Apr 26, 2019
Summary: This is a bucket list trip that I planned out using a local travel agency from New Zealand called “New Zealand Fine Tours”. They specialize in custom fly, walk, sail, drive tours of the country. We were to start in Dunedin (accidentally) and make our way to Auckland. Due to a missed flight to Queenstown, we got an extra leg added to the journey when the airline routed us to Dunedin because the air-traffic controllers in Queenstown had the flu. These are just the pictures from my phone. I haven’t gone through the pictures from the Nikon yet.
Here is the itinerary:
Saturday, April 13, 2019 Depart Dulles Sunday, April 14,
2019 Fly – Time change adjustment Monday, April 15,
2019 Day 1 – Oops…pitstop in Dunedin (35 hours travel time) – Small Bus Monday, April 15,
2019 Day 1 – Welcome to Queenstown Tuesday, April 16,
2019 Day 2 – Free day exploring Queenstown – Cable Tram Wednesday, April
17, 2019 Day 3 – Milford Sound – Cruise & Hike Thursday, April
18, 2019 Day 4 – Drive to Franz Josef Glacier – Rental Car Friday, April 19,
2019 Day 5 – Explore Franz Josef Glacier – Helicopter Saturday, April
20, 2019 Day 6 – Tran to Christchurch – Rental Car Sunday, April 21,
2019 Day 7 – Train to Picton & Ferry to Wellington – Train Monday, April 22,
2019 Day 8 – Free day in Wellington Tuesday, April 23,
2019 Day 9 – Fly Wellington to Rotorua – Plane Wednesday, April
24, 2019 Day 10 – Thermal springs – Hike Thursday, April
25, 2019 Day 11 – Private driver to Hobbitton – Limo Thursday, April 25, 2019 Day 11 – Private driver to Auckland – Limo Friday, April 26,
2019 Day 12 – Explore Auckland – Walk Saturday, April
27, 2019 Day 13 – Depart Auckland Saturday, April
27, 2019 Day 14 – Layover in San Fransisco Saturday, April
27, 2019 Day 14 – Welcome home! (23 hours travel time)
We traveled 1,697 miles by coach, sail, helicopter, rental car, train, ship and airplane… The theme of the trip… modes of transportation… We did hike in Franz Josef and we did a mountain tram in Queenstown… but I could’t show that easily on the map
Strange effect that I accidentally did with my camera to record in VR mode
4/26 – Auckland – On the way home from a very long walk I saw this place called “Sushi Train” and thought it would be a neat place to go for dinner. You sit down at the bar (or you can get a table) and a little conveyor belt, like delivers your luggage at the airport, has plates of sushi, deserts, and cooked items that pas in front of you. Great idea as you have very little idea how much you are spending until you check out. The plate colors indicate the cost of the sushi. $2.50 for the white, $3.50 for the blue, $4.50 for the green, $5.50 for the orange, and $650 for the purple. Mike had Cider and I had a Sprite… total…$79.50NZD for the Sushi
4/26 – Auckland – Here is a video of the Sushi Train … pretty cool idea! I cannot imagine this succeeding in the US without some kind of lawsuit from people touching the food as it goes by. People in new Zealand are much more honest and well behaved than in America.
4/25 – Auckland – When I was planning out this trip, I figured that we would be really active through the entire trip and so we should end it on a high note with a luxury room. Indeed I have shin splints from walking far more than I am accustomed to. This is the view from our 9th floor room in Auckland.
4/25 – Auckland – At least you can close the wall to the bathroom!!!
4/25 – Auckland – I haven’t put pictures of the rooms in this video blog… but this room took the prize for strangest room. The bathroom is completely open to the room! Why would you ever want such a thing?
4/24 – On the way to Auckland – Of course the Human Locus needed to stop and the driver (Alan) was all for it. The driver wanted to take us to a nicer Cheese Factory that has a cafe (and is recommended by the tour company… ) but it was closed because today is yet another national holiday. So we stopped at this little dive on the side of the road.
4/24 – Hobbiton – Every part of the set is perfectly realistic… except it is to the scale of a human that is 5 foot 4 inches tall. So everything is a little small.
4/24 – Hobbiton – There are 44 hobbit holes that look absolutely real from every angle. But if you get close enough to look through the window, you see that they are just facades built into the dirt. The chimneys and accoutrements are perfectly to scale. There are 44 of these hobbit holes. 39 of them appeared in the movie. I got pictures of all 44. But I won’t bore you with all of them.
4/24 – Hobbiton – See the tree in the middle of the frame in the distance? When filming the movie there was no tree so they cut down an oak tree and put it on the hill during the first filming. Then the tree dropped its leaves and they needed to take the shots over. So they built that Oak tree from a wire frame, covered it in fiber glass, and attached every single leaf by hand to create a tree that is not just photo-realistic… but you cannot tell that it isn’t a real tree until you touch the leaves.
4/24 – Hobbiton – I really thought that a visit to the set would be stupid, but how could I go all the way to New Zealand and drive right past the set without visiting. I am so glad I did. It was stunningly well done. The original set was torn down at the direction of the government because by contract the land had to be returned to its natural state. But when the movies were so successful, the government allowed the land owner to rebuild the entire set. The hobbit holes are just facades, but they are exactly like the movie. After walking through the set, we watched part of the movie and it was amazing that the movie was more real after having walked the set.
