Saturday, January 12, 2013

moving toward the glacier at a glacial pace

I know that when you are traveling the guides want to break up the monotony of long days when you are transiting from one place to another but as I review the photos of the day we are STILL in the first half of... I feel like there were a few too many stops-

here we have ended up in a town, along a lake--- I think it is Wanaka but it might be Hawea - LOL seriously, it was a fairly small town and all I really remember about it is that the other half of the group that missed out on the 9 AM ice cream at Jone's Fruit Stand had ice cream here by the lake - and that Christel got to mail her postcards. Oh and that we saw cabbage trees in full bloom (as well as the Manuka flower that is the basis for their NZ honey)

The Maori people used manuka flower (below) as a medicinal plant, from treating fevers and colds to using it as a sedative. The early European settlers called it the "tea tree". This is a strong flavored honey but with a fresh clean bite.

mind you we are still in the before NOON period of the day... from this stop we drive along the southern alps - which really are magnificent - but we don't actually stop- so these photos are taken from the bus- admittedly, what is there to stop for? a very long lake goes on for miles and so do the mountains that serve as the backdrop-

somewhere around Makarora, I think, we get a lunch stop where we grab food just after one giant tour bus (Asians) and before another (young Americans) we eat and get on the road in fairly short order-

the signs outside the lunch place pretty much cover TB's two food groups on this trip- giant bowls of coffee and massive amounts of ice cream- it is just after noon and on this day I think he has passed the two ice cream mark before 1 PM....

we continue on up the road toward Haast and Mike gives us some background on the deer scourge (nearly everything is a scourge here when it comes to introduced flora and fauna) -  the deer came in- took over the habitat of pretty much everything - not unlike the ones back home.  the solution was found when they started farming them for venison production.  there were a lot of interim steps which will be detailed in the part of the story where we visit Possum Pete's, but meantime I mention them because just up the road we come across some of the farmed deer hanging out under the trees for some shade in the high noon sun-

bet most hunters NEVER see that many POINTS in one place...but this was a drive by shooting (with camera) not an actual stop.  Soon we get to the Blue Pools where there is a hike (I opt out- the distance and grade being questionable in the "save the knees for the important stuff" equation.) I did get a photo from the sign and Kerry was nice enough to send me her photos as well... below the photo from the hiking trail marker:

next stop- the Gates of Haast- first, a grabbed a shot from the bus on the way over the bridge- and it turned out to be the best view but Mike led us down to the water and under the bridge for another view to fully round out the experience-


back on the bus and onward- only three more scenic stops - one a waterfall and the other a forest/beach walk and finally an overlook at Knight's Point along the Tasman Sea... then we pull into Fox Glacier (the town) late in the day and check into our lovely hotel- small but waaaay better than the one we spend the next two nights in... so credit where credit it due...

I think this was our view of Mount Cook - the highest peak in NZ- viewed from the WC stop across the road -

the forest and beach walk below - we have finally made it to the famed West Coast-

the Tasman Sea-

and the scenic overlook- Knight's Point-

and on to the hotel-

only one night here- sadly because the next hotel was seriously lacking in both location and charm... more later-

Friday, January 11, 2013

real fruit ice cream and wine before 9AM

the TB summary-

puts me in  mind of some of my mother's "journaling" back in the days when we traveled together- I told her 'I take the photos and you write the notes' - the trip notes started out with enormous detail - like what they fed us on the plane and our seat numbers etc...and as the trip went on we got to entries where the day would say "dinner: V-chicken, J- fish"  so I gave up on her recitation of the trip and just kept taking more photos so I could remember things later.  to this day I still take sign photos and brochure photos to give me context for the overall flow of the trip.

but back to the TB summary; this was another long day on the road with a fair number of stops and here is his complete day in a "nutshell" LOL

12/13: Bkfst @ Distinction Nugget Point Hotel. Motorcoach cruise through Southern Alps with various stops & side hikes: Queenstown – Cromwell – North Bend Station (wine tasting at 9 am!) – Wanaka – Haast Pass – Fox Glacier. Dinner @ Fox Glacier Teweheka Hotel.

so you see what I mean- LOL- we were off this morning from Q-town heading mostly north through the southern Alps and up along the west coast of the south island (known for its WEATHER! and not in a good way)

since I probably won't get through the whole day in one post here is the map of the morning-

our first stop out of town- was the original Bungee Jumping bridge that put NZ on the extreme sports map so to speak!

looking both directions from the Bungy jumping bridge- which was an older bridge which had been replaced by a newer one (shown in the photo above)
 the next stop was just up the road at a place where you could see some of the hydro electric generation along Roaring Meg stream-

NZ is quite advanced in the sustainability area- they generate an amazing percentage of their power from "clean" sources - and they are  nuclear free zone- the whole country is a nuclear free zone... this has caused some issues with the US because they won't let our war ships into their territory on the off chance they are carrying nuclear war heads onboard... however - they do expect us to come to their aid in the event they are in need of defense forces from abroad... but no need to go there in this post-

by the way- off on a tangent-  I took this photo from the moving bus - so not such great focus- but it completely shows this "land of the long white cloud" thing they have going on here in NZ-

anyway, on to the fruit ice cream stop- LOL- since we left so early we are in a need of a pit stop and this fruit stand (with fabulous roses outside the WC) is just the place-



in addition to the fresh fruit- and the ice cream made with real fruit- they sold all kinds of dried fruit and nuts etc... we were like kids in a candy store and barely made it back to the bus in time with our morning ice creams.  The real fruit ones are ice cream (choice of vanilla or hokey-pokey) mixed together in a special machine with real fruit which has been frozen.

so we are off... to the winery! where we do tastings very early - with nibbles to see the pairing of the wines with food-

a full service wine tasting room- they offered eggs from their farm as well-

I haven't yet mentioned the "green folders" but now is the time to catch you up on them- our guide Mike was truly a professional- he knew massive amounts of information about his home country and was really desirous of making sure we each got as much of it as possible-

to that end for each leg of the journey he put together folders with detailed information and brochures and articles about various things relevant to each segment of the journey- these would then be passed around the bus for perusal by the nine of us along the way.

I bring this up because in the green folder for this day is a photo of Shrek-

Shrek captured the public's imagination in 2004 after he evaded the annual shearing roundups for the previous seven years by hiding in caves on his farm on the South Island. When finally found, he was clad in an astonishing 60 pounds of wool.

Shrek was one of about 17,000 sheep on the the 27,000-acre Bendigo farm in the small town of Tarras. Shrek was able to survive the winters and avoid detection by moving about a series of sheltered caves and by munching on small native shrubs.

As well as laying claim to being New Zealand's woolliest sheep, Shrek may also have been its oldest. Most sheep live for no more than six years before being slaughtered. Shrek died in June 2011 at age 17 from an illness- he commanded up to $16,000 an appearance and was used for many charity fundraisers. Shrek's ashes were scattered atop Mt. Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain.

here is an Internet photo of Shrek:

and we passed right by the farm he was raised on and the hills where he hid out for all those years...LOL- just up the road from the winery which was located on the Tarras-Cromwell Road...all before 11 AM!

RIP Shrek!