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

Foods I Ate In A Day On A Road Trip Through New Zealand

Foods I Ate In A Day On A Road Trip Through New Zealand

“On the road again. Goin’ places that I’ve never been. Seein’ things that I may never see again. And I can’t wait to get on the road again” Willie Nelson

When it comes to eating healthy on a road trip through New Zealand, the struggle is real. Most people look for food that’s quick and convenient when traveling. There is typically neither time or patience on your side. You have to make do with the options available in the time and space you’re given. Unfortunately, New Zealand doesn’t cater to healthy fast food though gluten-free has come to even the smallest town. 

Breakfast. Breakfast is usually included in many hotels outside of the United States and often served buffet style. Ours ranged from light to full breakfast. I tried to fill up at breakfast eating scrambled eggs (often greasy and not that warm), yogurt (some flavor in a container), fruit, coffee, tomatoes and avocado if available. I  would take apples or bananas if I saw them for the road.

Morning Stop New Zealand makes great coffee so there was always an interesting coffee shop wherever we stopped. Sometimes the coffee was more interesting than other times.

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If I was already car sick, I would have a donut or scone. New Zealand food is very influenced by the UK. Carbs, diet coke and sweet hard candy help me with carsickness.

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I drink a lot of water and I am happy to say that I saved money because New Zealand has the best tap water. I just refilled my bottle where ever we stopped.

Snacks  There is something about being on a road trip that makes you want to eat the kinds of foods that you would never eat at home. Orange cheese chips (called Twisties), Burger Rings (chips that taste like a burger?) and unidentified dried meat in a package look appealing – especially when you are in another country with different snacks.

I bought almonds, walnuts and kiwi fruit. I  bring vitamin C bars, gum, hard candy and Jelly Bellys from home.

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Lunch   We always stopped somewhere that had shopping or photo ops so I wanted to eat fast and not spend the time sitting. Every roadside restaurant serves quiche and mince and cheese pies. Pies are a staple of the New Zealand diet and everyone is eating them.

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Pre made sandwiches seemed to be the healthiest quick option most of the time.  Ham and cheese on white bread with lots of butter – sometimes toasted was my usual lunch. One day somewhere on South Island, I went to a bakery that had sandwiches. I saw a loaf of wheat bread. I asked for ham and cheese on wheat bread without butter. They said that they only made the ham and cheese on white bread.  It was my Jack Nicholson Five Easy Pieces moment.

“You have wheat bread. You have ham and you have cheese.”

“Yes, but we only make the sandwiches on white”, said the girl behind the counter.

“Well, I’d like a loaf of wheat bread – throw it away except for two pieces and I will have the ham and cheese on wheat, hold the butter.”

She said that she would speak to her manager.  She did not look happy but returned with my request and only charged me for the sandwich – best sandwich of the road.

Afternoon stop.  I was usually sleeping after my sandwich and needed a good New Zealand  coffee and something sweet. Hopefully, it would be a banana. Sometimes it was chocolate covered kiwi fruit, Pineapple Lumps( chocolate covered pineapple marshmallowy thing), chocolate covered marshmallow fish, Jaffa (chocolate covered in red hard candy), ice cream or yogurt blended with fruit, pie or Anzac biscuits (oatmeal biscuits from WWll).

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Dinner On long driving days, dinner was tricky. I wasn’t always hungry. Sometimes I would have a proper New Zealand dinner. I loved those green lipped mussels and fresh salmon -or a Maori Hangi – (could be chicken fish, pork, lamb potato, cabbage  and root vegetable such as kumara) cooked in the steam in the ground.

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 Other times dinners were Egg McMuffin, wine and cheese, protein bars, fruit and yogurt,  Fergburger or pizza.

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The thing about a road trip is that the same exact eating starts all over the next day.

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