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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“Everything We Need Is Free.” The Maori In New Zealand

“Everything We Need Is Free.” The Māori in New Zealand

I’ve always been fascinated by the Māori. They have cool tattoos and a great war dance and as indigenous people go, though their lives are harder, they have never been beaten by a European culture.

In Rotorua there are a variety of cultural shows and educational tours to learn about Māori life. Some are smaller and some have better food. They are touristy but you can still learn a lot. Te Po in Te Puia, Rotorua was one of the more touristy yet really enjoyable things I have ever done. We start in the gift shop (of course, I always start there anyway) where there is a nice choice of Māori everything.

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Greenstone is the Nephrite jade found in New Zealand and prized by the Maoris. It is sold all over New Zealand.  Māori tradition is never to keep the first piece of greenstone that you find and to give it to someone else. The objects made from pounami (greenstone) are passed down in Māori families not only linking them to their ancestors but to the maker and nature of the stone itself. In the Māori world, objects speak to their origins: whalebone to the whale, wood to the tree, pounamu to its source river and mountain.It is an acknowledgment of human impermanence, a truth expressed in a Māori proverb: People come and go, but the land endures.

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We walk to the marae (meeting hall).

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   The Māori guide picks his new best friend John (an American from Texas) to lead the cultural interaction. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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 John would have the honor to greet the warriors coming out of the marae and ask for permission to enter by putting down a branch. He  did a great job with his branch and we were promptly invited to proceed through the grounds and enter the marae. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Once seated, the cultural and musical entertainment program began. The Maori group performed some wonderful dances, rituals and songs. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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The haka is a Maori war dance. It is fierce and involves much chanting, stamping of hands and feet and some pretty scary looking faces doing the pukana (that wild eye thing they do). (photo by Cordula Reins)

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But while most people equate the haka with the start of a New Zealand rugby All Blacks match to try to scare the opposition, the haka is also done on occasions to honor great people. One of the most moving things you’ll see is a haka done at a wedding, funeral or when someone has achieved something great.

The only other place to see the haka (unless you know a Māori family) is at one of these shows.  It is the only time to have a chance to learn it. I’m obsessed with the haka, so I thought it was great that so many men ran to do it.  Seriously, how could you not?  (photo by Cordula Reins)

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At the beginning of the evening, everyone had  walked over to just outside the dining hall to take a look as the evening’s meal was being lifted out of the earth oven where it was being cooked in the steam. After the show, we went to the dining tables and learned about our table mates from all over the world while eating kumara and rewana bread. We walked to the geysers in this geothermal wonderland as the sun was setting.

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After a few minutes of drinking hot chocolate and taking photos in front of the bubbling pools and geysers, it was getting colder and we were happy to catch the little “train” back.

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Māori call themselves tangata whenua, people of the land.  Members of the various tribes distinguish themselves from other Māori by referring to the canoe that brought their ancestors to Aotearoa (New Zealand) and to special landmarks such as a river or a mountain.  In other words, they tie their collective and individual identities to ancestors and places. When they are formally introduced, they often will give not only their name, but also the names of their mountain, river and ancestors. (Lake Tarawera)

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Māori philosophy is that  all creatures are kin. All beings have life force (mauri), and all are sacred (tapu). People, birds, fish, trees and weather are all interconnected.

There is power in continually acknowledging ancestors. There is no alternative – to make sure there is success in fishing, long journeys, or handling life’s challenges, you have to trust your ancestors, who include the entire natural world.  Egotism is very difficult to keep up in an atmosphere of constant reminders of all who brought us here, those who make our lives possible today, and those who will follow after us. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Haere humarie,

JAZ