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Black and White Lake Matheson

Panorama Lake Matheson in Black and White

New Zealand holds a special place in my heart. This is Lake Matheson located at Fox Glacier in New Zealand’s South Island.

It was early October 1994, close to sunset. We walked all the way from Fox Glacier Village to see this lake – about one and half hour journey one way. I remembered the blissful quiet and peaceful silence while we were walking. Hardly any vehicles and such beautiful surroundings. All around farmland with cows chewing on hay. They kept staring at us!

This view was taken after a short venture in the forest at the viewing platform. And what a view! In the distance was Mt Cook, Mt Tasman and other surrounding mountain peaks.

Beautiful sight, wonderful memory.

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Hello and Goodbye in Picton

 

Picton signboard

Picton signboard

 

For those celebrating Thanksgiving, hope you have a wonderful day with friends and family.

Say goodbye to the long weekdays and hello “Good Friday” and the weekends!

The title is apt I think considering my topic for today – Picton.

Picton is the departure point for those taking the ferry to Wellington, North Island – New Zealand. In that case “Fare thee well”. A warm welcome to those just arriving in Picton. Bon jour! Hello!

In the rush for the next destination, not many would overnight in Picton. I was totally clueless about Picton during my first trip to New Zealand.

For a little explaination on the history of Picton, click on the above picture for a larger view.

Panorama Picton Sunset

Panorama Picton Sunset

Tip 1 : Try the fish and chips. So yummy!

Tip 2 : If staying in hostel, ask the staff if the bus stops directly at the hotel. If so book directly with the hostel instead of the I-site.

Tip 3 : If hiking the Queen Charlotte Track, Malborough Sounds for several days, you may want to book through your hostel since some hostel offer discounted price for watertaxis.

Picton Harbour

Picton Harbour

If cooking your own meals in a motel or hostel, how about trying some mussels? The is the place well known for growing wine and mussels in New Zealand.

There are a number of easy hiking tracks opposite the harbour but my knees were too swollen for the attempt. To cut the story short, too much hiking in a short burst of time may damage the knees cartiledge.

Will cover more on Queen Charlotte Track at a later post. One way to maximise time and money is to go on a half day kayaking and hike a short section of the Queen Charlotte Track the other half of the day. Here are secluded bays and hidden enclaves. Serenity all around – peace for the heart and soul.

For more information on things to see and do in Picton, click here. If taking ferry to North Island, here is the link.

Till next time, have a golly good Friday and the best of weekends!

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2010 in New Zealand, Travel

 

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Kayaking and Hiking in Nelson

Kayak, seals at Nelson

Kayak, seals at Nelson

Kayak in Nelson

Kayak in Nelson

If you hate winter and the cold winds, Nelson is the place to be. Plenty of sunshine year round.

I wish I had more time to spend in Nelson. It was basically reach town, find hotel, tomorrow go kayaking and next day off to the next destination. That said, this is the place to practice kayaking skills.

I had never gone kayaking before and it was an enriching experience – truely inspiring. It didn’t matter that I was travelling alone, the kayaking operator hooked me up with another person. If anyone is heading that way, a few tips for noting.

 

rainbow

Rainbow

 

Tip 1 : It is a long distance from Fox Glacier/Franz Josef Glacier. By the time the bus reaches here, it is about 7 pm (depending on bus operator and their schedules).

Tip 2 : Before booking accommodation, check if the hostel/hotel/motel offers pick-up/pick-off service.

Stay at least 2 nights and there will be sufficient time here for kayaking and shopping. Kayaking can be done on a half day basis, one full day or multiple days. Another option is to combine a half day kayaking and half day free and easy hiking. I opted for the latter and had a wonderful time.

Split Apple Rock

Split Apple Rock

Even though it was already 7.30pm, the staff at my hostel managed to book the trip for me the next day. Some operators do pick-up and pick-off from Nelson accommodations. Best to ask before booking.

 

Kayaking

First part of the trip was getting fitted with the gear and safety briefing. Then off we rowed! We were on a double kayak except for the guide. 6 of us plus the guide equalled to seven. Hah! I could count!

Te Pukatea Bay

Te Pukatea Bay

It was a fun group. Two were a newly married couple from England. Another were a pair of mother and daughter from United States. I was on a kayak with a girl from Ireland. Lots of splashing around on the water.

The sky looked dark for a moment. Thank goodness it did not rain. Best of all,  a rainbow appeared. The camera snapped away.

