Queenstown

Note about my postings about my sabbatical….

I have been slowly trying to outpace the calendar when trying to document my travels. So far I’ve kept all my travel posts related to travel less than a year ago. As the new year begins I get closer and closer to that self-imposed marker when I am talking about travel that is more than a year ago.

I had high hopes on documenting my adventures as I went but mostly failed on this subject; with the exception of posts like these that are generated from my actual thoughts and feelings at the time. These posts tend to be more detailed and also lean more about my struggles when traveling. I tend to get the urge to write down my feelings more when I am having a challenging time verses a blissful time. You might see me talk about my struggles frequently but it is not representative of the majority of my travel. I actually had a large amount of moments of awe, bliss, and amazement – I just didn’t tend to journal those feelings along the way. So here I am trying to reconstruct things from my photos and that seems to take quite a long time.

Why am I telling you all these things? I guess I want to justify why it is taking me so long to document things and to give reasons for all the “holes” in my posts where I clinically describe experiences instead of conveying actual thoughts.

Anyhoo, a new year has begun in the “current world” and I look forward to traveling once again post COVID-19.

For now enjoy my adventures in Queenstown….

I admit I came into Queenstown in a bit of a mood. I am determined to not like it; partially because the internet told me “Wanaka is better” and partially because the bumper to bumper traffic on the way into here. I also have another case of travel fatigue. I have not even done any activity to really wear me down physically – no walking tracks or such. The long travel from Milford Sound to Queenstown did me in. I have another shoulda. I should have scheduled more time in this region in general.

I arrive to the campsite and I am on a mission to finish the bagged salad and other produce that will spoil any day now. I hunker down at my campsite that is eclectically decorated and has too few bathrooms and showers in my opinion (but it has yet to be a problem so why am I complaining).

“Too few bathrooms”

I wake up with no plan for the day. I thought about a trail walk or taking the gondola up the mountain and walking down but I do none of that.

What do I do instead? I drive 5 miles to Bed bath and Beyond and Kmart to buy pillows, a blanket and a yoga mat among other things.

Why pillows?

I am a woman over 40 who is a side sleeper but has discomfort with firmer mattresses and with traveling I have new shoulder pain. Sleeping in the van with one pillow and a firm mattress has been challenging so I buy a couple of pillows to strategically place to help me sleep better. Younger people won’t get it but trust me, once your sleep is “messed with“ it affects your entire life.

I buy a blanket is because I had one bitter cold night and I have been in fear that every night will be like that. Spoiler alert – I never need the blanket after that day.

The yoga mat is because I am hopeful I will do yoga…..well at least I will do my foot stretches on my injured foot.

…..enough of the old lady talk.

I find a bowl for $2 NZD to replace the one I broke in the camper on the first day; it doesn’t match exactly but is good enough.

Back to Queenstown…

I arrive back to the campsite and wait to have my phone to 100% before walking down to the town center to try the infamous Fergburger.

If you read about Queenstown and recommendations 99% of the time they will mention trying Fergburger. From what people write about the place it seems life changing. I came in with high expectations and was subsequently disappointed. I got in the line and I guess I got lucky because I only waited ten minutes; most wait much longer. After I order I wait at the bar and decide to go ahead and eat my burger at the bar. I guess I have had my fair share of spectacular burgers in my life so I find this one only average. It has too many peppercorns for my liking and the sauce is too sweet. On top of that they over salt the fries. I wish I would have ordered one of the other interesting sounding sandwiches like the one called the Codfather.

I make up for the burger disappointment by going to the ice cream place next door. I try some interesting flavors at Mrs Ferg Gelateria.

I take my ice cream for a walk and finally start to enjoy the beautiful afternoon.

I walk down by the water and enjoy the views.

Along a path I take I see picnics and people walking a tightrope (seems to be a Queenstown pastime called slacklining).

I end up at a beach café, The Bathhouse, and order some wine at a table right on the beach. It gets warm in the sun but otherwise a perfect day to look out at the water.

After my wine I continue my walk over to a nearby park, Queenstown Gardens. I enjoy the gardens and the nice views from the penisula.

I head back toward the more busy part of town and happen upon some bagpipers.

