Park, which was right across the street from the hotel. In Christchurch the week before, fifty people had been slain by a single murderer who had attacked two separate mosques. This vigil was to be held in memory of the victims. After checking into the hotel, we walked across the street toward the site of the memorial service. By that time, hundreds of people were streaming across the grass in the same direction. After finding a place to sit on the lawn, quite a distance away from the stage where the service would be conducted, we were soon chatting with the local New Zealanders sitting on either side of us. Because we had been watching the constant coverage of the massacre on the local news channels, we knew how horrified the people of New Zealand had been by this awful crime committed in their beautiful, peaceful country, and how they had drawn together to help their Muslim neighbors in any way they could. Those New Zealanders we talked to before the service reconfirmed the sense we had that this country was reeling but, as we kept hearing, they would "never let such an event define them". One of the ladies seated next to us kept commenting on the large armed police presence patrolling the park. So much security was obviously needed under the circumstances, but it made our neighbors on the lawn very uncomfortable. "Why does that officer look so unfriendly?", one woman asked when a policeman with a very large gun took up a position near us. How unfortunate it would be, I thought, if heavily armed, unsmiling police officers became the new normal. But I don't think New Zealanders would let that happen. I believe that the strong collective determination to take care of each other, displayed by the people of New Zealand after this tragedy, is what defines them, and it seemed to me that they survived this event by becoming stronger, and more determined than ever to hold on to their compassionate, peace loving lifestyle. Wouldn't it be wonderful if more people in the world could follow their example?

When we returned to our hotel, we felt rather drained but we were glad we had witnessed this moving vigil. The Chateau on the Park was a very nice hotel, and because we were Hilton Honors members, we had been upgraded to a room with a balcony overlooking the lovely gardens. The balcony was a good place to unwind before we made our way to the restaurant for dinner. For his last night in New Zealand, Steve treated himself to roast lamb. He really enjoyed, especially because, when he hesitated to order what he feared might be too much food, the waitress offered to bring him a half portion dinner. We wished half portions could be an option at more restaurants for seniors like us.

Soon, we were back in our room, planning our departure to the airport in the morning and anticipating our return to Australia.



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Old Mar 15th, 2020, 12:37 PM
  #35  
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ON TO MELBOURNE

Our flight from Christchurch to Melbourne took close to four hours, and was straightforward and uneventful. Sitting next to us on the aisle was a pleasant woman from New Zealand who we started chatting with toward the end of the flight. By the time we disembarked, we were all good friends. She was wearing a black and white rugby jersey and was an ardent fan. Rugby, we learned, is the favorite sport of New Zealanders, and Steve asked her all about the sport and her team. She was happy to answer his questions and her enthusiasm was catching. The only rugby game I have ever watched looked incredibly rough and tough. The players themselves looked even rougher and tougher, but they were obviously having a great time. According to our seat mate, rugby in New Zealand is as tough as it gets, but both players and fans love every bit of it.

In Melbourne, we had rented another Airbnb apartment, and it took some texting back and forth before we could arrange to meet up with the young man who was designated by the owner to give us the key and show us around. The apartment was located near the top of a 38 floor high-rise building in the CBD (Central Business District) of Melbourne, and had a sweeping view which was quite impressive at night when the lights came on in all the surrounding high-rises. What surprised us was not the location, which was pretty good, or the compact size of the place, but the fact that all 38 floors were occupied by Asian students. At first, it felt like we were living in a college dorm. The elevator, the lobby, and the hallways were always full of young people, mostly Chinese, coming and going from the nearby University of Melbourne. But these kids, whether we were surrounded by them in the elevator or passing them in the corridors, were unfailingly polite and helpful, and we soon got used to the unusual atmosphere of the place.

After settling ourselves in our apartment, the next order of the day was to find a grocery store nearby where we could purchase something to cook for dinner that night. At the same time, we also needed to get some supplies for breakfast the next morning. This turned out to be easier said than done. The closest food stores only carried Asian products, and few of the signs or labels were in English. We were tired, I guess, and it all seemed too confusing to process at the moment. Eventually, quite a ways down one street, we came across an Aldi's Supermarket, but because it was close to 5:00 pm it was crowded and just getting through the aisles was pretty stressful. We ended up buying a package of frozen lasagna to heat up for our evening meal. Obviously, this was not the most outstanding dinner we had on this trip, but it worked.

We had booked a tour of the Great Ocean Road through a company called "Ocean Road Day Tours" for the next morning. While we were eating dinner, we got a message from Stuart, the tour operator, wondering if we would be okay with delaying the tour for the day after tomorrow. Actually, that turned out to be better for us. We weren't really eager to get up at 5:00 am the next morning to make the 6:00 am pickup for the tour. Plus, the Queen Victoria Market, which we really wanted to visit, would be open tomorrow, but not the following day. If we stuck to the original schedule, we would have to miss it. So, we told Stuart we would be happy to reschedule. After dinner, we enjoyed the city lights for a bit, then went to bed early and slept in a little later the next morning. We woke up rested and ready to go out and about in the city of Melbourne.