Our guide was terrific. He showed us a cave within the rocks and we kayaked through it! Next was a long stretch when we had to kayak vigorously to reach the Split Apple Rock. Sadly, it was time to return. The adventure was not over yet for me.

Te Pukatea Bay

Top view Te Pukatea Bay, Abel Tasman National Park

 

Hiking

I opted to do the free and easy hiking after the kayak trip. Here I was alone on the beach after the watertaxi took me there. As the signboard said, I was at the Te Pukatea Bay.

I was exhilarated and at the same time apprehensive because I didn’t bring along a map for the hike. Oh well, getting lost was part of the adventure! After a short lunch, I was on my way.

 

 

Anchorage Bay, Abel Tasman National Park

Anchorage Bay, Abel Tasman National Park

It was a bit of an uphill climb and the views along the way were awesome!

 

 

At one point, I came across a fork on the track and memorised this route just in case I got lost. Luck was with me – I turned right and apparently that was the correct direction to Anchorage Bay.

 

Anchorage Bay, Abel Tasman National Park

Anchorage Bay, Abel Tasman National Park

 

The only thing to do left was wait for the water taxi for the return trip back. It was a fantastic adventure and I would gladly do it again!

There are more walking tracks in the Abel Tasman National Park. The Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of New Zealand Great Walk. Another popular track is the Inland Track. Click here for more activities in Abel Tasman National Park.

For more information on things to do in Nelson, click on Nelson Tourism.

Next time if I am in the area, I definitely want to stay longer and do more kayaking. If you are coming to Nelson, try kayaking. Wonderful adventure on the water. Guaranteed!

 

Till next time, have fun in whatever you do!

Turqoise water in Nelson

Te Pukatea Bay, Abel Tasman National Park - Nelson

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2010 in New Zealand, photography, Travel

 

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Things to do and See in Queenstown

Queenstown "Smilie"

It's bird, it's a plane - it's a happy smilie 🙂

Thanks for dropping by. Are you addicted to adrenaline? Rafting, sky diving, skiing all gives you a rush like no other? Then, Queenstown – the adventure capital of South Island, New Zealand – has tons of activities to spike your adrenaline.

 

How to get there

From Christchurch, South Island’s international airport, it takes about 6 hours journey to reach Queenstown. Major airlines either have direct flight here or land at Auckland, North Island. From there, take a domestic flight to Queenstown. The journey from Christchurch to Queenstown via the Inland Scenic Route is absolutely breathtaking in whatever seasons.  Along the way, you will pass Lake Tekapo and catch a glimpse of Aeroki/Mt Cook at Lake Pukaki.

During winter, there are direct flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Melborne, Australia to Queenstown airport. It takes about three and a half hours flight to reach here from Australia. The view from the air as your plane slowly land is simply stunning.

If taking ferry from Wellington to Picton, you will need to go through Nelson, Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier – at least 2 days journey before arriving in Queenstown on the third day.

 

Things to do and see in Queenstown

For more information, visit the Queenstown Tourism, official website.

 

The Remarkables, New Zealand

At the Remarkables

Recommended Activities

Skiing and Snowboarding

Officially winter is from June 1  to August 31, however, spring skiing is still possible to early October. There are actually six fields nearby Queenstown : The Remarkables – 45 minutes drive, Caronet Peak – 25 minutes drive, Cadrona – 60 minutes drive, Treble Cone – 1.5 hours drive. There is also night skiing. If visiting Snow Park and Snow Farm, it may be better to have accommodations in Wanaka instead as the ski fields are nearer from there. For the daredevils, try heliskiing. Operator : Nzski

Dart River Safaris

This is a combination of a forest walk, sightsee of locations from The Lord of the Rings and a jetboat into the wilderness of Mt Aspiring National Park. About 6 hours from Queenstown and 3 hours from Glenorchy. For the more adventurous, try the Funyaks canoe. Jetboat up the Dart River and then paddle slowly downstream on the funyaks with lunch provided. About 9 hours  from Queenstown and 7 hours from Glenorchy. Spectacular scenery and lots for fun for the whole family. Operator : Dart River Safaris Ltd

Rafting in New Zealand

Rafting in New Zealand

White water rafting either in the Kawarau River – ideal for first-timers – or the more challenging Shotover River. Paddle your oars as fast as you can and don’t drop into the water! Heli-raft is also possible here but you need to pay more. This is usually a half day activity that can be combined with other activities to save time and money. Check out the various combos available. For more information, check out The Station. For the little kids, you can also join in the fun. Family Adventures invites kids from 3 years old onwards to kayak and raft with their family on gentle grade 1 and 2 rapids.

