Thursday - flew to Houston, then Houston to Auckland
(14.5 hour flight), arriving Saturday 6:30am in Auckland.
Saturday - (photo album)
We arrived a day before our tour started, so had time to
explore the city on our own before our flight to Christchurch
the next morning.
We climbed Mt. Eden (see 360° PhotoSphere) -
an extinct volcano in Auckland.
Street performers playing Hotel California - 12 string guitar
and violin (8
Sunday - flew to Christchurch, then transferred to the Hotel
Ashburton (in Ashburton) (photo
album), where we joined our tour group for dinner.
Monday - (photo album)
coach to Darfield, where we boarded the TranzAlpine train.
Truly one of the world's great scenic train trips through the
dramatic contrast of dry beech forests and tussock land on one
side of the New Zealand Alps and lush green landscapes on the
other. From Darfield, we crossed the patchwork farmland of the
Canterbury plains, followed the Waimakariri river, climbing
into alpine scenery on a series of spectacular viaducts. We
rejoined the coach along the striking coastline to Westland
National Park, viewing Franz Josef Glacier from the glacier
view lookout. These remarkable natural wonders have created
immense glacial valleys.
At Sentinel Rock, along the Waiho River - (22 sec. video) of the
Franz Josef Glacier.
Song (4 sec.
video) of a rainforest bird nearby.
That evening, we hiked the Minnehaha Walk (see 360° PhotoSphere,
plus a 38
sec. video), located in the Fox Glacier area and
Westland Tai Poutini National Park in the West Coast region.
Tuesday - (photo album)
traveled across the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps,
through spectacular Haast Pass, skirting the tranquil shores
of lakes Wanaka and Hawea to the alpine resort of Queenstown
on Lake Wakatipu - renowned for its world-class culinary scene
and adventure opportunities.
Wednesday - (photo album)
tramped part of the Routeburn Track (to the Routeburn Falls
Lodge), and then back in Queenstown, enjoyed the sunset while
dining at the top of the gondola on Bob's Peak, overlooking
Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
Cascades along the Routeburn North Branch (8 sec. video)
Routeburn Falls (19 sec. video) Panorama
from the deck of the Routeburn Falls Hut.
Thursday - (photo album)
followed the Milford Road, renowned as one of the world's
finest alpine drives. Wound down the Eglinton and Hollyford
valleys, then through the Homer Tunnel, to be met by the
majestic sight of Mitre Peak rising from the ocean floor of
Milford Sound. We boarded a ship that cruised the full length
of this pristine fiord. Towering mountains climbed straight
out of the sea, with verdant rainforests clinging to sheer
rock walls with cascading waterfalls tumbling hundreds of
metres into the sea below. We then drove through picturesque
countryside to the lakeside settlement of Te Anau.
Huge waterfall (7 sec. video)
Panorama of fiord (13 sec. video)
Panorama toward Tasman Sea (8 sec. video)
Waterfall close encounter (12 sec video) and closer
Friday - leaving the Fiordland region, we journeyed through
rolling Southland countryside via Lumsden and Gore (photo album) to the east coast and
Dunedin. Known as the 'Edinburgh of the south', the former
gold mining town was once New Zealand's largest city thanks to
an influx of miners during the gold rush. The Scottish
heritage is still apparent today in the architecture of the
many fine buildings including the University of Otago, modeled
on the University of Glasgow buildings (photo album). In the afternoon,
we visited Larnach Castle (photo
album), New Zealand's only castle, and learned of its
Saturday - (photo album) we
journeyed along the east coast, to see the Moeraki Boulders on
Koekohe Beach. In Oamaru, we saw some of New Zealand's finest
19th-century architecture. We then went on to Mt Cook National
Park to view Australasia's highest mountain, Aoraki (Mt Cook).
Leaving the picturesque Lake Tekapo, we visited to the tiny
Church of the Good Shepherd. Built of locally gathered stone
and oak, this charming church was erected as a tribute to the
early pioneers of the region. Panorama
from the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre in Mount Cook
Sunday - , January 24
On to Geraldine, where we left the tour for our flight out of
Christchurch (photo album).