Te Anau - New Zealand

Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
Trip End Aug 14, 2009

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

28th March - Te Anau

The next destination was Lake Te Anau in Fjordland in the Southern Alps. We passed through Twizel which claims it's Lord of the Rings country, but in fact Twizel was a Swizzle - the filming was done in several locations around South Island but none in Twizel itself.
We were again lucky with accommodation, the Information Centre offered us a split level, 5 bedroom, holiday home with all mod cons for the same price as 2 rooms in a motel.
This allowed us (Michael) to cook at home & spend the money we saved on wine. This was to be the pattern throughout our stay in New Zealand.

Te Anau is the most convenient access point for the wrongly named Milford Sound (it's actually a fjord). You can't stay at Milford so we took the 2 hour coach trip to Milford Sound, piloted by a chatty driver. He obviously recognised there were some older passengers on board, as he stopped at every toilet on the way.
To see the Sound you have to take one of the many cruise boats which take you up & down the fjord & be treated to witty (?) commentaries by gap year students.

The scenery is spectacular & we were particularly lucky because it only rained for part of the trip - this area gets 200 days of rain per year ! The total rainfall is 900cm per year & the previous day they had 20cm - this was good for us because the waterfalls were in full flow.
At least the rain kept the sand flies away.
We were taken right up to, & in-fact under, some of the many waterfalls - soaking those trapped on the foredeck.

Dolphins escorted our boat for a short time, until they got bored & we passed a herd (?) of seals basking in the rain.

The trip was rounded off by a visit to the Deep Underwater Observatory. This is like a fish tank in reverse - the humans are 10m below the surface in a glass-walled aquarium & the fish are on the outside, looking in. There are trays around the outside on which they have "planted" various corals.

30th March - Queenstown
We retraced our steps to Queenstown, the activity centre of New Zealand. The town overlooks the beautifully blue Lake Wakatipu, shaped like the scar on Harry Potter's forehead. In summer the town can be like an overcrowded theme park - everywhere there are helicopter trips, scenic flights, ski planes, heli-biking, jet-boating, yachting & white-knuckle rafting.
The world's first commercial bungee venue & still the most popular jump, is A J Hackett's 43m Kawarau Suspension Bridge jump, just north of town. For your money you get a certificate, Tee shirt, video & clean underwear.

We were having a little lunchtime drink at the Yacht Club bar on the waterfront, when I noticed a fantastic yacht moored alongside the wharf.
It was an America's Cup boat, "NZL14" that competed in the 1992 San Diego series AND they were selling tickets to sail in her. So what could I do - I had to have a go. I was dressed up in Team New Zealand weatherproof kit before boarding for my 2 hour blast up & down the lake.

The yacht was awesome, designed by Bruce Farr, it weighed in at 22 tonnes (with 14 tonnes of that in the lead keel) had 500 square metres of sail area & was 75ft long - the F1 of racing yachts. We took turns on the grinders to raise the sails & were soon tacking up the lake. There was a professional crew of 4 with about a dozen fee paying helpers. The crew have to be very careful when tacking because the yacht has flying back stays, one port & one starboard. These are to stop the mast from snapping off. When tacking, one stay has to be tightened whilst the other is slackened off - if you get it wrong the mast will fall into the sea, costing someone $12,000,000.

They let me take the helm when I told them I was an experienced yachtsman & had even heard of Uffa Fox (who coined the immortal phrase 'Uffa Fox sake'). Actually they let all of us have a turn at steering.
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holly08121 on

P Smith
Sounds fantastic. Looks fabulous.

Elayne on

Twizel is actually NZ biggest lord of the rings location, 7 weeks of filming only 6 minutes from town!

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