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Old Mar 17th, 2020, 12:58 PM
  #36  
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MELBOURNE FOR A DAY

The sun was shining and the sky was blue when we set out the next morning to walk to the Queen Victoria Market. Local markets like this one are always fun to visit, as the vendors take such pride in their products and how they display them. Colorful mounds of fruits and vegetables, interesting piles of fish and other seafoods, plus stalls selling all varieties of meats (including kangaroo) filled the large market halls. The market was huge and we wandered around with the aid of a map, past counters of delectable looking baked goods and other treats. Looking for something we could cook ourselves in our apartment for dinner, we spotted some oven-ready Chicken Kiev at one butcher shop. After the butcher gave us detailed instructions on how to bake it, and wrapped it up for us, we went on to purchase some cheese and olives to enjoy with our pre-dinner wine. With so much to choose from, it took awhile for us to decide on a dessert, but eventually we settled on a selection of delicate little cookies. Wow! We certainly weren't going to lose weight on this trip. Before carrying all our purchases back to the apartment, we paused for lunch at the famous Bratwurst Shop & Co for a grilled bratwurst topped with sauerkraut. This sandwich was really big, so we shared it. It was so messy to eat, but it was so good.

After lunch, we boarded one of the City Circle Trams, which offered free rides around the center of the city. We rode the tram to the Fitzroy Gardens, where we spent a pleasant afternoon strolling along the various garden paths. Captain James Cook's boyhood home had been transported stone by stone from England in 1934 before being reconstructed in Fitzroy Gardens. Such a pretty little place, the house was surrounded by a cottage garden and had rooms that were furnished in the style of the mid seventeen hundreds. In the back was a small exhibition hall that highlighted the adventures of this amazing man, who spent his life exploring and mapping far flung areas of the Pacific Ocean. How interesting that Captain Cook was a Yorkshire farm boy who had no experience of the sea until he was in his late teens. Obviously, he made up for lost time and must have had great aptitude, as he captained various expeditions through some of the world's most treacherous waters. Special to Australian history, Captain James Cook was the first European to sail along the eastern coast of Australia, which he claimed for Britain and named New South Wales.

After leaving Captain Cook's Cottage, we located the Fairies Tree which I thought my grandkids would be intrigued by. The large stump of a red gum tree, the Fairies Tree was covered with various carvings of fairies, gnomes, and all sorts of birds and animals. Created by one woman, Ola Cohn, in the early 1930s, it was very fanciful and fun to see, as was the nearby miniature Tudor Village, which looked like it could easily be occupied by fairies. I'm sure both the Fairies Tree and the Tudor Village are beloved by the children of Melbourne.

We again climbed on board the free tram for the ride back to our apartment building, where we cooked a delicious dinner and went to bed early in anticipation of our tour of the Great Ocean Road the next day.
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Old Mar 18th, 2020, 11:42 AM
  #37  
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OUR GREAT OCEAN ROAD TOUR

We were up at 4:30 am to make our 5:45 scheduled pickup for our tour of the Great Ocean Road. One reason we had chosen to tour with the "Great Ocean Road Small Group Tour" company was the early pickup, as it allowed our driver to beat the tour bus crowds at the popular stopping points along the way. Our driver, and tour guide, was Stuart, who also owned the company. He apologized profusely for asking us to delay our tour for one day, due to a mixup on his part. But as it turned out, because of the mixup, we were the only people booked on the tour that day. Instead of riding along with 6 other people, we ended up having a private tour with just the 2 of us, which was really very nice.

Stuart drove his van up to our apartment building right on time. By first light, he had located a "mob" of kangaroos near a side road off the highway. We looked on as the group grazed on grass, then watched as some of them bounded across the field and jumped the fence with their mighty hind legs. I had hoped to see some kangaroos in the wild, so seeing them like this was thrilling. As we continued along the Great Ocean Road, Stuart utilized some carefully chosen pull-offs so we could take in the views and get some great photos. The breakfast bags he provided us were bountiful and kept us satisfied til lunchtime. Lunch at Stuart's favorite roadside cafe was included in the price of the tour. With Stuart's guidance, we ordered from the regular menu, and both our choices were really good. While we were eating, Australian king parrots and brilliant crimson rosellas entertained us outside the cafe windows. Such gorgeous, colorful birds were certainly a treat to watch, and their presence made our good lunch even better.

After lunch, Stuart drove on to theTwelve Apostles, the "grand finale" of the tour. Stunning, with tall, sculptured stacks and dramatic blue-green surf pounding away, the Twelve Apostles were unlike anything we had ever seen before, and were truly impressive. And Stuart ensured that we saw this dramatic sight from the best vantage points, without the overwhelming crowds that appear later in the day. Throughout the tour, Stuart's informed commentary about not only the Great Ocean Road but Australia in general, and his patient answers to our many questions, made us feel, at the end of the day, that we had learned so much about this special place in the world. Stuart gave us a great tour.

Because of our early start, we arrived back in Melbourne with plenty of time to stroll along the promenade and across the footbridge in the Southbank area near the Yarra River, where Stuart dropped us off. Eventually, we found the City Circle Tram which we rode back to our apartment building. The front window of a pie shop near the tram stop displayed some savory meat pies that looked very tempting, so we purchased a small one to heat up for our dinner. Our last day in Australia had been a really good day, certainly. In the morning, we would leave Australia behind after we found our way to the airport and boarded our flight to Singapore, our next stop on this wonderful round the world anniversary trip.

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Old Mar 18th, 2020, 01:41 PM
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Still following along. That sounds like a really good day!
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Old Mar 21st, 2020, 04:55 PM
  #39  
 
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The trip is continued here: Our Trip Around the World , Part 4 - Singapore
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