River Surfing and Canyoning

Having fun in the water? Get closer! Go river surfing and canyoning. It is just you, the board and the river – you are in control. Don’t be scared. Jump in and have fun – surf the rapid, get wet, ride the whirlpools and jump off rocks! Check The Station for combo activities to save time and money.

Bungy

A.J Hackett made the sport famous. Try it and see what the fuss is all about.  Imagine this : a length of rope tied to your ankle, the guide counting “4, 3, 2, 1! Jump!” Screammmmm!  Touch down – you either reach the water or you don’t. Operator : AJ Hackett

Paraflights

As you can see in the smilie picture above, that is paraflight. Fly solo or tandem above Lake Wakatipu up to 600 metres. Fantastic view. No experience needed. Age limit is 2 years old. Fun for the whole family. Boat adventure last about 1 hour with flight about 10-15 minutes duration, every hour from the pier. Try it! Operator : Paraflights

Paragliding

Paragliding in Queenstown, NZ

Glide free as a bird

From high above, solo or tandem, do a little run and off you go. Look ma, I am flying! You can do this at various locations in Queenstown. For more buzz and thrill, jump off from Coronet Peak – the highest of 3 main paragliding sites. Operator : Extreme Air

Skydiving

Enjoying the fresh air from high above? Step up a notch and skydive! Absolute thrill guranteed. Just don’t eat before you fly, get my meaning? The sky is the limit – 9,000ft, 12,000ft or 15,000ft – your choice. Watch the scenery goes by and the rush as the ground gets closer and closer and closer.. and you land on your feet. Operator : Nzone

Mountain Biking

The Remarkables, New Zealand

The Remarkables through a buoy

Go on a guided tour at Skippers Canyon with no uphill riding. Great views of Shotover River. Combine it with rafting and get your adrenaline buzzing. From beginners to advanced riders. Operator : Gravity Action

Hiking
If you haven’t heard of the Seven Great Walks in New Zealand, click here for more information. Hiking or tramping – as it is known here –  is a popular reason for visiting New Zealand. Unspoilt forest, snow-capped mountains, solitude – it is a wonderful combination for tramping here. There are many operators in Queentown offering their hiking packages, from budget to the luxurious accommodation. If you are short for time, why not go on a one day hiking trip. Ultimate Hikes offers guided trips to the Milford Track and the Routeburn Track – two of the seven great walks – and guided day trips.

 

The Scenic Tours

While these activities are not necessarily full of adrenaline, the sight to behold are not to be missed.

Skyline Queenstown

If you are short of time, this is the place to get an overview of Queenstown – spectacular at any time,  in all seasons.  Watch the scenery rolls by as the cable car gets higher and higher.  There are a number of hiking trails starting here, so take the free hiking map. Don’t forget to get a panoramic snapshot. There is an excellent restaurant here – get a reservation first. Skyline Queenstown

TSS Earnslaw Boat Cruise and Walter Peak High Country Farm

TSS Earnslaw at night

The TSS Earnslaw was launched in 1912, the same year as The Titanic. The TSS Earnslaw is a coal-fired passenger-carrying vessel taking you on a cruise on Lake Wakatipu. Disembark at Walter Peak High Country Farm for a farm tour, horse ride, bbq lunch or dinner. Operating  year round, this is an educational and fun trip for the whole family. Operator : Real Journeys

Milford Sound Cruise

You must not miss this trip! The Milford Sound cruise was covered in greater detail here. Stunning scenery from start to finish. There are several operators from Queenstown. I highly recommend going with Real Journeys.

Arrowtown

Arrowtown is a short drive from Queenstown. Leave your vehicle in Queenstown as there is a regular shuttle service here. Arrowtown is spectacular in autumn. All the gorgeous fall colours – a photographer’s dream. Grab a pan and go to the river – you may just be lucky to strike gold! Information here.

 

So many things to do and so little time! Above all else, don’t be in a rush to fill up your days and time with as much activities as possible. A holiday is meant for relaxation, so take your time to simply unwind, breathe the fresh air and soothe your soul.


Be safe, be happy!

 

[Edit : Add Skyline Queenstown because miss it earlier]

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2010 in New Zealand, photography, Travel

 

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5 Reasons to Visit Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown : Early winter dawn

Queenstown : Early winter dawn

Have you ever visit a  place….and

…your heart rejoice?
…you blink your eyes again and again in astonishment?
…your mouth says “wow”!
…your mind says “I must return here”?
…your soul feels at peace?

