------------ Auckland and Wellington, North Island------------
We arrived in Auckland, at sunrise on Oct. 18 after a comfortable twelve and a half hour Air New Zealand flight from San Francisco. We caught the city "Air Bus" to the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Since we were able to check in early, we settled right in. The view from our balcony gave us a good orientation to the city. This photo of the Sky Tower, the local landmark, was taken from our balcony.
We both slept on the flight over and were anxious to start our sightseeing so we walked to the waterfront, from here ferries depart to numerous islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Auckland's nickname is the City of Sails.
At 328 meters tall (over 1,000 feet) The Sky Tower is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. On a clear day you can see over 82 kms (51 miles). First opened on August 3,1997, it is Auckland's most prominent landmark. www.skytower.co.nz
------------ Maritime Museum, Auckland ------------
Our first destination was the Maritime Museum, which is located on the waterfront. One of the America's Cup race boats is displayed out front.
An extensive collection of Maori small sailing craft recreations are on display here, along with every other kind of craft.
Structural details of the construction reveals that the Maoris were good engineers.
This early 20th century tender caught Al's eye.
The city "Link Bus" took us to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, in the Domain, a city park. This museum houses the artistic legacy and cultures of the peoples of the Pacific. Te Toki-a-Tapiri, the last of the great war canoes, is 25 meters long and was quite impressive. The craftmanship was very detailed, and carried out in stone as well as wood.
------------ Wellington, New Zealand's Capital ------------
Sculptures in the park areas along the waterfront are plentiful in Wellington. Everything seemed more relaxed here than in Auckland.
This Black Billed Gull is one of millions in New Zealand.
The Te Papa Museum, New Zealand's national museum, has an outstanding Maori collection, plus displays depicting the rich natural and cultural history of New Zealand.
------------ Te Papa Museum, Wellington ------------
The Te Papa museum was our primary reason for our visit to Wellington. The marine exhibits were the finest of anywhere that we have seen, and the Maori artifacts the best. The stained glass wall is a modern expression of Maori art. For a more complete look at the museum, Click Here.
Stage constructed of painted wood and foam carvings in a modern interpretation of Maori art.
---------------- Christchurch and Kaikoura, South Island ----------------
The elm tree in front of the Elm Tree B&B makes an appealing entrance to this lovely B&B.
Karen, the innkeeper, is a very gracious host and made us feel like family. Her excellent restaurant suggestions were just a short walk away and introduced us to New Zealand's fine food and wines.
Saturday morning we walked to the Canterbury Museum to study the Maori art, and learn more about the early settlement of this region and its impact on the environment. (web link: Canterbury Museum.
The Christchurch Botanical Gardens in Hagley Park boast the finest single collection of exotic and indigenous plants in New Zealand.
A few blocks away is the Christchurch Cathedral, erected in 1867 this historic building is considered the heart of Christchurch. The tall spire on the left of the Cathedral was destroyed in an earthquake in 2011.
, a permanent sculpture located in Cathedral Square, celebrates the new millennium and the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the city. Designed by Neil Dawson it stands 18 m high and its conical shape mirrors the spire of the Christchurch Cathedral.
---------------- Botanical Gardens, Christchurch ----------------
There was a seemingly endless array of plantings and beds and we enjoyed an hour of just walking through parts of the gardens.
Colors were quite dramatic in the huge scale they presented.
These bushes blended well with the conifers and stonework.
Lots of new growth on these.
Most of these trees appeared to be one of a kind in the gardens and there was a large assortment.
We saw several of these unique trees on our visit.
These small plantings contrasted nicely with the large trees.
The ducks, children and adults, all enjoyed the fountain.
There were several fountains in the garden, this one was most interesting.
The bird at the top.
We are still trying to find the story behind this part of the sculpture.
This was a beautiful place for a stroll.
We were surprised to find a Giant Sequoia down here.
The paths seemed endless.
I thought this sign was a joke at first but it pointed the way to actual places.
This was October here, early spring and not much in bloom, but the colors were still striking.
There were a few early bloomers.
I think the ground cover might have been helebores.
These plantings complimented each other quite well.
Four different kinds of ivy, at least.
Walking along the Avon River, which wound through the gardens and the town.
Colorful ground cover across the river.
------------------ Kaikoura, New Zealand ------------------
Here a Wandering Albatross is feeding on a bait bag, trailed by our guide boat.
We also saw Petrels, Shearwaters, and White Capped Mollymawks.
The next day we took a whale watching trip.
These Sperm Whales entertained us for half an hour. There were 17 to 20 of them according to our guides.
The classic tail shot:
This seal was one of many we saw from the boat.