And then eventually at a fun boat bar.

Having a glass of wine as the day ends while overlooking great views is a great way to end a day that started sour. My stay here is short but Queenstown you are a nice stop.

Milford Sound to Queenstown

View from Tutoko Suspension Bridge

I finished my boat tour of Milford Sound by mid-day today. I only planned one night in the area but regretted that decision when I saw the vast number of walking tracks in the area.

I am heading to Queenstown now. No time scheduled for hikes but I do plan on making scenic stops along the way.

First I stop by the campsite in Milford Sound to get the perishables out of the refrigerator. Luckily they are still there.

Tutoko Suspension Bridge

My first stop is at the Tutoko bridge, the last remaining steel suspension bridge on the Milford Road. It is a beautiful day so there are beautiful views from the bridge.

The Chasm

The next stop is to see the Chasm, a series of waterfalls that form a deep and interesting chasm in the rocks. It is beautiful to see but hard to capture by photo.

Chasm car park

Hundred Falls and valley area before Homer Tunnel

On the approach into Milford Sound I was so nervous and preoccupied with the steep and tight curves after leaving the tunnel I didn’t really take the time to stop and appreciate the area. On my return trip I am sure to stop and take some pictures. When it comes to Milford Sound the journey is really the destination. It is hard to resist all the scenic stops. This is probably why the drive is so long.

Homer Tunnel

I have reached the tunnel again. This time with confidence! Unfortunately I am held up by the traffic light quite a while. It is a one-way tunnel and we must wait.

More stops along the way…..

I stop at the recommended Braken Hall in Mossburn for meat pies. It seems like the store might be closing soon. It is nice to get a little lunch break during my drive. I am much closer to Queenstown now.

Devil’s Staircase Lookout Point

A final scenic stop of the day is to the Devil’s Staircase lookout. It is a magnificent view of a big lake, over a part of Lake Wakatipu.

Finally I arrive in Queenstown and check into the holiday park. It is a funky holiday park. It isn’t cheap but is centrally located for easy access to the town area.


Queenstown Holiday Park & Motels Creeksyde

The campsite is nice enough. I retire early for the night.

Milford Sound

Today I am going on a day cruise of the famous Milford Sound in New Zealand. Milford Sound is a fiord – a slither of sea between high cliffs. The weather today is beautiful as can be but I am told it is hard to have a bad cruise….even if it is raining the resulting waterfalls are magical. I take lots of photos but unfortunately they don’t do justice. It is impossible to capture what I see, feel, and think while I am there.

In the morning I head down to the car park at Milford Sound area where the day cruises launch. There is a self pay machine for parking. There is free parking but further away so today I just pay. As I pay I am attacked by sandflies. There is a little shop in the visitors center where I pick up some bug spray. I hope it helps.

I have a little while before my cruise begins so I walk along the water. The views are amazing just from the short alone.

I head down to the pier to board for the cruise. Today’s cruise is a two and half hour cruise. It seems pretty short so I hope it is worth the overnight trip down here. Many come down here from Queenstown by coach for just a short day cruise. It seems like a super long day.

My cruise boat

As the cruise starts we are already are greeted with a nearby waterfall.

As we head further and further the views keep getting better.

I admire the sides of the cliffs.

We catch some seals in the sun. I am loving the colors on these rocks as well.

We start to see all the waterfalls along the sides. It is beautiful. Apparently when it rains you will see even more. I’ve been told it is magical.

The boat cruises up to the cliff and the waterfall pours onto the boat and into glasses. They let us taste the fresh waterfall water.

More waterfalls

We reach the end of the fiord. Beyond this point is the vast sea. We turn around at this point and head back.

We arrive back at the port. I walk around a bit more to take some more pictures before I head off to Queenstown.

Same view as earlier but brighter now!

I am not sure the pictures capture the feeling of the cruise but perhaps this short video will….

My drive to Queenstown has many stops so I’ll post more on that later.

Te Anau to Milford Sound

This morning I am heading to Te Anau. Te Anau is just an overnight stop on my way to Milford Sound. I could drive straight to Milford Sound in a day but it is a long drive so I choose to break it up with an overnight in Te Anau instead.