4/24 – Hobbiton – Welcome to the entrance to the set where Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were shot. We had a limo take us from Rotorua to Auckland and it passes by the Hobbiton set. We knew this ahead of time and had a tour arranged to view the set.
4/23 – Rotorua – As part of the Mitai encampment, the center was this cold water pool. What was really interesting was this black sand that was settled in the water. The jets of water coming from the ground disturbed the sand in such an interesting way. But what was also good was this video caught the entire introduction of the guy that was our lead.
4/23 – Rotorua – The bus to the Mitai tribal village… I have no idea how much I paid for this little excursion, but it was way too much… Food was provided, buffet style, and I payed for it again all night. It was a 12 acre piece of land that was isolated from development that the native people had turned into a show to describe their history. The guys had fake face tattoos to look tribal, and the entire village was about the quality of a temporary movie set.
4/23 Rotorua Geiser erupting
4/23 – Rotorua Volcanic mud – Sounds like something out of The Princes Bride and smells very much like the description from the movie
4/23 – Rotorua Volcanic mud
4/23 – Rotorua Volcanic mud
4/23 Rotorua Volcanic creek
4/23 – Rotorua – Iridescent green pond at the base of the champaign lake. It looks like a pond of green highlighter ink
4/23 – Rotorua – Champagne lake – the water is saturated with minerals. Sulfer fumes evaporate from the near boiling hot water. The water spontaneously bubbles like Champagne.
4/23 Rotorua active Geiser (Note… I was disappointed… the mound is man made to focus the geyser. The eruption occurs naturally every 36 to 72 hours but for the guests, they force it to erupt by pouring soap chips into the top to break the barrier between the super heated water and the cooler water.
4/23 – Rotorua Geyser just as it starts
4/23 Rotorua – It is amazing that grass is growing on the edge of a sulfer lake
4/23 Rotorua – The sulfer pools create bubbles under mineral caps that sometimes collapses… that is one stinky hole!
4/23 – Rotorua – All around the town you can walk through greenery and see smoke stacks of sulfer steam rising. The entire town smells like a U-Boat that has been at sea for too long with a chef that has a sense of humor for serving cabbage and onions every meal.
4/22 The plane from Wellington to Rotorua
4/21 – Wellington – The view from our hotel room before the rain came
4/21 – The train from Christchurch to Pecton
4/21 – Just one diesel engine to get us from Christchurch to Pecton
4/21 – Train from Christchurch to Pecton – The train cars are very modern
4/20 – We arrived in Christchurch at 7pm and had to leave at 6am. This was a very pink room in the B&B. Glad we were only there for a few hours to sleep and shower!
4/20 – The train from Greymouth to Christchurch – Going into a tunnel
4/20 – Train from Greymouth to Christchurch – It rained pretty hard the entire way
4/20 – Train from Greymouth to Christchurch – Very posh coach class seating
4/20 – The train from Greymouth to Christchurch – We are going to go up a very steep incline so we start out with 2 engines. When we get half way there, they will add a third diesel electric engine to get the train up the hill
4/19 – At the end of the helicopter ride to the Franz Josep Glacier
4/19 – helicopter ride from the Franz Josep Glacier back
4/19 – They carved out a flat area on the Franz Josep Glacier to land the helicopter – The landing area was only about 6 feet by 6 feet!
4/19 – The helicopter just before takeoff to the Franz Josep Glacier
4/18 – Drive from Queenstown to Franz Josep – Mike is a human locus… we had to stop every couple of hours for him to eat or go to the restroom. During our 4 hour drive he had to stop at a town right out of “Pricella Queen of the Desert” named Haast. This was the only bar. For lunch we had a lovely dish of french fries (called chips), ground up fish stuff shaped into rings and fried, blue tongue muscles … battered and fried, that fake crab bread stuff that they put in asian food… battered and fried, some white fish chunks… battered and fried, and something that tasted like squid but didn’t look like it… battered and fried. The only thing not fried… was the beer, wine or water.
4/18 – Drive from Queenstown to Franz Josep – The drive from Queenstown to Franz Josep was probably the craziest road I have every driven on. It snaked along the edge of a mountain range and pretty much looked like a snake for roughly 500km.
4/17 – Milford Sound – The Kiwi bird is not often seen in the wild. They are said to have the intelligence of a 4 year old and are inquisitive. Indeed this little fellow wasn’t the least bit scared of us and walked right up to us to investigate us. They are said to rummage through your packs and take stuff and then tease you by not giving it back.
4/17 – Milford Sound – We hiked about 3 hours along the sound to get to this waterfall. It is on a scenic trail that hikers pay to go on and takes months to hike the entire trail. There were about 8 hikers that begged a ride back with us on the pontoon boat that we took across the sound to get here.
4/17 – Milford Sound – This is the airplane that we took from Queenstown to Milford Sound. 8 seats plus the pilot and co-pilot. I got to fly co-pilot on the way back which was amazing and probably the highlight of the entire trip for me.
4/16 – Queenstown – This is our first real day after flying for over 35 hours the previous days. This is from the top of the highest point in Queenstown looking down over the mini-car flume ride. $30NZ for 5 rides in little cars on a free track on top of the mountain. Just to the right of the trees in the picture is our B&B at the very bottom of the hill.