People always ask me “why do you return to New Zealand again and again”. My answer “because my heart sings with joy and my weary soul feels at ease”.

Queenstown : Rainbow

Queenstown Rainbow - first winter snow

Basic facts

  • There are more sheep here than people
  • North Island is warmer and has more people compared to South Island
  • The capital is Wellington, even though most major airlines get here via Auckland in North Island
I always end up a night here and there in Queenstown. There is simply no way to avoid Queenstown!

Five Reasons to visit Queenstown, New Zealand

  • skiing – there are three mountains surrounding Queenstown
  • bungyjump – get that adrenaline rush
  • hiking – through unspoilt forest and natural wonders
  • lake and mountain views – a photographer’s dream
  • Lord of the Ring scenes – need I say more?

Why do so many people visit Queenstown every year? Consider this : snow-capped mountains, beautiful lake and Lord of the Ring! Who can resist? People come here because of the breathtaking scenery, ski opportunities and the countless heart-pumping activities in and around Queenstown. It is not only fun for the thrill seekers – families will be happy to know that children will love it here.

You don’t have to spend all your money on one activity after another. Look closer and there are things to do for free here. Feed the ducks at Lake Wakatipu or take a stroll at Queenstown Gardens. There are numerous hiking options for free. Grab a map from the Information Centre, the I-site.

What is a holiday without pictures? A sneak preview of what is in store for the next few days :  in-depth coverage of Queenstown, New Zealand.

Additional : Click here for recommended activities in Queenstown.

Stay tune!

Queenstown Lake Wakatipu

Queenstown Lake Wakatipu Aeriel View

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2010 in New Zealand, photography, Travel

 

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Rainy Serenity in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

[Disclaimer : I am not an employee of  Real Journeys nor am I paid to write this. I had such wonderful memories for every trip in New Zealand. This is dedicated to all the friendly Kiwis and the people I met on my journeys.]

The rain poured relentlessly while the boat glided amidst the valley of green mountains and hills. White and grey clouds blanketed the sky while occasionally the flap of wings criss-crossed the horizon and a melee of excited calls reverberated in the rain forest. Long, wispy white clouds tentatively touched the water while a short distance away, a grey head bobbed to the surface. Cocking its head to the left and wrinkling its whiskers, it started to bark – as if to say – “Welcome to my domain”. No traffic sounds or brilliant city lights – just the air of expectancy while nature called to one another. Remote and as far away from civilization as it could be. Come along and join me on a journey to the Doubtful Sound, New Zealand.

It was May when I arrived in Queenstown – a good time to avoid the summer crowd and winter skiers. Between May to September, Real Journey has discounted offers for their day tours to the Doubtful Sound. From Queenstown, current price is NZ $257 instead of the usual NZ $342 for adults. More expensive than a Milford Sound trip (NZ $198 during May – September) but was worth every penny, in my opinion. From my hotel, it was about a 2-minute walk to Real Journey’s office for my check-in at 6.30am. Bus departure would be at 6.55am. The signboard at the opposite hotel read “3 degree celsius”. Brrrrr….It was not even winter yet! When in New Zealand, please bring along a base layer, a jacket and a rain jacket as spare. It can be bright sunshine during the day but the temperature cools at night time. Rain and snow can come in any season.

The first part of the journey on bus was shared with the people going on the Milford Sound trip. Part way, those going on the Doubtful Sound trip would alight and join a smaller bus heading to Lake Manapouri. A couple from Australia and I were the only people heading there from Queenstown. Before alighting the first bus, the driver reminded us to leave something on our seat : a plastic bag, pamplet, whatever, to let others know that the seat was taken. There would be others joining the bus from Te Anau and the same bus would be picking us up at the end of our trip. Do remember to bring along something extra to “reserve” your seat!

Lake Manapouri – tranquil and quiet in the early hours. 9.30 am and nary a blue sky to be seen. A boat trip across the lake would bring us to the next chapter of our journey. As the boat crossed the lake, brilliant sunshine broke through the clouds – we were on our way! About ten minutes later, thick rolls of menacing looking clouds quickly covered the horizontal. The water took on a grayish sheen, choppy sprays of water rocked the boat and the rain poured! This is a good time to forewarn anybody with weak stomachs to please take an anti-nausea pill before stepping into a boat. Bon Voyage!

The first lake crossing was done, so onwards to a waiting van for a short journey on the Wilmot Pass – the sub-alpine road heading to Deep Cove. Midway, we stopped at a lookout. Down the valley, between sheer walls of mountains and hills, the ribbon of water was the Doubtful Sound. The van slowly nosedived and hands quickly gripped the head seats in front. Pebbles crunched underneath while the van twisted left and we caught brief glimpses of a blue and white ship. “Is anyone having fun yet?”, our driver asked when we stopped at the pier. Hehe….funny fellow.