On a "wee hike" above the sea, Lloyd, our expert guide, explained that the large terracing on the front side of the hill were made by the Maoris for their houses. The smaller ones were made more recently by the sheep.
This is a nesting area for Red Billed Gulls.
------------ Petrels, Shearwaters, and White-capped Mollymawks ------------
The larger birds are either immature Albatrosses, or Petrels. The smaller ones (I think) are Shearwaters.
A pair of Wandering Albatrosses
This cute little guy was a White-capped Mollymawk.
This one might have been a Salvin's Mollymawk.
A pair of Mollymawks.
Shearwaters stood by, waiting for an opportunity to pick up scraps. The gulls were further back.
------------------ Queenstown and Milford Sound, South Island ------------------
Lake Wakatipu from the balcony of our Queenstown hotel room.
Suiting up for our jet boat ride up the Dart River in Mt. Aspiring National Park.
The Kingston Flyer, a steam locomotive passenger train operates out of Queenstown.
This Kea, perched on our bus, is looking for something he can tear out with his sharp beak. We watched him attack pieces of rubber moldings from car windows and go after wiper blades.
Homer Tunnel passes 1.5 kilometers through the mountain to the Milford Sound area. The tunnel saves many kilometers of additional road to reach the other side.
------------ The west side of the South Island ------------
Paparoa National Park near Punakaiki Rocks. Calla Lilies in front of this light house are very prominent in this area of the South Island and appear to grow wild.
Paparoa National Park and Pancake Rocks.
Alistair,our driver, assured us that the trains are very careful when sharing the one lane bridges with vehicle traffic !
A White Heron near the nesting area in the White Heron Sanctuary in Whataroa, South Westland.
Another White Heron.
Mary Lou's favorite photo of the White Heron in flight.
We aren't certain what these two are doing. They already have eggs in the nest. For more about the Sanctuary tour, see www.whiteherontours.co.nz/home.html
We stopped here at a sheep station for lunch and a discussion of the industry. Their beautiful home has views in all directions.
Given how far Fox Glacier has receded from the road, it was too long to walk in the time we had for this stop.
------------------ Milford Sound ------------------
The Milford Mariner, a motor sailer with all the comforts of a small cruise ship. The power controls on the sails allow the sails to be set or taken in at the push of a button.
Bowen Falls in Milford Sound.
After our overnight on the Sound the captain gave us a scenic tour of spectacular Milford Sound. It was a brisk morning.
Mary Lou was able to capture this photo of a Crested Penguin with her long telephoto lens. We spotted a few others with our binoculars.
------------------ Stewart and Ulva Islands ------------------
Wind often cancels the ferry to Stewart Island so our tour company booked us on this ten seater plane. Our trusty pilot got us here safely.
Stewart Island's main harbor at Halfmoon Bay.
South Sea Hotel oozes with local charm.
Our group photo, taken courtesey of Mary Lou.
According to Maori legend, New Zealand's South Island was originally a canoe and Stewart Island was the anchor that held it when the great fish were caught that became the North Island. A commissioned artist made this chain to tell the story.
One of several plaques at the sculpture.
--------------------- Ulva Island ---------------------
A small water taxi took us to nearby pristine Ulva Island. Annamarie thinks this was one of the main highlights of the trip. Ulva Goodwillie, a Maori and local island expert is knowledgeable and enthusiastic. She weaves Maori history and legends into her presentations. We felt honored to have her share her unique perspective with us. For more about the sanctuary and Ulva, go to www.ulva.co.nz
This New Zealand Robin is one of the birds that Ulva has personally banded and studied.
Board walks throughout the island make walking easier and protect the soil from foot traffic.
The spiral shapes of baby fern fronds are the inspiration
for the Maori spiral design seen in much of their
artwork. It also appears in modern day designs.
-------- Dunedin, Return to Auckland, and Waiheke Island ----------
Dunedin, our last stop on tour was our departure point from the South Island. The train station had been restored and is in very good condition.
At the end of our farewell dinner party at "A Cow Called Berta" a popular restaurant in this city Annamarie was honored with a birthday cake.
-------------- Return to Auckland and Waiheke Island --------------
Emperor Penguins at Kelly Tarlton's in Auckland.
Bird of Paradise in Albert Park, Auckland.
Annamarie on the morning of November 7th, her 60th birthday, in the living room of our suite at the Hyatt Hotel in Auckland.
At Giverney Inn's guest cottage, on Waiheke Island.
On the other side of the Island, one block away.
Along the path to town.
The town plaque.
Flowers along a pathway.
On our last afternoon in Auckland, before we left for the airport and our return flight to San Francisco we took the elevator to the main observation level of the Skytower. From this level you can stand on a 38mm glass floor and look 186 meters down !