From Moeraki the drive takes about 4 hours or so. I don’t stop too much on the way except a time or two for health breaks and great views.

Love these flowers!

I am running low on gas so I am happy when I find a rest stop Alpine Centre Cafe & Bar – almost at Te Anau – where I see a newly sheared alpaca who wants some snacks.

I am pleased that my holiday park for the night is right around the corner from the rest stop.

Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park

I have an ok view of the lake below lake of Te Anau.

I also have a great view of my neighbors laying out their sock collection on the picnic table.

I haven’t scheduled much time in Te Anau but what I do schedule is a glow worm tour. This is my chance to better see glow worms since I was a wimp staying out after dark by myself in Australia.

The glow worm tour is a cruise across a lake to a cave where they can be observed. I drive down to the port to catch my boat after I settle in at the campsite (settle in = put my perishables in the refrigerator).

Te Anau Glow Worm Caves Tour

We start off with a breezy boat ride ride on the lake. I take in the breathtaking views as we cross the lake.

Once on shore they split us to two groups. My group tours the area around the cave while the tour guide talks about wildlife and the vegetation.

Then we enter into the cavern house where we learn about the glow worms and are given special safety instructions for the viewing. Glow worms are actually fungus gnats in their larvae stage. They glow to attract prey that they feed on and appear in the darkness. Tour guides do not let us take pictures or video inside so I’ll try to best describe the experience: First we walk into a cave along a series of platforms. It gets progressively darker inside. I can start to see little bits of the worms in the moist parts of the cave above and beside us. We eventually get to a set of stairs that lead to a platform where there is a little boat. There are two long benches where our group splits along facing outwards the boat to the sides. There is a boat guide who has a light as we board but after we are safely boarded turns off this light and guides the boat only by grabbing a chain above and pulling us down a water tunnel. At first it isn’t very impressive. Just faint glows but eventually we float to areas with more densely populated worms. Our guide tells us to look up and he glides us by and turns the boat around so all have a great view of the glowing above. We go through a couple sections of these before we return to the start to walk back out the tunnel.

Cavern house where we are educated on the worms

There are multiple scheduled times of the viewings so we wait for our boat to return with another group by the shore.

Soon we take the boat ride back to our starting location. The temperature has dropped and the wind is strong. Only a few of us brave the ride on the top. I spent so much of my travels hot so I take advantage of this moment of coldness; although I regret it later in the evening when I cannot get warm in my van.

Boat ride back

Once back to the campsite I prepare my dinner and head to bed. It is late but still light out. It is January but I have to remember this is their summer and the sun sets later.

That evening the campervan is so cold so it makes me want buy another blanket. I have a hard time getting comfortable to get a restorative sleep. I don’t see any stores on my way to my next location so I hope I’ll be ok for the next few days.

Next morning drive to Milford Sound

In the morning I am driving to my next campsite in Milford Sound. I’ve been warned about the narrow, curvy roads and tunnels of this part of the drive. I am nervous but I’ll take it slow and drive during the day.

It is on this drive that my GPS starts to crap out on me. Luckily I have backup systems like google and maps.me and the drive route seems pretty straight forward.

This isn’t very helpful

There are a couple stops along the way as well as some walking tracks. I unfortunately do not schedule time for any walking tracks, New Zealand is too big of a country! I do make a couple photo stops though.

Cascade Creek Road

Cascade Creek Road
Cascade Creek Road
Gertrude Valley Lookout

The drive takes somewhere between 3 to 4 hours. I stop along way many times and drive slower than the speed limit just to be safe. Most of the ride is pretty easy but the last probably 45 minutes is the most challenging part: narrow and curvy roads, inclines and declines, and the famous tunnel everyone talks about. The tunnel goes through a mountain and only allows for traffic in one direction but a light outside each side lets the traffic flow in.

It is really interesting driving through the tunnel but don’t get me wrong I’d probably feel different if I was driving through at night or in inclement weather. I am lucky because the weather is spectacular.

