Things I Have Learned In Queenstown And Milford Sound

Things I Have Learned In Queenstown And Milford Sound

“Rover did not know in the least where the moon’s path led to, and at present he was much too frightened and excited to ask, and anyway he was beginning to get used to extraordinary things happening to him.” J.R.R. Tolkien

Queenstown was originally named the ‘Camp’ by William Rees in 1860. The name Queenstown has two theories, the most common being that it was gold prospectors, captivated by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and rivers, who hit upon its name when they pronounced it a “town fit for a Queen”.  The other is that it was named Queenstown after Queenstown in Ireland (now called Cobh). or basically no one knows.Queenstown’  Some of Rees’ descendants still live here. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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The Remarkables mountain range was so named in 1857 by a surveyor Alexander Garvie who called it that after seeing the dramatic razorback mountain range in all its glory at sunset.  The view across the lake to the Remarkables has now become one of the most photographed in the Southern Lakes region.

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The Remarkables mountain range is one of only two mountain ranges in the world to run directly north to south (the other is the Rockies).

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Every other store  in Queenstown seems to sell either souvenirs of wool and wood or adventures in nylon and neoprene. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Renowned as Queenstown’s ‘Lady of the Lake’, the TSS Earnslaw steamship was first launched in 1912 – the same year as the Titanic.  It was built by J.McGregor and Co in Dunedin, cost £20,850 to complete. (photo by  Cordula Reins)

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The TSS Earnslaw was a working ship for many years transporting sheep, cargo and passengers to surrounding high country stations.  In 1969 she was retired and purchased by Fiordland Travel (now Real Journeys).  She is now one of the oldest tourist attractions in Central Otago and the only remaining passenger-carrying coal-fired steamship in the Southern Hemisphere. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Despite being almost 100 years old, the TSS Earnslaw still works 14 hour days in the summer months and cruises for 11 months of the year.  She even made a brief cameo appearance as an Amazon River boat in the 2008 movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

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 In 1885 all Queenstown hotels were run by women who all happened to be widows.

The Shotover River is known to be the richest gold-bearing river of its size in the world.

Sir Henry Wigley founded commercial skiing in Queenstown in 1947.

Set up in 1958, Queenstown’s Kawarau Jet was the world’s first commercial jet boat business.

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New Zealand’s Kawarau Bridge bungy site (established 1988) was the first commercial bungy operation in the world.

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The highest bungy jump in the Southern Hemisphere is Queenstown’s Nevis Highwire at 134 metres or 45 stories high.

People over 75 years old can bungy jump for free in Queenstown. The oldest person to bungy jump is a 94-year-old man from Southland, New Zealand.

The most people who have bungy jumped together in New Zealand is 8.  The record was set in 1999 at the Kawarau Bungy Bridge.

In September 1999, President Clinton was the first US president ever to visit Queenstown.

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The Frisbee Golf course in the Queenstown Gardens was the first of its kind established in New Zealand and continues to be a popular activity for visitors and locals.

Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola moves 35 cabins up and down Bob’s Peak 365 days a year and at its fastest rate it can move 1,100 people per hour. (photo Cordula Reins)

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When passengers arrive at the top of the gondola they are at 790 meters above sea level. 

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Queenstown’s stunning scenery and world-class expertise makes it an ideal destination for shooting feature films, commercials and promotional videos.  Queenstown and the Southern Lakes region have featured in movies like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Vertical Limit and Prince Caspian.

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At the height of filming the Lord of the Rings, over 500 people a day queued outside the casting rooms in Queenstown.

New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum curator Ian Brodie is the author of the much acclaimed The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook published by HarperCollins.

There are 82 registered wineries in Central Otago. The majority of grapes are Pinot Noir.

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Every Saturday, the Creative Queenstown Arts And Crafts Market enjoys the waterfront setting of Earnslaw Park. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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It’s an opportunity to meet local artists displaying their wares accompanied by live music and memorable views.

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Fergburger is a Queenstown institution. It is not going to be the best burger of your life but  it is a compulsory burger loving thing to do in Queenstown.  Instead of the burger the size of my head I went for the Sweet Bambi and was not disappointed.

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You can order online and get it to go to bypass the lines but I went for the whole Disneyland experience. I hate to say it but I will now be one of those people who says to those of you going to Queenstown- make sure you go to Fergburger.

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The Queenstown area has captured hearts and imaginations since the first Maori came in search of pounamu (greenstone) and the giant Moa bird.

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More recently, gold miners, adventurers, filmmakers, wine enthusiasts, and Hollywood stars have been drawn to this magical region and its intense alpine energy.

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Milford Sound is located in Fjordland National Park in the south-west corner of South Island. Visitors come from all over the world and it is one of the world’s top travel destinations. It is awe-inspiring and Rudyard Kipling called it the eighth Wonder Of The World.

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Milford Sound is the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand. The perfect day in Milford Sound is  one with rain.