The Patea Explorer would be taking us on a three hour cruise in the Doubtful Sound. Our driver joined the rest of the crew on board. Together with the crew, there were twenty-three people on that trip. Tea and coffee were served on both ships. Sheets of rain continued to pour. Some of the clouds were stretched so low and almost touched the water. I guessed that was why New Zealand was otherwise known as “Land of the Long White Cloud”.

Misty clouds played hide and seeks amidst the mountain and hill tops. Now and then, the melody of bird calls could be heard while the boat glided through the fiord.

Too excited to explore, I climbed the upper deck. “Whoosh!”. The wind chill was incredible. Kneeling, my fingers gripped a railing while I searched for my gloves. Luckily my yellow, white and blue knitted cap was already covering my head. It was time to pull down the edges, cover my ears and zipped up my

blue rain jacket. My skin was turning numb so it was time to head down to the lower deck.

“If you are lucky, the dolphins will make an appearance,” our guide enticed. “Not in this weather”, a white-haired lady laughingly replied. Not true I thought. I had been on wet weather trips and spotted dolphins before. But that was another story altogether. Sadly on this trip, the playful dolphins were on vacation too. But something else was in store for us.

“Up ahead. Seals Island”, our nature guide announced. At first, I cannot see anything. Then, moving shapes swayed fuzzily in than outcrop in the far distance. I had a Nikon 8700 at that time and zoomed in. Wow! Seals, hundred of seals, pups and adults, either moving about or lazily dozing on the rocks. Ohhhh….babies! The camera clicked crazily. How appropriate that the seals were at home on an island shaped exactly like their namesake.

White-greyish clouds covered the sky, drops of rain rapped a beat against the water surface and the boat while the engines droned on. Then…..a sudden dash of violet caught the corner of my left eye. Incredibly, a rainbow was slowly forming. Its light arch touched the water about 500 meters on the left corner of Seals Island – as if guardian to the seals. Few people were aware of the rainbow at the time. So I had the second deck bow (front end of a boat) to myself before someone shouted “A rainbow!!”. Time to change spot.

About ten minutes later, it was time to get to leave Seals Island and the boat headed to a sheltered cove. The captain announced “This is the best part of the journey. I am going to shut off the engine for three minutes. Everybody if you could just shut off your mechanical equipment – like the camera – and enjoy the silence”. The rhythmic murmur of the engine spurted to a stop…………blissful quiet ascended…………

Water trickled and splashed on the opposite cliff wall. Green moss and ferns lunged to sheer rocky edges. The sky shed gentle tears while wildlife crescendoed a nature symphony. Birds chirped to one another and somewhere in the rainforest, a tui sang a beautiful melody to its mate. A splash in the water and a fish surfaced briefly before diving back to the murky depth of the water.

Alas, the engine coughed to life and the boat speeded home. Heading to the back of the boat, the stern, I watched as white froths of waves bubbled – a bit sad as the journey was heading to an end. Up front, beams of sunlight broke through the dense clouds and put a glow on a spot of water. Too soon, we were back in Deep Cove, where the van awaited.

Climbing up, instead of down, on the Wilmot Pass was a whole different perspective. We actually stopped midway to appreciate the road travelled. The cliff walls were now on the left side while anyone leaning too close on the right edges could have gone skydiving without a parachute. The rainforest took on a misty outlook with the rain clouds as backdrop and green canopy of trees paraded in abundance. Seeing that I was alone, a kind lady offered to take a picture of me. That was sweet of her and I discovered later, she and her family were from Germany.

The van headed for one more stop, the Power Station. All too soon, it was time for a return trip across Lake Manapouri. True enough, the bus was waiting for us at the junction as promised. By the time we reached Queenstown, it was 8.30pm.

Tired and well-satisfied with the journey, I contemplated my next adventure. Little did I know the rainbow glimpsed that day, was just the beginning. It was practically rainbow season in New Zealand.

For a nature lover, New Zealand offers endless landscape to ease the soul and feast the eyes. Doubful Sound fits the bill and then some….

How to get there

Real Journey runs daily tour to the Doubtful Sound. There is also an overnight cruise during the warmer months from October to April. Winter months are colder but there is the incentive of discounted prices from May to September. http://www.realjourneys.co.nz

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2010 in New Zealand

 

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