So I have arrived at my campsite which happens to be the smallest I’ve had so far but the facilities are nice. The real annoying part of the stay is the sandflies. They are eating me alive here. It is my first real run-in with them in New Zealand. I’ve been keeping score with all my run-ins with wildlife and I’ll add this to the list of my enemies: geckos, monkeys, fur seals and now sandflies.

Itty bitty camp site

I check into the campsite and look at the list of all the great walking tracks I probably won’t get to do while I am here.

I empty out the icebox of my van and take the goods to the refrigerator of the campsite in order to keep things cold since the chill box only works when the van is on. I am tempted to eat dinner at the fancy restaurant at Milford Lodge tonight but I must finish my perishables since they probably won’t keep for my upcoming daytime activities. I contemplate leaving my groceries in the lodge fridge while I am out on my cruise tomorrow; you are supposed to date your goods with your checkout date but how will they know if I fudge the date a bit?

View of the campsite office from my spot

The sandflies are ruthlessly attacking me. I hide out in the van with the windows shut and nap. The nap is well needed. I didn’t quite sleep well last night because it was much cooler than I expected; I was kept awake because I could not get warm enough. I wake up from my nap but still too tired to do any walking around or exploring right now so I purchase a gigabyte of data to surf the web (15 NZD in these parts!). Best to save my energy for the Milford Sound cruise tomorrow and the drive to Queenstown afterwards.

Trapped in my van looking at the great view.

I head to the kitchen and lounge and prepare my dinner.

penne with pesto, green peppers and tomatoes.

I am actually lucky to get into this campsite, Rainforest Campervan Park, since it is the only one near Milford Sound and limited in space. It isn’t cheap though. There are posh cabins that can be reserved as well. They have a spectacular view.

I’m jealous of the great views of the cabins. At least I don’t have a long drive in the morning to make my Milford Sound cruise.

Moeraki New Zealand Day 2

Today is my second day in Moeraki. On the agenda today is to go see the famous boulders on the beach then head back to Katiki Point to try to catch a sight of penguins again.

I enjoy the cooler weather with a yogurt, granola and banana with a coffee looking at the water below.

Yummy yogurt from the local store

I watch the boats heading out for a day’s fishing.

The best time to see the boulders is a low tide. Today that is scheduled at 11:30 am.

I walk along the road a little bit until I reach a now partially closed path. I take the Millennium track toward the beach. It seems like the track was longer in the past (closer to my holiday park) but erosion has made part of the trail unsafe. The brush is slightly overgrown. I am wishing I would have worn long pants today.

I finally make it to the beach where it is nice and calm. There are very few people on the beach but I do notice a dead seal. It is really sad to see. Luckily it has been removed before my walk back.

I make it down to Moeraki Boulders Beach to look at the unique boulders. The boulders were formed around 60 million years ago during the early Paleocene. They are now being uncovered due to coastal erosion.

I head up to the nearby café to order some fish chowder.

Moeraki Boulders Cafe

After lunch I walk back to the holiday park back along the beach.

I hop carefully from rock to rock to a secluded area. I savor the sounds of the ocean and birds. It is very calm here. I notice tide starting to rise. Not wanting to get “trapped” I head back the way I came. I think this probably used to be part of that now defunct track.

I notice different types of flowering plants on my walk back.

I relax for a little while before heading back to the Katiki Point to try to get some more penguin viewing. Today I end up seeing only one penguin.

He goes away from view for a while so I end up looking at some more seals.

The penguin moves uphill where I snap a couple more pictures.

I drive back to the campsite but first stop by the village to walk around. There isn’t much to the village but a pier and a nice restaurants. I have food to eat back at the campsite so I forgo the restaurant.

Cool campervan I see

Back at my campervan I set up a semi-healthy dinner. I make a large salad but can’t resist butter bread with this spectacular butter (I feel like an influencer now, they should be paying me).

I love my stop in Moeraki. If I had more time I would have checked out the nearby towns of Dunedin and Oamaru. Oamaru in particular has the Steampunk HQ: a funky museum of all things steampunk (a missed opportunity on the drive into Moeraki). I just kept missing the window of opening hours so I regret not stopping on the way. I think it would have been fun to visit.

Tomorrow I head further south to Te Anau to get closer to Milford Sound. Loving my visit to New Zealand so far.