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The enormous granite peaks don’t absorb a drop of water and they have no beaches. The result is thousands of stunning waterfalls flowing straight into the fiord.

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The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and a very different experience to visiting Milford Sound. The hike is absolutely stunning. It is an economically sensitive area so  the local government allows 90 people on the track each day (50 guided, 40 unguided).  You can only hike it for 6 months of the year, whereas Milford Sound itself is accessible year-round. The track was initially developed by Donald Sutherland so people could get to his newly discovered Falls. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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i would like to thank  our guide and extraordinarily patient driver Nick McGregor, Tanya  and everyone at Moatrek and my fellow travelers on this journey for making it a fun and memorable trip.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Adventure Sports In Queenstown, New Zealand

Adventure Sports In Queenstown, New Zealand

“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” ~ Anonymous

How do we think an adventure sport gets started?  I imagine that you have this one crazy friend who does something that seems to invite death — or at least serious injury — like jumping off a bridge while attached to a rubber band. Perhaps you are a  slightly saner, financially minded person and you see that he lived after doing this. You think, how can I turn this into a business? How can I find a way so people can do this safely but still feel like they’re inviting death or serious injury? I believe they call this thinking out of the box. You figure it out and hordes of young thrill-seekers come running. It happens that many of these type of people live in New Zealand. This is how  Queenstown became the unofficial capital of the adventure industry.

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Queenstown is a less developed version of Aspen or Lake Placid with about six main streets and a lakefront promenade. (photo by Cordulia Reins)

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Every adventure activity you’ve ever heard of is on offer (river rafting, sky diving, jet boating, bungee jumping, ziplining, mountain biking, sky gliding) and probably several you haven’t (snow-kiting, parapenting, white-water sledging)

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Adventurers inundate Queenstown in the summer the way skiers do in the winter. I began to notice a parade of different types. There is one group  that is rugged and unkempt who is there to do every crazy thing they can afford. They go right to the Nevis Bungee Jump. It is the highest jump in New Zealand You can travel 134 meters in 8.5 seconds,  No heart conditions here. People over the age of seventy-five can bungee jump for free in Queenstown. (?) The second is friends and family who are there to make sure that the first group survives. Then they go on to do more crazy things together. The third group is the trampers- the hikers. They have all the cool gear and are basically using Queenstown as a base for the surrounding  amazing tramps and walks. They might try a packaged tour like jet boating which seems about the wettest but least dangerous adventure.

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I’m kind of the Woody Allen of adventure sports. I like knowing they are safe and maybe in books where other people are having them. I prefer it when you aren’t too wet, hot, cold, hungry or dizzy.  I hit bad weather in Queenstown and activities were cancelled. I didn’t get to test my fear level. I thought that I would feel relieved but I was disappointed. Avoiding danger doesn’t always keep it away. Luckily the world has a lot of adventures for me to find and now I have the clothes and gear so I will have to go find them.

Fly safe,

JAZ

For The Traveler

For the Traveler  (photos of New Zealand by Cordula Reins)

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

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New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.

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Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

0447_tongariroWhen you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,1011_okarito_mountain_view
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:0435_tongariro_taranaki_fallsHow you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening a conversation
You want to take in0705_lake_tekapo_bridgeview
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.1021_franz_josef_glacierWhen you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,0828_tsse_cruise_lake_wakatipu
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.0370_wai_o_tapu_champagne_poolA journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,0152_paihia_morning
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.0778_milford_soundMay you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;0954_walk_to_fox_glacierThat you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.0579_abel_tas_np_onetahutiMay you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.0498_winetasting_lookout_hill_cheers

John O’Donohue
from: To Bless the Space Between Us

Special thanks to Cordulia Reins for sharing  her beautiful vision.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

When Bad Weather Happens To Good Travelers

When Bad Weather Happens To Good Travelers

“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”  Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

I’m a planner. When I plan a trip, I research the weather and I try to travel when the weather in that country is great.  I have always had good weather luck. The bad weather usually clears up before I arrive or begins after I leave. Until now. I just returned from a road trip through New Zealand. It is really the best way to see New Zealand. Whether you are staying in  a different hotel every night, camping or driving a motor home, as long as you can drive on the opposite side of the road, it’s the way to go. (Tongariro National Park)

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The first half of the trip was great. (Hawkes Bay)

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It was unseasonably cold for a New Zealand summer but sunny and beautiful.(Marlborough)

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 We had the ten-hour drive detour because of the damage from the Kaikoura earthquake  (me after ten hours in Methven) .

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I’m not a great passenger or driver so road trip were not words in my vocabulary. 

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Music helped. Prepare your playlists beforehand. Stretching and peeing every time you have a rest stop is useful. Your body will thank you later.  Bring food, snacks and water with you. I’m always prepared to be the lifesaver in a threatening situation.  Work out your anger before you sit in a van for two to four weeks. You don’t want it stuck in your head. If being a whiner is your normal state, try to get it under control. The thing about being in a van for ten hours is that  you are doing something, but you aren’t really doing anything. (Canterbury)

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The great part of road trips is that every day is different. Tomorrow brings new landscapes, new towns, new attractions, and new hotel rooms.  (Lake Tecapo)

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We drove the next day for several hours  to Mount Cook. I was looking forward to taking a helicopter to the top of that glacier. I was ready. I had my glacier hiking gear which I lugged from Los Angeles. The next morning it was raining, windy, and very foggy.

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It was not the kind of rain that was going to clear up in an hour.  It was animals lining up in pairs rain.  This was only the beginning. It rained for the next several days. There was snow on the mountains in summer. Activities were canceled. We kept driving.

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New Zealand  is all about outdoor adrenalin rush activities. There aren’t a lot of museums on the road and if  there are any, they are closed.  It is not fun driving for hours looking at nothing but rain and fog. There aren’t a lot of photographic pit stops. Having ice-cream blended with fresh fruit  served by a cute guy  was the highlight of the day. (Cromwell- the fruit bowl of New Zealand)

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Life’s trials will test you and shape you. When I got to Queenstown after two wet days of driving, I was riding up a mountain in a gondola with a Swiss mother and daughter. I was cold, wet and depressed. The last thing that I wanted to be doing was still sitting. They were smiling.” Why are you smiling?,” I asked. ”We are on holidays. We are having fun. We are happy.”

They were right. Optimism is a choice. It was funny, laughing about the road food, weather and the fact that everything was closed most of the time. Those are the travel stories. I got off the gondola. The view of Queenstown is magical and the rain gives it an other worldly middle earth quality. It took my breath away.

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At the top of the mountain, far away from the US  was a Jelly Belly store. For those of you who don’t know me, Jelly Bellys are my favorite candy. I never leave the country without them but they quickly run out. It was one of those stores with individual flavors that you can mix and match. I took it as a sign from God to get my act together. They were right. I was on holiday – just different from what I planned.  I carefully picked thirteen flavors (They were in packages). The girl told me that if I picked seven more it would be almost the same price (which was high for Jelly Bellys). I can’t resist a deal but I also knew I would make myself sick.  I saw two little boys  and told them it was their lucky day and to choose seven packets of Jelly Bellies. They ran into the store. Their grandparents followed and I explained why I did it. They laughed and the whole family started telling me things they loved to do there when it was raining.

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I walked back from the gondola to the hotel in the rain. It was Queenstown, full of young adventure seeking people and everything was open late. I found myself in front of Fergburger –  a Queenstown hamburger institution and got in the queue. I forgot for a minute how lucky I was to be in New Zealand and about to have the famous Fergburger.  Rain will do that to you if you let it.

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Fly   safe,

JAZ

Ten Reasons To Visit New Zealand

Ten Reasons To Visit New Zealand

“Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain” Maori Proverb

Waiheke Island  is one of my daughter’s favorite places. I have heard about it for a while and can’t believe I will be there. The island has art galleries, boutiques, coffee places and some excellent vineyards for wine tasting.

Take at least part of one of the great walks in New Zealand. They are  a group of popular walks through areas of some of the best scenery in the country, ranging from coastlines with beaches to dense rain forests and alpine terrain. The tracks are maintained to a high standard, making it easier for visitors to explore some of the most scenic parts of New Zealand’s backcountry. The walks range from 32 kilometres (20 mi) length to 82 kilometres (51 mi) in length and take between 3 and 6 days to complete..

See the Maori  in Rotoroa. I loved the movie “Whalerider” (I will probably see it again before I go) and I am so interested in their culture.

Take a helicopter ride to a glacier. So with all my traveling I have never been on a helicopter or a glacier. A lot of firsts here. Franz Josef or Mount Cook?

Whale watching in Kaikoura. We do have whales in California but Kai means food  and Koura means crayfish ( which i love) so i am there. Whales, seals and dolphins are among my favorite sea creatures.

If you are a Hobbit fan, visit the Lord of the Rings movie set.

New Zealand is an adrenalin junkie’s paradise and well-known for zany adventures.. There is bungee jumping, zip lining, sky diving, rock climbing, mountain biking, scuba diving and  jet speed boats. I may not seem like an adrenalin junkie but you never know. 

Hiking in Milford Sound. There is epic movie worthy scenery and nothing that can hurt you (ie. no snakes, bears, mountain lions, scorpions, disease carrying insects, etc).

Take an outdoor geothermal bath in one of the many natural hot springs on the North Island.

Have a Fergburger in Queenstown. it is another best burger in the world with everything hand-made and fresh produce every day. There are twenty different kinds  from the regular (beef,bacon and avocado)  to the Codfather (cod), Sweet Bambi  (venison)and Bun Laden(falafel). It is a true hole in the wall, crowded for the twenty-one hours a day they are open.

Fly safe,

JAZ